The one where I cry over a wet diaper


You’re going to laugh at me.

This morning, I woke up early.  (No, that’s not the funny part.  Don’t laugh yet!)  I normally sleep until Mercy wakes up, since it’s hard to get out of bed with a baby draped over my lap, you know?   But this morning I woke up worrying about something, so I snuck out of bed and made coffee.  The boys weren’t even awake yet!  My house was quiet like my favorite 11:00pm quiet, only the sun was shining.

I heard footsteps upstairs just as the coffee finished brewing, so I darted back in the bedroom to hide with my cup of coffee.

I settled back in bed with coffee and a book.  Mercy woke up and climbed back in my lap to nurse.  As she did, I caught a whiff of her rank, wet diaper from nursing all night, and I had a sudden pang of nostalgia and sadness.  I wondered if it would be the last time I noticed that smell, combined with a warm, snuggly baby in my bed.  I would miss it, I realized… a scent marking this cozy time of motherhood.

Now is when I thought you’d laugh.

I knew I’d be sad about all the other lasts.  The last time teaching a baby to wave bye-bye, to blow kisses, or how a cow says “Mooooo!”  The last time I get open-mouthed, slobbery baby kisses, or laugh at a baby just discovering her belly button.  The last time I cheer wildly…  irrationally excited about first steps… and watch siblings get just as ridiculously excited.  “MOM!!!  Come here quick — Mercy is STANDING UP!”  A tiny miracle that — watching life unfold.

Last shared peach, sticky juice trickling down baby’s chin and Mommy’s arm.

Last time watching a toddler’s face light up as the fireflies blink on and off, and watch them chase fireflies in erratic patterns around the dusky front yard.

Last time hearing a toddler giggle with delight as I place a new brother or sister in their arms.

How can I be done, having babies?

No, never quote me on this, because I have an incredible weakness for the tiny ones, and you just never know…

But I do know that my growing-up children need me, and it seems like the bigger they get the more they need.  I don’t know how to be a grown-up Mommy.  Emotions from an almost 10 year old girl are way more difficult to handle that the emotions spewing from a 3 month old that just wants to tuck in and nurse.

How in the world do I take care of big kids?!

I wish I could pause time right now.  I’m not looking for later on… when things get easier.  (My guess is that’s a myth!)  My life is perfect right now.  I have a baby, my favorite thing in the whole world, and my older kids are independent, helpful, and still think I hung the moon.  They still hold me hand, tell me I’m the best mommy EVER, and ask me to tuck them in bed at night.  Half of them still scramble to sit in my lap when I sit for a movie.

So yeah, this morning, with a warm, stinky baby draped across my lap, I had a moment.  I watched my sleeping girl… memorizing her.  Freezing this moment in time.  Her chubby fingers twitching in sleep, the ones that like to pat my face and poke my nose.  Damp curls, growing longer by the day.  Perfect, healthy skin on that beautiful face, her adorable lips and tongue still making unconscious sucking patterns.

Oh heavens, I’m going to miss this.





P.S.  I also sniffled a little as I tucked Zach’s outgrown fleece hoodie into a give-away bag.  I have no more boys to save clothes for!  It’s been a rough day for Mama.  *serious bawling going on over here…*

Letter to Mercy


Dear Mercy,

You were born on a stormy day 51 weeks ago.  After the sheer exhaustion and exhilaration of giving birth, I snuggled you in my arms, enjoying heaven’s fireworks outside the window.  The euphoria from birth hadn’t worn off yet, so thunderstorms and you will forever be linked in my head as a glorious, beautiful thing.

Tonight is another stormy night, so I’m thinking of you.

You turn 1 this week!  It’s too soon.  I have treasured every minute of your first year, not knowing if you will be a last baby or not.

You, with your silly faces and one-leg kicks, your kisses and nuzzles and wrestles with brothers… YOU get the VIP treatment for sure.  Nobody else slept so much in bed with me and Daddy.  Nobody else got fed ice cream so early, either!

I’m sorry for the one night you fell out of bed on your head, right by the diaper pail.  In that middle-of-the-night drowse, I remember being amused and horrified at the same time.

You have such a loud voice, for somebody so tiny!  I guess you have to, with 7 other people competing for air time.  You make us smile and laugh, on purpose.  I love the way you screech short bursts and blink your eyes, then dissolve in a fit of giggles.

