Thursday, August 25, 2016

summer reflections

Tomorrow my oldest 3 children return to school and my 4th child begins his first year of formal schooling.

My. Are they excited.

My. Am I excited. :)


It always takes me a while  at the onset of summer vacation to adjust to being Commander in Chief of The Crew 7 days a week 24 hours a day.

By the end of summer vacation I realize what an enormous asset The Crew has become in the daily push and pull of life. I'm not sure if I'm quite ready to give them back to the teachers and books.

On second thought, I am ready.

Productivity will plummet on the home front.

But that's ok.

We're all ready for a new routine and new people and new ideas.

We've worked our physical muscles hard the last 3 months.

Now its time to give our brains a good work out.

There were a number of blog posts that began developing over the summer but never made it further than that.

I found my position of Commander in Chief to be thoroughly consuming and taxing and rewarding.

{ I must add at this point that I  both admire and am jealous of those who enjoy administration work at this level. Anyone who knows me well knows that this is not one of my greatest strengths.}

Most years I spend several hours writing out  goals for each child and creating work charts to keep us all on track.

This year I decided to try to get the children more involved in setting their own goals. In order to accomplish this, I created a questionnaire for them.

A few of the questions that I had them answer were:

1. What skill would you like to develop this summer?

2. Which household chore would you like to be responsible for this summer?

3. How can you serve your family?

4. How can you serve your community?

5. What relationship would you like to nurture?

6. What do you wish we would do more often as a family?

7. How can you prepare to enter 7th grade? (5th, 3rd, 1st)

I found their answers to be surprisingly creative, helpful and hilarious.

I allowed them to dictate a few of their own chores. Some were not optional.

At the end of the summer I find myself mostly proud of their accomplishments.

-Angeline sewed her own school dresses and also made a dress for one of our favorite little friends.

-Nicholas baked all our bread.

-Nicholas gave Christopher piano lessons.

-Christopher is proud to have about 3 pieces of music under his belt.

-Angeline took her position as Christopher's preschool teacher very seriously as she created lesson plans and made flash cards and took him on field trips.

-Christopher ended up wishing he had NOT volunteered to wash breakfast dishes.

-Josh got really, really good at emptying the trash.

-It was special to see Josh spend more time with Tristan than what I would've planned for him had he not specified that he would like to nurture that relationship.

-Elliana got to spend lots of quality time with her older siblings. I am going to miss the free babysitting services like crazy.

-One day I took my corn husking crew over to help a young married lady from church do corn.

-Nicholas and Joshua both spent hours mowing lawn, for us and for a few neighbors.

-Angeline babysat while I did a few photo-shoots and Nicholas was my right hand man during the photo-shoots.

-The boys trained for long distance running.

-We went on an overnight camping trip.

-The boys are learning how to care for and train a puppy

I am sure I am missing some accomplishment of someone this summer. These were the ones that popped into my brain as I was writing.

The two words I have for this summer as it draws to a close are REWARDING and EXHAUSTING.

It's so rewarding, both for me and the children, to gain new skills and to push into new territory.

It's exhausting to stay caught up- physically and mentally- with six children who are developing, learning and growing at neck breaking speed.

And it's so WONDERFUL to be sending these 4 children back to school. Back into an environment that is safe and stimulating and exciting. Back into an environment where I know they will thrive and grow.

I plan to linger a little longer over my coffee and enjoy time with my littlest girls.

I plan to deep clean some corners that got swiped over this summer.

And maybe, just maybe.... I'll crank out a few more blog posts.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


My name is Shaunda.

I may act startled if you address me by my name because. Well.  It's complicated.





"Don't touch that or I'm telling mom!"

"Mommy, sing to me about Jonah"

"Mom, Christopher is getting my cookie dough"

"Mom, I need to pee. Mom, I need to pee. Moooooom!!!!"

"Mom, I'm hungry"

"Mom, can you come help me start the mower?"

"What's to eat around here, Mom?"

"MOM! Josh just hit me!!!"

"Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom."

"When are you going to take us to the library, Mom??"

"Mom, I don't understand this recipe"

"Mom, Nicholas won't help me move the pool"

"Mom, can the neighbors come over to play?"

"Mom, can we have freeze pops?? We're deathly hot!"

"Mom, when will quiet time be over??"

Some days I  just get sick of hearing it so often.

Yesterday  I went upstairs to my bedroom to put the baby to sleep thinking that maybe I would escape for like 3 seconds from anyone using my name that starts with M.

I forgot to shut the window.


"Mom, I need to peeeeeee! Mom!!!!!!!!!!!! Mommy, I need to peee"

The voice continued on as she searched through the house until she found me.

-insert 10 seconds-

"I am going to tell mom"

-insert 2 seconds-

"MOM. MOM. Angeline just pinched me!"

It seems that they think by repeating 'mom' multiple times they will somehow get my full attention more quickly.

Today I am reminded that even though I get weary of being on call 24/7 and even though I kind of miss the original name that my parents gave to me at birth, it is an honor to be called Mom by 6 children.

