evening comes

The morning was full of school. Sometimes they surprise me with the parts of school they love. Today I read them The Mouse of Amherst as part of Morning Time. A book about Emily Dickinson told from the perspective of a little mouse poet? I thought the boys might last a page or two, but they loved it. And then reciting our grammar definitions? Couldn’t get enough of it. Weirdos.

The afternoon was full of non-napping babies, a not so quiet quiet time for the older kids, and me trying to figure out how to read for my Intro to Immigration Law class (which I’m taking to help start up an immigration ministry at our church) in the midst of not napping and no quiet.  It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a class, but I’m loving it thus far, even with all the acronyms.

The early evening was full of driving to try to lull an Asa to sleep (negative). So I did what all wise moms with fathers out of town do: go to Costco for samples. And it was a jackpot. Not only did we eat chicken quesadillas, hummus and pita chips, and more, but there was also a little something for Asa. 3 samples of banana/applesauce = dinner for Asa. First time Costco sample win. His sixth month is starting out on a high note.

The late evening will start with me trying to work my way through a book stack that is too tall at the moment. But as my eyelids start to weigh down at the embarrassingly early hour of 8, I’ll switch to my current television addiction, A Chef’s Life, that takes place not too far from where my parents used to live in eastern North Carolina. It makes me hungry and even a bit homesick (which is funny because I never really lived there long term) for that part of the country.

today in September

Today was a day off for Omar.

Today there were older two kids at a class, a girl at the grandparents, and a baby with us.

Today there was coffee.

And coffeecake.

Today there were drawing lessons and piano lessons with the grandparents in the afternoon. 

And a napping baby in their room.

This all equals a Curbside Gourmet lunch date for Omar and me.

I’ll have the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with a side of crab cake sliders, thank you.

And together we talked books and kids and our town. 

This was all followed by an afternoon at my parents.

Kids scootering, baby drooling, turkey roasting.

I figured I should clear last year’s never-cooked turkey out of the freezer to make way for the next one. 

Then a crazy rainbow followed us home, and we saw half of our town out enjoying it.

Kids crashed.

Mama crashed.

And now there is chai, Bach, and my bed, which is surely the trifecta of something.

sometimes a light

Sometimes a light surprises 
The Christian while he sings; 
It is the Lord Who rises 
With healing in His wings: 
When comforts are declining, 
He grants the soul again 
A season of clear shining, 
To cheer it after the rain
Sometimes A Light Surprises // W. Cowper & K. Twit

I love this hymn. 

I’ve been thinking about it lately.

I need to stop thinking about and sing it more. Out loud.

Maybe I’ll corner you and belt you out a verse.

This season? It is clear shining after a season of rain. A rain that made things and thoughts foggy. A rain that seemed to wash out our path except for the space a foot in front of us. 

This ministry thing Omar and I are a part of…it’s tough. And yet also good and beautiful. But it can be filled with hurt that runs deep. And confusion and doubt and the desire, at times, to just get out of it. Sometimes I think the life of an accountant sounds lovely. But even if our life revolved around the world of accounting, we would still be part of a body of believers. We would take vows to be part of a church family. And I am well aware that there would be many similarities with regards to the joys and hurts of life lived in ministry.

I write little about our church here, and on the whole, I think that is wise and it will probably always remain that way, but I realized the other day that there have been plenty of times where I thought if I could only share and write about some of the crazy that has come our way, then I would feel better (cause it’s all about my feelings…ha). And let me tell you, friends, there’s lots of crazy in this world. But it’s not so much that. There is crazy everywhere and always, ministry or not. We just get the (sometimes odd) privilege of witnessing some of the depths of it. 

But I was convicted that there have been few times where I’m dying to just get on here and share the good, the beautiful, the encouraging. So, here I am. 

I am proud of our little church. I am proud of the people who’s eyes are being opened to the changes that are so rapidly happening in our neighborhood. Anglos are the minority in our town, but our church is not a reflection of that. But that is changing. The people of our church are opening hearts and eyes and arms and time to people who are very different from them. I am proud that men and women in their 80s to their 20s are lining up to meet the needs of the immigrant, the poor, the struggling. We thought it was such a stretch – a dream! – to think that we could get 7 volunteers to start ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, which are desperately needed around here. God thought it would be good to bless us with at least 20 people who are seriously interested. ESL, immigration ministry, discipleship, teaching, community, worship – we are doing it or in the process of seeing it come to fruition. It is not perfect. Not by a long shot. It is not all happening quickly, and we have lost people because they think it’s not happening fast enough or to their liking. It is not what the world would call exciting or sexy. We are still a simple church. And I love this. And I love it. And I feel so thankful and privileged that God has called Omar and me to live here and raise children here and be a part of this family. Our God is a generous God. One who loves to lavish good and blessings on his children. 

