How Was Your Thanksgiving?

And were you thankful?
Of course, you were! We are all thankful the month of November and for sure on Thanksgiving day. What about now? Holiday stress, so much to do, what to buy for gifts, and on and on. How quickly do I lose the thankful spirit?

I lost it as soon as we arrive home and I cleaned out a dishwasher with dishes that did not get a proper cleaning. I was quite irate and ready to throw the whole machine out the back door. At 9pm we tore it apart and gave the innards of it a good cleaning. It is now in working order and just that quick, my thankful spirit was back. Why can I not remember, “In everything give thanks” even when the dishwasher fails?  Why do I forget so quickly?

We had a good Thanksgiving weekend. It was busy. Every day was packed with lots of people, good times and good eating.

The Hostetlers are fairly religious about their family get-together at Thanksgiving. You are allowed to skip occasionally, but they’ll want to know where you were and why you were missing. We shall refer to it as ‘loved and missed’ versus nosiness. We are spread far and wide across the states but when Thanksgiving weekend rolls around, most of them gravitate toward the gathering.

There is always, always good food with the Hostetlers. After the good food is consumed they will bring out the snacks. Usually there is an entire table full of snack and the kids think it’s a full feed weekend of junk food. No wonder they don’t want turkey and potatoes.

 I wanted to take a picture of the two girls in the middle because they are twins. The other two thought they needed to be in the photo also …
“because our birthdays are really close.”

We were also with my family and some extended family over the weekend.

Tys arrived on Saturday loaded to ride with one for every size.

When an entire family makes the effort to come and spend a few days with you remembering Tristan, you know they care and you feel loved. This is what my Uncle Dave’s family did for us. We loved every minute of it and are so thankful for them.

If ice cream is your happy place and there is a machine in the garage, you are all smiles.

We made a lot of good memories again. Back in the day when we were all kids, Dave’s would come out to visit and we would have a grand time riding the trails on 3-wheelers and driving jeeps to the cabin. After a while, the boys would give the motors a rest and play football on the front lawn until the grass had given up the ghost. When the game was finished, they piled into the house for more food and good laughs.

Not much has changed. This time they merely upgraded to bigger and better things for the trails and roared through the fields on bikes. Football was given over to the younger generation and a plate of ice cream and cake with coffee sounded like a good idea to add the conversation.

Not too many foods in life are better than this combo.

Grandma had a little tea party with these two little girls.

This Grandma is a special one. She caters to all the grandkids and they know it. She’ll buy their favorite foods, candy or little toys. She stocks up on junk food just for them. If one of them needs something, she is the first one to jump up to help them. She pays attention to each one in special little ways. All the grandkids (and the big kids for that matter) like to go to Grandma’s house because they know she’ll have something for them. We all love Grandma and are happy to be celebrating her birthday next week.

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Back to the issue of ingraining thankfulness into a daily part of our lives.
How do you instill that into your children?
How do you incorporate it into your life?
Talk to me.


Crazy September

September! What a month.
Is this becoming a pattern?
One month of craziness following the next.

One would like to imagine cool tempts and crunchy leaves for the beginning of Fall. Well, there may be leaves crunching, but we are back to the warmth of summer.
I sent my crew outside to play for the afternoon. This one set up a hut for them and they had all the details from drying berries to … Um, I’m not sure what all.

The first weekend in September, I headed to MD, our old stomping grounds to photograph a wedding. It was beautiful driving through the mountains again, almost like coming home.

Miller Camp is history for another year. It was a good one, calm, relaxing, and a lot of conversations around all the games they played. And as always there was food, good, good food. Fresh tuna, steak, hot apple turnovers, grilled chicken and a whole lot more like that.

Tell me, has this ever happened to you? I used the oven for about 2 hours and had just turned it off. I pulled a pan out and bumped the edge of the oven door slightly and WHAM!
I’m telling you the glass didn’t just drop and shatter, it bounced and flew also. The entire kitchen had sprinkles of glass and I’m still finding it three weeks later.

One camping weekend followed another. Look at us all bundled up in sweatshirts. One would think it was cool at that time. And so it was. The kids tried to swim and nearly lost a pound shivering.

