two is …

Two is about …

Doing it your “self.”

Watching and learning.Having fun.

Until you’re just too tired.

Two is the juxtaposition of SO sweet and SO ornery. His two year old eyes see the adventure and joy where thirty year old eyes need some help. Thankfully, I’m usually following him around. I just need to remember to stop and see the adventure in every day, too.

a simple year

Deep down, I think we all crave simplicity. In an age where we’re hardly functional without caffeine and our smartphones, trendy buzzwords like ‘minimalism,’ ‘simplify’ and ‘less’ resonate with us.

It may be because my generation grew up with a new Happy Meal toy every week, sports are year-round activities for our kids nowadays, or we just jam pack our own schedules up for whatever reason. But, at the end of the day – whether we’re self-professed minimalists or ready to be featured on Hoarders; no matter how busy we are or what we accomplish – the want for more time, more space to do what we want to do with the people we love resonates with all of humanity.

That’s why I write. That’s why you exercise/craft/run a small business/go on vacation/insert hobby here. Because it makes us feel alive.

My four year old had the scissors out for her preschool ‘homework’ yesterday. Like bait to a fish, my two year old also grabbed a pair and opened them wide, sticking his finger in the middle of the blades.

You all, I’m not naturally ‘playful.’ I don’t love puzzles, art or any kind of games. I’m essentially a fun- hater. But, in an effort to keep my son’s fingers intact, I scooted next to him to help him cut.

As I was helping him, it hit me that I seriously have no recollection of teaching my girls to use scissors. I think they learned in Sunday School, to be honest.

Sometimes I pray to remember the sweet moments with my kiddos, the times I feel guilty that life is moving too fast. So I stop, and so does the whirlwind. And I notice the sticky, chubby two-year-old fingers in my own, the giggle and the simple “open, shut,” of the scissors cutting a jagged line. It is my hope that when I’m old and my house is empty, I’ll hold on to that sweet sensation and memory.


I read a quote from blogger/magazine owner/supermom Lara Casey this week. “Everyone ends up somewhere, few arrive somewhere on purpose.”

Truth. Without purpose, my afternoons and evenings get filled with the cyclic necessity of laundry for six, making gourmet meals (i.e., tacos) that no one likes, and (ashamedly) a lot of social media.

While I’m choosing not to drop any of that, I am seeking simplicity this year. We moved to a much smaller, less-maintenance house; I stopped folding my kids’ laundry; we’re planning another RV, hiking adventure vacation trip. We’re starting a small business.  I’m trying to implement a little, fun activity I do on purpose with my kids each afternoon. Nothing extravagant. We’re not quitting jobs or living off the grid. We’re talking getting out the basket of PlayDoh and finding the one container that’s not dried out.

I’m just trying to mark the years and love the people Jesus gave me with a little better purpose.

And maybe drink a little less caffeine and put my phone down a little more.

seldom calm, always bright {Merry Christmas 2017}

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

I never read that one when I was supposed to in tenth grade, but I think that one’s taken.

So we’ll go with: Nothing’s changed. Everything’s changed.

In 2017, we had a baby. Everett is the sweetest, happiest babe, and the only child people don’t immediately credit to Matt’s genes. The true baby of the family, he still has his siblings pretty smitten six months later. He helps us stop and cherish life and has made us better parents.

True to time flying, Grace is a six-year-old first grader. She’s interested in about everything, but her current favorites are doing gymnastics not only at lessons, but all over our house; art; and singing. Everything she does is ‘hard.’ She loves hard, fights hard, puts everything she has in to everything she does, and even sometimes learns things the hard way. 🙂

Milly is thriving in her second year of preschool, making friends left and right. Independent from the time she started refusing naps at two years old – keeping herself awake by playing Anna & Elsa with two of her fingers – she’s surprised us in how much she’s taken to her friends. She’s also blossomed in the role of Big Sister while Big Sister is at school.

