Reading: The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.

I don't know what you think about most kids storybook Bibles, but honestly, a lot of them feel dry and dull and shallow, if you ask me. I get bored reading them, which might also translate into my kid's attention not being captured. (Then again, maybe not. Have you ever been begged to read and reread the Dick and Jane books?)

I want my children to grow up knowing truth from the Bible. I don't want it to be watered down. I don't want gory details to be left out completely. I don't want the Veggie Tales version to be the only version they know.

I read to them directly from the scriptures and Carson and I are also working on memorizing certain passages. But sometimes, just like their Momma, it takes a story version to make something stick to memory.

Recently I heard about The Jesus Storybook Bible, and after seeing it in person, Herm and I decided we would gift it to Carson for Christmas. It's got beautiful, whimsical illustrations. Each story has details that a lot of other storybook versions I've read left out and it's got a bit of humor in it too, which I love. Every story always points to Christ, the center of God's wonderful, redemptive plan.

Carson absolutely loves this book, and asks for Herm or myself to read a story, or five, to him every night before bed. Since Christmas he's been talking about Noah and the ark, about Jonah being swallowed by a fish, about a giant named Goliath... These stories, and even the scripture passages we are working on memorizing, are becoming real to him because of this book.

I highly recommend this book. Every family with young kids should have a copy.

Loving: The slower, more relaxed weeks right after the Holidays.

It's rather ironic, because truly, my life is not busy. I'm home most days with my kids. Our week nights are spent together as a family, with the exception of Wednesday night, when we are with our Care Group from church. Weekends we often host friends or sometimes travel. I'm always doing something -- never bored or lacking projects, often even wishing for a few more hours in each day, but schedules and agendas aren't a huge part of life for us.

Over the Holidays however, there is a pressure I feel, mostly self-inflicted, from the events and gatherings and festivities and traveling. From Thanksgiving through New Years, every year, life feels intense, and if I'm not careful to keep myself in check, stress becomes a part of activities that should be joy-filled.

But Christmas is over and January, with the cold and snow and long days at home, has seemed to relax all of us again. I've been realizing lately that there is a pressure I put on myself all the time, where I measure my worth by how much I am able to accomplish in each day. Having two young kids can change things, and subconsciously I was putting pressure on them too. It resulted in bad attitudes all around, mine being the worst.

I'm being more intentional this month, to stop what I'm so often focused on --the daily tasks, of laundry and cleaning and cooking, that no matter how many times I do them, they'll never truly be done-- and spend more time playing or reading or going on coffee dates or library outing with my kids. We're only a few weeks in, but so far it's been good. For all of us.

Dreaming: Of a few upcoming trips we have for 2017. Tickets aren't booked yet, and I know time has a way of changing things, but at this point it looks like I'll be able to cross number eighteen, Visit a New Country, off the 25 Before 26 birthday bucket list! (I hate excess usage of exclamation points. Doesn't that defeat the purpose? But in this case, I almost made an exception, thinking that one really isn't enough to convey the excitement I get whenever I'm boarding a plane bound for a brand new destination.)

Wishing: For this necklace from Noonday Collection. It's one of those statement pieces that I think would go with everything. A teal blouse, an olive sweater, stripes, neutrals, colors. Everything. And it's on sale!

At times I really miss those days of being an Ambassador for Noonday. It wasn't a mistake to leave, I know that. The timing of signing up, then becoming pregnant and having a baby wasn't great, so stepping away was a good choice. But still, the community of women I got to know, and the company as a whole... you couldn't get much better than that. I still love my Noonday.

Thinking About: What new dish I should try, in order to be able to cross number eight, Try a New Dish, off the list. Last time I made Jamaican Patties. They were quite tasty. This time though, I'm not sure what I want to try. Rules of the game: It's got to be something I never made  before with ingredients new to me. Any suggestions, foodie friends?

Listening To: Noel by Lauren Daigle. Christmas is long gone, but this song won't be going anywhere. It's powerful.

Watching: With fascination as Carson is discovering the world around him. We can't go anywhere without him asking me what certain road signs mean, or what letters and numbers are on receipts. He'll point out the recycle symbol on every cardboard box he can find, and he loves to let me know my name is actually Sarah. Today as we were driving he casually mentioned that this is the way we go to Pennsylvania when we're visiting cousins. And yes, it was a section of road we don't travel often... unless, we're going to Pennsylvania to visit cousins.

