Never Enough Time? Seize the Extra Day!

You know there is never enough time. Not in America, at least, where we have ridiculous ideas about what is normal.

Tomorrow is Leap Day, and a new friend got me to thinking... an extra day.  An extra day!

I mean, how many times have you said "If I only had more time I would..."

Well here's our chance! An extra day!

So around our house we are talking about what we will do with an extra day.  Here's the challenge: pick one way to end this sentence "If I only had more time I would..." and then do it!

I'll post about what we each decided to do and you post too! We'll make a fun link-up and see what all we can do with an extra day. :-)

Of course we'll all be having so much fun having our extra-time adventures that we won't be blogging, right? So my post won't go up until late Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Everyone in our house hasn't settled on what we want to do yet. All the five year old can up with, for example, is "Move to Hawaii." Would that we could, luv.

And as a fun aside, my absolutely amazing hubby is a songwriter, and is participating again this year in February Album Writing Month (aka FAWM), wherein music artists race to complete 14 songs in 28 days (and this leap year they are going for 14 1/2!)

Here is one of his (appropriate!) songs this year... "There's Never Enough". You know, never enough time. It's kinda romantic. Love that man!

Update: Here's a button you can use if you post about how you seized your extra day! :-)

original flickr photo of frog from Brisbane City Council

All Poured Out

winter waterfall
photo ~ Liz West

Some days I feel all poured out.

I wake up tired and feeling behind, and can't shake it no matter how hard I try.

Sometimes I don't even try.

I'm not David. I've never killed a man and had to live with remorse, or been pursued by armies and had to hide in caves.

But I still connect on a deep level with this...

I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me. (Psalm 22:14 NASB)

Can I tell you? I want to be strong. Impermeable. I want to be the mother who doesn't waver, who doesn't question herself, who is tireless on her children's behalf.

I want to be the wife who weathers life's storms by her man, strong and true and beautiful.

But I am neither of these things. I am just a girl in a woman's body, trying to be all grown up in a sometimes overwhelming world.

My husband and I have both noted that I can almost be two different people when emergencies strike.

Sometimes I am calm, with laser-like focus. When my children get hurt, I tune all of my energy into them, intent on one thing only - to calm them and make them well.

Other times I am like a vapor, air showing between my ears. I was a vapor when the wildfire hit. I couldn't think of what we needed to take to evacuate. My mind was a complete blank. I was shaking.

Accident & Emergency Sign
photo ~ lydiashiningbrightly

Our recent hospital emergency? I knew pretty quickly that it was going to be serious, and was calm and sure, but once I had delivered my husband to the emergency room, the action was out of my hands. All the problem solving belonged to someone else, and there was nothing more I could do except be a comfort to my husband as he endured the tortures of un-kinking a small intestine.

Somewhere in the three days of jumping at his every twitch and translating his sign language for the nurses, I morphed into a vapor.

When things are out of my control I just seem to leak right out of myself.

How we rejoiced when we learned that he would not need surgery! How we danced when the wretched naso-gastric tube was removed! Shouldn't that have been when life restarted and energy was aplenty?

That was when I realized I was so exhausted my bones ached.

What kind of crazy am I to have a life with so little margin that a three day emergency stay in the hospital sends me into a tailspin when I come home? I feel like I am walking around with a cloud enveloping my head, thoughts muddled, words not coming out right, slightly panicky that I am forgetting something critical. I can't make heads or tails out of what is more urgent... the laundry or the dishes?

Where I am most myself right now is snuggled up on the couch or in bed with a child and a book. That's where I would stay if I could. Holding those small limbs close, smelling the soft hair, immersed in a world of words.

I just can't tie it up all nice and tidy like a beribboned package. There's no neat ending to this post because this is real life. Real life is messy and this worn-out sinner is just muddling through, looking for glimpses of beauty, clinging to her Savior.

For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:7, 8 NASB)

I'm a ruffled little chick peeking out from under the wings of her heavenly Father, trilling a tiny song... "Can't do much but just be yours today, Abba."

photo ~ Patti Brown

Kinda makes me feel snuggled up myself.

I am so grateful for grace. Peep peep.

