Friday, December 14, 2018

"Mothering Moments" - new weekly live series on YouTube starts today!

In the video below, I announce a new weekly series called "Mothering Moments," which I hope do live every Friday at 10 a.m. MST on my YouTube channel. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss any episodes.

Today's topic - well, you'll have to tune in to find out! 😄 I am looking forward to it, as it is something I have been wanting to address for a long time.

You can also leave topic suggestions on any of the "Mothering Moments" videos (there's only one so far...), here on my blog, or on my FB page.

I hope to see you at 10!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Update on our home

As I mentioned in a previous post, we discovered mold in one of our walls during a remodel of the kitchen in late October. In assessing the mold damage (which thankfully turned out to be contained to just that one small wall), the insurance adjuster diagnosed a major roof leak. I had not before noticed any roof leak at our house, except for once about a week before finding the mold. That was during a severe and prolonged thunderstorm, the tail end of a hurricane that had made landfall along the Pacific Coast and rained itself out over Arizona. I thought the kids had spilled some water on the counter, only to find it was dripping from the ceiling above the counter. I wrote it off as a fluke - maybe the rain had blown sideways as it often does during monsoon storms, and somehow found a way in. Being busy with redecorating the girls' room and then remodeling the kitchen, I soon forgot about it altogether until the insurance adjuster brought it back to my memory when he diagnosed a roof leak. 

Presumably, that leak had been going on for some time, though hidden from my view. Water from that leak had gotten into the kitchen wall and caused the mold, as well as caused water damage to the ceilings in the boys' and girls' bedrooms, the hallway, the hall bathroom, part of the living room, the kitchen, the office, and our second bathroom/laundry room. 

The insurance recommended a restoration contractor that could oversee everything from mold remediation, to replacing the roof, hanging drywall, etc. Within a week, the mold was remediated, which involved completely tearing out the wall between the kitchen and bathroom as well as removing most of my newly refinished kitchen cabinets (waaah!!!). Some of the cabinets were water damaged in the back, and will need to be rebuilt. 

Once the house was re-tested for mold and cleared, the company put a container in our driveway, and brought in professional movers who boxed up much of our belongings and moved them into the container, as much of the house then had the ceilings torn out in the aforementioned rooms.

Panorama pic of my kitchen and bathroom, with the wall between them removed

For the last five weeks since then, no other work has been done at the house, as no repairs can begin until the new roof is up - no point in hanging drywall only to have it rain again and have it destroyed. Contractors in our area have been swamped with work after a particularly bad monsoon season, coupled with that final hurricane. 

Last week, I was told the roofer was scheduling for January, which about gave me a heart attack. It would mean not being in our house until February or so. We had originally been told he was booking three weeks out, which would have put a roof on our house the week before Thanksgiving. With some persuasion, he agreed to try and move things around and get us on the schedule for this week. Can you imagine my joy when I turned the corner to our house a few days ago to find all necessary materials on the roof, ready to go as soon as the rain stops?? I am praying it really does happen this week.

Being away from home has had many challenges. For starters, when we left, we were told the mold remediation would take three days. Just to be safe, I booked our lodgings for five days through AirBnB, which is much easier than getting three hotel rooms with only two parents to oversee all three rooms... This was our "Tempe rental". I was able to extend it a couple of days longer as the work got delayed, but other guests were coming so we had to move. The biggest challenge at that house was that it was filled with beautiful but breakable items, and also had an unfenced pool in the backyard, which bordered a golf course (and golf balls would often land in our yard). But it was a beautiful home, and we were all sad when it was time to leave. 

I booked the second AirBnB (our Gilbert rental) for over two weeks, which took us through the week before Thanksgiving, when the roof was originally supposed to go up. I thought for sure this was long enough. Not only did that not happen, but this second house was making the kids sick. They had started coughing after the wall with the mold in our house had been opened, before we moved out (about 24 hours). The cough had almost completely gone away during the stay at the Tempe rental. Within 30 minutes of being at this second rental, Miriam and Peter broke out in hives, which developed into a persistent rash, and all kids started coughing more and more while we stayed there. 