I remember those who mourn the fact that no one calls them "Mom". They hope and long for the day to hear that darling little 3 letter word.

I remember those who have no one in their life to call "Mom".

Today I remember that to wear this name is an honor. A privilege. A gift.

I look at my children. Even though they make me furious at moments and even though I am FAR from being a perfect mom....I am so glad that I get to be here with them and that they can call my name and I can hear them.

I am so glad that we have each other today.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


I just recently said to my husband, "seasons go so fast these days!!!"

I really haven't had time to get cabin fever this winter. I'm not sure if that is due to the unusually mild winter we've had or the fact that I'm trying to keep up with 6 kids.

It hasn't been a super exciting winter.

No big snow storms.

No bad sledding accidents. (Thank you, Jesus!)

No big complicated projects.

{projects? Projects!? Huh? What's that!!??!}

No super exciting adventures.

No vacation to Florida.

No big episodes of sickness.

I don't even have gross puking stories to tell.

It's been good though.

The lack of excitement and activity and drama has somehow felt quite welcome to me this year.

In light of the previous sentence, I am not sure why I am DEAD tired at the end of every single day!?! 

I'm grateful to be able to enjoy days filled to the brim and overflowing with ordinary.

{ordinary = tasks and routines that happen over and over and over and over again, with of course, lots of variety and spirit in a family of 8}

It has been slow in coming for me, this enjoying the ordinary.

So. I'm happy to be happy about the ordinary.

Here are some common sights from our winter:

Life is any thing but ordinary with this Little Darling. She's full of smiles and headbands, both of which are often over sized.

 Coloring, Coloring, Coloring....and a little smiling baby.

Pardon my bragging, but I think Cassie has mad coloring skills for a 2 year old.

 Preschool work for Christopher. He is crazy excited about the week of preschool he will be attending at FBCS.

   And he is so good he can easily do his work with a little sister bouncing around on his back

 Welcome to Cassie's world which consists mostly of  babies and books.

Her current book obsession is Madeline.

The second I sit down, she comes toddling over with an armful of books  and begs me to read to her. I can't say how hard it is for me to say 'no' to those big brown eyes.  Which explains why I never get any projects done.

 After school routine includes piano practice. The oldest 3 are taking piano lessons from our next door neighbor.

I'm convinced that the delightfully warm weather has made the winter speed by faster than ever before.  This little back porch picnic took place the beginning of March.

 This little girl has no idea how unusual it is to be able to spend time outdoors in February and March.

 This past week we had our annual family daffy supper. This is a huge highlight for the kids. Not so much for the parents, but we try to be good sports about it all.

Some days these two fight like mortal enemies. Other days they are darling little friends. I like the days when they play mom and dad and get along peacefully, as all good parents should.

 No explanation. This is my life.

Remember what I said about full to the brim and overflowing???



Monday, February 8, 2016

dear, dear young momma

Dear Young Momma,

It's nearly 12 years now that I have been a momma. In so many ways I still feel young and new to this vocation.  This way of motherhood is not for the faint of heart. But take heart. You were designed for this work. You've been equipped. You have resources.  I want to share with you just a few things that I have been learning along the way.

1. The older ladies in your community have a wealth of wisdom . You would be wise to find ways to access their experience, their wisdom, their love, their compassion, their vision. They have done many things right and there is no sense in expending all your emotional and mental capacities trying to reinvent the wheel of motherhood. Be humble enough to learn from the voice of experience. Be brave enough to breach the generation gap. Learn to understand her language and seek to be understood.

If I ever reach this point, I know that I would LONG to speak into your life. I hope that I will have learned by then how to be both humble and brave as I share my life with you.

2. You're an adult now and sometimes being an adult is just plain down hard. As much as we all want to be adults, it is not easy moving from childhood to adulthood, especially when that includes being responsible 24/7 for the well-being of very small needy people. Especially when these small needy people strip you of all your former independence. But sorry darling, there is no getting away from your newly acquired position of Mom.

It's ok if you come crying to me about this, because I remember how hard it was for me to lay down my own childishness....

3. You cannot be all things to your child every moment of every day. No, you cannot throw your responsibility on someone else, but you can allow them to help you carry the load at times. Be humble enough to ask and brave enough to let someone walk close. You'll give a tremendous gift to yourself and to your child and hopefully to the third party as well.

It's ok if you come crying to me about this. How could I forget when I was so proud for too long...

4. You don't want to be so tired and overwhelmed that you totally miss out on the joy of this season of your life. Learn to find rhythms of rest and rejuvenation in your home surrounded by your children. Humbly admit your limitations. Be brave enough to call in reinforcements at times. You don't want to miss the joy of this season of your life because you were trying so hard to do it all by yourself.

You may come crying to me about this too because I tried really, really hard for too long. I remember too well. I will probably start crying with you.

5. You're a good mom. You're giving it your best shot. You're learning.  Just remember, there's a wealth of wisdom just a few pews ahead of you. Be humble. Be brave.

