Technically the first (full) day of school is next Tuesday. At least that was Sam's answer when I asked him how he liked his first day of school. Have I mentioned how literal* he can be?

I don't really have a whole lot to share except that:

a.) He was super happy to go.
When I went in to wake him up he rolled over pretty quickly and told me, "I've been laying here trying to sleep." He also said, "See you later, Mom" as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. Oh, no you don't buddy boy! Mamma is coming inside! Although I did not hover and only peeked in his class a time or two. Or  three.

b.) He hugged almost the entire student body.
It started in the parking lot. He saw one of his best friends. And then Mr. K. And then...you get the point. When we got to his classroom he walked between each of the rows and greeted everyone in his class. A hug and a "Classmate!" if he wasn't sure of a name.


c.) He did very well.
I knew he would. I mean, I knew they would have to tell him to slow down and that one hug per person is sufficient and that he couldn't just talk when he wanted to. And they did and it was exactly what he needed to hear so that he can learn the social ques that govern us all. The sweet lady in this picture with Sam is Ms. Noland. She's his core teacher and honestly she could not be a better fit for him. She has a very calm and quiet demeanor that helps pull him back when he gets ahead or is moving too fast. Which happen often.



d.) He was starving when we got home and I am pretty sure my grocery bill is going to go up because school boys expend a lot of energy being smart boys. That's what he calls himself, proudly announcing that he is a School Boy now.

My heart squeezes at the words and my throat gets thick with emotion because of the satisfied way he says them. Like he knows that somehow he is a little more like everybody else. It's the difference in always visiting some place and loving it and being welcomed there and moving in...of finding your place...of taking your place.

I can't wait to see what this year holds for him.


*His latest joke:
What is Amelia Bedelia's favorite shape?

A quadrilteral :-)



Pssts.

Want to hear a confession?

I am a mother to four girls and I hate all things princessy. (Except Princess Kate.)

I mean the saccharine, Disney-esque, fluff kind of princess - the one defined by her shoes and color of her nail polish.

Here is confession number two. I hate the Christianized version even more. You know the cute little pink T-shirts with sparkly tiaras that say something like, "I know I'm a princess because my Father is the King of Kings." Not because I don't believe I Peter 2:9, but because I do.


The first issue is that I hate anything that reduces our faith to a cutesy slogan. Second, I think the emphasis is on the wrong thing. The whole I'm a princess mentality makes much about us, and if you continue to read the verse you'll see that we are called into that royal priesthood so that we may proclaim His excellencies. In other words it's not what a special little girl we are, but about declaring His greatness.

Now, I am not lurking about, waiting for an opportunity to throw a can of brown paint on anyone wearing cutesy little overpriced pink T-shirts with a sparkly tiara. It just raises my hackles.

I mention it only because I think it points to a larger problem within the Church as a whole. We are not raising up strong, godly women who are sure of themselves and their role as a woman. Confusion abounds over being able to do it all, have it all, and wear heels while you go about it. The assault on womanhood and femininity has raged for decades. Consequently we are free to question our sexual orientation as young as possible, experiment sexually as early as we can, murder our babies that the exploration creates, abandon the ones we do keep to the care of  someone else while we find our identity in the workforce, resent our husbands because they don't lead, and clamor for "me" time just so we can take a break from all the things we now have a right to.

We've reduced it down to a list of good girls don't do this or that and bad girls do. Unfortunately that means we've created a void of nothingness and the modern christian franchise rushes in to fill it with pithy, cotton-candy slogans and sparkly Ts, leaving our daughters to flounder about not knowing so much what they should be as what they shouldn't.

They need to grow up. We need to push them out of the "Shut. Up!" Princess Diaries phase of being told they're a princess, and back them up to the beginning of that second chapter in I Peter and teach them that they are being made into a spiritual house so they can offer up spiritual sacrifice...and then take them to Romans 12:1 and show them that they are the spiritual sacrifice.  And while we're there we can learn who He wants them (us) to be.

Somehow I think His idea of what it means to be His daughter, His princess, is going to look a little different than what we've imagine.


First my disclaimer:
These are some of the poorest quality photographs I have ever taken...at least in a long, looooong time. But I hate reading these kinds of post and not seeing evidence photos of the process so even though my white board is in a really awkward spot for decent pictures, I am secure enough in my clicking and snapping that I will gladly put them here.

