2014-Year In Review

*Warning- long post ahead. I may have broken a record with this one, but that’s what happens when you cram a years worth of posts into one. Grab a snack. If you make it past July, I’ll be impressed.

One of my favorite bloggers did a Year In Review blog post and I thought YES! PERFECT! I need to do that! All of those posts that I’ve had floating around in my head that I never got around to actually creating won’t necessarily get the focus they deserved, but I shall give bits and pieces anyway.

Here’s a snapshot of our 2014. It was a full year for this crew.

January~

We moved into our new house! On January 24th apartment living came to an end for us, and not a moment too soon.

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Before it was painted. This is what it looked like when we moved in.

 

Painted! What a difference!

Painted! What a difference!

February~

We started to settle in and get back on a school “routine”. These are the only pictures I took during February, I guess. As you can see, the study loft wasn’t fully in order yet, but we did our schoolwork anyway (with many distractions from a certain cute baby girl).

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She looks upset here, but I assure you she liked the basket.

 

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Love this one of Hunter and Gigi- such love between those two.

 

March~

The twins turned SIX! Whaaaaaaaat?

This is the only picture I took on their birthday?!? Shame, shame on me!

This is the only picture I took on their birthday?!? Shame, shame on me!

I’m so proud of these girls. Both are loving and tender-hearted. Both girls are playful and imaginative. Both love and look out for their baby sister. Man, would life be less wonderful without them. They may be identical twins, but they are their own selves, for sure. When I stop and think about the miracle of their existence and their being twins, I’m still floored. STILL! I think I always will be. THANKS be to God for the incredible gift of my girls. Thanks be to God!

Oh- and I turned 37 this month. This did not make news around here.

April~

Biggest excitement of this month? Landon turned 11, of course! This hardly seems possible to me, but it is indeed true. On top of being sweet and handsome, this kid is a gem. Want a home cooked breakfast? No prob…Landon whips up fried eggs like no other and makes breakfast for many of us regularly. He also eats eight or nine of those eggs almost every morning. Yes he does.

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Second on the list of notable activities of April was the thawing out of our new surroundings. I remember after we bought the property (before building the house) walking around that spring and seeing a million tiny little flowers popping up through the forest floor. This spring I couldn’t wait to get out to discover them again, and everything else about our woods. I was thrilled to discover those little flowers (spring ephemerals) again.

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The thawing ground also meant dealing with mud. A lot of mud. Lots and lots of mud. We didn’t have a paved driveway (still don’t actually) or even a sidewalk to get into the house. No grass, either. Just a lot of  post-construction mess and…mud. We begged and pleaded to our landscaper (I may have cried a little) to bump us to the top of his list of spring projects. Thank the good Lord, he agreed and finally we could set foot on something other than, well you know…mud.

The ground was dry when this picture was taken, but it was actually an extremely wet spring. One of the wettest in history. Not good for the mud situation.

The ground was dry when this picture was taken, but it was actually an extremely wet spring. One of the wettest in history. Not good for the mud situation.

Another stand-out memory from this spring was the birds! We have an amazing variety of birds that call our trees home, at least for a while. I have always loved birds, and it’s officially one of my favorite parts of living in this new place. We have an abundant woodpecker population that live here year-round, most notably a stately Pileated who lives in the huge maple tree in front of our porch. We started keeping a bird log to keep track of the variety of other birds we were seeing. We saw blue jays, white-breasted nuthatch, white-throated sparrow, rose-breasted grosbeak, yellow-rumped warbler, scarlet tanager, ruby-throated hummingbird, indigo bunting, black-capped chickadee, Baltimore oriole, cardinal, robin, mourning dove, barred owl, coopers hawk, ovenbird, wild turkey and I’m sure I missed a few. We lost a few to bird strikes, which horrified me deeply. One was a Tennessee warbler that must have been on migration. Each strike was devastating to me. I hope we can do more this coming spring to prevent it. On a side note…I need a zoom lens for my camera! We were obsessed with the birds, but I have very few pictures because my current lens couldn’t get close enough. I will rectify this before spring comes again.

May~

Braedan received his First Holy Communion! Praise God!

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Also- the twins learned to ride without training wheels!

June~

Two birthdays this month…

We have a teenager in the house. Wow! Hunter turned 13! I’m so excited about this new chapter in life. Watching him grow into the exceptional young man that he is…there just aren’t words for the gratitude I have. We could not be more proud.