More good food… does anyone wonder why I am always on a diet? Like Monday – Friday of every week I diet and then there is the weekend again and all the good foods. My willpower is level 0 so eat I do and deal with it later.

Homework. I tell you, by the time this child graduates from high school I am going to be able to walk the plank, I mean stage, right with her from all this studying we do.

And finally, the cutest little niece ever, Emma Beth, made her debut. She is so adorable and we all spent all weekend fighting for her. I really can’t believe that Kennedy was once that size. Where has my memory gone?

Well, we didn’t hold her quite all weekend because she didn’t attend the cabin sleepover like the rest of the grandcrew did.
12 kids vs 2 adults.
We lived to tell but our eyes were half closed the next day. For the next overnighter being planned, we are taking volunteers. If no one will raise their hand, we will be pulling names out of the hat.

They completely missed the memo that you sleep in on Saturday mornings! I declare that within 5 minutes of the first one opening one eye, everybody in the cabin was wide awake.
Grandma soon arrived with much-needed coffee, bacon for the fire, a hot egg casserole, and donut holes. We really loved her that morning.

Later that day this gang cooked apples and brown sugar and when that was all they started some persimmon stew. That endeavor stalled shortly after finding out how sour their fruit was.

And beautiful little Emma Beth.
Such sweetness that one really cannot believe it when her Mom says she actually cries.

Her proud Daddy! I’m pretty sure she’ll have a pink dirk bike before she can talk!


Enjoy the rest of September!



Christmas ’16

Christmas this year bounces around in my brain as having hit every emotion in the playbook. There are sometimes in life that words cannot accurately describe and this is one of them.  So, it shall stay like that for you and continue bouncing around in my brain until I get it figured out.


The grandkid status at Mom’s hangs heavy in the 3-7 year range and they are often B-O-R-E-D! We talked Madison into playing a game with a few of them.


Mr. Jaxon was happy to eat instead of play!


He is at a fun age right now and Dakota got a kick out of playing with him.


These two goobers, they found my grandma’s old glasses and tried them on.



Waiting. Maybe patiently, maybe not.


A new Jeep shirt! We’re all about Jeeps around here.


We had Katelyn’s name and about the time we started searching for the perfect gift, Sarita told me she had Reagan’s name and she had just bought her a vest. So with Reagan’s help, we “came across” this vest that was almost too wonderful to behold.  We bought it for Katelyn and when it came in the mail, she was just beside herself in love. We were all grinning when we watched her open her own gift to find a matching vest.


Sometimes people open their mouths and say a lot of things and then get mysterious packages with no name attached. 🙂


Tristan’s favorite song was “The Old Rugged Cross” and this song came true for him when he exchanged the cross for a crown.


There were two oddly wrapped boxes with Sarita’s and my names on them. One was heavy and one was light. We had our guessing game going and found out that almost everyone (but us) knew what was in these boxes. In a weak moment, due to some well-asked questions, Nick opened his mouth to tell me but Max shut him off just in time. 🙂

Tys went above and beyond and made both of us something special. A camera for me and a little tricycle for Sarita! He is a welder by trade and it carries over into his hobbies. He turns out some pretty cool things from his imagination.


The wheels roll, pedals turn and it’s just as cute as can be.


The lens turns for a little manual focus and the front has a jeep grill and a cross in memory of Tris.


The chain around the edge comes from a dirt bike and he listed all the other parts and where they came from, but I can’t remember. The flash on top pops up also.


I don’t know what it’s called, but the round thing inside on the right rolls with a little push. I guess it’s a modern/antique and you use that to wind up your film roll.

Stop in sometime and I’ll let you touch it. 🙂


I had Tyson’s name and wanted to buy him something in memory of Tris. Anyone who knew Tris knew that Jeeps were his hobby. He often roared around in an old red Willy Jeep, usually loaded with kids. I looked for a little jeep like this everywhere on the www. Everything was either over my price range or not very nice. I was almost ready to give up when this one popped up on eBay at just the right time and price. It felt like God had gifted me with this and in the end, it meant more to me than if I had found it as soon as I started looking.