Now on to how half a tube of Colgate toothpaste saved the day. Or at least made it better.

I have a giant white board hanging on the wall that is sort of the in between space of the kitchen and coming into our living room area. And by giant, I mean it's pretty huge ~ it's about 5ft by 3ft-ish. For the most part I love it. I can jot down quick notes, honey do-lists*, Bible verses we're contemplating, and the kids have plenty of space to practice math problems, do Latin lessons and spelling lists, or just draw. (Have you noticed the amazing colors that dry erase markers come in this days? And now there is something called a dry erase crayon?! Can't wait to try that out.)

We try really hard to keep permanent markers in safe out of the way places and not let them mix in with all the fabulous dry erase markers but occasionally there's a mix up and oops! Not a big deal generally because it's usually caught before too much writing has taken place. And in case you didn't know this here's a nifty trick - if you quickly color over a small permanent marker mark with dry erase marker you can then wipe them both off. Which is great unless a.) using a permanent marker isn't noticed until quite a bit of drawing has occurred or b.) the drawing is pretty big. Option C is what happened with us which is a combo platter of both a and b.

I wasn't really sure what to do. Our nifty trick wasn't helping and I wasn't sure what to do. So I did what any woman would do: I turned to pinterest and I was not disappointed. When I went back to find the original pin that I read I couldn't find it but there are several listed if you're curious.


What you'll need:
white board with ugly permanent marker on it

toothpaste (I used Colgate because it's what I had on hand)
damp wash cloth



What you'll do:
Cover markings with a liberal amount of toothpaste
Wait a few minutes
Scrub off with damp cloth



I'm not going to lie...you need to put a little elbow grease into it. But when you're done you board is sparkly white and minty fresh smelling!


*So about honey-do lists. They're kind of a running joke between me and my beloved. He doesn't like lists. He doesn't like for me to make lists-written or just mental ones. He really hates for me to list my lists out loud too, which is a problem because sometimes I'm just talking through what needs to be done or happen and it just falls out of my mouth in a list like form. He'll get this funny look on his face and say something like, "You're listing me!" in a sing song yada yada yada kind of way. Of course me being me means that I will upon occasion poke fun at him by making list on purpose. And that's what I did one day at the top of the white board. Being kind of sassy I put about four things on the right corner of the board under his name. In the left I put a couple of things for me under my name.  He did his normal "You're listing me!" in his sing song yada yada yada and then we just went about our business. A little while later I happened to pass by the white board and noticed that something had been added. In neat letters he had carefully written "quit nagging" on my list. I believe my response might have been, "Yada, yada, yada".

(Just to be clear this was all done in good fun. Not that he won't call me out for nagging if he needs to mind you, he's a good husband like that. Course I'm such a great wife that he rarely needs to..ha! I'm saying that totally tongue in cheek :-)

Okay so I said that I was confident in my picture taking to not worry about putting up bad pictures but well, I can't do it. I mean I left the pictures but I don't want you to leave with those pictures in your head, like that's the kind of pictures I always take. I mean what if this is the first time you've ever been to my blog? Anyway, here's a picture of a bee on a flower that I took the same day as the fuzzy white board pictures.






And boy is it a major change!

We've always wished Sam could more fully experience the community of Trinitas. It's an amazing place and we have been blessed immeasurably by the staff,  teachers and families that have been in our lives for the past five and a half years.

Just about everybody knows Sam. He pours over the year books and memorizes the kids in his sisters' classes. There is an overlap of families from school that are members of our church. He got to be water boy at one of the soccer games last year. He made special character drawings for last year's drama cast.

But it's always been from a distance - always as something of an outsider - someone different who could see

and hear and be a part on some level but not completely fit in. We've long known that in the early years of education, the grammar stage, that Sam would respond well to the repetition and structure that a classical model offers. But we've also known that it would take something extra, something more, to enable Sam to be a part of the school completely.

There have been conversations back and forth over the years about how to incorporate special needs kids at the school. The desire has been there on everyone's part to somehow make this way of education - of being - accessible to all kids. How to make that happen has always been the problem with no clear easy solution. At this moment the solution still isn't crystal clear but the pieces are beginning to come together.

