Showing posts with label Memories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Memories. Show all posts

A Happy Review Of A Rough Year

This time last year, none of us knew how much of a roller coaster 2020 would be! Despite it being very stressful from a political and world events perspective, on a personal level there are still blessings to be found as I look back on it now.  I have written one of these yearly recaps every year for the last 12 years, and I will continue because it is an exercise in gratitude.  It's a way to count blessings that may not seem as obvious, because even in hard times, the Lord's grace to us is there when we look for it.


January was a relatively quiet month.  We started out the year with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, and a horrid cold that last for 2-3 weeks for me and Derek (knowing what we know now...well, we wonder what that was, because we haven't gotten sick since).  Then we settled back into our school routine. At this time I was attempting to take a step back from our co-op, because it was turning out to be harder on our family than I thought.  We did squeeze in a trip to a local historical museum with one friend, and a hike with another, along with a date night for me and Derek!  We saw 1917, which inspired me to start my World War One personal study project.


February started off with a flurry of snow days, including one storm that dropped over a foot of snow on us.  In the middle of one of those storms, the girls went to a daddy/daughter event with our church, all bundled up in princess dresses and snow coats.  We also had the first of many car problems that would plague us in 2020 - a new transmission was installed, though we are not even sure if the transmission was truly the problem.  We also celebrated Wyatt's birthday, a very bittersweet one for me as I realized he is halfway through his childhood now.  We made valentines to give to our cousins and friends, and spotted a tiny bit of greenery poking through the dirt in town.  We enjoyed a family hike at a local state park. I also had a girl's night out with some friends, and we discussed the rumored virus.  I remember saying I didn't think it would be that big of deal...hadn't we made it through several other varieties of flu - bird, swine, etc - just fine?  Joke's on me I guess.


This month started out like every other March I ever remember - brown, muddy, a little boring.  We got out and enjoyed the warm weather, and saw our friends one day at a McDonald's play place, were I was informed that if I didn't want to run out of toilet paper, I might want to grab some, because it was selling out.  I was honestly shocked at this, very surprised at the level of panic.  A few days later we went to a train museum with my sister, and the next day we snuck in a trip to the library and stocked up on books. Our co-op was cancelled for the week (little did we know it would end up being cancelled the rest of the school year). The day after that almost everything was shut down, including our church.  We had the first "church at home" of what would end up being way more Sundays than I thought.  As our opportunities to get out of the house dwindled more and more, we worked on letters for our family and friends, and I learned how to make whipped coffee.  At the end of the month our governor issued stay-at-home orders, but I still went out for takeout scones in my car every Friday, and it was a much-needed outing.  We also made it a point to go on hikes as much as we could for exercise and fresh air.  People weren't meant to stay inside all the time. 


Finally in April I stopped obsessively checking the news for changes, and realized I just had to live my life. Derek started building a playhouse for the kids, and I continued with visits to our local coffee shop for takeout, found several fun projects for the kids, and enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather which we celebrated with going out for grocery-store popsicles - eaten in the car.  Easter came and went, and it's the first Easter ever that we didn't start the day by going to church. The kids were especially disappointed that we couldn't do our usual sunrise service, but we did still enjoy an egg hunt at Grandma's house.  We celebrated Clyde's birthday as he turned 6 years old!  I usually try not to rush the summer vibes, but this month I did.  In my mind, everything would be better in the summer.   Later in the month I organized a photo scavenger hunt for the kids that we did from our car, as well as weekly family movie nights and Sunday school "parties" through Zoom.  We all had cabin fever, but we tried to do little things to make the best of it.

On The Blog: Certainty


The weather started to warm up, and we enjoyed more days running around at parks and going on walks.  Mother's Day ended up being a favorite for me - we went on a nature walk with Derek's mom, had a picnic lunch overlooking the mountains for me, and then visited my mom in the afternoon.  We finished up the school year earlier than expected, thanks to having so many Saturdays at home with nothing to do but school.  I had the kids pick out some books for summer, and we finished the school year with donuts.  Derek installed a greenhouse on our porch and started growing various vegetables and flowers.  At the end of May the beaches in Texas reopened, and we took a road trip to spend a week in Galveston.  It was a perfect refresher for our family - I don't think I realized how stressed I was about all the pandemic stuff until we got away for a few days.  Though it was an eventful trip, with a problem with our beach house and an ear/throat infection that required an urgent care visit for antibiotics, we mostly just enjoyed the water and pool and restaurants.


