Sunday, June 4, 2017

Week One is Done!

We have survived Week One of camp!  Before I get to that, let me show you a little glimpse of the parsonage, where our kids' ministry is now meeting. Sarah and I decorated it for the summer and I think it looks very cute! We still have a background piece that should be arriving this week, and that will go under the little tent area.
Alrighty, now to camp.  Last week, starting with Tuesday, we had 143, 160, 174, and 123 kids attending, respectively.  Wondering how those numbers compare?  Well, last summer we had only two days with numbers over 100, and the most we had was 109.  The year prior, the average was in the high 40s each day.  Has this camp grown or what???!!!  We had a lot of fun this past week and are really looking forward to the rest of the summer.
Photo from the back of our chapel room

Sarah with her Samuel (left) and Declan

So tired by Thursday!

Wiyaka and Declan. Love this girl!


This coming week, we will be celebrating Elizabeth's 3rd birthday on Tuesday, the 7th, and Josh ends school on Thursday, the 9th.  I'll try to share some pictures from our little birthday party. It's hard to believe our baby girl is growing up. She has changed so much this year.

~Jess

Friday, May 26, 2017

Some Family Moments

This evening we indulged in a bit of family time between rain showers. It has been raining off and on today, and we got a 30 minute window to spend around our little fire.  Toasting marshmallows has become a favorite with the girls. They love their sugary confections and singing songs together. It has turned into a great way to connect together for a bit, and I find this to be extremely important as we head into camp season next week.





This next Tuesday marks our first day of camp!  We have 10 full weeks lined up with kiddos this year, although our family will be missing the week of July 4th to travel to OH to see my parents and celebrate my mom's 60th birthday.

For a couple weeks, we have been a bit tentative, wondering if that trip and our planned VA trip in August could still take place.  The transmission on our Yukon went out unexpectedly. Initial repair costs were expected to be in the thousands, which was unmanageable for us at this time.  Then, last Friday during a group dinner, an acquaintance was telling us about a friend of his who hit a horse with his truck, totaling the vehicle. Our acquaintance had bought the truck from the guy to use for parts, and there would be a transmission available, and the mileage on it is comparable to our Yukon!  He is hoping to be able to pull it out and put it into our vehicle sometime in the next couple weeks (for a much smaller fee than the cost of rebuilding would have been). I will keep you posted on when we have a working second vehicle again!  I am thankful for this door God has opened for us.

Shannan ended school today. We will have a few lessons throughout the summer, but generally, we are planning to keep the academics at a low simmer during camp.

Declan is doing great and continuing to delight us with all his smiles. He is up on all-fours frequently now and rocking back and forth. Though he is not making forward progress yet, he is scooting backwards in an often circular direction and frequently finds himself partially stuck under the couch or his crib, depending on which room he is in.


The block parties this past week ran really well, with even more attendees than we expected!  All three days were so good and we got to catch up with a number of our families and kids that attend camp, and meet new faces in the communities around us. Shannan was really excited to catch up with some of her friends from camp last year and church.  Oh, and Lizzy allowed me to put her hair in a ponytail for the first time ever!



On one final note, Josh and I celebrated our 12th anniversary last Saturday.  It has been a crazy roller-coaster these past years, no doubt, but I am so thankful to be on life's journey with this man!  We took a few hours to explore the Badlands, with our adorable little third wheel (Declan) in tow.



~Jess







Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's the Weekend!

Can I just say what a fun weekend we have had?  It all began Friday morning when our neighbors, Shawnna and Kim came over for breakfast with Kim's little girl Makenna.  Because of the mud out here (which is beyond crazy!), Shawnna parks in our driveway and so I see her go by for work each morning. She works at a local school, and I realized it would be a great time to connect. We visited over blueberry muffins, egg and cheese muffins, and peaches with coffee. I had a fantastic time. It feels so wonderful to sit for breakfast with friends!  We decided to try it again this upcoming Friday. I'm hoping to make fried apples and maybe biscuits with sausage gravy.

Later that day, we drove up through Rapid City on our way to one of my student's homes. As his tutor, I needed to proof him for memory master. He passed with flying colors, which delighted him, his mother, and me.  I have had him in class the past two years and his mother has become a precious friend.  She and I chatted for a while as our kids played together before we drove home.

Saturday on my part was spent cleaning and baking. I made cinnamon scones for the kids at church, and then pizza for my kids and pull-apart buffalo pizza bread for Josh.


