Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 was the year...

2000 was the year Wade and I got married.

2001 was the year Isaac was born.

2002 was the year we moved to the duplex on Bel-West.

2003 was the year the twins were born, we moved to Wiser Lake Road and Wade began working in construction.

2004 was the year I barely remember, I think because I had three little boys under age 3.

2005 was the year Elijah was born and Derric & Amanda got married.

2006 was the year Wade and I started hiking together.

2007 was the year Kris and Jonathan got married and we moved to North Dakota.

2008 was the year we spent landscaping our new yard.

2009 was the year we continued landscaping, God healed Dad's cancer, and Kenner and Karen got married.

As I look ahead to 2010, I hope this year will be marked by being able to adopt, but I realize that many of the time-marking events of the past decade were not planned or foreseeable, and so I have to keep reminding myself to trust that God will make this year the year of whatever He wants it to be. So as 2010 unfolds before us, my prayer is that we will bring Him honor, glory and praise in whatever He has planned for us.

Happy New year, all!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

White Christmas

I don't have to dream...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

His favorite things

Isaac - "If you counted everything in the world, I think roller coasters would be my 50th favorite."

Me - "50th? What things do you like better?"

Isaac - "Legoland, Texas, war."

Me - "Why Texas?" (he's never been there)

Isaac - "It sounds peaceful and like a place girls wouldn't go very much."

This from the kid who puts war above roller coasters in his list of favorite things!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Silent Night-t-t-t

Levi's favorite song these days is Silent Night, thus that is the song the boys have chosen to sing for the Christmas program at church. After practicing it tonight, Wade gave Levi some tips on annunciation.

"Try singing it 'silent nigh-T, holy nigh-T...'"

Levi caught on right away and spent the next several minutes wandering the house singing "silent nigh-T, holy nigh-T, all is calm-T, all is brigh-T, round yon virgin, mother and child-T, holy infant so tender and mild-T..."

Monday, December 07, 2009


"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go...."

This is our lovely tree which I kinda feel bad about cutting down, I mean it was really a well-established tree, but it was well established at a tree farm which makes it more okay, sorta.

We are celebrating Advent with a basket this year rather than a wreath, since my wreaths in the past have been pretty much needle-less by Christmas Day. This one stays nice and fresh looking all season long!

Meet Lazarus, so named because this spring after I pruned him back to about six inches high and completely naked, Wade said, "that thing is dead." Behold, he lives! I don't know for certain, but I think this is his sixth Christmas with us and it's certainly his most beautiful (some years I haven't had him turn red because he wasn't in nice enough shape for me to want to draw attention to him). I think the pruning did him a lot of good.

Double Take

Levi has gotten pretty good at doing handstands and loves to show them off for anyone who will watch!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Salvation and The West Wing

In a recent episode of The West Wing, my all-time favorite television show ever, Leo was agonizing over a war-friend who had made some bad decisions. This disturbed Leo because he and this friend had been rescued from enemy territory at the expense of one of their rescuer's lives, and he had always felt that they owed it to this fallen soldier to live an exemplary life of service, as a way of honoring him and his sacrifice, as a way of making his death worth something.

And it made me think of Jesus, and how he rescued me from enemy territory and it cost him his life. And it made me realize in a way I hadn't really thought of before how my life should be an exemplary life of service to bring Him honor. Jesus died to save me... was it worth it?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life with Boys

It's amazing how often I relate to the Baby Blues comic strip. Here's another one I love!

To follow it yourself, log on to

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eight Years Old

Happy eighth birthday Isaac!

We had a fairly low-key celebration tonight (just our immediate family), but it was a big hit nonetheless -- when are birthdays not? After Wade got home from work Isaac opened presents, much to all the boys' delight ("I can't wait until tomorrow when all the presents are more shared" - Luke), then Isaac's requested dinner of sliced ham on toasted buns, and finally birthday cake -- make that LEGO birthday cake (thanks Amanda)! Tomorrow evening we'll finish off the celebration with a trip to Dickinson for swimming at the rec center and finding a resident for the new aquarium bubbling on the kitchen counter!

While at Legoland last month, Auntie Amanda picked up some Lego forms for making cake or jello, and man do they work slick!