We got back from vacation at the start of June, and I determined we were going to have a good summer even if it wasn't totally "normal".  But the parks opened, and our church reopened for in-person services, and just those two little things made a huge difference.  I made a big summer to-do list that included hikes, playing in creeks, craft projects, and lots of summery food.  We also planned an ocean-themed birthday party for the boys with our friends and family, after delaying it for several months! Derek and I got out for a date that involved mini golf and takeout, and we went fishing for my birthday.  We celebrated Derek on Father's Day.  And overall we just enjoyed the warmer weather and the break from school.


We found some fireworks to watch on the 4th of July, which I was so grateful for since so many shows were cancelled.  Then a week later, Derek surprised me with a weekend getaway to a Gaylord resort for our 12th anniversary!  We enjoyed the night away and getting to lay by the hotel's pools without worrying about anybody not being able to swim.  We also made the trek to our county fair, which included a free circus show and rodeo events.  I was so proud of our little county for continuing with the fair, since so many counties had cancelled theirs.  We had a couple hikes with friends and did more at-home summer activities like sidewalk paint, homemade play dough, and local sightseeing at historical sites and national monuments.

On The Blog: Homeschool Curriculum Chat Series - Science, Language Arts, History, Math, Bible


We started gearing up to restart the school year in August, but not before we sent off the summer with a little more fun - campfires (before wildfires got out of control and a ban was instituted), porch camping, and finally a trip to Arches National Park and Black Canyon Of The Gunnison! It was a beautiful trip, even though it was short.  It was a trip that felt truly energizing instead of just stress-relieving, as our vacation in May had been. Derek finished up the summer with getting the roof on the kids playhouse, while we had our first day back to school.  Wyatt started 4th grade, Gwen started 2nd, and Clyde started 1st.


We had some wild temperature swings in September, including a first snow!  But overall it was a fairly mild month, and we spent time outside studying plants as we learned more about botany for our homeschool science.  We also ended up taking a weekend trip to Nebraska for Derek's cousin's wedding.  It was lovely, and I read quite a lot of my World War One book in the car.  The kids started Awana at church, which gave them a regular outing, and gave Derek and me almost weekly date nights.  At the end of the month we celebrated Clarice's 5th birthday!  


October always brings a lot of fall fun with it, and this year we managed to squeeze in a trip to a corn maze, and a fall hikes at the peak of color.  I took our annual fall family pictures at my parent's house.  Derek started gearing up for hunting season, and I started teaching the kids how to embroider (we're still working on it).  We took a trip out to our friends' ranch and had a lovely visit with them, as always.  I also flew out to Montana with my mom for my cousin's wedding - it was a whirlwind trip, but I'm so glad we went!  At the end of the month we went target shooting, and I went deer hunting for the first time in about 8 years.  I got one on the first morning, thanks to my great hunting guide (Derek)!  We celebrated Georgiana's 3rd birthday at the end of October!  We also did our little Reformation Day activities that have become a tradition for us.


Derek spent several weekends hunting in November, so we didn't do too much at the beginning of the month.  We voted on November 3rd, and then I spent the rest of the month obsessively reading the news and being stressed about the dubious election results. We visited with friends, kept plugging away at schoolwork, and just enjoyed time at home.  On Thanksgiving we enjoyed seeing our family and thanking the Lord for getting us through a very unusual year.  Then we cooked a second Thanksgiving dinner for our own little family, just because.


