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Welcome to Married Life

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Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2018 07:00:25 +0000


Tea Collection Scotland Clearance Sale!

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 07:00:00 +0000

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated a small amount if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links. Tea Collection's Scotland line has been amazing, but as seasons go, this is the end of the cycle for this one. There are limited styles and sizing, but things will be up to 65% off!  Dresses and tees for $15 and under.It's a great time to stock up for next fall, and there are even a few summer styles that could be used soon! (Spring is actually coming I hear!)There is no code needed for this sale, just visit the sale section of the site for the deals!  But hurry, it's for three days only!We love these skater style dresses, they have awesome twirl!  Size 12 left!The ruffle dresses tend to run a full size big, but are adorable with leggings!The pattern on this double decker dress is just too sweet!So many choices to love!Whatever you're shopping for, get your shop on this week while the sale lasts!Sale runs from March 20th to the 22nd only.[...]

Tea Collection: Destination USA Sale!

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 07:00:00 +0000

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated a small amount if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links. 

This year my favorite children's clothing brand, Tea Collection, is focusing their designs on the USA!  This season is highlighting the south.  From Seminole designs by native artists to jazz inspired tees and dresses, to astronaut themed tees, there's something fun for every kid!

This week is the buy more, save more sale!  Starting Monday you get 15% off 3 items, 20% off 4 items, or 25% off 5 or more items!  Use code BLOOM at checkout.

This line is also debuting extended sizing for boys on some items, up to size 16, and a tween line for girls that also runs up to size 16!  Great timing for me because one of my boys is just hitting the top end of the current size 12 sizing so we can enjoy Tea for a couple more years!

And if your weather is anything like mine (snow and ice!) so your kids are growing out of their winter clothes with no spring in sight, check out the sale section for some extra discounted long sleeve items to get you through the next couple of months!

Don't forget, this deal ends on March 18thHappy shopping!

Discount taken will be pre-tax. Offer excludes all third party (non-Tea) items, Global Shop and Everyday Play Sets. Cannot be combined with other promotions. No adjustments on previous purchases. Not redeemable for cash. Cannot be used towards the purchase of gift cards. Limited to stock on hand.(image)

Soccer Man

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 22:47:00 +0000

With multiple events always scheduled for the first weekend of October, this year we did the "divide and conquer" thing.  I took three of the kids to the annual cider press put on by our dentist, and Brian went to Noah's soccer tournament since he hasn't been able to make most of the games due to conflict with Awana.  It's always something it seems!Anyway, Noah's team has had quite the winning season this year and the tournament was no different.  After tying the first game, they went on to win the next two, facing the first team again in the final and winning that one as well.It's been fun to watch Noah gain confidence and really go after the ball.  Some of his teammates have a LOT more ball control, but he's getting there.  He definitely has the kick down, when he connects with the ball, now to work on aiming for a teammate!Noah is playing up, to stay with his classmates, but since the national soccer league changed the rules to calendar year rather than school year he's actually still playing with a few boys that are behind him in school.  So I think it's a pretty good fit.  He's neither the smallest nor the biggest on the team and keeps up pretty well.Number One Team!Unfortunately he's been sick and home from school the last three days so he'll miss his game tonight.  But there's one more next Saturday to finish out the season.  No matter what, they've had a winning record.[...]

The Exhaustion Cycle

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 18:07:00 +0000

Hey look, three more days before I post again.  Some days I'm not sure if this is a symptom of my busy life or if this just isn't a priority anymore.  This blog used to be about keeping a record of my life and I'm SO thankful that I can look back on when the kids were little.  But now that I have Instagram for so much of it and Facebook does the daily memories thing I get it in bits and pieces.  I do miss the depth though and those other platforms are just not as searchable.Anyway, I caught a cold last week that I am just finally recovering from.  It's amazing how much you don't feel up to doing when you are even slightly run down.  I feel like I've been in the "slightly-run-down" phase for about 6 years now, ever since I was pregnant with the twins.  And now that I am totally out of the baby stage (Hallelujah!) it's different.  I can let them be unsupervised, but we have so many more activities to do now that I feel like I'm hardly ever home.  Which would be great if my house actually looked like we were never home... but it doesn't.Then the cycle is, I stay up late because I crave alone time, I don't get enough sleep so I'm tired again, I don't get as much done without as much energy, and I stay up late again.  Even when I manage to break the cycle for a few days, I'm such a night owl that it creeps in on me again.  And don't even think about having motivation to exercise or eat healthier when you're tired because that requires more energy!Something's going to have to give before I break though because we are getting up earlier and earlier (hello 7:10am strings practice!) and I have to be ready to go for the day when I take the girls to school.  I know some of you are going "boo hoo" because I have to leave my house at 8am, but this is not normal for me in the last 10 years, at least on a daily basis!I'm slowly working on some changes.  We've started to shift our going to bed habits a little earlier.  I'm trying to gain some self control and not eat all.the.sugar whenever it's available.  It's crazy how much food, and especially treats, we have in our society.  I realized how much we revolve around food when we found Cory's gluten allergy.  Can you imagine a social gathering without some kind of food? It almost never happens!  I am seeing a slight shift in what's available now though, more fruits and at least not straight sugar usually.  (thanks church!)Basically, I'm trying to learn to take care of me.  With all of my "free time" now that the girls are in school half days I've gotten an eye appointmentnew glasses coming my wayAnd today I actually went to the doctor for myself.  I've been putting that off for awhile too, but after I got SO sick a year and a half ago and accidentally overdosed on Sudafed my heart likes to do this lovely slow beat thing.  So EKG's for everyone.Little changes over time, hopefully they will add up to a healthier mom, with less stress, that makes for a happier and calmer family.  We'll see if we get calm though, my kids are wild. [...]

On Writing Again

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 22:12:00 +0000

My friend Kristi is doing this write every day thing in October.  I think I did that once upon a time in November... something about NaBloPoMo*... oh look, there it is in 2008.  Wow, talk about a trip down memory lane!

