Category Archives: marriage

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.

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.


when hollywood calls

You know where they do movie prop scouting? On Craigslist. You know how I know this? Because Hollywood called my husband last week, wanting to rent a tractor for a commercial.

It was a typical night at our house – I was cleaning up the table with little squirt at my side while Matt got the girls ready for bed. His phone rang and I saw the caller ID said ‘California’ so I ignored it thinking it was a spammer.

After finally getting everyone in bed for at least the third time, he listened to his voicemail.

“Blah, blah, I saw your ad on Craigslist (typical), and I’m a freelance film producer from L.A. looking to rent something like what we saw in your ad for $500 per day for a minimum of 3 days, plus any incidentals,” (atypical, very).


But to make this story even more hilarious, I have to start at the beginning.

It started last fall, when I overheard my sweet hubby on the phone “What kind of motor/flywheel/(insert word unknown to me) does it need?” “Can we pull it out with a chain?” “How much to truck it here?”

At this point, I was really not even remotely interested in anything he was saying. I honestly thought he was talking about his company Ranger/soil sampler that he got stuck in somebody’s field. While I was off doing something more interesting than listening to him talk about things stuck in the mud, he got off the phone cussing.

“I can’t believe I just said that out loud. I’ve been texting this guy and didn’t think before talking on the phone and now you know that I’m getting you a tractor for Christmas.”

Um, what?!

As it turns out, he was planning to get me a Farmall A for Christmas because (there is a reason …) when we got married, we rode in to our reception on my brother’s Farmall B (and as I type this, I realize how redneck it sounds, but we were rustic barn wedding cool before rustic barn weddings were cool).


As it turns out, B’s are more expensive than A’s (who knew?). After trying to find a reasonably-priced B to have around our farm for romantic memories sake and for the kids to learn to drive on, he found not one, but three tractors on Craigslist that needed a motor/flywheel/part thing and were stuck in the mud somewhere. Ever financially diligent as he is, he figured it was a three-for-one deal and he could sell the other two to give me not just a Christmas tractor, but a free Christmas tractor. I love that man.

Not that I didn’t appreciate the gesture, (I really did. And I ended up with another more everyday practical Christmas present since he spilled the beans on the tractor.) but we still have two tractors in our barn. And because I like money more than I like tractors, I suggested, and then suggested more strongly that he sell one of the tractors. Ultimately, he decided to sell the A and keep the H (clever namethinkers men who make tractors are). And that is how we ended up in contract negotiations with someone over a tractor and a commercial set.

Sadly, they ended up going a different direction with the commercial. The producer thought our tractor was ‘cute’ but they thought their $500/day plus incidentals was better served renting a brand new $100,000 tractor, not one that had previously been stuck in the mud and sold as part of a ‘tractor enthusiasts dream lot of three.’

So now, Matt has decided to tear apart the tractor (to fix another … flywheel?) and (maybe) keep it. Because, hey, maybe someday our kids will want to race tractors as a hobby, and for that, you need at least two.

Ps – If you or anyone you know would like to purchase/rent/lease this fine piece of machinery, call me at my number during the day. I’ll make you a deal. And you don’t even have to be famous.

my favorite part of the day

IMG_0679There is a still where heaven wakes up the horizon with its pink sunburst.

I went through a stage in life where I did not like to be alone. Now, I savor waking up while it’s still dark and enjoying the quiet. I usually like to experience this alone. But on the off-chance that I’m not making custom breakfast orders for my littles, hurrying them along to preschool (a six-course spread for my tiny-but-hungry four-year-old, and milk – just milk for my two-year-old) and Matt hasn’t already left for work at 5:30 (when I say I enjoy the morning, I mean morning, not before six – which is still the middle of the night according to my standards), we get to share that moment together.

When asked for his description of paradise, Johnny Cash offered this six-word description: “This morning, with her, having coffee.”

Just me and him. Too dark to see the dirty dishes. Too quiet to hear the footsteps and giggles, moanings and ‘Mommyyyyyyyy’s.’ Too fresh to be annoyed by the trash sitting by the door, waiting to be taken out. Too calm to be frazzled about the day.

And I remember. I remember the lack of distraction of life that was present when we fell in love. How we’d talk about things other than the kids or if he was going to be home for dinner or which clothes need washed that day. That he needs me and I need him.

I remember that we don’t need words to connect. That when we’re just together, it’s really not very hard to laugh. That underneath keeping up the house and the farm, the middle-of-the-night wakeups, the few extra pounds since college and the pow wows to go over the budget … again, I’m not just his wife, I’m so proud to be his girl.

His strength and provision give me the energy to face the same routine as most of my yesterdays in this season, and to be thankful for this life we get to lead, together.

Thank you, Mr. Cash, for putting into words so simply and eloquently, the only paradise I really want to experience this side of heaven.

johnny cash quote