Thanks be to God.


colorado in pictures

Here is part of the photographic evidence for Asa to prove that he went to Colorado. Four children (one strapped to me most of the time) and a new camera and insanely intense mountain sun didn’t exactly make it ideal for me to take a lot of photos. And at one point all of those factors made me want to set the camera down, but I resisted the temptation. I wanted us all to have a record of our time out there, over/underexposed pictures and all. 

The sunrises and sunsets were breathtaking. The flowers and trees were gorgeous. Everything around us was such a stark contrast to where we live. I never got quite the photo of an aspen tree that I wanted. I would be content to live in a forest of them. So beautiful.

Asher commandeered Elisha’s camera for most of the trip. That boy took pictures of everything. I loved it. I have a great series of him taking photos and included a few here. 

Our last few days were spent in Denver. In good Ortiz fashion we made sure to organize our days around food. We hit up Pizzeria Locale a couple of times for lunch. Biker Jim’s fulfilled Asher’s reindeer hot dog eating dreams. Breakfast at Devil’s Food was delicious, and the ice cream at High Point Creamery was definitely something to write home about.

You were pretty fantastic, Colorado. 

4 months and then some

17 lbs // 27 in

Hey, baby Asa! YOU are going to have a post about your 4 month stats. Because these months are flying, and I want to remember what you were like at this fast-changing stage. And I am not too proud not to start now even though I missed your first months.

You are oddly large coming after your oddly small sister. My point of reference in baby world is your sister (the previous two seem like a lifetime ago).  She was a peanut. You’re more the elephant to her peanut.

At your doctor’s appointment the other day it was recorded that at 4 months you weigh more than your sister did at one year.

You are an amazing sleeper (usually).

You are an amazing drooler.

You smile for all and fuss for few.

You are well loved.

the 10th in photos and words

Four years ago I wrote a post that informed the world that Omar and I were going to go on a big trip for our 10th anniversary. It came across like perhaps we would be bringing our children on this trip. Oh, no! I was quick to clarify. This would be a kidless trip. A big, kidless, international trip.

There was a trip.

Not kidless.

Not international.

And it came with a mortgage in our back pocket and another baby on our hip.

It was a good trip. A wonderful trip. A trip we could have never done on our own.

The big, kidless, international trip will come.

Instead, I spent the morning cutting up pancakes, downing Howley’s crab hash, and sipping mimosas so orange you’d think they were made with Tang (they weren’t) all while dodging drool from the littlest. The kids loved that we celebrated with them. We loved that we had a coupon.

And the rest of the day was just utterly ordinary. A trip to Target. A mid-morning coffee break. Phone calls. Reading. Settling of disputes. Swimming in the pool. Bedtime routines.

Omar had to work tonight which is perfectly fine. I get time to pour a glass of wine and reflect and be thankful for 10 years with him.  And lest you think this is all peaceful and solitary, one of my kids is drawing a picture of the wineglass and another one is peeking out the window onto the back porch so she can watch me.

Happy 10, Omar. I love you.



recovery and my kitchen

Asher at High Point Creamery in Denver

The whole needing a vacation after your vacation? That almost held true for us. And we kind of got it. Omar took off the whole week once we got home. It was perfect. I don’t remember anything we did, and I’m pretty sure it’s because we did nothing.

Monday will mark two weeks since we got back from Colorado. Back from a week of playing and hiking and exploring. And not making meals. You know you’re a mother of four when the first thing that pops into your head when asked about your favorite part of Colorado is, “Not! Making! Meals! For Five! Days!” But then I recover my thoughts and say something about mountains or elk.

Thank you, kitchen staff of the YMCA of the Rockies. I love you.

But now we’re back in the routine of our days, and feeding kids and kitchen things are back on the brain. Things like this timer app called Thyme that has a timer for everything on your stove and in your oven. It’s brilliant, and I see it ending our kitchen conversations about which timer was for which dish or pot.

I had s’mores on the brain while we were out there, but somehow it just never happened. And then this morning I saw this – skillet s’mores dip. And while I should be detoxing from vacation food, it’s high on the to-make list.

And lastly, all transitions back into post-vacation reality would be made easier with a KettlePizza. I’m not usually excited by grills and grill accessories, but this. It turns your Weber charcoal grill into a pizza oven. What’s not to love?