And so, since I sometimes feel like all the thoughts get caught up in my head, and I'm also kind of sad that my blog has been SO neglected since I finally got on Instagram, I'm going to write again.


All yesterday I was thinking about what I might want to write and why.  Life is ever so busy and tiring and I didn't get around to it last night.  Feels like the story of my life, always a day late and a dollar short.

And then this morning when I woke up to the news from Las Vegas I thought, how appropriate, all the things I was thinking about were yesterday.

Loneliness.  Busyness.  Isolation.  Anger.  Division.  It seems this is the way the world works these days and it's not pretty.  I have lamented lately that I have no real friends.  It doesn't feel that people reach out to each other anymore.  Are we all expected to put ourselves out there and hope that someone will respond?  If they happen to see it on social media?  What if they don't?

What's gone wrong in our world that we all live in our little bubbles of isolation and feel like it's us against the world?  I can't be the only mom current or past, that ends up at home every afternoon with her kids napping or waiting for the bus.  I can't be the only mom that has a few evenings a week where she could go out, but no one willing to go out with her. 

I used to say that social media saved my life when I became a stay at home mom 11 years ago, but now I'm not so sure.  The actual community we had back then is gone, replaced with product placement and a race to be the most noticed and liked in the feed (you choose the medium).  When did we stop sharing our actual lives, all of it, and start to compete with each other on yet another playing field?

I don't have the answers to any of this.  I'm still tired, still trying to make healthy choices that will help me get out of this (5 years long) tired.  I'm hoping that writing will be another healthy outlet for me.  We'll see.

*National Blog Posting Month

Double Digits

Thu, 08 Jun 2017 07:00:00 +0000

Some people say, "oh my goodness, 10!" as if they can't believe 10 years have gone by, but I have [most of] the memories to prove it!  As of the end of March my oldest child is now 10.He still loves that chartreuse green, but wears other colors and looks good in all of them.  His shoes are officially as big as mine and he's over 5 feet tall already.  I imagine well before high school he'll be taller than me at this rate!He wanted to play the cello this year in strings at school and has done really well.  The all district orchestra festival last month was so neat to hear.As I missed last year's update due to being very ill, it's even more of a difference to look back two years. I did get to be in his classroom a little bit this year, but 4th graders don't need as much outside help so I mostly did projects for his teacher.  He was always happy to see me though and give me hugs so I'll take it.I totally failed on the birthday treat front and ended up sending Snickers to school instead.  And we had special cupcakes for the painting party so ice cream sundaes were had on his actual birthday.Yes, I filled the bag with pretzels because he mostly already knew what he was getting and I am a silly mom.This spring at school every kid in his class got an iPad so he's starting to learn his way around the digital world.  Time for lots of conversations about how life works, but thankfully he still talks to us most of the time.He got to go on a special trip with Dad and he picked Seattle.  I'll try to get some pictures up (that he took!) sooner rather than later.Buddy, I'm happy that you're doing well in school and always curious about how things work.  I can see a scientist or an engineer (or whatever you want to be) in your future![...]

The Noah: Seven

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 07:00:00 +0000

Yes, he gets a definite article before his name.  He's unmistakable!The Noah turned 7 on St. Patrick's Day.  These pictures I took back in February are a pretty good impression of him.Once upon a time we nicknamed him the Loud Lemon.  It's appropriate.  He's so expressive and wears his emotions on his face all the time.The Noah is 7 and moving up to the second grade has been good for him.  His report card last week showed him at grade level for second grade and he really enjoys this teacher as well.  It's the same teacher Cory had for second grade.  He still misses his first grade teacher and friends though.  He's so outgoing he had made plenty in just the 4 months he was in that class.Fun story, I've really had more time to consistently volunteer this year now that the girls are in preschool and last week when I showed up they were talking about Alaska and glaciers.  So I was able to pull up this blog post about our trip last summer and Noah was the star of all the photos while I explained to his classmates about the glacier and how it worked.Nana and Papa brought him a scooter for his birthday.  He was immediately trying to pop wheelies with it.  And then rode through the mud puddles.  This one loves the outdoors and doing all the things.  He played soccer last fall for the first time and was one of the more aggressive kids on the team.  It helped of course that he was almost a head taller than most of the rest of his team and a lot of kids on the other teams too!With Cory being three years older he often feels like he doesn't get to do the same things because he is younger.  It's hard to wait when you want to try all the cool things that your older brother gets to do.  So in a few things he gets to do things early (like skiing!), but other things he has to wait.  It's hard being the middle child.  I'm hoping to get a weekend with just he and I in a month when Cory goes to a camp and the girls go with my parents.Noah's good buddy from school last year and Awana came for his birthday dinner.  Noah couldn't open the box with his present in it... so he tried to use his teeth.  He was successful.More nerf bullets for his Zombie nerf gun.  Boys!The saying on his shirt is rather appropriate, "Wild is my middle name" courtesy of our trip to Alaska last summer.  And the birthday boy requested ice cream sundaes for dessert rather than cake.  We are nothing if not unconventional in our family!Overall Noah is a caring and compassionate boy.  He hates it when anyone is sad or hurt in a movie and cries for them.  He's old enough to understand a little of what's going on in the world and cares about the people we hear about on the news in the car.I love you Noah!  Never lose your love for people and you'll go far in life![...]


