Category Archives: celebrations

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!

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.


the more the merrier

They make it look glamorous on Parenthood and Fixer Upper. Next thing we know, Matt will be bringing home puppies and goats and things like Chip. Oh wait, in seven and a half years of marriage, we’ve already had cows, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats and turkeys (possibly all Matt’s idea). And babies. And now, four of them! Yes, the ‘it’ I’m referring to looking glamorous is parenting FOUR kiddos.

So, 2017, bring on all your chaos, loudness and excitement. The more the merrier, we say. We feel so privileged to get to do this one more time.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2017 from our family to yours.

a wild one

There’s nothing to remind me how fast time moves like noticing the date on my last blog and my baby turning one.

With all the Thanksgivings we had, we celebrated Little Man’s ‘Wild One’ the weekend prior to his birthday (which fell on the day after Thanksgiving this year). He was all smiles as usual, and thoroughly enjoyed his cake. He’s the sweetest, happiest baby around. I constantly have strangers smiling and talking to me because he just can’t help but flash his wide-tooth grin everywhere we go.


Here’s a peek of all the growing he’s done this year.

He’s brought SO much joy to our family. Love you always, buddy.