Sunday, December 28, 2014

And the Holidays continue...

Whew! What a whirlwind this holiday season has been! We have been having a blast, that is for sure! Spending time with family, eating LOTS of amazing food, breaking in new toys, and just going, going, going.

We were with my parents, sisters and grandparents on the 21st. It's always fun to see the excitement spread from the kids to the adults - Papa had actually been aching for the big boys to open some of their toys so he could go out with them and play! :D I love that the joy of the season can bring out the kid in us all. My grandparents are getting older, as we all are...but I feel this year that we need to make the extra effort to see them. No sense of foreboding or anything, just the fact that reality is what it is. They won't always be with us, and we need to make the most of what we have with them. Kelly has already lost all his grandparents, and I only have two of mine left. I want the kids to have good memories of them, as well.

Kelly ended up working on Christmas Eve, but the kids and I still went to Evergreen for candlelight service. It was a sweet and beautiful time with family and friends...though I have no idea how my kids haven't given Pastor William a complex over the years! In the past, my oldest has corrected his accuracy in a sermon (thus leading William to write a lengthy letter to him and pay him for his editorial services!), my middle has insulted his chili (which led him to insisitng on knowing my recipe, being that it was what his was compared to), and tonight - boy howdy - TWO of my kids were in top form. During the opening prayer, Castle started saying Amen...louder...and louder...and LOUDER....I guess he didn't think Pastor William needed to pray so long! Mrs. Tiffany, Pastor's wife, was sitting right in front of us, and could hardly contain her laughter! Then at the end, when we were all lighting our candles, Caleb was too busy singing to bother containing his flame. He caught my father-in-law's sleeve on fire! Oh, my, it's never a dull moment with the Quinn kids around, that is for certain! LOL!

Connor and I waited up for Kelly. We knew he'd pull what he's pulled the last couple years and wake us all up to open gifts. So, for the third year in a row, our Christmas morning began at about 1:30am! UGH!!! It is frighteningly becoming a tradition around here, and I can't say I'm completely thrilled with it...but when has our family ever done anything resembling normal? It is kind of nice to be able to sleep in, take out time, and not feel rushed in the morning. We let them stay up for an hour or two, then sent them all back to bed so we could get some shut eye ourselves. I had already decided it had been far too long since I'd seen some of my extended family, so Chloe, Connor, Castle and I headed to Monett about noon for the Craker Christmas. I got to meet my cousin, Chris's husband and new baby, so that was awesome. It was nice to visit and catch up without using a computer! :)

On Saturday, we had time with the Hartzells. Oh, boy, what a bittersweet time. With the family farm selling this month, there have been moments of remembering good times, sighs of relief, and tears of what could have been. It is a good thing, but also a hard thing. Knowing this was the last family lunch "on Grandma and Grandpa", kind of made us feel like the end of an era. But with a family like this, we know it's actually just the beginning of a new era.

In the evening, the cousins got together and were going to have a game night...but it ended up being an evening of visiting and eating - which was just fine with (mostly) everyone! Connor was a tad disappointed, but he'll survive. I could feel the busyness of the last two weeks catching up with me, not to mention, still fighting for strength after the bug I'd had, and Kelly was watching me pretty closely. I kept smiling and saying I was fine, but by 10pm, he was loading me up and sending me to bed - plus turning my alarm off so I wouldn't try to get up for church. I went to bed sort of grumbly, but was so thankful to wake up rested and ready for a day of fun with our kids and nieces. My guy is definitely a keeper! :)

Casey and Tiff showed up for lunch about 1. The kids ate fast and stared holes in us until we finally agreed that it could be present time. It's always fun to take turns so everyone can ooh and ahh over all the fun gifts. Castle, however, doesn't believe in taking turns. He opened his, then started opening whoever wasn't watching theirs! Oh, that boy! We have a fun afternoon and the kids played outside with their new Nerf bows and guns, keeping the chaos inside to a minimum. Tiff and I are both due in about a month, so we were glad for the lower roar.

That evening, we headed to Crossway. With all the craziness of the family get togethers and holiday programs, I felt like it had been ages since we'd worshiped with our church family. I was pleased to find we were having the  Lord's Supper, but sad that Kelly was working security and couldn't partake with us. However, it was a beautiful service, and I felt the love of our Savior as I dwelt over my juice and wafer. He has truly blessed us this year...the hardest loss we've ever endured, and a gift of renewal and promise all in the same year. Life is hard, but He is good. I'm humbled by His overwhelming love.

And the fun isn't even over yet! April, Rob and the kids will be heading this way Tuesday, and we will have a few days with them. I just can't wait!

Monday, December 22, 2014

'Tis the Season

Ready or not,'s here! We got our Christmas festivities kicked off this weekend. First, we were with my parents and sisters at Mom and Dad's in Walnut Grove. Grandma and Grandpa came for a little while, but headed home well before dark. It's never enough time with them, though, it seems. We had a good, chaotic visit - Kelly was sick and not feeling too sociable, so Dad drove him home after presents and eating so I could stay and visit a while. April and Rob and the kids stopped by for a couple hours on their way through to Chicago - it was great to see them, and it made me look forward to the end of the month when we get a few days with them! The kids got some really neat gifts, we ate a ton of food, and just enjoyed the day.

