Saturday, September 29, 2012

Butcher Paper, let's be friends ...

First grade, I think ...
I'm pretty sure I butchered my first real experience with a large roll of a blue butcher paper and the classroom door on which it was intended. {I couldn't resist "butchered" there ...}

My mom is a retired teacher who taught fifth-graders my entire childhood. My dad is a retired principal, who was actually my elementary school principal. Yep, I was Mr. Hill's daughter. Nanny worked a board of education and one of my aunts is a retired teacher who happened to teach my English class both my junior and senior years of high school. {And, no, I didn't always get an A. That AP English class wasn't the easiest thing I ever did, even being related to the teacher!} My best friend here taught third grade before she stayed home with her babies and is now easing back into the system.

"Teacher" used to be my answer when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Then I realized I don't like to be in charge or rooms full of kids and I don't like speaking in front of groups of people of any age. So, yeah, I changed my answer from "teacher" to "journalist."

I was hired as an education reporter as my second job after graduating with that print journalism degree that kept me from ever stepping foot in the education building. I covered two public K-12 districts, one public university, and one private college all in the one eastern Kentucky county in which I worked. That's lots of school board meetings, university administration interviews, and school activity photographs.

Then I moved and got a new job at another local newspaper. I covered another public university regularly and for a dramatic season one public school district that was having a per-pupil funding conflict with another public school district.

I understand education lingo. I'm a product of public education from half-day kindergarten where I learned to tie my shoes all the way through earning my bachelor's degree in something other than teaching. And now my daughter goes to a small, private school that impressed us with its philosophy and mission.

I've been volunteering at Cate's school once a week. I've helped with Grandparents' Day breakfast and an apple pot luck. I've made copies and cut out cardstock stencils for preschools to use to make crafts. I've sorted school T-shirts and glued maps to index cards so third- and fourth-graders could make books about states.

And yesterday I decorated a door.

Seriously, nobody told me how hard it would be to hang that butcher paper on the door. I've seen so many cutely decorated classroom doors in my years of walking school hallways. And who knew getting the foundation paper smooth and straight was such a project!

The "straight" cut across the bottom wasn't nearly as smooth and ... well ... straight as I had hoped. And don't even get me started about cutting around the handle. I did better around the door stop at the bottom.

That blue paper got on the door, but I wondered if the teacher was regretting asking me to hang paper on her door. I didn't let that stop me from asking her if she wanted me to help her decorate her door. I know, really. One would have thought I should have just stopped while I was ahead. But, come on, I'm a scrapbooker at heart. Surely I can finish decorating the door, despite the challenge of the butcher paper covering, which I ... well ... I can't help it ... butchered.

The teacher told me she wanted to make a tree, using a strip of brown butcher paper and some pre-cut leaves she had. Sounded simple enough. And, truly, the tree was much easier than the blue paper. I thought later, though, that I should have have added the shadow of an owl hole in the trunk. Perhaps the teacher will perfect what I started on her classroom door.

I'll walk by and see when I'm there next week. Until then, I'll be glad I'm a parent volunteer who knows how to work the copy machine, can cut and paste, and doesn't have to speak in front of a group of people of any age. God bless you, teachers ... and your classroom doors.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

KHT Promotions

You may have noticed a new link at the top of my blog. If not, well, I want you to notice. And tell your friends.

KHT Promotions is born. 

I've been dreaming of starting an on-the-side business that helps people promote events, people, groups, ministries, and whatever else needs promoting. I'm a writer who like to mess around with photos and design. I see how social media makes the world smaller and connects people. I like to plan parties.

I decided to stop waiting until we were done adopting babies or until both my kids were in school full time to put myself out there. I decided this moment is worth pursing new ideas as I have a little more time to devote to such things. I've been thinking of this for awhile, even last year I was seeing God lay some opportunities before me. This week alone I've had two conversations with people who have encouraged me in this direction even though that wasn't the specific point of the conversation.

Click on {For Hire} to learn more about what I can do. Basically, if you need information organized or promoted, I could be your gal. I'm flexible and willing to work with whatever ideas you have. Or I can help you come up with an idea.

That event you want to celebrate, it's worth celebrating. That party you want to plan, let's get people there. That cause you believe in, perhaps others want to know more.