Later we all took a splat to the face with a little pie face game.
Well, maybe not quite all of us. 🙂


We inhaled much good food, had lots of good conversations and all the while dealt with kiddos that kept passing the stomach flu around.
We talked about Tris, retold his favorite stories and missed him so very much!


My thoughts for 2017 …
“With God’s daily supply of grace, I am able.”


Of Thanksgiving and more…


When you were a kid, going to Grandma’s house was a highlight. I remember many trips to Ohio to see Grandma Yoder and we always had the best weekends in there. We also loved going to Grandpa Stoll’s house with Dad any chance we could get. There was always a piece of candy waiting for you from the corner cabinet before you would leave.


Now my kids love to go to Grandpa and Grandma’s too. The last year we have spent more time out in IN than normal and so far I haven’t heard any of the kids complaining. Grandpa just added a cherry to the top of the weekends when he bought a little cabin for the grandkids. I declare the last weekend we were there was the absolute quietest Saturday we have had out there in years. We actually had to go get the kids for meals, otherwise, they were cabin dwellers all day.


I thought Reagan might just move in permanently. There were so many things to do, see, and so much to explore. She is wishing and hoping it will be warm enough to play at the cabin when we go out the next time.


Grandma and Grandpa stopped in for a chat. Anyone who went for a visit came back smelling like a smokestack. The kids had the fire going all day and I thought they might cook some food for themselves, but they didn’t catch anything to grill. They did inquire about snacks and some hot chocolate a time or two between meals. Delivery service was requested.

As with everything new we do, it brings an ache. Tris isn’t here to see the changes, to enjoy watching the kids grow, to make dumb jokes about the oddest things. He would have been moving and shaking things to get this cabin into place, full of big ideas and plans for what all we could do back there. Sometimes we still look up and expect his jeep to come rolling in the lane.


Mini Mouse wasn’t in the smiling mood. She so badly wanted to stay at the cabin but it was just a little too chilly for her little size.


My brain feels like it is suffering from an overdose of too much food and sugary goodness over Thanksgiving. Not that I have ever given up all things sugary like some {strong} people, no I just keep tormenting myself and sneaking little bites thinking they won’t add up as quickly as one large plateful. I have no idea where I am going with this, as I said, my brain… it is rather muchly on overload right now.


Madison doesn’t help the problem by making things like this. I wasn’t tempted with more than a taste or two since I am not a true lover of chocolate.


Speaking of Thanksgiving…


Some of Eric’s extended family was around here for a few days.
They are the game players, I am the roaming one that watches all the games, but plays none. I feel a rash coming on at the thought of being pinned to a seat playing a game for an hour or three. Say the word game and my legs start twitching and I have to get up and move around. I’m glad not everyone is like me and they enjoy a good game!


Bethany did crafts with the kids. It was most lovely of her to spend her time doing this, although I’m pretty sure she made all my kids an extra big project with an extra lot of extra glitter.


And more game playing, see what I said!


This game was called, “See how many guys can fit in the same spot!” 🙂
Not really. It is just that the closer you sit, the better you can hear the other conversations around you.


This used to be the wild and wooly little gang doing donuts around the room. When did they get this big that they sit quietly and play games?


“Let’s reconstruct the tower of Babel!” they said.
“Everyone else holds really still!” they said.

And like the tower, all good things must come to an end
and Thanksgiving vacation was over entirely too soon.


From my Instagram:


The Amish schoolhouse that I sneakily take pictures of when I see the kids out. One day I was not so stealthy and the little girls held their hands over their faces. It embarrassed my kids which made it totally worth it.



Y’all have yourselves a very merry weekend!





Life ‘Round Here

Some days thoughts and questions swirl endlessly through my head, so many I don’t know how to start putting them into words. Many of them get scribbled, scratched and tucked away for another time and place. Not many of them make sense, at least not enough sense to be spread across the world wide web.

So instead of scaring you forever by giving you too much to read, here’s bits and pieces of our life lately.


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And then there was this one time that they got along so well they read a book together.

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These two.
The big one doth mucho mucho spoil the little one.
I think it’s all to hear the little one say,
“Madison is my faborite!”

