Wednesday, December 30, 2015

End of the Year Wrap Up

I haven't felt like writing much lately. I can't say that it's because I'm much busier than any other times in life. Certainly I have a couple of things more on my plate (schooling a struggling reader, having a very active toddler under foot, and a baby on board has its challenges), but that usually doesn't take up any time at night. Maybe it's the lack of energy, or the added stresses that have taken away my desire to write...I kinda miss it.

Not that this post is going to turn into a regular event (like I might want it to), but it's long overdue and I feel the need to wrap up the year, especially for the kids when and if they ever read any of these ramblings.

Roman and Lucy

After lots of talk, prayers, tears, and some very sweet kids changing their favorite dog to be the other kid's favorite dog, we adopted Roman and Lucy from our foster dog's surviving 10 pups. Tom and the kids have really enjoyed them. I think they leave a lot of hair and dirt wherever they go, chew expensive shoes, and...they are pretty sweet, but don't tell the the kids I said so.


After lots of talk about taking the family camping again  (it's been in the works for at least two years), we finally made it happen. I actually have to give all the credit (or blame :>) to Tom...I could've been just as happy to have stayed at home (what a wet blanket I am sometimes).

We had a bit of a rough start to our trip: packing for 2 adults,5 kids, and 3 dogs (two are ours, one was another of Anya's pups that we were caring for until family from Chicago could come and take him home) proved a bit more complicated than originally anticipated, loading the trailer in the rain was a bit of a hassle, after finally getting on the road and driving for 20 minutes and having a tire on the trailer blow immediately following a prayer that we wouldn't have a blow-out because we didn't have a spare, finally getting to our destination (Christopher Creek near Payson) the next day after taking the l o n g way that included a side trip to an unreachable spot. Yeah. It was a fun start.

Looking back, I do have some fond memories of the experience. The kids and Tom will tell you how awesome everything was: the blow-out, the puking dogs, catching crayfish, going fishing, sunbathing in your skivvies... I've read that every family should go camping not because it's the best time in the world, filled with only highlights. No. You go because of all the obstacles you face and conquer that make the better memories. I agree. We have lots of memories.

I brought my journal with me on this "adventure" and I titled my entry (because I could), "Cutlip Camping, A Series of Unfortunate Events".

Here are some of the pictures (not one of the Mama, not that I noticed):

Announcing: 1 + 1 + 1 +1 + 1 = 6. Get it?

Baby #7

Even though I was very content with the 5 rambunctious kiddos that we have running around the house, God has seen fit to give us another. Another boy, at that. Coming March of 2016. 

Back Patio

After lots and lots of planning, prepping, and working, we finally have a back patio (after 5+ years of walking out onto three small concrete slabs shoved together)! Tom put in a lot of late night hours to get it done, and we're so glad it's done. He did a great job!! Thanks, honey!


Birthdays are those events that really mark the passage of time. From July until now, there were five out of eight birthdays.

Ben ~ 7 years old (July)

Unfortunately for Ben's birthday, I forgot to bring my camera to his actual party :(. We had it at the new bike park in Flagstaff. The boys had a blast riding their bikes up, down and around the curves and hills. Best thing - mama didn't have to plan any games!

Sammy ~ 9 years old (September)

For Sammy's party, he wanted an invite-everybody-after-church-potluck with an ice cream bar. It was a blast! Again, so nice for this mama, no games to plan:).

Tom ~ 45 years old

Also in September was Tom's birthday. I was a bad wife. I have no pictures. I do love you, my love. I truly do!!

Danner ~ 2 years old (October)

The current baby of the family turned 2 - wow! We didn't do much for him - he's two; he's not going to remember. Until, of course, he reads this blog; or one of his older siblings tells him that we didn't love him enough to give him a real party. "Not true, Danner. Don't believe them. None of them got parties at your age, except for maybe Livvy and Sammy, and that's only because we didn't know better ;)."

My first attempt at fondant (homemade with marshmallows)
- results were okay, but I'm not sure I would do it again.

