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

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry Christmas! (The Christmas Letter)

Dear Ones,
Merry Christmas!  
Before I continue with the traditional letter, can we all just pause a moment and reflect on how early I got our Christmas cards and letter out this year?!  Wonder of wonders…

This has been a big year for us in many ways.   For one thing, we took several vacations in a single year.  (A single vacation for us is BIG, more than one is… astounding.)   We went to Massachusetts and toured a beautiful Shaker village, saw Plymouth Rock, toured Plymouth Plantation, and hopped aboard a replica of the Mayflower.  Later in the summer, we went on a camping/ boating trip on the Cayuga-Seneca canal with the rest of the Newman clan.  (Vacationing with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents is super fun.  You should try it.)  As proper homeschoolers, we made sure to learn about the Erie Canal, its’ locks, and its’ history before we went.  The same is true of pilgrims, Indians and sea voyages.  Science, geography and history…check, check, check! 

This year, too, marked Matt’s and my 20th year of marriage.  To celebrate, we headed to Watkin’s Glen for an overnight trip, just the two of us.  We spent the day reminiscing and reflecting on the gift of these years and the fruit that has been produced out of it.  As a nod to our honeymoon in Mexico, we ate at the El Rancho Mexican restaurant.  The high point of our trip was to ride on a romantic sunset cruise aboard the schooner True Love. The True Love was featured in the film High Society with some of my favorite people: Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly…oh, it was going to be so romantic.  And it would have been except that a massive lightning storm rolled in mere minutes before we were to set sail.  And that, my friends, was very analogous to our marriage.  We drove home through rumbles of thunder, flashes of lightning, bending, bowing trees and a barrage of raindrops…yet hand in hand, as we weather all storms.  

There has been much fruit from these last 20 years but the plumpest, juiciest, and most beautiful of all are the six amazing children whom the Lord has given us.  They add so much goodness to this world and so much pleasure to our lives.   
Corynn (19) has gone through a stretching season this year… with some introspection, some doubts, some floundering and maybe a little bit of heartbreak mixed into the sweet pleasures and freedoms of (almost) adulthood.  Just as fire purifies and dead, buried seeds bloom, Corynn has used those hard things to refine and blossom.   When some might become discouraged or disgruntled, she has grown in grace and knowledge and goodness.  One of my hopes for all of my children (and one of the motivations of home education) is that our children develop a deep love of learning… and Corynn has exceeded my expectations in this and many other things.  She is a self-motivated autodidact who, though not going to college, is spending much of her free time studying and pursuing knowledge on her own- without shackling herself to thousands of dollars of debt to do so.   She is well read, well rounded and can produce such beauty in mere moments with just a flick of a pen or swish of a paintbrush.  I am so thankful for who she is and the exemplary example she is to the other children and to the world, revealing what teenagers could and should be like.

Andrew (16) has been stretching this year too.  He now towers over even his excessively tall Mama.  I know he likes it though because he rounds UP when people ask him how tall he is.  6’3-6’5, depending on the day.  We’ll know for sure when we take him to get his physical for his driver’s permit.  Either way, my little Andrew is not so little anymore.   He has grown in other ways too this year- I have seen him mature into (almost) manhood right before my eyes.  He is the guy who will cheerfully start fires for me without me having to ask, who carries heavy loads without a grumble, splits and brings in wood without a word, who sees a need and fills it.  I am proud of how hard a worker he is and how considerate he is of other peoples’ needs.  Sometimes he sits next to me in church, and I love to hear his deep voice singing along beside me; those are my favorite Sundays.  Along with schoolwork and his mowing job, Andrew’s big project this year has been building himself a timber frame cabin in the woods.  He is doing it alongside his Papa and with the help of Grandpa, Uncle John and Judah.  The work will continue into next year but it is already looking mighty nice!
Adele’ (14) just had her birthday yesterday.  She spent the day reading, playing games, going out on a sister date with Corynn and answering letters (she had received EIGHT things in the mail the day before… best birthday present ever!)  That little snapshot perfectly describes who she is and what makes her tick.   Games, letters, books, individual time… these are a few of her favorite things.  Ever the introvert, she stretched herself this year by attending a book club with several other girls and has grown to love that time spent with friends.  They recently attended a production of The Secret Garden together and, though it was nearing midnight when she arrived home, she was bouncing with happiness as she related the evening to me.  Adele’ was able to go on her first road trip without our family this year too... accompanying our Pastor’s family to Southern PA to visit with friends.  I’d say that she missed our family terribly but that would be a total lie.  She loved every minute of that trip.  She is a compassionate big sister to the Littles- I often find her reading stories to them or jumping with them on the trampoline.  She wears her heart on her sleeve and feels deeply, whether joy or sadness… she and I have shared many tears as we had to say goodbye to our dog Ruby this year.  I am glad to have her gentle heart in my life.

Judah (12) is enthusiastic, boisterous, energetic, and helpful.  He is easily pleased with small things like camping in the woods or a trip to Hiram’s (a local army surplus store).  Before his birthday this year, we could no longer say “Act your age, not your shoe size” because… both were 11!  He recently joined a Trail Life division in our community and their meetings make every Wednesday seem like a fresh dream come true for him.  He loves farming and longs for the time when we can again have a milk cow and pigs.  (Unfortunately, our “farm” now consists of cats and a few barren cows.)  He learned to drive the tractor this year and he became our chief mower of grass.  One of my greatest joys in life is hearing music in our home and Judah is often the one making it.  He still sings a beautiful soprano (but I bet this will be the last year I will be able to say that) and he sings out, loud and proud.  Judah also loves to play the piano, and not only does he bring music to our home but he even occasionally plays a song or two in church.   Judah can be found wearing grungy camo or muck boots during the week but come Sunday, he turns himself into quite the dapper fellow, often wearing a suit, vest, and tie to church.   His Christmas wishlist this year included cufflinks. 
Ineke (6) is such a loveable girl, we have to fight off even the wildlife from loving her.  This spring, after the Littles were put to bed, a bat was caught flying about in our house.  We caught the bat, released it and thought nothing more about it until the morning, when Ineke had two perfect little bite marks and pools of dried blood on her upper lip.  To be bit by a bat is an unusual thing…to be “kissed” by a bat, quite extraordinary!  She had to go through a series of painful rabies shots over the next few weeks but she took it like a champ and with her usual dose of good humor.  She spent the hours at the hospital awaiting shots by listening to storybooks I had brought along, practicing reading and taking funny faced selfies on my phone.   This is her first year of “formal” homeschooling, her most favorite past time these days is to roller skate on our porch and she draws at least a handful of pictures each and every day.   She positively sparkles when she talks; she prays for poor, cold, sick or lonely people; and she loves to make people laugh, though the most funny things she says are often unintentional.   Ineke had a cough recently and after being frustrated by coughing so much in bed, climbed out of her bunk saying, “I am going to sleep on the floor…there is too much coughing going on in my bed.”  What am I going to do with her?!  What would I do without her?

Moses (3) is my sweet, big Hoss of a boy.  At only three years old, he wears size 6/7 clothes and size 13 shoes.  He continues wandering into my room in the early morning for snuggles and as much as I hate abrupt awakenings at 3 or 4am, I love that fat little hand that cradles my head and that little voice that asks “Will you snuggle with me, Mama?” even more.  It’s a conundrum.  This year, Moses has developed a deep love of stories. Indeed, it is only for stories and books that he will keep still.  He tells me about his “dreams” every morning, which are always suspiciously the same as every other dream (and usually involve coyotes, deer or bears) but his wide-eyed, suspenseful storytelling makes me look forward to it anyway. He will often come to me throughout the day, holding up an invisible peacock or deer for me to admire, saying he shot it for supper.  Moses continues to teach me that God’s provision, mercies and watch care are constant.  I remember singing with my Mother when I was young, a song about how God has time for sparrows who fall and time for the wandering child who calls.  That song was made manifest as we visited friends this summer- when two-year-old Moses wandered away from the other playing children, toddled through the woods and neighboring fields and was found over a mile away at the bend of an intersection on a road.  Flashing police cars were at the scene when he was eventually found, a lifetime later, and when he was found unharmed, it was only then that I fell to my knees and breathed air again.  God was so good to us that day, reminding us that Moses is His child first and foremost and too, by mercifully giving him back to us for a bit.  

And that brings me to another baby Boy, mercifully given to this lost and despairing world.   A boy with fat little hands and wide-eyed stories, just like any other little boy yet- also, magically, mysteriously, most excellently not just a boy, not only a boy, but GOD, made flesh.  A Boy who dreamed and prepared for snake crushing as a child- and grew up to do just that.  A joy to His mother and Joy to the world.  

May this Christmas we remember well and rejoice in the good gift of Jesus, the conquering Babe.  May we see with clear eyes what He has done for us in His coming and might that knowledge change who we are, as His people.   Not just this Christmas but throughout the year.  

May we see Jesus in the faces of all people, knowing we are made in His image.  May we, like Him, be protectors of the lowly. May we use our strength wisely and well, may we bring down the exalted and lift up the humble, may we fill the hungry with good things, may we extend mercy and perform good deeds… all because Jesus has shown us how.

His kingdom come, His will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven.  Might He use us, and all of our days, to that end.

Merry Christmas and thanks be to God!


(And Matt, Corynn, Andrew, Adele’, Judah, Ineke and Moses!!)

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Decking the Halls and other December Things

 Hello friends.

My attempts to get ahead at Christmas things felt a bit disingenuous with warm 50-60 degree weather even into December.  (How do Southerners get into the spirit of things, I wonder?)  

But now the snow is falling, the world is white and shadowed with shades of blue and gray... all seems as it should be.  Christmas is coming, indeed.  NEXT WEEK!

And so we beckon in the Light with lights.  And sparkle.  And Nog.  And forkless feasts.

Let the Tree Trimming party commence!

Our traditional Forkless Feast was filled with fewer (and cheaper) treats this year because grocery shopping these days leaves me speechless.  (I could not believe it when I spotted half gallons of eggnog on sale for over $16!!  Do people pay that price... for real?)

We passed on the elegant cheeses from Aldi and the nuts but managed to get some little smokies and rye dip on the table (the once a year treats saved especially for the Trim the Tree party).   

Mental note:  I need to learn how to make marbled rye bread successfully.  Paying over $4 for a loaf of the stuff is not something I love to do.

 I still teared up a bit.  Both in the savoring of this goodness and in the knowing this tradition may have to look different in the future. 

He that hath a merry heart has a continual feast.

Better is a dry morsel with quietness than a house full of feasting with strife. 

Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred within.

Do all teenage girls react this way to the antics of their father?

I took no pictures of Ineke because she was over in the corner doing what she always does when the Christmas decorations come out: playing with the angels and Godfather Drosselmeyer.  I do wish I had thought to get a picture of that though.

Do all teenage boys react this way to the antics of their mother?

Apparently Judah decides to just get 'er done and puts all his ornaments in the same spot.  Front and center.

We should keep a Christmas tree all the time...turns out they make marvelous camouflage for laundry covered chairs. 

The trim the tree party was just in the nick of time for Saint Nicholas Day.

Or should I say "nich"?  

har har

The basket to the left has Dutch treats in it that will be spread out across the year.  Hagel, Griotten, Dubblezout drop, Wilhelmina mints.  Not all are dubblezout fans in this house (more for me!) but no one would pass up on hagel.  

Dutch treats are usually passed out on Sundays.  Otherwise, that basket wouldn't last a week, let alone until next St. Nicholas.

Christmas card chaos.  Everyone wants to help and I love it.  Except when I discover (too late) that some of the newsletters did not print on the second side but have been sealed in envelopes and stamped.  Who knows how many people will only hear about half of the family...

Grandma and Grandpa wanted a picture with the grandkids for their Christmas cards so one afternoon we popped over and snapped a few.  This was my favorite, but came in second place for the cards.

Cinnamon rolls for neighbors, cinnamon rolls for co-workers, cinnamon rolls for parties and for gifts and for mailmen, librarians and church friends. Three triple batches of cinnamon rolls later and not done yet.  

Moses has a particularly interesting method of rolling...

I did not take the above four photos.  That would mean I would have to leave the warmth of the house and hike up the hill in winter.  And Mama HIBERNATES in winter, she doesn't hike.  These were taken by Adele'.  

Drinking hot cocoa in an igloo house at dusk.

And a few December bullets for you:  (bang bang!)

* Last Sunday we watched It's a Wonderful Life.  Corynn left before it was over because she couldn't stand George Bailey's screeching voice but Andrew marked it as one of his top 5 favorite movies.  It had been years since I saw it and I almost gave up watching when Old George Bailey was so mean and tantrum-y but was glad I saw it through to the end.  I really love old movies.  

* I now want to watch all the old black and white (or technicolor) Christmas movies.  Christmas in Connecticut may or may not be scheduled for this Sunday evening.  (White Christmas and Holiday Inn were watched practically in November.  They are favorites.)  Feel free to let me in on any recommendations...

* We are reading through both God Rest Ye Merry and G.K. Chesterton's Advent and Christmas Wisdom simultaneously and it is interesting and insightful to read both perspectives alongside one another.  

*  The Christmas Barn is our current read-aloud book.

* Other than foodstuffs, I am not doing any handmade gifts for anyone this year...which is both a relief and a bit mournful.  And very, very strange.

* All the children have beautiful handknit stockings (not made by me).  Matt and I have generic sewn stockings.  This year, I decided to ditch the dorky (but nostalgic) stocking I made Matt for our first year of marriage and the one I got on clearance for myself way back then and replace ours with knit stockings too.  Complete the aesthetic, as it were.  I don't know why it took years to do it but I am glad I finally made that decision.  Now- to find/make stockings...

* Speaking of knitting, I haven't knit anything in almost a year.  About the same time since I have written a handwritten letter.  Both things I hope to remedy in the new year.

* This is an incredibly uplifting article I read today.

*And if you haven't already seen it (and maybe even if you have), this is a fun movie to watch (free on Amazon Prime) before Christmas.

Happy Mid-December, everyone!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


A few pictures from Thanksgiving...

Poor Grandpa.  He is as photogenic in this picture as I am.

To that family who was selling a box of almost 20 brown glasses at a yard sale for $5.00 years ago but tried scaring me away from buying them by telling me I would regret it because they took up too much room: I don't.

In the bottom of the dining room hutch I found a box of fancy silverware that Gram had left here- and a turkey knife and fork!  How perfectly perfect.

A Thanksgiving chalkboard tree takes mere minutes to fill.  My children are very good at counting their blessings.

I cooked a turkey the day before and made broth with the bones and boiled the giblets.  Then the stuffing and the gravy were ready long before the Thanksgiving Day turkey was done.  

Pretty paper plates made it more elegant, not less... 

A Thanksgiving playlist playing softly in the background is a great idea... if you actually remember to turn it on.  ;-)

Toilet paper roll crackers were a highlight.  I filled them with candy treats, a joke, and a little gift. 

Grandpa's false mustache makes me happy.  I knew he'd be a good sport about his gift.  

We need more children to fill up the children's table!

A million leftover rolls make a mighty fine french toast casserole.

Moses fell asleep when we were praying for the food and slept through the whole meal.

(Next year, put the snack table outside of the kitchen- so no one congregates there. Thank you and amen.)

We sang the doxology before we feasted... praise God from whom all blessings flow indeed.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

October Things

October is always the start of the (cold) busy season for me.  The warm busy season comes mid-Aprilish- with clothes switching, garden planning, planting and prep work all while in the throws of homeschooling.  The cold busy season has many of the same elements: end of year canning, doing the summer winter clothes' switch, winterizing and throwing home learning back into the schedule after a summer of flying, free as a bird, wherever the winds take us.  This always takes an adjustment.

This busy season, however, has holidays thrown into the mix. 

October flew by.  I expect November and December to do the same.

Here is a slapdash post of October Things... don't expect it to make sense.  It surely won't.

My sister and I take our children to Iron Kettle Farm every year for some pumpkin perusing.  There are animals, there are pumpkin people, there are overpriced pumpkins and playground equipment.  When we first began, all the playground equipment was free.  Nowadays, you have to buy tickets for much of their offerings.  But we find the free stuff and none of my children care a bit.

This year, due to scheduling, it was just the Littles that came and not the whole gang.  Fun for the Littles, I am sure they felt very special doing something all by themselves.  A bit bittersweet for me, though, as I find myself yearning for the days when everyone was available to partake in the whims of the Mama.  

Mothers with little children- having the children with you for EVERYTHING will be something you eventually miss.  Mark my words.

Moses sat behind and said "Look at the deer that I shot, Mama!" 
Looks like he is going the way of his brothers in this too.

Ineke took this picture of Auntie Beth and her Littles

Pictures often don't convey personality well but this one is spot on.  If you want to know who mischievous Moses is, here he is!

Kittens learn to read too.

I had a bit of an epiphany this year about flowers.  I have always wanted to make May Day baskets to leave on peoples' doors secretly...but there are rarely flowers, it being so early in the season for where we live.

But I more than make up for it with "Frost Day" flowers.  Rather than regret not being able to make May Day baskets, I am gonna lean into this Frost Day bouquet tradition.  It's a good one.

I always cut all my blooms and make as many bouquets as I can muster and then I pass them along to friends and neighbors.  This year, we were told to anticipate frost three times without it ever freezing, so three times I cleared my flower beds just for them all keep showing off a bit longer.  

Frost Day flower bouquets, coupled with bouquets throughout the summer- I gave probably about 30ish bouquets away to people.  

One of the many reasons I love summer...

We have since had the inevitable hard frost and all the bouquets scattered throughout the house have long since been dumped.  


Until next year then.

                We had our church family over for a hayride and psalm sing and it just so happened to be *almost* peak autumn color here.  The sound of crinkling leaves, the rum of a tractor and singing voices rolling along through the woods is a very nice sound indeed.

Those thugs in back had strategically placed firecrackers along the path and feel pretty good about how that went.  The firecrackers sounded less nice.

Moses with one of his most favorite people.  Susie treats him like the baby that he is even though his head is as big as hers.  Maybe bigger. 

Corynn, with one of her favorite people too.  Two peas in a pod.

Well the garlic harvest was pitiful and the beautiful tomatoes were too often pecked by renegade chickens- but the PEPPERS.  

This was a whopper pepper year.  

This was just ONE (of the three) garden 'clean outs' before frost:  

Due to the unusually mild Autumn we have had, I thought I would take our Christmas pictures earlier this year.  It isn't Christmasy- but we weren't freezing!  And I may get the Christmas cards out in time for Christmas this year!  :-)  

Another reason I chose to do it this early is because our dog Ruby is failing and will likely not make it through the winter.   I felt she needed a place in the Christmas card one last time...

But the whole plan backfired when I looked through the pictures and Ruby looked as if she had already given up the ghost.

I leave you with:

(Which will NOT be our 2022 Christmas picture.)