Even though this December was just as busy for us as any December is, it somehow still felt more relaxed.  We enjoyed a trail of lights with my family, a Christmas party with my extended family, a Christmas party with our Sunday school class, a winter hike, and a trip to see my grandpa.  Even though restaurants were targeted for closing indoor dining this month, we still went out to eat on the patio or in outdoor tents during our Awana date nights. The kids and I decorated a "night tree" with dried fruits and popcorn for the deer, and we read a lot of Christmas picture books to go along with school.  We visited a train museum with friends on Christmas Eve eve, and it was so nice to have a field trip after having so few this year! We went stargazing in the mountains, the darkest place we could find, to see the "Christmas star", a connection of Jupiter and Saturn.  We somehow managed to squeeze visits with both sides of our family in on Christmas Eve, and then we enjoyed a quite Christmas Day at home, opening presents, playing games, and watching movies. In the week between Christmas and New Year's I became aware of some invasive privacy policy changes to Instagram, and after a year of censorship and activism on the part of the big tech giants, I'd had enough. I prepared to say goodbye to Instagram and Facebook, probably for good. (You can find me on Parler and MeWe now!) We celebrated Derek and Gwen's birthday after Christmas, with my girl turning 8 years old!  We finished off 2020 with a family movie night at home, which seemed an appropriate and comforting end to this crazy year.

Even though last year was a rough year, I am so thankful for the way the Lord has carried us through, and the way He has blessed our family this year with time together and fresh perspectives on what really matters.  I want to remember that as we head into 2021!

The Value Of Creating Tangible Things

My grandma on my dad's side died when I was around nine years old.  I remember crying at her funeral, but I don't think I fully realized at the time what I lost.  

My grandma was a really neat lady by all accounts, and I remember that too.  I remember her pulling out the toys for us to play when we went over to visit, and I remember going over with my mom one day to make a fall wreath craft together.  I remember her funny magnets on the fridge, and her glasses, and her big welcoming smile.  

I wish I would have had a chance to know her as an adult.  I won't really get to know her until I meet her in Heaven.

But here in my living room, I have two blankets she crocheted.  The stitches are intricate, and the colors are bright.  And I feel like even though I lost her before I was old enough to really know her, I have something of her every time I look over and see her blankets in the corner.

I was thinking about her blankets the other day when I was mulling over the value of hobbies.  One reason that I define hobbies as an activity that produces something is because of those blankets.  There is something valuable about a hobby that allows you to create something tangible, something to pass down.  Something your descendants can point to and say "My great-grandmother made that."

I have other things around the house that have been made for me.  I have hand towels and table runners and baby blankets that were crocheted for me by dear ladies in the church where I grew up.  I have quilts my mom made with me when I was a kid, the baby book she covered in fabric and decorated for me.  And I have wooden bowls, a gorgeous cutting board, and the quilt rack that holds my grandmother's quilts, all made by my grandpa.

All these things make me think that I need a hobby that creates something that my kids can hold in their hands.  I need to print these writings into some sort of book.  I need to print the photos I take.  I need to finish that baby blanket I started knitting years ago, I need to stop thinking about learning to embroider and do it.

Because sitting under my grandma's blanket while I read a book, I realize, there is something special about passing down something tangible.  Scripture tells us we can know things about God by the things which He made, and I think there is a sense in which that is true for us humans too.  I never got to know my grandma as an adult, but even now I can know some things about her by the gorgeous blankets she made.

Material things aren't as important as people, but they can remind us of people we love, they can remind us where we come from.  Holding something in our hands isn't the same as knowing the person who created it, but we can know something about the person by the things they made.  Tangible things aren't everything, but they aren't nothing.  There is value in creating something you can touch.

And this also reminds me not to get too caught up in this digital world.  My grandkids may not ever look up my Instagram account or blog, but they will flip through albums of pictures I took, or read words I wrote on a page, and maybe if I take the time, they can do those things while snuggled under a blanket I made too.

Do you have anything that was passed down to you?  Or have you made anything you can pass down to your kids?

A Trip To The Pumpkin Patch


She sat in the back of the truck, crunching on animal crackers and drinking apple juice. The wind rustled in the corn across the road, and through the leaves of the trees overhead. Five mini pumpkins were clutched in five small sets of hands, booted feet swinging off the edge of the tailgate while we took a break.

This is the best day ever,” she said to no one in particular, the breeze catching her curls.

I glanced over at Derek, and and his eyes were smiling too. It had been a pretty great day, chasing our five little kids through a corn maze, trying not to let them get lost. Hitting dead end after dead end, discussing what we should do next and whether that path was really part of the maze or just a cheater path cutting through the rows. Finally spilling out of the corn into a field of pumpkins. Watching the kids run off to find the most perfect one. 