Browse my past projects {Press releases. Invitations. Advertisements and flyers.} and email me at kristinhilltaylor (at) gmail (dot) com. And let's talk about how I can make something or write something for you. I'd also be happy to provide you with some references who could speak to my work on past projects.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

I've been ...

I've been planning a Slugs & Bugs concert! {Similar to the one that happened last year.}

I've been taking steps to act upon some dreams swirling in my head.

I've been making lists of the different projects I want to do at home, at The Gathering Place and at Shady Creek Landing.

I've been embracing our carpool schedule and the way I get much done before 9 a.m. on the mornings I drive.

I've been watching "Bones" ... and getting teary-eyed while doing so. Seriously.

I've been organizing registration and publicity and other details for the second annual Marketplace 29 A.D.

I've been hearing my kindergartner recite scripture and poems she's memorized. I'm proud of her, thankful for her school, and impressed she's mastering a skill that still escapes me.

I've been seeing my son seem more grown up with his actions and words.

I've been living in community with a merry-go-round stroller exchange, hand-me-down clothes, a neighbor friend who baked me cinnamon rolls, a sister-in-law who brought me other cinnamon rolls, concert fundraising, sharing lives over lunches, and idea swapping and dreaming.

I've been anticipating this weekend's adult-only getaway with our dear friends who got married the same summer as us 10 years ago. It's a delayed double anniversary date with none of our five kids in five years between us.

What have you been doing?

This post was inspired by an Ali Edwards' post. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall on the Farm {Year Four}

If you were to ask, "What's your favorite season?" Without hesitation, I'd answer, "Summer." And it is. But my second-favorite time of the year is when Summer becomes Fall. The cool mornings, sunshiny afternoons, and cool-again evenings are pretty close to perfection.

I love so many things about fall. And one thing I've come to love as a mom is Fall on the Farm. Murray State's agriculture students do a fabulous job putting on this annual event. We've been several times ...

2008 : When I decided I didn't need my sweater and I pushed my 17-month-old girl in a stroller.

2009 : When we needed layers of clothing and we were a little more than a month away from becoming a family of three.

2010 : When my boys wore shorts and our family of four included a 3 1/2-year-old girl and an 11-month-old boy.

We didn't go last year because we were vacationing in Maine and Boston. While that vacation was certainly worth missing a few hours on the farm, we were glad to be back among the petting zoo, pony rides, pit of corn kernels, barn slides, corn maze, and horse-shaped tire swings ... you know, if we weren't going to be vacationing in the Northeast. 

What do you love about fall?

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Tastes of Fall

One of my favorite things about fall is food, especially soups and honeycrisp apples. And it's starting to feel {and smell!} much like fall around here!

My daughter had a Johnny Appleseed celebration today during snack time with two tables full of apple desserts and dishes and drinks. She wanted me to make an apple slush. Although I think she was thinking about a green apple slush from Sonic {hello, happy hour ...}, I found a recipe that made a drink she liked. So that's what we contributed to the Johnny Appleseed party.

Apple Slush


16 oz. unsweetened applesauce 
{I used Mott's Granny Smith applesauce.}
8 oz. vanilla lowfat yogurt 
6 oz. frozen apple juice 
1-2 tbsp. sugar (optional) {I used Splenda.}
10 ice cubes or more

Put first 4 ingredients into blender. Blend on high speed. Drop one ice cube at a time into blender, blending until the mixture becomes a slush. {I dropped an entire tray of ice cubes at once and used three trays.}

And, well, what's fall without some soups. Here are two of our favorites!

Saucy Vegetable Beef Soup

From "Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer"
Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced
2 14-oz. cans beef broth, divided
2 T steak sauce
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 10-oz. bag frozen mixed vegetables
1-28 ox. can diced tomatoes, undrained

In large pot, brown beef with onion and celery until vegetables are tender and meat is browned. Drain. Add 1 can of beef broth, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix flour with remaining can of beef broth. Once flour and broth are mixed well, add to soup and continue stirring until soup is bubbly. Cook for an additional minute. Stir in mixed vegetables and diced tomatoes.

If freezing, cool completely and store in freezer bags. On serving day, thaw completely. Bring to boil in pot and then simmer until vegetables are tender and soup is heated through, about 20 minutes. 