Wed, 15 Mar 2017 07:08:00 +0000

People keep asking me if I miss my children being little. No, no I don't. I like them just the way they are right now. I will admit it IS pretty crazy that the twins are five now, but looking back at these posts from when they were born feels like a lifetime ago.I just went to my brother and sister-in-law's baby shower on Saturday for their first baby. It will be fun to have a baby niece nearby, but I guarantee you I'm not one of those people who always has to be the first in the room to hold the baby. Anyway, the girls are SO looking forward to having a baby cousin nearby since they aren't getting a little sibling.Some days I get kids that will smile for a picture, some days I don't. These were taken a few weeks back when I needed portraits to submit for something and the lighting was just right in my dining room.You'd never guess from these pictures, but Joy is quite the silly bug. I guess it just depends on the mood by day (or hour). And really she was being quite cooperative for these pictures, which I didn't really want silly!She is very independent and knows what she wants and why. Or where. Or how. I think she's going to be a bit particular, a little like her oldest brother. Things have an order to them. In this she also follows directions very well and has learned how to color quite neatly within the lines. She's very proud of that skill.At times like this I struggle a little to come up with ways they are different. They each have their own personality for sure, but they like to do most of the same things and are together almost 24/7. So for as much as developmentally kids go through things at roughly the same ages, that's what we have here. If we ever wonder if they are identical I think this always reminds me that they most likely are. (No, we haven't had them tested, but it's highly likely that they are)Poor Hope is my toothless girl. After these were taken she even had to have one more on the top removed from the trauma a year ago because it had gotten infected as well. She does pretty good at crazy 5am dentist visits and isn't too traumatized by the actual events.She goes about her days singing quietly almost all the time. And always reminds Daddy when he forgets his glasses before leaving for school.They go back and forth being clingy still when I leave them at preschool, but away from me I hear that Hope is a bit more reserved. It's like if she knows I am in the vicinity she is fearless. But even sometimes in the grocery store she will hide her face from someone we know. We're still working on not just running away ahead of Mama though.For the most part though, these are THE most outgoing (and loud) children you've ever met. They will hug anyone I even have a casual conversation with!For all their clinginess in the mornings I think they are really enjoying preschool. They're learning their letters and numbers and at their conferences last week I was surprised to find they can each count almost up to 50 without missing a number! We have lots of interesting conversations in the car about the weather and the things we see as we drive to and from school and all around town for errands.  One really cool part about having cousins living on the other side of the world is this giant wall map at church where we can point out every week where they live.  And where my penpal Amy lives.  And where Sweden is that Mommy went to 18 months ago.  I love geography so it's really fun that they like it too.The twin bond is still very strong between these two.  They do occasionally do things apart from each other, but more often than not you will find them doing the same things.  If one is coloring, the other will eventually join in.  If one is playing with the dollhouse, very soon the other will be there too.  In some ways, when Noah (usually) plays with one of them that introduces competition into[...]

Book: The Mark of the King

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 08:00:00 +0000

After being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne's brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on? With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king's mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption. ***I'm not sure how to do this book justice without giving away half the plot!  It's a time period in history that I haven't read much about, well, outside of Regency England.  This book takes place during the first 4 years of the settling of New Orleans.  I've been to New Orleans once and the gulf coast.  I can't imagine what it would be like with no infrastructure, trying to survive with help from France months away by boat, if they ever send it.Love, betrayal, treason, you'll find it all in this book and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.  Green does a good job of filling out the setting just enough to put me in it without going over the top and the characters were well thought out and in depth.  Some of the plot might be a little over the top, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction so maybe things like this really did happen.  Either way, it was an intriguing read and I'm glad to have another snipped of history brought to life.***Read other reviews or purchase your own copy here. Or click on the graphic to win a copy!Jocelyn Green inspires faith and courage as the award-winning author of ten books to date, including Wedded to War, a Christy Award finalist in 2013; Widow of Gettysburg; Yankee in Atlanta; and The 5 Love Languages Military Edition, which she coauthored with bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman. A former military wife herself, her passion for military families informs all of her writing as well as her numerous speaking opportunities. Jocelyn graduated from Taylor University with a BA in English and now lives with her husband and two children in Iowa.I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.[...]

Alaska: Glacier Time

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 08:00:00 +0000

On Wednesday we finally picked the perfect day to take a trip out to the Matanuska Glacier. (It's seriously highway robbery to get in through the private land in front of it though)The view of "their" mountains before we left.It was about an hour and a half drive to get to the glacier and the scenery along the way was simply stunning.You drive high along the hillside opposite the glacier before going down to it so you can see some of the sheer size of it.  Four miles across and 27 miles long.  Much of the front of it on the left side is actually ice, but covered by the silt and gravel that the glacier has churned up.The glacier moves about a foot a day, but enough falls off at the front end that it is fairly stable in it's location.  We felt a piece of it shift while we were walking out on it! Spooky!This is Shalom, and froggy had to visit the glacier with us!Distances are deceiving... it probably took us a good 10 minutes to walk from this photo to the glacier edge.At the edge, a lot of the ice is covered with dirt and silt.  But you can see the clear solid ice through it!David juggling rocks...All of these rocks have warmed in the sun and melted themselves down into the top layer of the ice.Checking out a hole in the ice.The guys got a lecture from Dahlia about letting kids get too near holes... safety first!  We all (except the girls) had these Cat Trax things on our shoes that made it much easier to walk on the ice.  The poor girls had to just be held up as they walked.Family picture on the glacier!  If we go to Glacier National Park in the future I think the kids might be a little disappointed...There were many of these holes, most not big enough for anyone to fall into.  You can see the amazing blue color down in the ice though.Our lovely hosts!We were on the very front edge of the glacier and it's so choppy that we couldn't climb up on top like I thought we were going to.Boys on the ice!These two photos (above and below) are taken looking back towards the parking lot, and from the parking lot respectively.  You can see that we are on the glacier, but in the photo below, where we were standing is very much at the bottom and front.Let me just straddle a crack for fun!Checking out how cold that ice water really is!The boys were drinking the water pouring off here.This is us, in front of one little piece.  To your right, the rest of the glacier was easily 4 to 5 times this tall, just what we could see!And after we took this photo the boys walked over to where the ice turned into a small lake.  What they didn't know was that the water had essentially melted out the ice under the edge so under their combined weight it broke, dumping them both into glacier water!  Dahlia was there to grab them out and they must have been treading water hard because neither was wet above their armpits, but they said they never touched the bottom!  You can see that most of us are actually in shirtsleeves because it was such a warm day thankfully, even the air blowing across the glacier was warm, but they were cold then!Boys: let us push this rock over!There were some amazing patterns where the ice had fissured and the silt had flowed down into the cracks.  Try to blow this photo up and look carefully.Views on the way home!Just a mile or so before we got back to their house there was another moose spotting!  This one had a baby with her, but it was hiding from my camera.And then just as we were getting the kids to bed (yes, at 11pm) I saw a giant shadow outside the window and this owl landed on top of the tree just off their deck.All the nature is pretty awesome in Alaska![...]

