Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Life Well Lived

I've been feeling introspective lately, so I dug up some old bones. I braved spiders and their webs in our crawl space to get to the ignored tubs marked "memorabilia" Mitch and I collected before we were married...which is so long ago now, that it feels like a past life. In fact, on February 8th of this year I had been married to Mitch exactly half of my life. And just a couple weeks ago, on August 16th, Mitch had been married to me exactly half his life. As someone who loves to celebrate the number of days of marriage, you would think I wouldn't let that one slip by me. But I did the calculations a few months ago and then somehow managed to not write them down in my calendar. Oh well, anyway, both of us have been married to each other for more than half our lives. And that's a really cool feeling.

I went to the tubs to acquire my old journals. I felt I needed to remember some of the stories written there. I was pretty amazed at how much I had actually forgotten. I also discovered that I was actually more of a brat than I remember being, and that I'm still pretty much the same person inside. That was kind of weird and kind of good. Sure I've grown and changed, but the essence of who I am is the same. 

In my digging, I came across a 3-ring binder my maternal grandmother had sent me in 2003. It contained all the letters I had written to her between 1992 and 2002, as well as printed copies of emails, some into 2003. She did the same for my sister. I got to wondering how long she sent that to me before she died. Did she feel close to dying? It is neat to have now, but I wondered how she approached end-of-life. I distinctly remember her telling me not to plan a trip to come visit because she wished I would remember her and Papaw "like they used to be." It's terribly sad. 

{The last time I saw Grannyham and Papaw was in March 2000. Micah was 2.5 and Eden was almost a year.}

I texted Sister and asked her if she could remember when Grannyham had died. She said no, so I turned to Google, which of course knows everything. Indeed, I immediately turned up her obituary, and got my answer--July 5, 2007. Ten years ago. Wow. It seems like ages and ages. I still don't have the answers to all my questions, but I will continue to ponder. I have many more memories to dig through. That's not what brought me to write this post. My grandmother's obituary was the top Google hit on my search. The second hit was what caught my eye. It was for my Aunt Mildred, and that's what brought me here.

I only vaguely remember Aunt Mildred from my childhood. She was older than my grandmother by 2.5 years. My grandmother made a special memory book that she photocopied for each of her grandchildren, and she wrote about Mildred in there. Mildred had a special role in introducing my grandfather to my grandmother. The most recent memory I had of my great-aunt was from 22 years ago. She lived in San Antonio, TX. In all my 18 years the furthest west I had ever been was probably Lexington, KY (as far as I recall, anyway!). I had joined the Voices of Appalachia choir at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, KY, and participated in the spring break tour in 1995. We went to Texas. My mom was able to get my great aunt's phone number, and she and her daughter Joan attended our concert. 

 {Aunt Mildred, Me, and Joan}

 {Statue of Pippa at the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University}

{Our choir, led by Richard Kennedy}

We only had a few minutes together, and though I regretted it then, I regret it even more today. Before now, I didn't know anything about Mildred. But here are some remarkable things I got from her obituary:

1) She named her first daughter after her little sister, my grandmother
2) After she raised her children, she went back to school and got her master's degree.
3) She became a nurse, and worked for 35 years.
4) She retired at the ripe, young age of 87. Do the math on that. She began her career, after raising her children, at age 52.
5) She died this past December, just before her 92nd birthday.

I was astounded. 

A few weeks ago, I laid in bed pondering long term goals. Since Eden graduated this year, and Micah is off to college, we are often answering other people's questions about our kids' long term goals. But what about ours? Are we doing any long range planning? Where do we see ourselves in 10 years? 

Ten years from now, Genesis will be 12 years old. Obi, Mercy, and Genna will be the only children left in school (not counting college) (Lord willing, that will be homeschool). I will be 50 (or maybe I'll just be "49 again"). Opportunities for me and Mitch may be starting to open up, not close down. 

