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.


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!


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.


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


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 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!


Thursday, March 9, 2017


Good Morning!

I'm sitting here, sipping a cup of lukewarm coffee that I have reheated at least 6 times now and it has cooled yet again before I am finally getting to it.  In sitting down, I am pretending that there are not muffin crumbs covering my kitchen table and a load of laundry sitting on the chair to fold (another in the dryer), remnants of the 7 loads of laundry I washed yesterday.

This morning, shortly after Josh left for work, I felt a strong urge to pray for my children.  This is something that Josh and I usually do every night, and I do periodically throughout the day, but for whatever reason (still unknown to me) this urge was different.  I have been slowly working through a book on praying for my kids and with that has begun to arrive a new intuition when things are "off" in my house. It doesn't mean that I recognize it all the time, but this morning I did and decided to take the time while I was nursing Declan to talk with God about the little minions in my household.  I've also found that praying for my kids puts me into a different mindset when I face confrontation with them.  I'm so glad I listened to that urge and prayed. As soon as I stepped out of the room, I stepped into an hour long tantrum with one child for reasons unknown and a tearfully emotional other child, both of whom are just having one of "those" kind of days.  Starting my morning by praying for them helped me to walk through these hours with a grace that only God gives.  Patience is not in my nature, so anytime I see that attribute in my life, I know God is working!  I am so thankful that I do not walk along in this journey of motherhood. My God walks with me, and He has given me a wonderful hubby by my side as we raise our tribe of dynamic forces of nature.

One of the trials in living out where we do is the idea of a playdate, or any type of getting together with friends. We live over 80 miles from the nearest city (that would be 80 miles each way, and that is also the distance to the nearest grocery store).  Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time texting with various friends, setting up social activities and playdates for the next few weeks. I seem to go through spurts of this, times where I am better about setting up time for my kids to play with others, and other times that I prefer to be a hermit. Actually, being a hermit would be very appealing to me and probably my natural state of life. I remember telling my dad that one time, though, to which he responded that while he felt similar, God didn't call us to be hermits. He calls us to be His hands and feet!  So, here's to not being a hermit.  

Hope your morning is blessed.

~Jess & Family

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Changing Stages

I knew we would go through a lot of changes as a family, and in the past year there have been so many. This past week, we started on another journey...the journey of our eldest child and braces.  No, she doesn't have them on yet, but she will be getting them late this summer. On March 1st, we had an hour and a half consult with the orthodontist, looking at x-rays, discussing treatment plans, and lastly the financials of our new journey.  *shudder*  In all honesty, I am so thankful that we live in a country that offers relatively easy access to dental care. I had to have extensive work on my teeth, and Shannan will go through a similar journey.  With Amberlyn and Lizzy in the care of our friend Amanda, I took the opportunity to take Shannan (and Declan) out to lunch. We talked more of what is to come with her braces, but also just chatted about life. It was a really, really good afternoon for us and I enjoyed my time with her.

Here are some other pictures of life over the past couple weeks.   

This past Friday night, our church hosted a movie night.  We showed Finding Dory and had 27 people in attendance.  I made cupcakes, and jello with Swedish fish and whipped cream on it.  Amanda made cookies and provided blue Gatorade and goldfish to round out our snacks for the evening. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time and we hope to have another movie night in the future.

Wishing you a beautiful day!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

It's Crazy Y'all

It's crazy y'all. There's no other way of saying it. A couple of kids ago, quiet was still a possibility in the house. Now, there is no such thing.  I love it, and it scares me all at the same time.  A few weeks ago, here is what my Monday looked like.

6am: Rise and Shine with Lizzy and Amberlyn jumping onto the bed.  Cue shower time, getting breakfast for the three girls ready, Josh's lunch packed and coffee and breakfast made for him.
7:30: Josh leaves for work and I feed Declan.
8:00: Send Shannan downstairs for her handwriting, math drill sheet, and a couple of workbook pages. I let her know that I will join her shortly for a math lesson.
8:05: Load the dishwasher.
8:10: Declan explodes a poopy diaper everywhere, and needs a bath due to the amount of poop.  I clean him up and put him in the bath. 30 seconds later, he pees. Not just a little trickle. Like a waterfall into the bathwater. Drain the bathwater and refill the tub. I spend a few minutes letting him kick and splash before pulling him out, wrapping him in a towel and getting him dressed on my bed.
9:00: Walk back into the living room to discover that Lizzy has peed all over the floor. Clean up pee.
9:30: Walk downstairs to start math lesson with Shannan, to discover that the dog has just barfed all over the floor and her cage. Set Declan down to clean up barf and dog.
9:50: Declan starts crying that he is hungry again. I tell Shannan to play with Legos until I get back for her math lesson and go back upstairs to feed Declan (he doesn't do well trying to nurse during school).
10:10: Finish nursing Declan and put him for nap. I start to walk downstairs and Lizzy and Amberlyn remind me (loudly) that it is snack time. Fix snack for them and carry Shannan's snack downstairs.
10:30: Finally starting on that math lesson.

You get the idea. This is not an unusual day for us nowadays.  I rotate back and forth between the needs of each child, with the goal of accomplishing school and meals each day...and laundry. Oh. My. Word.  The laundry!  I have been in awe of how much laundry these tiny people can go through!  While I endeavor to work with Shannan, Amberlyn and Lizzy can shed multiple outfits and I find socks everywhere. I love my little people so very much. But their laundry, not so much!

We are ever so slowly finding a rhythm.  One thing I love to do is have a "sun" day.  Living up here, we have long winters.  This past week it has been rather warm (in the 60s) and I have cut our school days in half in order to catch some much needed vitamin D. The girls have enjoyed running around outside, and I have taken that opportunity to get some of that laundry folded, and to quiz them on their memory work while they are in motion.

Even Declan got some outside time!

There are so many things happening in our lives right now, but there is a small snapshot of what a morning looks like!  I have wanted to write about so many things that are happening, but I'm pretty sure that would take hours to do. So I will leave off here, go smooch some squishy baby cheeks, and work on getting dinner on the table. Tonight is salsa chicken burritos, if you feel like coming over!