During this second stay, we went on a trip to Southern California for three days. This trip had been planned since March. Most of my husband's family was going to be in the L.A. area on vacation, and had invited us to join them. While in the area, my husband was going to preach at our Los Angeles area church plant on Thursday night. On Friday, we were all going to Legoland, followed by a huge family gathering on Friday night. We were originally going to stay in Carlsbad the entire week (5 nights, Mon-Sat), making this vacation (which could be one of our last as a whole family before our older kids start moving on and moving out) our Christmas gift to the kids. Well, with all the unexpected expenses, we decided to still go because we had already committed to the preaching and booked the homeschool tickets for Legoland, but cut the trip short to just two nights (Thu and Fri) to save money to put toward the house repairs. We had a wonderful time with family and at church, and the kids' health again improved.

Upon returning to the Gilbert rental, within a half hour of being back, Miriam once again broke out in hives all over. This confirmed that it was not just coincidence or my imagination, but something wrong with the house. 

I am not sure what it was at this house that caused the reaction, but I think it was either 1) the cleaning supplies and detergent they used - the smell was overpowering, and Peter would get a rash on whichever side of his face he slept on. (In spite of only having one small washer, I did wash all bedding to try and get rid of the detergent. I even washed Peter's bedding twice. It helped a little, but I could not get the smell out of the mattress, washer, etc.) or 2) the Glade air "fresheners" used throughout the house. As soon as we arrived, we unplugged them all, yet the smell persisted. It was not until several days later that my husband discovered one more battery-operated diffuser high in the rafters of the living room, which had been poisoning the air at regular intervals. YUCK! or 3) A rather large patch of rotten, moldy drywall at the edge of the shower in the master bathroom. Yes, of all things, this house had MOLD! The shower door was not latching correctly, causing water to hit the wall, which had caused it to rot and mold. I don't know if any of these factors could explain the kids' symptoms, but they all got better when we went to California, and they got worse again after we returned. When the rash/hives came roaring back, I asked to break our lease early.

I had booked our third AirBnB in Scottsdale. Trying to find something that could sleep 12 people, with Thanksgiving only days away, and get us through January was no small feat, but a house popped up that was about as good as we could hope to get. We had returned from Cali late Saturday and were to move into that third house the following Thursday. After the hives returned with a vengeance upon our return from Cali, I sought to move out sooner, but could not move into the Scottsdale rental until Tuesday because they already had other guests, so we had to just make the best of it and stay at "the dungeon" until then. 

On Tuesday, we were preparing to go live at the fifth house in as many weeks (our home, the house in Cali, and three local rentals). While before I had always booked one day as overlap to make moving easier, this time we had to be out of the Gilbert rental by 11 a.m. on Tuesday, but could not move into the Scottsdale rental until 3 p.m. that day. We rented a small Uhaul trailer, loaded our belongings into it, and then ate out for lunch and killed time at the library, until it was time to move into the Scottsdale house. When we first left, we had brought very little, but weeks into this displacement we had little by little hauled over many things from our house such as bikes, clothes, books, toys, games, food, kitchen equipment, etc. so moving day was pretty busy.

It was this same day that my sweet friend Abbey flew all the way to Arizona to help us with the kids during this time. Abbey is originally for Eritrea, grew up in Germany, but now lives in the UK. She has two kids of her own, and works with kids for a living. Her and her family have been listening to the sermons from our church online for years. She is sweet, kind, patient, hard-working, upbeat, helpful, and everything else positive you can imagine, and more. After seeing my video update on YouTube, she called to ask if she could come over and help. As it turned out, the Scottsdale rental I had booked before I knew of her visit sleeps 16 people total. An entire wing of the house has its own entryway, bedroom, and bathroom. Abbey happened to arrive in town the same day we were moving, and we offered for her to stay in this wing of our Scottsdale rental, which she thankfully accepted. She stayed with us for almost three weeks. Not only was this a Godsend as far as helping with the kids and extra work, but it was a wonderful time of friendship and fellowship. Had it not been for Abbey being here and helping, I would also not have been able to finish my cookbook. We all felt like crying when Abbey left on Sunday night, and have missed her dearly every day since then. 

