It’s working.

MENU

Alrighty, then.

It has begun.

I am nearing the end of WEEK 4 of my menu-planning journey (started HERE and then for real HERE), and I will say here and now and in front of every Enneagram Type 4 who believes it is impossible that IT IS WORKING. I, Mary Kathryn Sebeck Mulder, have been following a plan and IT. IS. WORKING.

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I have made a few adjustments, of course. We all saw that coming. It was probably obvious as soon as you squinted at the Monday through Friday calendar above… first, what if you don’t eat those things on those days? Can you handle that? No. No, I cannot. And two… that stamping is way too similar to the CURLZ font. I was annoyed every time practiced pulling out my menu sheet. You laugh, but trust me: if you don’t like it… if it’s not easy and it’s not pretty, you’re not going to use it. Do it how you want and how it makes sense to you.

Ever the LEARN BY DOING poster child, I made a few adjustments before WEEK 1 officially commenced.

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I went back and edited my original list of main meals. Each of these are numbered and (will eventually) correspond to a page in the menu binder.

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I stocked up on fun masking tape, also known as washi tape.

I bought this binder at the local grocery store in the love language aisle of school supplies. It holds a half-sheet of paper and has a clear pocket on the front. I don’t want my recipes to take up the whole counter. AND, I want to be able to see the week or the next week or even the whole month at a glance right there on the front. LOVE.

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I planned out 5 meals for 4 weeks, counting on leftovers and pizza and random nights out to fill in the gaps. Each meal is numbered and on its own mini-Post-It note so it can be easily moved and reused. No specific day delineation this time… just 5 meals so I could plan for grocery shopping and defrosting that week.

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Look. I even added a little masking tape tag to the corner so I wouldn’t rip the plastic cover trying to dig the menu board out. Seriously, people. It’s like I was this whole other person or something. P.S. You know that slightly off and misprinted ‘S’ in MENUS is killing me. I am trying to not care. It’s working. A little.

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All meals that weren’t used immediately on the front are stored inside. If I end up not using a meal one week, I just take off the Post-It note and add it to the inside list.

So. What happens is this: 

On Sundays, I grab my planner (I use this one.) and my menu binder. I look at the front of the binder to see what 5 meals I’ve grouped together for the week and jot down the meals on the blank page of my planner. I add any side dishes I want underneath each main meal. I glance over the recipes and mentally check off ingredients. I write down anything I need to buy on my sticky Post-It note (in blue on the page you see below). Now when I head to the grocery store Sunday night or Monday morning, I have everything I need right there. The Post-It grocery list comes out of the calendar/planner and goes right on the handle of the grocery cart.
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This is also when I track down any recipes I have not officially copied down and entered into the binder. Remember: my main goal in this whole operation was to have all my go-to recipes in one place. It will take a couple months to make that happen, but eventually each numbered recipe will have a numbered page in the binder. I’m just writing them out as I get to them in real-life. My second goal with all of this was to start writing things down again in my own handwriting. For years, I wrote personal notes and kept journals. This binder is my after-children attempt to use my hands again instead of my printer.

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See? Scrap paper recipes pulled off the internet and out of a cookbook… now, transferred onto card stock, numbered accordingly, and decorated a smidge.

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Except for a couple of recipes, like number 60, that I don’t trust myself to copy. Too long, too specific. Cut and paste, Friends. CUT AND PASTE.

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Some are super pretty. Number 35 is my favorite so far.

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Some are super simple. Meatballs? Here ya go. A little tape for color AND WE ARE GOOD. Abby helped me glue this. We are still working on the concept of less-is-more when it comes to Elmer’s.

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Four weeks in, and I am a fan.

It’s flexible. It’s efficient. I really love that basically I’ve already made my decisions for a whole month at a time. I also like that I can see (in the planner or on the inside of the binder) what we’ve been eating recently and what we haven’t had for awhile. Laying out these post-its and having everything numbered cuts all the questions out. The decisions are made. They can be changed if need be, but they are made… and that is half the battle for me.

I don’t know if this is at all helpful for you. I actually really love organization and calendars and tape and pens, so this was a fun project for me. I can do it in small pieces as I build up the binder of recipes. And, crazy as it sounds, looking at planners and how other people journal (on Pinterest or what-have-you) is a favorite activity for me. It calms me. I love seeing how other people do it.