I remember the day Kirstyn was sad, and you leaned over and kissed her until she stopped crying.

I love watching you think, when you think I’m not watching.  Today, a stranger was smiling and inviting you to crawl over to them, and you sat for a minute and then shook your head “no” to yourself.

I love every book time we’ve had together.  “The Real Mother Goose” is the first book I remember reading to you, just days old, all scrunched up in my lap.  “Are You My Mother?“, “Go, Dog. Go!” and “Goodnight, Sweet Butterflies” were favorites this year.

“Mommy, look at Mercy!” is a common cry around here.  Your brothers and sisters love to cheer you on and show you off!   Right now it’s the learning to stand up that has us all clapping for you and watching in awe as you add another talent to your growing-up list.

Last night, I tried to plop you on the grass next to me outside, to have a chat while I drank my coffee (which you have already sipped and enjoyed).  But you saw the kids run by and went crawling after them!  You love being part of the gang.

Cory and Kirstyn love to push you in the stroller down the dirt road, lulling you to sleep.  Kirstyn loves it when you fall asleep in her arms, rocking in the basement.  Sometimes you crawl around the basement until you’re so tired you put your head down on the carpet and fall asleep!  My favorite is nursing you to sleep.

Nursing you is heaven on earth!  I love that low, sweet nicker you give, when I ask, “Do you want to nurse?”  Like, “What a great idea, Mom!”  I LOVE that snuggle time with you.  I’ve never, never complained about you nursing all night long, draped across my lap (where you throw yourself backwards, and sleep spread-eagle after you’re done).  I’ve thanked Daddy — numerous times — for letting you hog our bed.  He doesn’t complain, even though I know he doesn’t love the kicks in his back and face, or the lack of personal time with Mommy.  You have a great Daddy.

You love waving, and clapping, and dancing, and pointing at birds.  You even wave if you happen to hear “bye” in a sentence!  Tonight you fell asleep nursing while I was watching The Good Wife.   You heard clapping, woke up and clapped a few times, and then latched back on and fell asleep.  It was hilarious!

You’re such a tiny thing!  For over a month, you didn’t gain any weight, and even lost a bit, hanging out at 16 1/2 lbs.  You wouldn’t roll over, and you wouldn’t sit up, unless you could do it your way, with your legs tucked under your (adorable) bum.

You started crawling at  6 months old, the day after you learned to belly slide in the bathtub.

That day you climbed the basement stairs and stood there shaking the gate that was closed at the top?  Yeah — your angels were working hard that day, and Mommy got quite the adrenaline rush!

You still have only 3 teeth!

You crow like a rooster.  I’m not kidding.  I guess that what happens when we keep chickens in the house during this formative time for you.

Your walker is my laundry rack, pushed around the mudroom.

You love the song “This Little Light of Mine.”

You are quite the chatterbox!  I’m amazed at all the different sounds you put together.  The other week, you and I were standing in line at a VBS ice cream social.  You were chatting away, and the lady in front of me turned around and asked, “Is she saying ‘giggle, giggle, giggle?'”  Yep.

I love how your very name, Mercy, from the moment I discovered your life, has been used by God to teach me about… well… mercy.  One year ago, on the 4th of July weekend you were due, Daddy and I were hopping mad at each other.  I didn’t want you to be born that weekend, since I knew I couldn’t go through labor while I was mad at Daddy!  I remember falling asleep one of those nights, with God whispering to my heart about you, the baby that spoke about Mercy just by her name, and how could I hold onto anger when she was about to be born?

This morning, a year later, anger was rumbling in the air again.  But I thought of you, and God’s mercy that is new every morning for me, so of course I could forgive.  God’s well of grace and mercy will never run dry.  He is always enough, Mercy girl.

I love you so much, sweet baby!  Happy 1st Birthday!

Good stuff happens when I stay home from church.


My friend Jana finally put a label on something for me.

Us mamas, we all know we should just be more with our kids.  Listen to them, speak their love language, take the time to figure out what their love language is.  Stop being so busy.

Jana and my mother-in-law were talking about how it’s easy to be a Martha mom, when what the kids want is a Mary mom.

You know, like Martha and Mary in the Bible?  Martha was busy.  Always busy.  Doing things that were important, yes, that were valid, yes.