Which brings me to where we are right now - still at the Scottsdale rental, which I have booked through early January. Should we need to be displaced longer, we will yet again have to move, as other guests are scheduled to stay here right after our stay ends.

Peter trying to eat donuts off Anna's dress

By the time we got to move in here, the kids were all coughing badly. Just two days after moving in, I had to contact the host about a persistent smell of natural gas in the laundry room. In this house, the dryer, furnace, water heater, and stove all run on natural gas. I had noticed the smell when I first stepped into the laundry room the day we moved in, but ignored it in the hustle of moving and getting settled. The host sent out the gas company. Their technician spent some time trying to find the leak to no avail, but his equipment told him the house was using (= leaking) gas even when everything was turned off. The leak was so considerable that he said he would have to shut down the gas to the house completely, the owner would have to track down the leak which he thought was in a wall somewhere, get it repaired, and then have the home inspected by the city (!) before gas could be turned on again. I was horrified. We had just moved in. My kids were coughing and sick. There were no other homes available for a family our size to rent, with Thanksgiving just days away. Having to stay at a hotel (minimum 3 rooms) would have made everything so much harder yet. I explained to the technician how we had been displaced from our home weeks earlier on short notice, how we had just settled in here after being in a number of other rentals, and how not having gas would mean we had to move again. He took pity on me and spent several hours crawling through the attic, tracking the gas line, until he had the leak narrowed down to a part of the house that, if shut off, would only affect the dryer and water heater. He put a valve on so he could shut just that part of the house off, and we could still use the stove and furnace. It could then be turned on again by the plumber after he made the necessary repairs, and not require city inspection. This was on a Friday morning. It took until Saturday evening for the plumber that the host hired to come out and fix the leak. During this time, we had no hot water for bathing or laundry, when the kids needed lots of hot steamy showers/baths to help with their cough. The laundry also got backed up quickly during this time, as we typically go through 3-4 loads per day.

The current house has a huge yard front and back, which the kids love

Anna in particular had it very rough, having coughing fits that kept her (and me, and Peter) up all night for almost a week. Having two kids with asthma, I have experience both with knowing when a child needs to be taken in to see a doctor, as well as natural remedies for coughing. However, all my equipment (such as an oxymeter), books, and remedies were at home. The things that had not been moved into the container had been made inaccessible when everything had plastic taped over it for the demo and restoration. Entire rooms were taped off and inaccessible. One night, Anna's cough was so bothersome, that Abbey and I drove to my house in the middle of the night, "broke" through the containment areas, dug through the boxes in the container, and cut our way through plastic sheets into the rooms until I was able to get the necessary equipment and remedies to help Anna. She recovered soon thereafter. 

Then there is the issue of our cat Ninja, and Isaac's fish. It was not feasible to bring either of them with us. Ninja spends much of her time outdoors. In moving her with us, even at this more permanent rental, there is a real chance that she could get lost or hurt. Instead, we put her food and water dish outside, and have been going to our house every day to feed her and the fish, and spend some time petting her and playing with her. She sleeps on my recliner on the porch, which is soft, warm, and safe. But she must be getting lonely, and I feel bad for her.

There have been other, lesser challenges. We spent Thanksgiving in this house. Thanks to Costco selling turkey breasts and all the fixings in ready-to-bake disposable pans, we even had the typical dinner. None of the kitchens of the houses we have stayed in have been nearly as well equipped as my own kitchen. Many of the tools I am used to having are missing or broken. I am not used to only having one fridge, when just our milk alone (5 gallons per week) takes up half of a fridge. My weekly milk co-op is limping along at another location. Speaking of tiny appliances, the washers at these houses have been much smaller, and not nearly as efficient, as our near-commercial washer at home. We will celebrate at least three of the kids' birthdays while away from home. I am REALLLLLY hoping we will be back home in time for Peter's first birthday on January 15th. We will be spending Christmas here. I finally faced that reality, and set the tree up in the rental house. This being Peter's first Christmas, I did not want to miss out on the wonder of having him admire the tree, lights, ornaments, candles, and everything else this wonderful season holds. John took it upon himself to get our Christmas decorations out of the attic. It's a challenge anytime, but with most of the ceilings  (= attic floor) gone, the workers had pushed the boxes into the far edges of the attic. John had to climb along the rafters to get to the boxes, and pull them back to where he could hand them down to me. Fun fun!

