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Monday, December 28, 2015

New Year Must Haves

One of my favorite things to do between Christmas and New Years is to get my life organized a bit. You know, taking down the Christmas decor, cleaning up all the wrapping paper bits and boxes, getting the kids rooms organized. But most of all, getting my calendars, planners, and so on ready for the new year.
My husband and mom know me well. For years they have gotten me calendars and journals for Christmas gifts. My New Year's Eve tradition (probably 20 years running now) is to sit by candle light and open my calendars and work on adding important birthdays, anniversaries, etc. So exciting, right?! My kids must have gotten that weirdo gene from me because they now ask for calendars for Christmas and do the same.

I have a monthly budget sheet printed out ready for January as we are going to pay close attention to the money we spend and the money we save. 
We have plans to buy an acreage within the next couple years. Since we recently paid off our house, it is time to start building up a down payment for when we do find that perfect place for us. After looking at prices of places I think we realize that we will need a bit more than we originally thought for the type of place we have in mind. While we await the perfect place to pop up on the market we will also be fixing this house up to be sell ready. So a careful budget for the next few years is a must.

My mom gave me a delightful Bible journal for my morning studies. 
My calendars will hold special dates and the daily journal will hold daily life notes.
The One Year Home & Garden Devotions by Sandra Byrd "offers an encouraging, applicable, sometimes humorous, and always personal word each day for contemporary women of all ages who delight in being busy at home." 
Each month starts out with a recipe, household tip, or gardening hint. Daily you'll read a Bible Verse and then get a glimpse into Byrd's life with a story, reflection, or life lesson. Whether it is about friendship, gardening, homemaking, marriage, or life - you'll feel encouraged to go about your day with a little refreshment and see things with new eyes. 

Just by flipping through this I am really looking forward to making it a part of my morning devotions! (This book was given to me by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review.) 
My friend knows me well as she gave me this daily desktop coloring calendar. 

I still use the Whitney English Day Planner as well. So, yes, I have my little daily rituals and these are the items that I depend on each New Year to get me organized and on track!

Do you have any New Year must-haves? 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


With the shortest day of the year behind us yesterday with the Winter Solstice we now have a bit more daylight everyday from here on out. 

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,
dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings. 
Starlings in Winter
~Mary Oliver

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


December has been a difficult month for me. Yesterday morning I prayed for peace, comfort, and joy for my family for the upcoming week.  
 On a walk yesterday afternoon, walking over the bridge, I came to an abrupt halt when I noticed J O Y in the water. Upon closer inspection, it's just a piece of bubble wrap and the letters were where water had pooled on top of the plastic. This photo doesn't even show the real clarity of how perfectly formed the J O Y were.
In the mail I received this handmade card from a dear friend:
"Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." John 16:20

This is the second year that the JOY banner has hung from Jacob's Ladder:

God's little whispers are sometimes easy to miss, His blessings easy to dismiss. A card expressing Joy and Peace for us, the J O Y in the stream. Things I prayed for just that morning. Arriving at the perfect time, in the most unexpected of ways.

"Some things have to be believed to be seen." -Ralph Hodgson

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Whatever is Lovely

"We live in such a busy, hectic world—but what waits for you inside this cover is a way to quiet the noise, express creativity, and spend some sweet time with God." Whatever Is Lovely; A Coloring Book for Reflection and Worship by Waterbrook Press

While I've been on the adult coloring bandwagon for a good 6 months or more, this is the first inspirational one I've picked up. I think this is my new favorite for several reasons:

*Each page is one picture (whereas my other coloring books are double sided). This makes it perfect for tearing out and framing the artwork that speaks most to you.

*The back of the page tells where the quote, poem, or Bible Verse is from and elaborates on it.

*It's encouraging. My coloring time is my mediation time. Focusing on coloring an inspirational verse or poem gives me some time to reflect on those words.

I plan to buy a frame for the new year and change out the picture once a month with a new colored page. The words will be present to see daily on my office wall and will bring some reflection and wisdom to mind.

