Easter Week 2017

Easter week is quickly becoming one of my favorite holidays.  This year we kept things simple but also took time each day to remember the last week of Christ’s life.  Emily kept reminding us that Easter was on Sunday and was sooooo excited.  When Sunday finally arrived she ran down the stairs and said, “It’s Easter! Jesus is alive again!”

We started with a Palm Sunday walk with friends on Sunday.  We made palm leaves out of green hands and cardboard.  Before we let the kids run wild we sang “Hosanna” and talked about Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.  Everyone ran and played along the path for about 30-40 minutes and then we turned around and enjoyed treats by our cars.  It was a a fun night and the kids had so much fun being outside together.  This is something that is slowing growing bigger each year, which I love thanks to the first Palm Sunday walk I did in Jerusalem back in 2011.

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On Monday we talked about Jesus cleansing the temple and used that to encourage our Monday cleaning routine.  We spent the morning trying to make headway downstairs and it was way more fun done in celebration.

Tuesday we talked about Jesus’ parables and sermons, following the guide that the Small Seed put together this year and Wednesday we told stories about Jesus.

Thursday we watched the bible video of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Friday we watched the bible videos about Jesus being tried, scourged, and crucified.  I didn’t preview it ahead of time and Emily was a little shocked with the whole thing.  We talked through it though and had a good discussion, and I think the joy of the resurrection was made a little more clear contrasting his death.

Saturday was our day to do traditional easter activities.  We had a church Easter Egg hunt and brunch at a park.  Emily was equally excited for the Easter Egg hunt. She helped me fill our dozen eggs with candy to take to the event and found an old baby wipes container to collect the eggs we found in. When the easter egg hunt started she hung back with the crowd but quickly warmed up to finding eggs.  She stayed diligent and even when all the other kids had cleared off having found their portion, she stayed and found quite a few remaining eggs.  Andrew and Nathan hunted eggs together.  Nathan was oblvious to the purpose of walking around in the grass. Andrew pointed out an egg to him and he was like, “Well what do you know, how cool” and picked it up and started shaking it.  After Andrew pointed out a second one he realized that finding eggs was actually a thing and he got into it.  It was really fun.

Sunday we watched the bible videos of Jesus’s resurrection and then sang the easter hymns and the easter songs from the primary children’s song book.  It was fun to teach Emily some of the words to the hymns because during church on Sunday she was able to sing with us, which she loved.  I played in a quartet at church, Mozart’s Jesus, Savior.

After church we had a traditional Easter dinner with our neighbors.  We split the dishes so we provided salad, mashed potatoes, and dessert, and they did ham, challah bread, and fruit.  It worked out perfectly and we had a wonderful feast.  The kids had fun sitting and talking during the meal and after went outside to play in the little backyard.  We pulled out ice cream cones for dessert and they were all thrilled at the treat.  Nathan walked around eating his for almost 20 minutes and it was fun to see him jump into the realm of the big kids.

A Few Words About Grad School Life

I rarely talk about life as a grad school family directly.  This is mostly due to the fact I don’t think about our life that way.  With Andrew working towards being a professor we will always have changing semester schedules and holiday breaks to look forward to.  There will come a time with more responsibility and a bigger paycheck, but I don’t see it affecting our day to day life that much.

We’ve been super, hugely grateful for these graduate school years.  It has allowed us to slow down our growing up.  We didn’t need to rush into buying a house or figure out a million other adult things that go with the territory.  With more time than money, we’ve learned to be a bit more creative with our problem solving.

We’ve learned the art of garage selling and thrift shopping (make a list of what you need for the season, keep your eyes out, and stick to the list!), sewing our own clothes, and building our own furniture or fixing what we have.  With very little eye for interior design, we’ve had a few low cost disasters and are learning our style and taste.  Our kids spend days outside playing and have incredibly limited screen time because we don’t pay for T.V. and we can’t replace our devices so they don’t get to touch them.  We’ve become price matching experts and meal plan based on weekly produce sales.

