hello and happy new year

When I realized that I had not posted anything in 2015, I thought, "How could this be?"

Last Sunday night, I had a difficult time falling asleep, so I grabbed the ipad, went out into the living room and turned on the Christmas lights. I spent hours scrolling back through this blog and an older family blog. I couldn't believe how small my children once were, and how many crafts and fun activities we packed into our days. Life seemed busy then, but it was simple; although, you couldn't convince me of  this back then. Some days I think I would much rather run around and chase 4 active toddlers than sit in one place and play judge and jury with 4 emotional pre-teens. :)

Reading these old posts made me grateful. It reminded me of how the king in the book of Esther called for his annals in the middle of the night when he couldn't sleep. He recalled, then,  how his life was saved by a man who had not been rewarded for this good deed, which led to the saving of an entire race, the Jews. Nothing this drastic happened last Sunday night, but it put wind in my sails and lifted my head to say, "Thank you," to Jesus.

Our children are growing and are wonderful. Jared will be 13 in a few days. He is an avid reader and enjoys computer coding. He's very grown up and responsible, but he still enjoys playing with his siblings. I love this balance of very grown up, but still very boyish. He likes to sit and chat with me and Phil. I hope this never ends. Caleb is 11 1/2. He is my tenderhearted one. He's a peacemaker. He has a good sense to know when someone is sad. He's never in a hurry to walk through a room, so he's able to perceive the needs of others when he passes through. He adores his brother and the two of them can easily get lost for hours in our Lego world downstairs. Sweet boy! Gracie is 10. She is full of life and she loves to play with her brothers. I would say she's a little tomboy, but everything she owns is pink, and she enjoys playing dolls, Calico Critters and house with her sister. She is so good with little ones, too. She adores babies and toddlers and many of our friends are very thankful for her little mommy-helper ways. Lily is also 10 and she is becoming more and more a little version of me. While her sister and brothers run around outside, she would much rather be in the kitchen with me. Like Gracie, she also helps our friends with their little ones, but instead of playing with them, she will plan a day of themed activities, snacks and songs for them. We do differ in the fact that she is very artistic and can often be found drawing and painting or making everyday objects out of paper.

In many ways, this year has been one of the most difficult years for me, but the lessons learned are invaluable. I think I can sum it up with the word 'expectations.' I realized a few things after I turned 40...and this is in no way supposed to be a complaint...just an observation. When I was in my 20's, there was LIFE ahead of me--new teaching career at 23, new husband at 25, new baby at 29. Everything was new and there was excitement in the unknown. Then came the 30's, and while there were still new things on the horizon, like new babies, new houses, new cities, and the new venture of homeschooling, I was becoming a little more confident in my roles, and this made life's changes a little less hectic for me. And now 40. I have grown to appreciate the perspective this decade is giving me. It's helpful in raising children. I've learned that somethings just don't matter or need to be addressed. I have found that I can spend my entire day saying "Stop!" to some of their annoying pre-teen habits, or I can just laugh with them and tell myself they probably won't still be doing these things in 10 years. I am choosing to spend my emotional energy elsewhere so I can preserve relationship with them in these upcoming vital years. Would you want to spend your days with someone who constantly scolded, "Stop!" while you're being fun and playful?

So the word 'expectations.' This is where I don't want to sound hum-drum, but my realization is that THIS, right  here, right now, is my life. It's not a bad one, by any means, but it is THIS. The past 2 decades I told myself, "Someday...'this' will be, or someday 'that' will happen." Hope was on the horizon in the not-yet. I know I'm not the only one to have felt this way, to have hope in things of the future. But when you get to [possibly] the middle of your life, you realize that Heaven is, in fact, the not-yet. Anything I wait for or craft down here will always fall short of what God has prepared for me in eternity. Is it wrong to look ahead at 20 and hope for wonderful things in life? No. But I think I have had the tendency to let disappointments and hardships almost shock me. Like they are intrusions to what I am trying to create in my little world. Instead, the reality is that this is not Heaven. The disappointments and hardship are the reality of this sin-cursed world, and the intrusions are really the blessings and times of joy that God filters through my days and years to remind me that something beautiful is ahead. He remembers I am dust and that a life filled with earth's harsh realities would crush me. It's the little glimpses into the Heavenies--laughter, saying hello and not goodbye, times of worship, unbroken fellowship, peace with those with whom we dwell, feasting--these are the things that bring me the greatest joy. I have grown to appreciate these blessings more and more. They are gifts from God. How can we make it through these last days without them? Life would crush us.

Do you know this hymn, "I've Found a Friend"?
It's a gem.

"I've found a Friend, O such a Friend!
All power to Him is given;
To guard me on my onward course,
And bring me safe to Heaven.

