Archive for February, 2012


why “giving up” for Lent is vital. for me.

   Posted by: liz    in faith

“We cannot come to the light unless we are willing to enter into the darkness.”

Observing Lent has been a part of my life for the past 15 years. It was not a part of my childhood, so when, as an adult, I began observing it, it was as though I had been converted to a new way of celebrating Easter Sunday.

Growing up in a non-liturgical church, you get surprised by Easter Sunday especially if it falls smack dab in the middle of a sermon series, instead of at the end of the Lenten readings. No previous Sunday is spent in lenten devotion, crawling ever-so-slowly to the glorious Easter morning.

Lent has a way of slowly, gently, urging us forward to the huge celebration that is Easter Sunday: the crux of our faith, the party at which we celebrate the God-Man who conquered death. I can’t fathom celebrating Easter Sunday anymore without having symbolically walked with Jesus in the desert for the previous 40 days. Without having given something…anything…up for Lent.

On Ash Wednesday last week, my facebook and blog feeds were filled with status updates and blog posts about Lent. Many quoted what a priest says as you receive ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” And many were links to other blog posts or reviews of books that suggest giving up for Lent isn’t necessary and were encouraged to change the age-old practice of fasting, prayer, and alms-giving to something like “adding something each day to strengthen your walk with Christ.”

The purpose of the 40-day observance of fasting is a reflection of Jesus’ time in the wilderness before he was crucified. How can I identify with Christ’s suffering (even a little) by not denying myself something?

There will not be a smithical blog series on my journey through Lent, or how The Smith household observed Lent. The Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday is taken from Matthew 6: “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you…”  It is not only polite, but fully encouraged by our Lord to not ask what others are giving up for Lent.

Sounding a trumpet and looking sullen and starved from fasting won’t help us realize that our only hope is in Jesus, not in our piety.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ” Psalm 51:11




raspberry oatmeal ~ my breakfast of choice

   Posted by: liz    in food

you don’t need to whisk an eggwhite for my best recipe. all you need is milk, preferably whole milk, but if you drink pretend skim milk you can probably use it, but i wouldn’t recommend it because the consistencey will definitely change.

2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup whole (rolled) oats (not quick)
1 tsp. sugar, or 1 T maple syrup or honey (or a packet of stevia if you’ve given up sugar for Lent)
a heap of frozen raspberries

Mix the milk, water and oats together in small saucepan and put over medium heat. Stirring every few minutes (so the milk doesn’t stick to the bottom), the oatmeal should be cooked in about 7-9 minutes.

Pour into your favorite bowl. Add as many frozen raspberries as you’d like and sprinkle with a hint of sweetener of your choice.

The creaminess of the milk-cooked oats adds so much flavor and thickness to this dish. The fibrous oats will keep you satisfied for hours (especially if you down a glass of water after you’re done eating!) and the sweetness of the berries will completely take you into breakfast heaven.

Alternate recipes add-ons:
Cinnamon and sucanat
Crushed almonds and cinnamon
1 T. molasses and a pinch of ginger


*photo courtesy of


officially a non-preschooler family

   Posted by: liz    in family, homeschooling

Since the minute I found out we were pregnant with Rowan over 9 years ago, our world has been full of finding space and time for…newborns, toddlers, onesies, homemade babyfood, tactile learning, pincer grasps, crawling, vaccinations, Baby Einstein, Word World, and Veggie Tales.

We are now officially past all of that. Well past all of that. When I (slightly jokingly) suggested earlier in the week that we snuggle up and watch an Elmo video together, all three of the boys scoffed and yelled how “babyish” Elmo is. Then I suggested (again, jokingly) that we curl up with some Baby Einstein videos and they all looked at me with a blank stare.  How could they possibly have forgotten the hours of brilliance we watched together with classical music and moving toys on the screen? Weren’t they ever-so-slowly becoming baby geniuses? (By the way, you can now watch full episodes of Baby Einstein videos at youtube)!

Of course there are days where I have a hard time with all this time passing quickly. But honestly, I love each and every stage so much, and the life of parenting boys just gets more and more exciting as they get older. Sure, I look at old photos of diaper-bulging onesies and toothless grins, mashed peas all over a smilng baby-face and videos of the sweetest little baby voices. but now I get to have honest-to-goodness conversations with those smiling boys. I love being with them every day as they grow up!!