Look at these awesome ornaments my friend Samantha gave to me!!

Except for the first rental, the beds in all these houses have been awful, as in: air mattress quality. Peter still nurses, including during the night, and having the mattress fold in over us when we lay chest to chest as he nurses has done a number on my back. Unlike my bed at home, there is no bed rail to keep him from rolling out of bed. I have pushed our bed into a corner, and secured the other sides with a dozen pillows on the tile floor. Thankfully he has not rolled off the bed, but being nervous is not helping me sleep better. There are the little nuisances of thermostats, light switches, and other such like not doing what they are supposed to, but seemingly operating (or not) according to their own whims. The second and third house we have stayed it have ridiculously little natural light, but plenty of dry dusty air instead. With all the blinds and doors open, it's still dark indoors. For some reason, there are not a lot of lights either, so the house is dark pretty much all the time, which is depressing. I LOVE natural light! It's one of the few things I look for in a home. One of the worst aspects for my peace of mind has been the fact that Solomon's commute to work more than doubled. Not only is he having to drive much farther, but he is now also facing rush-hour traffic, and often has to drive after dark, whereas he had been traveling in the opposite direction of traffic when leaving from home. There is not much I can do about that except pray he stays safe. He is still a young driver with only limited experience. I could go on - too many little daily annoyances to list them all. All things considered, I am blessed and fortunate to have such nice places to stay.

Miriam with two of the advent calendars she made for her siblings. She is such a blessing to everyone around her! 

In other ways, it has also been easier, as I am limited in what I can do for the family and there's nothing any of us can do about that. There is little to organize, mend, repair, or otherwise upkeep. Meals have to be kept simple because I am working with limited equipment. For better or for worse, we have been thrown into an extended ultra-minimalist lifestyle overnight. There are perks and challenges to that. When we first left our home in a hurry, on short notice, it felt like Robinson Crusoe being cast upon a deserted island, with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Then, as the days and weeks passed, much as Robinson Crusoe was able to go back to the shipwreck and salvage things here and there, we have been able to go back to our house and hamster away a little of this and a little of that, until we are slowly finding our groove again.

Anna turned 8 last week

For  now, we have settled into a new normal. The kids have fallen behind a couple of weeks on their schoolwork as a result of our lives being upended, but we are slowly making progress. They will have to work longer into their usual summer break, but the weather is much nicer this time of the year anyway and they don't mind having time off now instead.

Field trip fun

Cost-wise, we are looking at an unexpected $10k we were hit with. Most of that is for the deductible on the homeowners insurance claim and our part of the roof expense ("non-recoverable depreciation", which means the insurance only covers the cost up the actual cash value of the old roof. The difference in cost is our responsibility.). Also included in that is having to replace part of our duct work. When they tore the ceilings in the hallway out, they discovered that the main trunk of the HVAC ducts, the one that the heated/cooled air goes into when coming out of the furnace/air conditioning unit, was completely rusted through on the bottom. Which in effect means that any cooled/heated air has been blowing straight back into the attic, instead of into the smaller ducts which pipe it into the bedrooms.

The rusty part is the bottom of the duct. The hole with silver metal around it is the top of the duct, where the air comes in from the HVAC unit on the roof. You can see my air has been blowing in the top, out the hole below, and into the attic. 

The insurance most likely is not going to pay for that repair as the rust suggests long-term water damage, which is not covered. In any case, we should see our electric bills going down as the air goes where it is supposed to, as well as have cleaner indoor air and less dust by not circulating attic air.