Campbell recently turned two. We tried not to push tractors on him just because we are a farm family, but the kid is all boy and adores anything with wheels – tractors, trains, diggers, trucks. His sweetness makes his orneriness more funny than angering.

Matt is still working as an agronomist/consultant. We’re so fortunate he works for a wonderful family and has clients who put their trust in him.

We listed our house back in March, and it’s pending sale right now. We’ve learned a lot here. Maybe I’ll share the story later, but the jist is that our ‘dream home’ was just a house. Our stuff is just stuff. It doesn’t define us. It doesn’t make us happy. We knew that in theory five years ago; we know it for certain now.

When we first stuck the ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard, we didn’t know our next move. In the cool way he does, God orchestrated the next step for us at just the right time. We’re moving about 10 miles east of our current house to one that’s less than half of the square footage. By choice. And then we will probably move again sometime in the future. Maybe even build a house and start a Christmas tree farm. And we couldn’t be more excited.

Everyone thinks we’ve lost our minds: downsizing, starting something new, buying our fourth house in nine years. Some call it unpredictable; we call keeping it fresh. Like I said: everything’s changed; nothing’s changed. In other words, there’s not much calm. And our ideas are sometimes even bright. 🙂

Speaking of change … I’m in awe of a God who is real, alive, and relevant today AND never changes.

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, he promised his people through the prophet Jeremiah that if they seek him with all their hearts, they would find him (Jeremiah 29:13). His promise applied to the Israelites in Babylonian captivity, it applied to the wisemen and shepherds seeking the King that first Christmas, and it applies to us today.

This Christmas, I hope you find the reason for the hope this weary world so desperately needs.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

crazy pregnant lady here

You probably don’t need told that pregnancy does crazy things to your hormones and emotions. Case in point:

The girls watched Homeward Bound the other day. You know, the VHS staple from back when windpants were cool about two dogs and a cat who fight their way through the wilderness to make it home? You all, I was hardly even watching from the other room, and I cried. I didn’t do that as a six year old in 1993. 

Yes, I am a living, breathing billboard for the third trimester.

Insomnia. I can’t stay up to watch the sun go down or get up with it either, but I can sure rock online shopping for enough toilet paper for our whole county (what if I can never, ever take four kids in public?!) and clothes I’m just dreaming of fitting into from the hours of 2-5 a.m. That’s in addition to reading everything there ever was on the Internet, thinking about the photo books I need to be making from the last … oh, five years, Jesus’ second coming, why the rest of my family keeps turning the air conditioning up from the 62 degrees I keep setting it to, fidget spinners, and why the Paw Patrol theme song has to be so darn catchy. Oh, and peeing approximately two whole quarts more than I even drank in the whole day.

Indecisiveness. Or as the rest of the world may call it, moodiness. I can’t even decide if I’m Type A or B anymore. One minute, I’m scrubbing baseboards, the next, I leave an entire bagel shredded all over the kitchen floor, convinced that if I sweep it up and keep being prepared, I will never go into labor. My kids alternate meals of either carrots, cucumbers, salad and fruit or three cupcakes and handful of Doritos. There’s no in between. But at least I have an excuse for acting like a raging lunatic for a little while longer, right?

Clothes. Because really, what do you wear at 37 weeks +? I’m beginning to realize why mumus were invented.

As this (very likely last) pregnancy nears the end (39 weeks today!), I’m trying to enjoy every last kick and crazy, mumu wearing, sleepless minute. But whenever this little peanut decides to come out, bring on the two-day vacation, complete with room service and food that is beautifully delivered at the push of a button. I won’t even let the fact that it’s not even good get me down. I mean, I don’t even have to pack for anyone else this trip.

Great (vacation) expectations

I just wanted a weekend away. We’d been working on our house nonstop to get it ready to list when the first signs of Spring hit. I had visions of heading south, sunshine and relaxation with my family. I’m allowed these kinds of expectations, right?