I like how this is working for us. It’s cut out extra grocery store trips each week- down to ONE from two and sometimes three. It’s cut down random grocery purchases, since I know exactly what I’m cooking that week. And, come 5 o’clock I know I already have a plan.

Good day, Sunshine.

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imagine

So, just for a second on this Thursday morning… just for a blip of time… let’s throw out all the world’s problems and hurts and injustices.

Imagine this with me:

It is an alcove of sorts… an entryway into the living room from the front foyer.

On either side of the alcove are glass shelves with a cabinet on the bottom. Aesthetically, they are mirror images of each other: 3 shelves and a cabinet. The cabinet on the east side (so, facing you as you enter the house) has an outlet and houses the sound system. The west side cabinet (so, closest to the front door) does NOT have an outlet.

These ARE visible as you walk in the front door. There’s tons of storage/display space. BUT- totally not my style with the whole honey-oak and glass shelving thing goin’ on. Also- there is a closet next to the front door for guest coats and all that. There is also a small room off the kitchen that connects to the garage that will become a mudroom eventually.

alcove1

(view from the front door)

alcove2(view from the living room into the foyer)

What would you do here?

Remember, there are two of them: facing each other and tucked into that entryway/arch thingy. (Threshold? Is that what it’s called?) Computer stations? Rip out the non-outlet cabinet and make a homework desk? Paint the cabinets? Trade out the glass shelving for rough wood (this is a YES). Make it a bookcase from top to bottom on both sides?

I’m stuck.


zebras

Mom, who is that guy?

(We are watching football.)

MOM. Who is that GUY? With his arm up? Who is that white guy?

(I blink quickly but do not move.)

That guy is the quarterback. He throws the ball to the other guys.

Oh.

Well, who’s that black guy?

The what?

That BLACK GUY! What does he do?

(I physically flinch. I am not ready for this conversation. I reach in my mind for conversations from my childhood to guide me, but there are none. NONE. Sixteen years of military dependency, and most of that isolated on 2 small bases overseas, offered plenty of opportunities to discuss country politics, rank, and branch loyalty. But color? Everyone was the same color: green camo. It’s not an excuse, but it explains why I am unprepared on a Saturday afternoon to talk about this particular brand of diversity with a four-year-old. I am simply not ready.) 

He’s the receiver. He catches the ball the quarterback throws.

(I watch him as he tilts his head.)

I don’t like him. He’s weird.

(And here, my heart sinks.)

Gideon! Bud. He’s not weird. God painted us all kinds of different shades of colors in this world. Sometimes it tells us what country our family is from. Sometimes it tells us we’ve been in the sun too long. But someone’s skin never tells us anything about whether they’re weird or smart or scary or nice or anything like that. Do you understand?

It’s his SKIN?!

Yes.

Why God did paint him like a zebra? That’s WEIRD.

(I look at the game again. I walk up to the tv and point.)

Are you talking about this guy? In the stripes? 

Yeah.

That’s the referee, Gideon. He makes sure everyone is following the rules.

Yeah. He’s weird. I would NOT want to be him.

Well, I think a lot of people agree with you, Bud.

And I don’t want to be the white guy, either. 

Who do you want to be?

I want to be the blue guy. 

(I look at the game again.)

You want to be on the team that wears the blue pants.

Yeah. They’re awesome.

Not the white pants… the “white guys.”

Yeah.

YOU’RE awesome.

I know. And I am FAST, Mom. So fast.

There will be more conversations, I know… about weight and race and railroad tracks and religion and faith and tattoos and all those millions of feelings (learned or innate or bestowed) we must individually filter and hold up to the Light throughout a lifetime in the broken world. There will be so many more conversations. 

Please, Lord, remind me to ask twice as many questions as may be obvious, to listen more than talk, and to be thankful for the dialogue. And, please- when it is time… every time… give me words that build and expand, not diminish. Give me actions that care and affirm my words. And give me a heart that is not afraid.

Prejudice is a learned trait. You’re not born prejudiced; you’re taught it. • Charles R. Swindoll


where to start

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From this zoo to yours, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. I managed to turn 38 over the holiday break, which many of you caught on to (thank you, Facebook), and received just the absolute sweetest kindest most encouraging words and texts and emails all day long. SO NICE. Thank you. Every year, I am reminded en-mass that I know the absolute sweetest kindest smartest most encouraging people ever. I hope to be just like you some day.

