2018 in review

For years and years I have done an annual Best Of post. But this year I'm going to change things up a bit, going month by month, picking out the highlight from my posts that month. I just went through January and it was so fascinating to me to scroll through my life one year ago. So I'll spare you that task, and just share a favorite moment from each month.

January
 Goat. It's what's for dinner. Definitely a favorite blog post.

February

March

April
today on the farm... A good reminder of all that is to come in springtime. And to rest up!

May
post holes So. many. post. holes.

June
I'm a milk maid! Likely the happiest moment of my 2018. Can you tell?!!
to market to market to kill a fat pig There's just so much to learn on a farm...

July
August
can the rainbow ...my New Year's resolution last year.
 ...and, a BLT with the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato all from our own farm!

September

October...I only posted once in October...

November
Alden's Day 2018 A day-in-the-life at our house.

December
...no blog post, just a nice family picture
So there you have it. Our year in review. I have never had a year in my life where I have felt so changed...and I'm not certain if it was 2018, or when I turned 37, because that was the day Miracle was born, and that experience changed me so completely from an in-the-house farm wife to a full on walking-to-the-barn-at-2-am-to-bottle-feed farmer. I wrote about this transformation fully right here. And the big life experiences just kept coming. God has shown me so many things this year, taught me so many things, empowered me in so many ways. All things are possible and I believe it in my bones. My hands will remain wide open, ready to learn and grow and deepen my relationship with Him. Because he has me on a fast track at the moment and I simply want to learn more and more of him and his ways.

So there it is. 2018 has passed and 2019 looks full of possibility and promise. How good it is to be alive.

3 good Christmas stories

So this picture was taken earlier in the month...it's a little more brown and icy now. :)

Story One: 
Back in September our church hosted the Minnesota Teen Challenge Choir. We have the Rochester campus come to our church and in the choir was the granddaughter of one of our members. Also singing up front was the young mom who sits in front of us every Sunday morning. I knew she had been in rehab, but I didn't realize she was at Teen Challenge. She's a great girl. She comes with her mom every Sunday and now her two kids come with their grandma as she gets help to overcome her addictions.

This past Sunday she must have had a pass to leave the campus and came to church. We were sitting on the opposite side of our usual seats and so I didn't see her until I saw the commotion as we sang. She had been spotted by a good friend and the two were hugging and it looked so joyful. Then one of my favorite older men in the congregation got out of his seat and went to shake her hand and they talked for a while. And over and over I watched her be overwhelmingly welcomed into our fold with so much joy and gladness that she was back. It made me happy to be a part of the church- there was so much love surrounding her.

Story Two:
We got to church for the Christmas Eve service just as it was beginning. I was walking behind my clan with a toddling Alden who tripped and fell and by the time he picked himself up again, Rory had chosen our seats. He chose a row closer to the front in the middle of lots of people, next to our good friends with little kids. And immediately I felt like this was a bad idea. Christmas Eve is a quiet service and if I had been leading the pack I would have chosen the back row, with an easy exit for when we got to noisy. Instead I climbed over Rory to sit with all 6 of us in 4 chairs.

I was so annoyed. I didn't even look to see who was behind us as I climbed into my spot. I just felt embarrassed for what was to come. So I tried to be still and keep everyone quiet and fumed a bit at how stuck I was in this row.

But the kids were fine. And Alden kept smiling at the people behind us, and I just hoped they weren't regretful that their Christmas Eve came with a side show. Eventually I loosened up and I turned to see who Alden was beaming at. And guess who it was? Tony. Tony, Alden's very best friend at church. Tony is an old man who lives alone and comes to church an hour early so that he can feed Alden donut holes, one after another and scratch Alden's back. They love each other and I quickly realized Alden was likely making Tony's whole Christmas as he smiled and excitedly handed him ripped up scraps of paper.

And then I looked next to Tony and it was Gayla and her husband. Gayla teaches Hattie and Elsie's Sunday School class and adores my daughters. And when I made eye contact with her she lit up and wished me a Merry Christmas and her husband smiled and I felt so much grace.

It turns out we were surrounded by people who love us fully. I looked around and on every side were friends who love our family. And I felt that love go right into my heart as my body physically went from nervous and annoyed to relief and belonging.

