Don’t Rob Yourself of a Happy Marriage

6 ways to strengthen your love


The gray, dreary morning of February 3, 2001, approached. This was it; in just a few short hours I’d be the wife of my best friend.

Sure, it was drizzling and cold for the outdoor ceremony where 360 people were to be at. My bridesmaids dresses ended up being an expensive, near fiasco that took my mom and I searching all over Central Florida for weeks only to end up sewing them ourselves.

My future in-laws had graciously offered their country property to host the event, and Bryan had woken up the day before the wedding only to find that horses had been trampling the reception site and had graced the area with piles of manure.

Regardless of endless imperfections, my 19 yr. old nerves were actually pretty calm.

This particular day wasn’t what we committed ourselves to, for it was just a brief moment that would pass quickly and we would then move on to the reality of our love and friendship for years to come.


I was over the top excited…there was a lot I didn’t know, but one thing I was confident about on that day 15 years ago is that Bryan was the guy I was sticking with for life, and whatever came our way, we’d face it together.

And we have.

We were so young!


My heart is full today as I celebrate 15 years of marriage to a guy that truly blesses me day after day. We have so much fun together, love deeply, and my life is brighter in every way because of the great teammate that I have.  

But life can take anyone by surprise and has ways of robbing us of joy, doesn’t it?

Like the time when your husband makes the decision to quit a good paying job and instead start his own business where there are mostly question marks and what ifs and maybes.

Or being overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being a parent. When I think I’m pretty much maxed out. Only to realize that no, here’s some more stuff to figure out and handle.

Money is plentiful and then money isn’t plentiful. Ups and downs. Imperfections.

We all have our own stories and experiences.


I look back to the early days when things were simpler AND easier. However, if I remember correctly, I had more time to make childish mountains out of mole hills. I don’t miss that nonsense.


Juggling moves, and house purchases, and having kids and purchasing land, and quitting a secure and good job, and starting a business, and having even more kids, and homeschooling, and more business ventures, to kids growing into teenagers, to working on building our own home, only to have even more kids.

You see a pattern here? Yeah, a lot of kids. Anyways.

Here are those 8 kids ( 1 on the way). And we are totally blessed to be their parents.


Of course every moment isn’t awesome and pleasant, but after 15 years, we’re pretty darn happy, and we’re pretty awful sure that the other is way cooler now than before. Actually, not sure if Bryan would say that, but it’s my blog post and I’m talking. (So yes, we’re both way cooler now.)

I can’t let all the junk and the chaos and the responsibilities and the wins and the losses rob me of joy in my marriage.  It’s a relationship worth fighting for and investing in. And like most things, if we’re not nurturing its growth, it starts to fade.

Shed pretense  I remember one night spending like an hour on the couch trying to get words out to express a personal difficulty that I didn’t particularly like having to deal with and to be authentic about it was really hard.
Pretense before or after your married is stupid. It sets you up for disaster. Don’t act is if you’re someone that you’re not. Be yourself. And if your self needs some improvement, go ahead and own that by being open about who you are, and purpose to change in areas that would serve others and you well.

Check for pretense on a regular basis and don’t get into a habit of building a facade around your heart day after day.

Laugh at each other I. Can’t. Tell. You. How. Much. This. Has. Helped. Our. Marriage. You may say, “That just seems mean!”  Sure, full blown mockery is one thing, but seeing something in your spouse that is funny, less than perfect, or totally quirky is way too awesome NOT to laugh at.

And let that be returned back at you.

Try laughing at yourself. It’s freeing. Because it’s simply embracing who you are and not taking yourself so seriously all the time. You’re YOU, and sometimes you’re kind of a laughable and quirky creature, okay?

Be gracious and forgiving I never had the idea that Bryan was perfect. In fact, before getting married there were definitely some things about him that ticked me off. For real.  But let’s be honest…uh, so about me. Yeah, he’s had to deal with plenty, too. We’ve both had to extend forgiveness and grace. A lot. That’s what real love is.
I don’t know a more gracious man than Bryan. He is authentic with me and desires that to be a two way street. In that grace we have thrived well.

Be supportive of things that have little to do with you Not everything your spouse does has to serve you directly. I’m married to a dreamer who has ideas galore. And they don’t just stay in his head. He takes action and does them. There have been times I find myself having a pity party that I’m not the center of his dream.

I ask myself: “Why don’t you want him to do this?” My reasons are usually pretty self centered.

Over time, I’ve come to genuinely value the “dreamer and doer” in him.

Instead of taking the “woe is me” route, choose to support your spouse in their endeavors. That doesn’t mean you’ll always agree, but don’t be a whiny downer.

Stay on the same track Amidst all the busyness and life’s responsibilities, it’s important to stop every now and then and communicate about where we’re both headed. While our individual tasks are often quite different from each other, are we both headed in the same direction with a common goal?


There have been many conversations between us that have helped clarify what we’re doing. Sometimes it points us to areas we need to let go of, and other times it just confirms that we’re on the same page and regardless of difficult times, we’re on the right path and and in this together.

Do not depend on each other for happiness Don’t wait around for someone else to make you happy. Seriously. The more independent you are in this area, the more you’ll actually have to offer each other in marriage (and elsewhere).

You’re responsible for feeding your own mind and soul with the truths that bring you joy. Other people can’t do it for you. The more you try to get happiness from others, the needier you become. Don’t wait around for others. Choose joy today. Share it. You won’t be sorry.



Here we are today, celebrating our 15th anniversary in California! (Having a blast, and yes, feeling a bit spoiled.)



Door to Door Donut Sales

From a child's perspective



It was late Friday afternoon. The time had come for my sisters and I to grab our pads of paper and go door to door.


Kids everywhere have different ways of making money. In my childhood home, cash flow was scarce; if us kids wanted to earn money, we had to get out of the house and work for it in some sort of way.

There were a couple of jobs we could do for a dollar or two from my parents, but they didn’t dish out regular allowances to their 12 kids.