Levi wrote this birthday message for Isaac.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Young Love

Last week Luke informed me that Isaac was in love.

"Oh really," I replied. "With who?"

"I don't know her name, but she goes to our church and sits in front of us," he answered.

This narrowed it down to one of our pastor's daughters (he has five), but I didn't pursue it and soon forgot about it, until this morning as we took our seats behind Pastor Burkhalter's family and Isaac leaned over and whispered, "See that girl with the black shirt? I fell in love with her."

"I see," I responded. "Do you know her name?"

"No. What is it?" he asked.

"It's Ruth. So what made you fall in love with her?"

Isaac assumed a very serious expression and pondered for a moment, until Luke jumped in and said very seriously, "She waved at him. And he waved back."

"Yeah," Isaac said dreamily, nodding his head.

It was about all I could do to keep from laughing out loud, which would have been bad for many reasons. Several minutes later, Isaac asked, "What's her name again? I'm going to talk to her during snack time."

Unfortunately for him, Ruth and her family had to leave immediately after the service, but he didn't seem too broken-hearted. In fact, I think he'd forgotten about wanting to talk to her... at least until next Sunday!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Picture Time

It's time again for fresh faces in our living room frames, so the boys and I headed to Mirror Lake Park and snapped away. Thankfully Elijah brought a small stuffed animal with him, and I was able to use it to coax more natural smiles from all four of the boys. You know that ├╝ber cheesy toothy grin that little kids do that doesn't make their eyes light up at all? Yeah, you know the one -- I got a lot of those! Thankfully I was also able to get these more natural looking smiles too!

Isaac, almost 8
Levi, 6 1/2
Luke, 6 1/2
Elijah, 4 1/2

Saturday, November 07, 2009


This made me smile.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Women of Faith

I had intended to write two weeks ago about my trip to Women of Faith in Minneapolis, but alas, my intentions went unfulfilled. I blame this completely on our computerless Sundays rule, cuz you know it couldn't possibly be my fault!

On October 16 and 17 I joined 11 other wonderful ladies and about 7000 strangers, who I'm sure were wonderful, too, for the Women of Faith Conference. Our group was a string of family members (and one unrelated friend) who were mostly not related to each other, but were all close family to someone else in the group.

My mom, sister and I originally decided to attend the conference in Minneapolis because it was the easiest/cheapest event all three of us could get to. And then the inviting began. Kris invited her mother-in-law and sister-in-law and a friend. I invited my mother-in-law (neither of my sisters-in-law were able to come). My mother-in-law's sister also came with her daughter and daughter-in-law. My mother-in-law's sister-in-law along with her daughter-in-law also joined us. It was one big mother-sister-daughter-in-law party! I was blessed to be related to the most people there.

The conference was great. We sang along with Nicole C. Mullen; we laughed with Anita Renfroe; we cried with Steven Curtis Chapman. And it was so much fun to listen to the "regulars" share their stories and their hearts.

But as fabulous as the conference was, the most memorable and enjoyable parts for me were with my family. The first night I roomed with three of my cousins-in-law, and we laughed and laughed and laughed. The second night my mom, sister and my sister's sister-in-law stayed up into the wee hours playing games and, again, laughing ceaselessly.

Six of us stayed through Sunday and had a little bit of free time to spend together. My mom, mom-in-law, sister, and sister's mom-in-law and sis-in-law and I got a walking tour of downtown Minneapolis (we did finally find that bus stop... about a block from where we started!) and visited the Mall of America. And what do you think these six ladies did there? Why, we visited Legoland and rode a roller coaster of course! Okay, actually just four of us rode the roller coaster -- somebody had to hold our purses!

Although we all came out of the weekend rather sleep-deprived, it was worth every sacrificed wink of sleep (and those of you who know how I love my sleep know that's saying something!). I know I am blessed to be connected to each of these women -- this remarkable family God has blessed me with.

James 1:17 says "Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights..." I know this weekend and this family are some of God's very good and perfect gifts!