Trying: To master a headstand. (Yes, I'm really working on crossing things off that list I've mentioned far too many times in this post.) Today I got myself up to position successfully. I'm thankful, though, for that wall behind me, otherwise I would have tumbled completely over. Balance isn't quite what it should be yet. Also, my neck is rather sore. Most likely that, too, is a sign I'm not doing something right. Perseverance. And a massage. Both are things I need to keep going. 

What about you? I would love to hear about things that are currently going on in your life!


23. Reread a book by Janette Oke

I'm slowly but surely working on that birthday bucket list. It seems, though, that everything I am working on are things that cannot be wrapped up in a day.

For instance, I'm fasting from social media every Sunday for three months. I'm over half way finished with that goal already, but really, until it is accomplished there is nothing more I can say about it.... well, except to make a public confession: I completely forgot about the fast on Christmas Day, which happened to fall on Sunday. Which also happened to be a day we were traveling from Pa where we spent time with family, back home to NY. I may have used Instagram to pass time while in the back seat of our truck, stuck in between two car seats, one which held a little boy who kept asking I tell him another George story. George use to be my pet name for Carson -- because, like Curious George, he is a good like Tyke, but always very curious -- until one day he told me his name is Carson, not George and asked I never call him George again. So now I just tell him stories about a boy named George, who, ironically, does everything Carson does. Carson LOVES these silly stories, and sometimes it about drives me crazy, repeating them over and over again.

I'm kind of bunny-trailing. Back to the social media fast. Monday morning as the sun was rising it dawned on me that the day before was Sunday. Yeah. Oops. I suppose I should be making up for that mistake by skipping Instagram for an entire week day.

Then there is Bible memorization with Carson, which is a slow go. He's got Psalm 23 down pat, but in the shrillest, squeakiest voice, the sort that grates on every mom's nerves. We haven't started on the Christmas story from Luke 2 or even the Lord's Prayer yet. We need some WD40 for that voice first.

 Mastering a headstand? I'm still rather shaky at it. And there so many other things that I didn't even start thinking about.

Over the weekend, though, I did accomplish something I can finally cross off. If I'm not crossing at least something off every now and then, I feel like I might lose momentum.

I re-read the Love Comes Softly book by Janette Oke.

I use to hate reading. Despised it. Until, one day, when I was perhaps twelve or thirteen, my mom introduced me to the Love Comes Softly series.

I remember those stories came alive to me, and after that I could barely put books down, often reading well past midnight, even on week nights, simply because I had to know what would happen to the characters who suddenly felt like real-life friends.

Revisiting the first book in that series was rather fun.

It was a bit juvenile, there is no doubt about that. And twelve years later, the characters no longer felt like real-life friends. They talked in a country slang that rather annoyed me, and coffee was mentioned so often I almost mistook them for hipsters instead of Pioneers on the prairie lands of the Midwest. Nonetheless, I still truly enjoyed the book, but not for the story line as much as for the memory of myself as a young girl, one who thoroughly hated reading... or so I thought -- until my mom handed my the first book of the series, which opened my eyes to a whole world to be discovered, nestled in the shelves of our quiet small town library in the form of "boring" books.

Now, years later, I am constantly reading. I often try to read books that I know will challenge me to grow stronger mentally or spiritually or even physically. Or books written by people who hold different beliefs than I so I can learn about others cultures and values. Or books on how to write well or inspire creativity. Even books about a little monkey named Curious George.

Janette Oke is no longer my favorite author, but there was a sort of magic in her work. Magic which made a young girl fall in love with words. And because of that, it was completely worth revisiting the title which turned me into the avid reader and kind of, sort of, writer I am today...

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." -Dr. Suess


She Resolved to Love Herself, Frizzy Hair and All. (What Happened Next Will Probably Not Astound You.)

There was something freeing about 2016. It was, after all, the year I began to (sort of) fully embrace fullness. 

It was the year I accepted my hair, realizing it will never be smooth or sleek or even curling-iron-curly. But will always be full bodied, always voluminous, often frizzy, never flat. I bought products to enhance those traits, all from the way too expensive but works better than anything else I've found Deva line, products touting Set it Free and Hair in Heaven!