Josh left the house a bit before 8am and returned near 7pm.  He joined a group from Ohio at the camp who is working on the new pavilion. Previously, kids have been walking almost a quarter mile to the bathrooms from the basketball courts and the main area where the outdoor activities take place. This pavilion will not only provide shade and picnic tables, but bathrooms!  We are so excited to have this structure coming.  If you haven't been out here, its an absolutely beautiful place, but there are few trees. It does get very hot here in the summer and though the almost constant breeze is nice, it will be a relief to have a shaded area as well.  The picture below was taken near the end of the workday on Saturday.  On Monday, I believe they plan to pour concrete. By the end of the week, I know they will have a lot done.
This coming Tuesday will be our final CC meeting before the summer. It's hard to believe that May is nearing and the schoolyear will be coming to a close in a few weeks.  We have only a couple more Wednesday nights of AWANA before our awards ceremony--complete with ice cream social. Sarah Mouw and I are talking about summer program plans for the kids.

It's in the 70s today. I have the windows open to allow a breeze to flow through. The girls are outside with popsicles while Josh chops up some brush. He does have a good bit of maintenance to do around the property we are renting. I think he enjoys the outside physical labor, tho that might end as the summer heats up!  I'm really hoping we will have AC before it gets too bad.  Last summer we had so many days over 100 degrees.  When we moved in, Josh and a friend, Steve, installed some ceiling fans and I am every so glad we have those!

Have a blessed Sunday.

~Jess

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spring Break

Before I share the fun stuff, let's chat about today.  Declan got a bath and Lizzy is currently in one.  Me?  I'm still in what I wore yesterday. As in, I took a shower yesterday and threw on a t-shirt and yoga capris and I'm still wearing them. On the other hand, I have 2 piƱa colada cakes ready to go for tomorrow night and these little rice krispie treat nests ready to go for snack time at church tomorrow!


It's a few minutes shy of 4 in the afternoon and I'm still working on a cup of coffee from this morning. Oh, and I just ate my lunch (a bowl of Cheerios). But I also got my lesson plans done for the next two weeks of our CC (homeschool) group, so all in all, I'm feeling pretty ok about the day so far.

Now, on to Spring Break. I don't normally do much with Spring Break, or have one at all, seeing as Josh gets a 4 day weekend but not a whole week off. This year, I let Amanda, Pam, and Sarah talk me into joining them up in Rapid and the area around for some fun activities. We visited Reptile Gardens...






and went to a trampoline place.




We went hiking....



and to parks.








And to end our week, Shannan completed her Memory Master proof with her CC tutor, which means she had to remember roughly 500 pieces of information involving history, science, geography, English, and Latin, and be able to recite it without help. I'm so proud of her!


We celebrated with cake pops and having Leah spend the night on Thursday with us. I made cinnamon rolls in the morning.



And that ends our Spring Break week!  We are slowly winding down with our AWANA group on Wednesday nights, preparing for an ice cream social, awards, and a presentation to the families of what we have learned this year. That will be in May, and then we will begin our Summer Wednesday night programs that will take us through the camp season. Camp is so close. I can hardly believe it's coming again already. And I'm so, so glad that I won't be pregnant through it this year!  Hehe. Now, if we could just do something about AC. Josh and I both had major dental stuff come up and had to pay for significant work on the truck, so there went our tax return this year and our plans to buy window units for this house.  I'm hoping we can at least secure one. It is downright toasty out here in the summer!

I'm off to fish my little Lizzy out of her bath and check on preparations for tomorrow's Easter service. I'm excited for our kiddos to be singing in church and hopefully reciting a Scripture or two. 

I'll sign off with this. He brings life and makes all things new.

Blessings to you, and Happy Easter!

~Jess

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Evening

It's Sunday evening. Josh is at Teen Night out at the camp.  He left at 4 and it's now 6:30, roughly an hour before I wrangle our little minions in to bed. Speaking of minions. They watched "Up" and ate popcorn for dinner.  They wanted popcorn, and I didn't want to make dinner. It was a great compromise. Did you eat popcorn for dinner as a kid?  I know I did. Popcorn, waffles, and watermelon could all be considered a dinner entree in my book. I still enjoy them to this day. Ask poor Josh. We probably spent 1/6 of our grocery budget on watermelon during my pregnancies with Amberlyn, Elizabeth, and Declan. I still enjoy it all summer. Fortunately, Amberlyn and Lizzy also eat it with me!  I'm glad at least a couple of my kids appreciate it. I'm hoping Declan will be a fellow enthusiast this summer. He has just begun eating baby food like cereal, squash, and sweet potatoes.  So far he seems to like everything.

