2016 Yellowstone Vacation Day 1: Omaha

We started the day early and hit the ground running! From previous experience, we knew that it works out best to get a lot of driving done early in the trip when we’re all fresh and in high spirits.

Our Ride

Our Ride

After much debate, we decided to try a passenger van. Last year we took a Lincoln Navigator and towed a U-Haul trailer. The year before we took a Suburban with a car-top carrier. They all have their pros and cons. Our reasoning for trying this out was that we wouldn’t have to mess with a trailer or carrier while still having lots of cargo space and people space.

Well, it was nice in theory. The seats were very uncomfortable and utilitarian making for a less-than-comfy ride. The shocks were awful. Originally, Tim had planned on sitting in back, having a half-row to himself. That lasted a whole 30 min. before he started feeling nauseous and had to share a row with Karen. We had adequate space, but it still felt cramped.

Nonetheless, 7 hours of driving passed quickly and before we knew it we were in Omaha.

We weren’t looking for a big attraction at this point, just a place to stretch our legs. The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge seemed ideal.

If only we could have found the bridge! The GPS took us to a park that surrounds the river. We met a gentleman who said that we had to walk the long way around in order to get to the bridge. So we set off.




The sidewalks were well-maintained and there was lots of pretty landscaping. It was serene and peaceful. The fountain was really neat.


We finally got to a little, rinky-dink bridge, that had a sign informing us that Lewis and Clark had landed at that spot, etc, etc. Okay, fine, but that wasn’t the bridge we were looking for. So we had to walk all the way around, back the way we’d come. Then we saw this bridge.


Finally. The bridge!


Excited to finally be on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge!

Except it wasn’t. It was a neat little bridge, but it wasn’t the bridge.  We kept walking and I finally googled it on my phone. Ohhhhh, now I see. I cracked up. How in the world could I have been confused? In the end, only Tim and Karen walked the bridge. They went to the mid point and came back. By that time, the boys and I were at the Lewis and Clark Visitor’s Center and they were trying to finish up their Junior Ranger books. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Omaha was pretty, though. And we certainly did get some exercise in!





After our bridge adventure/misadventure, we hopped back into the car and made it to Sioux Falls in time for dinner. Planet Sub’s website boasted about their gluten-free menu, but when we arrived we were informed that this location didn’t offer gluten-free bread. Grrr. Poo.

We ate dinner at Jacky’s Authentic Guatemalan, instead. It was good, but SPICY. But good.

We found an awesome deal at the Sheraton, which was so, so nice. The pool was packed so no swimming, but that was okay by me because it was 9pm when we checked in. We called it a night and rested up for Day 2!

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July Catch-Up

And all of the sudden, it’s August!

This is always an interesting time because there’s this whole back-to-school vibe in the air, for those tho go to school and those who homeschool, alike. In fact, I know a LOT of homeschoolers who start even earlier than those who go to school.

Not us.

We’re a not-even-gonna-think-about-it-until-Labor-Day family.

We have a whole month left! Which is perfect and sorely needed because this summer has been flying by at the speed of light.

Here’s what we’ve been up to…

  • 4th of July (see previous post)
  • Ben took the boys to see Finding Dory (they liked it but weren’t gaga over it)
  • Family bike ride with Karen and Don
  • Skyzone with the Smiths (Dayspring friends)
  • Production Team potluck out in the country
  • Ben and Luke rode in the Tour of Belleville with Karen and Don
  • Geoff, Gen, and the kiddos dropped by on their way back home to CO. We didn’t get to see them even a little, but I’m still counting it.
  • VBS. This was an awesome surprise. Luke is now too old for the VBS they used to attend and I didn’t even bother to look around for anything else. Some friends mentioned their VBS which goes up to age 12. It was all day, 9-4, M-F. The boys had a blast!
  • I got to visit my sweet little nephew, Grant.
  • My Making Peace with Your Past class started.
  • We officially signed up for classes at a local co-op.
  • The boys were sick the week after VBS.
  • I finally found a good hairdresser and got my first really good hair cut in a long time.
  • Attended an impromptu DCI viewing party up at Ben’s office which was really fun!
  • Luke attended guitar camp.
  • Two of Luke’s friends were able to come over and they all played Minecraft. Did you know entire conversations could be held using only one word?

“DU-UDE!” (You just shot me!)

“Dude?” (What? Me? Did I do that?)

“Dude!” (Yes, that was you. Now I’m dead. Thanks.)