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And…Gigi turned ONE!

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Again , when I try to verbalize the impact this little person has had on our family, words fail me. I guess some things are better left unsaid, as they say. Better to keep the perfection of it in the heart, than to taint it with inadequate words.

July~

If I had to use just one word to describe this past summer, it would be GREEN!

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The kids built this fort while the house was still under construction.

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The green “carpet” you see here is stinging nettle. It covered the entire property.

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This is actually a pretty steep hill that has become our sledding and snowboarding hill. It’s hard to tell from this perspective. You can see the hard work that Chris and some good friends put in removing a ton of that itch weed.

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This is the maple tree that our resident Pileated woodpecker lives in.

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The canopy of the trees is pretty thick. It can get pretty dark in the backyard even in the middle of the day!

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Here (and in the above photo) you can see part of the trails that we put around the whole property.

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Another shot of the sledding hill.

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We discovered a ton of different kinds of wild berries all around our woods. I don’t know for sure what most of them are, so the kids were instructed repeatedly to NOT touch or eat any. Luckily, they can get their fill of wild raspberries from the thousands that grow in the bushes in the front yard.

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I was so glad to get a shot of a monarch butterfly on the milkweed that grows in front of the house.

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Evidence of the woodpeckers!

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Preparation for our trampoline...

Preparation for our trampoline…

 

Best. Investment. Ever

Best. Investment. Ever.

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August ~

Braedan turned NINE!

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I’m just crazy about this sweet boy. He’s terribly smart, full of energy and life. I love watching him in whatever he’s doing. Specifically, I love the way he moderates conflict and takes charge. He will be a great leader someday, I do believe. This heart of mine just swells.

This was also the month the kids built our fire pit.

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Building fires occurred daily after this. Landon especially loves making campfires.

September~

We began our third year of homeschooling. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

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September also included a new tire swing!

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October~

Wow- it sure is pretty around here in the fall. Waking up and seeing gold everywhere just never got old. I’m truly grateful for the beauty all around us.

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We ended the month of October with a trip up to Grand View lodge in Nisswa for Halloween. I’ll admit I loved not having pounds of candy from our regular trick-or-treating ventures. Maybe this will become a tradition?

November~

Almost there!

The morning of the first real snow fall inspired me to take the kids hiking to look for tracks. We grabbed our field guide and headed out.

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We celebrated Thanksgiving this year at my sister and brother-in-law’s house with their sweet new baby boy, Declan.

December~

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I didn’t take many pictures this month. I wish I would have. We did the usual advent wreath and really focused on spending family time with the daily devotional. We also did the Jesse tree for the first time. Another thing we did for the first time was filling baby Jesus’ cradle with soft strings of “hay”…one for each good deed we did. This was enjoyed by all, I think. I’m sure we’ll do it each year from now on. We hosted Christmas for my side of the family. Nine adults and sixteen children (Tessa, Joe and Declan, Bovy and Bennett, we missed you!) I’m happy to host family holidays, but I need to find a way to do it and still be able to take photos. I snapped a few pictures of some of our Christmas decorations afterwards, but I really wish I had all those sweet faces to put here. It was a great Christmas, and especially exciting being the first one in the new house. A house really becomes a home once it’s been lived in and memories are made there, doesn’t it?  Even though the best ones aren’t here for you to see, they will always remain in our hearts!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

clay camp

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A few weeks ago, the two older boys participated in a clay camp offered through a local park district. I admit that in the last two years of home schooling, I’ve let art slide. I’ve been hyper-concerned about getting a handle on the core subjects, and regrettably arts and crafts too often seemed to get pushed aside. This summer, I enrolled all of the kids in several art camps or classes of some kind. My mindset is shifting a bit (maybe a lot?) and I’m making a conscious effort to bring them back to the creative side of learning and living. They loved being at the potter’s wheel, and I loved watching them work carefully to make each piece just what they envisioned. Last night the park held a student art show, where the kids were encouraged to display one of their pieces. Both boys chose a bowl. Landon called his “Bumble Bee” and Hunter “Black Star”. Landon had a little extra twinkle in his eye this morning when he saw me enjoying my morning cup of coffee in the mug he made. Proud boys. Even prouder mama.