What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Thursday, January 12, 2017

FOCUSED: Goals for 2017

It's already practically halfway through the first month of this new year!  How can it be?

In the beginning of January, I always spend a fair amount of time thinking of specific goals I have for the new year and I look through the previous years' goals to see how I stacked up.  I dreaded looking back to see how miserably I had failed when to my utter amazement and delight, I found that I hadn't made any!  I was drowning in milk at the time (my own and our cows'), had a brand spankin' new baby and apparently, enough sense to know my limits.  Survive the day was my goal and it totally worked!  Here I am!

But the fact is, survival mode is great when necessary but it can't last forever.

I continued to tread water throughout the year even as my legs were rested and I had gotten my breath back and could have made some actual strides.  Contentment with what I could sanely accomplish given all the balls in the air (a good thing!) turned into complacency...not bothering to add any new (and important) balls once I had found my rhythm. The result over an entire year became poor stewardship of time, person and finances and a year behind me where I didn't make any real strides.   That, coupled with several unforeseeable circumstances, has left me feeling pretty blue.  And kinda like a failure.

And the best thing for me when those feelings hit is the next thing.  I need some goals in my life.   I need to stop thinking and start doing.  A plan.  A schedule.  A goal.  A list.  One foot in front of the other, moving on to the one next thing.  The key is focus.  And focus was what I was lacking in 2016.

So here is a list of goals to help me get back on track this year.  Some will be pretty typical of New Years' resolutions, some not so much.  As usual, the more specific the goal, the more easily I can see if progress was made...so I am all about SPECIFICS.


 * Memorize 12 key portions of scripture important for an apologist.  (I still need to come up with this list.)

* make daily personal Bible reading a habit

* Put a few pieces of art around the house to make it more gezzellig.  I recently added curtains to the living room and that helped substantially.

* write at least three letters per month

* buy NO YARN in all of 2017- use only from the stash

* make a baby album for Judah

* Read aloud a chapter book to children before bed at least 3 nights a week

* Plan/organize homeschooling at the beginning of each month

* Personal Learning- free online Shakespeare course and C.S.Lewis course from Hillsdale College and Wes Callihans' The Histories (devote at least two times per week)

And since I gained another 10 pounds just in Nov/Dec.- there have to be a few wellness goals too...

* lose 17 pounds in 2017 (I could lose 25-30 but let's make it attainable, shall we?)  Method: no Coke.  Less carbs/sugar and more protein/veggies.

* kettlebells or cardio at least three times a week

Financial ~

* Pay off hospital debt and save the necessary fundage for Andrews' dental work this year.

* Remember to give Matt a portion of his paycheck for his own spending/saving so he doesn't feel stifled and broke all the time.

* Grocery shop ONCE A MONTH all year long.  I anticipate this being a big money saver, but a huge time saver as well.  Every grocery day was a day off of school- sometimes I even used it as an excuse when I didn't feel like doing school.  And it isn't all that fun shopping with five children anyway.  I'll go on Saturday mornings, early. (And by myself or with Ineke.)  It will be a fruitful change- but it will require much more planning and organization on my part.

* Restart the envelope system and budgeting that I slacked off on in 2016  There is a big difference in what money can accomplish when it is allocated to specific places and not just slipping through the cracks.

* Save money for the upcoming bedrooms re-do that Matt is already talking about this summer so we can pay for it in cash. ACK!  Another home project...will they ever end?!?

* Look into changing car/home insurance suppliers

* Re-do a budget for the year and re-evaluate every month.  Have a booze/budget meeting with Matt to keep him on board with our financial situation several times throughout the year.

Hopestead ~

* said bedroom re-do (adding insulation to walls, re-wiring, etc.)  This is a cosmetic change only by accident.  The main reason is very practical- safety and warmth.

* repaint the living room

* look into all that is involved with (and possibly start) dog breeding as a side business

* fix/replant/move the strawberry patch.