My last pre-schooler, five-year-old Adam’s only goal in life is to catch up with his brothers in all things academically. He’s very committed to his reading and math because he like being able to sit with a book like his big brothers have been doing recently. He is about to finish the 9th book in the Fly Guy series:

He’s begging for “more math!” each day as his math lessons aren’t long enough. He whizzes through the worksheets, so we’re playing more of the math games that come with our curriculum, and i’m finding some adding practice for him that he does if he feels his math lesson wasn’t long enough. After his lesson on place value, he practiced addition with an angry-bird “color-the-sum” activity.

Today, for Presidents Day, we all did an “Abraham Lincoln fact-craft” and we read one of our favorite books, George Washington’s Breakfast. This is Adam posing with his Ab craft:

It’s a little blurry, but these are the facts that we listed inside the Abraham Lincoln top hats. he read the dates as “one thousand eight hundred and sixty one” instead of “eighteen sixty one.”  i couldn’t bring myself to correct him as it was only a reinforcement of his place value lesson earlier this month. later on i’ll help him read the date correctly:

When Rowan and Sawyer were finishing up their Lincoln facts and I was telling them that Lincoln was the First Republican President, I asked them if they remembered what the other majority party was in our political system. Sawyer said, “Hermetrats!” I don’t know where he came up with that answer, but there you have it, the country according to Sawyer: Republicans and Hermetrats.

(For the record, he does not know what political party to which we belong, nor do the boys know our political leanings. At this age, they need only to know the facts, not their parents beliefs. They love President Obama, and we wouldn’t have it any other way at this age.)


knitting for the boys

   Posted by: liz    in crafty, family, Uncategorized

with all the knitting i’ve been doing for kenny and myself, it would seem i’ve left out the three boys!

i have not forgotton our offspring in my latest “making” adventures, i promise you. in fact, here they are sporting their brand new, made-with-love from mama sweaters!

sawyer’s covering all his bases, “it’s cool,” and “peace out!”

adam DOUBLE LOVES his sweater!

rowan THINKS he likes his sweater.

they have yet to wear them out anywhere. in fact, for some reason, they all put them in the garage the minute after i snapped these photos. good thing i’m so in tune with my boys to know exactly what they love to wear! i will never be that aunt who crochets big bold sweaters that never see the light of day….


*lest you think i’m serious, these were made by me, but not knitted. we were invited to an ugly sweater party back in december, and i cut up an old afghan and sewed some granny squares onto the ugliest sweaters we could find. the boys decided nto to wear them to the party at the last minute, so they’re up for grabs if anyone likes them! ;)




being communion.

   Posted by: liz    in books, faith

i just read Lauren F Winner’s latest book, Still, bought for me by my mom. it’s about getting through a mid-faith crisis, or how one finds oneself in the middle of their faith (far away from the excitement of conversion, far from the end of life).

longtime smithical readers may remember that i was on a team at my old church that organized a weekend writers and womens retreat that Lauren led. here is the blog post about that (i was pregnant with adam in this picture!)

i’ve been a fan of Winner’s work since that year. Mudhouse Sabbath still remains my favorite of her work.

i’m still a fan of her writing, but this latest book was one on which  i found i couldn’t connect as much with her. i don’t have a conversion story, and my faith grows stronger and more in depth as i grow older. however, inserted among the prose that wasn’t as engaging for me, are chapters like this one, that i cannot do justice talking about (nor can i read them out loud, as i tried to read it to kenny and ended up crying.  so i just gave it to him to read).

so, i give you a gem of a chapter, and know that some of you can relate to this, as i’ve had many a conversation with a lot of you over the years about communion, the eucharist, the Body and Blood and One Flesh.

an episcopal church in a small town in upstate New York has asked me to come preach. The town is home to two vineyards, there seem to be more maple trees than people, and the church is bedecked Gothic revival, all arches and parapets and stone sinews you can see. I find myself wanting to move here the minute I arrive.

at the eucharist, i serve as a chalice bearer, following along behind the priest, offering the cup of wine to parishioner after parishioner. some clasp the cup and guzzle with what looks like relish; some are daintier, more polite, as though handling fine crystal; some don’t touch the chalice to their lips but, practicing what’s called intinction, dip the wafer into the wine and then consume the crimsomed host.

i don’t know the people in this congregation; i don’t know anything about the triplets who sport pink glasses and bobs like cloche hats; i don’t know anything about the man with one arm, or the college-aged woman who surely shops at thrisft stores, today clad in a polyester paintsuit circa 1969, the jacket and pants and blouse all squash-colored yellow with cinnamon trim. and it is only later, after i ask the priest, that i learn something about the elderly couple who, near the end of the communion train, come to the rail and kneel, fragile as mushrooms.