“Dude.” (Opps, sorry. My bad.)


  • My sister, Anna, came over and brought her electric guitar. She and Luke had fun just playing around and talking guitars and music.
  • Game night with Paul and Amanda (and lots of playing with puppies)
  • A day out at the river.

Add in church, music lessons, chiro appts, and lots of volunteering at the thrift store and that pretty much sums up our July!

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El Roi: The God Who Sees Me

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Luke has really been coming into his own this past year. Some of the growth has been painful, but mostly it’s been good. He’s really finding his stride with music. It’s his talent. His thing. He loves playing the guitar and he’s good at it. Really good.

It’s only natural, then, that Gabe would take notice of all the positive attention his big brother is suddenly getting. He’s been asking a lot of questions lately about what we like about him, etc.

Today, as I was journaling, he came into my room and asked me what three words I’d use to describe him. I happily complied and he went on his way. A while later he came back in, kicked back on my bed, and asked if I thought he had any talents.


I tend to be more task oriented than people oriented, but God has slowly been changing this in me. I recognized that this was more than just a typical kid question. Something was weighing on his heart. I sat down by him and we had a discussion about what it means to find your gifts and talents.

I reminded him that Luke only just got into music. It might take him a while – even years – to really come into his own. I reminded him that God has given us gifts and talents and wants us to use them. He delights in us using those gifts and it’s how we advance the kingdom of God and love and care for others. I believe that with prayer and patience he will find what he’s good at and what he’s meant to do.

I encouraged him to do, explore, and develop whatever is placed before him now and that he may be surprised where it takes him. Some people discover what they’re good at or what they’re meant to do all at once, but others have a more winding path. You don’t need to see the whole staircase to take the first step.

We discussed developing his character and relationship with God first and to let the rest fall into place.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

I told him that I see that he has a real love of learning and that that’s an awesome gift in an of itself and that it can lead him to great things. He perked right up. Later, he came to me and said that he really needed more books about facts. He has a couple and he’s read over them again and again. I agreed and told him we’d look at the library the next time we visited.

Later in the day I went into the thrift store and sorted clothes for a while. The director was going through a bunch of random donations. She asked if I wouldn’t mind dropping off some books at the library and I told her that would be fine because I needed to go by there anyway.

When I got to the library I opened the back hatch and the books had come spilling out of their box. I read the covers as I put them back. Drug reference, drug reference, old encyclopedia…then I saw this:

(I can’t share the actual book right now, so here’s a placeholder)

I was so excited. I took hit home to Gabe and showed him. He was thrilled. Such a blessing.

He sees us and cares about what we care about. He knows what we’re struggling with and cares for us in those struggles. He is El-Roi, the God Who Sees (Me).

El Roi



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Never Settle

I’ve been seeing a quote making the rounds on FB.

“I can’t settle for just anything. My daughter is watching me.”


I know I could be reading too much into it, but it reeks of a stinky kind of feminism that I have very little tolerance for. The words “settle” and “just anything” seem very pointed to me in the above context. Like, “Girls, you need to break those glass ceilings otherwise you’re settling.”

I mean, wouldn’t

“I can’t settle for just anything. My children are watching me.”

be just as insightful and inspirational? If not more so?

Maybe it’s because I’m a #boymom. Maybe it’s because I’m a sahm. Maybe it’s because I’m a homeschooling mom. I don’t know. It just makes me sad and I feel like it’s kind of missing the point.

I think someone else said it better.

Here’s what I think:

If you want to tell your daughters – or sons – something, tell them this:

There are a million and one ways to settle.

Personally, I want my boys to live lives that are in alignment with God’s will for them. I want my boys to live lives that demonstrate His power and grace. I want them to discover their God-given talents and gifts and calling and live lives that are deeply fulfilling and purposeful and satisfying.

If this is what I want for my guys then I need to focus less on what they’re going to do and focus more on who they’re going to be. Because here’s the bottom line:

People with purpose change the world.

People with passion change the world.

People who exercise their gifts and talents change the world.

People who are confident in their calling change the world

People who have vision change the world.

People with character change the world.

People who are teachable change the world.

People who love God and love others change the world.

If your specific calling requires that you get a certain level of education then pursue it.

If your specific calling leads to you being wealthy, famous, influential, or powerful, then so be it.

If your specific calling leads to impressive titles, big paychecks, recognition, and letters after your name then rock it.

But make no mistake. Don’t be fooled. While these things are not bad things in and of themselves, by themselves they are empty.