Easy and Tasty Chicken Tortilla Soup

Makes 5 servings

4 cups water
3 cubes chicken bouillon
1 onion, chopped
1 banana pepper, seeded and diced
1 (15.5 ounce) can hominy, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (10.75 ounce) cans cream of chicken soup
2 (12.5 fl oz) cans white chicken, drained
4 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons lime juice
5 dashes hot pepper sauce
3 tablespoons dried cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste 

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot; stir the bouillon cubes into the water until dissolved. Add the onion, banana pepper, hominy, black beans, garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes with chiles, diced tomatoes, chicken soup, chicken, garlic powder, lime juice, hot pepper sauce, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper; stir. Reduce heat to medium and cook the soup until the onions are soft and opaque, about 20 minutes. 

{I make it in the crock pot, mixing all the ingredients and then cooking it on low for most of the day.}

Inspired by Jill Savage's Third Thursday Blog Hop, which, yes, I'm posting on a Friday. Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Or follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On the mend

This is what happens when momma is sick.

I have good news: My head really may not explode.

I wasn't so sure yesterday afternoon. From Sunday afternoon until last night, I didn't do much other than lay on the couch. Rather, couches. Depending who was home and what they were doing, I moved from the basement {where our most comfortable couch is} to the upstairs living room {where Diego and one of the countless "Land Before Time" sequels entertained my kids} to the kitchen {yes, we have a couch in the kitchen ...}. I read a little and watched the pilot episode of "Felicity," thank to Netflix.

My husband pitched in and drove carpool yesterday morning so I only had to take Ben to preschool rather than picking up two other kids and taking them and Cate to their school farther away. Yay, husband! So I had three hours to myself on the comfortable couch in the dark, cold basement yesterday morning.

Then I went to see my new doctor, who is in same practice as my current doctor who is moving away soon. I liked her from the initial meeting, but I almost seriously hugged her when she said she was prescribing me a z-pack antibiotic for my red throat and fluid-filled ears. I sensed relief coming, although, admittedly, I had doubts yesterday evening.

Greg came through again when he brought dinner home. I was feeling particularly rough by late afternoon. I even texted my friend who is a nurse about how I didn't remember feeling so bad before. And then later I asked her if I could take anything else on top of the antibiotic and Zyrtec. She informed me taking Sudafed may help my head feel less full.

Thanks to some medicine and a decent night's sleep, I woke up this morning feeling better. Not great, but certainly better. I had enough energy to make it to the grocery to restock our bare kitchen cabinets, although I did have to open a box of Kleenex I hadn't purchased yet and dip into my cough drop supply throughout the aisles. Speaking of cough drops, Greg swears by Luden's Wild Cherry drops {and brought some home for me yesterday!}, although I'm not sure they have the medicinal value of Hall's cough drops, which taste like ... well ... medicine. They taste just like candy, but they helped my dry, itchy throat enough to end the coughing fit I was having in the meat department.

And you'll be glad to know my sink no long looks like the picture above. The dishwasher has been unloaded and re-loaded with all those dirty dishes. I'm typically a load-as-we-go girl, so you know I've been resting when my sink is overflowing. Of course, after tending to the sink, I had to sit for a few minutes. Good thing there is a couch in my kitchen.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Must-see TV

A few years ago, I gave up some TV shows I once loved but were dragging on. I stopped recording "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice" and "Survivor." I stopped watching "The Office." Then my husband and I learned the luxury of watching entire TV series on Netflix.

We've cheered for the Panthers in "Friday Night Lights." We've befriended the Bravermans in "Parenthood." Along with Roxy and Pamela, I joined the Fort Marshall community in "Army Wives." I reluctantly got hooked to "Downton Abbey." And now we're solving crimes right along side Bones and Booth in "Bones."

But our DVR is gaining some regularly scheduled TV shows again, some of which start this week.

Today I saw that Facts of Life star Lisa Whelchel and former MLB player Jeff Kent are going to be part of the new season of "Survivor." So I added it to our recording queue. And Greg told me he was interested in "The Mob Doctor," which features a couple of our TV favorites in Jordana Spiro {P.J. from "My Boys"} and Zach Gilford {QB Matt Saracen in "Friday Night Lights"}.

We're also recording "The Good Wife," which we got hooked on when we borrowed some DVDs of the first couple seasons. And the latest season of "Parenthood" will be awaiting us when we catch up on the last season recently added to our Netflix instant queue.

Any new shows catching your eye? What are your must-see TV shows?