Makes sense. That could really add up. And they didn’t have a lot of extra cash lying around.

There were multiple things I remember doing during my childhood that helped rake in spending and saving money.

One particular money making venture comes to mind and consisted of selling donuts.

My eldest sister was usually the fearless one to head up sales ideas. The funny thing is, she rarely showed her face to our “customers” when it came to door to door selling, but she was the supportive, behind the scenes boss.

We lived in a low-middle class neighborhood, and in the 80’s to early 90’s Crestview Drive residents had a good amount of camaraderie.

The neighbor kids would visit our house and if they were lucky, my eldest sister Becky would fry up donuts and share them with the lot of us. They made an impression on the kids’ mind, and the donuts started getting a positive reputation.

Becky came up with the idea that maybe we should get the donuts OUT the door and into other peoples’ homes.


So we planned our first sales run:


We’d walk around the whole neighborhood late Friday afternoon with our notepads and take orders for delivery of hot donuts for the following Saturday morning at the time of the customer’s choice.

We thought “Hot and fresh donuts delivered to your door on Saturday morning” may be right up the neighbors’ alley.

And it was!

We made homemade order form slips and went from door to door, offering 3 varieties of donuts and selling them by the half dozen and up.
Our customers picked what time of the morning they wanted their donuts delivered, we put their names, address, donuts variety/amount, and time of delivery on our order forms and kept moving from street to street.

It was scary though.

I hated walking up to the doors on the 3rd,  4th  and 5th  block over from our house to people’s homes who knew nothing about who we were. Somehow, going two by two, and with my sister Becky’s voice in the back of my head pushing us to face our fears for the sake of profit and that we were offering something to people that they might totally be thrilled with kept my siblings and I on the move.

After an hour or two of wandering our neighborhood streets, we brought the filled out order forms home to see how we had made out.

We had a pretty good turnout for our first sales run!

Becky totaled up the dozens ordered, and it was somewhere in the ballpark of 30 dozen! She figured in all of the supplies we’d need: Oil, donut ingredients, plates and wrap for delivery, etc.

We then headed to the store which was right up the road from us and bought what we needed.

We waited with excitement and nervousness for the early morning deliveries.

We decided to split up into 2 delivery groups and return as quickly as possible to get our fresh plate for the next customer in line.

Saturday morning arrived, Becky was at the fryer, we pulled out our order forms and she fried up the donuts for the earliest orders. We dipped them in the glaze or sprinkled them with sugar, and plate by plate we wrapped them up and headed out on foot as fast as we could without dropping any.


Becky wanted to make it extra special, so every dozen that a customer ordered would be a baker’s dozen. 13 donuts ended up on every plate with a little paper in between two layers of wrap that we wrote in our best handwriting possible, “Baker’s Dozen”.

We showed up at the “customer’s” door, knocked, and they sleepily opened the door; their eyes lit up as the smell of the fresh donuts wafted inside. They shuffled around for their money and we pocketed it, thanked them for their order and tore back to the house as fast as we could to pick up the next plate.

One customer sticks out in my mind. It was the Friday of taking orders and we walked up to their well manicured yard (vastly different from our own).

Becky’s orders were that we couldn’t skip any house unless we knew they didn’t want us there, or we had some other specific reason that it wasn’t a good idea to stroll up unawares. (There were a couple of houses we came up with some childish, but possibly very good excuse that caused us to refrain from walking up to the door.)


Regardless of our possible ragamuffin appearance (I imagine I DID brush my hair and put on shoes for this occasion though), we strolled timidly up to the  “Greenes’ Residence” and knocked on the door.

We hear a couple of barks coming from inside. We wait. And just when we are about to turn and rush away, the door opens and one of the kindliest elderly faces I’ve ever seen peers out and greets us warmly.

She hushed the dogs, and I give our childish sales pitch. “Hello, my name is Leilani and I live one block over. My sisters and I are selling donuts and we wondered if you’d like to have fresh, hot donuts delivered to your door tomorrow morning at the time of your choice?”


“Oh my! That sounds divine. What kind do you have?”

“Glazed, sugar, or cinnamon/sugar”

“Hmmm, do you sell plain ones?”

“Uh, yes, we could do that.”

“Okay, I’d like 2 dozen plain donuts, and 1 dozen glazed.”

Wow! We scored. We didn’t expect 3 dozen from an elderly couple, but this was awesome; and Mrs. Greene was so kind and sweet that I couldn’t wait to deliver her the donuts the following morning.
I didn’t understand the desire for plain, or the desire for so many, but whatever the customer wants, the customer gets.

We showed up the following morning at 8am with 3 dozen donuts, and Mr. and Mrs. Greene informed us that “Bosco” and “Daisy” were very, very excited about breakfast.
Ohhh, so the plain donuts were for their dogs.


They paid us, and with a generous tip we went on our way. They said to come back whenever we planned on selling again.

You can’t go wrong there. That’s a way to boost a child’s confidence and make them think that they may actually like door to door sales after all.

These were the experiences that kept us going despite the not so enjoyable moments- You know, the ones where we’d get a grumpy, blank stare and then a definitive ‘no’ and a slammed door from a customer. Or the time where the lady with a shrill voice said, “Don’t you pay attention to signs?” and with her long finger pointed at the “No soliciting” sign on her porch wall.

I always wondered what “soliciting” meant.  My 9 yr. old self finally figured it out.

Back to our Saturday morning donut run.

It was about 10:30am, and we made our last delivery. We gathered all the cash together and counted out the total. After paying Becky back for the ingredients, we ended up with about $30 profit.

It may seem like chump change, but to us, it was more than worth the efforts and we were pretty excited.
After counting the costs, and if I remember correctly, we made about $1 profit on each dozen that were sold. At a selling price of $2 a dozen, we were pretty happy with the profit margins. (I mean, c’mon, food profit margins are generally pretty low-50% profit was a good number for us.)

We did these sales runs a few times every year for a few years.

A year or two after our first sales run we raised our prices to $3 a dozen.