All of the education, wealth, fame, influence, power, fancy titles, hefty paychecks, recognition, and letters are empty in and of themselves. They don’t mean anything and they alone can never satisfy our souls.

When we’re pushed into pursuing things that don’t truly, deeply, personally matter to us, but are told should matter, then we just end up feeling hollowed out. We live lives rife with comparison, jealousy, bitterness, and hopelessness. We are constantly second-guessing ourselves and unable to live our lives all out because we lack confidence that that’s what we’re actually called to do. We’re always looking at the people around us and seeing how we measure up. We desperately need recognition and validation that our way is the right way because that’s all that we really have to keep us going. It’s the only thing that quiets that persistent little voice that says, “But what if…?”

Talk about settling.

We were created for so much more.

Don’t settle. Never settle.

16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:16-19



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I Tried It and I Liked It: Gluten Free Pizza Crust

It wasn’t too long ago that I was complaining about the lack of a really good gluten-free pizza crust. There are a lot of boxed options out there, and some are pretty tasty, but I’m still not thrilled with the ingredients. I really wanted to find a recipe that I could make myself but still taste good.

I’ve been enjoying recipes with tapioca powder. It lends some fluffiness to baked goods and does a lot to improve the text of almond/coconut flour recipes. The thought occurred to me one day to see if someone had come up with a tapioca pizza crust and lo and behold Pinterest held the answer.

Bravo for Paleo features this pizza crust recipe.

It’s easy and perfect!



We topped ours with Kirkland’s organic marinara sauce, pepperoni, and goat cheddar. It makes a thin crust which is what we prefer anyway.

I’m so happy to have found this recipe. I have a feeling we’ll be having pizza more often than we probably should for a while.

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The Ultimate Thrift Store Score

I love thrift stores. Always have, always will. My devotion wavered a bit in the past 5ish years. It seemed that a lot of the local thrift stores thought pretty highly of themselves and were selling items for a lot more than they were worth. Stores were dirty and unorganized, clothes had to be inspected thoroughly for imperfections, and so on. I used to be able to come home loaded down with clothes and lately I spend two hours and come home with 3 or 4 decent pieces. Just not worth it.

Until now.

Sometime after we moved, I noticed a little thrift store by a local church. The sign boasted 25 cent clothing. I assumed it was a charity for people in need and that the clothes were probably pretty awful. I never bothered to stop in.

In December, we ended up attending that local church and have recently been getting plugged in. At our membership class, I met with the woman who founded and runs the thrift store to talk about volunteering. I was really impressed with her high standards of excellence and quality and her heart for the community.

A few weeks ago the boys and I toured the store and I was blown away. It was clean and brightly painted. Everything was neat and orderly and organized. All of the clothes are gone through, one by one, and anything with holes, rips, stains, missing buttons, etc are thrown into salvage. Anything that’s in really pristine condition is sold at their boutique where things for for a dollar or two. Everything else is sold for 25 cents.

All of the work is done by volunteers which means that, after operating expenses, all of the money goes back into the community. For instance, 300 local children will have all of their school supplies provided for them. They sign up in advance, lists are secured from their school, and everything is purchased and assembled by volunteers. On the day of pick-up, there is a celebration with free hot dogs and snow cones and a bubble truck. A beginning-of-the-year celebration.

How cool is that?

So, I’ve been working there now for a few weeks and am really loving the ladies who volunteer, the work that I do, and the money I save by shopping there! Love, love, love! I’m thrilled to be at a church at serves the community and makes it easy to jump in and get involved.

This is an especially great time to get involved because they are doing some re-branding and updates and promotions so it’ll be neat to see the impact and influence that is generated as a result. I can’t wait to see how this turns out!

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Family Bike Ride

“Ever take it off any sweet jumps?”

I don’t ride bikes often.

Correction. I never ride bikes.

Correction. I used to ride all the time as a kid, but only once since becoming an adult.

After Luke got his new bike, and I’d hopped on to try it, it occurred to me that the reason I didn’t (or thought I didn’t) like riding is because I’d never had a bike that fit me. I’m short and they were always too tall and I couldn’t stop without crashing. It was terrifying!

Ben and Luke are doing a bike ride this Friday with Karen and Don. They wanted to get some riding in so Don said he’d bring his trailer and bikes over. I usually don’t bother riding because I don’t have a bike and because Gabe doesn’t know how to ride a bike yet and can only do 1 lap on his scooter before pooping out.