But, as it works out – no matter how far in advance we I plan, pack our color coordinated outfits, cross off lists, clean the house , we end up like this.

Or this …

Or this … minus the short-shorts (until he sees the sun, Matt’s legs more closely resemble Ellen’s).

I wish I could blame the kids. Their sudden need to pack every toy they own (for, in this case, a four hour car ride), inability to do anything with their trash other than hand it to me or drop it into the depths of the third row seat cracks, and kid-popular ‘are we there yets?’ haven’t made traveling easier, but it’s not entirely their fault.

You see, there was the time Matt brought the cooler full of 50 pounds of green beans he was supposed to deliver instead of our food; the time we got locked out of our bank account 1000 miles away, ran out of cash and proceeded to blow past every toll in New York figuring we would pay online later like you can in Chicago. It was a good plan until we got a fine, on top of the $20 per incident fines from the rental car company. There was the time all of Matt’s clean underwear got peed on by the stray cat that accidentally tagged along all the way to South Dakota. One time, we left the water running while in a hurry to leave. It was 2012, the year of the biggest drought Indiana has ever known. We once got lost on an access road literally one mile from the airport and I missed my flight.

I may have memorized Clark Griswold’s speech by now.

“This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun. We’re all gonna have so much fun we’re going to need plastic surgery to remove our smiles.” (the clean version)

The damage this time? I had the kids swim in their underwear and a T-shirt thinking I had left their swimwear behind until I found it the moment we returned to the room. Also, the very expensive mirror our son yanked off the wall. That was damaged too.

But hey, at least no one was fighting over who has to sit next to Aunt Edna.

A few weeks have passed, and I’m ready to hit the road again, full of great vacation expectations once again. But instead, I should probably go make some freezer meals and smell diapers or whatever else it is I should be doing for baby prep!

A few highlights of our trip to Lexington:

on the move again

Selling a house, children, and easy. Which of these don’t belong?

Actually, I’m certain none of them go together.

I was eight-ish months pregnant with our oldest six years ago when we started house hunting wanting to get out of our starter house where the paint had barely begun to dry on the new nursery. We ended up moving when she was seven months old. And then we put our next house on the market when I was six-ish months pregnant with our second two years later. We showed it 49 times. I remember because I cried after we failed to get offers after every one of them. And then, miraculously, while I was in the hospital giving birth, we had competing offers and ended up selling it for full asking price … sight unseen. No worries, I sure enjoyed cleaning it 49 times and all that painting and prep I did for all of the people who saw it but didn’t buy it. We moved into our current home when our middle babe was three weeks old, and then later had our youngest.

Now, we are doing it again. I’m currently 28 weeks pregnant with our fourth child, and we just listed our house. Thus far, all of our children have come home to a different place. Yes, we may have partially lost our minds.

Why? Everyone is asking. We love most everything about our house. The short answer – we want to simplify. We’re about to have four little kids six and under. While we want them to learn about farm life, responsibility and work, we also want to have time and energy to give them instead of an old house, an inground pool, seven barns and 10 acres to mow and landscape.

I also believe that God’s been working on breaking down my home as an idol in my heart. I love to decorate and bring beauty into our home. But I’ve also learned that where the grass is greener on the other side of the white picket fence, I’ve just had to mow more. While in the process of deciding whether or not we should sell, where we should go, and whether or not we should build our next house, I came across this passage from Amos.

I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,” declares the Lord.

As in whatever house we go to isn’t any more permanent than these last three have been. As much as I adore a pretty kitchen, 10-foot ceilings and my coveted copper farmhouse sink, these things aren’t my hope or lasting home. Or rather, they shouldn’t be.