It’s experiences like these that give me an appreciation for the childhood that was given to me.  How my parents gave us the freedom and the independence to do this entirely on our own. Not a penny from them, only a nod from their heads and a grin from their faces.

It gave me a sense of responsibility and the feeling that what I did had value and actually mattered.

How Moms Drink Coffee



Coffee-We like to talk about it, take pictures of it, and of course above all else, drink it.

Moms have a special relationship to coffee. When you’ve been up for hours during the night tending a baby, household duties constantly piling up, work beckoning, there’s something pretty awesome special about being able to delve into a cup of goodness that gives you a mental boost, makes you feel *at least for a moment* that you’re able to tackle the world; and by golly, it’s just so darn delicious!

Hot, cold, black, creamy, sweetened, unsweetened, caffeinated, decaffeinated, cheap or top of the notch, it’s a drink that has bridged the gap between the pauper and the aristocrat, the parent and the teen, the professional and the non-professional.

I asked a few friends who are moms to share  a short description of their favorite coffee routine and a picture, so if you want to read what they shared, and maybe try out a new coffee brand, check out what these moms are drinking.

11118432_10153331307596287_1936908580_n  Tiffany, a dear friend of mine was a Memphis girl who has since moved to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina; she stays busy with her home business, raising 4 boys, and running half marathons. Here’s what she says:

” I like to drink my coffee after a workout and my bible reading, so at about 9:00am. I have a coffee pot that makes just enough for me to fill my mug all the way with just a bit leftover to add to it afterwards.  My favorite brew is Starbucks Mocha and I add a little bit of coconut milk creamer. I don’t drink it every day; about 3-4 times a week.”


image  Sandi is a mom of 8 beautiful children; more handsome really, because 7 of them are boys!  Sandi is friendly and kind, sells health/beauty products, loves and serves her kids and husband, and though we’ve only been able to share an online relationship, I think she’d be a great lady to sit down with in person and have a chat.

She says that: “The coffee matters less to me than the location. I like to relax with a cup in an aesthetically pleasing spot. I love a great view! My dad brings me  enough Honduran coffee beans to last me a year on his annual mission trip(s). I grind one cup at a time in a Solofill and use a Keurig Vue to brew. I add whole milk and a tsp. of sugar. I also begin my time with the Father during this cup so that makes it the most special!”


image  Michelle is a fun loving mom of teens and tots, she’s currently homeschooling her elementary, middle school and high-school grade children and amidst a busy social life she says her coffee routine varies, but her ultimate coffee experience is:

” I like a fresh brewed cup of extra hot Jose’s Coffee in the mug that my son bought at a garage sale for a dime when he was a little boy and gave to me as a gift (as seen in photo). Sweetened with a scant teaspoon of sugar and a healthy swirl of half and half and delivered to me in bed by my husband. More typical is waking early and brewing coffee for my husband and I and sometimes we have the blessing of sharing a conversation while sitting in the back yard. Other times I  run out the door juggling my keys, phone, water bottle, toast, purse and the mug of hot coffee as I rush to meet a friend for an early morning workout. Whatever the morning, coffee will be had.”


image   Ashley is a school teacher and mom of 2 darling girls. She is a passionate, fun and dedicated woman; and I might add she’s a bit of a fashionista. She says, “As a teacher, coffee is an integral part of my daily routine-my fuel to wake me up and get me going. Any of my students would tell you I teach the first hour of school with thermal mug in hand.  My ideal cup is Gevalia House Blend, perfectly doused with French vanilla creamer and a hint of Stevia. On summer mornings I’ll sit in an armchair,  wrapped in my fav blanket, and sip my coffee while watching the Today Show or reading a good book. ”


image  Gail  is a woman who knows how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. She raised 12 children and is a grandmother to close to 30 grandchildren. And if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she’s a Sheltie breeder and buys and sells Sheltie pups all throughout Georgia and Florida. I happen to be one of the privileged who calls her Mom.

She says, “I enjoy my latte early in the morning. I make it with raw milk, Earth’s Pride Organic Coffee, a splash of vanilla, Stevia, and whipped cream. I either drink it outside or on the living room couch. I like to have time with God with my coffee.”


As for me, there’s nothing better  than consuming a scathing hot cup of strong Dunkin Dark coffee brewed right here at home while sitting outside watching the sunrise. I always heat my half and half before adding it to the coffee and then sprinkle refined white sugar into the swirling goodness.
I rarely get coffee when I’m out and about, but if I do, the hot lattes at Axum Coffee in Winter Garden are AMAZING and if I have the time and opportunity of visiting a coffeeshop, I go there.


To you, my other mutual coffee drinkers, I’d love to hear from you–How do you take your coffee?




How Deep Will You Dive? (Into a dumpster)


  It was 6pm on a week night, and my parents and some of us kids were in town doing errands. The age old Winn-Dixie was being demolished and there was a dumpster in the parking lot chock full of  construction debris. It caught my mom’s eye and she says to my dad, “Stan, drive past that dumpster, I want to take a closer look.”


My dad was rarely in a hurry and was quite obliging to my mom. (Most of the time.) He turned into the parking lot and we drive up to the dumpster. I start slumping down lower in my seat. Oh, no. What’s next? At a closer look you could see that the dumpster was chock full of BRICKS from the demolished Winn-Dixie.

Just as my mom had hoped.

We found ourselves in these kind of scenarios because my parents raised 12 kids on my dad’s low-moderate income and they were of the frugal type. Dad was pretty calculated and was darn good at spreading small amounts of money to go far. My parents never had a car payment, credit card debt was unheard of, and dad paid off the home mortgage by the time he was 40 yrs. old. All while raising a bunch of us! This wasn’t easy. He and mom gave up a lot of first world comforts and truly embraced frugal living. Because of their dedicated efforts to financial freedom, big purchases were rare, and small purchases were always in a state of consideration.