The picture above? It’s the best we could manage. There were about 7 photos to pick (see what I did there?), and Abby is doing the same (un-staged) thing in all of them, God bless her. My cake is purple. Can you see that? It was intense.

I feel like there is a whole world to write about since the holiday silence. While I am gathering my thoughts and pushing two of three children out the door to school, let’s get back to basics.

FOOD.

My overwhelming desire and heart for this year is to find and bring home a miniature donkey. This is absolutely true.

MY SECOND goal is to pick up the faded thread of this idea and weave it back to life. Remember? Let’s Make a Plan? I’m talking about basic, back-pocket meals that you’ve made before and know work for at least the adults in your family. (After this holiday season, I have decided I no longer care if the short people in this house like the menu. Their answer is ALWAYS NO, so I am no longer asking or taking their opinions into consideration.)

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I had a lot of trouble pulling the trigger on this plan because… I was scared? I don’t know. As I was pretending to plan weeks, even 2 weeks ahead of time, my brain was saying, “Katie, you don’t feel like making a roast right now. That sounds terrible.” I had to remind myself over and over (and over) again that this was simply A START. A beginning. I can change anything I want anytime I want. I can change days. I can switch weeks. I can erase meals and add newfound meals at will. I just need a place to start.

The clincher was walking down the school supply aisle one day last week and remembering that one of my love languages is school supplies. And fine-tipped pens. And paper. Ooooh, I do love paper. I went with skinny Post-It notes simply because they are reusable and also work in my planner. I revisited the original list of meals and even added a few more. I now have 54 different options to choose from… and many of those meals have options within options. Number 38, for instance: shredded bbq… this could be left over roast beef OR pork. Simple stuff here.

I didn’t list side dishes or anything else… just the main course. My goal here is to not have spaghetti 3 times a week (because we have been) and also to stop defrosting meat at 5:02pm every day. I numbered the meals as I thought of them. They are not color-coded by chicken, fish, meat, and veggie or anything like that. Again, simple stuff here. A prompt. A start. A push in the right direction.

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I filled in only 5 days per week because weekends are almost always nachos and hamburgers and leftovers. I also know (I KNOW) to expect the unexpected. Maybe we’ll go out to eat. Maybe it will be completely nuts one night and I will resort to Jimmy John’s. Lots of room here to switch things around. Any meal not used just moves to the bottom of the list and begins filling in empty spots later in the month. Maybe I plan 2 weeks out and choose from a huge pool of options. Or maybe I lay out all 54 recipes and fit them into 10 weeks. Done. We’ll see.

So. Part I of this plan was to get the meals down on some sort of calendar. DONE. I made a grocery list for this week and I’ve already set meat in the fridge to defrost for later. So far, it’s working. It’s Day 1, but it’s working.

Part II of this plan is to get all the basic recipes into one easy spot. I have a habit of scrambling at the end of the day… pulling scraps of recipes from here and there, plus referring to one I snapped a photo of on my phone, and then pulling one up on the computer while I’m actually cooking. I want all my usual stuff all in ONE BINDER. I want to see that tomorrow is #9 Tai Peanut Noodles and be able to immediately find a paper with the peanut sauce recipe on it. What I would usually do is remember, “Oh, I have that on Pinterest.” Then I’d have to pull up pinterest, find my food board, scroll forever and find that post, click on the post, and then take a screen shot of the post so I could prop my phone up in the kitchen and read off the ingredients.

People. I would do this ALL THE TIME.

Dumb.

So, no. Like I said, I want to write down each basic (tried and true) recipe and have it available. I always use this sauce. Always. Write it down or print it out, Kate, and put it in your binder. Label it #9. Now it’s there. I’d like to do this each week for every recipe, and I want to do most of it in my own handwriting. I want to be able to give my kids a copy of this later and say, “This is what I cooked for you.” OR, “This is what you didn’t eat when you were living on the farm.”

Either way. 

A passing of the torch, if you will.

