Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Memories from 2013

This year has gone by faster than ever. It seems like Selah was just a newborn but in reality she will be 1 in a few months. She has gone from a baby needing everything, to one who is motivated to do things herself (i.e. crawl, eat food). Evangeline's vocabulary has changed so much this year. We went from a few words to full sentences (and being able to understand them). She continues to stretch us the most as parents, but we can see progress over the long run. Ari has matured so much this year. He loves so deeply it hurts him. He has a heart for caring for little ones, he has willingly sacrificed things for his sisters, and desires to know God more. 

Besides the changes we have seen in our children getting one year older, I am always hopeful to look back at myself and see some change. In conversation with AJ the other day, I told him that if I stay the same person then there is a problem. I don't want to be the same person I am today. I constantly want to be changing in to a person who is more like Christ. If I am the same next year as I am today, then I have not been seeking Him fully. I want to be intentional with my time here on Earth, as a wife, as a mom, and as a part of the body of Christ. I want to be forever changing until the day I am face to face with my Savior.

This year has been full of its challenges, and victories, and heartache, and goodbyes, and hellos, and repentance, and hospitality, and sacrifice, and change. This year I have been learning how to trust in God's timing, how to accept change, and how to let go.

There are so many memories from this year that I thought I'd recap some of my fondest.

~Reading books with AJ after the kids go to bed~
~Ari acknowledging his need for a Savior and giving his life to the Lord~
~Family Vacation in Hilton Head~
~Seeing direct answer to prayer~
~Overcoming the paci addict~
~Randomly finding our sleep-walker~
~Theological discussions with Ari~
~Picnics at the park~
~Hosting some girls from Matsiko World Orphan Choir~
~New friendships with this family~
~Celebrating birthdays: 30, 28, 5, 2, and 0~
~Campfires with the neighbors~
~Tobogganing at Pokagon State Park~
~Teachable moments with our kids~
~Enjoying all the snow~
~Having Devin stay with us a few times~
~Trips to the zoo~
~Becoming a mission-minded family~
~Catching up with friends at Coffeeclub~

I'm not sure what this next year will bring, but I am certain that God will carry us through because of who He is. He is never-changing. His timing is perfect. He is patient. He is long-suffering. He is faithful.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013


This time of year is full of traditions passed down from over the years. It's also a time to start new ones when you have your own kids.

AJ and I have had the kids make (or decorate) ornaments each year for our tree. We put their name or initial on it with the year it was made.

I have a hard time just sitting back and letting them do it. The perfectionist in me wants to micromanage every little paint stroke or drop of glitter. But I have to balance giving instruction and letting them do it on their own. Because the whole point is that it's their ornament, right?

We even got Devin to join in our annual fun!

Our church's tradition is to have the little ones sing a few songs for the congregation.

They really sang out, more so than any other year. Well...most of them did.

Ari had no desire to sing in front of everyone. He knew all the words and motions, but decided to barely sing. This was the only smile we got out of him. I can't blame him though. Being in front of a crowd is not my thing either.

Another tradition we have is doing a cookie day with my family and cousins. Each year has gotten more fun as the kids get older and are able to play with each other and help out with the actual cookie making.

They did an excellent job decorating them (without eating them all in the process)!

And our final product of slaying over an oven. The whole tradition started as a way to spend time with family, but also to make enough to share with friends and neighbors. Yum!

This little nugget decided to start crawling a few weeks ago. So that has nothing to do with traditions...but she is so cute I couldn't resist.

AJ and I have been to Christmas at the Zoo every year since 2004. That's when we started dating, and now we are able to enjoy that tradition with our kids.

My mom and sister were able to join us this year.

There aren't as many animals out, but the lights are amazing.

We went to the dolphin show, saw a brown bear eating a snack, and even saw a few reindeer.

These are only some of the traditions we love to do each year around Christmas. As you saw here, we also enjoy preparing our hearts for celebrating the birth of our Savior. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

our Christmas countdown

My sister decided to give us a Christmas present a little early this year. She wanted to make something useful and meaningful for our whole family. In all her creativeness, she was able to use this book to make a countdown to Christmas.

I've heard of a Jesse tree before...but was never inspired enough to come up with one on my own. And being the cheap person that I am...I didn't plan on buying one. But let me tell you that I am SO glad I didn't try to make one because she created something WAY beyond what my little brain would have mustered up.