When the Plans Don't Work Out

I spent last Friday and Saturday at the Mom Heart conference in Irving. It was a wonderfully full two days of inspiring teaching and fellowship with new friends.

It was still black and cold as I headed my van south toward home on Sunday morning. I watched the sun rise in the east, spreading glorious colors over grey city.  My heart and mind were overflowing. Ideas tumbled out of my mouth into the recorder on my phone.

I arrived at church just before the service started and whirled in, full of excitement and enthusiasm. Not only for mothering, but inspired to shine His light in this dark world to all in my path. The friends who asked how the conference went were treated to an earful!

I had plans, lots of plans. Big plans and little plans. Plans for now, plans for the future. PLANS!

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." (James 4:13-15 NASB)

The rest of Sunday was filled with family until my head hit the pillow. All those plans... I would start implementing them tomorrow.

Monday was back-to-business... school, housework, cooking, kids' activities. Busy busy. Filled with plans laid down long before the conference. I noticed I was being more gentle toward my children, assuming the best instead of the worst, expressing compassion. Well, that was good, some of those plans were taking root.

But my sensible plan to post some conference thoughts here on Monday was laughed down by the pace of regular life. Though only a beginning made it into Evernote before my head hit the pillow, I was sure that I'd edit and publish early Tuesday.

Tuesday' s 4:45 am alarm went off and once again my feet hit the floor running. After my quiet time, school and meal planning trumped writing, so with just a few additional notes scribbled, I jumped into the current of my waking family, and sped down the river of the day. Surely Tuesday night I'd be able to finish. That is, after I finished editing another small writing project I was working on.

Give God permission to invade your day and change your plans. Ask for grace to walk through that. - Sally Clarkson, Mom Heart Conference, Feb. 18, 2012

At dinner time on Tuesday my husband told me he was not feeling too well, and wasn't going to eat with us. Within an hour we were heading to Urgent Care. From there to the ER and by 1:00am Wednesday he was admitted to the hospital.

And now I write this, on day four of our unplanned hospital adventure, sitting across from his bed.

Not the dinner my husband would have planned

This man of mine and I, we are idea people. We are bombarded with ideas... there is so much we want to try out, so much we want to do. We make lots of plans.

We struggle to reconcile reality with our ideas. We can't implement them all and we wonder, are we trying hard enough? Are we committed to these wild dreams? Sometimes it really is us. We get discouraged, beaten down. Sometimes we give up.

But sometimes it isn't us. It is life. Sometimes it isn't in the master plan, or more accurately, the Master's Plan.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

I doubt either of us will ever stop being dreamers, will ever stop making big, impossible plans. But I know that I am growing in my trust in the Master's Plan, and find myself holding less tightly to my own. I have learned through many apparent-trials-that-turned-for-good that I can wait, and trust.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5, 6 NASB)

I think some of those dreams and plans I was so excited about will come to fruition. But only those that are aligned with God's plan for me and for our family. And they may not happen when or just how I imagine them now.

Thankfully God's imagination is much bigger than mine and His timing perfect.

Sit in on the Mom Heart Conference With Me!

I am at the lovely Las Colinas Marriott in Irving Texas today!

The fabulous Sally Clarkson is hosting her annual Texas getaway for moms, from 3:00pm CST today Friday afternoon (2/16/12) until 4:30 CST Saturday (2/17/12).

Last year I shared many of Sally's points and how they intersected with our life:

This year the moms' bible study I lead is reading through Sally's book The Mission of Motherhood and studying related scriptures to each chapter's topic. Since none of my dear friends from the group could join me, I am going to be tweeting throughout the conference.

If you would like to follow along, please join me on Twitter!

When the Complaining Creeps Back In

It seems to come in cycles.

We'll be navigating our family life smoothly, and just as I shift into cruise-control-mothering it happens.

Game change.

The old rules and methods seem to stop working and one of the children starts behaving like a spoiled kid in a toy store.

Whining. Complaining. General unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Years ago I declared the public space in our house a "No Whine Zone." This was remarkably effective, mostly in reducing the clamor in my ears.

But removing the sound from the living room doesn't address the heart issue. So we memorized scripture. Even the five year old can remember

That verse has been recited more times than any other in our house. By far. And it helps adjust our attitudes.

