Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Birthday Josiah

Happy Birthday Josiah! How is it possible that you are now 11 years old?! I can still remember driving home from Sioux Falls with you in the backseat. We got about 20 minutes from home and you started crying. I remember my gut turning and thinking, oh boy, here we go! I still get that feeling sometimes as we jump into something new with you and I try to figure my way as we go.

I asked you on your birthday what were some of your favorite things from this year. Your response was so indicative of who you are. You mentioned cleaning up concrete and metal on the acreage and building the garage. You really continue to love to do work outside and are such a help to your dad.  You are thrilled that your dad lets you drive the pickup around the place, and though my heart quickens watching you, you do a very careful job of it.

Being on the acreage has given you an opportunity to work with animals and you seem to relish that added responsiblity. Most every morning, you check in on the food and water for Lily without being asked. When Lily broke her leg this spring, you checked in on her every night and morning and took the job of giving her meds, again without much for reminders. It's also been very interesting to watch you with the addition of chickens to our place. You always want to be the one to go get the eggs. You love to let them out in the morning and lock them in at night. And, very rarely do I have to ask you to do those things. You've also watched them and figured out their roosting pecking order. Another exciting opportunity for you this year has been helping our neighbor, Mr. Bonnema with his pigs. You've helped him just a few times when he has gotten a new load of piglets or had to move them around in the nursery. You didn't really complain about the smell, but were more fascinated by the process and learning about piglets. You also found it quite funny that you were required to strip in the mudroom before entering the house and still got a reaction of the smell when you came in! We hope that Mr. Bonnema will continue to use your help more and more and he has mentioned wanting to eventually train you in vaccinating pigs.

One of the other things that continues to be true of who you are is that you love to learn. I am so thankful for that and you are a lot like your dad in that manner. Although you've struggled with neatness and organization this year, your teachers are very vocal about how much they enjoy having you because you are so excited to learn whatever you are studying. You often come home with a new tidbit to share with me. A few weeks ago, I had to teach counsel time during Awana in just a few minutes notice. I ended up reading a modern take on a parable and had a few questions at the end for the kids. As I was talking with the group, I was struck by your eyes -- you were so engaged and it felt like you were really pondering the question that I had asked. I pray that desire to learn and engage will continue in your life as it is so wonderful. And, like your dad, it helps you be able to engage with a wide variety of people in many different circumstances because you always have something to share that you are learning or are intent on learning from what others are saying.

I love riding alone in the car with you because you always have something to say or ask. I love the grin you get on your face when you are trying to hide something when we are playing a game. I love playing piano with you while you practice cello. I love that you still want me to do things with you (although I can't always indulge in that). I am completely tired of legos all over your room and rubix cubes, but love the tenacity you show with them. Most of all, I love you, my firstborn son and pray that you will strive for the best that God has for you and follow Him wholeheartedly this coming year. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Simeon!

Happy 9th Birthday Simeon!  Your birthday was actually quite a few days ago, but with all the holiday activities, including a trip to Illinois for Thanksgiving, I am just now sitting down to write your birthday note.

This year has brought a lot of growth for you.  You have grown taller and your feet seem to have a growth spurt every other week!  You continue to love sports and are constantly playing football or soccer or some other ball game.  Most often you play with Ezra because he enjoys those things as well, but you can be found playing with Lucas and Josiah as well.  You have grown a lot in your ability to control yourself when you get frustrated because you are so competitive!  I am proud of you for working hard at this!  It is not easy for you.

You also continue to enjoy Lucas immensely and now that he is older, you include him in many of your games, always kindly.  It seem slike you instinctively know how to play with younger ones and often let him win or at least make him feel like he is winning.  You want to sit by him at dinner and have started taking a bath with him, taking care of washing and dressing him.  Similarly, you love to help in the nursery at church and jump right in, playing with the kids, again very instinctively.  You often ask about our family having another baby and I would have one in a heartbeat just for you to have that joy if I felt God had given us the green light in that area.  I am very interested to see how God uses and develops your love for little ones.

