Fall 2015

I feel like it was only a few months ago I put a toddler, preschooler, and first grader to bed.  Then I woke up in the morning and I have a fifth grader, second grader, and kindergartener.  I think it has hit me harder this fall because we turned a page and transitioned into a new era.  With any change, you look back and mourn the past a bit.  While at the same time you embrace the future and the new opportunities it brings.


Even though fifth grade is not junior high, the oldest child gets to do more with the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders since it is a small private school.  She can play on the school sports teams (and it is incredibly awesome they are free!)  and has multiple teachers for classes.  But she is still a kid in many ways.  I am glad she does not feel the pressure to grow up too quickly.  It is strange to come home from Bible Study or youth group and she is still awake.  We extended her bedtime to 9 PM.  Back in the day I would come home from things and the kids had been asleep for two hours already.


No one told me how different blogging with older kids is completely different versus having little ones.  Sharing about the perils of potty training, toddlers temper tantrums, and sleeping through the night is acceptable and therapeutic.  But blogging about older kid issues like bullying or being bullied, bad report cards, girl drama, puberty issues, or child anxiety/depression is harder.  Not that I have any major secrets to hide, but my kids ask for privacy.  I want it for them as well.

IMG_3752So this child hit double digits this fall…technically still summer.  Her birthday is a few days before the actual beginning of the fall…though often it still feels like summer here.  We celebrated by going roller skating with a few of her friends.  I can still skate pretty well though playing Shoot the Duck is a stretch.  I think “Couple’s Skates” are a thing of the past and I am perfectly OK with that.

IMG_3789At the end of September we went camping with friends from church at the coast.  The weather looked questionable after a rainy couple of days.  Weather.com was accurate and the rain held off the entire weekend.  It was beautiful!

We barely got up the eight person tent and the poles on their last leg.  I did have some anxiety the tent would collapse in the middle of the night and then what?  This lovely tent was our wedding present from back in 2001 and it has served us well–maybe time to replace it?


The second night was colder than the first, but it was not unbearable.  We spent the majority of the time hanging out with our friends, learning to skate, sitting on the beach, drinking coffee, sitting by the fire etc.

I love to camp and being outside in general.  It is more my thing than the husband’s but he is a good sport about it.

IMG_3874A few weeks later I chaperoned the kid’s trip to the pumpkin patch.  It was third time doing it in the six years we have had kids in their school. It is one of my favorite field trips.  Thankfully the weather cooperated again.

IMG_3892It was my only trip to the pumpkin patch this year with my kids.  My oldest was too old to go with the school, but she got to go with her girl’s group from church.

This fall season was a bit unique because one week later I headed by myself to Chicago.  I was home 36 hours and the husband left for Kiev, Ukraine for a week-long ministry trip.


I cannot remember the last time I saw the Midwest in October…probably since our last fall in Michigan in 2005.  I loved seeing all the deciduous trees in full color.

IMG_3933My main purpose for the trip was to see my 90 year old grandma who recently moved to assisted living.  I was grateful I could help my mom with the move as it was quite a bit of work.  It was a treat seeing my siblings, their kids, cousins, and my aunt and uncle.

I took the Red Eye out there. I have had bad experiences flying Red Eyes such as not sleeping at all, muscle cramps in my legs (especially if I have been running long distances), and general fatigue which triggers out of control emotions.  I was quite surprised I slept almost the whole entire flight from Seattle to Chicago.  I woke up a few times, but I have never slept that much on a flight.  I still felt messed up sleeping wise, but it did not affect the trip too terribly.

I thought I would come home and be overly exhausted and I have been known to not adjust well after trips.  But I was fine.  Even the week the husband was away, I did great taking care of the day care kids, keeping the house running, getting my kids to where they needed to be etc.  You get on an autopilot mode and go.

We probably ate too much pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream among Halloween candy.  It was a little weird celebrating Halloween without the husband.  On Sunday we were all cranky and tired (some decided to nix the extra hour to sleep in courtesy of Daylights Savings and get up super early) and ready for the husband to come home.