For years we tracked where our money has gone, making sure we are living within our means.  This last year though we made the switch to zero based budgeting so that we decide ahead of time where our pennies go.  We sit down at the beginning of each month and work through this form from Dave Ramsey’s website.  We have a running list of all the things we need to buy so that we can fit in priorities and remember what we really care about.  We haven’t been getting to the list very often, but at least it keeps us on the same page so there aren’t any surprises between us.

These years have been full of abundance and blessings for us.  I very rarely feel like we are going without. I also think God has a bit of a sense of humor. One of our neighbors and great friends is getting his PhD in physics.  He does roughly week long trips to collect data during beam time.  I don’t know many details, except the prep work involves a few garbage bags full of spinach.  Once their family has taken what they need they pass the spinach to us to use and freeze as much as we wish.  For daily green smoothie drinkers this is wonderful!


Conversations with Nathan


Right now Nathan has five conversations that we have throughout the day:

  1.  Puddles.  The moment we step foot outside Nathan starts spotting, “Pu-ble”.  He holds my hands and tries to drag me to every single one in sight.  He has started grabbing sticks and pinecones to put in the water.
  2. Balls.  Nathan loves balls.  He loves playing with them and carrying them around the house.  He loves finding them outside in the neighborhood.  We found a big hill today and he laughed with great excitement to see it roll down the hill.  He will also point out every circle shape in the book and say, “ba”.  He also signs ball if Emily does it first.
  3. Birds.  Nathan has excellent hearing for bird calls.  The moment he hears one in the morning through the window he starts signing bird.  When we are outside he shouts and signs bird, pointing at the sky, in the trees, or on the grass to the little creature.  He could stand in one spot all day as long as there is a bird hopping around (which we haven’t resolved with Emily’s ready to run and explore preference).
  4. Dogs.  He hasn’t had a lot of interactions with dogs, but he absolutely loves them from a distance.  This morning there was a huge dog in the backyard barking behind us and he shouted joyfully and shrieked with excitement.  He knows where all the dogs are in his firetruck book and gets excited when we pass one on the bike path.
  5. Trucks/Cars.  This is Nathan’s most favorite thing to talk about.  He loves seeing the garbage truck in the morning. He loves pointing out cars and trucks in the road.  He has a book about firetrucks that is his current favorite and he reads it before nap and bedtime, every time.  During the day he will often pick up a book and if he finds a vehicle in it he will follow me around the house yelling until I sit down and read it with him.  I checked out a library book last week about a work site and he sat next to us for twenty minutes turning the pages and yelling excitedly about every one.  He signs car by hitting his fists together (a lot like ‘more’).  Sometimes he’ll sit there in a trance at dinner and then look over at us and sign car, just so we he was thinking about it.


Hello Again!

The last two weeks have been full of unusual things.  Things which took precedence over blogging, but it is good to be back to making time for this space.

Two weekends ago we tried a grand experiment and watched our friend’s children for the weekend so they could go on an overnight trip.  We had four kids, three and under.  We took them with us to an insurance meeting on Friday and were quite the spectacle parading around the office.  We took them to goodwill on Saturday and had comments like, “My, you are brave!”  They were fantastic though and I don’t think we had a single tantrum.  Everyone was excited about general conference and did a great job watching or playing quietly.

This moment was ridiculous.  I told the kids that Andrew and I were going to sit next to each other.  They couldn’t be in the middle of us.  They both threw tantrums for about ten minutes and then settled for climbing on our laps.



After the sessions ended we went to another family’s for dinner and then to another friends for cinnamon rolls and lots of chatting.  We kept the kids out until 9pm, which was probably pushing it a little bit.  I felt like we spent the first half of the week catching up from our unusual weekend.

This past weekend I went to Time Out for Women in Indianapolis with two other friends.  We went down Friday afternoon and got back around 11:30 that night.  We left at 7:00am Saturday morning to head back, so not a lot of sleep.  It was wonderful. The speakers were great, but my favorite part might have been exploring a Catholic church during our lunch break.  It was beautiful and took me back to my Jerusalem days.  Melissa brought her almost two month old baby who was an angel and I was able to enjoy holding her for a few hours between the two days.


Andrew, Emily, and Nathan went to springfest this weekend at Purdue. It is a huge annual event that is known for cricket spitting (exactly what it sounds like) and cricket races.  The highlights for the kids this year was petting animals and Emily getting a notepad, pen, mirror, and a black bag for everything to go in.