You continue to enjoy school as well and, in general, it is pretty easy for you. You don't necessarily handle no knowing things very well and we are working at not pretending to know something you don't and working to learn things that might be harder for you without giving up.  You still like to know what things are like before joining in.  One of your favorite things at school is recess!  You have a great teacher this year, who often plays football with the boys in your class at recess.  At your parent teacher conference this fall, Mr. Fischer mentioned that you intercepted some of his passes and they were really good plays on your part!  I often don't hear about anything else from school from you except for the play-by-play that you give me about what happened at recess.  And then, your face is so animated as you give all the details!  You are very well-liked at school and when I ask about your friends, you rattle of 5-6 names and often keep going.

You know all the Vikings football players numbers and positions.  You've started enjoying reading more, especially Flat Stanley books.  You still choke down cooked vegetables, but are better at fresh ones.

I love you Simeon.  I am so priviledged to by your mom.  I see so much possibility in your future and just wonder what God is going to do in and through you!  I love your spontaneous hugs and shy smile.  I pray that God will help you be a leader in your class, doing the right thing even when it is hard to go against those around you.  I pray that you will use your talents and abilities to help and serve others.  Above all, I pray this year, you will learn more who God is and follow him more fully in all areas of your life, loving Him more than anything.  Happy birthday, Simeon!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

He is Worthy

There was unspeakable, unthinkable, unimaginable tragedy that hit our community last week.  A small, strongly Christian community where everyone seems to know everyone.  A three year old little girl lost her life due to an injury she received at the hands of her daycare provider.  And it felt like the entire community gasped and wept.

And I've wept.  For the little girl who looks so much like my little three year old.  For the mom and dad who had to hold her as she went to see Jesus.  For the mom and dad who had to hug her sister and brother and remind them they didn't need three little cups at the table anymore.  For the daycare provider who I know only in passing and small talk at activities.  For her three little girls who have lost their mom.  For her husband who has lost his wife.  For them as they try to continue life, in a small town, with her out on bail.

And I sat in my chair on this day, the day containing a celebration ceremony of the life of that little three-year-olds, and I watched her memorial video.  And I wept and I prayed.  And I marvelled that her parents could use songs full of grace and compassion in her video.  That they spoke of a God who has conquered death as they celebrated her life.

And then, this afternoon I heard Selah's song All My Praise.  And I thought to myself, do I believe this? If I were these parents, could I believe this?  That even in the valley of death, in the midst of my worst nightmare, He is worthy of all my praise?   I've watched my sister and brother-in-law live that nightmare.  My aunt heart has bled with them and for the nephew I did not get the joy of holding.  I've witnessed Joel's brother and sister-in-law live daily with the possibility of that nightmare.  I've cried and prayed extra hard at those particularly scary moments.  I know just a sliver of what it is like.  It is terrible, painful, unimaginable and unthinkable.  And my conclusion is this. . .deep down I do believe this.  But more than that, I have to believe this.  Because I don't think there is any way I could handle something as unimaginable as this, if God would chose to allow it in my life, unless I could cling to the fact the He is worthy and He is seated on His throne.

Oh God, thank You that You are Worthy, no matter what is happening in this sin sick world around me.  That You are big enough to handle my uncertainty and pain. That You grant grace and strength to those experiences their deepest valley.  That You are the Only One who can help us make it through.  Be All that the people involved in this tradegy need today and in the days to come.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Evelyn's Eyes

