Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

We struggle to put into words the immense blessing and changes of this last year.  As you likely know, we became a family of five last winter when two younger kiddos moved into our home and hearts.  The courts made them officially part our family in Sept. when their adoptions were finalized.  2015 was a year of transitions, changes, and challenges but also joy, hugs, and everyday miracles.  Here's a bit of a summary...

During the winter, besides our kiddos move-in and the big family transitions, the kids turned 6, 5 , and 4 with Lego Chima, Hulk and Dora cakes respectively.  Ike also wrestled in his first tournaments - he enjoyed wrestling but didn't want everyone to come watch him.  Learning what it meant to be a family of 5 and all the transitions was a big task, but God provided what we needed :)

During spring, we added a few more chickens to our flock, enjoyed a lot of time outside, and started our garden.  We also went to the zoo for the first time as a family of 5, something we did a number of times during the summer.  We also attempted our first (very rainy) camping trip and quickly realized we'd continue to enjoy our camping time together a bit more if we had more space :)

During summer, our family did a lot more camping in our new-to-us camper, including a week long camping trip up north.  The kids played tball, looked forward to summer reading and of course spent lots of time outside.  We also enjoyed a long weekend at a cabin with my parents, sister and her husband.  Plus both boys also learned to ride their bikes without training wheels!  The summer ended on a sad note though as we said good-bye to our family dog Ratchet.

Fall came with a big bang -- besides our kids starting first grade and preschool, we added the excitement of our adoption finalization and big family party.  With the start of a new school year, our weeks flew by quickly with routine.  We did fit in a few more camping trips and an atv trip up north (another first as a family of 5).  Of course there was also plenty of fun at Halloween and Thanksgiving.

As the snow has come, gone and now returned again, it is really beginning to feel like Christmas.  In a few short days, we'll gather with family and enjoy time together. As I close this post, I want to thank everyone for their prayers, encouragement and help this year -- we were blessed by so many as during our year of more hugs, tears, laughter, silly, new traditions and changes than we ever could have planned.

Blessings to you and your family from ours on the gravelly road.  

Merry Christmas and Happy 2016!

Monday, December 21, 2015

One Year Ago...

During all the Christmas hurry and to-do lists, I've been trying to do a bit of extra reflecting.

We met our younger son and daughter one year ago this month.  One year ago today, we brought our oldest along to meet his new sister and brother.

We spent our first weekend as a family of 5 -- restaurants, hotels, pools and 3 in the back seat of the pickup -- crash course in the crazy wonderful loud that would become us.

It is breath-taking how much has changed in a year.  As a friend reminded me this fall when I spotted our previous year's Christmas card on in her kitchen -- God can do amazing, He's done it in our family.

Have we "arrived"?  Is all the "hard" over?  No.  There is still processing, changing, remember and learning that will continue to happen.  There are hard things that have happened that don't go away, loss that doesn't disappear.

But then I remember how far God has brought us in one short year -- Lean in.  He's got this.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pre-Christmas Fun

While the snow is long gone, we've been having plenty of Christmas-y fun here on the gravelly road.

Visiting our favorite local lights display.

Seeing Santa and his crew when the Santa Semi came to town.


The kids' sang in the church Christmas program.

Plus goodie baking, Christmas decorating and gift making.  Its a busy month for our family on the gravelly road.

In order to try to intentionally slow down and keep our focus in the right place, we are trying a few different things for Advent.  Our big Advent calendar did not make it out this year, but instead we are using a single Advent candle our church gave us that we marked with lines for each day of the month.  Each evening we let it burn until it reaches the next line and read a short scripture together.  We are also using Star from Afar, wooden nativity set and book where you hide the star each day with a scripture verse, then help the wisemen (and you) follow the star all the way to Christmas.  Its been a fun new tradition.

Hoping you are enjoying some intentional family time and remembering the reason for the season.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Snow Fun and then Gone

Over Thanksgiving, the kids were pretty excited that Grandma's house had plenty of snow even though our home on the gravelly road hadn't been that "lucky" yet.  Sleds in the yard, a snowman and a snowball fight with Grandpa filled an afternoon of snow fun.





Barely a week later, snow arrived at our house too.  Not enough to delay school but plenty to enjoy.  Even shoveling is fun the first few snowfalls.




After a week of warmer weather (40s and 50s) though, nearly all the snow has melted.

Already looking forward to our next round of snow fun here on the gravelly road.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Thursday 2015 - post 3


We made it!  What a list of thankfulness this month.