It was the year I picked up the tweezers less and less, wishing I had never picked it up in the first place, to begin the regrowth process on brows that use to be vogue, waxed pencil thin, harsh, but are now so outdated they practically scream early 2000s. I bought products to remedy that too, filling in my misdeeds with ANASTASIA Brow Powder and pomade to give me the currently coveted Boy Brow. My dad would be horrified if I came around with a tattoo, but does microblading even count? I'm imagining if he knew some tattoos come in the form of really realistic looking eyebrows, he might even consider it for his ever so slowly but still surely receding hairline. We could get our first tattoos together... we never actually made it on a skydiving date before I got married and had kids. This suddenly seems like the safer, I'll be home in time to make dinner dear, sort of option.  (Moment of transparency: A few stray brows managed to find their way down to my chin. The tweezers hasn't completely retired.)

It was the year I accepted my legs will never be flamingo-long, but penguins, though one never gushes over their legs, are cute too.

This acceptance of things I can't or don't even need to change, may have been induced by the coming of age. Twenty-five has always been so much closer to thirty than twenty-four will ever be. 

And I'm married, only striving to impress one man now. He makes it easy, I know he preferences. I even listed a pair of comfortable Madewell pants in my Instagram shop, selling them even though I still liked them, simply because I knew he didn't. If that's not heartfelt love, tell me what is? I hope the lucky girl who got them has a husband who appreciates pajama style bottoms that are meant for dressier occasions.

2017, I thought to myself, is going to be the best year yet. It's going to be the year I start being me, and stop worrying so much about what doesn't matter... like smooth, silky hair, and perfect brows and clothes that flatter. 

Ironically, the very first day of 2017 landed, smack, on a Sunday.

I picked out my outfit: a black pencil skirt, oversized red sweater, black tights, and heeled leather booties. The whole look would be pulled together with the only glamorous thing I own, a sparkling statement necklace. 

It was 2017, I concluded. The year I won't spend every Sunday afternoon standing in front of the hanging mirror, putting together horrible outfit combinations that look fine to me any other day of the week. 

I glanced in the mirror, determined it would be a one shot, no more outfits needed, sort of night. 


The proportions were off, I looked like an old fashioned school teacher in those silly tights, and that pencil skirt certainly wasn't elongating penguin legs. Nothing was working.

My husband, the only man I'm striving to impress, gave me a few suggestions. But body-con dresses are never church worthy. Take me on a date, I cry, and then maybe I'll wear that silly thing. Whatever he likes about that dress I will never understand. 

I tried my only maxi skirt. It didn't work either. The last time I tried to wear it, I hung it back up, deciding it too would be listed on Instagram, but this time because I was the one not so fond of it. Back it went, to the sell-when-I-get-around-to-it stack.

Black jeans. That's my Sunday night uniform. Why didn't I think of those in the first place? I would have saved myself hassle. But yes, turns out those Madewell black jeans truly weren't made well. I discovered that on the eve of Christmas Eve, when sitting cross-legged on the living floor at my husband's Amish grandparent's place I glanced down. Skin was showing were skin, when wearing jeans, should never be showing. 

So there I am, still standing in my room, yanking things from the closet and throwing them on, only to throw them off again. 

Well, it looks better than your last outfit, he said, when I finally came out, ready or not, 'cause it's time to go. He dislikes maxi skirts and dresses even more than I do. 

I sort of impressed him, I guess, in my olive pants and white button up.

2017, we are only on day two of you, and already I've broken resolutions to be okay with myself. I'm going to go shopping for some nice church clothes, or, more than likely, just a pair of black jeans to get me through another year of Sunday nights. 

I'm not giving up, though. I've got my tweezers handy for those migrating brow hairs, but otherwise, I'm going to work on my fully embrace who I really am.



"Oh my cow!"  The blending of phrases I heard after Carson shot the already mounted deer head hanging on our wall with his Nerf gun. What a good reminder that someone is listening to expressions I say, and quickly catching on. 


"Mom, I forgot my phone number!"  When he realized he left is toy phone at home.


He was near tears and frantically tugging at my leg when I hit the power button on our vacuum. As the swirl of the brush began to slow and the roar of the machine died down, I leaned to his level, asking what had happened to make him this upset.