Plus, I’m holding out hope that if we sell our house and taste a little bit of freedom, Matt will oblige me and take me somewhere where there is a shorter no winter. A girl can always dream. 😉

Here’s a little before/after tour of the work we’ve done to our ‘dollhouse.’ It also has a new roof, is freshly insulated, many of the appliances have been updated, there is now some landscaping, and some other things that don’t have to do with decorating (so I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention) have been done. If you want to buy it so we can move sometime between my current state of exhaustion and the sleeplessness that comes with taking care of a newborn, please do. 🙂

Now … on to the next project … whatever that may be!

the sea of galilee & golan heights {israel travel}

In case you’re still hanging with me, I’m chronicling our trip to Israel from January … still! A quick trip for 3/5 of us to Florida to visit my sister, sick kids, sick mom, kidney stones, heading towards the final stretch of pregnancy, a ridiculously warm February, getting our house ready to put on the market and talking with sellers, builders, realtors, drywallers, a painter, electricians and my husband many, many times about whether or not we should move (still ongoing …) have all happened in the last 30 days. And I have a feeling life isn’t about to slow down.

I left off at the beginning of our trip, with our arrival in Tel Aviv and a stop at Caesarea. Afterwards, we headed on to the city of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Leaving Tel Aviv for the lake was like going from New York City to small town Indiana. Quiet. Tranquil. Stunning.

 In Mark, he talks about Jesus’ travels through Galilee.

‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.’

And I can see why. I’m not a morning person, but sitting out on the balcony watching the fishermen do their thing was so worth getting up for.

Afterwards, we got in the tour bus and headed for a small artist’s colony in Safed – a little town full of cobblestone streets and shops. The bread in Israel is fresh and so, so good.   

We kept going to the northern tip of Israel, along the Syrian border to the Golan Heights. 

This is the highest point in Israel. In fact, we saw a little snow. In recent times, Israel has only occupied the Heights since 1967 after the Six Day War. We could actually hear Syrian military exercises from where we stood. Maybe that should have been a little crazier to me, but the whole area was really kind of peaceful. In the midst of abandoned minefields from past land conflicts, there is lots of agriculture, and in the Spring, I hear they have the most gorgeous wildflower fields.

We learned that Israelis are pretty carefree. A waitress we had later in the week in Jerusalem grew up in the Gaza Strip and talked about a missile landing IN HER HOUSE like I would talk about a water leak … just a slight nuisance. Maybe they just cannot afford to have the false sense of security we grow up with in America. There’s something about their spirit that gave me an attachment to the country.

On the way home, our guide stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes – the place where Jesus probably preached his most famous sermon.

Until he spoke those words, many people believed if you were sick, poor or otherwise down on your luck, you were unworthy. Imagine how his words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek,” revolutionized how they thought about Jesus’ love.

tel aviv & caesarea {israel travel}


Our first ‘day’ of our Israel trip consisted of a 10.5 hour flight, four hour layover in Jordan and a short 25 minute flight to Tel Aviv. By the time we arrived in Israel, it was dark there and we had (mostly) lost a night of sleep to bad airplane movies (Space Jam??) and even worse airline food. I was never so happy to see a Starbucks when we landed in Jordan, and the guys found a McDonald’s. Such American tourists we are.

After a short but good night’s sleep, we woke up to this gorgeous view of the Mediterranean we had no idea was right outside our hotel window.

We then got acquainted with the group we were part of and our tour guide over breakfast. The Israeli diet doesn’t consist of anything terribly unusual. They have similar foods to us, only more fresh bread, vegetables and fruits, and less meat and dairy. And when I say more vegetables, I mean they serve salad with every meal … including breakfast. While all of the fresh food was an amazing change to the lack of winter options here; I will admit, I haven’t touched salad since we got home a week ago.

Next, we headed out to explore Tel Aviv and it’s sister port city of Jaffa. We only had a few hours here and hardly scratched the surface of seeing this vibrant, young and busy city.

Isn’t this gorgeous? Even though it is their winter, there was still plenty of green, palm trees and flowers, in addition to all of the agriculture we would see as we drove different places.