This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, December 18, 2015


This has been my view recently in the evenings. After a full day of school and mommying (this should be a real word. If twerking is now in the dictionary, mommying should be too!) I retreat to the bedroom when hubby arrives home to relax and recharge. It's been a cloudy December, albeit warm, it's been somewhat dreary. I feel as though I've gone into hibernation mode. Twilight the other day gave the outside world a blue hue for a moment. It was beautiful. As well as otherworldly. Perfect for my mood as I once again wrap us up in our own cocoon as another holiday approaches. ‪#‎grieve‬ ‪#‎childloss‬ ‪#‎beautyfromashes‬ ‪#‎viewfromhere‬

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

5 Years

December 16, 2010 is a date forever seared on my brain. It's the day I posted this onto Facebook:

 "I don't even want to write these words, as they are a mother's worst nightmare. We found a very large tumor in Jacob's abdomen today and the doctor is pretty sure it is a Wilms tumor or something very similar...which in a nutshell is kidney cancer. He has a CT scan tomorrow morning. Please, please pray for him...I don't want my little boy to have to go through this."

It's the day that everything changed.

I think that may be one reason (upon many) that December is such a hard month for me. I relive this day over and over again. 

I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm not having pity parties for myself. Grief is neither of those. It never ends. There is no time limit to it. I will, forever and ever, until I am with Jacob again, miss him.    
I am a bereaved mother. My husband is a bereaved father. My children are missing their brother. That will never change.
It gets old for the people around me, I'm sure. December is supposed to be a happy time. You know, the most wonderful time of the year and all that. Which is exactly one of the reasons that it is the hardest time of the year for those missing someone.

My Grandma used to want to spend Christmas Eve alone. I didn't understand it growing up, as Christmas Eve to my family was gathering together and was more special to me than Christmas Day. Now I understand. Even 5, 10, 15, 20+ years after becoming a widow, she wanted that night to herself. Her ritual was little treats that she saved throughout the year and probably a glass of wine. A darkened room, lit only by the flicker of a candle or the lights on the Christmas tree. A night that used to be filled with her husband, family, and rituals now became a night reserved for memories of those times. I get that so much now.

Five years ago today our world was turned upside down. It can never be the same again. That is the price of love and loss.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Something to Wear

Something you want... Something you need... Something to wear... Something to read...

Those are the four Christmas gifts that we purchase for the kids. When it comes to the wear aspect I like to pick up something original. For the older kids original can be a challenge as fun items don't always come in larger sizes (and they may not want to wear anything a little off the wall!), so hats or cute socks fit the bill for them. 

For Amy I can go a bit wild and have fun. I've run across two new designers that I just love this year. I try to support work at home mamas. While the items will be more expensive than ones you will find in stores, they are handcrafted, made in the US, and because of their originality they often have an awesome resale value. This is not a sponsored post, I just wanted to share two favorite stores of mine! No referral links included either. ;)

The Measure has such adorable sundresses. I purchased their grab bag last month and loved the dresses I received. The styles are classic ones reminiscent of my own childhood when sundresses were a summer staple. The dress pictured below is perfect for layering for winter, where as the others I have are a light material perfect for our hot summer days.     
Nook's Design uses vintage linens, lace, and buttons by up-cycling items. You all know my love of vintage linens...so to find a business that makes dresses out of thrift store finds is amazing!!! I ran across this designer on Kidizen and purchased the dress below at a fraction of what it cost new. It fits Amy perfectly as a tunic and the material is amazingly soft!!!
I'm keeping a lookout on her shop because her items seem to go quick and I've fallen in love with several pieces that are sold out (rompers with real mink collars! dresses make from vintage quilts!). 

Support homemade if you can this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

God Is With You Every Day

"This devotional begins each week with a prayer and scripture, followed by six days of devotions and scripture for reflection." God Is With You Every Day by Max Lucado

A new year will be upon us soon. The advent season is. This daily devotional is a perfect gift to pick up for yourself or someone special in your life. Lucado's wise words have always seemed to be able to touch on subjects happening in my life at that very moment. Combine that with Bible verses and you have a devotional that will give you strength daily. Each page is short and sweet - leave it by your bedside and spend just a couple minutes each morning learning and reflecting on God's word.

This book was given to me by BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.


After a son does the unthinkable, how can a mother go on?