More Colorado photos and stories to come.

hey, colorado! they’re coming for you

Alright anyone and everyone who has been to, lived in, loves Colorado. Comment, email, or private message me and share what you love! Share what a family of six should do or see in the Granby and Denver areas of your great state. Because we’re all coming. ALL. Together. The six of us. To sleep in the same room together. For eight nights. Together.

Kidding aside, we’re all very excited. For all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve never made it to Colorado. And truth be told, I never would’ve thought it could happen in the near future. But one day last fall Omar saw an ad for a seminar titled “Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching” in Books and Culture. He applied and got accepted. And amazingly, the kind people who have organized it have invited all the families along, too. The mornings will be class time for Omar, and then the afternoons are open for exploring and family time.

The kids are thrilled, though I know they have no concept of the sites they’ll see. My south Florida coastal children believe the big overpass in Miami is a “mountain” and think a high of 70 calls for a sweater. Their little minds are going to be blown. We got a list of everyone attending and where they live, and I believe we’re the most southern by quite a distance. We will be wimps in the evening and early morning temps but we’ll be tan wimps.

So here we go. Next Sunday is the day. Let there be short security lines and seconds on in-flight peanuts.

and you do it again! and again! and again!

The other day the kids watched the original Cheaper By the Dozen (they loved it). This led to a discussion at dinner about what would happen if we had 12 kids. Typically in the oft-occuring discussions led by my tribe about how we need many more kids, I can’t stop laughing to participate in the conversation. But that day I held myself together to add to the discussion.

Prompted by the movie, Lenna was very concerned about who would take care of all 12 kids if Omar were to die:

Me: I will!
Lenna: Are you sure you know how to take care of children?
Me: Pretty sure.
Lenna: I know how to.
Me: How does it work?
Lenna: You wake them up in the morning, dress them, feed them ice cream, play, go to bed, and then wake up and do it all over again. And then again! And again!
Me: Amen, sister.

It’s the “again-ness” that can get to me. I can easily get overwhelmed by the sameness and repetition. But to my girl? It is beautiful. To wake up again! And do the same things again! To just be with each other again! And truly she is right. It is.

hey, Tuesday!

You were waking with the sun.

You were coffee delivered in bed while the littlest stirred awake.

You were hours spent on the couch reading The Penderwicks to little people who offered to rub feet and brush hair in appreciation.

You were siblings arguing and fussing and forgiving. Repeat.

You were a friend stopping by to have a much needed 1/2 hour of adult conversation. Even if that 1/2 hour included holding my baby who gifted her with drool upon drool.

You were an extraordinarily napping Asa.

You were swim lessons and splashing under a cloudy sky.

You were cookies.

You were a girl who watched her brother suddenly stop screaming when put in the sling and said in all seriousness, “Well, that was magical.”

You were a completely below average dinner.

You were a boy feeling queasy who just needed to fall asleep on the couch. I think I believe him, but who plays around when it comes to queasiness?

You were that perfect mix of good and hard.

when your grandma visits and you organize your photos

My computer died about a year ago. And then my old camera started acting up. And then I got pregnant and couldn’t have cared less about computers and cameras. And then I got a new camera. And had a baby. And became completely overwhelmed as to how I should go about finding and organizing all my old photos. And so I did nothing. And then my grandma visited.

And while she was visiting she asked to borrow all of my blog books (I’ve had the first few years of my blog published in book format). When she did this it made me curious, and I went back and read through them, too. Simple and funny stories of kids. Food we’ve made. Places we’ve traveled. Just life. This all made me realize that I currently don’t have the same record of life that I did from a few years ago. This blog just hasn’t found a place in my days as much as it used to. But I want a record of days, no matter how normal and repetitive they can be. So I worked up the courage, tackled hard drives, and found a safe and accessible spot for all (well, most all…) of my photos.

And now here we are.

Back to stories of things my kids say.

Back to things I’m learning.

Back to things I’m reading.

Back to learning more about my new camera that still fascinates yet also unnerves me.

Back to pictures of things I’ve made. Like vanilla cream and fresh fruit tarts that don’t quite come together the way that they should, but that make excellent deconstructed tart bowls.

Back to pictures upon pictures of Asa yawning and sleeping and smiling and fussing because like all seem to say these days, babies don’t keep.

eight years a mother

It kills me that this photo is fuzzy. But it’s perfect and real. I love it. And I love them. Elisha’s birthday was yesterday, and I spent a lot of yesterday thinking back on the past eight years. I think it was partly because the picture above kept showing up in my head. My oldest holding my youngest. My oldest old enough to hold and carry and help care for my youngest.

Some days it feels like the past eight years have flown. On other days I’m so weary I want to do that whole combined years nonsense. You know like when a group of people or business want to inflate their experience by combining the total working years of the people involved. For me it would sound like, “But I’ve been parenting for a combined total of eighteen years, seven months, and eight weeks.”