So Samuel will, for the first time in his life, be going to school this year.

I am by turns excited and terrified. Ever since Rob told me that it was seriously being considered for this school year I've had that feeling you get when you stand a little to close to a high ledge - like a thousand nervous butterflies have taken residence in your stomach.

We're making ourselves, our son, more vulnerable than any of us have ever been. And it's hard. Harder than I ever expected it to be, maybe because I never really expected I'd have to. And these aren't just any people...these are our people...our friends...our brothers and sisters. They are the community that has helped us, strengthened us, and encouraged us.  I can't image a group of people more loving and devoted to seeing Sam grown and learn.

It's an avalanche of emotion - excitement for what this means for him, a certain amount of fear for me in the letting go - and the overwhelming sense of goodness that God is graciously doing more than I could have ever asked for or imagined.

If you'd like to read any of the early post I've written about our journey with Sam and autism just type the words Sam's World into the "search this blog" box and it will bring them up for you.



Let's face it. I love nutella. You love nutella. I mean you may come across the occasional person who doesn't care for it but not often. People love nutella and what's not to love with that creamy chocolately smoothness and hint of hazelnut?

I'll be honest that, in my opinion, there aren't a lot of recipes that use nutella that taste better than just a plain ol' spoonful of the stuff. The flavor is just easily overwhelmed I think so while I will eagerly try any recipe that calls for it as an ingredient (any excuse to have a jar in the house) there aren't many that I want to make more than once. The ooey gooey nutella cake has been the lone star on my baking list until now. These chewy nutella brownies were so deliciously good that they've earned a seat right next to it though and I really would be hard pressed to choose one over the other.


Rich and decadent this brownies were a treat if a little more involved than some other recipes.

What you'll need:
2 sticks of butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 regular (small) jar of nutella
4 large eggs
1 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 TBS vanilla 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
10 oz package mini chocolate chips

What you'll do:
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. 
Add sugar and continue to cook for one to two minutes (do not allow to boil)
Remove from heat and stir in nutella.
Pour mixture into a large bowl and add eggs, cocoa powders, salt, baking powder, and vanilla, stirring until combined.
Stir in flour half a cup at a time until completely mixed in.
Stir in chocolate chips.
The batter will be very thick. 
Pour it into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. The center will look slightly moist but the edges should be set. 

These are some serious brownies, people. And they are just as good the next day...if you manage to have any left over. Also, they would be like next level if combined with a scoop of ice cream.





What is it about little girls and their love for horses? I've only met a very few that didn't get all gaga over the four legged creatures. Of course it's also been said that all horses, at least once in their lives, deserve to be loved by a little girl.

I guess it's a perfect match for Miss C and Shorty then because this girl loves her horse! I was so excited about their pictures because even in camera I knew they were gorgeous...the sweet affection between the two combined with the perfect afternoon light made the whole session a breeze. Not to mention is was followed up with the best grilled hamburgers I'd had in a long time and some good times hanging out with good friends. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love doing photography?)





How cute is she? Miss C is in my daughter's class and she is as lovely on the inside as she is on the outside. We've truly been blessed to know her family and call them friends.




Sometimes a burden is both heavy and good. I forget this sometimes.

I forget sometimes that weighty can also be the same as substantial, important.

And something serious can also be joyful, satisfying.

Hard does not always have to mean bad.

Sometimes hard things in life are like the heavy winter quilt that settles around you, weighted in it's warmth and comfort.

Sometimes hard is the fierce and loyal hug of a friend.

Or the smooshed up kissy face of a two year old pressing in to give mamma some love.

Parenting is a burden that is heavy and so.darn.hard. some days.


Being a wife is hard. Being a friend and neighbor is hard.

Sometimes heavy and hard is the satisfying labor of moving things around and putting stuff in it's proper place. And that hard work can happen inside our minds and hearts just as easily as working in the garage or a closet.

I want to welcome the burdens in my life...the ones that ground me in His love...to accept their weight of
grace just like the worn quilt that brings comfort.

Burdens mean that He is working His good and perfect will in us...sometimes through burdens that He places on us that are good and right; sometimes through the ones that we pick up and tote along until He tells us to set them down...that we don't need them.

But they all come from the hand of the Father whose Son calls us to find our rest in Him; the One who says His burden is easy.