Aunt Mildred's life is an inspiration. I know I'm not guaranteed a long life. But to me it is amazing to see that many things can be accomplished in a small amount of time. We are so often reminded to live each day to the fullest, and that is very good advice. But sometimes I forget to remember that I can still have hopes for the future, even if it is not guaranteed that I will live to see it. I had a completely different set of long-term goals when I met Aunt Mildred at age 18. Sometimes I think the door was permanently shut on those goals. But now I think that they could be on the horizon still, and maybe not very far off.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

2017 Curriculum Picks for Theis Homeschool

I'm torn between writing an update post and writing our annual back to school post. Back to School wins this morning because it's easier to write. :)

A super short update on where we are at the end of the summer: Mitch is reluctantly getting ready to go back to school on Monday. He's spending his last few days of break helping Grant in the shop and tending to his honeybees. It's almost time to harvest honey. This has been a very good year for splitting hives, and he is hopeful that many of his queens and nucs will survive the winter. If so, he will sell bees next spring. Working in the shop with Grant has been a blessing. Micah is all moved in to St. Cloud State University. He has actually been there since the beginning of August, training to be a Community Advisor. He is on the Criminal Justice floor of his dorm. He is really enjoying the position. Judging by the books that arrived a few days ago, he is going to have an informative semester. Eden landed in Germany yesterday. She saw Patrick and some of his family, and they helped her get to her final destination to see Kathi. Last night she went to bed in Oerlinghausen. Oh my heart!

10 years of homeschooling under my belt! Crazy!

Ok, on to year 11.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dream Trip to Germany

I blogged every day while Mitch was in Ukraine. Once he went to Germany, I didn't blog at all. I knew I would regret He has a lot of stories and memories, and there's no way I can share it all. He was welcomed by Kathi and her family, then by Patrick and his family. Both families were amazing hosts and he had an amazing trip. I will share a small part of it. (This doesn't include any of Kathi's or Patrick's pictures, nor any of the great videos Mitch has to share.)

 {Kathi and Mitch, and a castle way in the background. Castles are so very cool.}

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Last Day in Horol

Today was a sweet time of celebrating and goodbyes. Victoria and Mitch sent me pictures. I have so many, that there's no way I can share them all!

First off, I have the video message they filmed yesterday...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Day 10 of Ukraine Trip

At about 20 minutes to 4 pm my time, I had nearly given up on getting to talk to Mitch again today. But within a few minutes, he texted me--even though it was nearly midnight his time. He said they had been super busy packing gift bags for all the volunteers (35), and that Heather is awesome at that! (p.s. Calvary family, that's what all the peanut butter and brown sugar was for, plus more items).

They had a quiet morning today. At some point they drove back out to the sunflower field for more pictures and to record a message for our church family. That will play tomorrow, so I'm not going to post it until then. But you can see the great pictures! They also went shopping this morning for food and supplies.

 {Oksana and Heather at breakfast}

Friday, July 14, 2017

Day 9 of trip, Final day of VBS Kids' Camp in Ukraine

I have many beautiful pictures to share tonight from the last day of kids' camp and from the team's trip out to the village. Sorry for the long delay. Today was the first day that I finally was able to make head-way on my to-do list. Once I caught that momentum, I didn't want to stop!

I seriously have so many pictures, I'm not sure where to start. :)

Our team started out the day at VBS and Mitch provided some pre-exercise entertainment by juggling.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Day 8 of trip, Day 4 of VBS Kids' Camp in Ukraine

Today was a rainy day! Mitch said that they got lots of hard rain. Because of the rain, some campers didn't come today. But 15 new children came, and a total of 150 children were there. You are going to want to read all the way to the bottom for a great compilation video Mitch just sent me.

{Vica helping lead exercises, I tried following along the hand motions they are doing and, well, I'm just not that talented. ;)}

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Day 7 of trip, Day 3 of VBS Kids' Camp in Ukraine

Today was a great day!!