Livvy ~ 11 years old (November)

After going to a Full-Circle Operation Christmas Child story event, Livvy decided that she wanted an OCC birthday party. Her goal was to fill 20 boxes. She sent out letters to friends and family asking for money to either help sponsor one or two boxes to cover the $7 shipping donation, or fill the boxes. She saved her allowance and any other money she made from summer lemonade stands or other ventures. She made, or had help making, rubber-band bracelets, draw-string bags, and tie-dye t-shirts. We also went to several local stores and asked for donations of school or toiletry items. 

Instead of friends bringing gifts to her party, they all brought money to go shopping for items to go in the Christmas boxes. It was a huge success! The girls and I (really just the chauffeur) had a blast shopping at the dollar store and Walmart for needed items. They had enough money to fill and send 30 boxes! She wants to do it again next year. Go girl, go!


As with most worthy undertakings, this homeschooling thing has lots of ups and downs, trials and triumphs. When the downs and trials hit, I'm bombarded with thoughts of all the things my kids are "missing out on", all my faults and failures, how I'm ruining my kids because of my struggles, the humongous job that lies ahead that seems nearly impossible, how they'd be better off if they could.... When we have times of triumph, I am so grateful that I have this awesome opportunity to walk with my kids through all these seasons of learning, to learn along with them, to enter into thought provoking discussions regarding pretty much everything, not just what we're learning about. It's a roller coaster for sure (and honestly, I hate roller coasters), but I'm glad we're in it together.

This year for history in school we are studying from the world from the early 1600's until the 1850's. I continue to be amazed at how 1) history does truly repeat itself, 2) history is full of adventure, intrigue, murder, power-hungry men and women, and complicated relationships of peoples, countries and historians themselves (old and new), and 3) much they did/do not teach in public middle school - I'm learning SO much!

In science we're looking at all of the kingdoms of life. So far we've covered most of the vertebrates and are moving quickly through the invertebrates so that we can end the year covering plant life. We've dissected owl pellets, frogs, grasshoppers, and worms - it's been fun!

The Men Go Hunting

Tom got drawn for elk this year! Last year he wasn't drawn, the year before that he was drawn but saw nothing, the year before that... Well. It's been awhile.

After much prepping, Tom and Sammy finally hit the road late Thursday night for the start of their hunt early Friday morning. They slept in the bed of the truck that night and started hiking hills the next day to see if they could spot anything.

On about the third hill, they were looking around, enjoying the view, when Sammy saw what he thought was a rabbit. Since they hadn't seen or shot at anything all morning, he was itching to have Dad shoot something. Tom got out the range-finder, and calculated the distance to be 190 yards. He got out his gun, made the necessary adjustments and fired.

Nothing. Turns out the "rabbit" was a cleverly disguised fallen tree. But, out of the corner of his eye, Sammy sees three elk, spooked by the noise, running running straight for the "rabbit". With not enough time to get out his elk call, Tom mimicked the sound of a baby elk with his mouth, the three elk stopped, Tom aimed and...we have meat in the freezer! Yeah!!

That's really all of the events that I can think of at the moment. Also, it's past my bed time - it's actually earlier than when I normally go to bed, but I'm always striving to get to bed "on-time", meaning earlier than my usual.

Merry late Christmas and Happy early New Year!!

Just the kids.
Kids plus one dog.
Kids plus two dogs.
Total chaos.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Napkins From Heaven

Way back in college we had a joke about praying for napkins from heaven. Not any old, used napkin mind you. A napkin from heaven with words from God written directly to us, answering a prayer, providing evidence of God's listening ear.

There were days, months and even years when my college roommates, or gals from Bible study, and I would pray the same thing over and over. The path seemed so unclear. Our lives were so uncertain back then: what to study in school, where to live the next year, would Mr. Right ever show up and when?

Trust God. Trust His good, pleasing and perfect will was the only answer we had. And, honestly, it is a good answer.'s a hard answer. We were still left with so many seemingly unanswered questions and prayers.

Mostly desiring a napkin from heaven was to provide undeniable proof of God, His intimate knowledge and concern for our daily lives, and His plan.

Although I have stopped praying for napkins from heaven (so many prayers from way back then have long since been answered, though new ones are always being prayed), the desire for clear, hard evidence of God's work in my life on a daily basis has not gone away. Unlike the hundreds of years between visions from God that are recorded in the Old Testament, I want it daily, or at least weekly evidence - I am so weak! When it's not clear, or times are hard, my vision gets cloudy and I start to doubt, big time doubt.

