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, February 29, 2024

It's almost pizza night!

 The extended Newman family decided to have a Pizza Party.  The idea was for everyone to bring a pizza (or two) from a favorite local pizza joint and we were all to decide which place made the best pizza.

I paid an exorbitant price for a single pizza at a local pizzeria and while there, I asked if I could have two extra boxes...

and then I made my own pizzas to fool them all. 

BBQ chicken and onion

Buffalo chicken

Homemade mozzerella.  Loaded with leftover wedding chicken.

I win.


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Race to Spring

 I am now living in the point of time where simply winging it through the October/November/December sprint results in the pandemonium that is January through March.

It happens every.single.year around this time.

Surely, I am not the only one.... right?

Too much stuff.  Too long disorganized.  Too many drawers spilling over.  Too many and too long ignored spaces.  Too much to do.  Too little time.  Too daunting to even want to begin.

My day-to-day chores are hard enough to keep on top of.  Laundry is done every day and never done.  Meals are made constantly and still there are growling bellies.   Homeschooling is always and never done.  

But the fact is- those utensil drawers that get clogged every time I open/close them (and drive me crazy) will continue to get clogged until I actually DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  

(I know, profound.)

For "before" pictures, just imagine layers of dust and no showing surfaces

When my life feels too chaotic and out of control, it always makes me feel somewhat more in control if I can actually rein something in.  Even if it is just the top of the fridge.

 So... I made a list of all the teeny, tiny, long-neglected spaces/jobs that I could think of that would take about 10 minutes to tackle (or so I tell myself) and I am now in a race with Old Man Winter to see how many of these things I can cross off by March 19th.  (That's the first day of Spring, you know.)

The goal is not just to clean and dust these places but to organize them and purge at least 3-5 things that add more clutter than value at this point.  Or to focus on a tiny task that I have been avoiding.

Most of the time it takes longer than 10 minutes.  (Sometimes, even hours.)

(Washing all these shelves and jars took WAY longer than 10 minutes)

The list is constantly being added to.

But the list is constantly being checked off too... and bags and boxes of stuff are being thrown away, given away and/or donated which means... those particular things will NEVER drive me crazy again!

And that makes me supremely happy.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Funny Little Valentine

Corynn surprised me with these beauties last week.  Sweet girl.

Just the typical Valentine mayhem over here.

So what if I can't find the dining room table... who cares if there are a million shards of cut paper in every crack of the dining room floor, broken crayons under every chair, paint splotches on clothes and  candy wrappers in every pocket, just waiting to be washed?!  

There is love.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Goals for 2024

I tell the children all the time that obedience is cheerful... if you aren't cheerful while you obey, you aren't REALLY being obedient.   Obedience must be fueled by LOVE and not be duty for duties' sake.  Mama needed the reminder too. 

 It took a bit longer to get my goals up for this year than I expected.  My apologies to the masses!  ;-)

Here is what I am working towards in 2024:

I see a lot of value in continuing and expanding some of the habits I developed last year so hosting Matt's parents for dinner one night a week, taking vitamins, being active/exercising at least 3x per week, writing one letter/card a month, Christmas shopping throughout the year, and being sure to fit Morning Time with Mama into my weekdays will be a priority for me this year as well.  

In addition to those things (which, let's be honest, are going to keep me busy), here are some new things I would like to accomplish this year.

(Or in the remaining 11 months of it, anyway!)

~ Read Paradise Lost (this was a roll-over from last year)

~ Host ladies + children from church once a month at our house.

~ Get a different vehicle (ours is one breath away from death)

~ Get Andrew into his own vehicle (we will go halfsies)

~ blog once a week (These may be short and sweet but I think my Faraway Girl might appreciate them so I want to try.)

~ Fix up dining room (if not a full do-over, at least repair the broken drywall by the table)

~ Start saving up money for a home generator

~ Sort/Purge Granary in order to make a play space in the upstairs for children

~ Write six long letters (not just cards)

~ Get grapes on fence or arbor

~ Do a better job recording important info into our Hopestead Journal

~ try to grow carrots 

~ try to make a new variety of cheese (maybe cheddar?)

Here is what my January looked like:

Do you have any particular goals for 2024?  How are you doing on them?  