Story Three:
This one involves you. A few years ago my mom got a Chronological Daily Bible and read the Bible in a year. The next year her brother Wayne bought this Bible for himself and for each of his siblings and they read it together. Last April I found this particular Bible at the used book fair in our town and picked it up. It took until September for me to start reading it and when I did I was so glad. This Bible is fantastic. The books for the prophets are woven through the stories found in Kings and Chronicles. The Psalms pop up from time to time, fitting the text. The book of Acts has been broken up with Paul's letters to the churches peppered throughout. The best part is that there are helpful paragraphs between readings that say, "Now remember while this is happening in Babylon, this is happening back in..." And it is so helpful! The story is alive and I am so grateful for the way the Word is made new through this Bible.

So I emailed my pastors and asked if I could invite our congregation to read this Bible with me in 2019. By 2020 we would have read the Bible together. And then I emailed a bunch of local friends to see if they wanted to join in. And at this time there are over 50 of us committed to reading God's Word together in 2019. Even the Hispanic small group bought 8 Spanish versions so they can join along!

So here's the thing. January first is right around the corner, and with Prime, you could have this Bible in your mailbox long before then. Or maybe it comes a few days late and you just pick up on the day it arrives because there is grace for this reading plan and because you likely know the creation story pretty well by now...

But I want to invite you to join in. It is 4-5 pages a day. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes. And I am telling you, I love this version.

It is called The Daily Bible in Chronological Order.  If you are feeling like your own faith life has been dry, or if you need a word from the Lord, then I highly recommend joining in. Because God is not quiet in his Bible! He has many words for you! They are right there.

And the thing about doing this as a group is that we are on the hook to read it! I need the accountability so much that I am leading this effort- think of the pressure on me to read it now! And you too! In a good way! I want to do this. Think about all that God wants to show us through his Word, if we would just open the book up. We will pray for discipline, obedience and steadfastness to keep our faces in the book- together. Literally on the same page.

So go order your Daily Bible. It's $20. I don't think you can regret this one!

Merry Christmas everybody.

Santa Lucia: Santa Hattie

My friend Lacy replied to an email saying, "we've got everything set for Lucia Day tomorrow..." and I wrote back that I was so grateful for the reminder because I barely knew the day of the week that week. So we pulled it off! And let me tell you, every year we are more and more casual about the whole thing and that seems to help greatly.

Elsie was Lucia in the morning at our house with Hattie as her joyful and happy assistant. They gave Dad cookies in bed and then tried to wake up Ivar but he just took his cookie and crawled back under his covers. Alden was the most enthused because he can say, "Cookie!" And he couldn't believe he was getting a spritz in his crib, first thing in the morning. 

Later in the day we went to Kyle and Lisa's house to surprise Josie and her boyfriend but Elsie got nervous at the last second so it was a quick switch to Hattie who was happy to be Lucia, though the crown didn't feel good she said. 

Then we went to my parent's house and Elsie was Lucia there. We sang We Wish you a Merry Christmas and gave cookies. And that was a wrap. And of the entire day, these are the only two pictures I took! But it was so fun to go to relative's houses, just like in our favorite Lucia book. I think this will become more of our tradition...making the rounds and delivering cookies door to door. It made for a really fun and festive Lucia day this year!

homemade snow globes and I'm still here!

I've been getting emails and texts asking if I'm doing okay...it's been so long since I have posted here! And the answer is Yes! Doing great and living this season fully. (Also, my computer is in the cold laundry room, and has to be connected to an actual internet cable so that I can't move it anywhere...and it is so cold in this part of the house that I have very little incentive to come back here! But I just batch edited all my December pictures, so get ready...blog posts are on their way!)

Now let's talk about these snow globes. I found this tutorial the day before our Harrington Family Christmas and I basically stopped all of life in order to get these babies made to give as Christmas gifts to my parents. They are so darling. They were pretty straight forward to make, though the glycerine/glitter ratio was a little tricky late, late at night...just a heads up. But I wanted to post these pictures so that if you are looking for a last minute grandma and grandpa gift, you now have this darling idea. Fire up your hot glue gun!

Funny story from these snow globes. Before we took the pictures I showed the kids the original post where the idea was from and they got really excited. I told them to go put on their winter gear to take their individual pictures and Elsie left for a long time and then came back with her hair done, a dress and high heels. Oh that girl. She is a delight. And looks stunning in her snow globe. (Alden wasn't going for any of the winter gear, hence the pj's.)

So a few catch up stories:
Elsie- The road we take to church and Aldi has been closed since April. It finally opened back up and lo and behold they put in a round-about at the entrance of a subdivision. You should know that I am the president of the Round-Abouts-Are-Dumb fan club. I just think they're dumb. But Elsie, on our first spin around our new round-about (on a quiet road with barely any traffic) said to me, "This is my dream! I love these! And now we can ride on this everyday!" And it made puff a laugh and I was grateful to have Elsie in my life. And I swallowed my own opinions and decided to grab hold of Elsie's attitude.