Here are some of the items the 5 of us added to the chain in the last week: sounds of children playing together, snowflakes, handcuffs, Thanksgiving, holidays, Daddy home, yummy soup, brother pushing his siblings on the swings, weekends, babies, pancakes, quiet moments at the end of the day, books, trampoline, Sunday school, serving others with friends, birthday cake, breakfast, chocolate milk, turkey, clothes to wash, grandpas, local eggs and honey from friends, safe travel for a long weekend, visiting with family, playing in the snow.

We pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, taking some moments to consider the immensity of what each of us have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving from us on the Gravelly Road.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thankful Thursdays 2015 - post 2

Thankfulness grows!

The kids are hoping we can get enough added to our chain to make it around the dinning area.  It amazing to watch the chain get longer each night.

Thankful items added to the chain in the last week from the 5 of us include (note there is always some humor required even when being thankful): mom and dad, Grandma's visit, applesauce, kids doing their best in school, toilets, underwear, a breakfast date, a new bed, food, a warm house on a rainy day, dolls, pet fish, crawfish named Pinchy (in our fish tank), a delicious meal from a friend, socks, the alphabet, games, an encouraging text, pjs...

Happy Thankful Thursday from our family on the Gravelly Road.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Serious Moment and Super Smiles



He is serious, thoughtful and then ridiculously goofy.  He gives the best knock-you-over hugs when I pick him up from school.  So thankful for this middle child of ours.

Just some backyard moments from our Life on the Gravelly Road.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thankful Thursdays 2015 - post 1

We already sailed into the second week of November without starting my usual Thankful Thursday posts.  As my attempt at garden posts shows, consistent blogging hasn't been my strong suit this year :)  Busy household indeed.  I've also started a photo editing class which I'm really enjoying but its so fun to just keep tweaking old fav photos, I have had less free time than usual (which even then is in short supply).  So I apologize.

That said, there is so much to recognize as blessings this year -- even the busyness of our household.  Again we've started our Thankful paper chain tradition and my does that chain grow quickly with 5 people adding to it instead of just 3.  I think it says something about the impact of sharing your thanks with a group -- it grows!

This pic is of our chain near our dinner table is from the end of last week (when I originally intended to post).

Items the kids have added to the chain include: Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles, Friends, Legos, House, Supper/food, school, brothers, plus a few other important people listed by name.

Here's some of my recorded thanks this week and last: Beautiful fall weather, Supper with all 5 of us together, Being cooked for, Time to reconnect with friends, MOPS, helpful kids, good reports from teachers of kids doing their best, sunshine coming in the windows, smells of cooking applesauce, safe travel, worshiping with our church family.

How do you encourage a spirit of Thankfulness in your home?

Happy Thankful Thursday from Life on the Gravelly Road.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Halloween 2015

Happy Halloween from the five of us here on the Gravelly Road.


The kids had a great Halloween week.  I helped carve pumpkins in Peaches preschool class.  Monday night we took the kids to a community Halloween party at Zman's preschool -- painting pumpkins, treats from local business, snacks, crafts and a glow in the dark room.

Of course all three kids had fall/Halloween parties during the week.  Then on Saturday we went the the fall festival at our church -  games, crafts, supper and even a movie.

So from our Spider, Superman/Mr Incredible and Bumblebee the Transformer - Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fall Colors and ATV fun

The weekend was much to short for all the fun we wanted to fit in, but we enjoyed a wonderful weekend up north with some friends... enjoying fall colors, riding the ATV trails and even stopping at a favorite state park on the way home.

Saturday morning we got on the ATV trails right away.  This was the first time we'd brought our younger two on a trail ride and thankfully were riding with friends who had an extra seat so we could all fit (we need a new plan for all 5 of us to go out next time!).  We stopped often for snacks and to enjoy the fall colors.  Of course we found plenty of mud as well, though not quite as much as last year's trip.

That evening we enjoyed a campfire and exploring around the cabin where we were staying.

Sunday we stopped at a favorite state park, a restaurant on Lake Superior and watched the big lift bridge as well.
It was a long drive home to our gravelly road but great to have a weekend away.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Favorite song

I've written about favorite songs in the past here, but with two more kids, when they all agree on a favorite, its a big deal.

Impossible by Building 429 is their current favorite.  Big brother decided it was "just so awesome" this summer and kept bringing it to his siblings' attention when it came on the radio.  Now whenever it comes on, radios get turned up and all three belt out the words.  In the car, upstairs, during rest time, at bedtime, it doesn't matter.  They can hear it start from almost anywhere in the house it seems and they come running, to sing and dance their hearts out.