The book has twenty-five days of devotions and for each day she made an ornament to be hung on the tree. She even packaged it in a fancy little treasure box since it would need to be kept out in order to access an ornament each day. Brilliant!

There are many ways she could have done this but she decided to buy the wood, stain it, FREE-HAND the picture, color it, and tie on a ribbon. Can you see the amazing work she did?!

Seriously...I did not get the creative gene in the family. *sigh* But I suppose I get to be blessed by it!

I told my sister she needed to drop out of nursing school because I was going to start her a business. She didn't exactly want to quit school with only a semester to go...I can't understand why!?

Regardless of the ornaments used for this advent, I was still impressed with the Advent Jesse Tree book. Each day of devotions has one for the kids and one for adults...they are the same set of verses just written a little differently. There are even questions for the kids to answer at the end.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone!

Thanks sister for such a great gift!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

sledding in a winter wonderland

We've been enjoying all the snow this winter fall. I can't remember the last time it snowed this much before Christmas!

The kids have thoroughly enjoyed it...even when they were freezing cold and had snow down their sleeves.

They have been determined to get the most out of it, even if it meant crawling (?) through it.

Devin stayed with us a few days and pulled the kids around in the sleds.

Then they managed to make it over to the big sledding hill a few times.

Evangeline has proven to be a trooper. She will get out there in all her gear and stay out until her little hands are frozen to the bone. She would rather play than come in any sooner.

I heard there were some crashes...enough to make me glad I was at home with a baby. But apparently not enough to stop the kids from going again.

and again...

and again.

Our sledding adventures haven't been alone. We love having friends so close!

Here is the bunch in all their sledding glory.

Dads and the kids...

naturally they had to partake in a friendly race to the bottom.

Ready, set, go!

Best of friends...

Snow ev"angel"ines...

Group sledding inside a baby pool, what fun!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pokagon 2013

Every other year we take the nontraditional route of going out of town for Thanksgiving.

We don't cook our feast of Thanksgiving food, or clean a single dish.

We just focus on holding sleeping babies while enjoying the food. (Ari kept telling me, "Mom, I can rock her and hold her for you so you can eat." Sweetest kid ever.)

Being away from home also means enjoying the luxuries of a swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna. The kids were swimming any moment they weren't sleeping or eating. Evangeline didn't think twice about jumping in and immediately making her way back out so she could jump back in again. It was like she was on auto-pilot. Jump in. Tip-toe to the stairs. Climb out. Find a spot along the edge. Jump. Repeat.

A luxury in our book is just being away from civilization. We took full advantage of going for a few hikes in the peace and quiet of the woods. No cars, no people, no noise. Just us and God's creation.

There's just something about being in the middle of nature that is calming and relaxing.

We took a stop at the Nature Center and learned about salamanders, turtles, snakes, bobcats, and bees.

We also took a trip to Shipshewana just to eat at the Blue Gate Restaurant.

And AJ happened to run in to some people from our church...while we were at this restaurant, hours and hours away from either of our hometowns. Such a small world.

We've always eaten lunch in Shipshewana, but this year we got there for dinner. Our drive back to Pokagon was beautiful with all the Christmas lights.

This was an attempt to get our children all together for a picture. Evangeline just kept petting the sheep and talking sweet nothings to it. "Awww, pretty sheep. I love her. She's so cute."

The day finally arrived when we were able to go on the toboggan run. Ari had been talking about it since our trip last year and telling Evangeline how much fun she was going to have.

There was no hesitation on her part. She loved it. Going 34 MPH down a 1/4 mile iced track is her new love language.

The climax of our trip had been fulfilled.

This day warmed up significantly that we were able to hike with Selah.

This lake was just stunning. The kids enjoyed throwing rocks and pieces of ice on it to hear it echo. I was even surprised to hear such a strange sound it made.

Before we headed home I tried to catch a snapshot of them with their cousin. So much for that!

We made sandwiches for the car ride since it was past her naptime. She fell asleep with her food in her hand. Papa tried to take it away and she instantly awoke saying "No, that's mine!" then fell back asleep. I guess the girl wasn't ready to part with her food.

It was a fun, exhausting, mini-vacation away from the everyday norm.