First off, someone made sure I got these photos from the American meal. They love me. :)
 {This plate of corn dogs Victoria is holding looks so good that now I want to try this recipe here when Mitch gets home. Great job, team!}

{Gathered for the American meal.}

Now on to today. Thank you for your prayers for the weather. Storms were forecast for today, but they didn't hit until after camp was done. Pastor Grigorii said that it was good to get rain for the farmers. Then Mitch said, "God kept the storm from our harvest, and brought the storm for the farmer's harvest." Pastor added, "Our harvest is more important though." Even more children came today, for a total of 170!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Day 6 of trip, Day 2 of VBS Kids Camp in Ukraine

The team had another great day in Ukraine!

I'm having some technical difficulties on my end with photos, but I'll start writing and in the meantime I'm hoping that everything I need will finish uploading. Maybe I already used my daily allowance of WiFi data? LOL It's finally working. Can I get a "Hallelujah"?

Today I talked with Mitch a few times. He had a lot of trouble sleeping last night, so he was awake when we were going to bed (4 a.m. his time). I did send some unisom with him, so if he doesn't sleep well tonight (or right now, actually), I hope that tomorrow night he will take it. It was sweet though because he got to say good night to the kids. We had a little fun with the Facebook Messenger app.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Day 5 of trip, Day 1 of VBS Kids Camp in Ukraine

Today I got many great pictures and videos of the first day of kids' camp/VBS. I enjoyed a quiet phone call with Mitch too, which was a blessing.

 {Heading to camp}

Today took a lot of organization and orientation. Kids arrived at all different times, so some got to play longer while others didn't really get a chance to play. When kids arrived, they got registered, then received a hat and a t-shirt. The backdrop I had a picture of yesterday makes a great photo booth, and kids had cameras or cell phones and were taking pictures by it. Mitch said that the kids rotate through 3 stations--crafts, Bible time, and sports. They spend an hour in each, except the last 15 min of sports is actually snack time. It actually got quite hot today and they were all feeling it! After the snack, they have a closing time with songs and a skit.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

The 1st Sunday in Ukraine

I got a lot of pictures and a video today!

{Nightly devotions with Pastor Grigorii}

I know this is a precious time for the team. One of my favorite things about being on a short-term missions trip is the focused time for devotions and time in the Word. While I have a personal time each day where I read the Bible and pray, it is special to be in a small group--sometimes of people that I don't know very well--and to share together. I hope these are times of renewal and refreshment for the team, that they are fruitful and unifying. Our team members are taking turns leading each night. 

{The Horol Church}

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Day 3 in Ukraine

It's so strange that when I am going to bed, Mitch is almost waking up, and he is headed to bed when it is still afternoon here. Anyway, it gives me lots of daylight to write a blog post!

Last night Mitch woke up around 3 a.m. his time and struggled to get back to sleep. Finally, around 4:30 a.m. (8:30 p.m. my time) he gave up trying to get back to sleep and texted me instead. We texted back and forth a little while, but eventually he decided to just get up and get started with sermon prep for Sunday morning. I decided it was time to wrangle the kids and send them to bed.

As I headed to bed I looked outside and was surprised to see a full moon rising in the pink of the setting sun.

I asked him if he could see the moon setting, since it was rising here. By that point, it was already blocked by hills, but instead he sent me the sunrise over Zhenya's hothouse...

Friday, July 07, 2017

Day 2 in Ukraine

I was able to talk with Mitch via Facebook Messenger app today. The kids were all excited to say hi and "see" their daddy. We also got to say hi to their host family and the rest of the team, and received a blessing from Pastor Grigorii.