On Giving and Overspending

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 01:33:00 +0000

Today has now become fashionably known as "Giving Tuesday".  Where, after we've all blown all our Christmas cash on Black Friday and the newer Cyber Monday, we stop and think, "Hey, maybe I should donate to some poor people too".Ugh.I have so many thoughts about this I don't even know where to start, and I'm preaching to myself here too.  I bought a lot of "stuff" this last week.  Things that were on sale and I'll use for the rest of the year, but still, that's a lot of expendable cash going to things that will in the end, just be consumed.We Americans are such a consumer society and if we're not careful it consumes us too.  All the time spent shopping, and then organizing, cleaning, and finally purging.Now I have kids, and they grow and so need new things, but still, we have too much.  I'm trying to be a bit more mindful of what we have as I stretch that buying to another child, but it's so easy to pick up things here and there and before you know it, mountains of things overwhelm your home.What if we flip this on it's head? I wish Giving Tuesday could come before Black Friday.  You know, give some away, before we spend every last cent on ourselves?  It's kind of a Biblical principle after all!I started thinking about the various organizations we've given to this year, or in the past.  My inbox got flooded in the last few days with most of them so that made it easy to summarize.There truly are so many worthy causes out there, but may I suggest starting with ones that are close to your heart?For us, that means people.  But it also means programs that benefit people long term, things like reforestation by The Eden Projects, who also provide jobs for people who have been devastated by that deforestation.It means donating to organizations like International Justice Mission or Freedom Firm, who are actively working to rescue men, women, and children from all kinds of slavery.  Or my personal friends, the Besks, who work with Go Zoe in Thailand.It also simply means donating to organizations that are working to bring people out of poverty and hard places.The Preemptive Love Coalition working with displaced people in Iraq and Syria.Compassion International working with kids in poverty all over the world.Kiva, making micro loans to help those in poverty help themselves (and they pay you back directly, or you can choose to re-invest that money over and over again).Sister Connection, sponsoring widows in Burundi as well as helping them become self sufficient through micro financing.And finally, one of my personal favorites, Village Schools International, working in Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambia WITH villages to build their own schools and provide education that is otherwise unavailable to almost all of these kids.~Many of these organizations have matching grants going on today that will allow you to double your impact.Whatever you choose, will you think about how you could give out of your bounty to make the world a better place?  What are your favorite organizations to support?I receive nothing for telling you about these organizations, I just think they do really good work![...]

A Fifth Child

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 23:49:00 +0000

Wondering about the title? No, we're not pregnant again, read on for the explanation! Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with things going on in the world I just want to stick my head in the sand like an ostrich.I hear about the suffering in so many different places, Aleppo, North Africa, people who have lived their entire lives in refugee camps.  Even people in the US, homeless, and children in foster care.   Sometimes I read Jesus' words to the rich young ruler, "Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, and follow me." Mark 10:21 and I know that we are rich and will be held accountable for what we have done with our riches.But I don't know where to start.  What can one person do *unless you are Warren Buffet* to alleviate much suffering?***Sometime in the last year I came across the writings of Craig Greenfield.  I believe I was introduced to him through A Life Overseas (also a wonderful place to read) or perhaps another missions blog or group that I subscribe to. Craig writes from a place of coming alongside those in poverty and what helping them practically looks like, both in missions overseas and at home.A few weeks ago he shared a blog called How to Balance the Needs of your Family with those of the Poor and to put it bluntly, I can't get it out of my head.When you have time PLEASE jump over and read the whole thing, it's not long and I'll wait!***Read it? *(there's a summary at the bottom here)  Great, now tell me, could we stretch the resources of our families to include just one more?  I'm buying all the snow clothes for my kids (see boots in the photo!), can I find an extra set to give to a child in need?  At Christmas an extra $50 gift out of the Compassion or World Vision catalogs doesn't seem like much, but that's usually what we spend on each of our children.  Can we spread it just a little farther?The day I came across this post of Craig's I had received a call that my latest Compassion child dropped out of the program and would I like to sign up for a new one.  It occurred to me that it's been exactly 20 years since I started sponsoring children through Compassion.  $38 a month doesn't seem like it could help a lot, but what if that's my fifth child? In those 20 years I have had 4 different children.  A couple have dropped out, one has graduated the program, and I honestly can't remember what's happened to the other.  But I know, even if they dropped out, their lives were changed.  How can you change things for just one child?There are so many ways to do this that it's blowing my mind!Have a child in diapers? There's a local diaper drive next week, pick up an extra package when you stock upLook for an Angel Tree at Christmas and buy the presents or needed items when you're buying for your own childrenNew school supplies? Buy an extra set and donate them in the school office for a child who can't afford themCall your local women's shelter and ask if there are any children there who need new shoes when your kids doKnow a friend with a foster child? ask if they need anything, even a mealAnd I'm sure you could come up with many more examples of ways that you purchase things for your children, mine are still small so there may be things older kids need I wouldn't even think of.I am so excited about this though!  I've always felt powerless to change the world, but I don't think that's our calling, unless we are specifically blessed in ways that allow for that.  But can you imagine if each and everyone one of us would spread our resources just a little farther?  How much of an impact could we collectively have???Please leave any other ideas you have in comments, I'd love to hear the[...]