Nevertheless, the cycles of whining and complaining come around again.

One day not long ago I was extremely frustrated with one of my children. The complaining had escalated to the point where it was starting to be difficult to be around this child.

As I sat there and opened my heart to God's leading in that moment, I realized that the complaining I was hearing was not just words that were grating to me and disobedient to the scripture. More importantly, this constant complaining was reflective of an ungrateful heart.

And right away I knew what our new rule would be.

  • The first time you complain, you must say five things out loud for which you are thankful
  • The second time you complain, you must say ten things out loud for which you are thankful
  • The third time, fifteen, and so on
  • You may not re-use an item of thanksgiving in the same day
  • Each day you start with a clean slate

After slight hesitation the children have adjusted to this rule. Now all I have to say is, "I see, and what do you need to do now?" and off they rattle their thanksgivings.

The out-loud part of the rule has been key. Yes, we have had days when someone has said fifteen "thankfuls" in a row. It's delightful to listen to the change in tone from #1 to #15. There is something about speaking your blessings out loud that just makes you feel thankful. And cheerful.

I know from experience. <cringe>

It was a day that I woke up to a not-exactly-tidy house. I was behind on laundry, behind on dishes... just behind.

I was determined to take dominion over our crazy house, but that didn't eliminate the normal chores, schoolwork and activities. Then along came a few extra unexpected projects and interruptions. And a change to our afternoon activity that was going to mean less time at home.

The stress level was mounting in the mama brain, and the house still looked like a train wreck.

An hour before we needed to leave, as I was looking around me aghast that I was still woefully behind, Farmer Boy came in from the cold drizzle and announced,

"The goats are out. All of them. And they are spreading out in the woods."

To which I calmly replied, "WHAT??! I don't have time for this! We don't have time! How did this happen? Why wasn't this prevented?! Look at this house! It's a disaster! Aaaaargh!!!!"

My stoic eldest simply looked at me calmly (and somewhat quizzically.)

I growled "I'm sorry, I'm not mad at you, not at any of you, it's not your fault, I'm just so frustrated! I can't get everything done in the time we have in a day, even without disasters and interruptions, but disasters and interruptions just keep coming! And also AAARGH!"

It was one of my wiser and more joy-filled parenting moments.

So the goats were rounded up, the fence fixed, and the humans loaded into the van to leave for the kids' activity. At least we weren't going to be late. As we headed off one of the children fussed and fussed about how very hard life was. 

Oh the complaining. Oh the whining.

And I realized I was listening to myself. Ouch.

"I think we'd both better say five things we're thankful for. I kind of freaked out earlier," I said into the rear-view mirror.

So we alternated listing five things each for which we were thankful.

By the end we were laughing. Because a cheerful heart is good medicine, and sometimes the best medicine for a complaining spirit is speaking thanks.

From Our Hearts to Yours

... we hope you had a lovely Valenstime Day (as Little Warrior calls it)...

If you think getting good photos of wiggly kids is challenging, you should try the four legged kind!

When a Superhero is Learning to Read...

... there is no reason for him to remove his head gear ...

... a mask does not prevent him from learning sounds...

... gloves just might help him follow the letters ...

... and he should be free to use his powerful superhero voice ...

... because learning to read is fun for superheroes too!

~ with thanks to our superhero's big sister for capturing this reading lesson in pictures ~

How I Simpified Meal Planning ~ a review and a giveaway

I love to cook. I like to make up new recipes, to find creative ways to make delicious food with dietary restrictions, to make a beautiful plate. Really I like to play chef.

Cashew Sesame Noodles

But I am also a mama, a wife, a housekeeper, a homeschool teacher, a chauffeur, a writer, a volunteer in my community, a goat nanny... the list goes on. It is a full life.

Unable to keep up with it all, I realized a few years ago that I needed a way to simplify my kitchen activities. I tried planning simpler menus but kept forgetting to actually plan, and would spend silly amounts of time each day figuring out what I could make with what I had on hand. I was terrible at getting dinner on the table on time.

So when a local homeschooling mom sent out a call for beta-testers of a new meal planning website a few months ago I signed right up!