I was experiencing one of those times recently.
At the end of April after completely fencing in our back yard, we started looking at getting a couple of dogs (the reason for the fence). We thought it would be great to get dogs that weren't "fixed" so that we could experience the whole mama dog giving birth, etc. Come to find out, it's kinda hard to get an unfixed dog, and there is quite an over abundance of puppies that are in search of homes.

Though a series of seemingly God events, I met a gal that suggested we foster a pregnant mama dog. I had never heard of fostering a dog, but thought the idea sounded great. We'd get to experience the birthing process and adopt two puppies in the process.

After meeting another gal from Blackhat Humane Society, an organization that rescues abandoned or stray animals on the Navajo Reservation, I printed up their foster agreement form. For whatever reason I didn't fill it out or e-mail it for quiet some time. I just kept shuffling it back and forth on my desk.

After a couple of weeks of hum-hawing about it, I finally filled it in and e-mailed it late one Sunday night. Within five minutes I got an e-mail back saying that the gal that I had met weeks before had earlier that day picked up a stray pregnant dog in Gallup, NM. We e-mailed each other back and forth for awhile until we set a date and place for picking up the dog.

As a family we spent a very fun day visiting the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest waiting until we could pick up our foster dog, whom was given the name Anya, near Sanders, AZ. Everything was going so well. We picked her and headed home praising God for how He had orchestrated all the events leading up to us getting a dog. It was pretty close to a napkin from heaven.

Then after having Anya for five days, waiting anxiously for her to give birth, on Mother's Day, she got out of a small hole in the side fence. We looked everywhere. We put up fliers. I was devastated. Not because I loved the dog so much, but because of what I thought it revealed about God.

The following Sunday on our way home from church, after pretty much giving up hope of finding Anya, I stopped at the local general store just down the road from us to put up a flier. One last ditch effort to see if anybody had spotted "our" dog.

That night after putting the kids to bed, Tom and I were sitting on the couch in the game room like we usually do, chatting about the day, etc. I was expressing all my questions, frustrations and doubts regarding this good God that we serve. Why would He bring us a dog and then take it away without any reason? Why? Why? Why?

Tom was gently trying to help me see things from a different perspective, to not throw God out with the missing dog, when my phone rang downstairs. I ignored it and we continued our conversation. Two minutes later, I got a text, which again I ignored. About two minutes after that, while Tom and I were still knee-deep in this conversation about experiencing this good and loving God, my phone rang again. Tom stopped the conversation and told me to go answer the phone, "Someone is trying to get a hold of you."

As soon as I answered the phone, the voice on the other end of the line said, "We found your dog." She then proceed to tell me how she was an animal control officer who had seen the flier within 30 minutes of me posting in at the general store. She had made a note of the dog and went on with her day.

Later that evening she got a call from a couple of tourists from Las Vegas who were visiting Sunset Crater, about 5 miles north of us. Along the side of the road, near The Painted Desert Outlook, they spotted Anya, tired and weary from a long hike through mountains and lava fields. The tourists and the animal control officer met at the general store, confirmed it was indeed our dog by looking at the flier, and proceeded to try to get in touch with me.

Nine days after getting Anya back, she gave birth to 13 puppies, though two were stillborn. The kids, Tom and I got to witness the last three or four puppies being born. It was amazing!

Although there have been some hard times with these puppies, bottle feeding two runts and then having one of those runts die at four weeks of age, it's been an incredible experience. Now the puppies are six weeks old and doing well. After they get their shots and are fixed (including Anya), all but two puppies will be looking for their forever home - we're still trying to decide which ones we're going to keep. Anybody want a puppy? They're super cute and come from a good home:).

To wrap up this story, God gave us Anya, and then brought her back to us. In doing so, He also restored back my faith. Sometimes, without trials, we forget that we need God. It's not until we're in need that we cry out to Him. When He is our only hope. His presence and provision are clear. Napkins from heaven.

Now...if I only I could frame this napkin and hold onto it for next time.