It has been a long time since I’ve done insta-friday, so be prepared for a million pics and realize that I gave up and left out a week or so because there were too many pics.  I have an instagram problem.

I blame it on my lifelong love of photography and my childhood dream of being a photojournalist.  Instagram allows me to be the photojournalist of my own life!

We’ve been spending a lot of time outside lately, since summer is apparently NEVER ENDING!  It’s been fun to see Ellery enjoy the outdoors and to watch the girls play together (even if it means splashing in muddy water).

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Apparently splashing in muddy water is a trend.  We went to the beach and Elle was beside herself with joy at all the mucky sand!  She is also beside herself with joy when we put to her sleep in the same room as her sister.  She is totally the troublemaker at bedtime!

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Addison has found a new love: horses.  I am so proud.  I have been a horse lover for as long as I can remember.  I use to daydream about galloping across open meadows! Of course, I did not like the fact that her love of horses led her to clim into the horse pasture (thankfully my brother was there and grabbed her).  But, I did love watching her first pony ride at our church’s Fall Kickoff! I also love watching her friendships grow.

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Growth group and girls’ Bible Study are back at it.  Hosting is often a lot of work, but we love it.  Our group is amazing and these times are so refreshing for us!  Also, barely cracked open this book (we don’t officially start until next week), but I think I’m going to love it.

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Hubby and I had an anniversary the first week of October and we splurged on a fancy dinner that included a rooftop dining experience.  It was lovely.

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Here’s my little pumpkin!  She is pretty much always this happy.  Also, we picked out our pumpkins a few weeks ago.  Now I need to clean ‘em up and then we can carve them.  Or paint. Or bedazzle.  Or something.

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There is this awesome hidden park near us and we snuck out on a warm evening and had the place to ourselves. Our little wild one loved the tire swing.  She also loves TuTus and fireman hats, which she wore to the grocery store. She also likes to take her own shopping cart to the grocery store and it is super adorable and also an awesome way to keep her well behaved! How to keep her napping, however, I have no idea.  Last week she went to bed at 10 pm and was up at 5:30 the next morning and lo and behold she took a nap RIGHT NEXT TO ME . . . WHILE I TAUGHT ONLINE.  I was shocked!  I was also thrilled because not-napping is not cool.

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I’m a book lover, but more and more I find myself reading Bible study books instead of “just for fun” fiction.  So, I am excited to combine the two in “Stepping Heavenward”. Books are a big deal in this house and we are trying to make Ellery love them as much as Addie and I do.

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This day was a good day.  Adorable baby and a dancing daughter.  I made her some ribbon rings and she has been requesting to put on her tutu, turn on music and dance every day since!

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I hosted a fun garden-themed baby shower last weekend!  It was so fun!  I love planning parties.  Thankfully, a certain someone will be turning one soon.  That certain someone loves her Daddy as you can see.

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You wanna know the truth about this next one?  This was a dark day.  The youngest fell asleep way past her morning nap time, which meant she was up later and down again later and awake when I was trying to get the older one to nap, and woken up by the older one not-napping. Fun plans had to be cancelled and mama was at her wits end and was not very nice and not very in control of her emotions.  Some deep breaths, some prayers, and some macaroni necklace making came to the rescue.  I find that when I am struggling the most emotionally as a mama is when I need to do something.  Relaxing and giving up only make me more upset.  So, we did a craft and I wrote encouraging notes to other mamas.  Nothing like perspective to shake you out of your selfish pity party!


And, you know what?  Both of my kids are napping right now and this afternoon we are going to pick apples in an orchard, so all is well with the world again!

Any grand weekend plans?  We have a birthday celebration and I need to get to work on a fun project!  Whatever you do, enjoy it!

{Crockpot English Apple Cider}

In honor of the fact that yesterday was cloudy, windy, and cool (finally), I have a fall recipe for you!

For as long as I can remember my family has had Wassail (pronounced Wassle) during Thanksgiving celebrations.

Wassail is an English Apple Cider that was drunk to guarantee a good apple harvest the following year.

More importantly, it is delicious!  I drink way too many cups of the stuff during the holiday season.

We always made it on the stove, but LIFE, so I attempted it in the crockpot.

So easy and it tastes just as delicious! It also doesn’t hurt that it makes your house smell AMAZING!

I love it so much, I am sharing the family recipe (with a few slight changes) with all of you!


4 qts apple cider
1 heaping tsp whole allspice
1 heaping tsp whole nutmeg
1 heaping tsp whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
1 can orange juice concentrate (thawed)
1/3 cup brown sugar


Pour two quarts apple cider into crockpot.  

Add all the spices.

Let cook on high for 1 hour. Strain (or strain after second hour for a stronger, spicier taste).

Add two more quarts apple cider, orange juice concentrate, and brown sugar.  

Cook another hour.

Enjoy and toast to next year’s apple harvest!

{Pumpkin Pickin’ 2014}










Pumpkin Picking time.  There are a number of pumpkin patches around these parts.  We usually go to a few.  One for inexpensive pumpkins, one for free fun, and sometimes one that costs a little dough for some unique activities.

