Thursday, September 22, 2016


Life is pretty much one great big party for our family from the beginning of August to mid September.

Every year.

We begin with Cassie's birthday.

She was super opinionated about her cake this year. We finally agreed on this castle cake.  Although, if you know Cassie in real life you would know that she does NOT fit the princess mold.

Oh well. Whatever.

We flow with it.

Cassie had  two of her best friends over to celebrate with her. Unfortunately I cannot post any photos of their cuteness because of legal stipulations.

 Cassie enjoyed helping throw the confetti on her cake. I was beyond excited to hand the icing bag over to Miss Capable.

Mid month we celebrated our 13th anniversary. We shared a quiet dinner together, which is a rare treat at this stage of our lives. We know by now that it is not wise to try any sort of get a way with a baby in the house. That will have to wait for another year.

End of August is my birthday. Some years my birthday is but a small blip that passes by nearly unnoticed. Other years it's a bigger deal. This year was a big deal year as we celebrated with my twin brother and his family.  My husband and SIL are super at pulling together fun birthday surprises for us.  We spent the weekend together doing fun things like boating, swimming, fishing, eating and talking.

School year 2016-17 kicked off the same weekend as my birthday. 

The excitement was high in our house. Not only were the oldest 3 excited about getting back to school, but this year we sent off a brand new Scholar.

Faith Builders Christian School never fails to pull off an astounding back to school celebration. The spirit of the day made me want to be a school kid again!

Before I could turn around and touch the ground it was time to flip the calendar page to September and that means it is time to celebrate Christopher's birthday.

 6 years old is a pretty special age.

Christopher was really anticipating his birthday this year since 6 years old is a party year at this house. He invited 5 of his buddies over for the evening and night. Wow.  For some strange reason we were all tired the next day.

The only criteria Christopher had when choosing his cake was that it included a heap of candy.  He was beyond thrilled with his treasure chest cake even though he has no special interest in treasure chests. :)  I was happy to send the birthday guests home with brown paper bags of candy.

I thought the coolest part of his cake was the lid of the treasure chest, which really was just  a piece of cardboard covered in dark brown paper to match the chocolate icing on the rest of the cake.  But the coolest-est part was his name written in cursive with licorice. Thank you, hot glue gun. You're still my hero.

Christopher with his much hoped for fishing rod.

Last, but not least by any measure, Angeline celebrated her 12th birthday on September 17.

I absolutely LOVE that she is now thrilled with a beautiful dessert rather than a sticky, icky decorated cake. 

Angeline invited her BFF over for a sleep over.  

I can't say how much I love celebrating with my 12 year old daughter. I mean, really. I was having the time of my life hanging out with these girls.

We went to Campbell's pottery to watch a glass bead demo and browse the pottery store/gift shop. Basking in all that beauty was refreshment for my soul.

After dinner we headed downtown and did a quick photo shoot, mind you, in the rain.

I couldn't get over how much these two girls are miniature ladies. 

Now I realize why I am breathing a sigh of relief today.

That was just a lot of partying for this 35 year old mama.

There was also a lot of this happening between the parties:

Autumn, I couldn't be happier to welcome you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

a few scrambled thoughts on failure



What about failure???

Some of us are more vocal about our failures than others, but I don't really think any of us are 100% exempt from failure.

Unless. Maybe you're perfect.

And if that's the truth about you, our relationship may have to come to a halt at this point.

But. Back to the issue of failure.

My current thoughts have grown out of my previous post on Summer Reflections in which I wrote exclusively about the accomplishments of our summer.

I intentionally had to keep myself on the accomplishment track.


I promise. There were enough failures -on my account- to drain an ocean of ink dry with all the counting and recounting of them.

I am keenly aware of my own failures, weaknesses and short comings.

They bother me. But yet it can be fairly easy to dismiss them.

Oh. I'm struggling. 

Oh. I'll work on this area of my life when I get a chance....

It hasn't been that difficult to extend grace to myself, especially when I know the intentions of my heart.

What has stopped me in my tracks and caused me tremble in the recent months is that not only do I pay a price for my own failures, but my failures are touching the people around me.

Often in a negative way.

This very fact is what cause me to push forward on this subject. I can't afford to destroy the people around me by continual failure.

A few things that I am learning about failure:

-Failure is part of life. I will not grow if I never fail.

-Failure itself is usually not as critical as is my response to it.

-When I expect perfection from myself it is natural to then expect it from those around me.

-When my response to personal failure is one of shame and striving, I will in turn cause others to feel shame when they fail.

I'm trying to learn how to process my personal failures and the failures of my family in a way that brings redemptive change rather than the continual battering of oneself and  endless striving to do better.

I'm asking Jesus to help me kick the Accuser when he is the one showering shameful lies on me.

I'm also asking Jesus to open my eyes to my own sins. To show me where I need to fall on my face in repentance and how to then stand up and change my course.

I know that I do not always hear perfectly.

But in His faithfulness He continues to speak.

I long for Him to make His strength and power known in my failures.

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???