* add grapes (this is like the fourth year that I have had this goal and it hasn't happened.  I hope this is the year!)

What about you?  Do you make goals for the New Year?  If so- spill 'em!  

Friday, January 06, 2017

Comfort and Joy


Was your Christmas a happy one?  I hope so!

Ours was lovely.  I loved having Christmas on a Sunday and was utterly flummoxed to hear that church was cancelled for some people.  ???  Andrew woke up at 5 am to give his gift to Papa (we've properly indoctrinated him with this book through the years), doing morning chores in the barn for him.  Afterward, we all gathered for present giving.  Church.  Feasting.  Neighbors came in the evening and all was quiet and calm and peaceful with an undertone of joy and gladness.

Bigger gift exchanges followed over New Years, including us hosting my side of the family which fills the house to the brim with mostly children.  The "cousins" all draw names for a gift exchange.  Adele' stitched up a backpack which was downright adorable (I stitched around the mouse and she did all the other sewing) to go along with an Angelina Ballerina book.  Judah painted a canvas and I painted a silhouette overtop.  There was jewelry made, stationary, headbands, a cowl, some hats, canned goods, woodburned spoons and ornaments and (my personal favorites) two peg doll nativity sets.  One for my niece and nephew and one for Ineke (though Adele' enjoys playing with it as much or more.)  Matt made the mangers and I painted the dolls.  (I really love painting peg people!)  My favorites were the three kings and the camels.  I used gold nailpolish in those super skinny brushes to add gold accents which just made them, in my opinion.  The stars on the manger were made from sculpey clay.

The neighbors all got freshly made cinnamon rolls and peppermint ornaments and our church folk all got homemade cheeses.  A few gifts were scrapped at about 1 am because of too little fabric, too many failed attempts and too little gumption and a few gifts never made it from idea to reality.  Christmas seems such a wonderful time to make and do the things I wish I could do all year long that I inevitably keep adding to the list until it becomes a virtual impossibility.  My favorite gift of all the childrens' was a wooden castle cast-off that my Mom passed along to us.  I've wanted one of those for the children for a very long time but they are too costly.  I am so grateful she shared it with us! Painted castle peg people were one of those gifts that never made it to fruition.  Thankfully, we have playmobil people that work quite nicely.  We also have an Ineke who loves the castle for her very own.  She must be part princess.

Many of the children at our church took part in a little production at church and recited memory poems on Sunday.  Ours did the advent poems from here. (I, II, III, IV).  They all worked very hard on them and did very well in reciting them every day.  It was their first time performing for an audience, which is always a bit nerve-wracking and Adele' withered a bit...but she persevered until the end, even through some tears.  I was very proud of all of them.  Not just my own children but all the children who stood up there nervously and did their recitations and sang.  There is nothing sweeter.

I spent yesterday and today cleaning up all the Christmas things.  Christmas is officially packed up in boxes once again, with the exception of a few strands of Christmas lights here and there to keep some sparkle around for these dark and cold winter days ahead.  The living room is sparse and bare.  It always takes some getting used to- the plainness following Christmas.

But plainness is a good thing too.   It provides opportunity for quiet and slow and undistracted, clean and clear and uncluttered.  Space.  Focus.   All these things are things I could really, really, really use right now.  There are many plans, many hopes, many goals for this New Year all swirling about my brain right now.  Focus is definitely a good thing.

There is nothing quite so exciting as a new year stretched before you, and all the wonder of what it might hold.   Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016


The Christmas Card photo.  Taken with car running for Matt to go to work.  We had only minutes to take the photos and it was after he left that I realized the settings were wrong and we were not in very sharp focus.  Ah well.  I wasn't about to get everyone all dressed up again.  It'll do.
 Merry Christmas to you!  Following is the internet version of our Christmas letter. Matt thought I ought to entitle it "A Christmas Novel" by Rebecca Newman.  Yeah, so I'm wordy. What of it?!?