Sunday, the kids and I went to Eudora Baptist for church. We absolutely love our Crossway family, and we hate to miss, but sometimes it is fun to visit our old friends. This day, Rian, Heather and Steph were putting on the kids' production of "The Secret of Snowflake County". Molly, Hannah, and the twins all had parts, so we definitely wanted to be there for them. They did just wonderful! I can't believe how much time gets away from me. Seeing the girls on that stage made me realize just how quickly they are growing up. Chloe and Molly start junior high in just a few did this even happen?

Last night, we all gathered at Jason and Steph's for our "Framily" Christmas - our friends who are like family - the Daniels, the Besses, the Brixeys and us. Let me tell you, we are so blessed with the greatest friends in the world. It's hard with our schedules being so different these last couple years, but carving out the time to still be together for the important things is what holds these bonds so tightly. I truly miss serving and worshipping with our best friends, but I love and trust where God has put us all. As I told Heather last night, maybe someday He'll see fit to put us into ministry together again some day...

Today, the three big kids have dr. appointments, but I promised them some holiday cheer this evening. Tonight, we will grab some cocoa and puppy chow, load up in the van and go see the crazy Christmas guy's light display. Then home for some gingerbread house building competition! :)

I'm glad for the week away from schoolbooks and activities. It's wonderful to not have a fully loaded schedule so we can focus on each other and the real Reason for the Season. I'm thankful for my Jesus every day of the year, but I'm especially grateful for this holiday season. The lights, the music, the goodwill towards men...I want it to last all year long. It starts with us. We'll do our part, as best we can.

Merry Christmas to you all!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review Time! Schoolhouse Review

I don't know about you, but sometimes our homeschool hits a rut...especially this time of year. Now when that happens, I rack my brain trying to come up with something new that will spur us through that rut - a new read aloud, a project of some kind, a lapbook activity. Having kids in many different developmental and grade levels, it can be very difficult, and having two or three extra projects going at once can be overwhelming. But this month, I had the opportunity to review for the TOS Review Crew. They gave me a Yearly Membership to the site - this is the answer, and then some!

Schoolhouse Teachers is an online website that is a virtual treasure trove of learning. I was simply blown away with the amount of educational material, the variety of subjects, and the quality of it all. Truly, nearly every subject you would want to pursue is here: art, history/geography, foreign language, math, music, language arts, science, a multitude of electives, and so much more! There are lessons for every grade level from pre-k to 12th, not to mention the resources for parents. There are lesson planners, courses/teaching strategies, even menu ideas! Let me tell you, I am loving this!

Point, Click, Teach!

I had Connor go through the electives pages and see what could be of interest to him. He immediately was drawn to the Computer Science course (could it be because Minecraft was mentioned??). He has only worked through the first module, and a lot of the information has been a review of what he has already learned elsewhere, but he is very impressed with the layout.

"So far, I've learned different programming names, reviewed the parts of the computer, external and internal parts. I'm learning the difference between code and source code and when you use each of them, and it's really cool."

Chloe has been very busy this year with theater, so we had to make the decision to pull her out of private violin lessons. She has really missed it, and I have been worried about her losing some of her skill. So when we found violin lessons on Schoolhouse Teachers, we were both very excited. Unfortunately, there was a little drawback. Chloe has had 2 years of orchestra training and a year and a half of private instruction, so she already has a very strong base. The lessons on Schoolhouse Teachers are teaching the Suzuki method. They are wonderful lessons, and the lady is very engaging, but it was a little confusing for Chloe at the beginning. However, she persevered and is now enjoying the lessons.

"I think these lessons would be great for beginning violinists - but it was confusing for me since I already had experience. I liked seeing a new technique on how to teach the violin, though. It isn't as confusing to me now! I'm on lesson 15, and she hasn't taught me anything about notes - just strings - , but she's already taught me a song. It's pretty cool."

I have four school aged children, and we are using three different curricula this year to suit all their needs. Suffice it to say, it's gotten a little pricey! I can tell you right now that my budget for next year will not need to be such a worry, thanks to Schoolhouse Teachers. For $12.95 a month, or a yearly membership of $139, I can't imagine how much I'll be saving. We will definitely be utilizing this site for much more than electives.

JUST ANNOUNCED - Schoolhouse Teachers is having a HUGE sale now through Christmas Day: 40% off the monthly membership or 50% off the Yearly Membership. Those who join at this rate will be locked in FOREVER as long as they maintain a continuous membership - WOW!!! Review

I can't begin to tell you how much is on this website. I can guarantee there is something for every family. If you would like to see more reviews on what Schoolhouse Teachers can offer you and your students, click on the link below and hear from some other homeschool families! Review

It is sure to be worth your time. Enjoy! :D

Crew Disclaimer

Busy, Busy, Busy!!

Whew! The last five days have been nothing but hustle and bustle, and this mama is about to drop! Wednesday, Connor and I headed to his appointment in Mt. Vernon. An hour and a half later, my boy came out with braces - wow, what a difference they make! I'm so excited to see the outcome, but it's at least 14 months away.

We got home in time for me to make lunch and rush back out the door for my appointment. Cadie is growing well. I am 33 weeks, and we are both doing great. I am a little sore, and a LOT tired, but with the schedule I've been keeping, it's expected.