For Christmas, I made my mamma and me a couple of linen kitchen towels with my grandmother’s macaroni and cheese recipe printed on it. (I used spoonflower.) Mom used this recipe when she was first learning to cook, and mac & cheese is pretty important in this house. It was a good fit. I’m hoping the recipe binder will be a hands-on memento  for the kids. It’s been so easy for me to document life digitally for the kids that I have chosen to do so in nearly every instance. I’d like for this one to be different. I think it’s worth it.

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At any rate, all that to say…

THIS IS WHERE I’M AT RIGHT NOW.

It’s a start.

 


This is Christmas.

A father packs a suitcase.

He tells me this story:

The kids aren’t coming home for Christmas this year.

He’s not mad. 

Disappointed, maybe,

but not mad.

He misses his kids,

this much is obvious.

We used to talk a lot. Actually, we used to be inseparable, you know? They hung on every word I said. Ran home every chance they could. Asked my advice, ate at the family table, counted on me. But times change and, well, you know how it goes. Kids want to explore, right? They challenge the truth they grew up with. They started believing I didn’t understand them anymore, said times were different now, said they wanted their freedom. We talked less and less in those later years until, finally, they stopped coming home at all.

I see them, hear them wandering around life… struggling through. I hate that we aren’t together anymore.

“But you still love them,” I say.

Oh, I do! Absolutely. I still love them. I could never not love them. I hate being away from them. I hate not talking. I hate not being involved in their lives, comforting them when they hurt and celebrating when they’re thrilled. I miss the early days of watching them discover life. I absolutely love them, without a doubt.

And so, in order to show them that I love them… that nothing can change that I love them, that my heart’s desire is to know them and be known by them, that I want a relationship at all costs…

this year I’m going to THEM for Christmas.

He is smiling now.

The biggest smile

you can imagine.

I’m going to surprise them. If they won’t come to me, then I will go to them. I will get low. I will serve.I will be last. I’ll go where they are. I’ll find them where they are. If they can’t or won’t come home, I’ll go to them. It’s a long trip, and I think it may be uncomfortable. But, I’m going.

Because I love them.

I think He’s amazing.

And, maybe a little stubborn.

But certainly determined…

as one is when in unconditional love.

candlelight

Do you see what I see?

This is Christmas… 

the celebration of God coming to us to make peace. The thrill of hope: knowing we are not lost but, in fact, found. That we are missed and loved and sought. That we walked away and He came after us.

With an infant’s cry on a not-so silent night, Jesus started a war for peace- a war against sin. It is the middle of a story that started in a garden and ends on a cross… with an epilogue we truly cannot grasp.

We are no longer lost,

for He has come down to us.

We have a savior; 

we have a savior.

[music]

Merry Christmas, friends. 

• inspired by a stunning monologue

at the 2014 BHBC candlelight service


WHAT IS THIS LIFE

Dearest Abby June,

Today, you have completed 3 cycles around the sun. If you aren’t the best thing to ever happen to this little family, I’ll eat my hat.IMG_5655

You are 34 and a half inches tall… not yet to where Gideon and Ry were when they turned 2. TWO! Our little Half Pint. You’d be lucky to break 25 pounds, but you carry a quick right jab to make up for anything. You are painfully shy with strangers but fearless with frogs, 4-wheelers, trampolines, hills, tractors, busses, candy, chickens, ornery yearling calves, and wood stoves. Brave. You are brave. You are potty trained (again). You know your colors and your numbers and most of the make and models of our neighbors’ cars. You eat only pancakes and noodles and cereal (nothing has changed since last year… your word is CONSISTENT). You will not wear dresses and have to be in a good mood to wear shirts without pockets. You can dress yourself, including zipping your coat. You are, we have always said, the Little General. You are the child I worry the least about. You have largely raised yourself… I cannot take credit for the awesomeness we see on a daily basis.

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Thursday last, I left a choir concert early with your sister (You won’t remember this, but she puked. SHE PUKED AT HER CONCERT). We were sad to miss the live nativity, and I asked you to sneak the miniature donkey into Dad’s car on the way home. The next morning we had this conversation (keep in mind that I, your 37-year-old mother, am in red and you, still clinging to 2, are in black):

Did you bring me my donkey?

No, I did not.

Why not?!

You haft have money and buy one.

I don’t have any money!

Then you needa ask your dad.

But my dad is not here!

Well, he will be on Sunday.