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sick Day

Sick days aren't really in the benefits package of motherhood. But, if I'm going to take at least a partial one, a Sunday is apparently the day to do it. I woke up thinking I wasn't going to change out of my pajamas or leave the house, thanks to a nagging head cold.

Let me tell you about my head cold. I never really struggled with allergies until the past few years. It's been too hot. And too dry. And it didn't cool down enough. Farmers are cutting down corn that survived the drought and stirred up the ragweed. I keep hearing all these excuses. I have no idea what to blame, but every time my head gets congested, it drains into my ear. And it just sits there. A couple years ago, my primary care doctor said maybe tubes would help the fluid drain, so she referred to me an ENT who, after a series of hearing tests and ear exams, said I just needed to stop thinking about how my ear was bothering me.


His professional opinion was that I spent too much thinking about my ear.


Funny thing is, my daughter who doesn't share an ounce of DNA with me, tends to get ear infections when she gets congested because the sinus fluid drains into her ear. It's almost better she gets an infection because at least then she gets an antibiotic to help clear it up. My next primary care doctor {who is moving, thus leaving me with having a new doctor again for the second time in less than three years ...} explained that the fluid was draining into some particular ear canal or something and there wasn't really anything medically that could be done to cure it. While his explanation didn't offer a solution, at least he offered an explanation.

So, anyway, the past couple mornings I've woken up with a heavy head, but as I've gotten going, it's cleared up enough that I don't wonder when I can lay down next. Not today. The snot and phlegm and fluid just sat there. All day. Really, I've tried to not think about my ear ... 

Greg got ready to go to church early for worship team practice. After my kids were fed and dressed, I started up whatever of the many "Land Before Time" sequel they had picked and I proceeded to lay down on the couch with a pillow and a blanket and a book. I decided to postpone making any decision about my next steps.

Cate, being the ever-observant, first-born child she is, asked who would sit with her and Ben at church while Daddy played guitar if I didn't go.

Who can tell a 5-year-old girl she isn't going to church after that?

Right. Nobody.

So I went, after laying on the couch for awhile and then finally mustering the energy to get ready. Really, once I got there I was alright. So alright that when my best friend asked if we were going to lunch I said "yes," without hesitation because I've missed her and I was hungry. But after the delicious Zaxby's meal and putting kids in their rooms for nap/rest time, I found my corner of the couch.

And I stayed there for FIVE hours, only getting up to use the bathroom, get a drink, and prepare a dinner that involved grilled cheese {one of which was made using one heel ...} and leftover pizza. My husband was helpful and rested with me while we watched a couple episodes of "Bones," the Titans football game, and some of the Cardinals baseball game. Cate played in her room for a couple hours before lugging a pile of coloring supplies down to the basement. Ben took a good nap and then joined us in the basement.

I'm sure some people take sick days and actually ignore their work. My work cuddled up with my on the couch between Lego construction projects and books ready by Daddy. At one point, Cate said, "I love snuggling with you, Momma. You're so comfortable." Hey, I took it as a compliment. Lounging may have had its benefits for our whole little family.

Now it's not quite 8:30 p.m. and I have been laying in bed for 45 minutes. I'm contemplating actually going to sleep, after taking Nyquil, of course. "Serendipity" is playing in the background. I may read some more of "Girl Meets God" by Lauren Winner.

Or I may just call it a day.

How do you handle sick days? Any favorite movies that are worth watching over and over?

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Five years down this road ...

My first Mother's Day. With my week-old baby girl.

I never dreamed of becoming a mom.


When I looked down the proverbial road, I saw myself as a reporter and maybe eventually an editor at a decent-size city newspaper who would perhaps have kids. The road turned back toward Murray when I said "yes" to my then-boyfriend's marriage proposal. I never doubted he was worth it, but I did wonder what this meant for my career. Plus I had said I was done living in Murray.

I swore I'd never work at the Murray Ledger & Times, a newspaper we picked apart in journalism classes at Murray State. As 20-year-old students in training to become more, we thought we knew better than people who were paid to publish a newspaper. And maybe we did.  

But, you know, never say never; it's a constant lesson in my life. 

I ended up working for four years at the Ledger & Times and loved it. Sure, there was inner-office drama I could have lived without. I don't expect to ever like to write weather stories. I prefer hard news to fluff pieces. But, overall, I loved the job I swore I'd never have.