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Looking Back

It may be February 1st but it is only just now beginning to feel like the new year for me... I guess we were on "wedding time" for a while.  Last weekend we had our Christmas gift exchange with the Newman side.  I have not yet written or mailed a Christmas letter...which, if it were to happen, would likely be for the New Year at this point.

I'm absolutely okay with starting 2024 already behind schedule.  (har, har)   

Nevertheless, here I am.  

Behind schedule.

But before I truly begin this new year... I always like to take once last, lingering glance back at what is being left behind. 

(To look at the original 2023 Resolutions post, go here.)  

I feel pretty proud of last year's efforts.  While some of the things I had hoped to accomplish fell entirely off my radar (like reading Paradise Lost, for example), other things I never anticipated being ON my radar (i.e. putting on a wedding) were accomplished.

It really, REALLY helped me to have a daily/monthly checklist to check off... it helped me not only to keep my goals on the forefront of my mind each day (thus helping me to actually accomplish them), but it also helped me to not lose heart when I didn't feel like I was progressing or improving quickly enough.  

Seeing all the checkmarks made me feel like there was real progress being made, even when I didn't make every goal, every time. (And I didn't... see the barren wastelands of the end of November and the end of December.)

An added perk, I've got to say... it is awfully fun to look back on all those little checkmarks now! 

I think I will be implementing the check-off system from now on.  That was the single-biggest reason I had as much success as I did. 


~ NOT reading Paradise Lost
~ NOT repairing chicken coop or getting more chickens
~ NOT finishing the entire Literary Life Reading Challenge
~ NOT writing creatively for 10 minutes a day
~ NOT writing long letters to friends (I did write correspondences but they were usually short cards of condolences, gratitude, encouragement or congratulations... not those lovely, long letters I love to write/receive.)


~ hosted a Community Psalm Sing
~ hosted Corynn's wedding
~ had Matt's parents over for supper once a week the entire year
~ new roof on house
~ accomplished monthly projects
~ Christmas present buying throughout the year (what a blessing this was to me as December's TIME and BUDGET was entirely devoted to Corynn's wedding)
~ homegrown beef (and more recently pork!) in freezers
~ printing photos from '22 and '23 (though now I have a bunch of photos that need to be put in albums)
~ deleting photos from computer
~ and, of course, every single one of those checkmarks above!

(I'll be sharing what I hope to accomplish in 2024 tomorrow.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

An Eve to Remember

 It is now January 16th- midway through the first month of the year 2024.  I still feel unequal to the task of representing the last few weeks well- and every time I try, I cry.  But if I don't at least attempt it, I'll just get more woefully behind on 2024... and so, here we go.

(Those young people who have been eagerly anticipating pictures, you have my permission to scroll past the words of lament to get to the good stuff!)

New Years Eve's Eve my whole world changed.  

When I was a young mother with young children hopping and huddling all around me, it never really occurred to me that "this too shall pass".  I was too busy taking picnics and singing alphabet songs and making dinner and cleaning up puke and dancing in the kitchen and reading stories and doing laundry and begging children to "Please SETTLE DOWN!"... to ever really contemplate the idea that this glorious CrazyTown is a fleeting reality.

Back then, I was too busy enjoying Corynn's jokes and her cute little-person enunciations and first-born antics to ever consider that there would come a day when she (or any of my children) would leave me.  

But on New Years Eve's Eve, Corynn did.  I watched her be carried off by her new Mister, to adventures all her own.  While many mother's mourn the inevitable separation from their children in the privacy of their empty cars when they drop their kids off to college...  I had to do it in the presence of nearly 300 family, friends and community members.  How could it be done without me becoming a blathering idiot?

Well, the Lord saw fit to make me incredibly sick just at the very worst time (or maybe just the right time?) three days before the wedding, during the wedding and a few days after the wedding.   It made doing all the things I needed to do (before, during and after) extremely difficult because, turns out, DIY weddings are NO JOKE!!!    God was so merciful to me on the actual wedding day though, as I was able to rebound enough to fake it (with meds) and then down, I went again, the next day.

And it wasn't just me who was sick.  But the Bride herself!  And Adele'.  And Andrew.  And Judah.  And some bridesmaids.

(Thankfully, Moses, Ineke and Matt were spared until after the wedding!)