We started at the local University pumpkin patch!  Great prices and great views and no crowds.


I was super proud that she picked out this adorable, perfectly round, white pumpkin as her pumpkin this year.  Girl’s got style.



And here is a blurry shot of Daddy and his girl because mama can’t focus on focusing with a wiggly infant on her back.


Family pic at the cornfield.  It is hubby’s dream to have a row of corn growing in our yard someday.  I fully support that dream.


Then, on another day, we headed to a favorite barn.  This barn has lots of free activities (feeding animals, hay bale mazes, $1 hay rides) and much more.  Plus, it is a pretty place to hang out.

This little blondie.  She is obsessed with clapping so it was hard to get a pic of her without her hands all blurry.  Thankfully, she was obsessed with the pumpkins!

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Getting a picture of two kids looking at the camera is extremely difficult.  Throw in a bunch of other kids running around and a ton of people at the barn and it is pretty much impossible.

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The barn also has great roasted corn, produce, adorable kitchen decor, and a deli/ice cream shoppe.  I love seeing it all decked out for fall, but would have preferred it not be 90 degrees outside!





Daddy guided Addie through the little kids’ hay maze.  She was so proud!


We walked away from the crowds to the hidden patch.



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We’re ready for fall! Now if only the weather would cooperate!

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{It’s Not Too Late}

This is for you.


The mom who thinks she messed up.  The mom who feels guilty.  The mom who attributes her child’s difficulties to her own failings.

It’s not too late.

I posted last week about “my roots” and how I’ve been cleaning them up.  What I didn’t say is how it has been changing my toddler.

Oh, she still skips naps, points me square in the face and says “no”, and refuses to eat ANYTHING.  But.  There is something softer growing there.

There have been uninitiated “I Love You”‘s, requests for back scratches, requests to be rocked, more snuggles, more, “OK, Mom”‘s.  Enough that I noticed.

The other night I spilled out some fears to my husband.  Would I not have a strong bond with my daughters since i couldn’t really nurse past 9 months?  Would they not love me as much since I worked part-time during their infancy?

No.  He answered as he showered me with encouragement. (I love that man).

However, there have been other fears.  Fears about how my impatience has shaped our toddler.  Fears about how my busyness has made her not depend on me. Fears about our connection when I hear her say, “Mom, mom. Put your phone down.”

So, I made some changes and I see the fruit.

Know this.  It is not too late.  It is never too late.  That is what grace is.  It is given to the undeserving.  God gives grace.

I made mistakes.  I messed up.  I looked my failures in the eye and accepted them.  Then, I made a change and I prayed.  Oh, how I prayed.

Grace was given. It wasn’t too late.

What do you regret.  Where did you mess up – because, let’s be real , we all do-? Give it to God and replace it with grace.  It’s not too late.



** Check out this post to help you as you strive to make your home a haven. http://womenlivingwell.org/2014/10/making-home-haven-week-2-music/

{What’s at the Root?}

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed.

Ok, more than sometimes.

Oh, what’s that?  You too?  I thought so.

Well, let me tell you a little something.

As I was driving home from lunch at the park with hubby and the girls, I was thinking about how we want more kids.  I was thinking about how it just seems natural to me that we will have more, although in reality I know it will be hard.  This led me to consider the times I have watched my own two girls along with my two nephews.  Why is it, I pondered, that I never feel stressed out at the thought of watching four children ages four and under.  Why is it, I wondered, that I never feel stressed out while watching them?

The answer, I realized, was the root of my feelings of being overwhelmed.

The answer was me.

I am the root.

When I know I will be babysitting my nephews, I have no expectations.  I do not plan on cleaning the kitchen or going anywhere or accomplishing anything for myself.  Rather, I plan on being with them, entertaining them, feeding them.  I dedicate all of my efforts and my mind to keeping them safe and happy and free from cousin disagreements. I am in the moment.  I am committed.

Often, while at home with my own children, I have my own agenda.  I treat them as an appendage to my life.  Therefore, when they are begging for my attention and I am desperately trying to finish putting the laundry away in my room I feel frustrated.  When my toddler hits her baby sister while I’m scrambling to finish the dishes, I get angry.  When we are playing outside and I desperately want to vacuum or lesson plan or anything other than what I am doing, I feel overwhelmed.

My own selfish desires (however honorable) are at the root.

If I were to throw myself into their playtime with reckless abandon, even for a mere thirty minutes, then they would be happier and I would be happier.  If I didn’t  view their needs and desires as messing up my needs and desires, I would be less overwhelmed.

If I treated my days with them the way I treat those occasional afternoons of babysitting my nephews, we would all be happier.

Motherhood is a whole new level of selflessness, filled with layers and layers.  The first layer is what I would want to do if I could – read a book, go to the beach, exercise. The next layer is what I’d like to do – finish some home projects, organize, read my Bible. The next layer is immediate and glaring needs – dishes, laundry, cooking. The final layer is the moment to moment needs of my children – diapers, bottles, snacks, potty training, hugs, kisses, playing duplos, painting.