We spent a couple years trying to become pregnant. I assumed that was the road to having a family. Well, not for us. We ended up adopting our newborn daughter and I stayed home with her for six weeks, fully intending to balance my new life as a working mom.

Because I'd said more than once I'd never be the kind of mom who stays home with her kids. 

Well, about five weeks after Cate was born, I really didn't want to go back to work. Really. But I told my bosses I was coming back. So I went back. My bosses were accommodating and I worked in the office in the mornings and at home or wherever interviews took me in the afternoons. My husband worked from home in the mornings and from his office in the afternoons. Back and forth. In and out. Passing in the doorway.

It wasn't working for me, mostly the momma part of me. And it wasn't going to work for Greg much longer. This was part of the process of being realizing becoming a stay-at-home mom was the best option for us. The other part was logistics, mostly involving health insurance and income.

God worked out all the details, and for the third big moment in my life I remembered why never say never is a good rule in life. I lived in Murray, was quitting a job I said I'd never have, and I was becoming the mom I said I'd never be.

That was five years ago. Today. I was officially finished as a small-town newspaper reporter on Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, when I filed my story from the MSU Board of Regents meeting that took up most of my first day. I came home feeling like a burden had been lifted because I wasn't being stretched between what I assumed my life would be and what my life had become.

Today instead of covering a meeting, chatting with a university president and turning information collected from said meeting into a newspaper article, I drove carpool to my daughter's school, volunteered at that school, and then took my son to a play date with some of my mom friends. And writing is still therapeutic for me.

Seriously, I wouldn't change a thing. Well, you know, other than ridding my life of diapers and having perfectly obedient children ... But I wouldn't change how I got here or where I am, even though some of the getting here was hard. It's our journey.

Quitting my job for my family was one major storyline. But God didn't let it end there. Sure, I was able to focus on being a mom and raising my daughter, and now son too. But my life road that took this sharp turn, sort of unexpectedly, lead me to two of the dearest friends I'll probably ever have.

I met my writer friend Holly, who lives too far away now, when I gave her a crash course on the job I was leaving. We converse like we're chatty neighbors I have 1,281 emails and 359 Gchat histories between us saved since February 2010, and that doesn't count the texts, emails on my old account, Facebook exchanges, blog comments, phone conversations, meals shared, words exchanged around my kitchen table, or cards mailed hundreds of miles. 

My momma friend Courtney was the best thing to come out of a mom's group I joined shortly after quitting my job. When our family became four, Courtney was the first of my friends to watch both my kids. We've been to the Nashville Zoo, Venture River Water Park, each others' houses, the local park, blueberry and blackberry and strawberry patches, Kentucky Lake, basketball games (and even the Final Four!), tons of restaurants, and Bible study together. We've played and prayed and cried and laughed and listened to our kids argue and heard our kids love each other. Who knows how many chicken breasts we've prepared for meals to stock our freezers. My husband and I helped make her into a college basketball fan. And now our husbands work together. 

Quitting my job was certainly a new leg of the journey, and I couldn't really see too far in front of me. But looking in my rear-view mirror, I'd go around that curve again, especially knowing my life is absolutely nothing like I planned and I wouldn't have it any other way. And, you know, for being a stay-at-home mom, I don't even stay home that much.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cleaning out my heart

Join the Compassion Blogger NetworkDear God,

I heard something today that had me thinking about what I treasure. I know You've said it before, but I was reminded that where my treasure is, there my heart will be too. In this world, we have so many opportunities to hoard clothes and toys and gadgets, millions of moments where we can choose selfishness over servanthood, and countless times when our emotions get the best of our reactions. But it's also true that in this world, we can give and help and serve and love and focus on truth.

That's what Jen Hatmaker has me thinking about as I read "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess." I've read chapters on how she fasted from all but seven foods for a month, how she left hundreds of articles of clothing untouched when she wore only seven items for another month, and how she made space in her life {thus her heart} by purging some possessions from her house in order to help others. She had me thinking about You.

All of these things are rooted in who You are, God. You're gracious. And compassionate. And slow to anger. And rich in love. And faithful. And near. And Your kingdom is everlasting.

This alone should be enough for me to make spaces in my closets and my heart, on my calendar and in my checkbook. Yes, for You. But also for them. For my neighbors, the ones I know and the ones who are strangers. For my family and friends. For my enemies, yes, even them. For kids who aren't growing up in the same culture of excess that surrounds me and my kids.