Then Wednesday night, I left the boys at home while Chloe and I went to church for the final practice of "Who Stole Christmas". Our music minister, Mark Mathes, is so great. His talent and gifts are unsurpassed, and he uses them all for God's glory. This play was seen by a few thousand people over the weekend, and I am so pleased with how the Gospel was presented to them.

And Thursday finally brought the day, the day Chloe had been waiting for all semester. It was time for Willy Wonka, Jr. to take the stage. We spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the theater. One final dress rehearsal and 5 performances - wow, it was a big weekend! But so much fun. Chloe comes alive on the stage. She truly is a natural, and I'm so thankful she can be a part of Class Act because they do all they do in a God-honoring way.

Chloe rode with friends to the after party. I rushed home with pizza for Kelly and the boys, picked up Connor and Canon, dropped Connor off at the after party, and drove Canon to Incredible Pizza for his big night. The cub scouts that sold over $700 in popcorn sales was rewarded with a lock-in at Incredible Pizza. He was so excited, and he had a great time. I had to pick him up Sunday morning at 6am.

So Sunday was a different day than most. I didn't get into bed till 1:30, got up at 5 to go pick up Canon, and went back to bed until 11. So no church for the Quinns. :/ We had a nice, quiet day at home, and we all needed the rest. We even took naps, even after sleeping so long! That evening, Chloe, Caleb and I went to Crossway for Who Stole Christmas. I was supposed to be in the choir, but wasn't feeling quite right. We really enjoyed the show, everyone did a great job.

By the time I was headed to bed Sunday night, I knew I was coming down with something. Between all the hustle and bustle, it was no surprise to wake up with the absolute worst head and chest cold I've had in years. So Monday was a very unproductive day for me...hoping it passes quickly, but today isn't looking too great either. I guess I shouldn't complain, I really needed the reason to rest. And I was blessed that Kelly had the day off. He helped with the kids, and he even cooked dinner. I'm tired and still worn out, but so very thankful for the family I have and the memories we made this past week. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Whole New Look



24 hours later! 

Wow, this is amazing how fast the braces are working - it's been a rough few days, but he is acclimating well now. I know he wasn't thrilled with us about getting them, but I know it's going to be worth it!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sneak Preview

                                                                Dress rehearsal Friday, December 5. Chloe is in the red sweater. :)

The Golden Ticket Opening Night is less than four days away!!! I am so excited for Chloe, she has been practicing so very hard. I know the rest of the cast has, as well. Willy Wonka, Jr., performed by Class Act HPA, will run from Thursday, December 11 to Saturday, December 13. Three days, five performances - it's going to be (forgive the pun) SWEET!! :)

Chloe has really grown this past year as an actress. She is still a strong singer, and watching her blossom on the stage has given Kelly and I some very proud parent moments! She is working on more accents all the time, and she is so passionate about perfecting her acting skills. I can not wait to see how the Lord will use this girl's gifts for His glory.

But for now, we will enjoy watching her grow and learn under the eyes of two very godly women who are nurturing her, encouraging her, and pushing her to be the very best she can be for God. I am so thankful for Krista and Tina. God has blessed us immensely with the time they have invested in my kids. I pray that they continue to use their gifts to teach other young actors and actresses to strive for excellence on the stage.

So, if you don't have plans and are in the Springfield area this weekend, plan on bringing the family out for a fun and exciting performance of Willy Wonka, Jr. It's going to be a great night at the theater!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cha cha cha Changes

Connor will be getting braces a week from today. We went and met the orthodontist today. He had his impressions and xrays taken and two rubber spacers put in. It was fairly traumatic! Oh, my, he is truly a drama queen (or whatever the male equivalent would be)! I have no idea what to expect now this time next week. He may be 13, but he's still Mama's baby...I'll be sure to have plenty of ice cream and popsicles on hand for the first few days. I was surprised to find out that Dr. Beard doesn't expect it to take more than 14 months...I really expected two years plus, so that was great news! Anybody else have a first timer in braces right now? Just wondering how the process had been for other families.

Friday, November 28, 2014

We Wish You a Merry Christmas...

It's Black Friday, y'all!! :D I am home from a crazy early morning (not to mention late night last night) of shopping till I'm dropping - and believe me, I'm a droppin'!

My tree is up, the decorations will be up this weekend, and I am officially in the holday spirit! So to celebrate, I gave my blog a makeover, too. Merry Christmas to you all - now go do something festive!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Visit with a Feathered Friend

I love our homeschool co-op. I often think about what our homeschool journey would have looked like without Lighthouse Christian Academy. We have made so many friends that are as dear as family, and my kids have received an excellent supplemental education to come alongside what we do at home. The moms at LCA engage with the kids and care for them as if they were their own. They put time, effort, and love into every lesson. We have had a lot of fun, hands-on experiences over the years, and today was no exception. For my 1st grade history class, I have been teaching the children about American Symbols this month. We have talked about the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, the Flag of the United States of America, and the bald eagle. To top the study off, we had a visitor from the zoo - our country's brightest and most recognizable symbol - the bald eagle. (We also invited the other elementary classes to join us!)

