Who Says I Can’t Pull Off a Surprise?!

Who Says I Can’t Pull Off a Surprise?!

I am writing my Monday post on Tuesday because, well, I’m tired and it was a long weekend.

I remember in college I could stay up all night for a week then recover with a nap and some cold pizza.  Now I require three days of sleep and chicken soup (without the noodles) to get over staying up until midnight.  Which I did on Saturday night.  You would think I’d learn not to do that but I was hanging out with some of the most amazing women and I decided it was worth the sacrifice of being coherent for the next week.

On Friday I drove 8 hours to Oklahoma City for my husband’s law school graduation ceremony.  I didn’t tell y’all I was going because I didn’t tell him.  It was a huge surprise.  It’s not that I don’t trust you all and I am sure you would have kept my secret, but I couldn’t risk it.  My 9 children already knew about it and just keeping them from spilling the beans was all I could manage.

I rented a zippy little red car and drove myself to Oklahoma.  Considering a 15 passenger van has been my mode of transportation for the past dozen years I felt like I had been released from some kind of prison.  I was all in and out of parking spaces like I hadn’t a care in the world.

James was so, so surprised and it was fun to pull it off with my son.  The graduation ceremony was beautiful and I am so glad I went.  It was better than any church service I have been to in a long time.  On Friday night after the first part of the ceremony each graduate took a turn sitting in a chair while the faculty prayed over them.  How often do you see THAT at a law school graduation?!

On Saturday after the actual graduation I went to a meeting with the Winter Summit planning team.  I hope y’all will go to the Summit in January either in Texas or Oklahoma!  It’s going to be an incredible weekend of refreshment and encouragement.  You do not want to miss it!!

Then on Sunday came the dreaded 8 hour drive home.  It was rough.  I got about 2 hours down the road and it felt like I couldn’t drive any more.  I kept stopping and walking around then I’d drive another hour or 2.  Stop.  Walk.  Repeat.

I finally got home around 6:00 PM and was so glad to see my family that I fell asleep.

Have a great week!

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If You Don’t Mind…..

If You Don’t Mind…..

I may have a problem.  Like I need counseling and possibly shock therapy.  I love books.  I have shelves full of them in every room and when someone offers to send me one to review I simply can’t resist.  #bookaddiction

But I realize I have not told you much about all of the writing that’s happening right under our very roof. #mykids

Besides writing a book myself, my daughter Grace has written 4 books and the first three are available on Amazon.  #true

1. Firmament: Radialloy is about a young woman who lives on a starship.  If your teen or young adult likes sci-fi this is a fun adventure!
2. Firmament: In His Image is the second in this series (with the third coming out very soon!) and follows the same main character.
3. Never is a clean, wholesome, family friendly western with slightly more mature conflicts.

She also has a blog where she reviews books and it’s always nice to find clean books for our kids to read.


My daughter Patience also has a blog that is for budding photographers.  She’s really good at encouraging you to love your family and follow your passion.  Your photo-driven kids would love this.  #itisprecious


And, if you don’t mind me telling you, my oldest son is making an album of songs that he has written.  He has a website that tells about his vision and he is also wrapping up a fundraiser to help get it made.  #hemakesmyheartmelt


Not to be left out, my daughter Hope is writing a graphic novel (kind of like a faith-based comic book) and my other daughter Faith is starting her own jewelry line.  Those are still works in progress. #iamconstantlyamazed

I really don’t mention all of their accomplishments much because I don’t want to be braggy.  But just this once….I had to say it.

Thanks for letting me.  #proudmom

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A New Door

A New Door

Well, it took two days but we got the junk all out of my bedroom and the kitchen, which is our other nuclear fallout zone.  Not only did we have the boys’ room cleanup to deal with, but as school approaches I am getting in a panic about the house, as if we can never straighten it once we get back to lessons.  I don’t know why, but I feel like I have to clear the entire house of all clutter as if I’m nesting.

The birth of a new school year.

I’m also really happy to have an office for myself.  I took what was our little study room (it used to be Noah’s Lego room until we moved him upstairs) and made it into my own office.  If I am in there with the doors closed it means KEEP OUT.  If I am not in there then the kids can still use it for quiet study.

The reason I couldn’t just use the room the way it was before is it had no door between it and the boys’ bedroom.  That would have made it difficult to concentrate.  So we built a door between the two rooms. When I say “we” I mean I designed it and bought all of the materials, my son built it and my daughters painted it.