  If you've been following along with this blog, you probably already know all this stuff.  Thank you all for sharing in our moments, in our words, in our messes, in our lives.  I'm grateful you're here.

Dear Ones,                                                                                                          December 12  Anno Domini 2016
              Happy Christmas to you and the merriest of days!  I hope this Christmas note finds you well; snug and filled and surrounded by love.  A life so lived is a full and rich life indeed.  As I write, the snow is blustering about outside (accumulation expected up to 6 inches tonight) and I am listening to children slamming doors and counting overhead- a riotous game of hide and seek going on upstairs.  In the living room, by the light of the glowing Christmas tree, a sweet baby Ineke takes a nap- affording me a moment to write this letter- and the Papa is outside in the woods as snowflakes swirl about him and the cold winds sneak into his sleeves and down his neck.  I wish he would come in and snuggle.  ;-)  The white snow is turning a darker and darker blue in the dusk so it won’t be long until he comes in for supper.   
                 How shall I sum up the year? In a word, abundant.  The Lord has been so good to us.  We have had an abundance of milk from our milk cow Penny (and thus, an abundance of butter, cheese, yogurt and of course, ice cream!), abundance from a bountiful garden (well over 200 quarts of canned tomatoes alone!) and plentiful meat from some cows we butchered before winter.  Of course, all of these things required plenty of work- extra animals to feed and water, milking chores, ridiculous amounts of cheese and butter-making (several pounds made a day in many cases!) and daily garden and canning chores~ With the cow having since dried up, the garden frozen solid and half as many cows- we find ourselves with a little bit of a lighter load for winter…a welcome change!
                Corynn’s birthday this year added a ‘teen’ to her age and I realized afresh that my baby (my BABY!) is becoming a young woman. This is particularly obvious when she cares for the littlest baby like a proper Mother Hen.  She stands not much shorter than me these days and a bit taller than a few aunts and grandma’s~ which gives her great satisfaction.  She is very talented in the arts and surprises me often with delight at seeing her many sketched/painted/sewn creations.  Someday, perhaps, I will write a book and she will illustrate it.  (Before she is famous and has no time for her Mama’s stories anymore.)  For her birthday, Grandma and Grandpa gifted her with several horseback riding lessons which will, no doubt, become one of those happy memories of her lifetime.  She had grace, she had skill, she had fun…and now she wants a horse!
                Andrew tacked on a second digit when his birthday rolled around and ten seems to suit him quite nicely.  He is the kind of boy whose interests soon become infatuations and, as usual, they are usually in the form of one animal or another.  He has become enamored this year first with deer and hunting and most recently, rabbits, trapping and pelts.  Tanning hides and raising deer are the dreams that fill his head each night.  I know because he relates them to me every morning!  He went hunting with Matt for the first time this year and they got a buck the first day!  This was both exciting and disappointing for Andrew- since the only tag Matt had was filled in a day, leaving all the rest of the hunting fun to wait until next year.
                Adele just recently turned 8 years old and is in that wonderfully delightful stage of being just grown up enough to think deep thoughts and ask hard questions while still possessing the wonder and fancies of a child.  I love nothing more than to discover a little voice chatting in the girls’ room and when I peek open the door, I find Adele’ and her dolls deep in conversation.  These moments are fleeting and so I hold them close.  It is a hard thing to hold middle sister status but Adele’ does so with grace.  She and Judah are the two children who never complain about doing school and, in fact, look forward to it each day!  Adele’ is becoming quite the crafty girl too- she learned to sew on the sewing machine this year and even made herself a very nice backpack with an embroidered snail on it. 
Judah is now 6 but is often mistaken for being older than Adele’ due to his size (much to Adele’s chagrine)!  He is a Hoss of a boy, a Samson, and must learn to use his strength well. Admittedly, this can be a hard thing to learn for a six year old.  Especially one with an older brother!  One way to get that crazy boy settled down is to sit on the couch with a story book.  He’ll make his way over and snuggle down deep.  And one book is never, ever enough.   He went hunting with Matt and Andrew- and they all went camping in our woods earlier in the summer.  Judah follows Matt around everywhere when Matt is home and wants to grow up to be just like him.  I hope he does too.  But for now, I love my raucous, not-so-little, little boy.