On October 2, 2006, a gunman entered an Amish one-room schoolhouse, shooting ten girls, killing five, then finally taking his own life. This is his mother's story. Not only did she lose her precious son through suicide, but she also lost her understanding of him as an honorable man. Forgiven by Terri Roberts with Jeanette Windle

I'm sure we all remember hearing about the Amish schoolhouse shooting in 2006. Imagine being the mother of that shooter. Or of any shooter. I know that upon hearing of a tragedy I think "What makes someone do such a thing?" Roberts still wonders that about her own son. She wracked her brain for an answer, for a reason. Was it his upbringing? Why didn't she notice that something was bothering him, that something was wrong?

After reading this book you come to the conclusion that it's not always an upbringing that causes someone to have a darkness. It's not necessarily an event that turns someone to the dark side. Sometimes it just happens. Or as Henry, one of Robert's Amish neighbors puts it, on page 54: "I think the devil used your boy." 

It's hard enough losing a child, as so many of these Amish families did that day. Roberts not only lost her child, when he took his own life, but she also has the grief of knowing he took so many innocent lives with him. I imagine that in many of these situations, a gunman's family would feel complete isolation and blame and hate. Because the Amish community was so swift in forgiving not only Charlie (the shooter) but also the whole family by default it was healing for everyone involved, including the whole United States when they saw that forgiveness.

This book gives us a look into the life of what a gunman leaves behind in his own life. A father. A mother. Brothers. Sisters. Wives. Children. His own and those of the lives he takes.

Roberts explains how the forgiveness of the Amish helped her forgive her own son. While thankfully most of us will not ever have to deal with such a horrible tragedy such as this, there will be instances in our lives that we do need to offer forgiveness.

It was a very eye-opening book.

This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Weekend

Weekend Thankfulness:

*Exploring the downtown Christmas window walk with my sweet kiddos and cousin

*Grandma taking the kids to a movie which meant a walk around the neighborhood with hubby and dog (last time we walked sans kids was probably 6 years ago!)

*A family lunch together at the Chinese restaurant and being told "Your check has already been taken care of"

*McDonald's shakes for the kids which Jacob treated them to from a gift card he had received for his birthday in 2013 which I had been saving for a special time. A "just because" time seemed perfect - the rest of the card will be used on Jacob's birthday.

Weekend Thoughts:

*Our community is in an uproar now this season since the public school has decided that the yearly Christmas program is now just a "holiday" program and all songs pertaining to faith, Jesus, or Christianity will not be allowed. I'm curious to see how it plays out - I know the school board meeting tonight will be a lively one.

One person, one opposing view can cause so much strife. I have a friend who donated play equipment to a city park in honor of the twins that she lost. Parents are able to buy bricks engraved with their own children's names to be placed in the park and one picture option for the bricks was a cross. One person in her community caused so much dissension for the city stating that crosses have no place in a park (not even on a child's memorial brick!) that they had to take that option off the table. Whatever happened to the live and let live mentality?

 "You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." Matthew 10:22

It makes me glad to homeschool. Where we don't have to be "politically correct".      

Saturday, December 5, 2015

St. Nicolas Day

Growing up we always celebrated St. Nicolas Day (December 6th) by placing our shoes on the doorstep and waiting for St. Nicolas to fill them with little gifts. My brother and I would try to "catch" my mom or dad filling the shoes but we never once did. 

"St. Nicholas is Nicholas of Myra, whose life spanned from the late third to the mid fourth centuries. He lived in present-day southern Turkey. 

The reputation of being a man of good deeds preceded him throughout the Christian world; some of the acts attributed to St. Nicholas include him providing dowries for three young women to save them from falling into prostitution, saving innocent people from execution, and feeding the poor during famines.

He strongly lived out Jesus' command to 'give all you have to the poor' and he did so, helping those who were most vulnerable: women and the poor. He lived the command to 'love your neighbor as yourself' by example." (source)  

St. Nicolas was said to have dropped little treasures in shoes of the poor when they were left at the door step at night, hence the reason so many use shoes, though several others fill their family stockings, instead of waiting until Christmas. The tradition varies with each family, with each culture.

