At the Breaking Point

Everyone says “You are never given more than you can handle.” They think it is a comfort but it really isn’t because I honestly do not feel like I can handle anymore. I feel like I will explode. When you are in the thick of a very difficult time you need something more. I do not think there is a “one size fits all” for this situation. I think everyone needs something different. For me it helps to hear success stories; people in a similar situation who then experienced a turn around. A hug also does wonders for me. It feels reassuring.

I am very blessed that many people have found this blog and have shared their stories. The words provide so much encouragement and hope. Strangers have made a complete difference in my life. My husband (and the kids) gives the hugs. He is great at that. ❤

This past month has been a major trial. Between having hurt kids and getting some scary news regarding Zen when we went to his 1 year well child check I was left feeling hopeless. This is on top of the “normal stuff”; Mark looking for work back home, looking for a permanent place to live, friends who are hurting, an uncle with cancer, the health of my wonderful in-laws…. I can’t handle anymore of this. I hit the breaking point.

After a particularly stress-filled and overall “feeling sorry for me” kind of day I got some  amazing news from my husband. The timing was really quite insane and quite perfect.

<drum roll>

Mark will be starting a new full time job back home the beginning of May!

I hit the breaking point and now I am granted access to relief. I can’t even adequately describe the relief I am feeling. It is all consuming and wonderful.

The job doesn’t come with health insurance but it pays more than minimum wage and offers a decent commission. It is full time! Best of all it gets us back to our church, homeschool community, and friends who are family to us.

Mark will go ahead of us because he will need to find us a place to live. He will stay with some friends who are seriously some of the best people we know.

I have last minute doctor appointments to finish up with the kids. We will also finish up our school year and fit in some last minute “stuff.” It is all fitting together quite nicely. Things will never be what they used to be and that is OK. It is a beginning of something new and wonderful.

Thank you all for the help, kind words, encouragement, and mostly the prayers.
The support I am surrounded with is seriously amazing and I really am blessed to have you all as a part of my journey!

I hope you are as excited as I am to find out what is in store for the future! I think I will include smaller posts with updates as we transition into our new journey.


The Washboard Part 2

One day on Facebook I randomly posted this picture:
I wrote “Thankful for my mom’s washboard”

One friend expressed the desire of wanting one. Another said she couldn’t live without hers. The majority had never used one and couldn’t figure out how I have time to wash clothes this way. Honestly, I never really used to wash laundry this way. I have a working washing machine. I used to only hand wash diaper covers and other delicate items. I now do the majority of my laundry this way.

Well, there are several reasons.One is that it is cheaper. I use cold water and a bar of laundry soap. That’s it. Another reason is it is environmentally friendly. The last reason is it reduces the amount of waste going into the septic at the house we are currently living in.

How exactly does one use a washboard? First I fill up both sides of the sink with cold water. I add the laundry and the washboard to one side. I use a simple bar of laundry soap which can be found in the laundry aisle at the store.


Bar of laundry soap. You can find this in the laundry aisle.

I rub a bit of soap on the clothes and then scrub away. Some clothes need more effort than others; armpits always get a good scrubbing 😉 After the clothes are scrubbed I plop them into the other side of the sink; if you remember this is also full of cold water.




Once I finish washing the load I drain the sink, rinse it out, and fill it about halfway with cold water. Are the clothes clean? You decide:


Before. Can you tell Zen was crawling outside? 😉

I swirl the soapy clothes around in the water that they have been sitting in and squeeze them out one at a time and put them into the clean water. Once I am done I drain that sink and rinse it.

After. Pretty clean in my opinion :)

After. Pretty clean in my opinion 🙂

I then wring out each item one last time. If they seem a bit soapy I will rinse them again, but I use so little soap that this is rarely necessary. The only thing that would make this easier is a wringer. Oh what I would give to have a laundry wringer! I hang much of our laundry although towels are always put in the dryer because I hate crunchy towels.

I want to note I separate laundry very differently when I hand wash it. I tend to wash based on type and start with the lighter items. For example I wash all the socks together. Underwear and diapers are always washed separately and last.

Tell me, do you ever hand wash your clothes? Would you ever consider using a washboard?