Her name is Phoenix. She is a 25-year-old female, and she has been in captivity since she was found at 12 weeks old nearly starved to death. By the time she was healthy enough to be released, she had imprinted on humans, meaning she would not have an easy time bonding with other eagles in the wild. The ladies from Dickerson Park Zoo gave us a wonderful demonstration. They talked about our nation's history, how George Washington and 3 other men worked long and hard to determine what bird would symbolize our great nation. They discussed many things about the eagle, including how she was designed for hunting from head to toe. And they introduced us to this beautiful bird...who had a lot of things of her own to tell us! :) The kids learned a lot, and of course, they had a bunch of questions! The ladies took their time and answered them all. It was a great day of learning.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Beauty From Ashes

So many things on my mind tonight. Praying for friends and family who are struggling. Praising with those who have seen blessings this week. It's always something, isn't it? Remembering to look up, to be still and know...sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. I want to see His hand in all situations - the good and the bad. It's just so hard sometimes...but then I remember, we don't walk alone. I am reminded of that by a very special lady quite often.

One of my dear a warrior. I simply cannot think of her without that word going through my mind. Oh, she's so much more than that - she's feisty, she's funny, she's a little wild (I sometimes wonder how much trouble we would have been in had we known each other in our teens or early 20's! LOL), and she's a fiercely devoted mother. But warrior is first in my thoughts when I think of my sweet friend, Cori. She is one of the first ones I go to when I am in need of prayer. She is also one of the first to kick me in the pants when I'm down in the dumps, constantly pointing my thoughts upward to the Heavenly Father.

Oh, to have walked the road she's walked...I don't think I would have survived. But she's done much more than survive. She has thrived. She has looked straight into the devil's eyes and claimed Jesus' victory over him. Time. And. Again. She is fearless. Don't get me wrong, I know she struggles. She was struggling this very morning. But even in her darkest moments, she never lets go of God's promises. She is confident in His presence, in His power, and in His undiminished love and protection in her life. She knows what it means to have plans that are good and godly, only to have God reveal HIS plans that are altogether different. And when she picked up the pieces of those shattered earthly plans, she trusted in His promise that all things work together. He is in control. She may crawl into a ball in the wee hours when the night is darkest...but she crawls into the Father's loving arms and seeks His reassurances. Then she comes out to face the morning with a will as strong as steel.

I have a lot I am praying about tonight. I have some serious concerns flooding my life right now...others not so serious, but still weighing me down. I'm so thankful for my friend's prayers in times like these. She never makes anyone feel that their needs and concerns are frivolous or miniscule. She doesn't compare her burdens or her journey to anybody else's. My friend is a sweet and constant reminder to me and unto all she ministers to find rest in our Heavenly Father's arms. The fire we each go through will be different. Some endure much more than others. But He can and will make beauty from ashes. He is faithful to us all. And He is always good.

Isaiah 61:1b-3 "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Start a Fire In Me

This week has been full of awesome revelations. Our church has been hosting a missions conference, where missionaries from all over the world have come to be refreshed and renewed, and to also share their testimonies and the stories of their mission fields. We spent Wednesday night in prayer for the conference, the missionaries, the unreached souls, the workers, our church body. Never have I been part of a congregation who takes the Great Commission so to heart. I am humbled. Then Friday night through tonight, we had speakers, services, breakout sessions, and lots and lots of prayer. This week has made me reach on my bookshelf and dust off a book I bought a few years ago, but never got around to finishing: Radical by David Platt.

I am in the 4th chapter, and boy, do I feel overwhelmed! Humbled. Challenged. Seeing and realizing how much we as Americans trade off for simple comforts. Paying the gospel message lip-service, but never following through. Picking and choosing which parts we are COMMANDED to obey, and which parts we can choose to obey. The American Dream and the Gospel Message are practically polar opposites, but we try so hard to mash them together. I am not pointing fingers...well, actually I am. But they are pointing straight at myself. Our church has a local mission field, Freeway Ministries, that I have been honored to take part in. I am beginning to be more and more passionate for these people! A spark that I hadn't heeded in a while is beginning to burn brighter. I am seeing the need in my own back yard, and at the same time, it is opening my eyes to the world beyond. There is much work to be done, and He is calling all of us to take part.

Walking through our foyer tonight, I stopped at every booth and picked up a card for each missionary present. I am hoping to put these all on our schoolroom wall, and I want the kids to start praying SPECIFICALLY for these missionaries and the countries and people they are living among. I want to see the connections being made. These missionaries are no longer names on a list on the back of our Sunday bulletin. My kids have met them. They have seen their children. They have heard some of the stories. Now, they will know who they are praying for, and I pray their eyes will be opened. That their hearts will be pricked. And that their passion for lost souls grows. We will see where God leads us as a family, or as individuals, but until then...we will pray.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fellow Blogger Spotlight