Alden- He toddles everywhere, is quite hefty and talks a lot. When he wakes in the morning he bellows, "HaaaaaTeeeee! HaaaaaTeeeee!" And then when I get him out he leans forward whispering, "Essie? Essie?" He still calls me Dadda, and when I correct him and say, "I'm Mama" he will look at me and say cheerfully, "DaddaMama!" He adds joy and delight to every day. And rearranges anything not locked down in our house. Every day.

Ivar- We are reading The Viking Quest series right now. Actually, Ivar is reading each book first and them I'm dying for him to finish so I can start reading the next one. He told me while reading the first book that he really wanted me to read it...that I would love it. So late one night I picked it up and thought I'd read a chapter to be kind to his wishes, but then I got sucked in and read half the book! They are so good! They teach how to hear God's voice and how to believe even when everything seems impossible. And they are intense! If I had read the books first I likely would have waited until Ivar was 10, but I didn't, and he seems fine. I think it is more challenging reading, but Ivar told me, "when I don't know a word, I just skip it. It usually doesn't matter." Ha.

Hattie- Hattie is always talking about whose birthday is next. So now each day she'll tell me excitedly a couple times, "Baby Jesus' Birthday Comin' Up!"

Rory- We brought two ewes to auction on Monday and on Wednesday we brought our lamb Big Sister to butcher. We love our animals and these goodbyes are really sad. I loved one of those ewes so much...she was so friendly and tame. But it's also part of this life and becoming more routine. A strange reality to recognize.

Me- I've enjoyed this December so much this year. We decorated the day after Thanksgiving and then I got all crafty and made a huge wreath out of our evergreen, made big stars out of sticks and twine, made a bunch of paper snowflakes with the kids and hung some new decorations in new places. I really got a kick start on the season. But then I think I sort of sat on my hands for a while, so that now, the fact that it is December 20th is crazy pants to me and I still need to find a few gifts! I do this every year! The last minute run around is just a part of my December tradition, I guess. But it's fun, isn't it? Even in Walmart two nights ago I felt glad and happy to be out and about getting things ready for Christmas.

So that's all for now! And I've got more posts to come. But for now, know that we're doing well over here. I had a friend's girls over tonight while their folks hosted a work christmas party. I told all the kids over dinner, "Tomorrow the days start to get longer! It's the winter solstice!" And Lily moaned, "Oh nooooo. I don't want the days to be any longer before Christmas. I just want it to be here!"

Isn't that great? It was such a great reminder of Christmas as a kid. All the joy and anticipation for that one day. What fun!