In the afternoon, we stopped for some more authentic Israeli food and continued on to Caesarea. Caesarea was an ancient port city built by Herod the Great to serve as a link to the Roman Empire. It took 12 years for the initial grandeur to be built, but then it was conquered and rebuilt … only to be destroyed and have the cycle repeated by the next dominant power.

Here, historians have found the only archaeological mention of Pontius Pilate – the Roman governor who ordered Jesus to be crucified. The port later served as the apostle Paul’s point of landing on his evangelistic journeys; and Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity, heard and believed the gospel here.

Today, a national park preserves much of the ruins and evidence of ancient cultures that came and went. I think that is what struck me the most about Caesarea and other ruins we visited: people spent their lives building what they perceived to be magnificent, only to have it demolished by their enemies who would do the same. It was a poignant reminder to me to be intentional about what I am building my life on.

Much more to come!

shalom {israel travel}

Shalom. Hello, goodbye, a peace greeting.

We just returned from the Holy Land. Matt has always wanted to go to Israel, and I told him not until the kids were grown. And then along came a Groupon deal, and next thing you know, I was the one suggesting we go (thanks to our awesome parents who watched the kiddos for the week). So we packed up our bags and headed very, very east with our best friends for a week.

We walked where Jesus spent his life. We watched the sunrise at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm. We saw historical relics pointing to King Herod, Pontius Pilot and lots of fascinating Jewish history. When we got out of the hotel, we experienced a lot of good, local food: falafels, Jerusalem bagels pomegranate juice, and more. We watched the entire city of Jerusalem shut down before our eyes on Shabbat – the Jewish sabbath.

I’m still processing all I saw and took in and in what ways it will affect me. But after 30 hours of a hotel shuttle, two flights, a delay and car ride home, I’m enjoying some cuddles with my babies today. More to come!


2016 in review

Every year, between Christmas & New Year’s, we write a ‘Year in review.’ Really just for us to refer back to, it helps me to have everything in one place to look back on to reflect, and slow the blur of the moments-days-months-years thing that happens immediately after your first child arrives.

In 2016 …

{This is a guest post by Matt, because – while I’m supposed to be the writer – he says it better than me.}

Stines’ 60 percent bliss (the other 40 percent we forgot) (this may be entirely true!)

How does a guy summarize the moments that made life special? I don’t know how to express all this. It seems fitting to start with vacations, school, job… but all that seems second rate to the things I want to remember.  

There was a huge rather sporadic trip west to the Tetons, and already all the stressful moments have faded to make the adventure alluring enough to go again. So we unexpectedly decided to skip the beach and take a trip to Israel in January 2017.

Grace did start kindergarten. She has a great teacher, and has done well in every way. But the thing that has me holding her tighter is recognizing she is flapping those wings and it won’t seem like long before she flies out of our nest.

Milly started school too in her three-year-old class. We get nothing but good reports about her smarts, participation, and personality. Belle and I were not sure how she would do since she is so capable of living contently inside the large world of her imagination. We have a love/hate relationship with her determination to satisfy her own expectations in spite of conventional wisdom.  

Somehow Campbell grew a personality and fit right in. His morning cheek-piercing smile has become an essential part of our days. Oh, how he smiles … he is so happy. His giddy grins are starting to fade a bit as he develops opinions about what he wants but he is so happy to be held, see a banana, find an open cabinet, or see a new face to smile at him. He started sucking his thumb, and the peace it brings him makes our hearts warm.  

One aspect of our family we do appreciate enough is that we all like each other. There are fights, but not too many big ones. Whining, but the tantrums are rare, and there are lots (a precious million) of hugs, kisses, ‘I love you’s’, snuggles, game nights, ‘I missed you’s.’

I think more than anything else, I want to remember how sweet 2016 has been.  This year is gone and this season won’t last long. It’s so precious to fix our wounds with kisses and Band-aids. Tougher struggles are not far away, but for now, life is so, so, good.  

Jesus, thank you dearly for 2016- help me to never forget.  We love you.