I took Evelyn to an opthomogolist in Sioux City today.  Lucas went with us and was delighted to have his sister around to chatter and giggle with.  What I anticipated being less than an hour appointment took 2.5 hours while we waited and saw three different people.  As I didn't have a watch and doctor's offices never seem to have a clock, I had no idea how late it was until we returned to the car.  I only heard, "It's taking long time. . ." from Lucas!  They really did well, for which I am very grateful!  Anyway, the end report is that Evelyn has a mild form of Amblyopia in her right eye. Wikipedia describes it better than I can and says, "In amblyopia, visual stimulation either fails to transmit or is poorly transmitted through the optic nerve to the brain for a continuous period of time. It can also occur when the brain "turns off" the visual processing of one eye to prevent double-vision, for example in strabismus (crossed-eyes). It often occurs during early childhood, resulting in poor or blurry vision." She does not have the crossed eyes that often occur because of this.   They will put her in glasses to fix the blurrines in the hopes that the brain will decide to use the right eye as well.  We return in 7 weeks to check the progress.  If there is not enough progress at that time, we will begin patch therapy to help her brain start using the right eye.  The window of treatment for this is up to age 7, so I am very thankful eye exams are expected to go to school as we had not noticed anything wrong with her vision.  I am also grateful to be doing something to help her.  She is taking it all in stride, with her bright smile and was thrilled to try on purple and pink frames!  Thanks for praying and I'll post pictures once she has her new spectacles!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Ezra!

Happy 7th Birthday Ezra!  Today you turn seven.  On Wednesday you head to first grade.  I have watched you grow up so much this year, and particularly this summer.  You are growing into quite the boy.  

You have grown into a good worker.  Dad loves it that he can give you a task, here on the acreage or at the school and you will methodically complete it and keep at it until you are finished.  You also got to the point this summer that you would go and find Dad and ask him what job you could do next.  You just finished organizing your dresser drawers.  You have a things about socks -- very particular about how they fit, putting them on every night no matter how hot it is, and spending your own money to buy socks with the Nike swoosh on them for school.  You are the only one in our family that eats his plate in sections, finishing one thing before starting another.  

Even though you have grown up this summer, there are some things about you that haven't changed.  You still love to laugh and joke around.  You often can be found giggling at the table at something Josiah is doing.  You still love to play ball with Simeon.   You will eat just about anything you are served and still are the only one to join your Dad in spicy salsa and tomatoes.  You fill your plate with whatever fresh veggies that are served and for your birthday meal, you were adamant about wanting a spinach salad that I make.  You are still easy to be with.  As part of a devotional I shared at a baby shower this summer, I talked about what each of my children has taught me about God.  About Ezra I said, "Ezra has taught me about friendship with God.  He is easy-going and easy to be with. . .Ezra challenges me to rest in the easy-ness of being with God."  I can't quite verbalize what it is, but there is just something about the way God has made Ezra that he is easy to be with.  You will still snuggle up to me when we are sitting on the couch and occasionally I get your hand slipped into mine.  You are still prone to suck your thumb with your duck blanket -- we're  working on that with duct tape. . .  You still put to memory anything with music to it in no time at all. 

My dear sweet Ezra, I pray that as you continue to grow older, you keep your sweet spirit,  and you continue to tap into that easy to be with part of you, ultimately using it to draw people to Jesus.  I am excited to see what this year brings for you.  I love you buddy and am so priviledged to be your mom.  Happy Birthday.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cousin time

Amazingly, Joel and I were able to spend five days with his brother and wife riding motorcycles up the west coast.  It was a beautiful ride and an unbelievable experience.  I am so thankful for all the family that cared for the kids and to Josh and Amanda for planning the trip and making it possible for us to go!

My parents had Simeon and Lucas.  Josiah went to Joel's parents and Joel's sister, Julie kept Ezra and Evelyn.  Julie sent periodic updates throughout the week and I wanted to paste them here to remember the fun of cousin time! 