Now we are all together again and it’s November.  We have two birthdays to celebrate, a home bazaar to run, Thanksgiving, girl’s basketball games, and much more.  There is always something to look forward to.

I have to remind myself that because November is typically when the rain, dark afternoons, wetness, etc hits Oregon.  We do have pockets of sun and sometimes a few dry days in a row.  For the most part it can be a hard time of year for those who crave outside air and sunny days.  I try to get outside anyway even if it means running in the dark or worse getting drenched in the rain.

When I started this blog…

When I started this blog I was ambitiously going to get into more craft projects and make all my own Christmas gifts.  Now I am more than happy to visit bazaars, purchase hand made gifts made by other people, and support them in their endeavors.  Now I run my own bazaar out of my house.

When I started this blog, I thought I would have more food posts.  I realized I am happy to make the same familiar dishes, bake simple recipes, and leave the creative elaborate cooking to my husband.

When I started this blog, I was looking forward to the day I would have more kids in school and less kids in the house.  Now I have more kids in school and MORE kids in the house hence taking on in home child care.  I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It is amazing to me how things evolve.  We make our plans.  We have our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions.  But God often leads and guides in HIS direction, which may not always be ours.

October 30, 1998

Seventeen years ago on this day Rob and I went on our first date.  It was a Friday night just like it is tonight.

I have been told I have a crystal clear long term memory. I think this is one of the reasons I write about the past often.  I remember so many details. I recall many things from October 30, 1998 such as…

I was wearing a white t-shirt with a black and white picture of a giraffe on it.  It was an old photo from my dad’s Chicago photo collection and I put it on a t-shirt.  I was working at a print shop at the time.  I was wearing it under a denim shirt with jeans…such a 1990’s outfit.

I had lunch with my dad at the Bagel Beanery that day but I was not totally open about my date with Rob.  I was not sure if we would be officially dating or not after the evening was over.

I worked that afternoon.  Rob and I left for Grand Haven (about a 45 minute drive) soon after.  I had not had a chance to eat dinner so we went through the Wendy’s Drive Thru in Grand Haven.  I shared most of my Frosty with him.

We did not have a plan for the evening other than going to Grand Haven and walking along the pier.  I thought we would end up at a movie.  I remember e-mailing or calling my brother-in-law that day asking if there was a movie theatre in Grand Haven.  Rob and I ended up at the cheap theatre on the north side of Grand Rapids and saw Ever After.  It was my second time seeing it.

We were sitting up against the lighthouse at the end of the pier and this is where we held hands for the first time.  Rob said he knew at that time that “I was the one.” I think guys know faster! I wasn’t sure about that yet…it took me another month or so.

I am pretty sure we listened to Journey on the tape deck in my 1986 Chrysler Le Baron.  Even though it was my car, I let him do the driving.

I have sweet memories of October 30, 1998.  But it was October 31, 1998 that made me appreciate Rob even more.  We didn’t know one another very well (we had only met about six weeks before in Orientation).  I had been invited to a Halloween party with my little sister (I was a Big Brother/Big Sister volunteer) and her family in Hudsonville.  I did not know many of them very well.  She really wanted me to come and take Rob too.  I was not sure how he would do being at a Halloween party with no one he knew and a girl he just started dating.  I remember it being a special night as he was not afraid to talk to people, start up conversations, wear a costume and even trick or treat with the kids.

It has been an amazing journey for us.  So many sweet memories.  I savor each and every one.



Hello my name is Amy and I am a screensucker.  What is a screensucker?  According to the book Crazy Busy:  Overstretched, Overbooked, and About To Snap by Edward M Hallowell, MD “a screensucker is like smoking cigarettes:  Once you’re hooked, it is extremely tough to quit.”

