Monday, December 21, 2015


I have worked harder in the last 10 years than I have in my entire life. I've passed up more, slept less, cried more, socialized less, and worried more.

Oh, but the laughter. And the love. The hugs and kisses, the snuggles and giggles. The learning, the wonder, and the magic. Those have overflowed in the last ten years, filling up my life with all their goodness, drowning out the bad.

For 10 years I have had the best "job" of my life. I have been Emma's mama.

Hospital1 (4)
December 21, 2005
Tucson, AZ

It hasn't always been sunshine and roses with her. We've had our struggles.

Like when she was nine months old and we couldn't figure out why she had snot coming out of her butt (which we finally realize four years later was because of a gluten intolerance).

a.k.a how we figure out she was gluten intolerant

Or when she was 14 months old and spent an entire flight throwing up only to end up in the hospital with rotavirus for three days while Jared was deployed. 

I had never been so stressed in my life. Thankfully family made it easier to handle, like when Auntie Amber turned Emma's I.V. into friend named Ivy. 

Or the time she busted out a front tooth while we were visiting Auntie Amber in NH.

And the ongoing battle of her perfectionism.  
Ski Day at Showdown- First time skiing (33)
Falling a lot her first time skiing.
Showdown, MT
December 2012

Be we have had so many wonderful times. 

Spending some time in nature at Aqua Caliente Park
Tucson, AZ
September 2007

First ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen we use to go to when I was a kid.
Manchester, NH
May 2007

Spending hours following this toad around in Gramma's yard.
Cresco, IA 

The first time she ever laughed was at our first dog, Icky. She laughed so hard she cried, then fell asleep. 
(photo January 2009)

Mamma and Me Pony Lessons 25Mar10 (13)
Horses! This kid's love for horses has amazed me since day one. 
March 2010

Paper bag puppets with Da while chilling and wearing a cape. 
August 2010

'Wula Hooping' (15)
Learning to "wula hoop," and winning a contest at the farmers market for it. 
Nevada, IA
August 2010

Camera Craziness Apr2011 (34)
Her amazing love for animals
Nevada, Iowa
April 2011

Emma Rock Climbing (25)
The odd and random things she loves to do.
August 2011

Drive to AZ 2011 (2)
Hotel pillow fights
Drive to AZ
December 22, 2011

Bed in the Family Room (4)
Dancing to Taylor Swift
Nevada, Iowa
January 2012

More Bike Riding (16)
Riding bikes
Nevada, IA
March 2012

Sara's Wedding 19May2012 (56)
Being flower girl in Auntie Sara and Uncle Rich's wedding
Cresco, IA 
May 2012

Just being silly together
Nevada, IA
June 2012

Reading State Quaters outside of Subway (9)
Shenanigans all around. 
June 2012

Reading State Quaters outside of Subway (7)
Funny Da!

RAIN- WooHoo (3)
Playing in the rain at Gramma's
Cresco, IA
July 2012

Hiking in Decorah, Nov 2012 (7)
Family hikes
Decorah, IA
November 2012

b. Travel to MT- Day 2- Mt Rushmore (20)
Grand adventures
Mt. Rushmore
November 2012

d. Travel to MT- Day 2- Devils Tower (36)
Devil's Tower
November 2012

Hand Sewing 2- Lambkin (6)
Teaching her new things
Great Falls, MT
February, 2012

Hiking (6)
Getting outside
March 2013

As she get's older, this kiddo of our is more a partner than a responsibility. 

Kitchen Help- Veggie Prep
Food prep partner
Great Falls, MT
February 2013

Walk 5-26-13 (12)
Walking partner
Great Falls, MT
May 2013

Groundworkds Farm 7Jun13 (1)
Farming partner
May 2013

Saige by Emma (3)
Crafting partner
Jun 2013

Library (3)
Reading partner
Great Falls Public Library
June 2013

Morning Glory Muffins (4)
Cooking Partner
Great Falls, MT
June 2013

Question Mark Day 20Dec13 (321)
Jumping partner
Great Falls, MT
December 2013

Rename December (26)
Travel partner
Amtrak train
December 2013

Surprise Visit-Amber and Tucker (84)
My Jiu-Jitsu partner
Great Falls, MT
January 2014

Feeling better (5)
Shoveling partner
Great Falls, MT
January 2014

Partner in goofiness!
Great Falls, MT
December 21, 2015

You get the point.

While I don't expect the next 10 years to be walk in the park (though there will be a lot of walks in parks), I am so excited to see what they bring. I am super proud of the person she already is and I am excited to see who she becomes. 

So, HAPPY TENTH BIRTHDAY to my kind, compassionate, beautiful, thoughtful, funny, smart, silly, happy girl. I love you Emma, and I am so thankful I get to be your mama!


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Necessary Evils

Chores are a necessary evil.

We hate chores. I can make excuses all day long -Jared works long hours, we are busy homeschooling, we are busy crafting, we have places to go and people to see, blah blah blah- but it really just comes down to the fact that we hate chores. Oh, and we are kinda lazy.

I realize that no one really likes chores, but I think most people happen to be more organized and are better at sticking with schedules than we are.

Don't get me wrong, we are not slobs (most days). We get the dishes washed just about daily, we take the garbage out daily as well (we use grocery bags in our trash cans), and we vacuum and sweep the main living area usually at least once a month.

There is room for improvement in our domestic tasks.