Pepperoni Chicken

I was so impressed by Build A Menu's service, and their heart to do good, that I became a paying member this January after they launched their full site.

Since I am finding Build A Menu to be such a help to me as I go about my busy week, and because I feel so passionately about using our gifts to serve others (as Build A Menu does with its support of orphan care), I decided to do a review to let more people know about this wonderful new service.

Hash Browns with Greens (all steamy in the pot)

Build A Menu was started by sisters Karee Blunt and Lisa Holcomb to help families both simplify meal planning and stay within a budget.

My subscription costs me $2 per week, and allows me to customize a menu based on my favorite store. Every week they publish a great selection of recipes that take advantage of sales at that store. Hooray for the budget!

Each meal shows its total cost as well as ingredient list before I choose it, so I can make decisions based on price and the ingredients I already have on hand. Once I select the menu I want for the week, I print all of the recipes, as well as a shopping list (oh do I love the shopping list!)

A really cool feature of the service is that I am not limited to a specific seven meals each week like other meal planning websites I have looked into. I can pick any seven dinner recipes from across all of the menu categories. In fact, I have run into the problem of wanting to use more than seven dinner recipes in a given week!

The store options:
  • Fred Meyer
  • HEB 
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods
  • Any Grocery Store 
  • coming soon Costco (YAY!) and Publix

And the menu category options:
  • family friendly
  • low fat
  • low carb
  • sensible portions
  • gluten free
  • vegetarian
  • slow cooker
  • soups on!
  • crowd pleasers
  • grill a meal
  • manly meals

These women totally get my life. It's like they somehow know that I have several days with afternoon activities so need a few crockpot recipes, and I cook low carb for my husband, and even occasionally prepare meals for friends who eat gluten-free! Regular people have complicated lives, sometimes even in the kitchen. I'm so glad Build A Menu doesn't restrict the menu options.

Now here is where my heart is completely captured by these wonderful folks. Karee and Lisa both mother biological and adopted children. Their passion for adoption led them to decide to give a portion of Build A Menu's proceeds to orphan care ministry. In fact, you can even choose which organization you want your portion to go to!

Please take a moment to read this beautiful blog post Karee wrote a few months ago. It is incredible to me that I can contribute in a small way by using a service that benefits me so much.

And now for some more yummy pictures! I made all of the recipes in this post in a two week period....

Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

Crock Creole Chicken

Bean and Kale Ragu

Slow Cooker Artichoke Pasta

Curried Tomato Bisque

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

Spicy Fish

Quiche with Hash Brown Crust

Thai Basil Chicken

I pay for this subscription because I think it's worth it. I emailed Karee and Lisa to tell them I was going to review the site, and guess what?

They have offered a free two month subscription to Build A Menu to one of you! I think you will find it a great blessing!

There are three ways to enter the Build A Menu two month subscription giveaway (please leave a separate comment for each... one comment = one chance to win):

  1. "Like" Build A Menu on Facebook
  2. Tweet "I just entered to win a free meal planning subscription to @BuildAMenu!"
  3. Tell me... which of those yummy dishes above would you want me to serve if you came to hang out for dinner at the farm?

Please include a way to contact you (via email, twitter or facebook) in one of your comments.

The Build A Menu giveaway will end on Friday, February 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST. The winner will be chosen using  This giveaway is now closed.

I hope you win!  


UPDATE 02/11/12: Congratulations NeKisha! I think you are going to enjoy your new two month subscription to Build A Menu! 

All photos by Patti Brown, all dishes made from Build A Menu recipes.

Disclosure: I am a paying subscriber to Build A Menu. I did not receive anything to do this review and giveaway. I just think you will love them!

Disclosure update 07/28/12: BAM has recently started an affiliate program, so I have changed some of the links in this post to my affiliate link. All it means is that if you click through and sign up, I get credit. Which makes it even easier for me to buy the ingredients for yummy Build A Menu meals! :-)

Nibbles the Wonder Goat

Our little Nibbles... 

he of the hypothermia and tub faucet nibbling... 

and the blessed recipient of an adoptive mama's goat-y love...

 doing just dandy, thank you very much.

The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
~ Psalm 145:9 ~ 

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