Because the room is SO small I didn’t have room for a swinging door.  So this slides along a track we built with a galvanized pipe and hangs from eyes screwed into the top of the door.  It’s a simple 2×2 frame with chalkboard behind it.  The back is a dry erase white board for the boys to draw on.  I decided to make it floor to ceiling to add height to the room.

A great door wheh you have a tight spot!

Open on the Left — Closed on the right

I put stationary casters on the bottom, which makes it super easy to open and close!


And now I have a place to work when I need quiet.  It was either that or drive to an undisclosed location and work in the car with my computer mashed against the steering wheel and the A/C blasting in my face.

I still have a few small messes to deal with, but it’s mostly all back to normal.  By “normal” I mean not normal at all because nothing ever stays the same around here for more than two weeks.

On Sunday I drove an hour and a half to meet my parents for lunch and handed off two of my daughters to help them for the week.  It was a nice Sunday drive (we used to take Sunday drives all of the time when I was a kid, why don’t we do that anymore?!) and great to see my folks.  I had the two youngest boys with me so as we drove home they started asking questions.  “Mom, why would someone want to get married just for the sake of getting married?!” “How do you know if you’re old enough to get a job?” “Why does a church need elders?”  I am not kidding.  These were the questions.  I mostly replied with answers like, “Hey, does anyone want some frozen yogurt?!”

Have a great week!

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Let There Be Light!

Let There Be Light!

Some weekends are the lazy kind where you sit around and wonder what to do with yourselves.  Like when James and I were first married and we would hear people say they were really busy and wonder what they meant.  Because all we had to do was dust under the bentwood rocker and decide what movie to rent for the weekend.

Then came kids.  And home ownership.  And several home businesses and now we wonder why we ever thought this would be easy.

This past weekend was not a lazy weekend.  We spent our time divided between managing this old house that doesn’t fair well through thunderstorms and catching up on some much delayed home improvement projects….one of which was my Mother’s Day present circa 2010.

Yes, approximately 4 years ago I had this genius idea.  I bought some wire baskets at a flea market and brought them home to make dining room light fixtures with.  On the way home from that same flea market I stopped at IKEA and purchased all of the hardware for this random project.  We have literally had everything we needed to build these lights for FOUR YEARS, yet never did it.


Because for some reason I am not “allowed” to play with electricity so I had to wait for James to have time to do it.  What’s the man been doing for four years?  Oh yeah….going to law school.  What. Ever.

I asked several times if I could just try doing it myself.  But my reputation for electrical projects goes to the dogs every winter when we have to post a sign on the microwave reminding anyone using it to make sure the heater is off before heating food.  It’s the small matter of an outlet I installed myself when I was remodeling the kitchen.  It works great…unless you try to turn on anything else that’s on the same circuit when the microwave is running.  This only becomes obvious when we use the little space heater in the dining room.  Cook.  Pop.  No microwave.  No heat.

I argue that for most of the year we don’t need heat so it is perfectly fine.  What’s the big deal?

BUT James said no.  So finally he finished school, the Bar Exam and all of the other little tests and applications required to become an attorney and now he can focus on what’s important.  My dining room lights.

He and Jacob took down the old light and installed an outlet in the ceiling.  This was my idea since my IKEA parts had plugs.  What rule says you have to hardwire your lights?


We clipped the bottoms out of the baskets and my daughter Faith made little cardboard circles to fill in the open middle.  Then we just popped the IKEA lights in them.  Jacob built me some simple boxes from old wood from our backyard wood pile and we drilled holes in the boxes for the lights to go through.  Patience made me some cord covers from old curtains.  It really was a family affair.

Then we hung them (it sounds so easy when I sum it up in 4 little words, but it took us several hours)….at last we have decent light on both sides of the dining room and I couldn’t be happier.  It was worth waiting 4 years.

Make lights from wire baskets

A future project is getting rid of the popcorn ceiling….ick!

Here’s a view of the second light on the other side of the room….

Make lights from wire baskets

We also spent Saturday taking photos for our upcoming summer home tour that includes a whole slew of other amazing, creative bloggers.  So stay tuned for that!

And now we’re back to repairing water damaged parts of the house like the roof of the back deck that caved in yesterday and the pool, which has turned green from the rain.  If you’ve always dreamed of buying an old farmhouse and fixing it up, this is what it’s like.  Not exactly the dream, but still pretty great.

Have a wonderful last week of May.  Stay dry!

For more info on how we made the lights head over to Hometalk and see how we did it!