Just maybe I will be one of those silver haired ladies someday....??? I'm not sure how much wisdom I will have but I know for sure that I wouldn't want you to be scared of me. Perhaps I will have to be humble and brave enough to come looking for you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Once Upon a Snowy Sunday Afternoon

 Those of us who are currently in the thick of it hear it all the time from older ladies:

"treasure these days with your little ones...."

"they grow up so fast..."

"these are the very best moments of your life"

I think I understand {at least in part} what these dear ladies are trying to communicate to me. But sometimes I just feel like staring at them and saying,

 "REALLY!!??! Do you remember how tired you were and that you never got to read your own book and that a big shopping day really just means getting groceries and toilet paper??!!  Do you remember all the bickering and fighting??!! Do you remember pining for a moment of quietness?? you remember THAT part??!!"

Some days though I really do feel like an older woman and maybe that's because {SHOCK OF ALL SHOCKS} I am quickly headed towards middle age.

 (don't laugh if you already consider me to be middle age. don't laugh either if you consider me to just be crawling out of the cradle.momentarily I would be happy to crawl back into the cradle.)

What I really think those who have gone before me in this journey of motherhood are trying to say through their sweet sentiments is:
  1. What you are doing is worthwhile. 
  2.  20 years from today the memories of the these hard days will fade. Your memories of joy will outweigh your memories of the,  Grow joy!!!
  3.  Time is fleeting.

I agree. 100%

However, I easily lose perspective. 

And some days are just H.A.R.D.

That's why I can't hear it too often from these older ladies.

This past Sunday afternoon I hopped over into my More Mature Mothering Mode.

I looked around me and I just knew. This. This is one of the scenes that will be etched in my heart forever. 

This is a scene that will play over and over in my mind when I am a 60 year old lady sitting in church watching the young families around me.

And I will wish to push rewind and be in my living room with these little people again. 

And I will wish that I had simply reveled in the joy of these moments MORE when they were my everyday reality.

And after church I will hobble over to that young mom and with moist eyes I'll whisper: 

"these are the best days of your life. treasure the moments....."

P.S. There are a few other things that I hope I say to that young mom when I am 60. I might document that sometime soon mostly as a reference for me to come back to in 30 years.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


December always feels like a bit of a marathon for me.

A good kind of marathon.

It's exhilarating.




There are so many ways to celebrate and remember Jesus' incarnation.

So much food to make.

Christmas concerts to enjoy.

Christmas caroling.

Family gatherings.

A  family birthday to celebrate.

Here's photographic documentation of the past month.

Some of my favorite people came to visit.

 Thanks to these lovely ladies my kids got to enjoy our annual cut out cookie day. And, oh yes, they baked and decorated 8 dozen cupcakes for our local kids club while they were here. We had a fun and festive weekend attending two Christmas concerts and baking and laughing. It was altogether a lovely weekend to kick off the Christmas season.

Niece, Cousin, Nanny, Friend... otherwise known as Abigail

Fun Christmas food art.

 Our December has been absurdly warm, in fact, record breaking warm. Cassie rides her trike 2 days before Christmas wearing just a jacket.

Even though I was craving a white Christmas, the warm sunshine was invigorating.

 Joshua celebrates his 8th birthday

Elliana shares her charm

 Christmas Eve day...We went for a walk and took pictures on the front porch dressed just as shown.

My little Christmas Princesses all ready to go to the Lehman gathering on Christmas eve.

 I love all the happiness on these pictures.

Elliana hanging out with her favorite Lehman cousin,Little  McKenna

 And Christmas morning dawns. Quietly, with Elliana on his lap we talked about the wonder of it all. Christ coming to this world as a babe, just like our own little Elliana. We marvel at His coming.

 And then. THEN. The kids woke up.  This is our traditional Christmas morning picture taken in front of the fireplace.
 A little girl's joy, a doll baby!

A little man's treasure....his own pocket knife!

And then the day following Christmas, our family headed off for a 48 hr. get away at my brother's cabin. I felt spoiled to be heading into such relaxation when many others were traveling and stressing about the holidays. It was such a gift to spend this time with our family.

Here are a few shots of our time at the cabin

And now we're home again and Amos is back at work. The kids are still enjoying their break from school and I am missing the co-parenting of the last few days. We're finishing up Christmas treats and still finding homes for the treasures accumulated over the past week of gift giving.

There are a number of activities that I failed to capture on camera at all...

Such as the FBCS Christmas program. I had 3 kids on the stage this year. The music and presentations were beautiful and I felt drawn to worship not only the Babe but also the Risen Victorious Savior.

The Faith Builder's Choral also presented a Christmas Cantata composed by Larry Nickel that was again beautiful and drew my heart to worship.

And the caroling. My favorite Christmas activity. I don't know how to capture the warmth and joy and adoration that I feel in my heart while singing of his birth. It's a joy to share the story with others.

The evening spent with a family-less neighbor man. How Cassie's eyes twinkled when she gave him a present.

Watching "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" and feeling a lump in my throat. Realizing again how little children often lead the way in true worship.

There is so much more that I am sure I am missing...

2016 approaches. Quick like.