Monday, November 02, 2009


I'm not usually a big fan of Halloween, but we did have some fun with it this year. A mostly happy group of pumpkins lit up our deck, and a very happy group of storm troopers led by the evil Darth Vador raided the neighborhood for treats. And, helping to ease my Dutch conscience about spending such a ridiculous amount on costumes, the boys have been wearing the Star Wars gear ever since.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My "Scary" Guys

Someone please remind me why we spent half an arm on Halloween costumes?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Does Anybody Else Do This?

If this had only happened to me once, I'd call it a fluke, but since it happens occasionally (rarely, but regularly), I'm beginning to think I'm a little more addlebrained than I like to think I am.

What happened: I ran an empty load of laundry. Well, actually this time I lucked out and only filled the washer with soapy water, but since I left the lid up it didn't actually run.

I think my laundry-doing technique lends itself to my screwing it up. Here's what happens. First I start the washing machine and add soap and let it begin to fill so the soap can dissolve while I hang up any just-washed items that I don't want to go through the dryer. The next step, ideally, is to add dirty clothes to the still-filling washing machine, close it up and walk away. What happened today was after hanging up a couple shirts, I skipped filling and closing the washer and went straight to the walking away part.


Please tell me I'm not alone in this. I'd love to hear anyone else's "sheesh" stories and know I'm not alone in addlebraindom!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

He Must Be Growing

Elijah had an apple with lunch today. When he was finished, this was all that was left!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Hot Chocolate Time!

Fall has been here all of a week, and already winter is knocking at the door! October 5 marks our first snow of the season this year.

Tomatoes, refrigeration not required.

The boys bundled up and played in the slushiness for awhile, but boy were they wet when they came it!

You'd think the snow could've waiting at least until the pumpkins were out of the garden!

What a brave and cold little bud!

In a Pumpkin Patch

The weather was iffy -- chilly and threatening to rain -- but we braved it and were rewarded with a wonderful afternoon at Papa's Pumpkin Patch in Bismarck. Farm highlights are hay mazes, a petting zoo, hay rides, pumpkin trebuchet and a quarter of a million pounds worth of pumpkins (that's what they told us, anyway!). Here are are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

No, I did not intentionally dress them all the same -- those are the jackets they grabbed on the way out the door!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Typical Dinner Prayer

"Dear God, thank-you that Daddy gets to go to work and that Jesus getted to die for our sins and for mac and cheese for lunch. In Jesus' name, amen."

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Insanely Sane First Two Weeks

I had intended to write something witty and amusing about our crazy first week of school, but here it is the end of week two and nothing remarkably bizarre has happened yet, which is rather remarkable in itself.

I had anticipated a stressful year because I'm essentially teaching three grades (Levi and Luke are at such different levels academically), all of which require a lot of teacher time. But to my pleasant surprise, Isaac and Luke are able to work more independently than I had expected, allowing all three boys to be working at once, at least for brief periods of time. Throw in the few group subjects and things have been falling nicely into place.

Despite my optimistic nature, I can't help but wonder "what's wrong?" and "when is this all going to come crashing down?"

I have noticed a few little quirks -- not problems, just quirks -- that I'm not going to let bother me. For instance, Luke does his math problems in random order. He'll start at the top of the page (sometimes), then work down the side, or skip to the bottom and come back up. Sometimes he'll miss one in the middle somewhere, so I make sure to check that they're all completed before he leaves the table.

To my surprise and delight, Isaac is very excited about the journal I'm having him keep. Three days a week I have him write a few sentences about whatever he wants -- really, WHATEVER he wants. I told him he could even write "I don't know what to write. I don't like this journal. Have I written enough yet?" Amazingly he chooses to write about our family, exciting happenings in our home and other things that interest him. It's good penmanship, spelling and grammar practice for him, but really it's more for my benefit because it allows me to assess which English areas need more attention and practice.

Levi has also surprised me with his reading progress. He struggled so hard last year to connect the name, sound and visual of the letters of the alphabet, but now he's putting them together and sounding out simple words and not hating it! Thank-you, Lord! This is truly an answer to prayer. I really thought we had a severe dyslexic on our hands, and maybe there is some of that in him, but the past two weeks have shown me that it's not as bad as I had worried it might be. I know, I know, we're still only on lesson 8 ("Dan has an ax. Max was mad."), but that's eight lessons more than he got through last year!

