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

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. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

'Twas the Week Before Christmas



And all through the house, not a creature was stirring...
screech! Wait.  Stop.  Are you kidding me right now?  

Not in this house!

The week before Christmas is right about the time when I decide I need to get serious on the gift-making.  And then it takes a few more days to actually act upon that decision. ;-)  But there is a general movement toward that end at this point, and with just four days to go, it's a good thing!  The house looks like an Elfish workshop- and indeed, it is.  

Good thing for me the extended family Christmases are happening NEXT weekend, over New Years.  That gives me a full extra week of procrastination!  

Corynn is getting a lot more accomplished than I am- she has even been commissioned for several gifts- aprons and stuffed dolls.  As for me- my list covers an entire piece of notebook paper.  I wish I could show it to you, so laughable it is, but many eyes peer over my shoulder as I type and there would be no surprises left.  I have had to set some things aside for next year like the ride-on stuffed camel and woodland dwelling I had intended to make.  Hopefully, these things will keep and I can get them done someday.  I've intended to make them for years- even as my younger children aged out of them.   I have a new baby again- I just need to make sure to actually make them (instead of intending to do so) before she outgrows them too.  

Speaking of the baby...tomorrow is Ineke's first birthday!  I sewed her a birthday outfit the other day using up the leftover fabric and fur from Adele's birthday outfit.  I had intended to make a little dress but there wasn't enough fabric.  There was exactly the right amount of fabric and fur to make a skirt and matching bonnet though- with just the teensiest little trimmings of scrap from the fabric to throw away.  The fur was the exact measurement I needed, no trimming necessary. Amazing.  

I am also working on a waldorf baby for Ineke  but I can't decide if I should go with the style I have made before (more appropriate for a slobbery baby) or try something different.  A blanket body?  A pillow body?  A body body?  A little pixie hood?  Or hair?  (I love hair but will it stay nice with a one year old?)  The poor thing is awaiting her face and body as I am seeking inspiration.  Help

We had our tree-trimming party a few weeks ago nd we ate snacks and sang carols.  The tree trimming party means snacks for dinner and some years we feel positively ill with gorging on food we don't normally eat.  Cream cheese dips, little smokies, jello jigglers.  Those sorts of awesome morsels of health and prosperity.  This year I leaned a bit more toward some healthy options with a fancy cheese tray and grapes.  Real treats for us- AND we never got bellyaches!  Ineke got her first taste of eggnog and was amazed that there was a tree right in the living room.  She pointed and jabbered as if to say "What are these crazy people doing?!? Don't they know trees are outside?"  The girls diligently tucked ornaments in branches and the boys diligently made box forts and messes and Papa led us all in carols.

I made our chocolate letters this year instead of ordering from the Dutch store to fill our klompen.  They were very pretty (and delicious) except Matt's.  He was out of town for St. Nicholas and so I tucked his away carefully for his return.  He pulled in the driveway and was coming in the house so I set out his klompen and the baby got it and broke it to pieces.  Everyone loved the homemade chocolate letters- except Matt.

In my klompen, I found a letter from St. Nicholas!  We've been reading this book and I think maybe  someone was feeling inspired.

I decided, very spontaneously, to draw and then paint and then GLITTER the Christmas cards for this year.  I don't know why other than I saw a picture and felt the urge.  (I should have been working on gifts!)  Obviously I am not an artist.  Nor am I Catholic.  But it was just the right itch to scratch that day.  Some days a person just needs to do something quiet and reflective and...with paints and glitter.  No matter the outcome.

So the halls are decked and the rooms are full of busy people.  And all of them, all of it, is merry.


Thursday, December 08, 2016


Speaking of birthdays~ I was a terrible birthday blogger this year- waiting to blog the photos until one thing or another happened-and then it never did.  I don't remember what that 'thing' was- probably just getting a 'nice' photo of the children for their birthdays instead of the 'action shots' I usually take of them.  I do remember wanting very much to usher in Corynn's 'teenage' years with a zinnia and cosmo flower crown.  But the idea was lost with the frost.  

So I never ended up blogging ANY of the childrens' birthday pictures this year.  Well, that won't do!

Soooo...from oldest pictures to newest I give you......

Andrew's birthday in April. (sheesh)

ack!  Look at how small Ineke was back then!  Whaaaaaaahhhhhhh!
He desperately needed socks and underwear so I had bought some for him right before his birthday.  As a joke, I wrapped them up as a gift and the sweetness just melted me when he was actually thankful and happy with them as a gift.

And an actual birthday wish was a box of straws.  I kid you not.  He loves building things with them- think 'Arthur and the Invisibles'.

Adele' painted him a freezer paper stencil shirt in honor of his newest obsession~deer.  I love freezer paper stencils because children can make really great looking projects that don't look kid-made but actually are.  We go that route a lot.  ;-)
His requested dinner was soup (Potato Corn chowder) and I only remember that because I remember making antler breadsticks to go with it.
The cake was supposed to look like  an antler drop on a log.  The 'antler' was made with white chocolate and butter made into a 'clay'.  (It was kinda delicious.)

Corynn and Judah's birthday in September (that wasn't THAT long ago since, you know, life happens at lightspeed)

 It so happened their birthday fell on a Friday night (pizza night 'round here) so we made it special by having a make-your-own personal pan pizza party.

Oh- I remember those bowls of cucumbers and tomato lined tables everywhere. Sigh.  I would love a fresh cucumber right about now.

Judah's requested 'Pond Cake':

You can see the tootsie roll cattails better from here.  A favorite feature.  ;-)

The only thing that Corynn requested for her cake was that it would include Fruit Roll Ups:

Judah's birthday wish was a backpack and binoculars.  I also him this book, which we both love and went along with the pond theme quite nicely if I do say so myself.

Corynn got scrapbooking supplies and books.   Her most favorite gift (though books always rate highly) was given to her by Grandma and Grandpa.  They decided a 13th birthday ought to be an extra special one and splurged knocked her socks off with some horseback riding lessons!  It was the gift that kept on giving- and made her 13th birthday summer sweet with memories.

And that gets us up to date just in time for Ineke turning one in just a couple weeks!  ACK!