Excuse the mess, we live here.














That was one very intense weekend. I hit the gym at 7 AM Saturday because I knew that if I didn't go then, I'd miss working out the whole weekend. Truth be told, I'd planned to do a video with the little girls late Sunday, but by the time Sunday evening arrived I was bone tired. 

Stephen and Nick both had soccer tournaments in Arlington. That's about an hour away. It was 26 degrees outside (I'm not exagerrating). Mike did Saturday Soccer and I did dance. I also cooked and cleaned and cleaned and cooked. After a full day of both dance and soccer, we went to Mass and then to basketball.

Christian has long been the "little boys' " basketball coach. Since they were in the second grade, they have played on teams with a core cluster of great kids from great families. Some of those boys are six feet tall now. A couple of seasons, Christian even coached GIRLS, just so Mary Beth could claim her brother as a coach. He's easily the winningest coach in our league's history. He wasn't going to coach this year.

But our friend Steve, wise man that he is, made an offer he couldn't refuse. Steve would take a team, do all the executive duties that Christian hates, and let Christian show up and sprinkle coaching magic. Nick would "play up" two years and be on the the team. Throw in Steve's son, Joe, to play with them and those little brothers wouldn't let Christian turn it down. Perfect coaches. Who could ask for more?

Me. Though I didn't have to ask. With Steve comes Jenn. My boys first told me Jenn would be my friend. The boys had played together for years, but I was usually busy in the stands with babies and toddlers. I nodded and smiled at other moms, but that's about it. Two years ago, a couple of weeks after Ann visited, Stephen and Nick came home from practice and said, "You should be friends with Mrs. Skinner, Mom. She was sitting in the bleachers reading Ann's book during practice tonight." Indeed. I should. And I did. And Jenn has become one of Christian's greatest prayer warriors. She's the go-to text I write when I'm worried. And she's the fun friend at every single basketball game.

So, Saturday was the last game. Eighth grade championship. Undefeated season. There's no Tebow Law in Virginia. The rest of the team will go on to play in high school. Stephen cannot. My boys had a huge cheering section. Both of Stephen's godparents and their families came. Lots of Christian's friends came. I was made aware of a gaggle of eighth grade girls who are Superman fans;-). And all of Mike's side of the family was there.

They won. Jenn and I cried. It was awesome. And late. Well on the way to 11:00 when I rolled them all into bed.

We got up for soccer at 6AM. Mary Beth was dispatched to a dance intensive for the day. I dropped Mike at the airport on the way to soccer. He went to Miami. (Have I mentioned the wind chill at home yet?) Nick played first. I huddled under my friend Robin's blanket and wore a motley collection of coats my children had left in the car. I might have even pulled on a pair of heretofore balled up socks over my own and under my boots. Robin has been in California for five weeks. We had a lot of catching up to do inside that blanket. Friends in the bleachers. I'm very grateful for them.

Nick went home with Robin and Stephen and I had lunch. Then we went to Stephen's game. His ankle was swollen up like a basketball. He clearly wasn't going to play. So there we were, an hour from home, in freezing weather, and he was going to spend the hour of warmups just watching and then ninety minutes of game time sitting on the bench. That bench? It was a two minute drive from my friend Linda's house. So I called her. And two minutes later, I was sitting on her couch with my knitting and hot tea. We talked food and kids and God for more than two hours! Then Robin dropped Nick off, we collected Stephen, and headed home. The boys slept hard in the car all the way home.


We had takeout Pho to celebrate the anniversary of Stephen's baptism, got Mary Beth off to youth group, and collapsed into bed. 

I got up this morning and my house looked like a stuff bomb had gone off. When I left before dawn on Sunday morning, I did so knowing that my least tidy children were going to be home together all day. I left them a list. Ahem.

So, yeah, stuff bomb. 

As I started picking things up and trying to make tidy before leaving for the gym this morning, a familiar despair swept over me. Monday morning and already behind the 8 ball. I remember a comment made to me the day after the wedding, after I had finished showing someone all our renovations. She said, "Now that you finally have it all clean and nice and pulled together, maybe you can keep it this way this time." I know she meant no harm. But she had never before seen my house, nor had she seen the previous one. Her comments made it clear that someone had told her that my house was not usually House Beautiful. I was tired and the comments cut me to the quick. 

Mike and I have had several big talks about it since then. So have Linda and I. And they both said the same thing--these two people who know me better than anyone else. They said that I sacrifice appearances for relationships. And I do. I'm intentional about it. I know the hurt that happens when you get it reversed and sacrifice relationships for appearances.

I spent the weekend doing the important things: with my kids and my husband and my extended family, with Jesus, with my friends, even. God provided ample time for the important things. He even arranged for tea, knitting and a heart-to-heart some place warm!

My house looks like a stuff bomb went off. That's unfortunate. I wish the children left at home had been more considerate and, well, tidier and more industrious. But things are just things and we'll get it together today some time, God willing.

Mary Beth saw a magnet the other day that I wish she'd bought. It said, "Pardon the mess; we live here." Yes, and we love here, too. We are careful stewards who put people first and sometimes that doesn't look like House Beautfiul. 

How about a recipe? I promised this to some folks on Instagram. It's a cold noodle salad that is good and hearty enough for a main dish, but makes an awesome side dish, too. I'm posting cold noodle salad recipes with a snow storm predicted. What can I say? My heart's in Miami...


(Feeds 12--feel free to cut it in half.)

The Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup dark sesame oil

1 cup wheat-free soy sauce

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

scant 1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 Tbs salt (or less)

4 teaspoon chili oil

2 Tbs minced fresh ginger

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped cilantro or Italian parsley, as desired


The Noodles and Veggies

2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal

1 head of red cabbage, sliced

two sweet peppers, sliced and roasted (these are stashed in my fridge, thanks to salad every day prep)

2 pounds Tinkyada brown rice pasta (spaghetti style)

two bunches scallions, including firm greens, thinkly sliced

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Mix the marinade ingredients together, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

  • Bring a  large pot of water to boil. 
  • Add salt and asparagus. 
  • Cook for just a few minutes until bright green. (I lower my veggies into the water in a colander and then pull them out.)
  • Rinse the asparagus under cold water. Shake the excess water out of the colander and put the asparagus in a large pasta bowl.
  • Using the same boiling water, repeat the process for the cabbage. Just a couple minutes and then a quick rinse and into the pasta bowl.
  • Boil the noodles in the same water. It's going to be a little purple because of the cabbage, but that's okay. Follow package directions to get them tender but not mushy. 
  • Drain and rinse the noodles.
  • Add the noodles to the asparagus and cabbage and add the roasted peppers.
  • Toss it all with the marinade and most of the scallions and most of the sesame seeds.
  • Before serving, sprinkle the rest of the scallions and sesame seeds on top.

You can shake up the veggies in this and use whatever suits you. Play with your food!

(adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)