Christian Worldview Film Festival

Christian Worldview Film Festival

Did you know that my older kids went through a film making phase?  My son Jacob made 2 animated movies and entered them into a Christian film festival several years ago and was a semi finalist with one of his films.  My oldest daughter also entered 2 films.  It was such a blessing to watch my kids develop skills that they both use today.  My son is still into animation and hopes to develop that into a career.

So imagine my excitement when I heard about a new festival in town!

Don't miss the Christian Worldview Film Festival in San Antonio TX!

The Christian Worldview Film Festival is coming.  Yep.  It’s right up our alley.  And if you like to see good, wholesome films made with purpose you should think about going.  If the 60 films, incredible speakers, wonderful music (our friends the 4 Proches will be playing live!) aren’t enough….then come to spend time with us!

Here’s a great list of reasons to attend this event!

The festival starts Thursday, March 13 at noon and goes through Saturday night.  There’s also a Filmmakers Guild (which we are super excited to go to!) on Tuesday and Wednesday.  You can buy tickets to just the festival or the whole event.  If you have anyone in your family that is interested in making movies or being involved in the media industry you would be wise to go to the whole thing.

AND if you use the code “PENNINGTON” you will get 25% off of your ticket.  How’s that for an added blessing?

The Stockings Are Hung and the Singing is Sung

The Stockings Are Hung and the Singing is Sung

Yep.  It’s Monday.

After a long, cold weekend Monday is a beautiful thing.  I like normalcy….if you can call 11 people in one house all day normal.

This weekend we filled Shop 24 orders and went to church.  That’s pretty much it.  ‘Tis the season.  Our little etsy shop will be open for one more week before we take a holiday break.  I love making stockings for people, but I’m always glad to be finished and hunkered down with my family.

This week, in addition to a couple of holiday events, I am planning to finish my Christmas shopping.  I am about halfway done.  A couple of my kids are giving me trouble.  The things they asked for are either $2 or $200.  Isn’t there any $40-$50 present you can think of?!  Give mamma a break, will ya?

So I’m perusing Amazon and blogs and Pinterest looking for the perfect thing.  I may have to settle for next to perfect.  I am giving myself until Thursday.  After that I am heading to Target with my money and what will be will be.

My other challenge every year is filling 10 stockings.  I like a fully loaded stocking complete with little notes and special things that only Mom would know you like.  It’s a love note from me to them.  I usually shop for little things all year, making it easy on myself.  But this year I just didn’t do it and now I am left with hitting the city and going through every dollar bin I can find.  And with so many of us not eating sweets or gluten, the extra filling of candy and snacks is going to be an added challenge.

I may have to stuff a few with granola and walnuts.

The stockings

On Sunday my oldest son, Jacob, and I sang a song at his church.  He asked me on Friday if I would do it with him.  If you’re good at math you have already figured out that gave me less than 2 days to learn this song.  I guess I could have said no, but really what were the chances of that?  He asks me to do something with him about once every 2 years, so I jumped at the opportunity.  In other words, he had me over a barrel.

I don’t have any pictures or videos of us singing because the rest of my family went to a different church so there was no one to take a picture.  It’s complicated.

This is a gift of ours, making things complicated.  We are extraordinarily good at it.

But I did take a picture while we were practicing.  I needed some kind of proof that we did something together.  Plus he loves it when I say, “Hey Jacob!  Look over here so I can Instagram you!”

Despite my lack of practice, the song went OK except for one measure that we both forgot and stood there for 4 beats staring at each other.  Then we picked it up again….what are ya gonna do but smile and go forward?  Perfection is highly overrated.

Thanks for stopping by and if you have any good kid ideas for Christmas this year let me know.  I need it!

How to Add Trim to Make Your Shutters Reach the Ceiling

How to Add Trim to Make Your Shutters Reach the Ceiling

Last week I showed you my beautiful new shutters and how they have improved my lifestyle.  I no longer have to wedge myself between my chair and the wall to open the curtains in my bedroom.  I can have easy privacy when necessary and let the sunshine in with one flip of the wrist.

I love, love, love them.  BUT my bedroom needed height at the windows and the new shutters were only the size of my windows.  I thought, while I loved them with all my heart, that they needed some tweaking.

I wanted to make them look a bit more grand, more substantial.  So I hopped in the van and went to the hardware store for some trim.  I wanted to widen the windows a bit, so I got a 4″ trim and I wanted to stretch the windows to the ceiling, so I got a package of beadboard and some smaller trim.

In less than 3 hours I was finished with the whole project and my windows are perfection.  Mwah!

First we cut the 4″ trim to fit along the sides of the window from floor to ceiling.