Alaska: Friends and Mining Camps

Wed, 07 Sep 2016 07:00:00 +0000

After a crazy late night/morning with our friends we hung out and a friend of mine from high school(!!!) came over to catch up.  I'm pretty sure the last time I saw her was in 1997 at her wedding!It was fun to have a couple of friends locally that I could meet up with after many years.The men engaged in an epic game of Axis and Allies down in the cabin on their property...And there was morning and evening on the beautiful mountain range view.  It's funny because as I'm editing these photos I can't get a lot of clarity on the mountains.  And then I realized it's because they are really really far away.  There were lots of little planes taking off and landing on the gravel bars in the river, but after the first day I didn't even bother to take any photos of them because they would look like tiny white specks against the hillside, if you could even find them.  So the haze is just from the atmosphere, so much of it, between me and them.  According to Google Maps probably about 5 miles across the valley bottom, which is a lot farther than you think!After a beautiful day on Sunday, on Monday we decided to drive up to Hatcher's Pass and the Independence Gold Mine... in the rain.We were essentially in the cloud layer as you can see, and unfortunately while some of the buildings have been redone, it wasn't open on Mondays.  So we walked around in the rain (and just missed some friends from home!) and read the few outdoor signs.  The big building with the red trim was a dormitory building.The remains strewn down the left side of the trail above are where the ore was dumped in from the track above, then sorted/shaken into different sizes, and then smelted.  I've forgotten the process already, but it was a long series of buildings down the hillside.Pretty mountain stream... I wonder just how polluted it is.The entrance to the water tunnel (above) was just to the left of the stream.  You could only go in about 10 feet, but there was running water below the boards and some holes that Noah conveniently stuck his foot in.  Big enough for a small child to fall in, too!The track that came out of the mountain and dumped the ore.  The view of the processing buildings and camp from above.Looking down the valley pretty much straight south.  The dark line on the horizon is the mountains on the south side of Palmer.  I really couldn't believe how wide and large the valley/river bottom was there.We had planned on doing some hiking, but in the rain and the fact that Brian broke his toe while playing Axis and Allies (something about a cast iron chair down in the cabin) meant that we just had snacks and went home again.  We thought about trying to go again, but ran out of time.  Next time!Dahlia found rubber chickens and flamingo flyers.  Taval is here demonstrating how one fits on your nose.  Maybe it's a rubber dinosaur?  Kids!And then there was much late night entertainment while the guys put together a new 3D printer.  David plans to use it to make a 3D topographical map of his property, and maybe more!Ah Alaska, so many fun adventures![...]

Alaska: Air Show

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 07:00:00 +0000

While we were driving in to Anchorage on Friday night for our anniversary I happened to notice that there were some really low fast planes flying around. The Blue Angels were practicing for an air show on Saturday! So we checked it out online and found that it was free and went from about 10am to 4pm on Saturday.Little did we know that deciding to leave at 1pm just to see the Blue Angels at the end was not a wise decision.  We sat in traffic trying to get in for probably almost 2 hours.We watched some planes from the road, this one was pretty amazing in its maneuvers.And then by the time we finally found some kind of parking place and walked in... the show started 10 minutes early so we were barely at the entrance and not near the actual show area.Of course you can see them for miles so we still got to watch!They really are amazing!Then mobs of people started leaving and we heard that they were closing down and were bummed that we had wasted our day, but it turned out that only some of the planes on display were closed and we got to walk through a few of them still!Checking out the seatbelts.  I think this was a regular C-130 type.Joy would not even look at me she was so enthralled pretending to fly this plane!  Future pilot!Noah and ShalomIt's pretty exciting to be in the cockpit of such a big plane!This one was next in line, even bigger, but closed.  They had flown in from all over for the air show.This C-5 Galaxy is the biggest plane I've ever seen.  We walked through it, and right out a ramp on the other end just like this one.  I'm pretty sure my entire house would have fit inside width wise, and perhaps 2 times lengthwise!You can sort of see Dahlia and the kids back under the wing next to the wheels...Unfortunately the line was quite long to go up in the cockpit of this one and then they did close it down too.  It's up under where the nose is tipped up.The week was catching up with the girls... after another almost hour home in the car this is how they were!But they perked up again when we got out some paints for them before dinner.  Princess Sophia to the rescue!Of course after that day it was the night that we stayed up ALL night talking (just the adults) and it was exhausting, but soul refreshing to actually get to talk to friends about life.The one and only sunrise I saw in Alaska.  In the two weeks we were there they lost an hour of daylight, half in the morning, half at night, but still the sun was coming up at 5:30am and going down at 10:30pm when we left.  The morning one isn't so unusual, but the evening one really threw us all off![...]