But Mary did the needful thing.  She sat at the feet of Jesus.  She chose it.  It was a conscious decision.  The calming down, the stepping away from the frantic pace of cleaning and cooking for guests.  She knew it was more important to just be with her Jesus.  The Bible never says Mary wasn’t aware of the needs — just that she chose the sitting.

Mamas have to cook and clean.  We know that.  The kids know that.  I mean really, skip one hour of food, and kids start begging for mama to whip up a meal quick!  Starvation is at hand!

But too much happens easy.

Caring for our home is good, but being consumed and worried about it is not good.

“You are worried and upset about many things…”

Dirt doesn’t always have to be swept away.  Besides the fact that science has proved that some dirt is healthy for our immune systems, may I suggest that it might also be crucial to our children’s hearts?

I could literally spend all. Day. Cleaning.

I’ve done it before.  The kids are starving for attention by the end of the day.  For some slow down mama time.  They love it when I sit on the floor and help stuff Barbie in a dress.  They want me to walk down the dirt road and watch them fly down the hill on their bike, and see the bunk bed addition they’ve put in the fort.  They want me to pick peas and blueberries with them, and talk about the birds and the bugs.

Will the piles of dishes kill us?  In some bizarre, freak accident, it’s possible.  Probable?  No.

This past Sunday I stayed home from church because my husband wanted me to rest.  He left my oldest son with me, to help take care of the baby.  I never really got the “me time” I was anticipating!  Cory took Mercy out to the sandbox.  She got sand in her eyes, so I carried her into the tub.  Sand trailed behind us.  I got out the broom, and realized the entire house needed to be swept.  The dirty laundry needed to be off the floor in order for me to sweep, so I started a load.

I got the baby to sleep.

Meanwhile, Cory was waiting for the baby to sleep so he could have some special mama time.  He wanted me to come sit on the dirt pile to watch him make a fire and cook hot dogs.

I kept telling him, “Give me 5 more minutes!”

He kept coming back, and I kept telling him,”Wait.”

A four-letter word for kids.

He’s a patient, sweet child, and I’ve taken advantage of it.  When Cory was little-little, he always wanted me to come outside and push him on the swing.  I always told him “wait.”  Now he’s eight, and he doesn’t need me to push him on the swing.  I missed it.  It still tears me up inside; but at least that lesson burned into my heart, and I try to drop what I’m doing if a kid asks me to push them on the swing.

So on Sunday, I knew better.  I knew that day was important, a future memory.  I wanted Cory to remember “The day Mommy stayed home from church and sat on the dirt pile with me.”  It’s the moments that make memories.  How we live our moments is how we live our days, and how we live our days is how we live our lives.

No, that quote isn’t mine — but I love it!  Time with my children will be gone before I know it.  I want my kids to remember a present, intentional, involved-in-their-lives mama.  Not a mama who was always too busy.

The house wasn’t perfect when Derek and the kids got home from church. but I did get the one, needful thing done.  I sat in the dirt and swapped stories with my son.  We made fire.

Thank you, Jana, for putting the chant in my head.  I don’t even try.  It’s just there — “Be a Mary mom!”






Railroad ties. Add sand, kids will come!


Apparently, we now live in a beach house.  Not really, but apparently sand boxes can create a very realistic simulation.

(Apparently, my kids have been using that word too much.  Mom’s started copying.)

I’ve always wanted a sand box for the kids.  Whenever we visit somebody that has a sandbox, Megan especially will sit for hours and just dig in the sand.

Derek finally agreed to build one!  And when he builds something, he BUILDS something.  If you get my drift.  But here — pictures are worth a thousand words:

First, he made a box from a bundle of railroad ties.

May June 2014 497


May June 2014 499

Next he added 4 tons of sands:

May June 2014 509


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He finished it by tractor light, and Mercy was the first child to set foot in the sand.  She promptly scooped up and ate fistfuls of sand.  I’m not exactly sure what deficiency that suggests.

May June 2014 540


May June 2014 550

(Yes, I realize there is a tree buried in sand in this picture.  My husband boxed it in, after his mom told him it wouldn’t hurt the tree.  Somebody else told us that the tree would die because the roots couldn’t get oxygen.  An actual tree expert told us that the problem would be rot around the trunk that the sand would create.  Rot would bring bugs, and bugs would kill the tree.