Ok, back to the movie "Up".  I love that movie.  It's not the most hilarious or exciting kids movie out there, but it is so loaded with moments that bring about wonderful discussion.  Tonight I cried a little, as I always do, when Carl is sitting alone without his wife. I talked with my older girls about death, and what happens to us when we die, but also what happens with those left behind.  I love watching Carl age with his wife, living a different kind of adventure than he had dreamed, but living a full life with the one he loved. And at the end, I love how he realized that his adventure wasn't over yet and he could have new adventures with Russell.  Tonight, with some tears, we talked about Pop-pop and Ya-ya, Josh's dad and mom.  Josh's mom passed away shortly after we were married and never got to meet her granddaughters (or Declan), and they would have adored her.  I talked to them about the life that Pop-pop and Ya-ya had together and then explained to them that when Ya-ya went to be with Jesus, God called Pop-pop to new adventures here on earth.  No matter what movie it is, Shannan picks it apart and analyzes them. Amberlyn has started to do the same. I know it's cuz their mama does it! I love finding good truths hidden in unexpected places. No, it's not the intent of the producers probably to have them in there, but none the less, most movies have something applicable to life (whether good or bad) and can bring about a satisfying conversation afterwards.

And speaking of adventure, I have to say my life has not ended up like I pictured it back when I was in college.  I had plans for my future of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. You know what?  God's plan was So. Much. BETTER.  I'm sitting here at my dining room window, watching an amazing South Dakota sunset, and listening to my 4 kids playing in the living room. I get to be a stay at home mom.  There was a time when I didn't know if that would be possible. I get to homeschool my kids.  I have an amazing husband who works hard to make this possible. I get to live in an indescribably beautiful state among an amazing people group that I had no idea I would ever meet when I was growing up. I get to serve these people and my Jesus here.  I love the friends I have made.  I chase cows out of my yard.  This is not a life that I had pictured for myself, but I can't imagine it being any better. Ok, maybe A.C. would be nice, but that's a minor detail. I'm talking the big stuff.  This summer we got to see Yellowstone, and I'm going to leave you with this picture of our family from before Declan was born.


~Jess

Monday, March 20, 2017

Finding Motivation

For those of you who have met our eldest daughter, you know that we have an exceptionally bright child who is gifted across the academic board. There is little that she cannot do with minimal effort. This is both wonderful for education and a nightmare, since she is also easily distracted and takes foreeeeeever to get anything done.  A couple days ago, I seem to have finally (after 4 years of trying) found the proper motivation for her to get her math lessons done. Most other subjects she is self-motivated enough to finish them. Math has been drug out for nearly 2 hours as every little noise in the house must be investigated and every philosophical question debated while solving a single division problem.  Enter the M&M and a little competition. As you can imagine, there are endless chores for me to do with 4 young children.  Shannan and I have started to "race".  Her goal is to complete her math work (correctly) before I can finish "X" chore, whether it is folding and putting away laundry, doing dishes, etc. Whoever finishes first, wins 4 M&Ms.  This has surprisingly worked very well!  I can hardly believe it, but we have had fun and laughter amid Math and chores.  Whatever it takes, right?  Chocolate provides motivation for me, and it seems for my eldest too.  Today, this is one happy mama.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

BHAG

Josh and I went to Liberty University. It's hard to believe I graduated over a decade ago. Time has really flown. Back when we were there, Jerry Falwell Sr. was still the chancellor and we heard him speak on a regular basis. Whether I agreed with him on everything he said isn't the point of this, but there is something he said that has stuck with me.  He had several sermons on what he called a "BHAG", which stands for "Big Hairy Audacious Goal."  He would ask us to remember that nothing is impossible with God, so some of the crazy goals we may have, may be things He has given for us to accomplish with His help.

At this stage in life, I am a parent and not my kids' friend, but one of my biggest BHAGs is that when they grow up, I can be their friend. To that end, I desire to help create fun memories in their childhood.  Due to...life...things like crazy trips and fantasies of Disneyworld are not our reality. What is though, is celebrating simple things in life, like picnics in our front yard and marshmallows toasted over a fire pit.  We have done this the past couple nights and it has brought this trio a lot of joy and laughter.  There's nothing like watching them try to eat those gooey marshmallows and then singing and praying together.  One of the best moments was tonight, when we first sat down, and Amberlyn asked if she could pray and thank God for our fire.


Another thing I try to do is take time to visit parks when we are up in the city.  Normally we are up there for either our CC homeschool group or to go grocery shopping, but I think spending some time running around is important too. Declan loved hanging out on the blanket this past weekend to watch his sisters play!


Blessings on your evening and your week!

~Jess