The eternal glories gleam afar,
To nerve my faint endeavor;
So now to watch, to work, to war,
And then to rest forever."

This will bolster me in the coming years; these eternal glories that gleam afar, and not what might be or should be here on this earth. I pray this will help me be a better wife and mother in the coming year.

Happy 2016, and may Jesus, this very Friend, to whom all power is given, guard you and keep you on your course this year.


on turning 40 {my autumn}

Last October Phil and I saw Sara Groves in concert. Something she said that evening about having recently turned 40 has been swirling around this head of mine. She said if life was divided into seasons, then she was entering her autumn. If I translate this to: "my life may be half over," then I'm left in shock and wonder how I let this sneak up on me! But when I remind myself that autumn is, in fact, my very favorite season, I can enter into this new decade with a heart full of wonder and celebration.

Here are a few reasons I love autumn:

The leaves and their beautiful colors

A season focused on being thankful

Harvest as a reward for labor and toil

Anticipation of Christmas, which to me is the crown of the year

Feasts and family

Where we lived in Minnesota, there were mostly deciduous trees and shrubbery around us. During the summer, I felt like I was living right smack-dab in the middle of a giant green bush. Day after day seeing only green was a bit on the boring side, honestly. But then came October! In preparation for a typical long and cold Minnesota winter, everything around me seemed to wake-up, not die.  And that huge stretch of green trees and bushes outside my window was now showing off shades of bright orange, yellow and red.

Did you know that these colors are a tree's true colors? The green we see is only its food/energy that hide or mask its leaves' true colors. In its preparation for winter, we see a tree's true colors emerge.

Last October, autumn served as a beautiful backdrop for what God was going to do in my heart upon turning 40 in July. As I drove around town and soaked in these gorgeous colors, I thought about my 20's and 30's, and how 4 children later, I could say that my "summer years" had been very fruitful years. I have labored and toiled in raising my children--certainly I'm not through yet, but I am starting to reap a sweet harvest of seeing my children know and love Jesus. This is my season to look back and be thankful; thankful for the things God has done in my life; thankful for His faithfulness in rescuing me and my precious family in hard times.

There is beauty in every season! But I can look back and see that in my "green" time, I sought to match up and blend in with everyone else around me. I seriously didn't see it this way back then, but now I do. I compared my own mothering skills and even my children with others...it was like living right smack-dab in the middle of a giant green bush. :)

I see evidence daily that my youth is fading. I don't want to lament or grieve this; is it crazy to say that I want to celebrate this? These colors emerging from the green of summer remind me that change is good--even breath-taking! Imagine hiking in the fall and as you come 'round a bend, you see a bright, red maple. Do you gasp? Do you smile? Yes! And I am celebrating each color around every bend and turn in my life. It's all beauty. It's all evidence that Jesus was there during my spring and during my summer. I'm celebrating that His image has been stamped upon my heart and that His presence has filled all of my days and all of my nights. I pray that it is His beauty, His very image, that is emerging from me in this new season.


birthday girls

My girls turned 8 today. I'm not entirely sure when this happened, but it did.  All 4 of my kids have graduated out of their booster seats. This feels strange to us. The girls are 8 and the boys are 9 and 10. No one in our home is 'little' anymore.

At bedtime tonight, Gracie mentioned that I was hugging her this morning right as she turned 8 [at 10:48]. "You hugged me between 7 and 8 years old, Mommy. That's a special memory for me," she said.

And when I tucked Lily in, she asked, "Why can't we ask God to start our day over?"  I couldn't agree more. It was a perfect day!

Phil made them special pancakes for breakfast. We did our schoolwork, then we headed to the American Girl Store for a little birthday tea party.

We ended the day with cake, presents, skype calls, face time and phone calls from many of you who love these girls, too, and helped to make their day so special!

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girls!


november already?

A beautiful day on Lake Superior in Duluth, MN

All I can say is that we have dear family and friends. Many of you have chimed in recently to ask, "Where in the world have you been?"  I figured I had better update the blog. :)

The fall has disappeared before my very eyes. I still have lots of pictures to post from our summer vacation! Maybe I'll get to that someday, but for now, here's a quick recap of what we've been up to:


After our stop in D.C., we drove up to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York to spend a few days on Keuka Lake with Phil's parents.

We stopped by Niagara Falls on the way home.


School, our weekly Friday homeschool group, AWANA and piano lessons began.


A trip to Iowa

A wonderful visit from 2 of my former second grade students (who just turned 20!)

A trip up to Duluth to see the North Shore, the Aerial Lift Bridge and the beautiful fall leaves. I must say, Duluth is now one of my favorite cities. It's up there with Seattle.