I am not whether to blame my sickness or just putting on a wedding in general but I was so focused on survival that I had a hard time thinking of anything else.  I picked up my camera for all of about 5-10  minutes the whole weekend. I didn't even think (until days later when it was too late) to ask to get a picture with Corynn on her wedding day.  (I'm SO SAD about that!)

But even sickness can be a gift.  This illness was diverting enough on the wedding day, where my focus was on not passing out rather than grieving for a season of my life that is no more.  I was focused on trying not to seem sick rather than lamenting the fact that my future includes many more goodbyes.  I was trying not to get too close to people so I didn't make them sick rather than thinking about the fact that my children will, in fact, SETTLE DOWN!! (And in the blink of an eye too).

You may say I am depressing.  You may say I am a worrywart.  You may say I am too sentimental.  And sure, all of these things may be true.  But another thing I am is honest... and these are the things I have been struggling with...even in the midst of a joy and gladness that Corynn has met a fine man to share her life with- and the Lord has seen fit to give her the desires of her heart.   

I rejoice for Corynn and Kemuel while mourning a bit for myself.  But as a Christian, we are called to die to self for Him to do a good work.  As a parent, the Lord gives us special practice at it.  We die to ourselves when we wake up in the middle of the night to nurse.  We die to ourselves when we make and serve millions of meals when we really, really, really would love to go to a restaurant and be served.   And the Lord is calling me to die to self once again- in giving up and letting go of the gift that He gave to me for a time.  

I am not doing it particularly gracefully but I am doing it the best that I can.

The best thing to do, particularly in those low, hard times, is to choose not to dwell there.  So I claw myself out of the quicksand by forcing myself to flip my perspective to one of gratitude and thanksgiving.  Counting blessings.  Naming gifts.  Finding joy.  Pursuing gratitude.    The act of counting gifts has always helped to retrain my gaze to one that is perhaps a bit more glorifying to God and receptive to God's will.  It doesn't come naturally.  Sometimes I'd rather wallow.  It can be hard work.  But it is necessary work.

So- with just a few photos to show for it (many from Matt's cellphone!)- let me tell you THE GIFT that was Corynn's wedding... all things I am so grateful for.

~ for a wedding engagement of just a hair over three months and a guest list well over 300, I am amazed at how many personal, handmade and DIY things were able to be done to make the day special and one-of-a-kind.

~ No snow storms to make life miserable!  In fact, I was out doing flowers on Thursday night on the porch quite comfortably!

~ Friends rallied around me and helped me get all the things done that needed to be done when I got sick.  Millie went grocery shopping with Corynn when I was literally too weak to stand.  Joelynn sewed all those triangles I had cut into a proper bunting when I was just gonna just toss those hours of trimming triangles into the garbage because I had too much to do and felt lousy enough to just want to give up.  Delphine and Holly and Joelynn worked alongside me for two days- and shoved water down my gullet.  Abby and Millie made gorgeous berry cupcakes that rivalled the professionally made wedding cake in both beauty and taste.  Janette helped me make beautiful arbor arrangements.  The Jones family helped serve and replenish food and coffee.  

~ It was a large crowd at over 265 but I had planned on an extra 100 people who didn't show up and even that was a gift- because it wasn't too overcrowded (and it would have been).  This was such a mercy to me because I spent a good portion of November/December stressing about how to make this wedding enjoyable for guests who would likely be squished in like sardines.  Praise the Lord!  No people were harmed in the making of this marriage! ;-)

~ The wedding favors were purple poppy seeds that Corynn collected from her own flower garden last summer and then painted a purple poppy and created seeds packet labels.   The idea of purple poppies everywhere, Corynn's joy, spread all around this country, makes me so happy.  (They were about 10 cents a favor, too, which ALSO made me happy.)  

~ We alternated favors by supplementing every other place setting with a beautiful orange clementine, which was so stunning with the tiny glimpses of orange ranunculus poking out every now and again, and much more "favored" by children and menfolk.

~ Matt and Grandpa made a beautiful timber-framed arbor which seemed to me to symbolically cover Corynn and Kemuel with their blessings during the ceremony.  Uncle John helped by sawing the logs up for Matt, just in the nick of time.