BUT: In the sum total, the improvements to our home are worth far more than what we are paying. The roof alone costs more than that. When all is said and done, we will practically have a new house on the inside. Which is really a funny answer to prayer. God works in mysterious ways. Some time ago, we had once again toyed with the idea of moving. The advantage would be having a bigger house. The disadvantage would be having a bigger house. Ha! Also, we would have to move into the suburbs, whereas we like being close to church. We like our neighbors and our neighborhood - who knows what new neighbors would be like, or how they would react to our small army moving into their neighborhood. And while our house needed some updates and repairs, we have replaced almost everything over the years and know all the little quirks and idiosyncrasies of our house. "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know." With all that in mind, we had decided to stay, but make the aforementioned improvements (bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom). Neither my husband nor myself being overly handy, and being limited on funds, I had prayed that God would either make it really clear to us if He wanted us to move instead, or to help me be completely content in our existing home, with whatever improvements we would be able to make. Now, it's like we are getting the best of both worlds - our house repaired and renovated inside and out, on our existing property, with none of the downsides of moving. Many of these improvements would have been far more challenging to do on my own, with ten kids underfoot, while we lived in the house, such as renovating both bathrooms at the same time, re-tiling, painting every room, re-running some of the plumbing to create a second washer hookup, etc. Others had been on my to-do list, such as repainting all the rooms. Now it's all being done, at the same time, by professionals. The four different rentals we have stayed in have also given me ideas for our own home, such as adding skylights above the kitchen and bathrooms, which the roofer agreed to do since he is already replacing the roof, and another branch of his company is doing the new ceiling. 

Speaking of contentment, God has taught me a few lessons during this time as well. For example, I used to think I would really much rather have a kitchen with an open layout, than the galley-style kitchen I have. Well, the first two rentals had such "open" kitchens. I quickly came to realize that kids running in one end and out the other, in laps, all day long, was actually quite aggravating. I'll gladly go back to my kitchen that is set off from the main traffic of the home, thankyouverymuch! Also, I used to think having irrigation (as opposed to sprinklers) would be really cool. It's a lot easier and cheaper to maintain. Well, this house gets irrigation. What that means is that every four weeks (every two in the summer), the city opens the canals and floods the yards with several inches of water, which takes a couple of days to absorb. What could possibly go wrong with that with kids going in and out all day?? I know now. It's like a Tough Mudder every time irrigation happens. So, no thanks on that front as well. There have been a few other things like that. In conclusion, I have always loved my home, but I have a whole new appreciation for it. Getting back into it will be a huge blessing.

The water coming in was like a little creek. All was flooded front and back by the time it was done.

The biggest blessing of all, however, has been the love and support showered on our family from near and far. I already mentioned about Abbey and her priceless help. During the worst of this ordeal, ladies from church brought us dinner each night so we would not have to eat out every meal. People in our church and other churches we are friends with collected funds to go towards the repair costs, going above and beyond in their sacrifice so they might help us. Even online listeners sent us notes of encouragement, and money to help with the expenses. It has been a blessing we did not expect, but are very thankful for, and deeply appreciate. It is both humbling and exciting to know that so many care about our family and want to help ease our burdens. It has made a huge impact financially, and greatly reduced our unexpected expenses due to this fiasco, helping turn it into a blessing is disguise. So THANK YOU to everyone who has prayed for us, sent cards, brought meals, given gifts, or otherwise supported us during this time. Please continue to pray that 1) the roof will be replaced within days, so inside repairs can begin; 2) that all work will be completed in time for us to not have to move again 3) for the insurance to cover the cost of new ducts 4) for Solomon do stay safe on his long daily commute; 5) for none of the kids to get sick again.

If you have read this far, you are a trooper! Thank you! I tried to make an update video instead, but could't make it sound coherent. Thank you for thinking of us, and praying for us. I hope you are able to enjoy this wonderful season with your loved ones. 

Cute pictures of my babies

My husband and Isaac were gone on a missions trip to Guyana all of last week. Peter absolutely ADORES his Daddy. He is the preferred parent, hands down (unless he's tired or hungry, then I temporarily become the favorite).

When they got back home early Sunday morning, Peter's ears perked up as he heard his dad approaching even before he could see him. He practically lunged out of my arms when Daddy came into sight. All day Sunday, he just kept leaning in for hugs from Dad. It was very precious.

After church, we all went out to Red Robin on a gift card we got for Christmas. 

Yesterday at Costco, this is what my cart looked like. That's Stephen and Boaz riding along on the bottom of the cart. It's been their latest, greatest way to have fun. I don't like it because they drag their hands along the dirty floor (YUCK!), not to mention there's the danger of sticking their finger into the wheels, but I let them do it just for a few minutes until the bottom of the cart got filled with bottled water and paper products instead. We go through a lot of both each week. 