Alaska: Life and Anniversaries

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 07:55:00 +0000

Who knew going to Alaska meant I would get to meet up with a ton of old friends I hadn't seen in years.Amber and I were housemates in the "casita" 15 years ago when we went to Portantorchas together in Costa Rica.  It was fun having breakfast and catching up on where she is now.Thursdays are homeschool day at Dahlia's house and between the 4 families we had 20 kids there!  It was high school history so all the big kids were downstairs and of course babies don't do Legos, but all the middle group of kids were here.  How do you catch kids?  Apparently put out a big pile of Legos!Cory found a book with ideas and created this zip line for some Lego guys.  Later there was even fishing line strung between the porch railing and the cabin down below and/or the garage farther down! I really really couldn't get enough of this view.Too bad one of the few days we had nice weather was a school day because most days the view looked more like this.I failed to realize that Alaska summer ends at the first of August so when we arrived they had had weeks of lovely weather and then it rained half the time we were there.  Whoops!  Will plan better next time (and oh yes, there will be a next time!)Friday the 29th is our anniversary so the kids stayed at the house while Brian and I drove in to Anchorage for the afternoon.  Or I should say evening since it was almost 6pm when we found a parking space, but the light was still throwing me off so badly it felt like mid-afternoon!Dessert first at the Cake Studio on 4th St.  If you ever get to Anchorage I highly recommend it! This was my vanilla mousse chocolate bomb.  Then some cool art (it's a special trip tradition) from the Sevigny Studio next door, and finally dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse.There was a very long wait unless we wanted to sit in the bar.  Sometimes it pays to be out without children!  I had fresh halibut and Brian had steak.  Once in a long while a very fancy dinner tastes amazing!  Usually we decide we could have made it better at home for less, but not this time!After dinner we went down to the "waterfront", if the mud flats can be called that!The train from Fairbanks was pulling in when we hit the Coastal Trail.  My parents have ridden this a couple times and the colors are so different than the trains we have around here that it was fun to see.Just for fun we sat and waited for sunset and watched the planes come in.  The airport is off to the left, south of downtown.  I really couldn't believe how incredibly flat the whole bay and valley around Anchorage are.Unfortunately this is all the sunset we got and below the spot where you can see it, it completely disappeared behind the clouds and didn't give us anymore colors.  But I did notice waaaay off in the distance that you could see a snow covered mountain range.  I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me until I used my zoom lens and could actually see defined ridges.  Too bad we never did get a clear enough day to see Denali.On the way home we saw a moose on the side of the freeway, but thankfully it didn't decide to cross!  And then we got home at dusk... or 11:30pm![...]

Alaska: True Vacation

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 07:30:00 +0000

The view from their front windows, I simply couldn't get enough!I'm not sure it's possible to put into words just how amazing this vacation was for me.  We went to stay with some long time friends at their new home about an hour outside of Anchorage.I have not seen Dahlia or her kids since we went to visit them in 2008 in Arizona, so neither had she met any of the rest of our kids besides Cory (and David only met Noah briefly just after he was born).  But we have talked on the phone off and on for years and she is so laid back it makes it easy to get along.  Plus we have 4 kids in common!Noah and Shalom playing mini UnoAfter day one, which was us ladies shopping expedition to Costco and Fred Meyer to stock the cupboards for 12 people for 2 weeks we were ready... to relax!The next day we trekked down to the river, you can see it in the top photo, and played in glacier fed water!That's the Knik Glacier in the distance, in the middle just above the trees.  Funny enough, the water didn't feel that cold, until we'd been out there an hour or more and had to wade back across the shallows from the sand bar.  Then it was cold!The boys had a blast playing in the silt.  They made dirt bombs complete with puff flower fuses.So of course the girls had to copy them.Macaiah is a rugged mountain man and keeps a canoe in the small lake between the road and the river.  I really think Noah would be just like him if he could... nine year age difference, but he was his little shadow.Cory also got a turn in the canoe and with more paddling and swimming experience they went down around the point to check and see if the salmon were coming upstream yet.Discussing the merits of skipping stones with DavidBrian spent his weeks with one of his best friends, playing games and nerding out with a new 3D printer.This vacation really had nothing to do with the place (although yes, Alaska is beautiful) and everything to do with the home of our friends and their welcome of us into it.  Three stories for the girls to roam, tons of new toys, outside adventures (even moose in the yard!), and older kids to help keep an eye on them so I didn't have to be "on guard" very much at all.Plus just having a girl to talk with every night for many hours, yes once we even saw it get light again.  We were very short on sleep (kids don't go to bed when it's light out!), but my mental exhaustion was so much lessened in those two short weeks.  What a treat![...]

And Then We Went to Oregon

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 07:00:00 +0000

After driving by for so many years we were actually relatively early this time (does it actually get easier to pack as the kids get older? someone pinch me!) and on a whim stopped at Multnomah Falls.The kids were happy to get out and stretch their legs.  It was a little cool.  And in a couple more years maybe we will be able to hike to the very top.  I was there once as a kid!This time we just went up to the first bridge and checked it all out.First morning at Grandma and Grandpa's house... a tea party with cousin Cassia and our friend Isha.There are always plenty of takers if anyone will read a story.Time for snuggling on Grandpa's new couches!  (which seems to have almost entirely cured my allergies in their house, hallelujah!)Don't forget swimming in Grandpa's pool!Cousin Cassia floating all around and Uncle Brian trying to teach cousin William how to kick!This is the crew, six cousins from 2 to 9, all in the pool!And that was just the first weekend![...]

Girl Quotes

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 03:36:00 +0000

All the kids will sometimes ask to be tickled.  Brian likes to say he's going to "count their ribs".  So tonight Hope asks, "Daddy, will you count my ribbons?"

Joy: Hey mom, are we in a planet?
Yes, planet earth.
When are we going to another planet?
Geography by 3 year olds is hard when all your favorite cartoon characters go into space all the time! (Yes, I've been saving these for awhile)

The girls call the deep end of the pool the "deepness".

They have decided they will name their future babies Rosie Rose (Joy) and Sparkles (Hope).

Always when it's time for bed they want to "tell you a question" just one more time or say "I just remembered that...".  It's their, cute, yet annoying way of stalling.