They had purchased a home and it lacked having a concrete driveway; something that my mom was definitely wanting, but after purchasing the home and fixing the interior, cash funds were low……


Back to the Winn Dixie parking lot What was to happen next was that every one of those bricks were going to be put in our family vehicle (ahem, a small, 1975 Chevrolet school bus) because instead of putting aside money for a paved drive, we’d just turn those bricks into a no cost driveway! Dad drove  the younger ones home, took out the back seats of the bus, called the capable hands to helm and we headed back to the dumpster. After a couple of trips we had every bit of brick lying in a huge pile at the end of our driveway.


There’s a vague memory of talking to a fellow at the dump for permission to take the bricks and he gave us the go ahead, but in my humble opinion I’m pretty sure he was just a mutual dumpster diver.


Now, you may think the hard work is over and we really scored with having hundreds of free bricks on our hands, but when we got closer to the bricks we  noticed that almost every single one of them were heavily laden with mortar and there was much work to be done before we could even begin to level out the ground and start laying them down.


The next day I had a chisel in hand (as I was among the kids that were too old to play inside and too young to have a job elsewhere). For 2 days straight my mom managed all available Claerbout kids and we chiseled off every bit of mortar.

In short, my mom got a driveway; not a concrete one, but a brick one. It was crazy. I actually kind of loved it. The whole thing. I mean I hated it, too, but that’s how insane ideas and projects are, ya know?


Money was not on our side, but time was. (And yes, maybe some child labor.)


A couple of things that I find interesting about this story:

1. It was my personal experience, so it’s just interesting to me

2. My family is kind of weird

3. My parents were determined to  put up with a butt load of inconvenience and “stupidity” for that driveway and they got it


(If I remember correctly, the brick drive was not done too professionally (go figure); after a couple of years, we ended up with a concrete driveway and sidewalk. Once again we moved all those bricks. To our backyard. And made a brick patio. And last I visited my parent’s house I noticed it has held up these past 20 yrs.)

6 Tips for Brightening Up the SAHM Life


Do you ever feel that your SAHM (stay at home mom) life lacks some luster?

A stay-at-home mom can easily feel stuck doing the same thing day in and day out, your creativity levels seem low, and when you have  little kids and are limited in your ventures, you can start to feel like your abilities and options are zero to none.

That’s not true, but our vocation is a simple seeming one and generally we don’t have a boss or any competition breathing down our backs to get moving with new projects or checking in on how our progress is, etc. (Sure, now and then we’ve got a spouse who may insert a thought or two. That’s good, btw.)

You have to learn how to be content in your field and simultaneously push yourself in ways to stay purposeful and excited about your “stay at homeliness” .

In case you didn’t already guess I’d feel this way>> I think that if you’ve chosen to stay at home to raise those little kiddos….you’re doing AWESOME!

Think of a couple of reasons why you stay home and do what you do

For me:

1. I’m a Mother-Definition: To bring up a child with care and affection

2. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity-I’m taking those first 18 years and, yes, maximizing on the opportunity.

3. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8)
Hey, Solomon is telling that kiddo to pay heed to their mama, I better be there giving them something to learn about.

4. I seriously love being with my kiddos. Not because I or they are perfect, but this role of motherhood is something I cherish and am grateful for.

Anyways, the list could go on, but we’re just making a quick point that we love our job for multiple reasons, so now we can get on to how we can add some color to it this week.

Think of one or two things to incorporate into your home life that isn’t there, currently.

Here are a few that pop up into my mind:

1. Be creative and try a new DIY. No, not just pin it, DO it. In case you didn’t ever see my  attempt at a DIY, take a look here: Checkerboard Table

2. Teach your kids something aside from the regular routine. Depending on the ages of your kids the options will vary, but any age child can learn something new. This past week I picked something quite simple and decided to teach 4 of my kids how to iron. It took about an hour  for me to stay focused on the safety and basic guidelines of ironing. A couple of them really took off with it and have continued to work on it this week.


3. Pick an area in your house to organize. This week I chose a master bedroom closet.( P.S. Throw out a few lot of things.)

4. Work outside in the yard; weed, organize stuff, etc. Okay, you northern folks don’t have that option. Sorry.

5. Try out a new recipe. This week I made ghee and some healthy energy bars. They were awesome.

image image


Check out  NotCrazyHealthy on Instagram for some healthy good stuff! Here’s her recipe for the above bars Energy Bars Recipe    Sea Salt Caramel Recipe

6. Put some fitness into your routine. If you’re like me, a membership at a gym and going multiple times a week is NOT conducive to my current schedule/lifestyle, so I find ways that I can make it happen without having to leave. There are all sorts of options, and though I don’t always stay perfectly consistent, the times that I do it really helps boost my emotions and give me a sense of motivation in other areas as well.


One thing I love about our  SAHM vocation is that each and every one of us have distinct and individual experiences and circumstances.  Your days will look different than mine. Our projects and interests will vary.  I hope we all remember not to look at someone else’s scenario and feel we should copy them. Be inspired by one another, but be YOU.

It’s healthy to stretch ourselves and get out of our comfort zone, but not for the sake of living up to someone else’s expectation. Personal growth, purpose, and taking action on training our kids are healthy reasons for doing new things.

This week I hope that you can take a fresh look at your awesome vocation and have fun with it!

Is there something you’ve taken on recently that may inspire some of us here? Or maybe you’ve been mulling around an idea in your head. What is it? Don’t hoard your thoughts, share them!

Here’s to getting out of our pajamas,




A Short Series of Unfortunate Events


How was your week?

For me it was a week peppered with inconveniences and out of the blue surprises.

On Wednesday our septic tank backed up and we had to call out a septic guy and dish out $275.00 to get that taken care of.

Thanks to Pedro, we’re cleared up again


Thursday, my two older boys  AND I came down with some sickness that came on fast and intense. I’m not used to that. When I start feeling icky I’m generally able to talk myself out of it. Don’t got time fo that! But this time around– Nsm.

The kids and I had planned on doing a Sea World trip on Friday…….

Scrap that!