~ We had nearly as many children as adults at the reception so we made a separate space for a lace teepee, an indoor snowball fight and a yard-sized connect four in another room from the reception.  There may or may not have also been raucous games of TAG.  ;-)   

~ My fabric scrap stash was cut down quite a bit to make a BoHo bunting to be hung overhead.  Originally, this was just meant to be stylish and provide a vintage pop of color... but afterward, it just reminds me of Joelynn and her kindness and love... which makes me love it even more.

~ The food I had made ahead of time was delicious (so I am told) and because we store up beans and rice and had butchered a cow last year... didn't cost anything out of pocket in November/December, when our pockets were pretty echo-ey as it was.  We essentially paid for sour cream, lettuce, cilantro, lime, salsa, cheese and tortilla chips.  That was AMAZING.

~ All the food calculators say to allow for 1/3 pound of meat per person- which I did.  About 130 pounds of meat I made!  But I brought home almost half of it!.  Apparently, food calculators don't count on lots of children who tank up of tortilla chips?!?  Or beautiful bread and cheese appetizers?  I was able to bless lots of people with extra food after the fact- but I try not to even THINK about all the work I could have saved myself.

~ Our church ladies (and Aunt Holly) put on a beautiful grazing table with gorgeous cheeses, breads and spreads. I was complimented on it throughout the night as being "one of the most beautiful grazing tables" ever.  I never saw it in person but I *really hope* someone took a picture!

~ Corynn's wedding dress had a huge slit in it and she asked if I could sew it shut for her and then said "Oh- wouldn't it be SO NEAT to have a flower insert put in, so when I dance it opens up to show flowers?!"  Ummm... YES!  For over a month and a half, every time I had a spare minute, I embroidered a flower on chiffon- it was a race against time.  All different flowers, and prayers attached to each one.  It was a blessing to me to be able to do that for her.  And I got it done with one day to spare!

~ Sam's club bulk flowers were GORGEOUS - we ordered white stock (one of my own wedding flowers), red alstroemeria, orange ranunculus and some greenery.  The rest we supplemented with foraged evergreens and dried flowers.   A friend loaned us some silk florals for the arbor.  Arbor arrangements, 10 bridesmaids bouquets, a bridal bouquet, six corsages, 20 boutonnieres and flowers for about 30 tables, a bouquet just for me to take home (because Natalie is just the sweetest) and leftovers to boot... all for under $500!  

~ Corynn had been sick for a week (and even had to cancel her bachelorette party!) but was somehow able to rally on her wedding day and looked positively radiant!

~ And she didn't pass out during the ceremony, which, I'm not gonna lie- I was worried about!

~ Andrew sat down a bit during the ceremony (though he was a Groomsman!) because he felt like HE was going to pass out though.

~  Moses took his ringbearer job seriously and was just so stinkin' cute.  He was such a little man.

~ Ineke was one of two flower girls but the only one who scattered petals and the only one who sobbed down the aisle.  It was precious and sweet and heartbreaking.

~ Judah was found sleeping on a couch halfway through the night, getting "bit by the bug" mid-wedding.  

~ ~ I caught Kemuel and his groomsmen taking time to pray together before the ceremony. 

~ Adele' felt dreadful the whole time but she showed just how much of a trooper she is by handling herself with grace, even then.

~ Moses showed off his break-dance moves.

~ Matt and Corynn totally nailed their dance though they had no preparation whatsoever.  Have FUN was their strategy and it worked.  They danced to Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline, which is a song that I changed the words to "Sweet Babe of Mine" and sang to Corynn.  It was "her song" growing up.  I also stitched "sweet babe of mine" in with the flowers on her dress.  

~ One of my fondest memories of my own wedding reception was when all our guests joined in to sing Edelweiss during the reception.  And Corynn gets to have a similar memory- because at one point, I heard the whole reception start to sing Neil Diamond.  That made me so happy.

And one of the most WONDERFUL things of all~

~ there were dozens of dish-washers and table-packer-uppers and car-loaders who rolled up their sleeves and helped clean up so I didn't need to spend the night at the location in order to clean the place up the next day all by myself!  (Which had been the plan.)  I am still amazed at this!

All this to say- the whole wedding weekend was jam-packed with glory and goodness and beauty and and sentiment and rejoicing, even while in the midst of real struggle and trial and imperfection.  

And that seems like a perfect way to start a life together, doesn't it?