Book: Jilted

Wed, 22 Jun 2016 21:20:00 +0000

Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago. Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life where the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love. Jilted tells of a woman who has lost the joy of living, a man determined to draw her back toward happiness, and a town that must---once and for all---leave the past where it belongs. It is a gentle reminder that all things can work together for good.***This book is the third in a series and I highly recommend reading them in order.  There is some more back story added in this one, but you really need to read the first two to understand it best.  See my review of book one and the summary of book two also on this blog.Wow, Varina Denman is on my very short list of "authors I will always read".  I am so impressed by the quality of her story telling and the way she makes the characters true to life in all their struggles and triumphs.  I'm really glad that all the pieces of this three part story were covered at the end.  That's not to say that it all had a happy ending, but at least you weren't left hanging!  Lynda's story is told in the first book through her daughter's Ruthie's eyes, but you don't really get to know Lynda at all until this book.  I found it fascinating how my perspective changed while reading this story, even throughout the book.We have a lot of giant windmills near us and I also have long been a big fan of Don Quixote so it was fun to see the part they played in this story.  The cover photo is superb choice for this book.How to even summarize the story without giving any of it away... Lynda has a lot of choices to make.  Choices in how she reacts to life and things that have happened to her many years ago.  Choices in how she reacts to people currently in her life.  It makes you realize that while you can't control others and what they do or say, you do have a choice in what you do and how you react.  And in many ways that can affect them for good or bad and the cycle goes on.  That is not to say that those choices are easy, far from it, but making good choices is so important.  Isn't that a life lesson we all want our kids to learn?  Maybe we still need it when we're older, just in different ways.*** Purchase your own copy and read other reviews.  And don't forget to enter the giveaway!Varina Denman is author of the Mended Hearts series and a native Texan. She spent her high school years in a rural town and now writes stories about the struggles women face in similar small town settings. She and her husband live near Fort Worth, where they enjoy spending time with their five mostly grown children.I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.[...]

It's The End of the (School) Year As We Know It...

Wed, 15 Jun 2016 07:00:00 +0000

And we feel fine!  Or at least most of us do.  Summer is in some ways a bit crazier with no schedules!Cory got to go on a cool end of year field trip to our local museum where they learned about the Native Americans that first lived in this area.  His creature above is supposed to be an owl I think.  Then they went canoeing! Two weeks ago his class put on a play.  It was a story about a boy who wanted to bake a cake for the princess' birthday, but along the way he ran into many troubles so that by the time he got to the castle all he had left was a juicy strawberry, but a guard stopped him because the princess was allergic to strawberries.  So he was very sad and told the princess he was sorry that he didn't have anything to give her, but after he told her the story of his adventures she declared it the best gift ever because it entertained her when all the other presents had been the same typical gold and gems.  Cory was a narrator and the kid on the left was the main character.  Then there were another group of students on the left that were a chorus of sorts.  They had created hand drawn backdrops and when the scene changed they took one down off the white board with more underneath.  It was about 15 minutes long and pretty impressive for 3rd grade!Last week was Noah's end of the year presentation at his school.  After the tragedy of how the school year started we have been so amazingly blessed by his school.  It's been a perfect fit and we will miss it when he goes off to public school for first grade with his brother next year.Their project for the last quarter of the year was all about honey bees and why they are in decline.  Noah's poster talks about the different kinds of bees (worker, drone, queen) and he made a bee out of clay.The class together put on a presentation about what things are affecting the honey bee populations.This is Noah and his friend's dramatization of the bees dying after they come to a tree that's been sprayed with insecticides.  Note the yellow bees already dead on the floor at their feet.It was very cute, but also really great to see kids at such a young age involved and asking questions that even scientists aren't able to fully answer yet.And now I have a newly minted 4th and 1st grader in the house, plus two girls ready to start preschool in the fall.  The baby stage is well and fully behind me![...]

On Weekends with Friends in Idaho

Wed, 01 Jun 2016 07:30:00 +0000

You know you're a parent when you spend a weekend with friends and out of 100 photos you end up with 2 that have any adults in them!  Sorry friends, but at least our kids are cute!After I got over my fear of the girls being outside with no fences or boundaries (and they kind of learned where to stay) they had a blast.  So nice to have fun things in the neighbors yard that you are allowed to play on! Boys building things... They have a really cool dirt bike track at the park in town, right near the playground and the neighbor also loaned us bikes for the boys. The lake on the way home.  I could live with a view like this often! The girls also spent as much time as possible driving this jeep around... heaven help me in 12 years! As mentioned, what happens when you get two dads together who love science and nerdy things? Dry ice of course! with soap.  And then we went to Silverwood on Memorial Day and the weather was perfect!And we didn't lose anyone for more than a minute and we all had fun... except when we were scared of the rides!The girls first ever real rides!  They loved the airplane! Not so much this frog hopper which I made them watch our friends go on first and they still wanted to ride... I didn't take a picture after they started screaming when it was falling and bouncing! Two 9 year olds, an 8 year old, two 6 year olds, and two 4 year olds.  Wheee!  Brian went on this Panic Plunge three times and the last time their girls went with him!  The younger one was not so happy with her choice!In the meantime I took Cory on the Sky Rider and he would have been okay, but they put us on, took us to the top and stopped for another car to load and he freaked out over the height.  Bummer. Noah also got his freak out moment earlier when Brian took him and Cory on the wooden roller coaster and it was a bit much for him!Then we rode the 101 year old train, more everyone's speed. The last time I was at Silverwood this train was the ONLY ride they had here! Official train robbery in progress! I remembered it being a bit more "authentic", but perhaps that's my 7ish year old memory, although the kids sure weren't scared this time either. They said they would "blow up" the train because we all had pictures of them, but their "dynamite" fell into the well and just blew water all over the train instead. Through the "fairy woods" it really was a nice train ride. Then promised dessert, what a motley crew!When you are six and eat caramel apples... We have made this visit twice and hopefully we can make it more of an annual event.  We miss our friends and the kids get along so well.  Thanks for being such great hosts![...]