Friday afternoon was upon us and four more of the kids got sick. Talk about staying busy with administering cool cloths for headaches, checking temps, administering water/juice and back rubs, removing blankets just to replace the blankets, every now and then taking a Tylenol, etc.

Nothing terribly frightening, just a bunch of moaning individuals who wanted to lie around and do nada. Very unusual for this crew.

I guess it was nice that if we were all going to get sick that it happened all at once!

As Saturday morning rolled around I woke up feeling a TON better and was very relieved , because now the last two kids were sick as well. It’s just easier for some reason to take care of 8 sick kids when you’re feeling good, ya know?

The older boys were also feeling a bit better  on Saturday so we headed outside to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

Why we picked this activity is beyond me:


We were feeling especially “tired” afterwards.

Thus far Bryan is still feeling pretty good. Which was cool, because it just so happened our gas powered cart stopped working…..


So he checked over it and found a bad alternator and had to order a new one. Shortly after checking that our dishwasher started groaning like a hurt cow…..yeah, you guessed it. It was broken. Bryan removed it to take it apart…..


The good news is he found the problem, ordered a replacement for the malfunctioning part, and the appliance awaits in our shed ready for his handy dandy hands to put it back together come next weekend……Considering this is a super cheap dishwasher used by 10 people multiple times a day, I’m not surprised it goes bad on us about every 6 months.

Besides, Elise says it’s kind of fun to have to wash dishes by hand


I must insert picture of my handy dandy man, because he is just that. In so many ways.


Between the moanings of the children, the groanings of the dishwasher, the bemoanings of Bryan and I as things fall apart around here, I walk outside and looked around me. I felt the sun beat against my skin…. the weather was fabulous! It was actually kind of a nice weekend in a non traditional sense.

I had enjoyed the rather quiet time of watching old movies, tending the little ones to alleviate as much discomfort in the most natural ways possible, having this little leg grabber follow me around NON-STOP in an adoring way……He’s got me wrapped up all around his heart.


On Sunday, Bryan watched the kids while I took a 6 mile bike ride ALL BY MYSELF. It was lovely.


This week hasn’t been by the book perfect, no indeed; we’ve been sick, had to spend $500 on various household fixes, but that’s life and how it goes. I’ve actually had a pretty good weekend come to think of it.  And as Monday came rolling around we were all feeling almost 100 %.

God is good. Always.

Take care and comb your hair,


100% Whole Wheat Bread Recipe



I’m not sure about you, but homemade bread has become a regular food in this house. I’m not some crazy bread baking lady, but when you’ve got 8 kids and want to be semi-healthy, bread making becomes a norm.

Our family happens to be 110% gluten TOLERANT, so my recipe is made with whole wheat flour and is really quite basic.

This recipe is simple, fairly cheap and is a great sandwich bread. I’m sure you could heft it up a bit with your own special twist of ingredients.

I grind my grains here at home and use a fabulous little machine that is ridiculously loud. There’s such a thing as a ‘whisper mill’, but due to me generally taking the cheaper route I go with a louder machine that costs just a little bit less than the quieter one. If you don’t have a grain mill, just use whole wheat flour found at your local grocer.

Check out the product here: Blendtec Grain Mill

Here is the local source of where I buy my grains from:  Whole Grains

Gone are the days of having to knead bread dough with our hands. There are Kitchenaids, bread makers, and the one I personally like is a bread mixer called the Bosch. Basically it’s a fancy electric mixer that has an attachment dough hook.  I have an older model and it’s lasted me for 14 years so far. The newer ones are available online if you’re looking for a high quality (albeit it is expensive) bread mixing tool. And like a Kitchenaid, the Bosch can be used for all sorts of mixing/baking.

Click to view an awesome kitchen appliance: Bosch Mixer

Okay, so now for the bread recipe. Btw, down below I have a printable pdf recipe. I haven’t taken the time to figure out the coolest way to do blog recipes yet, so bear with me.

Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Makes 3 loaves 

Estimated bread making time: 3 hrs.

*I double this recipe and make it into 5 loaves

3 1/4 cup hot water (from tap is fine, or you may microwave filtered water  to get it warm)

1 Tablespoon yeast (active dry yeast vs. instant yeast is best. In my opinion)

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup honey

9 cups flour (4 of those cups are for sponging)

2 Tablespoons salt

Place hot water and yeast in mixer and let the yeast dissolve for a minute or so. Blend together. Add honey and oil. Add 4 cups of wheat flour and mix together. Let this sponge for 15-50 minutes. (Do NOT add your salt yet)  ‘Sponge’ really just means to let it sit in the mixer, covered. It’ll start rising and aerates your dough for extra special softness.

After sponging, add the remaining flour (5 cups) and the salt. Knead in mixer on med-high setting for 5 minutes. Remove dough from mixing bowl and place in a large greased bowl. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. You should see a nice rise happening at the end of 30 minutes, now just punch it down and pat it all nice like. Separate into 3 equal amounts. Roll out and roll up into loaf form and place into greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise AGAIN for 45 min.-1 hr.

Bake @ 350 for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and tap the bread out of the pans onto a cookie rack. Butter the tops for a nice sheen and it will also keep the crust soft.

Here’s the printable recipe Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Some time ago this was Gavin’s first attempt at making bread completely independently. It turned out great. And he was oh, so happy. As was I!  I’m getting spoiled having so many capable kitchen hands. :)


Maya took a loaf of bread and turned it into some fabulous French Toast


Another great thing about this recipe is that you can take a portion of the dough and make some delicious cinnamon rolls along with your regular bread.

 Like what I just did today.


For Cinnamon rolls, just roll out the bread dough, spread some soft butter on it


and then drizzle with honey and cinnamon or sugar/cinnamon mix.



Roll up the dough as tightly as possible, pinch the ends and tuck in the sides


and then have fun slicing through the dough with a long piece of string (I use floss).



Place the rounds on a greased baking sheet and allow to rise for  15-20 min. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until done.