Have you met my friend, Adrienne? Well, if not, you are truly missing out. This amazing lady is such a blessing to me. She is a few years younger than me, has a few more kids than me, and balances her family, homeschool and at-home business WAAAYYYY better than I could ever imagine doing! Her children are sweet, well-mannered, and oh, so hilarious! From sweet spirited Liberty, to angel baby Ellie, this family has my heart. There is not much I wouldn't do for this precious friend, but she never asks for a thing! If you have a few spare minutes, go check out her blog, A Big Little Family. Here is the link. Adrienne has such a way with words. Her dry sense of humor constantly has me in stitches! Her husband is a fantastic photographer, always catching the most beautiful moments of his family's life. And Adrienne's simple actions of living out her faith will inspire you when you most need it. So go check out my friend and follow this uplifting blogger. I'm sure she'd appreciate the traffic! ;)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"It's just a haircut, babe. It's not a big deal. His hair is so long...just do it, or I will!" These are the comments from the hubby lately, regarding the baby boy's beautiful locks. It was the last comment that got me moving. Kelly doesn't give haircuts - he butchers my boys!! I wasn't going to let that happen, so I called our friend, Trin. Okay, it was getting a teensy bit too long...Chloe actually put it in a ponytail on Monday! But his beautiful blonde locks are just so precious...I didn't want to do it!

Yet another moment in the last four weeks when I REALLY miss having my phone. I don't have any before and after pics of my baby's haircut! :(

Trin did a great job. He looks very handsome. And not much like a baby now. It's just's just, not really. It's the reality that he's not going to be a baby for much longer. I know when Cadie gets here, I'm going to look at Cas and just be amazed that he's a full blown toddler. How do I know this?? Because it's happened every. Single. Time. The joy of having a new baby in the house brings the bittersweet knowledge that my other babies are growing all too fast. It's a reminder to cherish every stage of their growth, because it's slipping by quicker than I could ever have imagined.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Trunk or Treats

So the kids and I have hit the Halloween season full throttle. First came the planning of costumes. Molly had a plan for her and Chloe early on, and they decided to add in the baby brothers to the theme. Molly is going to be Batgirl, Chloe is girl Robin, Chancer is Batboy, Cas is Robin, and Caleb is Batman. Their girlfriend Hannah has reluctantly joined in, now, as well. She is going to be the Joker - she's not as enthusiastic as the other two, but is a really good sport! When we started Googling Robin costumes, we were a little taken aback by styles that these costumes had. So we decided to make our own version of girl Robin, rated G! We ordered Cas' costume, but Caleb already had his Batman costume - it was a Christmas gift last year (yay for clearance items!!). Canon decided he wanted to use the wings that Connor had made out of cardboard for him recently and be a dragon. So I reshaped the wings, painted them black and silver, spray painted a scale pattern on them, used an old black shirt and pants and sprayed the same pattern on them. We got some black hair spray and some face paint, and voila! A black dragon. Connor was trying to decide what he wanted to do. He didn't participate last year, but kind of wanted to this year. He decided on being a dragon rider, to go along with Canon. Now, I know most people aren't as into the fantasy genre as we are, but I had no idea how hard it would be to find anything that would work for a costume! So, I broke out the sewing machine and pulled something together. It's come out pretty cool, and he's very pleased, so bonus points for Mom! Hopefully, we will get some great pics Friday night. So for those of you counting, that's one store bought costume new, one clearance costume from out of the toy box, and three homemade costumes for the Quinn house. Three is my limit, definitely! You'd think I'd have saved a ton of money, but'd be wrong! ;)

Last weekend, our church, Crossway Baptist, put on their annual Fall Festival. Bouncy houses and obstacle courses, lots of fun games, and hot dogs and drinks - oh, and don't forget the candy! I worked the bottle bowling game for the first hour or so of the day, so the big ones took Cas around to play and bounce. They had as much fun helping him with the fun as they did doing it all themselves! I love watching them enjoy his excitement. It's one of my favorite things about having all these ages at the same time. They got enough candy to share with 10 kids, and had it stashed all over the place by evening.

Sunday after church, we headed to Bolivar to meet Ariel and go to some local churches for their Trunk or Treats. It was a lot of fun. I love seeing how many churches and communities have taken the opportunity to turn something that the evil one means for harm and turn it into a way to minister to our neighbors. To have a little fun and reach out to some families that may not otherwise come to a church event. There were plenty of creative and unique things going on, and everyone had a great time. Some of the more interesting things we saw were a toilet paper toss game where they had made an outhouse out of cardboard boxes. One family had made an Angry Birds game - the boys loved that one! They all came home in sugar comas and passed out till midmorning Monday.

Tonight we headed to Evergreen for the annual chili cook off and trunk or treat. Even though the crowd was much smaller than in years past, the people who put forth the effort of putting it on make it all worth while. The kids love seeing their old friends; and, again, they got enough candy and sweets to make them sick for a couple days!

What's that, you say? Halloween isn't even until Friday?!? Oh, my...well, at least thekids are getting to wear their costumes several times. Here's hoping for no cavities from our house to yours!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Favorite Season

I love fall. The crisp air, the crunchy leaves, football games, pulling out my hoodies, boots and jeans...and pumpkin. Pumpkin patches, pumpkin carvings, pumpkin candles, and pumpkin baking. Oh, the baking! The kids and I have been hard at it this week. We have made 2 pumpkin cheesecakes, pumpkin bread pudding, pumpkin spice cake and pumpkin bread. This week, we plan on making about 72 pumpkin muffins to freeze for easy breakfasts...don't be jealous, I won't rub it in, too much...but the only reason I won't is that I have a broken phone and can't take pictures of all the yumminess that is ensuing in my kitchen! Mmmmm.... ;)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What Matters Most

How many of you have a best friend? How many of you have had the same best friend for years? Now how many of you have had that same best friend all your life? I'm talking, your whole life. Like, you don't remember this person not being there...for everything. Well, my best girlfriend and I have only had each other for about 12 or 13 years. We didn't grow up together, but I seriously can't imagine life without her. She is my sister, my confidante, my bust-a-gut laughing partner. We have shared all of life's ups and downs, and I'm a better person for it. But there are 20-some years of our lives that we didn't share... our daughters are the best friends that I'm talking about.