Mooooom," he wailed, his voice quivering, "my puppies! You swept them up!"

We fished around in the canister, looking for those furry, imaginary friends, and surprisingly found them, tucked in against the hair balls and dust bunnies. Carson said they were okay, then I asked him their names. We decided on Selena and Fredrick. 

They were with us the rest of the day, chasing me as I finished vacuuming, nearly getting swept up again. Nipping at my heels while I put away the freshly laundered and neatly folded baby clothes. Somehow they managed to ride along to town too, where grocery shopping and banking and a trip to the car wash were all in order.

We were half way home when I heard it again, that quivering and desperate voice... "We forgot the puppies at the post office! Mooooom, you've got to turn around!"

Those puppies don't even chew on things, yet they were about to exasperate me. 

I reached over, my hand grasping thin air in my diaper bag, and... Tada! There they were, the two naughty puppies Carson thought he had forgotten.

"Silly puppies..." he cooed, when I handed Fredrick and Selena back to him. "You were playing hide and go seek."  It was relief that swept over me. We wouldn't need to alert the Sheriff or the Dog Pound... Our lost imaginary friends had been found.


Without fail, if I make email (oatmeal) for breakfast, at least one person will request thirds. And if we go to Oak Leaf Cafe for a treat, at least one person will ask for a cookie with brain-kills. (Sprinkles.)


The Fixer-Upper House on the Fixer-Upper Hill

In the past week I've had three different people ask if I've been taking before and after photos of projects we've been working on around our house, mentioning that I need to record them.

I haven't done the best job at getting good photos - so angles and lighting won't be great. But nonetheless, I am going to post them.

Sometimes, when projects take long, and not all is done at once, it can seem as though not much as changed. It's really good for me to pull the old photos out, to remember what our place use to be and to see how far we've come.

I wouldn't have saw the potential in this place had Herm and I been house shopping together. It was a run down and overgrown property. The house smelled of stale smoke, cigarette burned carpets telling its tale. There was still food in the fridge, a fridge that was set to 55* F for over a year. The place was filthy, and felt like the inside of an icebox, with the flooring, walls, and ceiling all in various shades of white or cream. (Even the kitchen counter tops and cabinets blended in, their beige-yellow tones adding no favor.)

But it was because of this house, and Herm's dream of moving to New York, that our paths crossed. The weekend we first met was the weekend Herm had closing on the place, the mortgage now in his name.

Our story happened fast, within 13 months we went from complete strangers to lovers, now married and figuring out what life would look like together.

Every weekend during our first year of marriage was spent on house projects, on cleaning up the yard, building shelving in the closets, painting and repainting. We were broke, to put it bluntly, so the projects were small, we did what we could, when we could.

Over time our savings grew, as did the budget for each project. Herm is a carpenter, so he has the knowledge and the tools needed for almost everything we did. And if you give me a paint brush or drop me off at a thrift-store I can run with it...

Now, over four years later, the transformation is amazing -- and as we dream, our project list keeps on growing, even after so many things have already been checked off.

We're even dreaming about the next fixer upper we could flip together... but until then, we'll keep on creating and painting and thrifting to make this house even more of a home. (I'm currently searching for a large oriental rug, a leather or velvet sofa and two accent chairs, an antique bench and a cow hide rug... so, fellow thrifters, feel free to be on the lookout for me!)

As you can see, the house really lacked depth and texture and warmth. When Herm first bought the place, his family blessed him greatly by coming to New York for a long weekend of scrubbing and painting and making the place livable. I've heard horror stories of what was scraped up around the toilet and of the grease coated liberally on the kitchen stove. 

They painted the main living area, and shampooed the carpets. That helped some with the stale smoke smell, though on cold, damp days the odor still managed to seep out of the walls...

The Kitchen:

This was the kitchen before Herm's family came to clean and paint...

And this was after his family spent the weekend painting.

Then he married me, lover of all things neutral, so the entire place was repainted again. I also painted the cabinets and counter tops with a specialty paint from Rustoleum. Because money was tight at the time, I didn't want to spend on adding subway tile for the back-splash, so my talented sister painted the wall to look like it.