How to add trim to your shutters

We also added this same trim across the top, below the crown molding that was already there.  If I didn’t have crown I would have just taken it all the way to meet the ceiling.  We mitered those corners.  Mitering corners isn’t scary…you just need the right tool. (my oldest son was sweet to help me with the project)

How to add height to shutters

The only hitch was that we had to notch around the window sills.  After cutting the side piece the exact length to fit floor to ceiling we held it up to the window and marked where the notch needed to be.

How to add trim to your shutters

Then we measured how far in we needed to cut and we marked that.

How to add trim to your shutters

Until we had our mark exactly where we needed it.

How to add trim to your shutters

There are several ways to cut a notch.  This is just how we do it. We use the miter saw (we also used it for the mitered corners above) to start the cuts.

How to add trim to your shutters

Then used a chisel to chip out the rest.  It only took about a minute.

How to add trim to your shutters

And it was ready to put up.

How to add trim to your shutters

Then we cut the beadboard to fit into the opening above the windows.  I attached everything using a brad nailer, but you can also use finish nails.

Next I cut some narrow trim into a frame to fit inside of the beaded board.  I just did that to add a paneling feeling.  After it was all caulked and painted it looked like this:

How to add trim to your store bought shutters

Below the window I just painted the exposed wall with the white paint, but I didn’t add beadboard there.  I was too cheap to buy another package when I really didn’t need it.

How to add trim to your shutters

To show you what a huge difference the trim makes, I did one window at a time so you could see them before and after side by side.

How to add trim to your shutters

Here it is finished….nice, huh?

How to add trim to your shutters

I am in love.  Real, true, deep love.

How to add trim to make your shutters look bigger

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Never Trust a Cow that Jumps a Fence

Never Trust a Cow that Jumps a Fence

Our weekend was spent visiting with family and trying to stay dry.  Basically we got more rain over the past 3 days than we have in the last 2 years.  Our farm looked like a flood zone.

One thing I love about life in the country is the constant change.  One day you’re a happy farmer with a cow grazing in the field.  The next day you’re a crazy woman wading through mud in your good shoes chasing a cow down the street.

We discovered he (yes he, but we still call it a cow) was jumping over the fence.  We noticed him out on the street wandering around mooing like he owned the world.  Not a care, not a worry.  Then we saw him jump back in.  Not good.

We have a large pen on the back of our property where we used to keep our billy goat, so we decided to put the cow in there until we figured out what else to do.  Have you ever tried to coax a cow into a small opening?  Right.  It wasn’t going to happen.

Jacob and Noah tried various tricks, in the pouring rain, to get him go in.  But every time they would get close to the pen the cow would bolt, leaving my poor, wet boys to figure out another plan.

Since James was gone for the day, I decided to go out and help.  At one point we were trying to discreetly tie the cow (Jacob had managed to get a rope on him) to a post he was standing near.  Noah and I were hanging onto the rope when he decided to run.  It was a split second after Jacob got it tied to the post, so the cow couldn’t go far, but Noah and I found ourselves in a muddy heap.  Fortunately we were not hurt, but we both made a firm decision after that not to join the rodeo.

Then I got an idea.  We could chain the cow to the tractor.  I would lead him with the rope and every time he moved Jacob would move the tractor a little more toward the pen.  We kept the chain shorter than my rope so he couldn’t get to me.  (To be clear, we weren’t pulling him with the tractor, he was just anchored to that so he couldn’t run off as I pulled him with a rope) It took an hour and a half to move him about 50 yards, but we did it.  And he was so hungry by the time we got there that he went fairly willingly into the pen where there was a delicious pile of dry hay waiting for him.

But here was the problem.  In order to get him in the pen and get the chain off of him I had to lead him in with the rope.  That left me inside the pen with the cow, who was now between me and the gate.  Not a good position to be in.  He was happily eating while Jacob and I weighed our options.  I could try to scale the 5.5′ high fence.  Not.  We decided to tie him with the rope (which was still around his neck) to a post so he couldn’t get to me as I slipped past him.

Now, picture me in my long skirt trying to go slowly past a hay eating cow.  No sudden movements.  I almost made it.  I was right near him when he gave me a quick BUTT in my behind.  He couldn’t do much being tied to the post, but he managed to get my skirt hooked on his small horns and there I stood, with a bull up under my dress.

I moved as quickly as I could, feeling sorry for Jacob’s full view of my panties as I made my quick escape.  I was willing to let the skirt rip, but thankfully it slipped off of the horns.  I leapt out the gate and I was free.