what i learn later is that for a dozen years, he has been afflicted by a wasting disease, an intestinal disease that makes it almost impossible for him to eat – he lives on Ensure and lemonade. but at the altar i don’t yet know that, i only know what i see: they each take a wafer from the priest; and when I come to them with the chalice, the wife dips as i say, “the blood of Christ keep you in everlasting life,” and she eats her wafer, and then her husband likewise intincts his round of Christ’s Body into the wine and then he hands the round of Body and Blood to his wife and she eats his wafer for him. there at the Communion rail, i don’t yet know what illness lies behind this gesture, I know only the couple’s hands and mouths, and that I am seeing one flesh. I have read about this, heard sermons about a man and a woman becoming one flesh; and here at the altar, i see that perhaps this is the way I come to know such intimacy myself: as part of the body of Christ, this body that numbers among its cells and sinews an octagenarian husband and wife who are Communion.


living through a “pin” vicariously

   Posted by: liz    in crafty

Join others in blogging about the PINS you’ve tried from Pinterest at Living with Three Hobbits and a Giant…

I bring you a pin today that I haven’t tried. However, my friend Courtney has done it in her home, and I was witness to the lovely interior transformation yesterday.

Since becoming a member of Pinterest back in October? November?…I have been absolutely fascinated with pallet interior design. “Pallets?” you ask.  “What on earth could you do with old, dirty wooden 3×3 trays that sit outside most business loading docks that would be attractive on the interior of a home?”  Hmmm…obviously you have never seen the pins of pallet furniture and wall hangings at Pinterest. Let me show you a few of my favorites:

The pallet picture holder:

Pallet wall art:

Pallet shelves:

And a pallet patio moveable table:

These are on my radar, and I see piles of pallets everywhere now. I’m scheming in my head how I can ask a business if I can take a few of their old dirty pallets off their hands for free?

My friend Courtney pinned and actually DID the most elaborate pallet project yet: a wall covered with pallet wood. I know, sounds a bit “rough.”  But that’s the point!  I asked her a bit about the project, but I’d love to share with you the pictures first. She hosted our Book League this week, and I was able to snap a few photos of the lovely family room wall (click to enlarge):

She put her husband to work tearing apart the raw wood from old pallets they found at his work place (free material!). They did nothing to the wood: no sanding, no staining, no nothin’.  They just cut the wood into different lengths and then nailed them to the wall. The best part about the project is that there was no precision cutting, measuring and nailing needed. The more rugged, the more beautiful. And I believe their wall is gorgeous. I have three walls I want to do this in our basement/family room!




   Posted by: liz    in family fun, friends

A few weeks ago, kenny forwarded me an email with this story of a family and their miracle baby boy.

His email read, “Liz, This is incredble…I taught these kids when I taught in Hagerstown, MD!” and it took me a minute to realize he was referring to the parents in the story.  Kenny was a high school English and Grammar teacher right out of college for three years before he moved to Pittsburgh and started his current career in software. When he saw the story, he realized that this was a local family (they had recently moved to the Pittsburgh area) now. What a coincidence!  So he forwarded their story to me.

I clicked on the link and the whole time I’m blinking back tears, I’m wondering how it is I recognize this family, when I didn’t know Kenny when he was a teacher. It finally dawned on me that I read Leighann’s blog, Living with Three Hobbits and a Giant, about a year ago. I recognized the blog title right away, and I quickly wrote back to Kenny and said, “Incredible!  I used to read her blog!”

So I dashed off an email to Leighann, not knowing how she’d receive it, explaining to her who I was, and how we “found” them. I wondered if they could come for dinner soon or would it be weird for them to “hang out with an old high school teacher?” Within a few hours, she wrote back:

“Liz, Yes, it would be weird to hang out with an old high school teacher. Henry and I decided we will do it since you seem so cool, but on the condition that we continue to call Kenny “Mr. Smith”, especially since he thinks we are still kids.”

I immediately loved her sense of humor.

Last night, we were graced with their family’s presence in our home for dinner. We were both so excited to meet them, me for the first time, and Kenny, for the first time in nearly 20 years. Our children bonded over the pasture fence feeding the animals, and then eating together at the “kids table,” then building a fort and playing legos. I loved listening to Kenny, Henry and Leighann talk of old students, teachers, and families from the school.  The evening went way too quickly…we had such a great time chatting.

If there is an age difference in any of us, you wouldn’t know it. It was an honor getting to know such a wonderfully warm and loving family, and we look forward to many more “getting-togethers” with them!


Liz and Kenny, Leighann and Henry (and Ryan!)

The kiddos...



A pinning party!