Last night after arriving in Horol, our team got out some of the sports equipment they brought and taught the family how to play 4-Square. Mitch said they played for hours (which is funny considering how long they had been awake). Victoria made a time-lapse video, so I hope to see that. :) One of the translators whom we've been friends with for nearly a decade, AJ, said that he is very competitive and he loves the new game now. Mitch is really competitive too...I'd like to see those two have a game after Mitch is rested up. Haha. I wish I had sent Mitch's knee braces now. :)

{Here is an old picture of Mitch and AJ from 9 years ago on Mitch's first trip to Ukraine. I bet they both think they are still this young.}

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Made it to Ukraine!

We said our goodbyes to Mitch yesterday morning, after a crazy morning of finishing up packing and getting ready for the trip. I took him to church, where a group of people gathered to pray over the team (Mitch and two others from our church). After the time of prayer (we were running late), we shuffled and weighed the checked bags again. They could each bring 3 large suitcases, but they had to be under 50 lbs each. This one was over, that one was get the idea. Mitch took quite a bit of heavy stuff in his carry-on bag. And we even took out a few pounds of less-needed items and put them back into storage for the next trip. Someone snapped pictures of the contents in each bag (in case they were lost). Then it was really time for me to say goodbye. I could have easily been crying all morning, so at this point, when Mitch leaned over and gave me a kiss on the head, I had to make a run for the car where I felt I could cry and get it over with. ;) 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Return to Ukraine

Now that the official arrangements have been made, I can announce that Mitch will be returning to Ukraine in July to offer support to the ministry of our sister church in Khorol. He will be travelling with two other people from our church, and they will be in Ukraine for 12 days.

On the way back, Mitch will return through Frankfurt and stay in Germany for an extra week to visit Kathi and Patrick and their families. He is so excited for a reunion with them! I'm so thankful that it worked out for Mitch to go there this year. We have dreamed about it and hoped it would work out.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Whoo! Malachi is 10!

Last week we celebrated Chi guy's 10th birthday! It's hard to believe he is TEN years old. That's so big! On the other hand, Malachi can do so many things now, that it feels good to finally be able to say he is 10 years old.

{All that remained of his cookie Mrs. E brought over...I failed to get a picture before he enjoyed it.}

Malachi's birthday fell on the first Friday of June this year, which is National Donut Day. We also got a dozen donuts to share. And we figured out when the next time his birthday will be on National Donut Day again, since this is the first time it's ever been on his will be when he's 16. I think it's so appropriate, since he is my boy who loves sweets the most.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Obadiah just turned 6!

I miss my blogging days, but at least these birthdays rolling through are keeping me a little bit accountable. ;)  This time our Obi Wan Kenobi took a turn in the birthday seat.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Eden has reached adulthood!

Somehow, unbelievably, Eden went from this:

to this:

And I just don't even know how that happened!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mercy's 4th birthday

I'm not sure why, but I felt a particular excitement for Mercy to turn 4 years old. Maybe it was because I know that she's old enough to understand what a birthday is and look forward to it. It's her last year as a preschooler!

{Licking the cake batter}

{She didn't want to share with Genna, but Mommy knows what's best!}

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Genesis Grace is 2 years old!

We celebrated Genna's birthday a week ago. It's so fun to have a 2 year old. Genna is full of personality, and I've got pictures to show a little of it.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

One month with Eevee

Eevee (as we finally decided to call her) has been with us for one month now, and we are so blessed! Taking Eevee on a walk is one of my favorite things to do. I feel so proud to have such a beautiful girl walking beside me. But I encourage Zeke to walk her as much as possible, since this is a great way to build a relationship.

Keep reading for more pictures from the past month!

20 years!

I'm kind of going in reverse order for January...our anniversary happened before Caleb's birthday...but this is how it is today. 

This month we marked our 20th anniversary. 
The celebration will have to come later.
I am so deeply thankful to God for 20 years of marriage to my love.
It's not easy but God's grace has made it possible.

Caleb's Sweet Sixteen

The calendar flipped to a new year and didn't slow down a beat! We have been sick since the beginning of January and I thought I would blog when I felt better. With no end in sight, I am resolved to blog without feeling better.