"Seriously, we've had a great day.  We mowed lawns before breakfast and after dinner; took a lengthy trip to the library and breezed through HyVee with Johanna and Ezra pushing the race car cart with Evelyn and Micaela in it; read our library books during break time and had a blast at the pool.
 Ezra ate 3 helpings of Grandma Hoffman's cucumber salad and both mowed down their black-eyed pea burgers.  Evelyn was regaling us with Joy to the World while riding on the lazy river, to the amusement of the teenagers near by, and with silly songs tonight (accompanied with giggles).  Micaela finally seems to have rounded the corner on her sickness. 
 Ezra picked out four different books on tape and wants to make sure I document his reading for the summer reading program.  One was called the Heart of a Shepherd--looks like a really neat book.  He also chose a Laura Ingalls Wilder book. Evelyn picked out Dora books and Dora movies, perhaps influenced by her cousins.  There has been lots of doctoring of babies and caring for baby dolls today. 
 Going up to put the girls back in bed again!  They have been wound up tonight.  Scary to think of them as teenagers . . . .
 Much love,

"We're loving having Ezra and Evelyn here.  They have been a joy, and full of joy.  Ezra has been an eager beaver, jumping in and mowing the lawn here and begging to mow other people's lawns.  So, we took him over to a neighbor's today and recruited two other people who'd be up for it.  He's using our reel mower. 
 Evelyn has been happy to be the center of attention--both Johanna and Micaela are enjoying her company.  Johanna is the doting older cousin, playing with her hair and laughing at her antics. Micaela is glad for a friend her age and claims her as "her" cousin.  She's been easy going, but also has her strong mind about what she wants to do.
 All four of them have been building their imaginary stories together that involve different ones being a mother or grand mother or daughter or fireman or who knows what.  They had an animal rescue station going, complete with dance studio earlier today. 
 We hit the pool this afternoon. It was cool, but they were not deterred in the least.  Evelyn was off and running, going down the slide many, many times.  Likewise, Ezra was confidently doing everything. They all did the lazy river together, and Johanna and Ezra went down the slide with the inner tube.  Evelyn would have--but she needs another inch before she's legal.  .  .
 Much love,

I am so grateful for family that loves my children and is willing to provide a secure, fun place for them!

Happy Birthday Evelyn!

Happy Birthday to my sweet little girl! 

You are now five and ready to charge into the world with all the joy that you possess.  You really engage life with so much joy and excitement.  You greet each day with a bright smile and I am so thankful for your cheerfulness. In general, you are very even-keeled, although you have struggled a bit more with all the kids home for the summer. It has been hard for you not to have my focused attention for most of the day and you have started asking me if I can do something with you.  We like to jump on the trampoline together and you love have mini tea parties when we can fit them in.  You also like me to paint your nails, but never only one color. . .always 2 or 3!  You like wearing jewelry and have started being particular about what you wear, always disappointed when I say we can't wear nice clothes to play and work here at the acreage.   You tell me I look pretty.   You can spend hours coloring and love to give your pages to anyone who visits.  You also love to play pretend and use your dolls or horses to talk to each other.  And, you like to tell others what to do!  You still love music.  Your favorite foods are quesadillas and chocolate anything!

We still visit Sioux Falls to visit the doctor there and try to get your digestive system working properly.  You are a trooper and never complain about hardly anything.  In the midst of appointments getting you ready for kindergarten, we discovered that you have one eye that has not fully developed its vision.  We are praying it will develop fully as there is no correction for that deficiency.  I have never noticed you favor one side for vision, so it will be interesting to see if that effects you at school.  The dentist also said that one side of your mouth is more crowded than the other.  It seems like this is a continuing of your development issues as a toddler and has me wondering if it is effecting your digestive system as well.  I hope to ask the doctor at your next visit.

You are a big help to me around the house.  I'm not sure if it is just your personality, or because you are a girl. . .probably a bit of both, but I can give you a job and you will get it done almost as well as I would.  You are particularly good at putting toys away -- you know their designated spots, and tidying the mudroom.  You often tell me you are helping so that I don't have to do all the work!  If I had to guess, your love language is encouraging words.  You light up whenever someone praises and you are constantly telling others "good job" or encouraging them in what they are doing.

Dear Evelyn, I pray this year, as you go out into the world, that God will protect your sweetness, that you will hold fast to the joy within you and you will grow into a young girl, full of grace and kindess towards all.  I feel so priviledged to be your mom and grateful for the sunshine you bring into our home.