   Posted by: liz    in crafty, family fun, homeschooling

Recently, I opened a “Pins I’ve tried” board at Pinterest. I usually add comments on whether or not the pin worked. I’ve tried several of the activities/recipes/ideas that I’ve “pinned” so far, but this week’s blog post reflects those that I have done in relation to our homeschool lessons.

This was GREAT fun experiement: faux lava lamp.  The boys and I took it to a friends’ house and we were able to do it with the boys in her house as well. My favorite part was hearing the boys’ hypotheses: “It’s going to BLOW UP!”  “It’s going to be LOUD!”  Neither of those happened, but the experiment was still awe-inspiring for these young boys. I thought the resemblence to a real lava lamp was uncanny .  We highly recommend doing this in your kitchen laboratory!

This experiment, making our own super balls,  wasn’t as fun as we hoped. We had to try it twice, and when it finally worked, the balls barely “bounced.” After about 30 minutes, they collapsed into puddles that couldn’t be shaped back into ball-form. We made a bunch of different theories about why this failed for us:  Perhaps my cornstartch was old? The humidity was too high? Who knows. We weren’t impressed.

Pin that I’ll KEEP in my arsenal!
Create your own crossword puzzle. Such a fun way to reinforce spelling lists. Completely customizeable for age and range of words. I print out a few of these for each of my boys per month as an alternative to “spelling workbook” day.

And a JUST-FOR-FUN pin!
this is my “yeah, right!” pin. she looks to be smiling, making you think you can actually accomplish this pose. yeah, right!  that’s not a smile, it’s an evil grin. it’s an impossible pose, and it went right into my “deleted” file.

Go over to Leighann’s blog and add your own Pinterest-inspired post at her Pinterest Party!


Candlemas and Groundhogs

   Posted by: liz    in faith

I’m once again linking back to an old post regarding a holiday. Or a feast day, as we like to call them. This one is from last year.


It is just before 7:00 a.m. as I type this, and the sky to the east (to my right) is just beginning to lighten. This is the earliest I’ve seen light at this hour in a long time. So no matter what the groundhog says, I am content to know that spring is right around the corner!

I found Rembrandt’s work (to the left) of Simeon in the Temple purely by accident. The boys all touched on Rembrandt in their co-op on Monday, and I wanted to show them some more works of his. When I found this, I was amazed at how many paintings of New Testament stories he painted in his lifetime. This one is thought to have been his last.

It’s been 40 days since Christmas, which makes today the Celebration of the Feast of our Lord or the Feast of the Purification or Candlemas. (Another reason I am including this painting in this post)! It is the day to bless the candles in the church, or in your home, and say the song of praise of Simeon (whose words are always on our lips as we sing the Nunc Dimitis):

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;Your word has been fulfilled.My eyes have seen the salvationYou have prepared in the sight of every people,A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel.

So whether you celebrate six more weeks of winter or an early spring, whether you bless the candles in your home or remember the faith of Simeon and Anna in the temple when they beheld the Messiah, think on the light that this day celebrates: more light returning to our days and the light of the Messiah, revealing God to the nations.


nostalgia triggers

   Posted by: liz    in family

sunday: waking up this morning, i knew i’d have to start on dinner right away if we wanted to eat something more than cereal (and we’re out of cereal any way) or sandwiches (what we had for lunch) or even breakfast-for-dinner (finished the eggs last night). so on kenny’s suggestion that we haven’t had red meat in a while, i pulled a top round steak from the freezer and began to thaw it on low in the crock pot. by the time the boys and i left to meet kenny at church, it was thawed enough for me to add some broth and then figure out what to do with it once we returned home after a long day of being out.

we returned home today at suppertime, yet it was my Nana and Pop Pop’s home we returned to in my mind as the aroma of roast beef with gravy filled the house, and dinners around their dining room table in philadelphia poured through my memories: the textured wallpaper in their dining room, the “old fashioned” football or basketball games they’d pull out for us to play with, the soft-padded basement floor with speckles, the tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies wrapped in wax paper and kept on the top of the refrigerator. it felt as though we were important guests as the dining room table was always set so elegantly, the bathroom filled with frilly rose soaps and hand towels to match.

after supper, Pop Pop would pull his bible out and read from a devotional (Daily Bread, maybe?) and then read through his KJV and closed us in prayer.  i would help clean up by being the dryer of the dishes. Nana would wash them, and i was never allowed to wash – only dry. as a grown up, a kitchen-owner myself, i totally understand why i was never allowed to be the washer. but still, i asked if i could wash every time.

nostalgia triggers are all around us, every day. pay attention!