Hallowell goes on to say, “Denied for a screen for long, a screen sucker can have a modern variant of a nicotine fit.  He can start pacing, looking for a place to log on or switch on.”  Um…embarrassingly enough I can relate to that.

What I love about Hallowell’s book is that he does not condone this fast paced world of technology we live and breathe in.  He does not say to go back in time and cut out e-mailing, blogging, watching TV, google searches etc. He even refers to this time period as “fun and exciting.” His book was published at the dawn of social networking so there is no mention of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but I am sure he would include them if they existed then.

The problem is we are very distracted. We are crossing from a calm, one task at a time pace he calls the “C state” to a frazzled, frantic pace he calls the “f state.”  The question is not how to live without the technology but how to live within limits.

So two days ago I decided to only check Facebook 2-3 times a day.  It was hard at first but got much easier as time went on.  I kept track of the time I spent on it.  Once I went on I looked at the clock and I didn’t look at it again until I was ready to log off.  Here’s what I discovered from my own perspective.

  1. Posting.  I love to post cute thing my kids say on Facebook, pictures of my family, silly quotes, or things on my mind.  I use to post much more.  Then I asked this hard question of myself:  Why do I want to post so often?  Is it the reality TV phenomena where I feel like I am performing for an audience?  Am I seeking attention because I am not getting it elsewhere?   Am I turning to the screen because I don’t want to deal with the kid’s fighting over the TV or the mess in the kitchen?  Yes, yes and yes.  All those things.  Hallowell says we sometimes fill up our schedules and multi-task because there might be something deeper (anxiety, fears, loneliness etc) we are not dealing with.
  2. In tune.  I have had some great conversations with my kids over the last two days because I have been in tune with what they are saying. I have not been sitting at the computer or had the ipad on my lap.  Last night I was praying for them (something I also have been more consistent with and in tune to since this experiment) I knew exactly what to pray for.
  3. You really don’t miss much.  Reading about how someone drove their kids to soccer practice, is making pot roast for dinner, and is now watching The Voice seems trivial to the deeper conversations I have had with my family over the past two days.
  4. You need time to think.  Hallowell says most of our creative thinking comes from times we are away from a screen such as being in the shower, driving to work, walking to the mailbox etc.  We are stifling that creative time by always reaching for the screen.
  5. Real friends not facebook friends.  We turn Facebook for suggestions and advice and really why not?  I can get six great recommendations for a Chinese restaurant.  But what about the deeper mom issues like kids bullying or getting bullied, a bad report card, the perils of puberty, an emotional breakdown etc.  First of all, maybe our kids don’t want their problems put on Facebook.  Second of all, that’s why we need a close family member or friend we can share this with.  Someone who can simply listen and care.  If we’re turning to Facebook instead of that person, maybe we are not opening ourselves up to such a relationship.

So now I am back from being out of town and I am continuing a time experiment I will be blogging about in the not too distant future.  I am going back to the Facebook limitation tomorrow…see it’s so easy to get right back into it again.  I can honestly say screensucking contributes to anxiety.  If you struggle with it like many of us do, limit your screensucking. You might reduce your anxiety and open yourself up to better things.

Unlocking the truths of anxiety

If you have been reading this blog long enough or know me well enough, you know I struggle with anxiety.  I will never be cured from it.  It will always as my husband says, “be my crutch.”  We all have some sort of crutch we walk through life with.  If anxiety is yours, then you understand the racing thoughts, the sweaty hands, the jumpiness, the extreme emotions, going through your day in fight or flight mode etc.  You may experience deep fear that might even paralyze you.

Many of us will still fall into pits of anxiety from time to time even if we have fought for our mental health through counseling, medication, natural treatments, exercise, etc. We are broken, but God loves us anyway.  He cares for us. These are some of my favorite Scripture verses I read through whenever I feel like I am in one of those pits.

God’s plan for our lives is not one that will harm us or destroy us.  His PROMISES are to give us life so we can honor and glorify Him.