The Washboard Part 1

It is a cool morning and the early morning sun is blazing through the kitchen windows. The sink faces these windows. It is quiet. Peaceful. The bitter cold water runs into the double basin sink, filling one side and then the next. There is a job to be done.

I grab the overflowing laundry basket from my bedroom and hold it against my hip as I head to the sun-soaked kitchen. I am pretty sure that when I die there will be a permanent indent on that side of my body. I drop the basket with a satisfying sound onto the floor and start sorting the items into piles. The socks and other small articles go immediately into the water-filled sink. Shirts, pants, diapers, diaper covers…..everything gets sorted. Right now the piles are overwhelming and my arms scream in the anticipation of the ache they know they will feel in an hours time.

I grab the soap and inhale. I love the smell. It is familiar. I am not even sure why. My mom didn’t use this soap. Did one of my grandmothers use it? I am not sure. The only thing I know is that the smell calms me.



I grab my mom’s washboard and plunge my hands into the icy water and I start scrubbing. Each sock is cleaned, dunked and tossed into the other side of the sink where clean, clear water awaits. My arms move without prompting. I have done this enough that my muscles know what to do. I don’t even have to think about it and before I know it I have finished the multitude of socks. I drain the dirty, soapy water and move to the clean socks that are waiting to be rinsed out. Swish, squeeze, plop. The socks are tossed into the other side of the sink that is now empty.

Once each sock is rinsed I drain the water and start over. My hands are red, raw and aching from the piercingly cold water. I put them under my arm pits to warm them before starting the shirts.

I look into the mudroom where the washing machine is gathering dust. It taunts me. It’s Energy Efficient status just can’t hold a candle to the washboard though. The machine is only used for blanket, sheets, and towels. I look away from the tempter and plunge my hands back into the frigidness. There is a job to be done.

Where are the Sunshine and Daisies?

This post isn’t about my everyday life. It isn’t about my amazing kids. It is about my bad mood. If you are looking to be uplifted then I recommend you stop reading right now because this post isn’t a sunshine and daisies post. This post is full of the hurt that I am feeling today.

When Mark and I married I knew we would move a lot. At the time I was OK with that. I never thought, however, that we would move 13 times in 15 years….OK some of that was silliness that could have been avoided. Those first 2 places we lived in right after we got married we were actually house-sitting. In hindsight we should have skipped those first 2 places and just moved into our first apartment, which was instead our third abode. Still, the rest really couldn’t have been avoided. The 13th hasn’t even happened yet, but we are in the process of it. Sadly I think there will have to be one or two more moves after this next one and I am pretty sure one of those will happen within the year. Who knows, maybe I am wrong.

We are moving back to MO but we are in no shape to buy a forever home. This is my dream; a forever home. I desperately want a place where my kids can grow up. A place that gives them a stability they have never really known.

I know we are not unique. Military families have it far worse. That knowledge doesn’t change my bad mod though. I am so angry. I am tired of living out of boxes. I am tired of packing tape and paper to wrap items in and I am sick of bubble wrap. Even my kids do not get as much joy out of the obnoxious popping that they used to and age is not a factor in that. They have popped more bubble wrap than you can imagine.

I am jealous of my friends who own houses and are selling those perfectly fine places so they can simply “upgrade.” Do not get me wrong, they have every right to do this and I really am happy for them most of the time. I totally understand the need for more space, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am jealous of what they have and I don’t. Part of me wants to scream at them and remind them just how d**n lucky they are to even own a house. Of course I won’t do this though because it isn’t their fault I am jealous.

Life is fragile

Picture compliments of my talented friend, Shannon AKA TheBohemainHomebody

Every night at dinner we say Grace. The kids have taken to praying “…and please help us find our forever home.”

It breaks my heart every.single.time. It tells me that they are feeling the stress of instability. They crave security and we are epicly failing in providing that for them right now. People keep telling us the kids are resilient. Really? Where is your proof because what I am seeing is a bunch of kids who are hurting.