They’re extra yummy with a powdered sugar glaze


Fear of Dying



News alert! This is a super dorky post. You’re welcome.

I want your input.


In 33 years I have never stepped into a salon(or used any home coloring kit) to dye my hair.  You didn’t think this post was about death, did you?

My reasons for staying dye free:

1. I’m fine with plain brown hair

2. It’s expensive!

3. I have to do it how often? Nsm.

4. Something about when people say, “I’m going chocolate brown this time!” and come out of the salon with poop green, it just kinda leaves me cynical.

5. I’m a naturalist. Most of the time. Except when it comes to Twinkies.

6. Bryan’s like “No way, I like your hair the way it is”

7. What if I love it and become obsessed and addicted and spend all my money and time and thoughts and life at the salon?

Okay, that ^ was a bit of an exaggeration .


The above rationale has been strong enough to keep me grounded to be an au naturale brunette and  I’ve always been under the impression that I’d allow for gray hair to come in at its own pace and I’d let it stay.  The reality is that when a plucky gray hair has shown itself (I think I’ve had like 5) it gets plucked, pronto.
Doesn’t sound like I’m  fully embracing going gray, does it?

I chortle in my head when people go the salon to “Just cover my gray, I’ll be staying as close to my original color as possible”,  and  they come out looking like an entirely different person….that happens to look kind of like their favorite celebrity.

Wow, I never remember your hair looking quite like that ever before.

And then there are highlights. Oh, baby. Wow, the way you can take a blah head of hair and turn it into a rainbowy head of euphoric art that makes you feel like a unicorn frolicking along a road in Utopia.

Man, that’s some good stuff.

Btw, how is it that when guys go gray all the ladies are like “He’s hot.” So. Not. Fair.

If it weren’t for copyright issues I’d be inserting pictures of some women who are rocking and styling the gray hair.

I just like it.

You ladies who dye your hair,  don’t get me wrong, there have been times that I’ve really liked somebody’s hair coloring gig and I do agree that there are good cosmetologists out there enhancing people’s faces by enhancing their hair, so I get it.

But I’m just  not convinced it’s for me.

If you’re a die hard dyer, persuade me it’s worth it 


Newlyweds On a Budget! Thriving On 1 Income



Last week I wrote a blog post on how we dated and  got married at a young age, Bryan being just 18yrs.old  and me being 19yrs.old.

I thought I’d follow that up  with a post on how we budgeted and thrived that first year on one income (a fairly low one at that).

I sat down with my dad prior to getting married and we went over the cost of living on our own and what our lowest annual pay would need to be for Bryan and I to survive. Dad and I were kind of dorky over stuff like that. We still are. For just the 2 of us in 2001 we tallied up our *must have* expenses to total somewhere around $15,000 a year that we’d need to net (after taxes).

It wasn’t necessary to live quite that scantily, but it was awesome to see how little we could get by with. This gave us a healthy realization of the difference between “needs” and “wants”. Something that is very helpful to recognize any time you’re doing a budget no matter your age or stream of income.

Bryan had purchased a used car that was paid off previously to getting married so we started out debt free and had a surplus of a few thousand dollars that I had brought in to the relationship. (Lookey there, I actually did contribute to our finances once a long time ago.)

We had just one car, but because Bryan was a service technician at an HVAC corporation he had a company/service vehicle to work out of; that made having one car really easy. Trades rock!

A month or two before the wedding we did some furniture shopping. A leather couch, a table that comfortably sat 6-8 people, Bryan’s bed and dresser from childhood and BAM! we were set. All the basics were covered. Camp chairs ladened our living area when we had guests over.

Bryan’s pay rate was $10 hr. and he generally worked between 40-60+ hrs. a week. In the A/C trade in Florida you have slow months (winter, obviously, due to mild weather) and crazy summer hours, so your income isn’t always consistent. I remember we set aside more in the summer to offset those slower months of winter.

Dave Ramsey may be the financial  guru now, but back in the 80’s and 90’s while Bryan and I were growing up and within our social circle, it was Larry Burkett from Crown Ministries. Anyone remember him? Ha! Growing up he impacted my family a lot. My mom and dad were quite the couple when it came to knowing how to live simply and kick debt in the butt.


My dad worked as a busboy at Walt Disney World and on his annual income of $25,000, he and my mom raised 10 kids (at the time), never had a car loan, and paid off their home mortgage by the time he was 40 yrs. old.


So, though Larry and Dave are semi-famous, I’m giving the award to my dad and mom for being the greatest example to me of living out “How to live simply, be debt free, never complain, and be happy”

I love making up and giving out awards.

Anyhow, Bryan and I started off our first year together with renting a home. We found a cute little place for $500 a month. I still drive past that 4th street house every now and then and smile.

Yes, that’s  my husband. Who looks like he’s 15yrs. old.

Here’s what our monthly budget for 2 looked like back in circa 2001:

Housing/rent-$500  The landlord said that if we maintained the yard ourselves we could lower the monthly rate by $50. Yes, please!

Utilities-$140 The house we rented didn’t have central a/c and heat. Sometimes we’d run the window units, sometimes we didn’t. They’re stupidly inefficient. We used a space heater in the winter.

Home Phone bill-$23 We dropped all long distance and any other extra services and would use a prepaid phone card for calls out of state. We didn’t have personal cell phones back then. Bryan had a work pager and eventually got a work phone. A Nextel! So old school and cool.

Food-$200 $50 a week seemed easy  peasy: 2 people, spaghetti, tacos and pb  & j all week, every week; the organic section wasn’t even a thing 14 years ago

Gas-$60  I know, that sounds fake, but one little Toyota Camry that was strictly for personal use and gas being at $1.09 a gallon….$15 pretty much filled up our tank on a weekly basis and covered our local traveling needs.

