Talking about her younger sibling:

Miriam: I like Josiah a lot, and I like Victoria a little.

Right after Miriam farted:

Liam: That was Miriam and that was cool!

While decorating for Christmas:

Miriam: Do we have any hooks to hang our stockings with?

Bill: No.

Miriam: Well what do we do? Do we call the police? Or are they only for catching bad guys?

During breakfast:

Liam: Too much syrup is bad for you. You should have powdered sugar instead.


Miriam: Liam is eight which means he’s almost twelve.


Babies: The Most Important Thing You Can Know About Raising Them

I have a hard truth to tell you about raising babies–you’re going to be terrible at it. No, really, I mean it. Not trying to tear you down here (some of you before you’ve even started), but I can’t do you any better favor than to tell you this truth. You’re in good company, though, because NO ONE has ever been any better than horrific at it. So hooray for fitting in!

Yes, yes, yes, there are many parents full of wisdom who have had much success with how their children turned out. Biographies upon biographies have been written by children about their amazing parents. But I promise you every single one of those parents have done multiple things that should have royally jacked up their children forever, sentencing them to a lifetime of therapy.

So why in the world were they successful?! One word–grace. Just grace. For some of them, it’s common grace given by God to all who are created in his image. For others, it’s grace through the work of his son, Jesus. This one is far more powerful and lasting. Either way, grace is the answer.

Some of you may be tempted to feel defeated by this truth. I, for one, am a control freak. I like earning everything that’s good for me. I don’t accept handouts well.

But this grace isn’t binding. It’s freeing. Freeing to know when we’re so sleep deprived we stop liking our baby for a while, when we yell at our spouse because we think everything’s their fault, when we leave our babies screaming in their crib longer than we should because we don’t feel like we can take it anymore, when we’re sure our child isn’t hitting milestones because we’re not giving them enough individual attention. In those moments, grace frees us. In those times of absolute weakness and horrific parenting, God looks at followers of Jesus as though we’re perfect parents because Christ was perfect for us and died in our place. Our verdict is “not guilty.”

If you believe you are a good parent or are going to be a good parent, this whole series will be a total waste of your time. There’s nothing I can offer you. For the rest of us, the ones who spend far too much time reflecting on how badly we fail, read on. There’s still hope.

Chicken Dude Tea Party

As I’ve mentioned before, Court does a killer job planning fun family activities for our family. This past Sunday, it was a family tea party based on ideas from the Fancy Nancy Tea Parties book. Court made lollipop placecards, tissue paper flowers, raspberry and orange swirls,

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strawberries supreme,

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ladybug cookies–and, of course, tea.

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The kids cut out and decorated placemats and paper doilies; folded special napkin shapes; and decorated utensils.

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Here’s the full spread:

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And of course, being a fancy tea party, we had to dress up!

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The kids had a blast making all of the tableware and loved the food. SUGAR!!! It’s by far the fanciest tea party we’ve ever had.

Afterward, the guys and girls split up to have a chick night and a dude night. The girls watched “The Parent Trap” while painting their nails. The dudes played LEGO Star Wars on Wii (well, Josiah watched while Liam and I played). We’d been telling the kids all day that it was coming, but when the girls heard us saying, “chick and dude night” they heard “chicken dude night”.

Not exactly what we were going for…

Candid Parenting

Recently when we were out, our oldest daughter asked to take a picture of Court and me. This is the final result: 


But that was actually the second take. Right before the first picture was snapped, another child starting throwing a fit. And the camera was timed just right to catch our candid parental reactions:


I think Courtney’s face says it all…

Raising Babies

After eight years and six babies, I’ve finally realized something. I don’t know much about raising babies. Therefore, I’m starting a series of blog posts about how to raise them.

I figure this is better than writing posts about how to raise eight year olds, cause I’m in the middle of doing that for the first time and haven’t realized yet that I don’t know what I’m doing. So babies it is!

These posts will include the good, bad, and ugly, probably with the heaviest weight being on the ugly, but I hope to be real. Real in a way that encourages all of you currently in the trenches of parenthood or about to enter the trenches. Real that goes past perfect Facebook statuses, “follow these six easy steps” how-to books, or controversial topics. Just real father/motherhood with screaming, cuddly, puking, non-verbal, non-mobile babes. Parenting for moms and dads who realize they’re completely weak.

So read on during middle of the night feedings when reading isn’t really possible, during the kids’ nap times when we all know you’ll be too exhausted to even sleep, or right in front of them when all hell is breaking loose but you’re choosing to ignore it. I pray it brings you at least a teeny bit of encouragement.

How Do You Have the Energy to Do All This?!

Among the two or three dozen questions I get asked regularly, the title of this post is certainly one of the more frequent. I have a love/hate relationship with the question. I hate it because I sometimes get treated like I’m some sort of super woman since I have six small children. While I don’t claim my life is rosy, I certainly don’t have it any harder than most people in this country, and it’s way more cush than most of the world. So questions like these can make me feel silly and pressured, like I’d better prove them right or be a huge disappointment. But I also love the question because it’s an open door for me to illustrate the gospel.