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Somehow when I wasn’t looking, Mr D grew up and was old enough to go to school. I declare he was just born the other day. We thought we weren’t ready for him to go, but my oh me, these days of peacefulness sure are a beautiful thing. In his very own words, “I bet there will be not as much screaming around here when I am in school!”
To be sure, he is correct.


We went to FL for Spring Break the first of March
and it was just what the Dr ordered.
Days of swimming, sand castles, and eating.

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This sky spoke to me.
It is the closest thing I’ve seen to the light of heaven.

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On an evening when photos were suppose to be perfection,
this Mother had a healthy dose of reality dumped on her once again.
She then remembered other years and the outcome of
photo-shoots with these very same children.
Why did she get her hopes so high?
Will she never learn her lesson?
Tune in this fall when she tries it again.

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I sat on this pier mornings and wrestled questions, thoughts and tears into subjection.
Or I tried. I’m not sure any progress was made. Coming to grips with certain things takes a long, long time and a lot of question asking of God.

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One morning the waves were madly beating all around me
and it felt very much like life at the moment.
As I sat on the pier, it didn’t budge an inch,
and I was reminded that I must rest in the only One
who is firmly anchored in the storms of life.
Nothing will shake Him, nothing will move Him,
He is in this with me for the long haul.


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We were in Indiana a few days.
Grandpa landscaped one day with a lot of help.
Or rather he tried, but it turns out some help is overrated.

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Jaxon is getting b i g so fast.
He has the sweetest of smiles (when he feels like it).

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I played hide and seek with Libby and her blanket.

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It was just good to spend time with these people again.
These are the ones who just ‘know’ without words, what you are feeling.

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Sunday Mom made deviled eggs for lunch. The rule of the day was anyone who ate an egg had to put the whole thing in their mouth and eat it in one bite. This was in honor of Tris’ method of eating deviled eggs, one gulp and it was gone. For some it was no problem ^^ while others struggled a bit, but they sure were good.


One morning Dad called Mom and said to go out and look at the sky.
There it was, the Easter message so big and bright,
hanging right over us, just for us.


When we are in the middle of the storm, fighting fear and despair, it is then God gently reminds us, “Yesterday I died for you, today I live for you. Hold on to me, I will be here for you, because I love you.”

Jaxon Mark

Sometimes the smallest things
take up the most room in your heart.
-Winnie the Pooh.

A small, but mighty bit of a boy has been added to our family.
A new son for my sister means a new nephew for me.
It’s so much fun to snuggle, cuddle and love on him.
There is just nothing like that little newborn stage
where you can wrap them up tight, tuck them under your chin
and feel that soft fuzzy head with the new baby smell.

He brought many smiles and tears
since he was named after his uncle we all miss so much.
How do you celebrate while crying? We managed to do a lot of both.

Meet Jaxon Mark

He came all on his own good time
and weighed a whopping 8lbs and 13oz on arrival.

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We spent a weekend in IN holding baby,
cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and loving some family time.

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The weather was beautiful so the kids played outside!
I missed the party at Grandma’s Saturday
but they said the kites were flying and the creek was splashing.

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We’re still happy to have men in the kitchen!
We’re gonna make the most of them and their love of grilling.

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The quickest way to wake a sleeping baby
is to gently rest your head on a pillow.
-Author unknown

This quote holds water with this little guy.
I got my exercise walking him around for a few days.

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It’s been awhile since the last baby in the family
so everyone wants to hold him, until he cries
then they are happy to pass him on.

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If only he knew how worried he should be.
This cousin will teach him many things!

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This little cousin had a birthday so we had a little party for her.
She had much help opening gifts.

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Sunday we were all packed up and ready to head home
and the Excursion broke down.
Not a good thing, but it had a few perks.
We were very close to Mom’s when it happened
and one more day with the baby and family was a good thing.

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He always thinks he’s hungry!
If he takes after the uncle he’s named after,
he’ll be a big boy some day.


One morning the sunrise was just beautiful.
I took a picture and wondered just what it must look like from the other side.
I have no doubt this beauty pales in comparison to what Tris is seeing.
What must his eyes behold?
I’m sure no beautiful sunrise or sunset even comes close!