The last two weeks I’ve been using my personal time to work on our new blog and podcast.  We are still a few weeks out from launching, but I’m excited for the new design and to start a new adventure with podcasts!

The Joy of Being Silly

Last week for Joy School I taught the joy of being silly.  Taught – ha – just worked really hard not to stop the natural silliness three years olds embrace.  We did lots of engaging activities: making balloons stick on the wall, blowing mountains of bubbles out of a cup with a straw, painting with shaving cream, watching popcorn pop all over the floor, singing silly songs, and playing silly games.  I loved observing the kids as they experienced new things  and saw pure delight on their faces.  Honestly, I discovered silliness is rather exhausting for me.  It was a good reminder I need to work on my silliness muscles.

















Showing Gratitude for God’s Creations By Learning about Them

One thing elementary educators of all backgrounds seem to agree upon in my readings is that kids should be outside learning from the world around them.  I’ve spent the last year prioritizing being outside mostly out of my own desires to be in the sun.  As I’ve read about the details of nature study I’ve tried provide the opportunity for them to learn through observation and experience.

Last week as I studied about Jesus Christ as Creator, I approached the scriptures with the question “How does knowing about God’s creations – me and all that I’m surrounded by – increase my gratitude?”  I found an unexpected answer: I need to take time to actually get to know God’s creations, out in his creation, to appreciate all that he has made and to feel truly grateful to him.  (Side note: if you haven’t downloaded the study guide yet, my friend Katie Larson designed the blank text into a beautiful document that makes me feel like can’t wait to start my study each day!).  I found an important WHY for being outside and nature study.

The next day a book I put on hold at the library MONTHS ago showed up: The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws.  I can hardly put it down.  He teaches how to observe nature and nourish intentional curiosity.  I was hooked at the table of contents – a few highlights: Projects that Focus Awareness;  Methods of Deepening Inquiry; Your Journaling Kit and Materials; Nature Drawing; Media-Specific Techniques; How to Draw Animals; How to Draw Wildflowers; How to Draw Trees, Near and Far; How to Draw Landscapes.

I’m excited to start nature journaling with my kids this summer. I don’t have any grand ideas or expectations for myself or them; I’m hoping to help us slow down, notice a little bit more of what God created, and with our increased appreciation show a little more gratitude for what he gave us.

Emily is currently fascinated by moss and all the little flowers that are starting to pop up here in Indiana.  Over the weekend a friend taught her about daffodils.  When she told me about looking at them I mentioned I wasn’t sure if I knew what a daffodil looked like.  She explained they had a trumpet it the middle and sure enough, we’ve been spotting daffodils all over now.  Last Sunday she spent the afternoon outside making a little house and filling it with pinecones, tiny flowers, and moss.




This Saturday we went for a family bike ride and dreamed about going on some half-day or day-long rides this summer.  When we got home Emily and Nathan rode bikes and scooters with Andrew.  Nathan is in the phase of showing us his tummy and thinks lifting up his shirt is a marvelous game (and is frustrated with pajamas or onsies that prevent it).  I love seeing the increased interaction between Nathan and Emily that shows their budding friendship.





Playground Woodworking

The success of carving the wooden spoon has spurred me on to an new passion of carving.  I usually limit it to when the kids are outside playing, whittling away on my stick at the playground.  I’ve used all sorts of playground equipment to provide stabilization for sawing or leverage for cutting.  I carved two peg dolls two weeks ago and I just love them.  Seeing the transformation from an ordinary stick to something in my mind is amazing.


When I was doing the final sanding for the first peg doll (inside at night after the kids were asleep because I couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out) a bug I’ve never seen before crawled out of a hole in the bottom.  It was disgusting and unexpected.  Clearly there are things to learn about woodworking I haven’t thought about.  Andrew tried to help me get it out but no luck.  We ended up vacuuming it out and then running  a paper clip through it to make sure it was really out.  The whole memory still grosses me out.