Both of my sisters flew out to visit from Alabama and California. We spent a few days exploring Minneapolis and spent the longest time walking around in the cold trying to locate the Mary Tyler Moore statue. Fun!

A surprise visit from friends from Oregon with lunch and a meet-up at the Mall of America

Phil's sister flew out from California to join our family on our road trip down to Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum. This place was amazing! Even more so--our kids were AWESOME, enduring 15 hour days in the car.

A fun day touring our State Capitol building and seeing the giant Lego display of the Capitol there in the lobby.

So that's what we've been up to! We look forward to celebrating a few birthdays this month. Half of us have November birthdays. The girls will turn 8 on the 18th (this I CANNOT believe!) and Phil will be 40 something on the 27th. :)


school days

We're gearing up for school at our house. This year we'll have two second graders, a fourth grader and a fifth grader! Where has the time gone?

I'm excited that we've joined a homeschool group here in the area. It's an a la carte program that allows me to pick and choose classes for my kids. This semester I chose Art, Writing (Institute for Excellence in Writing), Science, and Classical Memory Master. The classes are taught by former or retired teachers. The church where we meet allows parents to check out books and materials from their extensive church library.

Here's a list of what we're using this year in school; all textbook names are links:

Second Grade


Fourth Grade

Spelling--Spelling Workout

Fifth Grade

Math--Teaching Textbooks
Spelling--Spelling Workout

Combined Subjects

Bible--Children Desiring God Series: God's Names, God's Providence, God's Promises,
Grandpa's Box by Starr Meade

Science--Answers in Genesis: God's Design for Life,
My Nature Journal

History and Geography--Story of the World Volume 2

Character--Lessons in Responsibility for Girls, Lessons in Responsibility for Boys, Character Trails


last days of summer

Our family just got home from a wonderful trip to Washington, DC, and Upstate New York. Living here in the Midwest has made it so much easier to travel to all the places we've wanted to take our kids. Nine states in 10 days--awesome!!! My only complaint would have to be all the toll roads. I really, really do NOT like toll roads.

 Vietnam Memorial

We toured the Smithsonian Museums and Galleries, which are all FREE! We gasped when we saw this!!! My girls and I have always loved Degas' Dancer sculptures and his paintings of ballerinas.


We loved seeing Seurat's pointillism up-close!

This is the kitchen of Julia Child. Her real kitchen was moved into the Smithsonian!!!

There are so many other things I'd love to share that we weren't allowed to take pictures of like the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry in 1814--our Star Spangled Banner, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Magna Carta. So incredible.

 Lincoln Memorial
The kids noticed that we've lived in the 3 states carved right over the doorway.

WWII Memorial


walnut grove

On our way home from DeSmet, we drove through Walnut Grove, MN. We loved visiting Laura's beloved dugout from her book On the Banks of Plum Creek, the museum and visitor center, and eating at Nellie's Cafe.

I get choked up every time I think about this...here's the church bell Pa helped to buy at Christmas time with the money he had saved up to buy himself a new pair of boots. Sniff-sniff. Oh, Pa.

Here I am touching the mantel used in the Little House television series!

plum creek

The site of Laura's beloved dugout in her book On the Banks of Plum Creek
Laura's "Big Rock"

 The table land above the dugout

 Wading in Plum Creek, just down the hill from Laura's dugout. She would have followed this same path to play in the creek.

The dugout caved in years ago, but its depression remains. We loved standing here imagining the family's ox and how his foot went right though the grass roof into their home.

 In keeping with our literary theme, we played Pooh Sticks on the bridge

silver lake

 Sadly, but true, this is Silver Lake. It was drained years ago to provide more farmland in the area.

Originally, the Surveyors' House was out here, but then moved into town years later

pa's trees

And now I get to write about these trees that I obsess about. :) Pa's 5 cottonwood trees. He planted them on the homestead right away for a wind break--one for each member of the family. The reason I love them so much, is that this grove is the one thing man doesn't need to restore, or refurbish in order to preserve its legacy. As we toured many of the original buildings, much had to be done in order to make them safe and meet building codes. Furniture replicas were brought in so we could see things as they would have been. But these trees...these are the trees.

 The grove is now a memorial site with this plaque affixed to a rock at the top of the hill

the ingalls' homestead

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the Ingalls' Homestead, just outside the town. There were many great activities for the kids, but I was taken by the landscape, its openness, and how the sky changed so many times throughout our day. I loved walking where Laura had once walked.

 pumping water from the well

 making corncob dolls

 making rope

 walking to church through the cornfield--this was Phil's favorite part of our day

Headed up a hill to an old church. While inside, the kids played church and I sat at the piano and played the hymn, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." It seemed fitting.

 Tidying up a dugout

And cleaning the claim shanty