So.  Derek cut out the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket and put it around the tree.  Sand not-so-mysteriously keeps finding its way to the bottom of the bucket, so we’ll have to keep scooping it out, but maybe the tree will survive.  If not, it was a filler tree anyway!  I have a Sugar Maple growing 5 feet away from it, and the Redbud is getting very close to interference.)

The kids LOVE the sandbox!  The morning after it was finished, Cameron was up and outside before I was even awake, and had dug all the way to the bottom of the sandbox.  I love that all 6 of my kids can sit and play together!  We’ve even had cousins in there too.  The kids have played in the sandbox every day since Daddy built it.  Tons of fun.  Quite literally. =)

Yes, I do have the kids rinse off and brush down before they come inside my house, but you’ve been to the beach, right?  Sand wins.  Every time.

So I’ll just keep sweeping sand into piles and wishing I had some saltwater and dolphins to go with it!

School’s out!



(That was me, not the kids, practicing my Mel Gibson voice.)  Today was our last day of school.  This mom/teacher is just as excited as the kids!

Time to be ridiculously lazy.

Just now I handed the kids a whole carton of ice cream, a spoon per kid, and told them to go eat it in their pricker fort.  They think I’m a cool mom, which I am, but I also knew it would buy me 45 minutes of alone time.

I gave them the cheap, artificially flavored raspberry stuff, and pulled out the creamy chocolate ice cream bars after the kids disappeared over the hill.  I ate two.  I also ate two last night, after everyone was in bed.  I need to stop going grocery shopping!  My husband does a better job of sticking to “milk, bread, and apples.”

Is it crazy that I already have most of my curriculum purchased for next year?  As hard as home schooling is, I enjoy it.  I love spending time with my kids, and I love it when nice teacher shows up and makes my kids fall in love with her.  I love watching my kids discover life,  and I love learning with them!

(I also love brainwashing them.  I won’t deny it!  Hey, if I’m going to make hundreds of PB&J sandwiches in my lifetime, I deserve a small power trip, right?)

Here are some of the books we studied this year:

The Story of the World: The Middle Ages

Sitting down to read our history is probably my favorite time of day!  This is our second year using SOTW, and I’m a happy customer!  We also ordered the activity book and tests to go along with the textbook.  The activity book has a lot of maps (which look awesome in Kirstyn’s portfolio), coloring pages, crafts, recipes, and extra reading to go along with each chapter.  It’s awesome.  I love that it’s a history book for multiple ages.  For my younger kids, I have them sit and color while they listen to the story.  My older kids can do extra reading, writing, and projects related to the chapter.  I’ve already ordered our Story of the World books for next year!

Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy

I. Love. Apologia science!  This is our second year using Apologia.  I splurged and bought the note booking journal for Kirstyn, instead of trying to come up with assignments on my own.  Worth every penny, in my opinion!  Next year Cory and Cameron will be journaling too, in junior notebooks.

Wordly Wise

I love words.  I love language.  I love writing.  This is an example of where I am going to brainwash my kids and teach them to love it too!

Spelling Skills

My daughter has atrocious spelling.  She comes by this honestly.  (You don’t need to be a good speller to write!)  I bought this cheap book hoping to improve her skills, and was pleasantly surprised!  Not by improved spelling necessarily, because that is still questionable, but this book was fun!  It was the first book Kirstyn worked in every morning, and she quickly finished the entire book.  I don’t know what other moms do, but if my kids get their math done, I let them double up on stuff that interests them.  We’re promoting the LOVE of learning here, not learning itself.  It works for us!

Explode the Code

I use these books — there are several in the series — for two of my kids, and they never get boring.  Well, let’s be reasonable.  My kids would prefer not to do any school, but if they must… they enjoy working through these books!  I love that there’s reading, writing, and spelling all in one workbook.  Killing three birds with one stone is very convenient while home schooling.

We also used Easy Grammar, Saxon Math, A Reason for Handwriting, Sylvan and Brainquest workbooks for the younger kids, and various odds and ends.  And we read LOTS of books!  I hope my kids grow up and surround themselves with books, reminiscent of their childhood.  Books and trees and animals!

Coffee’s a given.  They already beg for it every morning.


*contains afilliate links

The best donuts happen at night!


Of course we would pick National Donut Day to go to Krumpe’s.  Derek was practicing his fun-dad-creating-memories routine.  He told the kids to get their jammies on, and then loaded them up in the car.