Child, you have the craziest handle on language this family has ever seen. You’ve been talking for a year, and are fluent in humor, sarcasm, and passive-aggressive suggestions. Our conversations have become the stuff of legends online and certainly brighten the Michigan gray around here. I am constantly forgetting that I am speaking to a minor.

You are an unapologetic fibber. A liar. A student of the untruth. Abby! I say, Do you have chocolate in your mouth? Is that brown candy dripping out of your face at 7am in the morning? And without hesitation, you will answer NO every time. Every time, Child.

IMG_6263I just cannot get enough of you.

I do love you. What’s more, I like you. I would hang out with you even if you weren’t my child. A hundred times a day, Girl, you save me.

Love,

Mom

Abby is 2. (my favorite)

Abby is 1.

Abby is born.


we bought the farm

 

 

When we bought this Shoebox of a house and the 40 acres around it, we knew that eventually we would need to grow the house to fit a family. We started with just the upper 900 square feet of house finished. We carpeted the basement bedroom and living room just as Gideon was born. And we have gorgeous blueprints for a very simple but perfect addition that would add a garage, mud room, and the holy grail second bathroom on… eventually. Many of you also know that 9 years ago, we dismantled a red barn, labeled it, and stored it in an old semi-trailer in the side pasture.

It’s still there.

Funny thing is, my husband is in construction and STILL could not in any way shape or form pull the trigger on the addition or the red barn project. After a few years, I kind of caught on. HE WASN’T SURE. And if he’s not sure, he doesn’t make plans.

I finally called him on it. I asked him what he was waiting for… and he drove me to this property 10 miles from our home. An old barn sat at the top of a hill at the end of a storybook driveway. The house was long gone, but pieces of foundation gave a glimpse of what was. I knew immediately that we could bring that farm back to life. There was just one problem: it was not for sale. It was not for sale and the deed is held by 7 siblings… grandchildren of the original owners. Those seven siblings are not interested in living on the farm anymore, but some of them were not ready to let it go. For two years, we wrote letters, made phone calls, and built dreams on possibility.

And they said no.

Or at least, not right now. Remember? You remember that.

I figured this would be the final green light for the Shoebox addition. I figured we would grow TexasNorth like the goodyear farm that she was: as needed and as able. As a military kid who didn’t have a permanent address until high school, I love the fact that all three of my children have known only this house as home. I would be fine here. We could raise the barn, build a small classroom, and make it happen. Absolutely.

In June, Curt asked me to drive by an address 10 miles in the opposite direction. Understand, please, that Curt looks at property like I make dinner: basically everyday and so much so that no one really notices any more. Trolling platte maps and property listings is a hobby and one that I steer clear of, especially since the building dreams on possibility situation. I don’t hear about land for sale or who’s passed away or which farm is splitting after 100 years of family ownership. I can’t test-drive cars and walk away without feeling immense guilt. Curt knows not to talk to me about property unless he’s 99% serious about following through.

So, when he called and mentioned a house down a dirt road… I sighed. I wasn’t sure if my heart could handle it. I waited a couple days and then swung by with a van full of groceries and half-asleep kids.

The address did not take me to the top of a hill like before. It was hidden down a dip, through the trees, and over a small creek. Around a small circle drive, a bright blue house popped up and across from it- a perfect red barn, ready and waiting for animals. I drove around the circle drive twice. I did not let myself get out or walk around. I’m that kind of dreamer. I stayed in my seat, put the van in park, and peered over the edge of the dashboard for a good 10 minutes.

Gideon looked around from his back seat. “Us needa move here, Mom.”

“You think, Buddy?”

“Yeah. Us needa put our stuff on a trailer an’ move here.”

“Well, we’ll see, Buddy. We’ll see what happens.”

What happened is we put in an offer, and they said no.

And we waited for months while nothing happened.

And their realtor called and said we should try again.

And we tried again and they said yes.

SOLD

We bought the farm. A hundred-year-old farm with a hundred-year-old blue house and protected wetlands and a standing red barn and an abby full of farming nuns behind us. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

We will move in June after school lets out. It will change nothing with school or church, but it will change everything else, absolutely everything else. I will need the next 6 months to wrap my brain around it.

And that old red barn we dismantled? She will be put back together in a year’s time. Maybe you could join us for that. I’ll make you an apple pie.

So very much more to come.