But in the end they turned out beautifully.  Nathan loves loves loves playing with them.  I don’t trust Emily alone with them yet because she wants to use permanent marker to draw hair on them.  I’ve already made her one quickly out of a dowel that she enjoyed painting. I was hesitant to paint on faces, but I’m glad I did.  Nathan points out the eyes and mouth and knows they are little people.



Last Saturday when Andrew was gone Emily really wanted to work on a project.  I’ve been wanting to make a child size shaker inspired pegrail We found a scrap piece of wood we had used for adding pressure to the curvy boards and walked to Ace Hardware to grab a dowel.  After sanding the board  a lot – it was very rough to begin with lots of dried glue – I drilled some holes in to fit the pegs.  Nathan loved watching and Emily kindly took pictures of the process.


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Emily carefully collected all of the wood shavings to play with outside.



When we went outside to play after lunch I used the swing as a brace and chiseled out the bottom of the pegs so they fit into the holes.  That lasted for about fifteen minutes until we were so cold we ran to play at a neighbors house. She kindly provided a cardboard box so I could continue chiseling away.  Before we went home for dinner all the pegs fit!



I did the final gluing, sanding and finishing on Monday night after the kids were asleep and Andrew was home.  I haven’t had a chance to hang it yet – or make the kid’s aprons to hang on it – but I absolutely love it.




Spring Break 2017

Last Monday we headed down to Indy right after lunch.  Andrew drove while the kids and I slept during our designated nap time.  We arrived at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum just as the main crowd was heading out.  We took a quick run down the Willy Wonka Chocolate slide before heading into the Circus exhibit.

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Mom, Christine and I spent most of our time juggling.  I have faint memories of my mom teaching me to juggle when Derick and I were young. We had lots of fun brushing up on a rusty, underdeveloped skill.

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We also all tried the family ladder.  I was able to hold up Mom and Christine AND move them in and out a few times will complete control.  My arms were sore the rest of our trip!  Andrew and Dad also performed amazing feats of strength.

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Emily and Nathan were a bit overwhelmed by all the commotion.  Eventually Emily did settle in a try a few things.




We went next to the astronaut exhibit, which was a highlight for all of us.  We saw a short movie about the Liberty Bell and the first trip to and from space.  I now am adding space exploration history to my list of things to read about soon.

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Nathan loved the movie and Emily was a bit scared.


The last few minutes were spent at the train exhibits.  Nathan LOVES trains, with his whole body and soul it seems.  He got so excited finding and watching them. Emily joined in eventually and then we went and rode the big train and played with the trains.



Monday night finished with dinner and struggling to get the kids to go to bed for a couple of hours.

Tuesday morning we had a slow start. After breakfast we walked across the street to go to Kohls for a quick shopping trip.  We went to the Indy Art Museum at 11 and spent four hours there.  The majority of the exhibits covered periods of art I have never heard of.



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The kids did pretty well, but after two hours we found the children’s space.  Nathan’s favorites were building with blocks and playing with the huge light bright.  Emily’s favorites were playing with the iPad, taping and drawing at the art table, and playing with magnetic tiles with Aunt Christine.







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We stayed with the kids in shifts.  Andrew and I went off to explore a design exhibit while the kids stayed with the grandparents.  The question at the beginning is the premise of a graduate class Andrew recently took.


Around 3pm we realized we hadn’t eaten lunch.  We brought in our packed meal and had a picnic in the empty museum cafe.  We all played for awhile with the little cars I made at the kids art center.

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Nathan was so tired.


That evening we had pizza for dinner and then my dad, mom, and Christine went to a trampoline place.  Our little family played at the hotel, indulged in an episode of fixer upper, and went to bed.

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In the morning I worked out with my dad before the kids woke up and then we all went to get breakfast.  We all packed up and cleaned up our rooms and then played a harry potter deck building game until we had to check out at noon.  My parents graciously took Andrew to the airport on their way back to Iowa and I headed home with the kids.

A brief but wonderful trip!

Thank you Mom, Christine, and Andrew for sharing your photos!

And Then It’s Spring

Last week we spent the first half of the week in Indianapolis for spring break.  The second half Andrew was in Dallas, TX for a conference and I was at home with the kids.  We picked him up late Saturday night.  We’ve spent the last few days catching up: on sleep, housework, grocery shopping, projects, and family time.