Coco Mae and Molly Moo. Partners in crime, managers of mischief. Through thick and thin, these two have done it all. I can't tell you how many memories that they'll have tied to one another from their childhood - too many to even think of! From camping trips to concerts, they've shared many of life's important firsts together. They are preteens now, and they don't always have the same interests. Growing up and growing apart, unfortunately, go hand in hand for a lot of people. But these two don't give up so easily. When you have a bond this strong for this long, you will always have something to hold you to that person. Tonight definitely reminded me of that.

It was a wild and crazy, goofy night! The girls were so hyper to be going to see Colton Dixon together again (we saw him at Winter Jam earlier this year), their excitement was palpable. Steph and I just laughed and sighed intermittently at them all night long. They can make the most minor thing a major life moment, and I love that about them. Chloe on her own is a boundless ball of energy, but add Molly to the mix, and you get borderline chaos!! But I love every minute of it. I loved watching how they could be so completely silly together in one moment, then so completely caught up in worship in the next that nothing else mattered. Because that's the chord that binds them. Yes, they are both INSANE over Colton Dixon. But they are even more passionate about their Lord and Savior. It's not a night either will forget soon...and this mama won't either. Even at 11 and 12 years old, they know the important things in life are eternal. Glow-in-the-dark shirts and posters will fade in time. But their pursuit of Jesus will grow stronger as they grow older. And I hope and pray that they'll be chasing after Him side by friends forever.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


If you had asked me even a year ago what October the 15th was, I would not have had any idea. Yet, today, this year, it has great significance for me. Two sweet friends let me know that they had thought of me today in an extra special way. Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. I can't tell you how many times over the last few months that I've had to mentally shake myself and literally count my blessings - including this sweet, rainbow shaded one I'm carrying right now - just so I didn't break down in a heap and lose myself in much as I love and feel for and have sincerely prayed for and with those dear friends who have gone through such a loss, I know I never truly understood the despair. The agony. The fake smile below tear brimmed eyes. Until I dealt with them myself. It is an empathy I wish I did not have to have, but I know that God is using me to be a blessing to others through it.
Am I glad we lost Cat? Of course not! But I hold tightly to the Lord's promises. He loves me. He loves all my babies. And He has blessed my life in so many uncountable ways. He is good. It's hard to put into words, but to know that Cat being in heaven with Jesus has given us the blessing of knowing Cadie beautiful. I will hold Cat one day. I will know her intimately, and we will spend eternity together. Will the pain lessen over time? I'm told so. Will Cadie take Cat's place? Never. But she will always be a reminder that though she is our sixth blessing on earth, she is truly our seventh - number six is in Heaven. I know there will be times (because it's already happened, and oh, the pain it caused!) when I miscount when I am in a hurry to get the kids in the car...1,2,3,4,5,6...who's missing? Oh, wait...she is right where she is meant to be.
So for all my friends who have lost a baby, whether before or after birth, I share your pain. You do not walk alone. We will carry on. We will not forget our sweet ones. But we will live more abundant lives...for them.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reviving the habit...