So here I sit in a bad mood. I didn’t unpack much when we moved into this temporary shelter, but I did unpack our homeschool stuff. Today I started to pack it all back up. I will leave out summer workbooks and their math, but everything else is getting packed away. At one point I was packing some reading books and the sudden urge to throw everything against the wall consumed me. I had to walk away. I came back 5 minutes later, slightly calmer, but still angry at the crummy situation we are in.

This is my way to vent. Mark has enough worries so I won’t burden him with this. I really don’t want the kids to see me angry so I will let my keyboard take the brunt of it all instead. It sucks. Being homeless sucks. Being unsure of the future sucks. Moving sucks. Right now, in this moment, it all just sucks. This is where I am right this second.

This is my life unfolding. I have no clue what will happen next but I ask that as we wait for it that you all pray for us. I do not need a big fancy house. I just need a place to hang my hat and a yard for the kids to run freely. A place to call home.


Happy Birthday Zen!

Near the end of 2012 we learned a great secret. We learned a little baby was miraculously forming inside of me. Baby #5 was on its way. We were in a position where we could pay the midwife cash for all of the care and delivery. Throughout the pregnancy I refused to know what Zen’s sex was. I already had 2 of each so no matter what Zen was the tie-breaker. We used the nickname Zen because baby movements were so calm and relaxed; almost like there was a Tai Chi going on in the womb.


Me pregnant with Zen at my Blessingway; a night of prayer and encouragement as I enter into Full Term.

Fast forward to April 2013. Zen made a fast appearance (4 hours total, 3 of that at the birth center). It was the most amazing birth ever. By far the best I had. I am not here to talk about that though.
Once Zen was born I was thrilled to announce “A boy!” Oddly, once I said the words I felt like I had always known that he was a boy.


Labor of love

My mom was in town and between her and Mark I was able to spend my time in bed getting to know the baby and simply enjoying life. The big kids would crawl into bed with me and snuggle and admire the new little bundle. It was the best recovery time I ever had. It made me want to do this for other new moms; make them just enjoy their kids while I care for the house for them. I think every mom deserves that.


Newborn Zen

Over the next year we learned a lot about Zen. He really is a calm baby. We call him “Happy Chap” all the time. He smiles easily, laughs a lot, and snuggles contentedly. He is a true joy to all of us. Very seldom would jealously poke its head out, but when it did it was never bad. For example, the girls would get more demanding for “Me and Daddy time” even after spending a day with him. We could handle that.

During this past year the kids have gotten hands on experience with cloth diapers, bathing Zen, feeding, and more. They are learning how to appropriately interact with each stage and teach Zen so much, including sign language! They encourage him when he is learning new tricks, like crawling. They read to him and sing to him and play with him. It has been a year full of love.

We watched Zen go from a sleeping bundle of newborn to a rolling baby. We would have to watch where we walked because he would suddenly be rolling along the floor. He then learned to sit. He was oh so proud of this accomplishment! From there he learned to army crawl, regular crawl, pull himself up, creep, and finally take those first wobbling steps all on his own. He teethed and started solids. He learned several simple words and how to ask for more food using sign language. When he is distressed just start singing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and his body visibly relaxes. He rolls cars on the floor, rocks baby dolls in his arms, and tries to steal C-Dog’s army men toys. He loves his stuffies and his blankie goes everywhere with him; Linus style.


Princess playing with Zen. I am so glad I captured this moment ❤

We celebrated the year with a small party in March. Bug was camping with the scouts, but 2 of my lovely aunts traveled down to see us and meet my 2 youngest (they had never met Princess either!) and a family friend stopped by. On Zen’s actual birthday we were in our home state so we went to a frozen yogurt place that also serves non-dairy treats and met some friends there. Overall, I think Zen enjoyed his first taste of sweets. He may not have understood what the big deal was but soon enough he will learn that HE is the big deal! He is loved, wanted, and has a purpose in this world.


I made this cake from scratch. It is free of gluten, dairy, and eggs

I can’t believe a year has gone by. I always feel that first year goes too quick. I honestly love that first year. I wish that everything that happens would take 2 years instead of one so I could treasure it longer. As we enter the second year of Zen I look forward to watching his personality continue to blossom. He is turning into quite a clown. Apparently all of my children are nothing if not hams.