Health Insurance-$240  This seemed like an exorbitant expense to us at the time. We considered dropping it… Now it sounds like a pretty good deal

Charities- 10% of income  We found it important to stay firm in setting at least this amount aside no matter how little or how much we ever made

Recreation- $120  $30 a week seemed like just the right amount for 2. We were able to get a bite to eat and rent or go to the movies now and then. So spoiled were we! :)

Car insurance-$90 This is the one expense that has actually gone down thanks to maturity and not being young anymore

Savings- Every now and then we were able to put some $ aside. Not much, but a little bit here and there

This x 12 (months) totals about $19,000 and it was fairly close to what Bryan’s W2 tax form showed as net income that first year.

 Why only one income? We had planned on starting a family right away and mutually agreed that I’d stay home with our babies. That first year was a lot of fun. I focused on keeping house for 2 (after coming from a family of 14 this was a totally fun and new experience), when Bryan wasn’t working we were off visiting local friends and family, hanging out at home together, and waiting with anticipation the arrival of our first baby.

I prefer not to find an old pic of being pregnant with my first baby…..

I’ll never forget that time I was out exercising trying to control that hefty 40-50lbs. I tacked on surprisingly quick during pregnancy;  I was on one of the sidewalks near our house speed walking and I saw Bryan’s work van driving down the road towards me coming home earlier than expected. I waved and smiled like crazy.  He glanced at me, gave no response, and drove past. The nerve! I arrived back home sweaty, panting and so ready to have this baby.

I questioned his reason for lack of responding to my wifely friendliness….

He honestly thought I was just some stranger waving incessantly and being weird.  I now know for a fact that he doesn’t wave back to every waving female. At least not the chubby ones. 😉

Anyways, that has nothing to do with our first year of budgeting! Unless it would be an indication that I indeed did spend a little bit more than necessary on food.


Right after that first year Bryan got a significant pay raise and our budget adjusted and we were able to save a little more money.
Shortly thereafter we found a fixer upper house for $65,000 and got our first mortgage with an interest rate of 5%. Can hardly beat that! (Well, except for paying for a house with cash.)

image image

Thanks to my father-in-law who found this gem of a place for us!

It was pretty rough and disgusting at first but after  4 months of working on it, we were able to move in. Quite excited were we!


image image

Over the past 14 years  it’s been simple steps like these that we’ve continued in financial freedom

~Always recognizing needs vs. wants

~Living simply

~Paying for things outright or not having them at all

~Working diligently

~Sacrificing in small areas

~Not placing our trust and happiness in finances, but in God. For real.

Bryan dislikes stinginess and I will give him great credit for not allowing us to spend our lives counting every dollar and penny and trying to see a pile of money grow bigger and bigger.  I know that we could  save more than we do, but we’ve both come to a place of  *mostly* mutual agreement that other than being responsible and embracing simple and contented living habits money comes and money goes.

We all have different cash flow and circumstances, but by embracing healthy work ethic, finding the simplest areas to cut expenses, and living within your means it will help lead a life of, well, fullness. Not necessarily meaning getting rich. Because that shouldn’t really be the goal (in my estimation). And that won’t always be an option for some. Simplicity is what brings about freedom.  For some that may mean ending up with a surplus of $, and for others it may just mean every bill always gets paid.

“A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart.”-Jonathan Swift



Why I Fell In Love With a 16yr. Old Boy


The early days

Some people talk about love at first sight or the energy that was present when they first met the girl or guy of their dreams. When people say that I’m like “What?”

Maybe because when I first met Bryan I was 14 and like many girls who are 14, I was under the impression that I was closer to being 18. Bryan was 13 and when a 14 yr. old girl going on 18 meets a 13 year old boy it’s not really love at first sight.

I remember the day I met Bryan- I remember thinking he could use a friend. How benevolent of me, right?

I generally approached the opposite gender as thus:

1.  No need to feel awkward around them
2. Don’t push for some exclusive boyfriend/girlfriend relationship immediately upon enjoying them (this helped me but did not stop me from still analyzing many guys as marriageable material)
3. Get to know them on a friendship level before moving into anything too serious
4. Guard your heart and body for that special someone who you may eventually meet

This was something my parents encouraged in me  (and my 8 sisters).  It doesn’t mean it eliminated confusion or romantic relationships that didn’t end up working out for all of us, but it gave us grounding and helped build healthy relationships with guys whether or not we were to date or marry them or just stay friends for life.

Bryan had a mixture of personalities. At first I thought ‘introvert’, but as time went on I saw the side of him that could talk and engage and share ideas with 40-70 yr. old adults like no other kid I knew. I loved that about him! He was so interesting to listen to and talk with. He wouldn’t have been considered one of the “cool kids”, but he was cool in a nerdy sort of way.

We were both homeschooled and met on a weekly basis at church, so naturally we started connecting in a lot of ways. His friends became my friends, my friends became his friends, and pretty soon any social event that I was a part of I would try to get Bryan to be a part of.

Sometimes I felt as if I was totally annoying the heck out of him when I’d continuously attempt to get him involved in everything, but simultaneously I was confident that he really wanted to be a part of everything, he just needed me to invite him. 😉

A couple of years went by and we had become a regular part of each other’s lives. I was now 16 and Bryan, 15.

Change is in the air

Together we worked on publishing a really dorky newsletter amongst our friends and we would be found sitting by each other whenever possible chatting about things from zero importance to things that really mattered.
It was during one of the times of us working together on a project (I’m not gonna say projects and work made me fall in love, but I’m not NOT going to say it) that my feelings for Bryan started to change. All of a sudden I was seeing him as more than just a friend who I hung out with on a regular basis. He was totally rockin’ more than cool shoes (that happened to be the ONE cool thing about him, haha).

While Bryan and I carried on in an easy and comfortable friendship I found myself drawn and attracted to a guy that was older and who made my knees buckle and my heart swoon whenever I was around him (ok, that was an exaggeration), and though I hadn’t considered Bryan for anything other than a good friend, at some point it occurred to me that if I headed into a more romantic relationship with this other guy or any other guy for that matter, things would have to change between Bryan and I.

That felt practically impossible to me. It suddenly dawned on me that it was Bryan that I wanted to spend my life with. What a crazy realization to me!