Hello, all! It's been a while, I know! Life just ran away with me and this had to take a backseat for some much has happened in the last two years. For one thing, we are now a much larger family than what my URL describes! Caleb was the baby when I began my hiatus, and now he is a big brother. Castle Jason was born in December of 2012. We lost a precious one in January of this year, Catniss Faith. And Cadie Sean is due to join us in late January. So many things need updated - the kids' profiles, pictures, and so much more!
We are doing our best to live life to the fullest. Not just surviving, but thriving, remembering Who it is who has Abundantly Blessed us. So to catch you up with the family, I will begin with the kids.
Connor is now a teenager - I know, how on earth did that happen?!? Thirteen years old with all the attitude that comes with it! I swear, the Lord is trying to teach me something about patience, and something else I'm not easily learning right now...may He help us both get through these next few years! Seriously, though, he is growing up so quickly, and I pray God's guidance for him as he finds his way into manhood. He is playing football this year for the first time. The smallest and one of the youngest on the team, not to mention one of the least experienced, he is not getting much play time. He is a little disappointed, but he is taking it well and willing to learn all he can and to keep working hard. It's all about paying his dues, and he is learning some great character building lessons that I pray stay with him. He has made some great friends this year, and I'm so proud of him for sticking with it.
Chloe Mae, our sweet girl, is 11 now. She is quickly becoming a fine young lady, but still very much a little girl, as well. She is our star. Acting and singing are her life, and she is so very talented. We love seeing her shine in all she does. She has matured a lot this last year, going through the changes of life, experiencing true grief when we lost the baby, and stepping up to be such a help to me as I've been very sick with this pregnancy. I am so proud of my girl, and so thankful for the grace and compassion God has instilled in her.
Canon hit double digits in August - my, oh, my, how time flies! He took some time off from Cub Scouts to play some sports and try his hand at acting (which he is SO good at), but decided to go back to scouting this fall. He is all about the outdoors, camping, animals, and learning about survival skills. He is such a ham, but also my sensitive one. You never know what's going to come out of his mouth - whether it be an off-the-wall joke, or his deep understanding of a scripture passage he's been working through. He never ceases to surprise and amaze me, this one. :)
Caleb is growing all the time, and I just want to stop the clock!! Six years old and filled to the brim with spunk and orneriness, my little redhead freckle face! He just lost his first tooth this past weekend - a milestone he's been anxiously awaiting...since his best friend and cousin, Emmalea, lost her first one MONTHS ago! He is reading and doing well in school, and he joined Cub Scouts this fall for the first time. There isn't much the little guy can't do - he's an athlete, an actor, an awesome big brother.
Castle Jason, the baby for a few more short months...he is a gem. My beautiful boy, he is so precious. He has a very serious, contemplative demeanor, but his laughter lights up my life. He has no problem expressing himself, even with his limited not quite two year old language skills! He is quite attached to sissy, but loves his brothers, too. He fluctuates from Mama's baby to Daddy's boy, you never know which way it'll go! He has a mechanical mind, just like Kelly. He wants to know how things fit together, and he insists on doing it all himself. He loves blocks and stacking toys right now. He LOVES Pops' 4 wheeler and going to see his cows. If he could be outdoors from morning to night, I don't think we'd ever hear him cry.
Now to catch you up on Kelly and I. Kelly is still at City Utilities, working the 2nd shift (boo). He is teaching for the 2nd year at our co-op, and he has really enjoyed it. He is still into hunting, and he loves just being home with the kids and I more than anything else. Simple life, happy hubby. ;) I am still homeschooling the kids, staying home with them (rarely actually AT home), teaching at co-op, and serving at church. As I mentioned earlier, this year has been full grief and joy. Losing the baby truly took its toll on me, but the Lord carried me through. Conceiving Cadie so quickly after has been a blessing, but physically tough. I am doing better now, but still wear out quickly. We are plugging away, staying busy with all the things that come with a larger than average family, but striving to remember how thankful and blessed we are.
This was a long post, but I'm glad to catch everyone up after such a long time away. I pray this post finds you all remembering how abundantly blessed you are, as well!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saying goodbye before we even said hello...

Rough weekend can we be joyfully anticipating this January, but still mourn for you? You'd think I'd break apart to have such conflicting emotions at the same time. You would have joined our family here on earth tomorrow, most likely. I still ache to hold you, to have gotten to know you, to argue with Kelly over who you looked like and what you'd be like. I'm excited to meet your little brother or sister, but you can and will never be replaced. I love you, my angel baby, and I can't wait to meet you past the gates one day...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Family Kelly Blessed Me With - Forever Grateful

This weekend has been full of Hartzell family fun. What a blessing. When I married Kelly (in fact, even well before), this wonderful group became as dear to me as my own flesh and blood. There was never a doubt with Grandma and Grandpa Hartzell that they considered me one of their own from the get-go. I have been led and mentored by the women of this family in ways I can never repay. I have been loved and encouraged by the men in this family, and I am so thankful.

I love each and every one of these people, and I cherish the time we can get together. We are spread far and wide these days, and it had been four years since the last big reunion, but it is like no time had passed on nights like this. Our children played freely, learning all about their cousins that they know more through Facebook than in person. The cousins caught up and reminisced, all at the same time! The older generation shared in all the fun, but also just sat back and savored...many probably thinking how very much Grandma and Grandpa would have loved this. It was on my mind, as well. It doesn't matter that they have been gone for these last several years...when you walk through the woods, or sit on the carport, or go down the main hall in the house...they are still there. This family is so exceptionally special. I'm privileged to be a Hartzell.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Growing up so fast...

For those of you who don't know, Connor is playing football for the first time this year. Wow, it is intense! Practices four nights a week, for three to four hours each. They are working hard, and it is VERY hot out there! :) The Lighthouse Christian Chargers coaching staff are godly men who have an intense desire to make these young men stronger on the field and off. With Christ at the center of the program, they demand excellence, endurance, and commitment. They don't allow bullying, negativity, or mediocrity. You give it all you have, and you give it for the Lord. I'm honored to be a part of the Chargers family, and to have a boy on the field who is learning as much about how to walk with Jesus as he is about football.

I was so proud of my boy today. He was sick with a headache before football practice yesterday, but it passed. He had a very rough night at practice - first one in full gear - and got sick twice. I was so worried he would hate it, or be embarrassed, or say the dreaded Q word, but he toughed it out and finished strong. He came home talking about what he would do differently today to be more ready for tonight. He is one tough cookie. To quote his Uncle Matt, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog. ‪He really is growing up too fast...