The first order of business is Caleb's birthday! It seems that he should still be a small fry, but...sigh...that's not how it works. I can't believe he's 16. Really.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How about a ton of Christmas photos?

We were once again overwhelmingly blessed this Christmas season. Our parents are so generous and set an example for how I hope to be as our children grow up and move out. I tease the kids and say that we had so many kids so they will take care of us when we get older...but in reality I hope that we can be a blessing to them for many decades to come. Our holiday has been mostly quiet and relaxing.

As I approached gift-giving this year, I tried to follow the same theme that we did last year: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. It was a helpful guide, though I didn't really get something for everyone in the "something you need" category. Some kids (like Josh) had a bag full of clothes, while other kids (like Micah) only had a couple things...I guess that was based more on what they needed or what they asked for. I am pleased that we were able to get something for each kid that they really wanted.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Dog's Tale

To find out how we got here,we have to go back a ways...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fall Semester Winding Down

As the fall semester winds down, I find myself looking forward to a break. Our break is shorter this year than normal, but since we had a longer-than-expected Thanksgiving break, it evens out.

Some fun things happening here:

~Obi is now in All About Reading Level 1, and is reading his first words. I made a lot of hoopla about it, and he is so proud.
~Eden just finished her last final today. Only one more semester of high school to go--and she will graduate with her AA degree from the community college.
~Micah was accepted to St. Cloud State University for the spring semester and is waiting for his advising day so he can sign up for classes.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Thanksgiving, etc.

I didn't forget I have a blog, but it sure feels like I forgot. I have been doing relatively well keep school on schedule through the morning and after lunch. By the time Genna is down for a nap and school is done for the day, the kids are often begging for "screen time" and I am more inclined to give it to them at that point. Unfortunately, that leaves me with no computer time. It does, however, leave me time for other things. I have enjoyed reaching one of my goals for the school year--spending regular time in prayer and quiet time (for journaling) each afternoon. I love using the app PrayerMate (android or itunes) to organize and keep me on track. It has been a sweet time for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Zeke is 13

I can't believe I almost forgot to blog about this! There's another "teenager" in our house...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Papaw Jim and Lydia

I was thrilled when I received a text from my dad that he had the opportunity to come to Minnesota for a visit. I hadn't seen him for 3 years (when Mercy was 1 month old), and the kids hadn't seen him for 6 years (when we went on a huge trip with Patrick). Obi and Genna had never met him! And he hadn't been to Minnesota in almost 13 years (it's mostly too cold here...hehe).

My dad's wife Lydia had a training to attend in Duluth the first week of October, so they made a big trip of it all. I'm so thankful she dragged my dad along.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Family Pictures part pics

We got out Friday afternoon and took the kids' individual pictures. I am still sorting through the mess. I need to wait a few more days before I decide on my final favorites to print. I'm sure the older kids would like to give their input too. But here are some quick collages I picked out.

Minus Micah...I didn't put a collage together of him. I think I'll print his cap and gown photo for the wall.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Good Deal

My grandmothers taught me to be a thrifty shopper. This skill was invaluable when I got married, though I don't claim to be the best. I often miss good deals or spend too much money and realize it later. I rarely clip coupons, though I do grab what I can at the grocery store and stock up on sales of items that we use frequently. Early in our marriage Mitch and I made mistakes and within a few years found ourselves under a burden of debt that we didn't have the means to escape. We took Dave Ramsey's course, Mitch changed jobs to increase our income, but we were still unable to fix the mess ourselves. I tell people, "We flunked Financial Peace University."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Family Pictures 2016 edition!

Micah warned us a couple months ago that come September, he was leaving. He has changed his direction a few times since then, but the date of departure has only varied by a few days. I finally got serious about trying to find a time to take family pictures before he left, but it seemed to elude us. He was planning to leave today, so my time was pretty much up. Last night we got it done. I didn't take individual shots, but I got the family ones. Here they are, along with some extras!