Happy first birthday Zen! Here is to year 2. May it be filled with even more smiles and belly laughs.


Zen’s first experience with a sugary treat.




Spiced Brown Sugar Baked Chicken

This one is for you Peaceful Runner!
This is a quick prep meal and my kids gave it 2 thumbs up (and that isn’t always easy to do!)

Many of my friends want to know what some of my go-to recipes are. They especially want fast meals. I want to try to do 2 recipes a month but I make no promises 😉 This chicken recipe is super fast to prep ahead of time so that when you get home all you have to do is pop it into the pre-heated oven! Serve with some fruit and vegetables and you have a super yummy meal. WARNING: The smell is so divine, but your kids will think you are making pizza so prepare them ahead of time to avoid disappointment!
I got the original recipe here, but I have changed it VERY slightly.



Spiced Brown Sugar Baked Chicken

I buy Harvestland brand chicken because so far none of my kids react to it so I know it is safe. The chicken is individually packaged and the breast are huge. I slice each in half (width wise) to get more normal size breasts and it doubles our portions! I also learned the larger packages are cheaper per pound than the smaller ones. I have no clue why. Needless to say I only have to buy chicken once a month!

Ok, enough chatting. Here is the recipe!


Bigger packages of meat can be cheaper per pound so be sure to check!


Just because it is smaller doesn’t mean it is cheaper. This is the same brand as the one above but is more per pound…weird.


  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half to double
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • dash of cayenne pepper (we like spice in this house, omit if you aren’t into spicy)
  • dash of pepper (for those who don’t like it hot)
  • dash of salt  to taste (basically add what you think looks right.Careful not to add too much though or you will have a very salty meal)

    Mmmmm, here is the seasoning all mixed up.


    4 breasts sliced in half width and length wise. This fed my family of 7 no problem but with no leftovers. This is good though because we tend to forget about leftovers and they go bad.


    Ready to bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes

  1. Mix brown sugar, paprika, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne pepper or pepper and salt in a glass mixing bowl
  2. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and cover with half the mixture. Flip breasts and add the rest of the mixture. Cover dish and pop into fridge.
  3. Leave chicken in fridge for 1-3 hours (or even overnight) to absorb flavors.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make sure you take the dish out of the fridge to warm up before putting in the oven. Uncover the chicken.
  5.  Bake for 20-25 minutes. (I bake for 25, but my current oven takes a bit longer to cook) Make sure your chicken is at least 165 degrees at its thickest point.Enjoy!


    The finished dish! This was Princess’ plate ❤
    Each child gets a different amount based on how much they can eat.

A Beautiful Mess

How did we get here? It seems a blur. Mark’s former company is a contract service company, meaning they contract with other businesses to perform a specific task. He had started off in upstate NY and then moved down state. That is where we met, in NY. We then lived in MA and then back to upstate NY before “settling” into the Midwest state we call home (even though we currently do not reside there). For 5 years that was home until the institution Mark was contracted at basically went under. They closed their doors and Mark’s company transferred our family to a new state.

My innocent optimism was a stark contrast to Mark’s and the kids’ opinions about the move. I was often heard saying “God always gives us better!” I wonder if they ever wanted to strangle those words out of me…For the record I still say that phrase but it has an entirely different meaning now. It is no longer about where we live and what job Mark has. It is now about who we are surrounded by. God always gives us better….better people whom we can let into our lives and bless and be blessed by.

Sorry, back to my recollection…
No one wanted to leave our Midwest home. Mark even tried to find a new job. Some of you know this. He had to be careful though and only poked around a little. He didn’t need corporate getting wind we weren’t entirely happy with them and that we were discussing the prospects of a job change. If only I had know what the future held I am sure we would have been more aggressive in this endeavor. Nothing panned out so we packed our bags and headed east, but not too east. We are just barely still in the Central Time Zone. For some odd reason this made the move easier for me. I have no clue why.

Despite missing my friends I was thrilled with the move. I took to Facebook and every day I wrote what I would miss about home and what I was looking forward to in the new place. There was so much to be positive about! I just knew that things would be OK and I kept telling everyone “We aren’t done with MO yet! We’ll be back, even if it 20 years from now!” I was thrilled for the house we were provided with, thrilled with the small town, and thrilled with the prospect of being settled. No one else was thrilled. They were all home sick. I kept pointing out all the positives about our move and everyone slowly settled in. We started to get happier and comfortable.