I'm sure we'll have our share of hairy days this year, and likely by next May the boys will have tired of subjects that interest them now, but for now I'm thanking God for every day that we get through without moaning, groaning, tears or tempers... or me having to lock myself in a bathroom for a parent/teacher conference.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Interview with Kerri Howard

(Harv Estman, a deep radio-announcer-type voice) This is Harv Estman with the 2009 garden report and our special guest, gardener Kerri Howard. Welcome to the show, Kerri.

(Kerri) Thanks for having me, Harv. It's my pleasure to be here!

(Harv) Produce is still trickling in from the Howard garden, but already the pantry is well stocked for the coming winter and beyond. Kerri, tell us how you feel about this year's harvest.

(Kerri) It's been a great year in the garden, for sure! With the late planting we had for some of our veggies, and the lack of super hot days, I wondered whether all of the crops would thrive, but I've been pleasantly surprised.

(Harv) Is there anything that didn't fare well this year?

(Kerri) Two things. The cantaloupes really needed a longer growing season. They're the size of baseballs now, so unless the summery weather continues for several more weeks, those just aren't going to happen for us. The other crop flop was the broccoli, which really grew well, but it ended up full of worms. Next time I'm going to have to spray it earlier in the year to keep the bugs away.

(Harv) I see your pantry is filled with beans and pickles. How much produce have you canned this year?

(Kerri) We've got about 30 quarts plus 30 pints of green beans, and those are done for the year, other than gleaning the occasional handful for dinner. I've got 34 quarts of dill pickles, and those are still producing a little, but they're definitely slowing down. I may get another three or four quarts off of them yet. There are also ten pints of salsa hiding in there somewhere and I'm hoping to make another batch this week as more tomatoes ripen up.

(Harv) Does that represent the majority of your gardening?

(Kerri) The beans were definitely a good portion of the garden, as are the tomatoes, but we've also been enjoying lots of corn on the cob, which you won't see in the pantry. Those are definitely the three biggest space-takers in the garden this year, with cucumbers and pumpkins coming in close behind.

(Harv) Is there anything else you planted this year?

(Kerri) We did have carrots earlier in the summer. We've been enjoying strawberries since June -- they're ever-bearing plants and will keep on going until a hard frost. Besides tomatoes for salsa, we also have four cherry tomato plants which have been going great guns! We've got lots of zucchini, which I've been pawning off on anyone who will take it. Would you like some?

(Harv, laughing) That's very generous of you, but remember I'm only a fictional character. I don't really eat anything.

(Kerri) Oh, right, sorry. Let's see, the pumpkins are coming along nicely and I'm optimistic that they'll be big, beautiful and orange by Halloween. We planted raspberries this year, but they're just baby plants yet and only produced a handful of berries. Oh, dill! I'm so glad I planted dill! With all the pickles I've been doing it's been a lifesaver having a very abundant supply of dill on hand!

(Harv) Will next year's garden be much the same as this year's?

(Kerri) Some things I'll always plant -- corn, pumpkins, tomatoes, beans. But I've been able to can enough beans and cucumbers this year that I probably won't need to do any next year, so I may just plant a few to eat fresh and try something different in their places next summer, possibly potatoes, maybe some onions and garlic.

(Harv) Sounds delicious! If I had a mouth I'm certain it would be watering! That wraps up our interview with Kerri Howard and the 2009 garden report. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Kerri, and thank-you to all our listeners for tuning in!

Monday, September 21, 2009

And I Quote Again

This morning as Wade scooped Luke up into a big hug, he said to Lukey, "You're getting too big. We gotta get you to stop growing."

Luke's suggestion: "Maybe if I stopped eating my vegetables?"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

And I Quote...

We've instated a new rule in our home -- computerless Sundays (I know, here I am blogging, but the kids are in bed and don't you dare tell them!). Videos are still fine, but no computer or video games on Sundays... which I could go on about, and probably will sometime, but not now; this is all the background you need for this quote.