Lisa – 1

Cow – 0

Jacob – scarred for life

I can now check “getting butted by a bull” off my bucket list.

And being a rodeo clown.

And playing in the mud with my boys.

My hands were the cleanest place on my body.

Life on a farm isn’t easy.  But the truth is, while it wasn’t easy, we had a great time and made some funny memories.

A Fantastic T-Mobile Giveaway!

A Fantastic T-Mobile Giveaway!

Everyone’s talking about school starting and all of the excitement surrounding that.  But dude.  It’s still steaming hot here in our part of the world.  Summer is on my mind.  This was us just last night:

So when the nice folks at T-Mobile asked me to say a few words about summer safety I thought it was an excellent idea. The summer leads to a lot of safety concerns for me….water safety, heat management, sun, travel, it’s all difficult to keep up with.  Of course, mobile devices can’t keep you from getting a sunburn, but knowing they can help keep the kids safe in other ways does bring me peace of mind.

There are so many new ways to use a mobile device to keep your family safe during the summer.  It’s amazing to this old lady who grew up with phones that had cords and busy signals were expected (kids, a busy signal is what used to happen if you called someone and they were already on the phone talking to someone else).

Now they can locate your children.  I used this feature last month when Jacob went on a big boy bus to spend a week with his little law school friends.  I could actually follow his journey all the way there and back.  It made this Mommy’s concerned heart feel better.

There are apps that you can use to notify you when your children arrive at their destination.  Or you can link all of your mobile calendars together so you know where everyone is supposed to be at any time.  I need this one.  When we all sit down to go over our schedules for the week it would be wonderful to be able to have them all linked together so we can keep up with where everyone is supposed to be.

And now here’s something awesome….T-Mobile is letting me giveaway to one of you a new T-Mobile Springboard!

T-Mobile SpringBoard giveaway!

No, I’m not kidding.  It’s a tablet (worth $429!) and it’s really cool.  I’ve been reading about this device and I am so, so excited to be able to give one away!  It has a camera, 16 GB of internal memory, Google and Netflix built in, an eReader, a family organizer, wow….the list goes on and on.  It’s a nice size too.  It would be easy to carry around.

Here’s how you can enter this amazing giveaway.  You must follow T-Mobile on Twitter, Like T-Mobile on Facebook and leave a comment answering how you use a wireless device to keep your kids safe during the summer.  You can also Tweet about the giveaway and you get a separate entry for each one!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and stay safe!

This is a sponsored post but all opinions and crazy ideas are completely mine.

I’m Not as Calm as I Look

I’m Not as Calm as I Look

I am usually calm and collected….OK not really.  I do usually appear calm on the outside, but my mind is almost always racing with thoughts that I have to push down so I don’t come across like a psycho on steroids.

If you were around me with my kids you’d think I was a calm person.  I tend to be quiet and I enjoy just listening to the kids talk and share and be silly.  I’m fairly mellow about the kids and I don’t worry much.  I trust the Lord with our lives and I do believe he is in complete control.


Last night when Jacob rode a bus for 4 hours to a huge, downtown city stopping at midnight…in the dark…with a suitcase in one hand and the cell phone that I added GPS tracking to in the other….

I turned into an old Jewish grandmother.

I was worried and nervous and pestering him with an unusual amount of texts and phone calls.  I say unusual because in ordinary circumstances I rarely communicate with him.  He and I, secure in our love for one another, do not communicate via cell phone/texts.  Actually, Jacob doesn’t really have much to say to anyone.  He’s a quiet one, that guy.

The night before, when James and I were going over with Jacob the plans for the trip, bus etiquette, how to behave in someone else’s home, etc. I started crying.  James and Jacob froze with that uncomfortableness that men have when a woman cries.  “Is she sad?  Is she hormonal?  Is she just wishing there was more chocolate in the house?  I don’t understand women and I don’t know how to fix it!”

I pulled myself together and assured them I was fine.  “It’s just Mommy tears,” I said.

Now that Jacob is safely tucked away in the home of his friend I can relax a little more.  But still the Mommy tears are right at the surface.  I know he’s a big boy and he will be fine.  I know that in most of my brain.  But that little teeny section of my mind right at the very front wants to drive 6 hours to check on him, then turn around and drive home again.

Deep breath Lisa.  Get a hold of yourself.  I need a good slap.

I’m counting on you all to stop me from texting Jacob every half an hour for the next week.  Or looking at baby pictures of him.

Alright this is silly.  I’m calming down now.  Or at least I look like it on the outside.