So I purged some clothes and purses and shoes from my closet. Really, I'm not even a clothes and shoes person. I do like bags. But Your truth that where I spend my money and my time and my energy will lead my heart. And I want my heart led closer to You. Cleaning out my closet won't do that alone, but that action happened while I was thinking about this culture of excess and how somebody else that has drawers and closets and hearts that desperately need filled with truth only you, God, can provide.

While I was making a pile on my bed, I thought about Roselyn. And Jean. And how Your truth crosses cultures and countries. We spend $76 each month so their lives can be changed physically, medically, educationally and spiritually through Compassion International. Perhaps it makes them feel rich. And they are. But their wealth isn't displayed excessively in houses and vehicles and gadgets and clothes like ours sometimes is. You make us rich, God.

So, yes, God, where my treasure is, there my heart will be too. Purging my closets is one way I took action today. Sponsoring kids through Compassion International is another way to help bring your kingdom near. There are so many things I can do for You, God. I pray You show me who and when and how. I pray You give me opportunities to make you known because when you are made known, there is compassion and eternal wealth.

In Jesus' name. Amen. 

If you're looking for a way to give to someone, please consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

We choose community.

Prompted by "You Know You're in Community When ..." on (in)courage and thoughts of the approaching five-year anniversary of quitting my job to become a full-time momma on Sept. 14, 2007.

The kids in our community during a noodle jousting match in July.

All four of us in my house are social. We like playing games, sharing meals, writing notes/emails, buying birthday presents, and talking to our friends. Well, OK, maybe my husband doesn't really write his friends notes or buy them birthday gifts, but they do play basketball for three hours on a Sunday night.

I cringe at the busyness that comes with multiple extra-curricular activities, meeting commitments that come with volunteer posts, a large garden, and working full-time outside the house while trying to hold down the family fort. {Disclaimer: I'm not criticizing people who do choose or are required to do these things. I'm just saying, it overwhelms me just thinking about how they do it. And I know people who do it well. Trust me, I know every family is different and we like and need different things.}

For me, I was blessed to be able to quit my job because even doing it for three months with an adopted newborn made me realize I was going to constantly be juggling hesitations that I was doing either "job" well. That kind of busyness was going to exhaust me in no time.

Could I be diligent and dedicated to my job covering small-town news when it involved evening meetings away from my baby girl for whom we had waited? Could I be a good momma when I was lining up childcare when my husband and I had work conflicts that kept us both going in and out of the door? I could make it work. I could get done what had to be done. But I knew I wasn't going to be excellent at both this way.

Now, I'm not sure I'd label myself as excellent at this point, four days shy of when I traded my reporter's notebook for more diaper changes and sippy cups. But I believe I made a decision that was best for me, my husband and my daughter. A couple years later we added a son. And now the four of us are better off because I drew boundaries in how our live would be busy.

Yes, our life is busy. But usually only in the ways we choose.

We choose having friends over for dinner. Some friends from from farther away places and stay for the weekend.

We choose letting our girl choose one activity. Right now it's soccer. Our boy is still waiting his turn to become involved.

We choose going to football and basketball games at our alma mater as a family.

We choose church. And lunch with dear friends often follows.

We choose birthday lunches, baby showers, and organizing meals for a new momma.

We choose Settlers of Catan marathons with our best friends.

We choose to have play dates with family friends.

We choose our small group with others from our community-minded church.

We choose family bike rides to our town's old-fashioned, walk-up Dairy Queen.

We choose road trips to see places and people we love.

We choose dinners together around the table with the TV off.

We choose this kind of busyness that allows us to live in community. Together. With people who know us, support us, love us, encourage us, help us, challenge us, trust us, text us, visit us, eat with us, and share life with us.

{I've written about this community before: Small-town momma community. Here & now ... together. In Community (The Crock Pot Edition). Here in Community. I believe in community. My Help. Living in Community.}

I was reminded how real this community is when I've found myself missing people who live a few miles away but whose routines have changed with the start of another school year and we find our lives not intersecting as naturally as they had been. I knew this community was real when I found times to spend with them and their families on our calendars, even if it meant thinking beyond what we usually do. I believe this community is real because the play dates, lunch dates, dinners together, trips to the park, Settlers marathons fill my calendar but don't clutter my life with what seems like busyness. This community sustains me and the other three people in my family who are awfully fond of their friends too.