The words fit us right now.  So I sing along too.
"You got a vision, you got a dream
But it feels a million miles away
You got your passion, you got to believe That this is why you were made"
....
"We can rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know, we know, we know
That there's no such thing as impossible
And nothing is unreachable
When we trust the God of miracles
We know, we know, we know
That there's no such thing as impossible."


Singing about all the Impossible that He has already done here on the gravelly road.

Monday, October 5, 2015

And then there were skates

A friend gave the kids skates/rollerblades, a two pairs have been here for a while but the third pair just was given to us a few weeks ago.  So a recent Saturday they wanted to try them.


We were not very adventurous -- the kids are too new at this.  We stayed on our little cement driveway along our gravelly road.

Of course, my parents knew about the skates and brought my ancient rollerblades from high school with them on a previous trip to our house (I'm sure they were glad to have them no longer taking up space at their house).  So I put my pair on too.  The fact that I could turn and not fall down was awe-inspiring to them.  Ha!


The boys decided making it across the driveway (as wide as our two-stall garage) was their goal.  Then they set up the cozy coup midway as a "rescue spot" to crawl to so they could get up when they fell (did I say they have a long ways to go?).


This girl tried so very hard but fell down so often, she would just sit and watch her brothers for a while before she tried again.

Since then they've tried them on a few more times and each time they are better -- its amazing how quickly kids pick things up.

Outdoor fun on a beautiful fall day on our gravelly road.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Review: Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong


I had read this author's blog before and enjoyed it, plus the book sounded interesting when I read the short description.  To be honest though, I wasn't sure what to expect when this book arrived in the mail.  I certain now that this book ended up in my hands for a reason.  Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life's Transitions by Kristen Strong encouraged me, challenged me and helped me to reflect on life's changes in new ways.

As you probably know, our family has been through some huge changes in the last nine months (catch up here, here, and here).  While I didn't have time to read a whole lot during the thick of our big transitions, this book would have been a blessing had it been on my shelf to page through and remind myself.  And yet, reading this book toward the end of our big transition has helped me to reflect on how I approached the changes, how friends and family came along-side us, and how God has blessed us through all the changes.

Everyone faces change of one type or another: the changes you know are coming and feel planned for, the wonderful surprises that turn into a bit of crazy, and the hard news that knock you off your feet.  This is a book that can speak to so many because it grounded in scripture and truth.

Kristen writes from a voice of experience - her family has walked through many seasons of change and transition- but also a voice of grace, compassion and hope.  Throughout the book she dives into Biblical stories of those who went through great change (Abraham, Joseph, Ester) to gather God's wisdom and illustrate how God uses change to bless.

She reminds readers that changes- whether hoped for, surprised by or crushed by- bring stress and are not something you can just "get over".  She doesn't sugar coat, give band-aid solutions or minimize the difficulty of the changes you might be facing.  Instead she brings truth and hope.  The book covers the phases and challenges of change from a faith-filled perspective, helping readers see how God can use change and how faith can help adapt ones perspective and responses during seasons of change to allow you to thrive through it.

This book is exactly what it says... it is filled with truths to carry you through life's transitions.

If you want to learn more, take a moment to read a bit from the author and take a quiz on whether you think of change as a friend for enemy.

* I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for a review.  All opinions and words are my own.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Doubt


This week I'm again participating in Five Minute Fridays at Kate Motaung's blog, (after another long hiatus) encouraging bloggers to write on a prompt unedited for five minutes.  This week's prompt: Doubt

START


It doesn't take long for the voices of doubt to whisper and whine.

Or for me to start to listen to doubt's words.

Doubts about my role as mother and my ability to mother the tough moments as I should.
Doubts about what I can handle or what I am called to do.
Doubts about my ability to make any difference to others.

And once I let those doubts start to bounce around in my head, during long tired nights, rough mornings, or the crazy hour before supper, my ability to hear His words about me, to hear His love for me gets dimmed.

But I am blessed.
....To be married to a man that knows me and reminds me.
....To have friends to see the real me.
....To have a church family that encourages.
....To find reminders of His Love and His view of me in scriptures, books and in the most unexpected places.

I know that the more I fill my mind with Truth, the stronger I am against the doubts in any form, whispers or shouts. And fortified with Truth, I can take that next step, calm that tantrum or start that next thing they He has called me to.

END

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