Chloe loves her baby brother, and is an awesome big sister. She is always looking out for him. Peter understand this, and loves her in return. It is very sweet to watch the two together. 

I am hoping to publish a post later today or tomorrow with an update on our house situation, so please check back soon. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Five Years

Five years ago this month, when I was pregnant with Jachin and Boaz, we went to Los Angeles on two separate trips for in-utero fetal surgeries to save the boys' lives. 

During these trips, we attended a satellite church of Pacific Baptist Church, which was at that time pastored by Pastor Joe Esposito. A young man, Bruce Mejia, who would go on to become Pastor Espisito's son-in-law, headed up this satellite ministry. My husband and I greatly enjoyed his preaching and were impressed by his Bible knowledge and wisdom, especially considering his age and the fact that he was single. Bro. Mejia immediately recognized my husband and told us he enjoyed listening to his sermons online. In spite of the sad and difficult circumstances that had brought us to L.A., Bro. Mejia made us feel loved and welcome.

Fast-forward a few years. After Pastor Esposito had to retire due to a health crisis, the church was taken over by those who hated our church, and pressured all who listened to our sermons to first step down from their ministries, and then to leave the church all together.

Brother Mejia, who had stayed in touch with us over the years, contacted us at this time, asking my husband for recommendations on where to go to church. It was at this time that FWBC L.A. was founded, headed up by Brother Bruce Mejia. We already knew he could preach, and lead such a satellite ministry. 

The rest, as they say, is history. Lord willing, Bro. Mejia will be ordained, and FWBC L.A. will become an independent church, next August. 

It was a special blessing to me to see Bro. Mejia preach this Wednesday night behind the pulpit of FWBC, almost exactly 5 years to the day of when we first met him, with Boaz sitting in my lap listening intently. The Lord works in mysterious ways, allowing our paths to cross.

While both fetal surgeries were a success and did indeed save the boys' lives twice, little Jachin passed away a few weeks later, presumably due to fatal flaws with his cord and his share of the placenta. Yet God in his mercy was able to use this tragedy to help bring about new life in the form of a strong new church. 

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." 

(Isaiah 61:3)

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Busy Family Menu Planning now available to order!

EEEK!!! I am ***so*** excited!!

I just received the preview copy of my new cookbook, Busy Family Menu Planning. I love it!! It turned out perfect!

If you preorder your copy now, you're guaranteed to receive it by Christmas if you live in the US. For international customers, delivery in time for Christmas is not guaranteed, but chances are good you will get it in time. Pre-order now at

PREORDER BONUS: Everyone who pre-orders their copy between now and December 12th will it get a printable PDF file of the 10 shopping lists to go with the 10 menus. The shopping lists are also included in the book, but having a printable version will make it easier to take to the store, add other items to the list, etc.

The book contains 10 weeks of menus, covering 5 breakfasts, 5 dinners, and 1 dessert each week. The weekly menus and shopping lists are followed by the recipes for that week. Every recipe contains a full-color picture. There is also a section in the back of the book that covers basics and staples that can be homemade or bought ready. I have only included recipes that I can guarantee every member of the family, from a picky toddler to adults with more sophisticate palates, is sure to love. 

In all, there are 138 recipes included. All of them can be interchangeably prepared with regular all-purpose flour, or einkorn flour. Many of the recipes are designed for use with a slow cooker or pressure cooker, but contain alternative instructions if you don't have those appliances. 

More than anything, I am excited to have this cookbook for myself, and to pass down to my own daughters. It combines decades of my recipes into one easy, user-friendly volume. Many of my recipes were scribbled down here and there, not written down at all, or had metric units. Now, they are all easily accessible, and all scaled to 6-8 servings each. 

Planning menus and shopping with a list not only saves time and prevents frustration, it also helps save money as it reduces waste, and improves nutrition since you won't have to fall back on frozen or takeout meals at the last minute. 

Husbands, this is a gift your wife is sure to love, AND you will enjoy yourself all year long as she cooks from it.