2016 in Pictures

When 2016 began last January, I did not realize how many changes could come about in the span of a year. Friendships have been formed and grown. This year saw many changes to the way I arranged my time,  and I finally think I have reached a balance of society, teamwork, and studies to facilitate a peaceful and pleasant senior year. I hadn’t realized it would take four years to reach that point, but at least I did finally get there! I enjoyed spending New Year’s perusing the collections of photos that the family had taken over the last year.

January I began waitressing in place of the usual month long interim class, as I had fulfilled all my general credits already.  I plan to continue until I finish school this spring. Many parts of the job are very enjoyable, as is working with Landon, who also is a server. The wages do have a wide range of highs and lows, and weathering the days no one leaves a tip can be tough. I will be grateful to have a steady wage after I graduate. The job has helped me improve in working under pressure, dealing with upset individuals, and striking up conversations with total strangers, both skills that will be useful in the field of nursing.

We also spent a weekend exploring Lincoln, Nebraska. Visiting the local church, restaurants, and downtown district was a pleasant way to brighten up the cold month of January. highlight of the visit was the museum at the University of Nebraska.  The family spent an entire afternoon roaming the three floors displaying fossils, rocks, and historical artifacts.


With only fifteen minutes until the institute closed, I almost did not allow Daniel and Dominic a chance to play in the children’s archeological simulation. We had lagged behind the family talking about the bones on display, and they caught sight of the sand pit They asked me if they could spend just a few minutes there, and I weighed the chance of holding up the family and cranky Benjamin  against their hopeful eyes. They showered me with promises to depart with angelic behavior when I said time was up. “Just three minutes,” I said, remembering their good behavior for the majority of the day.

I was so happy I hadn’t hurried them out when I saw their joy as they dusted off several ‘fossils’ with the provided paint brushes. They also did a great job sticking to the time limit I set for them.

We also visited the capitol building, which was very beautiful. The collection of paintings, sculptures, and Greek inspired architecture kept even the youngest of the family intrigued.  They were especially amazed by this very old and still functional elevator: img_0916

Spring break in March was spent on a week long choir tour all the way down to Texas. I learned a lot about bus rides and the average life of college students. I also received a crash course in seeking out the company and friends I wanted to spend time with. Since I rarely spend extensive time away from home and have never lived in a dorm, this was a new skill for me.


Numerous bluebonnets tinted many of the roadside fields dusty blue. It was beautiful! I was reminded of two favorite childhood picture book written by Tomie dePaola, The Legend of the Bluebonnets and The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, which tell of traditions surrounding the lovely flowers.


I pressed a few between the pages of my pharmacology textbook, which was keeping me company during my free hours on the bus ride.


Texas is the only state to have been under the jurisdiction of six different countries:



Austin features many interesting locations, such as this rooftop garden where some friends and I spent a memorable lunch break:


Texas Longhorn


I really enjoyed the Spanish inspired Texan architecture:




Through April we cared for our tiny rough collie puppy,


Who grew:


In May I finished school up and also watched my little ballet students perform the dances we’d been working on since Christmas:


I spent a week in June directing a homeschool play for the first time…
…and that same week got a chance to practice my emergency nursing skills when Alexander broke his leg at the park. He was being well cared for by the homeschool moms supervising until Mom and I arrived on the scene. Then it was straight to the emergency room for an X ray and a cast.


July and August was prime gardening season, with small hands helping:

We harvested lots of tomatoes, some rhubarb,  a first grape cluster, a butternut squash, and a few sweet potatoes. About that squash. I have no idea who planted it. I didn’t even know what it was until September. It began as something resealing a birdhouse gourd, but didn’t stop growing until it reached nearly 16 inches long. But the giant gourd turned out to be the best tasting squash I’ve ever had.


Throughout the summer, John was totally caught up in the political system at work:img_1091-1

First time inside a cave when we visited Wind Cave National park in September. My knees went a bit weak as I helped Dominic down the stairs that led 40 stories underground, but as soon as we reached the bottom, we were all much to in awe of the delicate lacing, called ‘bodywork’ on the cave’s walls to think about how deep we were. Our guide to the cave was a passionate cave explorer who spend her weekends crawling through the smallest openings in the cave system. She told of her experiences being the first to see new cave tunnels and committed to eventually mapping the entire cave system and documenting fossils and cave crystals.


November we braved icy road conditions to see landon’s college performance of the musical Huckleberry Finn, in which his acting won an award!


December was divided between Christmas choir concert rehearsals, final projects, and resume preparation as I prepared for my first job applications for nursing positions over the break. I never knew that there were so many things you could do wrong in a resume, until I visited with the school career center. I got it finished by the deadline, however, which felt like a major accomplishment since I had been rather worn out by the last two weeks of school. Break arrived just in time!

Christmas Day

Christmas suspense was building. This little watcher kept a tree-side vigil patiently:


Well, mostly patiently.


We enjoyed Christmas music from family musicians old:

and new:


One of the best parts of the day was a father-son Jingle Bells duet. Alexander has been taking clarinet lessons for about three months.


Keeping time:img_1981

Little brothers-my favorite.

Daniel and Dominic sweethearts. Joseph is not amused.



Grandparents visited:


Dominic and Claire love to play ‘puppysitting’


Landon won the originality award for wrapping presents for himself:img_6610

Merry Christmas!


Misc- Christmas

“In twenty years, we’re going to need to rent the events center to hold a tree to fit everything underneath”-Landon (The Christmas spoils included many sibling gifts to each other, so the stack formed a small mountain this year).

“The wine glass is for you Mom, because I broke your other one”


Large Family Photography

how we styled and posed a photo with ten kids

  1. We chose three colors when finding outfits, two neutrals and a standout color: blue, grey, and Mustard yellow.
  2. We gave the baby a photo friendly prop to play with (in this case it happened to be a yellow corncob)
  3. We looked for natural staging for added height difference. As the older kids have gotten taller, spacing is not as easy as when everyone was clearly different heights according to age. A picnic table worked well in this scene, giving us three layers.  if everyone had been standing, it would have looked more like this picture, which gets the job done but doesn’t look as natural
  4. We placed the children in reverse order of behavability: shoes who could stand still longest went in first.

Our Favorite Underrated Educational Activities in the Midwest

The Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, IA. In an unknown Iowa town, this beautiful work of art is built of semi-precious rocks.

Railroad Museum, Council, Bluffs, IA . The Henry Doorly Zoo gets all the credit in nearby Omaha, which is not surprising since it ranks one of the top zoos nation wide. However, my family also enjoyed this lesser known museum in Council Bluffs, IA. It was free and child friendly, and perfect for all the young boys in the family.

University of Nebraska Museum of Natural History– Lincoln, NE. This amazing museum featured three floors of animal exhibits, science displays, and fossils. The enormous woolly mammoth fossils were exceptional. Far from boring, even the youngest kids were riveted throughout the exhibits.

Ashfall Fossil Beds is one destination I haven’t seen myself, but reports from friends place this high on my to-do list.

Steamboat Arabia in Kansas City, MO. shows a slice of life in the post war pioneer frontier. Perfectly preserved artifacts from this sunken supply ship were fascinating, and on the job archeologists are at work and available for questions.