Book: Her One and Only

Tue, 31 May 2016 07:30:00 +0000

After ten years in the NFL, super star Gray Fowler is accustomed to obsessive fans. But when Gray starts receiving death threats from a stalker, his team hires an executive protection agency to guard him until the culprit is caught. Dealing with bodyguards 24/7 is a headache, especially when one of them is a young, beautiful woman. How can a female half his size possibly protect him better than he can protect himself? Dru Porter is a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt---none of which saved her from disaster on her last assignment. In order to rebuild her tarnished reputation, she's determined to find Gray's stalker and, since relationships between agents and clients are forbidden, avoid a romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past. Yet every secret that leads Dru closer to the stalker also draws her closer to Gray. As the danger escalates, they'll survive only if they can learn to trust their lives---and their hearts---to one another. ***Hmmm, well, that last sentence above feels a bit misleading to me, the book wasn't nearly the edge of your seat thriller that the first one in this series was, yet I really wanted to know who the stalker was and what would happen!This is the fourth and final book in the Porter Family series and we only briefly meet Dru in the other three books so it was really a new read to delve into her story.  I think this could be a stand alone book, but it was nice to have the history of the other novels as well, especially as this one adds what is almost a postscript to the first novel.  Funny because I accidentally read these out of order, 2, 3, 1, and then 4.I have really liked this whole series and it was kind of fun to have just read book one and then book four and see Ms. Wade's storytelling skills just grow.  The plot twist felt much more realistic and the characters had a bit more human flaws, which made them that much more relatable.Dru was your anti-feminine, feminist protagonist and seeing Gray through her eyes made him the stereotypical male sportsman.  But watching them learn to see past first impressions was a good reminder to see beyond a person's facade as well. I'll be waiting for Becky's next books! ***Read other reviews or purchase your own copy. Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and now lives in Dallas. A favorite among readers of Christian contemporary romance, Becky has won a Carol Award, an Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, and an INSPY Award.I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.[...]

Book: Until Then

Tue, 24 May 2016 07:30:00 +0000

Growing up with a distant mother and absentee father, Michelle's childhood has been far from idyllic. Her only attention comes from her partying friends and the guys who are more than happy to give her the affection she longs for. But when one party goes wrong, Michelle's grandparents hatch a plan to get her out of Chicago and away from her so-called friends.College plans are low on Michelle's priority list, especially with no money to pay for it, until her grandparents offer to foot the bill for her entire tuition. There's just one catch. Michelle must choose between three schools - all hours away from Chicago and all Christian colleges.Michelle's reluctant choice leads her to an unfamiliar place, where she's faced with new relationships and unexpected decisions that could change her life and her heart forever. ***This book is the sequel to Goodbye, Magnolia, although I would really call it more of a companion book.  It tells the same story as Magnolia, but from Michelle's point of view rather than Maggie's.  We don't really find out that much about Michelle in the first novel other than that she and Maggie have a pretty rocky relationship.  I was prepared to really dislike Michelle since I didn't like her from Maggie's point of view!However... wow.  Krista has done an amazing job of creating a real character that I can relate to and helping me understand her motivations.  This is a story that isn't afraid to tackle the hard issues head on rather than gloss over them.  It makes for a great ending that leaves you satisfied rather than feeling like this would never happen in real life.I loved reading the parallel storyline and seeing things from an entirely different perspective.  I have to believe that takes a lot of talent to be able to write that way!  It changed the way I saw all the characters in the stories and I'm actually tempted to ask if there will be a third from one of the characters that features more prominently in this book than the first.I really can't say much about this story without giving too much away.  I highly recommend reading them in order, in quick succession. Michelle makes life choices and deals with the consequences.  The people she chooses to allow in her life affect her, as they do for us too.  And sometimes things happen that our really out of our control that we have to deal with, but how we choose to deal with them may make all the difference. There is one caveat to this book, it deals with some mature themes without trivializing them, but it is not really suitable to younger readers.  It's essentially rated PG-13.  Honestly though, I felt like it was done very well and the story would not have been the same without it.  Real life is messy, but dealing with it head on is often way better than not facing it. (yes, that has two meanings, both in the story and out)Krista is a newer author to having books published, but I am a fan and can't wait to read what she comes up with next!***Buy a Kindle version here, also the first book is free for the next 2 days so you can get both!Paperback version is here.  And don't forget to enter to win one below.a Rafflecopter giveaway KRISTA NOORMAN is the author of the young adult novel, The Truth About Drew, and the Cornerstone contemporary Christian romance series. Most of her life has been spent scribbling away in journals, while documenting her every day life, but it wasn't until sh[...]

Book: Someone Like You

Mon, 16 May 2016 07:00:00 +0000

Single mom Julia Dare has a lot on her plate.A brand new Christian, Julia is busy trying to run her own business, spend time with her widowed mother, and raise her young son, Max, despite his father's less-than-ideal influence on him. When a big account from her event-planning business sends her to the Caliente Springs resort, she's shocked to come face-to-face with Zeke Monroe, the resort's general manager and her college sweetheart.With his faith in tatters, Zeke Monroe is determined to keep the historic Caliente Springs resort running despite financial difficulties. But when Julia walks back into his life, he can't ignore the feelings she stirs up. As they work together on an important client's dream wedding, the fate of the resort soon depends on their success. When Zeke and Julia are pushed to their limits both personally and professionally, will their history put up walls between them or bring them together?***This is the first novel I've read by Victoria Bylin, although she has written I think 17 previously, and I am hooked!  In some ways this was not just a fluff read, the characters were so real and facing demons from their past, some that would continue to be part of their lives.  I appreciated the real struggles they went through in their relationship with each other and with God.There was a bit of suspense to the novel, just the right amount.  And a mostly happy ending.  My only complaints were that the spiritual resolution for Zeke seemed a bit rushed.  And I had to laugh that within the first three chapters he had "propped his hip against the desk" no less than 4 times.  That or against the hood of a car.  I think this author likes to provide visuals for action, but that particular phrase just stood out to me and made me laugh.All in all, I would highly recommend this book.  It kept me guessing for quite a while, but overall was a plausible story set in reality.***Read other reviews, purchase your own copy, or win one below!Victoria Bylin writes contemporary and historical romances known for their realistic, relatable characters. Her work has finaled in contests such as the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and the RT Reviewers' Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky.I received this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for my fair and honest review.[...]

Wordless Wednesday: Bubbles

Wed, 04 May 2016 07:00:00 +0000

Because Grandma brought these giant bubble wands at spring break!