First, I have to recognize that the root of my own overwhelming feelings is myself and my selfishness.  It may not seem selfish to want to wash the dishes, but if I am frustrated at my children because they want to do something while I want to wash the dishes, then it is selfishness.

I need to let go of those roots.  Or better yet, I need to plant them by streams of living water.  I need to let my root be Christ, not me.

Now, I can’t completely give up on all my tasks and my needs and my desires for the sake of playing play dough 24-7 with my children.  But, I can give them uninterrupted moments.  I can make their pleasure my purpose.  I can simply say, “I will wash those dishes in thirty minutes “and then LET. IT. GO. and focus on my children’s needs.

We all feel overwhelmed at times, whether due to motherhood or not.  The question is, what’s at the root?  Your own expectations?  Perhaps. So, dig up those roots, clean them off.

Then, transplant them, before they grow too deep.

My Joy-Filled Life

{4 years}

Nanninga-Wedding-699 A beautiful wedding.

An adventurous honeymoon.

A small rental.

Trips to Yosemite, Tahoe, Catalina, Lake Shasta, Banff.

Buying a house.

Having a baby.

Raising chickens.

Adopting a dog and having to say goodbye to a dog.

Having another baby.

Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters.

Building a shed, putting in a lawn and a patio.

Hosting a growth group for three years.

Changing jobs, side jobs, financial distress, financial miracles.

Making new friends and saying goodbye to friends.

Losing grandparents.

Learning. Growing. Loving.

That’s a lot in four years.  We’ve walked together through a lot. I can’t wait to see what is next.


Marriage is such an amazing, challenging, unique experience.  I love it.  It can bring out your worst and can bring out your best.  I am praying that it will bring out more of my best as it reveals to me my worsts and I strive to give those areas to the Lord.  There is so much I could say about marriage: what I’ve learned and what I hope to learn.  However, I will simply say this:


That encompasses so much, really.  When you are frustrated with him, love him.  When you are unsure of his decisions or angry, love him.  When you are hurt or tired or stressed or overwhelmed, love him.

By now I’ve learned that love in a man’s eyes is respect, so I suppose you could substitute love with RESPECT in the previous paragraph.  But, my one encouragement is this.  Do it.  Even when you don’t want to and even when you are right and he is wrong.  Do it. Because you do love him, despite it all, and because love is a choice you make each day and an action you live out.  Trust me, you will reap the benefits and your marriage will flourish, and if not . . . you will honor God with the way you honor your husband.  WOW!  Marriage is incredible.





{The Lie of Getting Out}

When did staying home become a negative thing?

When did our humble abodes stop being enough?  Stop being worthy?

When did being at home become synonymous with being “cooped up”?

When did women begin “needing” to get out?

I’m not saying it’s wrong to leave our homes and to do fun things elsewhere, but I am saying that those things are not inherently better, more interesting, or more enriching. And in no way should you feel guilt or inferiority at staying home.

I have fun taking my daughter to the beach, but the work of packing up, carrying the kids and all the stuff to the sand, cleaning up, etc. can leave me worn out and frustrated and impatient, not to mention it creates more work when I do return home, preventing my home from feeling like the haven I want it to be.  Why is the beach better than the pile of dirt in my backyard?  Does my daughter know the difference?  Is my two-year-old deprived because her background noise was chirping birds and neighborhood noises instead of ocean waves?  No. Do I want her to experience ocean waves?  Of course.

But, staying home with my children is not deprivation for them or for me.  When we are at home we can care for our home, we can prevent new messes from being created, we can rest, we can just BE.

I can sit in the shade and sip my coffee while my daughters roam the yard and that is just as fulfilling as a playdate at the park.  They can learn creativity and imagination without scheduled and organized activities. Also, I don’t have to sit still and quiet while drinking coffee.  I can plan an elaborate activity to do at home if I want.  I don’t NEED to go elsewhere for that.

I think we need to stop outsourcing our fun.  We need to stop looking elsewhere.  we need to stop thinking that because we “just” stayed at home all day and didn’t go anywhere that it was an unproductive or boring day.

Anne said it well . . .

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery

as did Jane Austen . . .

“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”

The more I embrace this.  The more I rest in being at home instead of worrying about where I didn’t go and what I didn’t do, the more peace I feel.  The more calm I am.  The more connected I feel with my children.

I’m not going to become a hermit and I definitely still plan on going to the zoo, the beach, and the fire station.  There is a time and a place for special events and activities.  But, when I am at home, I am not cooped up.  My children are not deprived.  I am not less than as a mother because I keep our world small.

Rather, I am realizing more and more, I am present.  I want my children to remember my presence, not the activities or locations I took them to.  I want them to have a sense of home.  I want them to rest in the moment and not feel the need to hurry, hurry, hurry.

So, I have not left the house since Monday and, although I have a few errands I’d like to run or stuff I want to go buy, I probably won’t leave our home until Friday.  Truly, I feel much more calm.  My children are more rested (no skipped naps) and I am more patient with them.  I have time to snuggle my toddler at nap time, and time to write this post, and time to read the word.

The next time someone asks you what you did on a day you never left your home, don’t say, “Nothing”.  Because: being present? That is everything.