Papa got out his computer to watch a dvd on with the boys, and he says to them, "Let's be naughty!" to which Lukey replied, "Let's not, and say we did."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Whatever it Takes

So much for "You have to finish your dinner before being excused."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Garden Business

It's not that I've been intentionally neglecting the blog, it's just that this is the pile of veggies coming out of the garden every other day, and picking, washing, prepping and canning them takes a bit of time. On the alternate days there's also a pint or two of strawberries. So far I'm up to about 35 quarts worth of green beans and 14 quarts of dill pickles canned and stacked in the pantry. The cherry tomatoes get eaten as fast as I can pick them (the boys think they're candy), and I'm pawning off zucchini on anyone who will take it (if I'd realized how abundant they would be, I would have planted just a few seeds instead of the whole package!).

The corn is also coming on (we've eaten a few ears and are hoping for more this weekend), and three of the literally hundreds of tomatoes (the full-size ones, that is) have finally ripened up. Hopefully the rest follow suit before frost so I can get some salsa made! The pumpkins are small yet, but I'm optimistic that by the middle of October they'll be good carving size. The largest cantaloupes are the size of grapes... I'm not holding out hope for them this year. Oh well. The broccoli is also coming along nicely, but so far the bug spray I used on them has not been effective. If I don't find something else soon I may just have to abandon that crop because cooking up little green worms would gross me out for days!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Small Town Living

Episode Number 1: On Wednesday I called a girl to babysit. I've never met her or her family before (which is rather unnerving, entrusting your children to a stranger!), but she came well recommended from a friend of mine. She said she could get a ride to our house so not to bother picking her up. I was about to start giving her our address and directions when she interrupted, "Oh I know where you live. I'll see you Friday."

Episode Number 2: I had a doctor appointment this afternoon (just routine, no worries, mothers-of-mine) and left the boys with the above-mentioned sitter. As the receptionist typed in my info, she said, "Oh, you're a friend of Grace's, right? The one with the four adorable boys!" Why yes, those would be mine, thanks. "Oh, and tell your husband thanks for getting our computer hooked up the other day." Will do. Now I don't know this woman from Eve, but in a town this size, everybody (except me) knows pretty much everybody (including me).

Episode Number 3: This morning I put an outgoing card in the mailbox. This afternoon I returned to find a phone message from the post office saying that because of its shape, said card required an extra 20 cents postage. I grabbed a quarter and walked to the post office. Before I got to the front desk the postmaster had pulled my card from somewhere out of sight, and before I plunked down my quarter he'd slapped a 20 cent sticker on it and handed me my change. And when I said that I'll try to make my cards more rectangular in the future (rather than square), he handed me a "mail dimensional standards template" for my own personal use.

I love small towns.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Back to School Grinch

Is it awful for a homeschooling mom and writer to say I'm dreading teaching English this year?

I feel like I have no room to gripe. "If you don't like doing it, then don't do it!" I can just hear people say, or at least think.

Well I'm saying it anyway -- I'm dreading teaching English!

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all about good writing and proper grammar. It's of utmost importance to me that our children learn to write and speak well. Poor English drives me nuts. There's one local publication that I can't read without suffering near-physical pain and agony due to the atrocious writing. Perhaps this sensitivity comes from having had an editor for seven years.

But the idea of learning (or teaching) predicates, subjects, direct objects and the like holds no interest for me. Seriously, do we need these terms? As long as my children learn to write and speak well, do they really need these words in their vocabulary? I know, the argument can be made that in order to learn what a proper sentence is, they need to know that it contains various parts of speech in a particular order, thus requiring a knowledge of those parts. Blah, blah, blah. Sorry, I'm feeling rather Grinchy about this right now.

I think most of the problem lies in the fact that I haven't found a grammar book I like yet. I have a second grade English book from a now defunct elementary school, but it just looks so... boring. Not that learning always has to be fun and exciting, but this is mind-numbing! If I could find a book that actually makes it interesting, perhaps my outlook would change.

I have my eye on a couple to check out next time we're in a town with a Barnes & Noble -- please, please, please be interesting! I really don't remember my own second grade English curriculum. Mom, was it great? I welcome input from anyone who had an elementary English program they loved or loved teaching!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In the Garden

I finally got the camera out in the garden to capture some of the bugs and blooms that decorate our yard.

These last two I spotted at Mirror Lake Park. The one that looks like a tiger was in a planter, but the sunflowery one is a wildflower growing along the trail.