Eventually I took two cabinets doors off, so that I would be able to display cups and dishes. And most recently, we replaced all of the flooring in our house with this laminate wood floor. Good-bye ugly linoleum, later disgusting carpet!

The Dining Room:

This was right after we got married.

And this was taken today. As you can see, new paint color, new flooring, as well as a new table, butchers block bar, and bar stools -- all handmade by Herm! We are planning to change the lighting in here, make a bench for the table, and find new chairs too. 

The Living Room:

When it was still a mancave...

We built a fake fire place at one point. But later moved that, along with the TV screen down to our cold, damp, unfinished basement. Out of sight, and out of mind! Best decision ever, if you ask me. My husband doesn't really agree... yet.

I rearrange furniture as though it were a hobby. So the living room has boasted many different layouts. We also added a wood stove, which is our main source of heat. The photo above was taken shortly before we tore out that gross carpet I keep mentioning.

And this is the living room, currently

The Bathroom:

Wooden seat, awful cabinets, and a RUG by the toilet. Excuse me while I go throw up.

Not a great after photo, but it's ten times better. Just trust me. 

The Bedrooms:

Ours, above. Carson's below.

My sister, Kate, painted the mural.

And that's it. At least for today.



16. Read a Classic by Jane Austen

I've never given them much of a chance. In my mind books by Jane Austen seemed frivolous and dull and overly feminine, completely not my style. But, as has been the case for a lot of things I had completely written off before actually trying it -- it truly wasn't that bad.

I don't know exactly what made me add reading a classic by her to my 25 Before 26 list. Perhaps it was because several people who I greatly admire recently had been talking about her work, or maybe it was because I knew it would be a challenge for me, something that I needed to overcome. I love reading, but I really haven't delved into many classics, so why not start?

I picked up Pride and Prejudice, a large print, well worn copy, from my library to take along on a weekend trip we were taking to the mountains. My husband's family owns a cabin in rural Pennsylvania. Every year, right after Thanksgiving, we make the trip down there for the opening week of buck season. While Herm and the rest of the guys spend most of their time out in the woods, the ladies and kids stay back at the cabin. Carson and Brooklyn were both very entertained by their cousins, and I got to spend hours curled up near the wood stove, attempting to follow along to a book that was written in Old English, while lots of noise and chaos and conversations were happening around me. 

I didn't hate the book but neither did I love it. 

I've seen snippets of the movie, so I felt like I knew the general story line. And it was sort of what I figured it would be -- prim and proper and a bit stuffy. But there was something about the story, even though it was written in Old English, which is rather difficult to understand, that made me want to keep on going, to know what else would happen. And, before the week was up, I had completely finished the novel.

I might borrow the movie now, to see if that would make me appreciate the book a bit more. 

I'm glad I did read it, but at this point, I don't think I'll be laboring over the rest of Austen's work.

To give you an idea what old English is like, watch this version of a classic children's story.

What about you: Do you enjoy a good classic? What's your favorite title?


That Last Minute Gift Guide

It's ironic, me creating a gift guide, for, as I've mentioned before, I am the worst at gifting. I think some people are naturals at it, always find the perfect thing for each and every person on their list. I, however, am not that person. I over think it; wanting the person the gift is intended for, to love the item and find it useful; and I penny-pinch, hard --I don't have a chance, I was born into a Mennonite family of German heritage, and both Mennonites and Germans are known for being stingy frugal-- which becomes frustrating too, because high quality gifts often aren't cheap.

But this season I'm trying to loosen up a bit, not over thinking it, and, without breaking the budget of course, learn to be okay spending a bit more to give quality.

So here are a few simple ideas that I think would make lovely gifts for any person in your life. If you're like me, never knowing what to give, maybe you will find this list useful too.

For the ladies:
Hammered Circle Earrings // fashionABLE  *I own these and LOVE them!
The Broken Way // Ann Voskamp *currently reading this
Commissioned Art Work // Esther Weaver  *she's cool
Fringed Crescent Necklace // Noonday Collection *on my wishlist

For the kiddos:
Wooden Sling Shot // Etsy
Curious George Treasury Collection
Wooden Camera // Etsy

For the men:
Shawl Neck Sweater // AE
 Leather Billfold // Parker and Clay
Granite Drink Dispenser 

What about you: do you have any fun gift ideas, link them in the comments below!