Not even 3 months in Mark was let go. It was a “mutual separation.”

What a ridiculous phrase….

Just as everyone was getting settled things got seriously mixed up.

October 1, 2013 was a warm day and I was sitting in The Chair with Zen. The front door opened and there was Mark holding a large box on his shoulder. I was surprised and said “Hey! What are you doing here?” He replied “Now don’t freak out…” I cut in “What? Did you get fired?” I shouldn’t have said that. I had been joking but as the words tumbled out of my mouth I was trying to frantically shove them back in. I was horrified I hadn’t been more prudent with what I said because the look on Mark’s face was answer enough.

My kids were all standing around. Mark had to tell them to all leave and not worry. Bug had a look of complete horror on his face. I do not think I will ever forget that and my regret for not being mindful of what I say before I say it haunts me.

Mark and I talked and he gave me the details of what happened and we both sighed with relief. Is that weird? Is it weird to be relieved to no longer have a job? The job was killing him. He wasn’t happy. He was always stressed. As soon as relaxation set in he would have to go back to work and the stress would quickly take hold. He was never home. 70 hour weeks were normal and even short. The kids missed him and he missed out on a lot of growing up. The job was a necessary evil. A blessing and a curse all rolled into one neat little package. This “mutual separation” was a blessing. Mark can now find a better job. Even a 50-60 hour work week would be better than what he had been doing. There is also still much growing to be had by our kids, especially Zen who will never have to know the horrors of this now former job.

The days and weeks and even months that have followed have been full of a jumbled roller coaster of “stuff.” We go from highs, “Yay we have more time together!” to lows “Seriously?? You spent over an hour on the online application only to get ‘You are not suited for this job’ even though they have never met you and you are more than suited for the job?????” He did quickly get a new part-time job for minimum wage. It isn’t full time, but some weeks bring extra hours and that is a plus. His boss is incredibly nice also. I really like her.

I can’t even compare the pay to what he used to make. I am horrified that in this country that this wage is typical for many families. Small businesses can’t offer more. It isn’t their fault. It doesn’t change the fact that, in this country, this is not a living wage for a family of 3, never mind a family of 7. However, we have received so much from people who have never met us. Friends have rallied. Bills have been paid. One friend even sent us a box full of tissues and Q-tips; it really is the little things that get over looked when you suddenly have to pinch pennies until blood oozes out. My kids even had a very lovely Christmas, perhaps the best they will ever get. I am amazed at this community! We were even blessed with a temporary house as the one we were in came with the former job and we had to move out.

Some days I sit and wonder why I was so determined to stay here after October 1. Really we should of just packed up and headed back west to our home. Other days I am glad I wanted to stay put; knowing that it is temporary. I just wanted to finish the school year.  As a result we have been cared for and there are certain people who are now a vital part of our lives. They are family now. If we had left then they wouldn’t be a part of us.

Am I glad Mark lost his job? Yes and no. Who wants to be unemployed? It isn’t ideal, but there are good things that have resulted. The timing was awful. It was 2 days before our anniversary, less than a month before Princess’ birthday, and downhill from there (November is Elf’s birthday, December is C-Dog’s plus Christmas, and then January is Bug’s birthday). I would often say “Why couldn’t they have just waited until January? Even better why not BEFORE we had moved??”
Whatever, I need to stop worry about those meaningless questions. I can’t change what happened. What I can change is our family dynamic. Mark is home more. Things aren’t settled for us but this is a start. We have a lot of decisions to make. It isn’t easy. Especially now that the whole world is watching how we get out of this beautiful mess…YES! That is what this is! It is a beautiful mess! There is so much disaster, but when you look deeper you see the beauty.
Think of 9/11. Remember that amazing picture of the firefighters planting the flag? THAT was a beautiful mess. I could go on and on with the examples.
You see the helpers, the true heart of community, the love that strangers have for others.
I am not comparing our situation to 9/11 or any other disaster. I am merely saying that there is always beauty to be had if we just look deep enough.