Alden's Day 2018

You will never believe this. I woke up, mom got me out of my crib and brought me to her bedroom window...and there were guys on my roof. Lots of them. I stayed very, very still and kept a close eye on them. I knew right then this was going to be an interesting day.
Then Elsie woke up and she helped me keep an eye on the roof guys. Mom didn't seem concerned, so I relaxed a bit. Which was good because this day was going to get noisy!
It was only after making Peanut Butter and Jelly Toast that Mom thought of the last time I took over her blog and shared pictures from a typical day and she decided maybe it was time to do it again. The crazy thing is, it was almost a year to the day that we did this last year! So Mom committed to keep her camera out and take pictures all day long. To be noted, new this year, Elsie can make the PBJ Toast! This is a great step forward for Groveskind. Mom is so thrilled. Also, we don't always have PBJ Toast, but we go in streaks for breakfast foods, and right now we're once again on a PBJ toast streak.
Hattie got all sticky while eating her toast and was so glad to be told to go and wash her hands. That's basically all Hattie does anymore. She just stands on the step stool and squirts the soap, adds some water, squirts some more soap, makes faces in the mirror, makes bubbles, talks about the bubbles... and it goes on and on until Mom remembers that she sent her to wash her hands and tells her she needs to be done.
I'm not there yet. I just sit in my high chair until Mom takes the time to hold me with her one arm right under my arm pits, and then uses her other arm to quirt soap into each hand while I splash and squirm and try to get my feet into the sink. Sometime mom procrastinates on cleaning me because it can be quite the mess.
So she puts off the inevitable and makes her own breakfast while I watch. She's doing another Whole 30 right now, with a few modifications this time (like rice) and is happy to be off of sugar again.
But it's too bad she didn't wash my hands when she took that first picture! Because guess where I put my sticky fingers?!! When I said I was "all done!" I meant it. so get me out of this thing so I can go dump something on the floor!
Meanwhile, when Hattie washed her hands, and Mom ate her eggs and I discovered hair gel, Ivar and Elsie got to work up in Lego Land. This is part of the upstairs closet where they can play and not be terrorized by people like me, people who love to destroy lego creations. Also, if they are playing in Lego Land, it means they are done with their morning chores. Or at least they are supposed to be!
Mom loves this wall in her bedroom and just wanted to show you.
So I wish you could hear the audio of this day, but since you can't I will tell you that those workers were ripping off every shingle on our house and then nailing in new boards on the existing roof before pounding in the shingles. Sometimes the house positively shook. It was so loud and exciting! The workers were fun to watch, but we all agreed they looked terribly cold. So Hattie and Mom decided to make them Monster Cookies.
Hattie is always happy to help in the kitchen.
And I'm happy to help too, but it does seem I continue to get set in my high chair. This time I had feelings about that. I was so mad! I wanted to be right there by the mixer, making sure the blade was spinning in that batter by testing it with my own hand. So Mom put me in lock down...I mean, in my high chair and I was not happy. But then she gave me a little tootsie pop from the halloween candy and then I was happy.
Hattie and I went down for our naps, which was a little bit of a stretch since the workers were walking around right above our heads. But we stayed in our cribs and listened for a bit, while Mom got Ivar and Elsie working on school stuff. Ivar is learning about the 13 colonies as a part of his US History. Recently she was telling them about the constitution and Elsie said, "The thing that is embarrassing about the Constitution is that it sounds like constiTOOTion." Let me tell you, we are never at a loss for potty humor around here. Everybody just loves a good toot joke!
And Elsie is almost a full-blown reader! She has been working so hard and is almost done with her reading book and it is so fun to watch it all come together. Also, when Ivar took this picture he said to her, "Elsie, you look very beautiful right now." Later Dad told Mom that he had told Ivar to stop looking for things Elsie was doing wrong and to look for opportunities to build her up.
Look at this sweet Ewe. Just walked right up to Mom when she was walking out to the cabin. Our sheep are so tame and friendly.
And here's Dad working out in his office. He is writing a book right now and it is almost finished. Also, if this had been a Monday or a Wednesday, he would be working at the butcher shop. He is learning so much!
Now look at that guy! And I'm trying to sleep right under where he is working!
Well, my nap didn't last too much longer and guess who was in our house when I came downstairs?!! Hershey the Rabbit!!! Mom had rescued her because her hutch was covered with tarp and nails kept falling on her metal roof. So she went and got her for a day in the downstairs shower. Ivar was thrilled and brought her out to play many times this day.
Then Hershey went back in the shower and we tuned into our favorite show, Shingles at Sundown.
Then it was time to make dinner! This was a big day in the kitchen. Mom made cauliflower rice, monster cookies, scalloped potatoes, a ham and a loaf of bread in this one day. Her cooking ebbs and flows, sometimes she's into it and sometimes she's not. But lately she has been enjoying her time in the kitchen which is good news for good eaters like me.
 
This was our own pig, our own potatoes and our own onion. We love meals like this!
After supper we all tidy up the house. Elsie is super duper helpful in the kitchen and adds a lot of joy to Mom's work in there. That's fun when a 37 year old can be inspired by a 6 year old's chipper attitude.
And then we got the projector out and watched the videos of Mom and Dad when they went to Tanzania just after they got married. They liked remembering that season of life. They kept saying to each other, "do you remember our life back then? what were we doing with all of our time? I hardly remember our day to day..." I mostly liked snuggling with mom and Elsie.
And then we had Family Worship. That means: we sing a hymn, read a portion from the Bible and pray together before bedtime. Hattie and my favorite hymn is Holy, Holy, Holy. We sing it all night long when we are trying to fall asleep. Holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy, holy... Mom uses her Hymn Cards so we all have a copy of the words and it has become a very favorite part of the day. And Mom and Dad are so glad we are learning these important songs. Otherwise we'd never hear them! They are very aware that the Hymns rarely say "me" or "I" or "us" or "we." The hymns are mostly about God and how good he is. It is refreshing! So we end our days singing of how good God is, and then I hit the hay with the other three. And these days, Mom and Dad come to bed pretty soon after. Thanks for joining me for another day! And be sure to read the disclaimer at the end of last year's post if this all looks a little bit too perfect for you... ;)