The simple answer to the question is: I don’t. It’s rare for me to have much energy, and when I do wake up feeling energized, it’s even more rare for it to last all day. Along with having so many little ones, I’m overweight and have Crohn’s disease, zapping the last ounces of energy I have. I live most days feeling pretty darn sluggish. And all of this in spite of the fact that I’m also an active person with fairly healthy habits. I. Love. Exercise. And God’s been freeing me from my relationship with food over the last few years. I don’t typically obsess much with what I eat while still tracking my intake. I work hard to get good sleep each night, and I evaluate often to make sure I’m not doing too much.

But I’m still tired. Because I want to be able to serve my family and friends better, I’m always shaking things up, researching to find the next thing that’s going to give me a shred of energy–diets, different exercises, fresh air, vitamins. But those things rarely help, and I find myself down because of it, thinking I must be doing something wrong because I have friends all over the place who are finding more energy.

Then something struck me. I worship energy. Why? Because I want to feel good. Energy is my means to the end of feeling good. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I would imagine most North American Christians struggle with the same god to some degree or another. Overall, we’re a wealthy, healthy country. And I praise God for that! It’s certainly a blessing, one that’s been given to us because it’s part of God’s perfect plan. And we shouldn’t feel guilt for being born into it. But along with this life comes less physical suffering (for the most part!) than others around the world encounter. So now we’re in a war on pain and suffering–but it’s a battle that can’t be won through medicine and science.

We live in a community that screams, “Comfort!” And I need you to hear me if you’re going to understand the point of this post. There is nothing wrong with having comfort. Nothing. Any comfort we have is granted by God, and we’re never called to SEEK the uncomfortable. BUT sometimes I think we fight too hard to get out of the uncomfortable when it comes. Sometimes I think we deceive ourselves to believe some type of Utopian heaven will happen in this life. But scripture teaches the opposite. All of creation is in “bondage to decay.” This world is fallen, broken. Everything in it, our bodies included, are deteriorating. We can do everything right– eat a Paleo diet, get 150 minutes of exercise a week, have regular examines, take the right supplements, get 7-8 hours of sleep a night–and there will still be days, weeks, years we may not feel good. Then there’s aging in general. Eventually our bodies will stop the fight no matter how we’ve lived our previous years, and the suffering will certainly come then.

But if we fight so hard for comfort, how do we handle it when things just stay uncomfortable? When life is too hard? There’s nothing to do but lose the battle. We let life be hard. There’s a false saying that God will never give us more than we can handle. That verse (1 Cor 10:13) is about temptation, not suffering. Instead, we’re told that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

I developed Crohn’s disease 12 years ago. Before that time, I was very healthy. Now there are no pain free days, and few days without fairly severe pain. Between that and birthing six babes, I don’t notice most of the pain in my body anymore. Pain is such a part of my daily life that I have a harder time noticing cricks in my neck, joint pains, stomach aches, or cramps during my cycle. Twelve years ago I was aware of every single itch. Sometimes pain is necessary to help work through pain. And sometimes the pain is what pushes us to look to Jesus: “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

So I’ve been reflecting on this, beginning to understand how much I need to stop trying so hard to make this life easier and instead rest in God’s mercy to fight the good fight anyway. When I seek comfort, I miss Jesus. When I seek Jesus, I find the only rest that matters. Jesus promises, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” I’m learning to keep pressing on no matter how much pain, no matter how tired, no matter how much is on my plate. Fighting because the battle’s already been won in the empty tomb. Fighting to the end knowing this isn’t my forever body, knowing one day I’ll see him face to face and all pain, fatigue, stress, and heartache will be gone. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

That day is really coming, and the fight here is so, so temporary.

Kid Date Coupons

Courtney has talked about this before, but one of the things we do to get some one-on-one time with our kids is take them out for dates. The kids always love it and we treasure the time to connect with our kids in a way that doesn’t really work in the daily rhythms of life. But we’ve found it difficult at times to stick with the whole date thing on a regular basis because we’re tired or we’re busy or someone’s sick or whatever. Oftentimes it’s simply because we haven’t taken the time to plan beforehand what to do with the kids on their date, so we’re not ready for it when it comes.

A while back, Courtney found this blog post describing how the author and her husband make kid date cards for each month. They give them to their kids around the start of the new year so they know what’s coming and they can look forward to it with anticipation. Plus, a whole year’s worth of dates are pretty much planned already. So, we brainstormed together and came up with our list of what we’d like to do with the kids. I unfortunately found the cards a little difficult to customize the way I wanted to, so I ended up taking the design and personalizing it for our kids. You can see the result here and here.

We gave these to the kids in their stockings and they’re thrilled. The content of the dates are already chosen, so each month it’s simply a matter of picking out the days that will work best and penciling them in. We’re actually doing some of them today since there are some kid workshops. And we hope that in carving out the time for this, we not only bless our kids with fun activities but also get some time to get to know their hearts a little better.