Life isn't easy nor should it be. But the hard will often times yield precious heavy joy~the kind that will last past this earth and into eternity.


I've mentioned before that we love breakfast around our house...it's not unusual to find us having it for dinner. Normally I shy away from breakfast casseroles that have bread in them because it always seems a wee bit soggy to me. Or the eggs bake up weird (I have texture issues I guess).

But I do love me some biscuits so when I came across this recipe I knew I'd want to try it. I made it for a weekly mom's group and it was a big hit. So I wanted to share the recipe but I hadn't taken any pictures. Which meant that I of course had to make it again and since my family is used to me taking pictures of everything they didn't mind. (I still almost forgot to take the all done shot...I realized it while we were sitting at the table and had to jump up and run outside with my plate. I did wait until after we sang grace so that they could go ahead and eat :-)

What you'll need:
1 can Grands biscuits
1 packet Pioneer Country Gravy Mix, prepared according to directions
1 package Tennessee country sausage, browned
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese ( I use 2 cups of sharp cheddar)
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup of milk


What you'll do:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray the bottom of your 9x13 dish will non stick spray.
Cut biscuits into small pieces and layer on bottom of pan.
Sprinkle sausage over biscuits.
Sprinkle the cheese on top of the sausage and biscuits.
Combine milk and eggs together and then pour over the dish.
Spoon gravy mixture over the entire dish.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes and then serve with a side of cheese grits and bacon.


I did pictures this week of my friend's little girl who recently turned two. It was hot and sweaty and little Miss O was being quite the stinker and handing out smiles like rare jewels. We laughed though because such is life...we don't always get the pictures we plan in our head but there is a beauty to be found even then.  We did manage to catch a few of those rare gems and some other sweetness and one of my favorites didn't even show her face. There was just something about the little girl softness, the blur of the flower because she was playing with it and the sun flare, oh my the sun flare!






Our church eats together every Sunday after our worship service. Actually, I'd say that it's a continuation of our worship as we feast on the bounty that God has blessed us with. The exception to our corporate meal is the first Sunday of the month when we try to gather in homes for smaller group fellowship. But trust me, smaller group does not equal a smaller feast! Today we had brisket, grilled chicken, fresh green beans, corn on the cob, three salads and three different desserts. It was good food and good friends all day.

Which is why I am sharing not one, but two recipes with you today. Neither of which I cooked but thoroughly enjoyed so much that I scraped my original post for this week just to share them with you. (And yes, I know I mentioned that there were three desserts and it may seem unfair that I am only sharing two of them but in my defense, Betty Jo is an amazing cook and I just about killed myself on her brisket and home grown green beans and I had no room left for even another bite of cake. It was, however, Rob's favorite so I will be getting the recipe post haste and will actually bake it before I blog it on it's own.)

Here is a smallish confession. I am not a big cake eater unless the word cheese is in front of the word cake. I love how they look and I am amazed at the beautiful cakes people can bake but normally I pass right by them and head straight for the pie or brownies. Oddly enough both of these recipes are cakes though. Really really good cakes.

This first recipe is for a coconut cake that is out of this world crazy good. If you or someone you love enjoys coconut then this is the recipe for you! Bonus is the recipe is found on a really great new to me blog called Family Favorite Recipes. I'm pretty sure that I will be visiting there more often now that they have been discovered.


The cake has a lovely texture and a delightful coconut flavor that is nicely balanced with a yummy cream cheese frosting. Toasted coconut adds a nice touch to the finished confection making it as pretty as it is tasty.

The other recipe is also from a new to me blog. A Cup of Jo seems to have a little bit of everything with some rather nifty photographs that catch the eye.  But the star shining so bright for me right now is the best ever buttermilk blueberry coffee cake. It is moist and delicious and is bursting with nutmeg and it also has a really good brown butter vanilla glaze drizzled on it. I'm giddy at the thought of the slice I have tucked away for tomorrow morning's cup of coffee.


Since blueberries are a favorite this cake is definitely on my to make list. It will be a perfect addition to brunch or tea.


And, yes, for the record I did take pretty pictures of my friend's food for this blog post. I did wait until my friend's were gone which means only my neighbors got to wonder what craziness I was up to out on my front porch. Of course my neighbor's might be used to it by now :-) 




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