The reality, though, was that Derek and I were completely exhausted last weekend, after three late nights and three days spent out of the house. Our car had broken down recently, so we have had to take two cars to get anywhere for the last week.  We almost didn’t go to the corn maze, but it was our only day this month when we could. 

But sitting there with our snacks in the back of the truck, I was glad we had made the effort, even when a myriad of small things might have stopped us. It was a worthy trade for the excitement in their faces, and one small declaration of the best day ever, one sweet memory made. 

Small things that really aren’t small at all.

I hope you all are having a lovely Saturday!

A Worthy Way To Spend A Life

"Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here...
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear."

We sang the words, surrounded by faces that will forever be seared into my memory.  As we sat, I looked down at the program for the memorial.  The face of a dear lady, one of my many "church grandmas" from my childhood, smiled up at me.

"Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land."

Another dear face, a pastor I haven't seen since I was 12 years old, stood behind the pulpit etched with the words "Jesus Is Lord".  He spoke about how Jesus could return at any moment, and how we all long for the day when we can see His face, as the woman we had all gathered to remember is looking upon Him now.  And my eyes filled with tears, my heart filled with something bittersweet.  She led a life well lived for Christ, and unlike some memorials, I knew the kind words about her were not exaggerated in the wake of her death.  I knew all the words about her faithful service were true.

I hugged her husband, a white-haired "church grandpa", and choked up a little again.

We gathered downstairs for refreshments, and I looked at the quilted wall hangings she had made, photographs of her in her wedding dress. Her name will not be in a headline or a history book.  But there is nothing small about quietly serving others, and faithfully encouraging them to know and love Jesus more.  This is a truly worthy way to spend a life.  And the One who matters most, He sees and rewards His faithful servants. 

I looked around at all the people she had made an impact on, people who still are such a dear part of my own story.  And I realized, this lump in my throat wasn't just sadness for a lady a wouldn't see again, and a time that has passed.  I realized it was also joy.  Because no matter where life takes us, I know someday I'll gather with all these dear people again, around His throne, and there will be joy untainted by sorrow forevermore. And this all because of our precious Savior.  

This wasn't a funeral to grieve; this was a memorial to celebrate what Christ has done to save us, and to look forward to the time when we will see her again.  What a beautiful thing to be able to say.  What a wonderful way to remember one who has entered His glory.  And what a Savior, who takes away the sting even from death.  

 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”...But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  

1 Corinthians 15:55,57


Read all my 31 Days Of Small Things posts here.

What We Did This Summer

Remember that summer to-do list I posted back in June?  Well, we ended up crossing quite a few things off my unreasonably long list.  We squeezed a lot of fun into summer, and as we are turning toward fall now, I wanted to record how we made the most of this summer, all the unusual circumstances notwithstanding!


Trampoline Games - Check!  I taught the kids "pop the popcorn", and they had so much fun when I joined them on the trampoline!

Catch - Derek bought the boys some gloves, and he's been practicing catch with them this summer.  We never signed either of them up for baseball, but it's one of my favorite sports, and I'm glad they are getting some practice in!

Spray Bottle Sidewalk Paint - Check! We did squirt bottles instead of spray bottles, and it was a hit! But they used it up way too quickly.

Ice Cream Playdough - Check!  We used this recipe, and it was interesting - not much different than regular play dough, except it smelled like frosting.  I think this is basically the same way you would make fondant.  It's a fun recipe to try if the cooked-playdough recipes scare you!

Homemade Bubbles - We did try this!  It looked cute, but it wasn't my favorite because the cornstarch kept separating from the mixture.  But it did work!

Glow Sticks In Kiddie Pool - The weekend that we went porch camping, I also let the kids play in the kiddie pool.  I threw a few glow sticks in it that night so they could see it from the tent!  It wasn't as glow-y as I wanted it to be, but still fun.

Treasure Hunt - I put together a scavenger hunt for the kids to find some candy, using some free printables!  The prize wasn't anything super special, but they still loved it.  Clyde asked to do it again the next day, so I guess it was a success!