Oh, summer nights! We rode into town at dusk, with windows down and warm wind making the back seat kids shriek that they were cold.  As if!  They just don’t like wind in their face, silly kids.

Krumpe’s was PACKED!  I wish I’d thought to get a picture.  Krumpe’s is this hole-in-the-wall local joint, in a back alley, and it opens for business at 7:00pm.  They close up shop in the wee hours of morning, so they can deliver donuts to all the local stores that carry Krumpe’s.

We got there around 8:30pm, and cars and people were lined up all over the place.  Derek dropped me off instead of trying to fit the Suburban down a packed alley.  I found the back of the line, and mentioned to someone that I’d never seen Krumpe’s this crowded, and was it just a Friday night thing?  I assumed the lady I was addressing was a local gal.  (You can just spot them somehow, you know?)

She shook her head.  “It’s National Donut Day!”

Ohhhh!  I forgot about Facebook.  All day, people had been posting about free donuts at Krispy Kreme, and I was lamenting that fact that we don’t have one close to us.

Don’t get me wrong, I love packed out places — like sold-out out movie theaters!  It heightens the experience for me.  Community, and all that.  I love Christmas shopping at the mall!  My husband is the opposite.  He hates lines, and restaurants full of people.  (I love waiting for 30 minutes at Olive Garden, so I can people watch, and chat with my date for that much longer!)  He’d rather sit in the middle of an empty movie theater.

I chatted with the people around me in line, and soaked in the warm summer darkness.  I probably stood in line for 30 minutes.  People took turns holding the shop door open, passing it on to the next person when it was their turn to order donuts.  Maybe some people like holding doors, but I couldn’t take it any longer!  I walked over to a planter full of dirt and flowers, picked it up, and walked over to the elderly gentleman currently holding the door.

“Here.  Let me put this down right there.”

Startled smile.  “Oh!  Thank you!  You should work here!”

I wanted to raise my hand and be like, “HOME SCHOOLER!”

I ordered 3 dozen donuts, and by the time I found Derek parked out on the street, he’d killed his phone playing Free Fall, and some of the kids were asleep.

We pigged out on donuts on the drive home, and tucked our sticky, sleeping children in bed with un-brushed teeth.

Mmm… sweet memories!

The things you learn sitting outside at a picnic table


“She’s mine,” Megan said, about her big sister.

Her words warmed my heart, and I don’t know why it surprised me.

We were at church, and Megan was sitting next to me on a bench, outside in the sunshine.  Another girl came and sat down next to Megan, and asked how old she was.

“I’m five.” Megan said.

“I’m nine!” said the girl.  (Guys.  I’m horrible with names as it is, and our church has 100 kids.  NOT exaggerating!)

“Oh!  Kirstyn’s nine too!”

“I think I’ve seen Kirstyn…”

“I know.  She’s mine.” 

Megan spoke with a smile, and what seemed to me like pride.

My heart flipped.

I heard love, and bff inklings, and one of the reasons I have so many kids!  I loved it — loved growing up with five siblings, and I wanted the same childhood pals for my kids.  I always knew I’d have at least 6 kids, just like my mom.  (I joke now that I’m having a midlife crisis, having met my goals to be a SAHM to 6 kids so early on in life!)

Of course my childhood also had battles.  I won’t say which firstborn daughter (*cough* *cough*) was bossy and possessive and started stupid territorial wars.  I also butted heads with my parents — who would’ve thunk?  But I always, always knew I belonged.  I knew deep down that if for some reason I got pregnant out of wedlock, my dad wouldn’t kick me out, and my family would help me raise the baby.  (Yes.  As a teenager, I did think through this hypothetical scenario.)

“Family is where your story begins,” you know?  Mine was a good story.  IS a good story!  My sisters and I are still best friends.

When I hear about my sisters’ (or my brothers) newest parenting notch-in-the-belt, job, sports achievement, awesome dish, or really just anything they did, I’m like, “I know.  They’re mine.”

I love that this imperfect, fierce love is just a darkly colored image of what our Father says of us:

“She’s Mine.  I know her, that girl.  I made her and I see her and I will never, ever leave her or forsake her.”

I belong.  I have what every heart craves!  Acceptance. Love.  Loyalty.

Megan’s words reminded me.  They encouraged this often-weary mama heart that worries if the kids will be OK; and they reminded me that not only will my children belong to each other for life, they will belong to God for eternity.