I need to wrap this up. This post has been sitting in my drafts folder since I started this blog. So many of my lovelies only had pieces of what happened because I was always too overwhelmed to tell the whole story. I promised them I would write it out for them so here it is. I never finished it because I swear I have writer’s ADD; I start writing one post only to move onto a new one before I finish what I originally started. I felt that now was the time to finally sit and finish my account of what happened.

For those who know me best here are the details you deserve to know since you have been such an amazing foundation of support.
For those who are new to my life, well…welcome! I hope this helps clear up any questions you may have had since you also are proving to be an amazing rallying force!

Lastly, thank you. It doesn’t seem like enough, but thank you.

“Peace and joy we wish you forever more” ~Grand Master Daniel Pai


Field Trip!!!!

This is my life unfolding…

The oldest 3 kids and I took a tour of one of the Toyota factories. One of the leaders in my son’s Boy Scout troop set up the tour. She is seriously amazing and I totally admire her passion to make sure the boys experience everything. In fact, all the leaders of the troop are pretty fantastic. I really could gush about them all day, but I am here to write about our trip. When the prospect of a tour was offered I jumped on it because it would be a duel experience for us; a scout outing AND a field trip! Score!

A friend and I switched kids; she took my younger 2 and I took her 2 older boys to the factory tour. It was a lot of fun and everyone was well behaved.


Elf and 2 of the extra kids I had.

We were the first to arrive to the factory and had the chance to look around the Visitor Center. It was a lot of fun. There was plenty of hands-on stuff to occupy the kids. Once the rest of the troop was there we headed into a room to watch a brief video and then we headed to the tram.


What was the first thing the kids noticed? They had a blast pretending to race each other.
Here is C-Dog


Can I just say Toyota is impressive! Did you know they have a zero landfill policy? They recycle everything! Their facility is amazingly clean. I don’t know about you but when I think “car factory” I think grease, oil, dust, etc.


The Toyoda Type-G Automatic Loom invented by Sakichi Toyoda, the father of Toyota Motor Corp.

We learned that the plant used to produce the Tundra, but now makes the Sienna, the Highlander and the Highlander Hybrid. Most are already bought by individuals or dealerships.



C-Dog and his buddy having fun int he Visitor’s Center


During the tram tour we got to see the manufacturing process of the Sienna first hand. No pictures were allowed though. I can tell you they make excellent use of all their space and we often had vehicles passing over our heads on conveyor belts! We also learned that Toyota takes their workers’ ideas seriously. When a team member has an idea that will make their job easier and/or more efficient Toyota listens and implements the idea. We actually saw at least one such idea being used. How fantastic to work for a company that actually listens! We also learned that the use of robots does NOT replace the worker. Robots are used to help and not replace. That is reassuring since jobs are hard enough to come by; trust me I know!

An example of a robotic arm used to help workers

An example of a robotic arm used to help workers

Toyota has several cafeterias, vending machine areas, several work-out ares, an on site pharmacy, a day care center, and more. I was left with the impression that they take good care of their employees.


Bug checking out the plastics exhibit which uses a simulated process that demonstrates injection molding used to mold all the plastic vehicle parts in the plant.

The workers are efficient. They have an allotted time to complete their task on each vehicle; about 60-90 seconds per car! They have safety measures in place and each vehicle is examined and tested. I was amazed at the speed and efficiency in which they worked.


Elf is working hard to make a car door in the allotted time!

Toyota is involved in the community and encourages all of their employees to do volunteer work. I think all companies need to do this. I also noticed that on the grounds they have an A-forestation section were they are growing new trees. What a great way to counter the Carbon Footprint they are creating and a true inspiration to the rest of us.

Overall, this trip was fantastic. What I saw of Toyota was incredible. I really can’t say enough positives about them based on what we saw. If you ever have the chance to tour a car factory I recommend it. Maybe your experience won’t be as positive as ours, but it was a true learning experience and it is something my kids will never forget.


**This is not a Toyota review. This is simply a post about a field trip to one of their plants. We had a great experience. All the opinions are mine based on what I saw during the tour.