We put the shoes on the doorstep or under the tree. It's filled with simple little trinkets, really. This year it's a piece of chocolate, some warm socks, and chap stick. And yet the kids love it. We tell the story of St. Nicolas beforehand and the excitement is palpable.

It's a way to make advent a more important time than just focusing on Christmas Day. What are some of your family traditions?    

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Picture Thoughts

Every single morning I find Amy and Mr. Bean snuggling on the couch for a bit. 
Though he is a sweet cat, he usually won't come willingly to cuddle, except for the mornings for some reason. So this is the daily morning scene.

Smiles in pictures are rare for this girl. Though she is all smiles before, as well as after, the camera is in her face - she immediately poses for a photo by not smiling when she sees a camera. I call her my natural born model because she always does the model face when she sees a camera. Funny girl.

I've had people comment on where pictures of the other kids are as their photos are few and far between. I respect the fact that Becca often doesn't want her picture taken and even more rarely wants it to be posted to Facebook or my blog. And Joe is becoming much the same. We adults grew up without the easy access to cameras and immediate photos. I think that's a good thing. I'm not going to force my kids to get their photo taken if they don't enjoy it or post it online without their permission. I'll take photos as long as they will enjoy it and then keep the majority of their photos for family albums without plastering them online.

There is a balance between oversharing on a blog/Facebook. When it comes to my kiddos they do have a say in what I will or will not share about them. As goes for my husband as well - I will ask him before posting a photo or sharing thoughts which involve him. :) It's just the way we roll. In case you're wondering.    

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook

I recently reviewed the Trim Healthy Mama Plan and now have the chance to review the cookbook. While I do have the 600+ page original book I do like how the separate books make this plan easier to research and follow.

What I especially enjoy about this updated cookbook is that the pages are glossy (perfect for in the kitchen!) and there are pictures, which I always love in a cookbook. Some new tried and true recipes from those on the plan have also been added to the book. 

While I appreciate that a lot of the recipes are thrifty the thing I dislike, and noticed years ago when I first started the plan, is some of the special foods that are included in the recipes are expensive and/or hard to find. Items like mct oil, ghee, pressed peanut flour, etc. While these items can be substituted with other items, they won't be so "on plan" then. The authors actually have a baking line for sale now and I feel they press these items a little too much, when the previous cookbook was more about finding alternative and cheaper products.

I do look forward to trying more of the recipes now that I can see photos of the food - it makes the recipes seem more appetizing so that is a good thing! :) 

This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


I've always loved this quote from The Velveteen Rabbit. Even more so these past few years.

Being immersed in a community of women and men who have lost a child is not something one would choose to do. It's an exclusive club which only the broken, battered, and shattered join. No one wants to be in this club. We all wish we could claw our way out but forever we will be the bereaved parents. Forever.

 The beauty in these people is real. I feel that when a piece of you is in heaven that it does radiate from within. The cracks within your heart illuminate more light than before. It's a catch 22 - we want our children back with all our hearts, but their absence has taught us so much. 

They taught us to be real.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Keep Searching

33 degrees means drip, drip, dripping. Nature is decorating my house today.
I love my mama and sisters. Even if one is covering herself with a coat and one seems to be seeing Jesus at the moment this picture was snapped (my sister Rachel is going to kill me!). Such a fun day with us 6 girls and Tim Hawkins.
I laughed almost two hours straight at Tim's comedy. We were only about 8 rows from the front so it was great to see him so up close and personal!

Laughter was some of the best medicine for me this month. November and December are hard months when you are missing someone, especially someone who loved the holidays so much.
  During this month of Thanksgiving, I've been searching each day for the things I'm thankful for. Some days can be harder than others to have a positive attitude. But still I search...

Glittering icicles.

A girls night out.


 Least you think I'm implying that it's a simple thing, I'm not. There are days when my sorrow, my struggles, my grey clouds can be overwhelming. They can be so heavy. Tiresome. Burdensome.

We all have those days, but I know you grieving mama's know even more so what I am speaking of. Keep searching...even if it's just a

Soft Kleenex.

A fluffy blanket.

One swift happy memory.

It all counts. It is the little things, after all.


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