But it has been a mere eight years. Eight years of learning what it means that children are a blessing from the Lord. Eight years of learning how to best love my children. Eight years of learning how to serve my children. Eight years ago today Elisha wasn’t much smaller than Asa. And today he is a lanky boy who is the big brother to three, who loves to draw and talk about all things Harry Potter and whistle and make Lego creations and make us coffee in the mornings.

And that last thing? It’s amazing. He loves doing it.  We want to shout it to the rooftops to encourage parents with kids smaller than ours, wading through the toddler years, that yes! that toddler of yours will one day make you coffee! and bring you a mug in bed! And you will love him and kiss him and praise him for it.

i love a good thursday

when there is rain in the forecast

when the house is dark and cool and shadows are long

when roasts are roasting

when we finish up school before lunch

when Asher declares this the Best Day Ever! because school finished up before lunch

when I think I’ve figured out some of the changes that are needed for next year’s homeschooling

when Asa shows the slightest hint of a smile

when Lenna’s older brothers praise her Lego creation

when kid bickering is minimal

when Omar and I go on a date for his birthday…kidless

when kids pick out pretty hilarious gifts for their father (I nixed the idea of giving him a dollar bill on top of a box)

when Elisha whistles on pitch to every song that plays on the stereo

when books are read: The 21 Balloons and Jan Brett books for kids, Stephen King (the non-horror variety) for me

when I see the boy below reading all the time



4 weeks in

There have been moments over the past few weeks when four kids seemed like 40. Lots of questions and squabbles and things they must tell me now and tears all at the same time. Or like when the A/C guy came in the other day and the kids started doing their darting around quickly thing and the baby started fussing and everyone was in the same smallish room, I really think I saw the A/C guy counting how many kids there were. I know there’s only four but in that moment it felt like tons.

But on the whole, four has been smooth. We’re finding our groove in school again. Everyone is sleeping rather well. I even baked muffins the other day, people. And that was much to Asher’s shock. Have him tell you about it, and he’ll make it sound like it has been ages! eons! forever! since that happened.

You know how when there is a big event on the horizon for a long time (graduation, start date of a job, wedding, birth, etc) your mind can’t really see life past that date? Well, now life is happening past that date, and while some days are a struggle most are full of good things. Mondays are our “sabbath,” and I’m finding I am guarding them more than I have in a long time. Everyone needs the rest. Everyone needs a break in the routine. And like last Monday proved, everyone needs a doughnut from a local shop and a trip to the wildlife sanctuary sometimes.

asa joel ortiz in pictures

He came quickly on a Friday morning. And like those that have come before him, the Ortiz genes beat out mine in the facial features department. But he can always say he got long fingers and skinny, big feet from his mama. Nice. Omar and I placed bets on his weight. We both undershot and lost. There turned out to be 9 lbs and 2 oz of baby boy tucked up in me.

What follows are pictures upon pictures. Our hospital room had spectacular lighting, so the camera came out more than with any other kiddo. They told me I could possibly go home the day after I had him. When I started laughing they agreed to another day. I love the quiet and nothing-to-do-ness of the hospital. And if we hadn’t had that second night, then Omar and I wouldn’t have had a “date” after the visitors left complete with wine and cheese and a most romantic viewing of Clear and Present Danger.

The kids love. LOVE. this new little guy. Asa will never know what “personal space” is, but I think he’ll be ok with that. He has yet to flinch or be startled when they burst into a room or hold him in awkward positions. Perhaps he really is familiar with their voices. What does startle him? Me eating nuts. Gets him every time.

The nurses were fantastic at the hospital. The oldest three were fascinated with the many bracelets Asa and I wore. And when they saw Omar wearing one, they asked if they could have one, too. A kind nurse obliged and made some up for them. The photo below is proof of their excitement.

Asa’s already a regular at a favorite restaurant of ours. A restaurant where we ate on my birthday just the day before he arrived and where we returned four days later so I could enjoy a beer rather than a milkshake.

I remember the nights being the hardest with the first kiddos. With Elisha it was figuring out the whole parenting, nursing, sleeping, everything. With Asher there was a toddler in the house, and well, I get exhausted just looking back on it all. And Lenna? There was a 2 year old and a 4 old. Again, makes me tired just thinking about it. But now that the youngest is almost 4, there’s a lot less “neediness” in the house and a lot more independence. Now I look forward to the nights. The house is quiet, and it’s the time we get one-on-one time with this boy.

I am so glad you are here, Asa Joel.