Friday, August 1, 2014

I was 19, Kelly was 20. We will celebrate 17 years Saturday, and baby #7 (with one waiting for us in heaven) will arrive the end of January. I wouldn't change a thing. We've grown up together, we've learned life lessons together. We've struggled and celebrated and failed and succeeded in all areas of our life - parenthood, careers, ministry - together. He is my life, my love, my best friend. He drives me completely bonkers! He calms my soul. He holds me, he challenges me, he encourages me, he leads me. I was 17 when I fell in love with this amazingly stubborn, opinionated, hard-working and discerning country boy, and I'm so thankful God brought us together so young. We have had more years together than apart already, and so many more ahead! We are indeed abundantly blessed.

This article is so well written, and told from a perspective I can totally understand and relate to. I don't know about every couple that marries young, but I truly believe that discouraging young couples to marry is not the right thing to do. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Unfortunately, divorce is not something looked at as negative as it once was. But I do know this: marrying young and growing up together gave us opportunities to learn more about one another and ourselves than waiting could ever have done. Read it, and see for yourself.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

An Exciting Announcement

What is a Rainbow Baby? It is understood that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of any storm. When a rainbow appears, it does not mean that the storm never happened, or that we are not still dealing with the aftermath. It means that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow gives us a message of hope. That the sun will be seen again.

We are so very happy to announce that our Rainbow Baby will be arriving the end of January, 2014. We are so very thankful to the Lord, who knows all our hurts and sorrows, and sees fit to send us this precious gift.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day to everyone! I am so thankful for my mom, who has always been there, day or night, all of my life. She has always been open and honest, never cut corners or took the easy or short answer (and believe me, I had a lot of questions!) She showed us girls by example what it meant to work hard and never give up on the things worth keeping. I am thankful for my mother in law, who is just ridiculously amazing and supportive. And of course my hubby and kiddos, who have blessed me with the best job ever. I know I don't say it often enough, but I absolutely love my life. I am humbled and honored to be the mommy to these fabulous kids and wife to my best friend. Abundantly blessed indeed!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

He is Oh, So Worthy

I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes thinking about all the amazing blessings I've seen and heard about the last couple weeks. Here is the short list:

I watched my oldest, along with about 100 other students at Crossway Baptist Church, make a serious commitment in his walk with God.

I watched my six-year-old finish his last reading lesson for his kindergarten year and feel so proud of his accomplishment. I saw my girl overcome some of her fears and really grow in her sport.

A sweet friend blessed me by "anonymously" paying for my dinner on a girls night out.

I took the kids on one of the coolest field trips we've ever been on and watched a young woman I've known since she was a little girl share her passion for Jesus with them.

I got to spend time ministering to my sister after a tough surgery.

I've been watching my best friend love and care for a sweet baby boy, for however long God sees fit, knowing it could be days...or years...but remembering that he is in the Father's hands.

My church is overflowing with new salvations and rededicated servants.

I'm seeing a good friend trust in Jesus and hand all her concerns about her marriage and her children to Him daily with a teary, but hopeful smile.

Another friend just announced the 7th addition to her family (I'm so excited, but kinda jealous! ;D).

Another friend has celebrated her son's healing from cancer (See ya, Kevin!).

Another friend is FINALLY HOME tonight with her five precious children and amazing husband after fighting a horrible cancer and recovering from the mother of all surgeries for the last 6 weeks.

And to top it all off, it's Easter weekend. The kids and I have been reading about Jesus' final days leading up to the crucifixion. Mind blowing, incomprehensible love for me and you. I can't wrap my human brain around it sometimes, but I'm so thankful for His mercies every day. It's easy to forget how miraculous our Lord is. It's easy to stay so focused on the now that we forget to dwell on the eternal. I'm thankful for this night. This quiet house. These reminders of just how much He loves us. How much He cares about all the little details. How much He deserves our praise. He is worthy. He is oh, so worthy.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

You know, it's just amazing to me how you can have such strong emotions all at the same time - such pride and joy in my kids in the midst of such sorrow. I am so thankful to my Father who knew I'd need all of the excitement this weekend and the REASON to not dwell on myself, but to pour myself out for others...focusing on the needs of others, making me remember that life must go on...that there is so much to be thankful for....there is time to grieve, and I will grieve, and I should grieve...but it can't consume me. So thankful for all His loving kindnesses. And I'm so thankful for all my sweet, sweet friends and family who have shared our sadness, taken the time to hug me or one of the kids, to write a word of encouragement, and most of all the prayers being lifted up. I love you all, thank you doesn't even seem to cover it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Alice In Wonderland, Jr.

Can I just have a proud mama moment here? Wow, my kids are amazing, talented, funny, and oh so special. This was such a wonderful night, I am very thankful for Class Act, Krista and Tina, and how they have invested in my children - as coaches and Christian influences. Blessed, blessed, blessed!
It's been a wonderful experience, being a part of this theater troupe. I am excited to see what the future holds. All of my kids have enjoyed doing this, but I know they have other gifts, as well. Check out some of the cool pictures from their stage debut! Alice - Chloe The March Hare - Connor Cheshire Cat - Canon

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I wanted to let all our friends and family know that we have a sweet baby waiting for us in the arms of Jesus tonight. We were so looking forward to meeting this little one, but God had a different plan. We are grieving, but trusting the Lord to help us all through it. Please remember us in prayer, especially the children. We have never walked this road before, and seeing my babies hurt hurts me more than I can explain. We will praise Him in all things. We love you and thank you for your support and prayers.
Job 1:20 "Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head;
and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said:
'Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord.'
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong."