Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer 2017

Reagan, Maddie & Hunter,

The school bags are packed and sitting by the door.  Last night we went to the Open House and met your teachers, saw your new classrooms and got all your supplies settled.  I will admit, I am still in some disbelief that it is time for you to go back.

I don’t know how much you will remember about our summer together.  But the summer of 2017 (yes, the whole thing) will go down as one of my best memories.

For the first time ever, we bought a summer pool pass.  I was so nervous the first time we went.  Keeping all 3 of you alive seemed a daunting task.  But little by little I learned to let go and trust you (and the amazing lifeguards).  And then something wonderful happened – all three of you just took off with swimming.  Reagan passed the swim test and then just a few short weeks later Maddie passed the swim test.  I had two little girls going off the diving boards and soon you had both learned to dive.  Hunter got more and more comfortable in the water as the summer went on and by the end of it, just this past Saturday, he was swimming like a little fish all over the place. 

I have described myself as “not a fish” for countless years.  I have claimed to hate swimming.  I have dreaded going to pools.  But no more.  I don’t know if I am a fish yet.  But I sat on the side of the pool for hours on end watching Hunter splash and play and soar down water slides only to have him stop frequently and smile at me.  I watched Reagan and Maddie gather up all their courage and do those first dives, those first jumps off the high dive, and gave them a thumbs up when they emerged dripping and smiling on the side of the pool.  I went down water slides with Maddie and laughed every single time.  I loved watching you play and have fun.  My eyes were on you so much more often than if we had stayed home all summer.  We would have been in our own little worlds doing our own things and I would have missed the fun of seeing you accomplish goals and learn new tricks.  I would have missed so many huge smiles, so much laughter, and so much joy.  I may not be a fish, but I am 110% a pool mom and happy to be so.

We spent one afternoon at The Red Power Roundup with your Grandpa and Grandma.  I was so proud of how patient and good-natured you were while we were there even though it was a very hot day.  It meant the world to your Grandpa and it was a special memory for him!

 We went on a great vacation to Michigan where we did all the Michigan things.  Boardwalk.  Pronto pups.  Fricanos pizza.  Mini-golf.  Trolley rides.  Family parties.  The beach.  It was so great to share my childhood favorites with you.

One fun day was spent riding the train on the Boone Scenic Railway.  Hunter finally got to ride an actual train!  There were lots of smiles and some nervous laughter as we cruised along high trestle bridge spanning the deep, tree-filled valley. 

The Fourth of July found us sitting street-side, waving at floats and chasing down candy.  We spent a lovely afternoon at a picnic on your Aunt and Uncle’s farm where you played with cousins.  Then we enjoyed fireworks in town with friends. 

We had the most perfect day ever at Adventureland with your Aunt Amy.  Oh did we have fun.  You rode rides and there were very few lines.  We swam in the warmest part of the day and no one got cold or bored.  It was hands-down the best day I have ever spent at a theme park.  You were a delight.

There was a quick trip to Grandpa and Grandma Vande Voort’s house for a church anniversary celebration.  It may not have been quite your most favorite thing, but you had good attitudes and were pleasant.  When we left you begged to just go back again for more time at the farm.

Reagan went to Gems camp which was one of the biggest highlights of the summer for her.  Two days without her felt strange to all of us.  We were all glad to get her back home again and listen to her stories.

We found time for all of us except Dad to go back to Grandpa and Grandma’s house for 4 ½ days.  And they were the sweetest days.  The weather was beautiful and you played and played outside.  When you were inside you were busy constructing with legos.  The days were slow and relaxed.  We walked all the way around Pine Lake.  We went mini-golfing.  We rode go-carts which you LOVED.  We got cupcakes and slushies.  We played lots of games around Grandma’s table.  We stayed up late.  Hunter got a tractor ride.  I soaked in all those days and treasured them in my heart.

For our last family outing we made a last-minute trip to Bloomfield to visit some of the Amish businesses.  We shopped and had a ball at the Highway 2 Discount Grocery Store.  You loved picking out whatever candy you fancied from their awesome selection.  We walked through a furniture store of the most beautiful pieces of hand-crafted furniture.  We gently stroked the most beautiful hand-made quilts.  We ate the best donuts we have ever had.  We watched the horses and buggies as they made their way slowly down the roads.  It was a fun day.

There were movie nights galore.  There were countless trips to the park.  There were bike rides.  There were tennis matches.  There were soccer games in the yard.  There were crafts around the kitchen table.  There were game nights.  There were ice cream outings.  There were play-dough parties.  There were countless trips to the library.  You spent almost all of your play time in the basement playing with legos.  I couldn’t tell you how many popsicles were consumed.  The tv was seldom on.

The mornings were slow.  The evenings were late.  The schedules were thrown out the window.  We just lived and enjoyed all the good God poured out upon us.

Was it perfect?  Well, no.  There were fights.  There were crabby days.  There were several very minor injuries.  There was tension and strife at times. 

But it was perfectly imperfect.  We were together.  Very together.  And at the end of all of these 3 months I feel like we were knit together in a special way.  I feel more bonded to the three of you than I think I ever have.  This was the summer of a lifetime.  I am so very thankful for every minute of it.  I will relive this summer in my mind for years to come.  Thanks for the beauty you brought to my life this year.  I am so grateful I spent it with you!



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Fight For Minimalism

The giant garage sale was this past weekend.  That huge pile of de-cluttered clutter made its way into my garage, accompanied by price tags, and onto tables.  I also had 4 boxes (Dude) of items that were broken, worn out or stained and could not be sold.  And there were two big boxes of free items. 

Thanks to a recent growth spurt by Maddie, I had so much clothing to sell that it was a little embarrassing.  Honestly, I probably had 40 summer short-sleeve shirts in size 6.  I don’t even really know how that happened.  At least, that’s what I want you to think.  But the truth is I know exactly how it happened.  When we already had plenty, I thought it would be fun to get a few new things.  And thus we have the 14 pairs of size 6 jeans I had to sell.  Lest you think I am exaggerating, one of my friends counted them in astonishment.  Awesome.

We opened a day early because the weather for the two days we had planned to be open was forecasted to be cold, windy and rainy.  So our first day was Thursday.  I made my goal income on that day alone.  I was jazzed.

I have a spacious storage room holding only necessary items.  I have empty drawers.  I have emptied a lot of containers and storage tubs.  There is space and emptiness and it feels good.  I was pretty sure I had this minimalism thing figured out.

Until I caught myself Friday morning with this one innocent-seeming little thought.  “What am I going to do with all this money?”

The list of things I would like to buy started forming.

The LIST of THINGS I would like to BUY started forming.


I went into all of this with the hope of having less.  I went into this experiment of sorts hoping to keep only the things we need or really truly like and enjoy.  And yet, there is this awful consumerism mindset that creeps in so unexpectedly.  It is the reason Maddie had 14 pairs of size 6 jeans. 

There is something to be said for selling things you don’t like, want or need and then purchasing good quality items that you truly love.  For example, since my kids no longer play Barbies it makes some sense for them to sell those items and buy a lego set they have been wanting.  But I now see how extremely careful one must be to live with the less. 

Now that we have de-cluttered, can we live by the one-in-one-out rule?  Can I just put the money away for a fun experience or for savings or for a good cause instead of spending it on more STUFF?  I have to tell you I am wrestling with this.  Humbling as it is to admit, I want to go buy new things.  New things that will eventually result in another growing pile of unwanted stuff in my basement storage room.

I write this to be honest with you – to let you know that this whole process is not always easy.  To tell you that I by NO MEANS have minimalism all figured out.  To tell you that I still want new and more.  But I’m trying to live in the tension and not listen to the consumerist voices in my head.

Is there more that could go?  Probably.  But I’ve come this far and I’m determined not to go back.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Dear Maddie,

Eight whole years old already.  Today I watched some videos of you when you were just three.  Its amazing to see that same little girl shining through in the beautiful young lady you are today.  Let me tell you a little bit about you.

Creativity is your jam.  You love to color, to draw, to paint.  You have such an eye for beauty and design.  I enlisted your help in decorating our living room bookshelves recently and you astounded me with your eye for placement and balance.  Sometimes I will find you just quietly coloring or drawing in your room.  When we do something crafty you never ask for ideas or help.  You just inherently know what to do and it always turns out beautifully.  You colored this gorgeous Christmas tree this December at school.  It took you longer than everyone else in the class, but when it was done it was a sight to behold.  This is so you.  You do not rush and you do your work well.

Your creativity is not limited to works of art.  You are also a tremendous actress.  I’ve heard that at school you are quiet and calm and almost reserved.  The opposite is true at home.  You can be so very silly and outlandish that I often call you a muppet. 

School is not a challenge for you, academically speaking.  Your reading abilities are years ahead of your grade level.  I never worry about you getting good grades or passing a hard test.  You just work at it and catch concepts quickly.  And all that is nice, but what I love is how you care to help the other kids in your class when they need help. 

Friend-wise this was a harder year for you.  Your best friend moved away and it left you with some questions about what to do with that void.  Many times you worried that you had no friends.  But every time I see you with your class someone is giving you a hug or greeting you with a smile and a shout.  I can see how all these other kids love being your friend and that makes me happiest of all. 

Girl, you love getting dressed up.  I never really know what you will wear on days when it is up to you to pick out an outfit.  Most Saturdays you make an amazing fashion statement.  You love to change your earrings to match your outfit.  You have no interest in looking sporty.  You want to wear long flowy dresses and great twirling skirts.  You have a pair of high heels that you think are the greatest thing on earth.  And you love having your hair done up in braids or buns or high ponytails.  You are really really fun to dress and shop with.

This year in particular you have taken more of an interest in playing with little kids.  You love to be in the nursery at church.  You are unfailingly patient with little ones, including your brother.  He adores you for your patience and willingness to do what he wants to do.  Sometimes you dig in the dirt with him.  Sometimes you create a massive tent to share with him.  Sometimes you crawl on your knees to play with tractors with him.  You are an amazing big sister.

You are also an amazing little sister.  As the years have gone on it is sometimes more challenging for you to not feel threatened or shadowed by your big sister.  Reagan gets to do all things first and sometimes that rubs you the wrong way.  But she has a love for you that runs deep and true.  When you struggled to find someone to play with at recess, she played with you.  You love to have sleepovers in each other’s rooms.  You love to color in your Harry Potter coloring books together.  You love to play legos together.  The two of you are a great pair – both strong in your own way and so similar but yet so different.

You are effortlessly beautiful and sweetly vivacious.  You do not overwhelm others with words but come alongside with a servant heart.  You have so much control of your emotions at school but we see the highs and lows at home where you feel safest.  You love to laugh and to smile.  You adore your Aunt Amy.  You love to bake and to watch home decorating shows.  You love skittles and M&Ms.  You like school but still love being home with me.  You love to snuggle.

Maybe these letters sound the same year after year.  But each year I see a little more of your personality shine through and I can glimpse a little better the lovely woman you will one day be.  I’m excited for your tomorrows, Maddie.  I celebrate 8 years because with you those 8 years have been so sweet.  I’m not sad when I look back on videos of you when you were little.  There were so many moments in the past 8 years that were so fun and sweet with you – I can’t be sad about all the good that we have enjoyed because of you. 

I became your Mom thinking, hoping and praying to mold you and make you into a wonderful person.  But God had already put all this wonderfulness inside of you and I find myself being molded and shaped by you.  You teach me how to love better, more intentionally and with more patience.  You are a gift.

Do you know how much I love you?  Have you glimpsed it in big and small ways these last 8 years?  I have wrapped up my love in so many moments and hugs and notes and tucked them all in your heart.  I hope you trust it there always.  I hope you always rest in knowing how cherished you are.  I hope you trust in the way God does good and wonderful work.  You are proof of His goodness and love to me.  What a joy you are to His heart and mine.

I love you Maddie girl.



Monday, January 09, 2017

Becoming a Cozy Minimalist

So maybe it’s just me, but this New Year business has inspired me to really go through our home and de-clutter.  My Mom would tell you that is ridiculous because it wasn’t cluttered to begin with.  But the pile headed for our spring garage sale says differently. 

It all started when just around Thanksgiving time, I read about a mom who cleaned out her toy room and ended up with just one medium-sized Rubbermaid tote of toys at the end.  I knew I couldn't get down to one tote.  But I also knew there were probably many items we no longer needed in our toy room.  So one day while the kids were at school I cleaned it out.  I moved a few things around so that the toys they really played with were more accessible.  I threw away all the broken toys and the toys missing pieces.  I am embarrassed to say that when all was said and done I had four HUGE boxes full of outgrown toys.  I packed them away in the store room with a sense of certainty that there would be MUTINY when my kids got home from school.  Here’s the kicker: they never noticed. (Sh!  Don't tell!!)

I sat there looking at those boxes in my store room for weeks on end with a sense of satisfaction and challenge.  If there was this much in our toy room, imagine what else I could find in the house. 

I’ve done clean-outs before.  Certainly before we moved there was a season of purging.  Even after we moved there were several things that didn’t have a place and I just no longer wanted in our home.  But rarely (never?) have I gone through our things with the fine-toothed comb I have been using in the past few weeks. 

It’s not merely going through every cabinet or every closet or every drawer.  It’s going through every binder in every closet, every box in every cabinet and every container in every drawer.  My kids willingly volunteered to do the same in their rooms.  I’ve been through absolutely every single space at least once, some of them twice, and some three times.  It’s exhaustive and exhausting.

And yet, there is a great peace in looking at the towering pile of boxes marked for a huge garage sale this spring.  We are lightening our load over here.  The amount of our material possessions has decreased dramatically.  The possessions we still hold are treated with more respect and care.  And our grip on all of our things has loosened considerably. 

Until I started letting go, I didn’t realize how tightly I was clinging.  And now that I have started to let go, it gets easier because I have embraced the truth that my life is not measured in the sum of the things in my home.

We have several empty containers, empty spaces, empty shelves here now.  But we aren’t looking to fill them.  We aren’t shopping for new or better.  We are just enjoying the feeling of space – the feeling of less.

I could get rid of more.  That is so deeply humbling.  Even through this process I find that I have not sacrificed anything that really cost me.  I had so much excess that I could get rid of more than half of it and still not suffer – not feel a pinch – not feel a loss. 

I would never have claimed to worship my own things…but the truth of the matter is I do just that more often than I am comfortable admitting. 

This journey has been fascinating and revealing.  I’ve faced some weird rationalizations that I had made about what I needed to keep.  I am wrestling with my own consumerism and materialism in some major ways.  And mostly I have found that I am strong enough to let go of things.  I can and should do it more often.  It’s a season of easing my grip on all that is around me and sitting with palms up, open and waiting for the good that God is longing to bring into my life.  I just needed to make a little room.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Dear Hunter,

Today you are four years old. 

Contrary to lore, the twos were terrific.  And that’s when I learned that it was really the age of three that would give me a run for my money.  You have had a good year being three.  But it was full of huge changes for you – massive leaps in independence and vocabulary and ability.

I suppose I can’t really call you a toddler anymore.  You are my little boy.  A little boy who is growing super fast.  Here’s a little bit about you.

You are my talker.  You talk all day long.  You have so many questions and they are not always easy ones.  I am amazed at your ability to really process the things I say.  What is stranger still is your perfect memory.  I’ve explained events or concepts to you only to hear you retell them to someone else later with clarity that shocks me.  I love listening to and seeing the way your mind works, even if you wear me out sometimes.

Nearly all of your playtime is spent “farming” with your toy tractors and implements.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine how many miles you have crawled on your knees. 

Your big sisters are your biggest cheerleaders and you love them dearly.  It’s hard for you to wait until they finally get home from school, but when they do you love to play with them.  Most of the time they are quite patient with you, but I think they spoil you too.

When you are with me and the weather cooperates we like to go hiking in the woods.  You find a big walking stick and off you go, me trailing behind you on the path.  A few times we hiked when it was too muddy and you still like to remind me of how we got stuck in the mud.  You also got a bike this summer and learned how to ride it.  We would go for “runs” where you would bike and I would be sprinting along behind you. 

When you are with your Daddy you like to go to the farm.  The two of you have all kinds of adventures out there.  I hear lots and lots about it in the days that follow.  You also like to run errands with Dad, help him shovel snow, or go wash cars together. 

This summer you were super duper sick after a nasty tick bite.  Hunter, that was a scary time.  I couldn’t even carry you carefully without you crying and screaming in pain.  After many many days on antibiotics, your infection finally went away.  But I spent the entire time sitting on the floor next to your sick bed in the tv room, because that was where you wanted me.  Right next to you. Occasionally you will mention that awful time so I know it holds some dark memories for you like it does for me.  But we are so thankful that you are healthy and well and have had no residual problems.

We started tot school together – weekly lessons where I sit down with you and help you learn your letters and how to write them.  You absolutely LOVE tot school.  Sometimes you get frustrated when something is difficult for you.  Other times you laugh quietly to yourself and tell me how good you are at letters. 

While you love to make us laugh you absolutely HATE to be laughed at.  That’s a pretty fine line, I’m afraid.  Your one-liners are absolutely hysterical.  And yet you are sensitive and don’t want anyone to mock you.  Also, the Happy Birthday song is enough to absolutely freak you out and you will hide your face no matter whose birthday it is.

You are a showman.  Sometimes that is fun.  Sometimes it is a little…challenging.  You really aren’t shy.  It seems like you will talk to anyone about anything (not always something I want you to talk about). 

You run to me a hundred times a day to tell me something funny you said or did or heard.  You go wherever I go.  You listen to my voice more than any other.  And when we are somewhere it is my eyes that you want on you at all times.  You are not my little shadow – you are my little light.  And I love spending my days with you.

You are so curious and inquisitive and that is a quality I hope you keep always.  My prayer as you grow is that you will dare to not only ask God the hard questions, but that you will also dig into His word to find the answers. 

I hope you always delight in the simple things that you love now.  You are a great delight in my life.  And you are so very very loved.

Happy Birthday little man.