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It seemed like Spring might bring new hope, new healing to our hearts, but lately I’m not sure. Instead it seems to be opening new wounds. Tris was a lover of Spring, warmer days, farmers in the fields, so much to do, so little time. He thrived on it all. This Spring it seems so empty, so lifeless through our tear filled eyes.

Grief is such a long arduous journey and we long for a reprieve, but find none. My mind keeps going back to the verse in Psalms 30. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” We are anxiously awaiting that morning.

Of Christmas Without You

Dear Tris,

I just want to see you come strolling through the door,
with Grant in your arms and you singing
“Silver Bells, silver bells, it‘s Christmas time in the city!”
I want to sit down and drink a cup of coffee with you.
I want to listen to you talk, to hear you laugh.
I would love to hear your latest joke
or bit of news you learned today.
I would just like to hear your voice again.

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I would want to sit in Mom’s living room
with you and the rest of the gang.
Have loud discussions, listen to everyone’s opinion
being voiced at the same time and laugh!
I wish you could carry the little kids around
and keep the peace with the big ones.
I want to sit across the table from you again,
to watch you laugh and have a good time.

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I would want to tell you about Christmas this year.
There was talking, there was laughter sometimes,
there was good food, and wild kid times,
but still nothing was the same this year.
80 days before, our lives were turned upside down
and we will never have a Christmas like the old ones again.
This Christmas there were tears,
the pain of missing you was just so great
that it overshadowed the joy.

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I would love to tell you about the lockets
I gave Katelyn and Aleigha.
I whispered “These are from your Daddy!”
and you should have seen them smile.
A picture of you on one side,
and one of them on the other.
They are so proud of them
and keep them tucked inside their dress,
close to their heart.
I see them reach and pull the locket out,
they open it and finger the picture.
They miss you so!

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I want to tell you about the grills the guys bought,
how they research everything
and figure out just what temperature
and how long everything needs to be on.
They don’t wing it like you would,
they like to know what’s happening.
You would have gotten a huge kick out
of the fact that the chickens weren’t done
for Sunday lunch because the electricity blinked
and turned their grill off.

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I would like to tell you about Tyson’s 30th birthday party,
the one you were already planning before you died.
He thought he could sneak out of having a party,
but of course you wouldn’t let him get away with that.
We surprised him very well!
You would have loved it!
There were so many people there,
so many people you would have liked to talk to,
so many people who came because they love him!
He was your favorite person next to your little family
and I know you would have loved to see him celebrated.

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After his party, we took a picture, just us lonely 3 siblings.
We smiled, but we missed you!
You always had your ways and we couldn’t believe our eyes
when later we saw you had sneaked into the picture with us.
It made us smile again.

I would want to tell you that the new road is done!
I would want to tell you how we drove it,
how we cried, how we missed you.
We talked about you while we drove,
there were so many things you
would have wanted to see along the way.

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I would want to tell you about
all the little things that happened this weekend,
things you would have loved to see.
The knives Tim gave the guys in memory of you,
the dirt bike in Mom’s kitchen,
and how Eric and Tim built a table for Sarita.
I would tell you about the little bikes Tys is making,
you would be so proud of him.
It was a warm Christmas,
you would have been happy about that.
I really want to tell you about all the things
people are doing for your little family,
how well they are being taken care of and loved.

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I want to tell you so many things
that I didn’t tell you before,
so many things I should have said.

I want to tell you what a wonderful dad you were
and how much your little family loved you.
I would want to tell you what a hero you were to them,
the one they trusted, looked up to
and couldn’t wait to see at the end of the day.
You worked so hard for them, took such good care of them
and were the anchor of all their lives.

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I would want to tell you how much we miss you,
how badly we hurt because you’re gone.
I don’t think you knew how much
you meant to us, how much we loved you.
We struggle without you,
but your Jesus walks with us.

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Some days we aren’t sure if there is much left of us because
the Tris shaped hole in our hearts keeps growing larger all the time.
We’ll keep fighting because when the sun sets each day,
it means we’re one day closer to seeing you again.
Love you lots and hope your Christmas was better then ours.