Do you know what I'm talking about? Tell me your favorite thing about your community.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

In that season ...

Dave Matthews Band was the soundtrack of my life for a season. But I had given up on Dave Matthews. I saw DMB headline one night at HullabaLOU a couple years ago, and, honestly, I wanted more Zac Brown Band, a newer favorite, than my old favorite. And, really, I haven't listened to Dave Matthews since. So when an old friend told me about a new Dave Matthews song he loved this weekend while we were reminiscing, I was hesitant. But "Mercy" is really good. Well done, Dave, well done. And reminiscing was good for my soul as I made new memories with old friends.

In that season, I was ready to move on but it wasn't time to leave my childhood home yet. Pick me up, love, from the bottom/Up onto the top, love, everyday/Pay no mind to taunts or advances/I’m gonna take my chances on everyday... So I befriended people who went to high school somewhere else. I worked with some of these friends. Others were friends of friends.

In that season, two guy friends loved to play DMB songs on their guitars. They were especially good at "Lie in Our Graves." When I step into the light my arms open wide/When I step into the light my eyes searching wild/Would you not like to be/Sitting on top of the world with your legs hanging free/Would you not like to be OK, OK, OK... 

In that season, a few of us went to concerts together, always listening to the songs we hoped to hear on the way there and the ones we loved the most on the way home. ... Celebrate we will/Because life is short but sweet for certain/We’re climbing two by two/To be sure these days continue/These things we cannot change ...

In that season, my best friend since fourth grade made new friends with me. We continued our inseparable ways, with songs like "Best of What's Around" playing in the background. Hey my friend/It seems your eyes are troubled/Care to share your time with me/Would you say you’re feeling low and so/A good idea would be to get it off your mind/See, you and me/Have a better time than most can dream/Have it better than the best/So can pull on through/Whatever tears at us/Whatever holds us down/And if nothing can be done/We’ll make the best of what’s around ...

In that season, we reunited when we all came home from colleges in Murray, Ky., West LaFayette, Ind., Carbondale, Ill., and Lexington, Ky. We emailed. We chatted on AOL Instant Messenger. We visited each other. I even suggested one guy friend call another girl friend of mine. He did. She approved. And they celebrated 10 years of marriage in April and spent this past weekend in Murray with us. Between us, we have four kids, two of whom are named Ben and will turn 3 within seven weeks of each other.

In that season, we made memories we didn't realize we'd be talking about 14 years later as we watched our kids play together in my backyard. ... It’s crazy, I’m thinking, just knowing that the world is round/I’m here I’m dancing on the ground/Am I right side up or upside down, and is this real, or am I dreaming? ... Details were fuzzy about some things, but other moments were oh-so clear. Google even helped us remember Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds played an acoustic show at Murray State on Feb. 20, 1999. And we were there, having no idea that concert would become part of the verbal timeline we re-created.

In that season, we had no idea what was ahead of us. ... Mercy, what will become of us/Oh, one by one, could we turn it around/Maybe carry on just a little bit longer/And I’ll try to give you what you need ...

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

{Worth Repeating Wednesday} Like letters

Photo from

"I started with a simple problem, a key with no lock ... and I designed a system I thought fit the problem. I broke everything down in the smallest parts and tried to think of each person as a number ... in a gigantic equation. People aren't like numbers. They're more like letters, and those letters want to become stories. And dad said that stories need to be shared."

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Three little lives

Join the Compassion Blogger NetworkMy daughter wanted to send toys to Guatemala, where the child we first sponsored through Compassion International lives. She since has settled to sending her stickers and drawing her pictures to comply with the rules. Both my daughter, Cate, and our sponsored child, Roselyn, are 5.

They're impressionable at this point. We hope God uses us to make an impression of hope on Roselyn's life, even from all these miles away. And I know God is making an impression on Cate's heart when we talk about Roselyn or the two other Compassion children with whom we share our lives through letters.

My heart melts when I hear my daughter, who has more toys than she plays with in a day, get excited about celebrating Roselyn's birthday with her own, giving up some of her own gifts for the sake of giving a girl she's never met in person more. {Our idea is to collect money for an extra donation as well as other goodies -- like stickers, greeting cards and coloring pages -- that fit in envelopes and the correspondence rules at each of our kids' birthday parties so each of our Compassion kids can have some extra celebration too.}

In addition to Roselyn, we sponsor and Jean, who lives in Ecuador will turn 11 the same time my son, Ben, turns 3. We also are a correspondence sponsor to Elvis, a 13-year-old boy who also lives in Ecuador. And, hey, I warned you that you'd be hearing more about Compassion International this month.