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For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. – 2 Corinthians 1:20

The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life.  The Lord will watch over you coming and going both now and forevermore.  – Psalm 121:7&8

We all go through difficult times.  It is inevitable.  If you claim to know Christ you will endure suffering.  But God’s plan is PERFECT and it’s good.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

Everyone quotes this verse when they think about anxiety, but don’t forget that key little phrase “with thanksgiving.”

“You thank God before you make the request because you’re saying, “Lord, whatever you do in response to this request is GOOD.” – Tim Keller

Seeking the Lord is a day by day sometimes hour by hour process.  

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,…- 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

“Peace comes from the same thing that joy comes from–the assurance of your salvation.” – Tim Keller

Nothing or no one can overpower you.  God is ALWAYS on your side.  He is NEVER against you.

 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?

– from Our God by Chris Tomlin

God is ALWAYS with you.  You need not walk alone.

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you – Isaiah 43:2

God offers help.  Seek him for direction in your anxiety.

I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. – Psalm 40:1 & 2

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1&2

Your faith in Jesus Christ is worth more than gold.  It is WHO YOU ARE.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ – 1 Peter 1: 7 & 8

You are a CHILD OF GOD and it’s not because of all the nice things you do or the ladder of success you are trying to climb.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.…- Ephesians 2:8


End of Summer: Will Fall be better, worse or stay the same?

We are fans of The Office...big fans actually.  We still watch reruns on a somewhat regular basis and do not get tired of them.  One of the ongoing catch phrases is from Michael Scott when he asks “Do you want your life to get better or worse or stay the same?”  He expects his employees to answer “Get better” but instead they say “stay the same.”


A small part of me wishes my “summer life” could stay the same.  I love having all my kids home all day.  I savor the freedom of being able to do fun activities with them.  I enjoy being outside whether it be biking, running, swimming, playing hockey or sitting outside on my patio.  I also know Labor Day equals the conclusion of summer and all good things must come to an end.


In the spirit of Michael Scott, here are some of the things that are going to get better, worse (I am going to change that to challenging), and stay the same.

As for better, I have three kids in school this year instead of two.  This is not better because I am sick of being home with them all day–not the case.  We have had our “off days” and there have been fights to break up, of course.  They ARE kids.  I will miss the extra time with them.

I am excited for the opportunities that await them in kindergarten, second grade, and fifth grade.  I am looking forward to “doing kindergarten” one more time especially because the youngest has the same teacher that my other two children had.

I was told there are two types of moms–the one who cries sending her children off to school and the one who prods them along saying, “Go learn.  Go take on the world.”  I tend to be a bit of both leaning more towards the “Go learn and take on the world” mom.  School gives them new opportunities, friendships, and activities they may not get at home.  I love sharing the educational responsibilities with the teachers at our school I have grown to know and appreciate.


As for worse…I mean challenging…it will always be an ongoing challenge for me to maintain a schedule where we are engaging in a good mix of home, school, church & community activities while not wearing ourselves out.  Reaching that point of “too much on the plate” or a frazzled schedule is exhausting.  As I have personally studied “being busy” and looked at it spiritually, I feel like I have done much better. But it will always be tempting for me to seize new opportunities without thinking through the commitment level and not planning for rest…which is essential and I daresay we don’t do enough of.

I feel like I really learned to rest this summer.  Not resting because you are utterly exhausted and have nothing left to give (OK maybe that was me after middle school camp back in July) and not resting and feeling guilty because you should be doing something else.  Rest because you NEED it.  We cannot be at our best without a good mix of rest and activity.


As for stay the same…jobs, school, and housing are all the same and not changing anytime soon.  Most of my child care kids are from last year.  We are even going to Virginia again like we did last year (although in December instead of October).  The younger two are running with me this fall in hopes to do the Thanksgiving Turkey Dash as a family again (the oldest is doing soccer so I guess that is not the same). I am still exercising 5-6 days a week on my own though I have only been running once a week since I had issues with my IT band after the marathon.  I honestly have not minded the break and have a new appreciation for biking as well as weight lifting.