On top of the general need to be better at cleaning our house, we have a cross country move coming up in just...

(as of December 12th, 2015)

Yikes! That's not much time to get our house cleaned, organized, and purged before the big day.

So, when I was talking to my big sis last week and she mentioned that they started using a chore jar at their house, I was intrigued.  I insisted she tell me more and she did. Thanks, Amber!

After I got off the phone with her (I'm sure I had chores that needed to be done), I sat down and created our chore jar.

First I made a list of all the chores I imagined should be done weekly (sweep each room, wash the sinks and toilets, vacuum, wash bedding, etc). I printed the list, cut out the strips and tossed them in a jar.

First Chore Jar

This were nothing fancy, but I wanted to see if they would be used. 

Chores to do on the left, finished chores on the right.

Granted, it's been about a week, but still, that's a lot of cleaning that got done around these parts! 

The way it works at our house is like this- Every day we are all responsible for loading the dishes in the dishwasher if it's empty/dirty and I run it if it's full. I also hand wash anything that needs it and set it next to the sink to dry. Emma is in charge of putting away the dishes once they are clean/dry, both from the dishwasher and the side of the sink. This typically happens daily or every other day. 

Once the chore jars were up and running, Emma and I each took one or two chores from the jar each day and got them done after breakfast and school work. Some of the chores are super simple- sweep the kitchen- while some are a little more time intensive such as scrub all the bathroom sinks. 

In just a few days we have gotten a lot of chores done with very little complaining. 

I have a few theories as to why this helps us get chores done. First, it's kind of a fun surprise to see what you get for a chore. Will it be easy or not? Second, no one is TELLING you to do something. And third, seeing the little papers fill up the Chores Done jar is satisfying. 

Because we have some specific stuff that needs to get done before we move, I decided to put the chore jar to better use. 

After getting my chores done this morning (swept all the bathrooms and I helped get the living room floor picked up so Jared could vacuum), I sat down and revamped the chore list. 

Chore list- Daily

Chore list- weekly

Chore list- Monthly

The weekly chores are printed on blue paper, the monthly chores on yellow, and the moving chores on white. I also decided that there are some things that just need to be done every day, so those are printed and hung up. 

I also made prettier jars. Here is how it's set up now. 


Examples of the strips of paper. 


I did some math (my brain still hurts) and I realized we would each need to do one weekly chore a day to get all of them done each week. Once the week is over, the blue strips will be tossed back into the Chore Jar.

For the monthly chores, we each would need to do about one per weekend. Once the month is over, the yellow strips will be returned to the Chore Jar.

For the moving chores, I need to get two done each week to finish before we move. Once we move I will toss them.

Emma doesn't mind the the chore jars (unless she complains that she is bored and gets an extra trip to the jar), but Jared isn't convinced it's a good thing. He likes the way it was before (where he didn't have any chores). Nice try!

Seeing as he prefers vacuuming and scrubbing toilets, so we might just save all those chore slips for him!

I love the chore jars. It takes the pressure off of me to figure out what needs to be cleaned on which day, and it spreads out the chores. Also, if we have a crazy busy day, we simply pick more chores the day before or the day after. I'm sure there will be some kinks to work out, but so far, we like the system.

On a slightly related note...

While I was perusing the internet looking for a chore jar label (too lazy to make my own), I stumbled upon something amazing...

In a nut shell, you have a jar with different strength training exercises and cardio exercise. You pick one of each every day (or whatever your workout schedule is) and you get moving. What an awesome idea! I'm thinking maybe a set for Emma and I set for myself. Hmm. Off to play with more jars!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Next Chapter

After waiting on pins and needles for what felt like forever, we finally know where we are headed next.

Jared has been selected for an ROTC position at Michigan State University in East Lansing. He will be an instructor, helping train those interested in becoming officers in the USAF. I find it fitting, because that is how he became an officer. 

We will leave Great Falls on the first of February, stop for a quick family visit in Iowa (and maybe kidnap Gramma), then we will be on our way to Michigan! 

Despite the fact that Michigan gets more snow and has less mountains, we are super excited about moving to Michigan. The number one reason? I can raise chickens in city limits ;0)

That isn't the real number one reason, but it's pretty high on the list.The homeschool community there looks pretty awesome from what info I have been able to gather on-line. There are three riding stables (all with indoor arenas) within 20 minutes of the campus. Art and other creative classes are plentiful. LIBRARIES! There are a lot of libraries we will have access too, which makes Emma and I super happy. 

We will also be closer to NH and IA, making visits (both ways) a little easier. Sorry Arizona family! 

Jared is actually pretty excited as well. The riding trails will be a little farther away, but the college has a a lot to offer for bikers. They also have a blog dedicated to the bike scene

Really, the more we look into East Lansing and Michigan, the more excited we get. The city recycles everything, there are bike paths throughout the city, we can have chickens in our backyard, we can grow some veggies, the college offers a year round veggie CSA, and there are other farms in the area where we can get our meat and other fruits and veggies from.

The college also offers youth programs such as 4-H, theater, foreign languages, sports camps, a writing camp (fitting!) , and a ton of other cool looking programs!

Like I said, the more I look around, the more awesomeness I find! 

So now I am off to research the day away. Starting tomorrow, however, I need to get this house cleaned and organized and ready for the movers. I only hope that two months will be enough time for such a giant task!