Reading Challenge - We did participate in our library's reading challenge!  I took the kids a couple weeks ago to get their prizes, which included a book, a journal or bookmark, and coupons for a free entree at Noodles and Co.

Nature Hikes - We took several nature hikes this summer, and it was so nice to get outside so much.

Play In A Creek - Check!  We found a creek in June, and the kids splashed around while I read.  It was lovely, and the kids begged me to go back.  Unfortunately the next time we went the creek was dry!  We'll have to remember that it dries up by mid-summer next year.

Swimming - We managed to go swimming twice!  My kids are finally getting to the age where taking them to the pool is less stressful and more fun.  The big kids do pretty well in the deeper parts of the pool, and the little three are great with their floaties on.  Wyatt and Gwen were even big enough to go on the slide this year!

Park Days - We visited several parks, including one where splash fountains were on, and the normalcy of just going to the park this summer was so good for all of us!  My kids desperately missed the park when they were all closed during the spring.

Historical Sites - We had to delay one of our historical site plans until September, just because of finances and weather. But we did add in a more local historical site, and I am totally counting it as a school field trip!  We also visited some local fossil beds one weekend.

Fishing - We went fishing twice, with plans to go more this fall!  We went to a lake near our church on my birthday, and we also fished in ponds that are very near our house.  The ponds looked really promising, but the fish didn't like our bait, so we are going to try live worms and go again soon!

Stargazing - We went stargazing in Arches National Park!  It was the perfect place to stargaze as an International Dark Sky site.  We found an empty parking lot, and laid on the pavement for about an hour, just staring at the stars with the kids and talking.  The boys also saw their "first meteor", which they were super excited about!  It was a good one too, with a long tail streaking across the sky.

Porch Camping - We try to do this every summer, and it's a big highlight for our kids!  There is just something special about sleeping in a tent.  And a bonus is that they spend alot of time playing in the tent the next day as well!

Campfire - The burn ban was lifted for a couple glorious weeks, and we snuck in a campfire a few days before the re-instated the ban.  It was lovely, and even Georgie got into the marshmallow roasting this year!

Regular Movie Nights - We tried to have a movie night with the kids every Friday this summer, with pizza and dessert!  We are definitely going to continue this tradition.  It's fun to introduce the kids to some of our childhood favorites!

Firework Fruit Kabobs - I did make these for the 4th of July!  They were so pretty.

Special Kid Drinks - At the beginning of the summer, I froze a bunch of kool-aid ice cubes.  When we were having a boring day, I'd just pour Sprite over them for the kids - it's sweet how something so simple can make you "the best mom ever", ha!

Popsicles - I didn't do great at serving up the popsicles this summer, but I redeemed myself in these last few weeks!  Popsicles all around.

Spaghetti Salad and Broccoli Salad - These are our favorite summer foods, and I made a batch of each to take on our end-of-summer trip a couple weeks ago.

Circus And County Fair - We visited our county fair for the first time as a family this year!  I was really happy they went ahead with it.  There was also a free circus at the fair, and the performers were great!

Dates - Derek and I were able to go on a date night this summer (rare occurrence)!  We went mini-golfing and had a take-out picnic in the park.  We also had a whole weekend away at the Gaylord hotel!  It was beautiful, and we had a great time.

Boys' Birthday Party - We threw a joint birthday party for the boys!  We did a party for the girls last fall, and had plans for a boys' party in April.  We ended up doing it in June instead!

End Of Summer Trip To Arches - We ended up taking a weekend trip out to Arches before we started the school year!  It was a really lovely trip, and I'm going to share more in another post soon.  I have too many pictures to share here!


Stuff We Didn't Get To:

Regular Game Nights
Trampoline Sleepover
Drive-in Movie
Bible Verse Memory Challenge
Make Bird Feeders
Origami "Fortune Teller" with Boredom Busters
Puffy Paint Ice Cream Cones
Hand-clapping Games
Tic Tac Toe rocks
Homemade Bouncy Balls

I am hoping to add some of these into our fall plans, and if not, I'll just tack the rest onto next summer's bucket list!

Did you all do anything out of the ordinary this summer?

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