We will do the familiar fall events like Family Fun Night at the kid’s school, the Fall Harvest Carnival, and a trip to the apple orchard.  It is a blessing to have traditions and routines to look forward to…and that no one seems to get tired of it either.

So here’s to fall which is practically here.  I am wearing jeans and a sweatshirt today and thick socks because my feet were cold.  I am ready for it whatever it may bring–better things, worse things, or the same things.

The Duggars: The Cost of Being On TV

I remember watching the Duggars before they even had a show.  They were a large conservative family with kids dressed in red and white outfits (most of which looked handmade) traveling the country in a motor home.  Their lives looked happy and simple.  They had TV specials on once in awhile highlighting what life is like with 14 to 15 kids (not sure how many they actually had at that time).  It was feel-good TV and better than some of the reality garbage on the other networks.  Who can argue with living debt free, frugal living, shopping at thrift stores, good wholesome family values?  Apart from homeschooling and strict fundamentalist Christian principles, I find myself adhering to many of the Duggar’s lifestyle choices.

Then the Duggars became TV stars. I was watching an episode years ago from Season Three:  Duggars New Addition where the Duggars layed concrete on their basketball court and the younger kids were forced to play inside.  They were struggling to find things to occupy their time.  I remember thinking, “This is so boring.  There is no depth or meaning to this.  But why am I still watching it? And why do I want to watch the episode that follows it?”

In a later episode from Season 5, Duggar In Danger, young Jason Duggar falls twelve feet into an orchestra pit and an ambulance is called.  In a later interview Michelle Duggar says, “Now we have so many adult children that they have a phone with a camera on it.  So everyone was getting this on their cameras.”  I asked myself, “Is this normal to pull out your camera and start videotaping when your little brother gets hurt?”  Of course it is if you are a reality star.  This makes for great TV!  You cross that line from living your life as a simple family to being a performer or TV star basking in the perks TLC has to offer.

What family of 21 can realistically travel the world?  Jill Duggar had 1,000 people at her wedding including media reporters–this is not normal!  Jessa Duggar took a honeymoon to France. Josiah Duggar invited 400 guests to his graduation party. The Duggars have a barred fence around their home to keep fans out–this is not normal living either.

Now they have followed the demise of the reality stars who have gone before them.  Since Josh Duggar’s struggle with sexual molestation and most recently addiction to pornography and infidelity was made public. Should we even be all that surprised?  There is a cost of being on TV.  Allowing cameramen into your home documenting your daily life shrinking your privacy is exhausting.  The Duggars chose this, but unfortunately their young children did not.  They will have to deal with the consequences of these scandals the rest of their lives.  Even though it may not be ethical to conduct a witch hunt delving into police records violating somebody’s privacy etc., it is a dire consequence to choosing the reality star route.  Nothing is hidden anymore.

The Duggars feel they are different from other reality families.  They don’t watch TV and limit all their exposure to music, the Internet, movies etc.  They see their reason for being on TV as a family ministry.  Being a person in the ministry, I see “ministry” as sharing the gospel message of the saving grace God freely gives through Jesus Christ.  It really can all be summed up into that.

The Duggar’s share family moral values and living.  There is nothing wrong with that, but that’s not the heart of what ministry is.  If we have this attitude of “Look at the Duggars!  We want our family like the Duggars!” we are setting ourselves up to feel insecure, ashamed, and now severely disappointed.  They are not a perfect family and have their hidden sins (that have become not so hidden) and I don’t even think they are the best Christian example.  Psalm 146:3 says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save.”

Fame was not something Jesus Christ actively pursued.  He walked humbly on earth and lived His life with His ministry pointing to the one true God.  His sacrifice was not fame and fortune but rather his death which paid for our sins.  So let this Duggar scandal be a gentle reminder that even the perfect looking are far from perfect.