He was the kind of guy I hadn’t expected to fall in love with.  I was 17 now, Bryan was 16. People talked of marriage closer to their 20’s, NOT in their mid  teens. What were my parents going to think?!
Bryan had combined a couple of grades in middle school and was in 12th grade and about to graduate highschool at 16.  That gave me a glimmer of hope.

I wanted to talk to Bryan of taking our friendship to a new level; there must’ve been some measure of confidence that he’d be on the same page as me. I decided I’d let  him know he was the guy for me and that I wanted to marry him. And so one night I did just that. I remember Bryan standing there just blinking and nodding at me as I rambled on. He was a bit taken aback and went home that night pretty silent.

Was it possible that I had just ruined everything?

I look back and wonder why I had to be so weird and bold and ridiculous… happens.

“What’s the hurry” you say?
Though we were young, and our paths could’ve headed multiple directions that were good, there was something about all that we had discussed and already experienced as friends that made me feel that life together, fully, was going to be awesome.
Is anyone wondering what on earth Bryan is thinking about this whole change in the relationship? I didn’t think so.

I’ll tell you anyway.

Bryan was a bit freaked out; not with the idea of changing our relationship status from friends to lovers, because truth be told, he says he had hoped for that from day 1 as a mere 13 yr. old. What???
But for him, this change meant needing to make some decisions about what he wanted out of this stage in life. He was done with grade school, what was next? How do you start thinking like a man when you’re really just a kid? Is that even right? What were the expectations from MY family going to look like and how would they make him feel?

What a lot of insecurities for a 16 yr. old guy.

Seeing as Bryan dreamed every night from the time he was 9 yrs. old of robot wars, the world ending at any moment, and debated with adults about politics to economics to science and beyond, thinking about a weighty subject such as marriage wasn’t entirely new to him. (But the reality of it was.)

Maybe, just maybe I could win over my parents with the opinion that Bryan was more mature than most 30 year old men.

FYI, I did not win over the opinion of my parents.

I’m not entirely sure how Bryan’s convo with his parents went, but I hearsay he was kind of emotional. Go figure?
Despite the questions and the emotions, he was determined that not only would he prove he liked me more than a little, but that he would do this thing responsibly.
Bryan was currently working with his uncle as an electrician helper as well as at a golf course, but with some advice from his dad, 6 months after our crazy conversation Bryan was a 16 year old enrolled in trade school.

After some discussion, my parents agreed that we could start a serious but low key relationship that involved thinking about marriage for the *future*.


“Dating” Days

So we did! We entered a new and somewhat crazy season.
There are a few things about my parents’ stance on how we dated:

  • 99% of the time we needed to be chaperoned either by a sibling or an adult–thank heavens we both had plenty of siblings; always someone available to come along.
  • Physical touch was limited to holding hands (yikes), and even that was frowned upon.
  • Bryan was welcome at family events, but then again, there were times my parents felt we needed a “break” from each other and I’d be at an event without him
  • We could call each other and talk on the phone (no smart phones and texting and Facebook back then), but if it went too long and interrupted our regular routine of responsibilities, the call was asked to be cut short.

Now to some of you this may sound archaic (okay, it is), totally lacking in enjoyment, ridiculously strict and downright controlling of my parents.

Bryan and I don’t see those early dating days as a negative thing. It wasn’t perfect, and there were times that it was challenging for Bryan and I both.

The next 1 ½ years our relationship consisted a lot of:

  • Discussing the future and the opinions and desires of what we valued and enjoyed


  • Interacting with others in ways that taught us a LOT about who we were and how we responded in real life situations (the positive and not so positive)


  • Writing love letters


  • Spending time talking and working on projects


  • I finished high school and made money by cleaning houses and offices


  • Bryan was in trade school full time but would come by most evenings and weekends and hang out with all of us, or I’d visit with him at his house (If I could grab the one car that all of  my sisters and I shared).


  • Our anticipation to officially commit our lives to one another grew ever stronger

In those days of laughing, loving, learning, and working, Bryan and I didn’t know when tying the knot was going to work out. I remember praying for my mom to get on board with a sooner than later marriage. (My dad was easier to convince.)
Bryan diligently finished trade school, applied for a job at multiple HVAC corporations and was hired on at 17+ (which went against the corporation’s legal policies, but they must’ve liked him ‘cause they made it work). After working full time and Bryan showing stellar commitment to both his job and to our relationship, he bought a ring and went to my parents to ask if they would bless us with their support of an official engagement; my mom and dad said that as long as we’d wait until his 18th birthday to get married we could go ahead and make concrete plans.

It’s official!

So Bryan totally  took me off guard one evening and took me away and proposed; we ate a $100 meal at Disney and, yes, we were by ourselves for the entire evening. Wow! That was a first.

Over the next couple of months we figured out all the basics of the cost of living and responsibilities of living on our own, and 6 months later we had 300+ guests attend the special moment where we committed our hearts and endeavors to intertwine with each other for life. What a beautiful journey it’s been……

  • There were few (if any) negative surprises in those early days of marriage because we had gotten to know each other so well and with little to no pretentious behaviors prior to marriage. If anything, we enjoyed each other more than expected. I’d say it was a great start with zero regrets.
  • I think it’s important not to be too dogmatic about relationships.  Young marriages aren’t for everyone, but simultaneously you don’t have to have a ton of experience of life and relationships under your belt and wait until every culturally acceptable thing is checked off before entering a serious commitment.  People and situations differ; I’m thankful our parents were able to think outside of the box.
  • The strict rules that our parents enforced are not a perfect way to approach dating, and though we respected and mutually agreed with their rules, we weren’t perfect. What is good about what they did is that they laid out guidelines in order to help us. They cared. We feel it benefited us in many ways.
  • Starting our marriage out at such a young age and with the recognition of commitment have helped our endeavors and ideals to be so well meshed and in unison. I love that!

Wait! Before you go……Would you tell me your story? At least a little snippet. I’d love to hear about it.