Don had a solution for that:

I’d never seen anything like that! Ben hooked it up to his bike and Gabe was able to ride along and practice pedaling.

So one problem solved.

I still didn’t have a bike, but Don had an extra. I was skeptical that it would fit me. It was close, but I still wasn’t comfortable.

Don had a solution for that, too.

He’d also brought along a girl’s bike. Perfect fit!

It was also purple so double score.

We loaded it all up and met over at Route 66 park. It was pretty muggy out, but we still got 3 laps in and enjoyed ourselves. Ben was exhausted by the tagalong bike, which meant that he tired at the same rate as the rest of us instead of feeling like he had to quit way early.

I had a blast and cannot wait to go out again!

I cracked myself up, though. Here I was wobbling along on a girl’s purple bike that had been sitting in storage for years. It was in good condition, but the brakes were insanely loud! You know the typical screeching brake sound? Errrrrrrrrrrr! Yup, that was me. It sounded like a small car was slamming on the brakes every time I turned a corner.

“Comin’ in hot!”


I really had a good time though and have already been scouring Craigslist for used bikes. In purple, of course.


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The Rocket’s Red Glare

We went from having insanely hot weather to rain. Lots and lots and lots of rain. Our grass sorely needed it so I’ll refrain from complaining, but it did put a damper (womp womp) on our holiday celebrations.

On Saturday we went over to Ben’s office to watch the city’s fireworks display. Because of the drizzling rain they started the show 10 minutes early and then I guess they panicked and decided they’d better hurry and finish up so they rushed the last of the show and it was a bunch of non-stop fireworks, all right on top of each other. It was interesting to say the least.

On Sunday Ben took the boys to see Finding Dory. They all really enjoyed the movie. I usually hang back because I’m a princess and only like the fancy reclining theater seats. I know they’ll want to watch it again when it’s released to DVD so I’ll see it then.

We spent Monday afternoon over at Paul and Amanda’s. As soon as she opened the front door there were two little puppy faces waiting expectantly at the top of the stairs. Oh my, the cuteness!

We got home right as it was getting dark. Tim had bought some of the really big (and really loud) fireworks. He set them off one by one to take pictures. It was our own private show.

Fireworks2 Fireworks3 Fireworks4 Fireworks1

You know how loud those big ones can be? Try standing right under one as it’s going off! Whew-eee! What a blast. We’re not ones to spend money on fireworks, but next year we may go in on a few of these big guys.

It was was a fairly tame weekend, but it was still good. We’re grateful for our independence and for the men and women who fought to make this unique nation what it is. I only hope that we can turn our nation back to that which was so hard won. I don’t think we’re too far gone. I think there’s still hope. If not our generation, then the next.


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Luke is 12!

Poor Luke! LOL. We really did celebrate his birthday this year. You just wouldn’t know it by the pictures I took. Or didn’t take.

Last year we did a big to-do for his birthday and this year I just didn’t have it in me. We gave him the option of cash or a big birthday party and he chose the cash (for a guitar, of course). We still have family out and I’ll usually let him invite a friend or two, but I just wasn’t up to a big party. We invited family, had cake, ice-cream, and gifts, and that was that.

He got some neat accessories for his bike, lots of cash, and some neat tinker toy-type sets.

He was able to get his guitar and loves it. His old guitar is for sale and as soon as it sells he’s going to take the money from that, along with the rest of his money, and buy a bass guitar.

Music obsessed much?

Of all of the things for him to be obsessed with, this one is fine with me.

Luke. 3 months old.

Luke. 3 months old.

I’ll just leave this here….

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Random Reads: Conspiracies of the Ruling Class

It’s fitting that I’ve finished this book just before the 4th of July.


I stumbled upon this book at the library and was instantly hooked. It’s one that I could only read in spurts because I’d get so annoyed and frustrated.

And inspired.

But even though it was just a beginning, our commemoration of July 4, 1776 is entirely justified. It marks the first time in the history of mankind that a governing document such as the Constitution declared formally that the purpose of government was to serve the people, not the other way around. Moreover, our Declaration stated that it was the obligation of the people to serve as a constant check on that government, and that if all else failed, it was their right to revise it to better suit their needs or even throw it out altogether. This was the truly revolutionary idea declared on that day, not independence. History is full of acts of one people declaring freedom from another. But the Declaration  was first in asserting boldly and directly that the only reason for government’s existence was to preserve the liberty of its citizens.



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