I held the household together well, but I also know by now I’m not two people.  It was liberating to acknowledge I was going to do our daily routines during the day and go to bed with the kids at night so that I could be up with them at night by myself.  No late night projects or TV show watching. This strategy helped me make it until the end, as Nathan was up for prolonged periods of times most nights.

And some wonderful neighbors who also have grad school husbands, one who was gone the same time as Andrew and another who left today. There was a treat exchange with one friend late at night after the kids finally settled down (for a few hours at least).  There was hanging out at houses.  Shared meals and packaged leftovers.  Conversation.  We all kept going together.

Once Andrew got home though, I’ve crashed. Physically, mentally, emotionally.  After two days I think I’m starting to climb towards the top of the hole.

The kids and I went out in a rainstorm today after the two rounds of hail had passed. I opened the back door to bring in a few pieces of hail for them to look at.  Nathan used all his strength to try and escape, so we suited up.  I didn’t realize how incredibly muddy we all would get.  Both kids loved splashing and stomping in the puddles and mud. Friends soon joined us and everyone was covered in mud before long.


After dinner we went to Dairy Queen for family home evening and got free ice cream cones.  Andrew gave a lesson about working together as a team to keep the peace in our home.  We used a napkin to keep his cell phone standing as long as we all held a corner.  If one of us let go the phone fell down, just like each of us is a vital part of keeping the peace.

Nathan was rather unsure about the ice cream. It was too cold for him.  The first time he pulled away really upset.  He tried a number of times to eat it, seeing how much we all were enjoying it.  I don’t think it grew on him.



Uplifting inspiration for the week: “If ye had known me” and “Come to Zion! Come to Zion!

Nathan’s Words

Nathan went from yelling/screaming for all his forms of communication to talking and signing in the last few weeks! First he learned to sign “more”, with his pointer finger sticking out and making a two syllable sound.  This sound and sign are also used to say “help”.  Usually he starts with a scream, abruptly stops, and then gives his two syllable sound and sign.  Once we repeat what he wants, “You want more raisins Nathan?” or “Did you need help picking up your spoon?”  he scrunches up his face and gives a little victory laugh.

A few weeks ago he was big on “uh-oh”.  He would throw something on the ground and then say, “uh-oh” and laugh with Emily about it.

He wiggles his fingers and says tickle, “duck-a duck-a duck-a”.

Last week at church he learned the sign for apple.  He wiggles his fist by his forehead.  He also used it later in the week for orange.  The funny thing about this sign is that he REFUSES to let Andrew see him do it.

Outside at the playground this week he saw his friend run out of the house and said, “Kay Kay” for Katie.  That is the first name he attempted to say, and the first time I’ve heard him make the “k” sound.

Nathan loves the little playground outside our house.  Swinging, sliding, climbing, bouncing on the teeter totter, and playing in the sand all are wins for him.  If he wants to get on the swing or bouncer he alerts me with his two syllable noise and signs “help” and then shows extreme excitement that I understood.

When he was sitting on the teeter totter on Thursday he saw a car drive up.  Emily and I signed “car” and he joined right in, bumping his two fists together (a perfect “more”, but he definitely means car).  He’s been using that sign ever since.  He loves looking out the window and telling us car. I was also surprised he saw toy cars at church and signed car.

He consistently asks for water by pointing to the shelf where his sippy cups are and makes noises until we say, “Oh do you want more water Nathan?” and then he gets super excited.  The last few days he has adamantly refused sippy cups and only wants a regular one. Unfortunately he only wants it because he knows we won’t take the lid off his sippy cup and he really wants to play with the water.  I indulge probably twice a day.

His absolute favorite thing to do of all time right now is to draw/write.  He specifically asks for a pen the moment he wakes up in the morning.  He has sat at the table with me for an hour and forty five minutes completely content to write the entire time.  He loves he when we trace his hand and has been trying it himself, but he detests getting pen on his fingers and holds it up to us to clean off.  Once when I marked pen on his finger he kept pulling his hand away any time I came close with the pen again.  Right now he spends a lot of time making circles.