                Ineke, our December darling, will be turning one on December 22nd.  She has brought so much joy to our lives this past year!  How I missed those precious baby years!  She took her first hesitant steps a month ago and now gets around on super speed (the first of the children to be walking before their birthday), a far cry from her slothlike tendencies of babyhood.  Her first few months worried my mom who insisted babies shouldn’t sleep ALL the time.  J  She recently perfected her pivot and can turn a full circle, which is a skill she is most proud of!  She has spent her entire nursing life baby pinching me as a form of affection, like a kitten pawing at its’ mother with claws out (She is my little lobster) and she has, most recently, developed a piercingly shrill screech- which she lets loose when one of her brothers is picking her up and she doesn’t like it (all too often).  But don’t let the lobster pinches and screech owl tendencies give you the impression that she is an unlovely baby.  She is a deliciously sweet child, through and through.  Every time someone picks her up she will give a nice long hug in thanks- and she’s been giving real, wonderful hugs for months now!  She revels in the task of making someone smile and is infatuated with all people her size.  She wants to hug all little people and moves to do so- an excited, gleefully shrieking crazy girl running at them with open arms like a grizzly about to devour!  Those who are able run away, screaming in fear.)   Poor Ineke stands bewildered and then tries to comfort them with a hug and so it goes.
                Matt is, as ever, the steadfast, hard-working one of the bunch.  He improves home and Hopestead as time and money allow (and occasionally, when they don’t!).  This year’s big project for him was gutting and re-doing the boys’ room…insulation, wiring, etc.  I was so thankful that was done- particularly because of the dangerous state of the original wiring.  He also added railings to the porch- making each baluster himself in order to save money.  The thing Matt was most excited to do this year, though, was what we have coined ‘the Ornamentation Project’ which involved building a stone wall to support and house some old horse-drawn farm equipment he found in the goonyweeds of the property; an old oat binder and an old corn binder.  When he first mentioned it, he knew I would be thrilled at the prospect of a Matt-made stone wall.  Having no real farm knowledge, I had no idea how large and….rusty….an old oat binder could be, let alone two pieces of farm equipment.  When he hauled the junk (er, I mean antiques) up to the road, my eyes grew large with the realization of it all!   He loves the end result and I love him, so it all works out.  (And the stone wall is BEAUTIFUL.)  Seriously though, Matt never ceases to amaze me with his talents and know-how.  His most epic work though is one that is not so easily checked off or admired from the road.  He leads this family well,  adds laughter by the bucketfuls, encourages us in the Lord and makes us all better, stronger, wiser and more confident. 
                And then there is me.  By the length of this letter, it appears that I am in need of some adult conversation!  ;-)  There are never enough hours in the day to do all, read all, make all, write all, learn all, be all or think all the things I would like to, but I am thankful that with each new dawn I have another opportunity to try!  
G.K.Chesterton once said… “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.”   While we may be ordinary, we live an extraordinary life made all the more obvious during this Advent season- a season of  expectation, of Christ’s coming and a looking forward to His coming again.  He is everywhere, all around us.  He is the reason we love, the reason we rejoice, the reason we have hope.  May you be overwhelmed with these good gifts and see clearly the Giver as you live out your extraordinary lives in this coming Anno Domini, 2017.

Rebecca (the Verbose), Matt (the Stalwart), Corynn (the Creative), Andrew (the Ardent), Adele (the Gentle),Judah (the Rugged) and Ineke  (the Sweetling)                
The one I *wanted* for the Christmas card photo.  See that full blown smile on Matt's face?  That NEVER happens in photos.  Usually he looks like he hates his life in family pictures.  Andrew asked that I use the other one for the cards but I had to post this one here.  That is a grin for posterity.