That's three little lives in two other countries that aren't the same because of what Compassion International does for their education, health, physical well-being, and spiritual life. I have friends who sponsor other kids. I read blogs by people who have visited these countries and shared stories of hope amidst the poverty they experience briefly.

I don't have those kind of stories for you. {But you can read some amazing stories from Tanzania, Ecuador, Philippines, Guatemala, Kenya, El Salvador, and others at}

But I do want to remind you that you can make a difference in a child's life. It'll cost you $38 a month, but it's worth it. You'll hear from that child and be reminded that live is so much more than our little corner of the world. The changes don't stay in Ecuador or Guatemala; they come inside my home and heart too.

Sponsor a child. Really, it's priceless. {Clicking on that link will take you to a page of sweet, sweet faces. Consider this your warning: You'll want to help them all.}

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I didn't give into the candy corn ... and other news

I like lists and writing prompts. So you'll understand why I liked this blog post so much I'm going to do one of my own. 

Well, hello, September. You're here. Will you run the humidity out of town? I don't mind the heat, but the humidity HAS GOT TO GO. Like now. I saw a bag of candy corn at Rite-Aid for $1.59. I resisted. For today. Who knows if I'll have the will power the next time I see it. On sale, even. Fall really is approaching. I even went to a football game this past weekend.

It rained for awhile. And our team lost. But we had fun.

What I'm reading ... 

I started "The Chase" by DiAnn Mills this weekend. It's excellent. So much so I even read while I dried my hair this morning.

In the non-fiction realm, I'm into both "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker and "Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions" by Lysa TerKeurst. They're both honest and challenging and I'm ready them slow, hoping that will help me soak in the truths.

Oh, and our small group at church is reading "When God Whispers Your Name" by Max Lucado.

No wonder I have a pile of books in my bedroom and several awaiting titles on my Kindle.

What I'm watching ... 

We're into "Bones" on Netflix. But my friend texted me last night to inform me the Bravermans are back! I kept wondering when season three of "Parenthood" would be added to instant streaming. So I know what's next.

What I'm becoming ...

A soccer mom. Really.

Cate is into trying out activities. She was a ballerina last semester. And then in the spring/summer she played t-ball. She chose basketball camp over ballet camp, which was the same week. Now it's soccer's turn. I'm not going to tell her, but I'll tell you: I really hope soccer sticks. I was the big sister to a competitive soccer player, and I liked going to her games. So, I'm just saying, I'm quietly hoping this becomes her sport of choice.

Of course, he wants to do everything his big sister does ...

Rain boots don't slow him down!

What I'm listening to ... 

I told you about Shaun Groves' "Third World Symphony" the other day. Andrew Peterson's "Rest Easy" also speaks right to my perfectionist heart. I'm also slightly obsessed with Needtobreathe right now, especially "Slumber," "Keep Your Eyes Open," and "Outsiders."

Here, you want to listen too? {Click on links to go to YouTube videos of songs.}

"You don’t have to work so hard/You can rest easy/You don’t have to prove yourself/You’re already mine/You don’t have to hide your heart/I already love you/I hold it in mine/So you can rest easy ..." Thanks for the reminder, Andrew Peterson. I need to keep this on repeat in my heart.

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

She makes books.

Recently, Cate was talking about how she was answering questions in her journal at school. Details are sketchy, but I believe it involved marking "yes" or "no" to specific questions. One of them was apparently: "Do you have a favorite book?"

Cate said she answered "No."
Knowing my girl who pretty much has her favorites memorized, I was surprised. "You don't have a favorite book?"

No hesitation from Cate: "I don't have a favorite book. I like all the books."
Ah. Quite literal my first-born child. And, hey, props to her for understanding singular and plural in this context. 

Actually, she not only likes books, but she wants to "make books." Seriously, that's my girl! Last week she started making two books. She got the pictures drawn for one about a butterfly named Hailey and some words written. It should be noted the pages turn from right to left and words go from bottom to top on the pages. 
It's a work in progress, but never wanting to waste time, she has the idea for her second book. And while I have no idea what it is, I'm confident she has it planned out. Because, really, who wants to settle for one book?

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