meet our new cousin

We are so happy to announce that Emma, Blake, and Lauren have a new cousin! Meet little Candace Hofen! We’re told that underneath the hat is a full head of hair. She was born the day after Christmas in Nagpur, India. I was hoping she could wait one more day so we could share a birthday, but she just couldn’t wait anymore. She was ready to enter the world! She and Mommy are doing well, along with Daddy (Brent’s brother Brad) and big sister Cassia. Praise the Lord for this new precious life!
It will be a little while before we get to see you face to face, but we already have you close to our hearts. We know that God has a great plan for you. Welcome to the family, Candace!


Wednesday worship: down memory lane

This song selection was just too tempting to pass up.  Listening to it is like a sort of time travel for me because it takes me right back to my childhood when I was a little girl sitting in a pew at Central Church of the Nazarene in Vancouver, WA.  Back in the day, the church would periodically have “request night” for Sunday evening service.  And usually some very smart person with very good taste would put in a request for my mom and dad to perform this song.  In my mind I can hear my mom’s beautiful singing voice and my dad’s deep and steady narration with the amazing accompaniment of Mrs. Ketchum on the piano.  I think she could play anything!  And I know I’m biased, but my parents are wonderful singers.  They have smooth and rich voices that make it easy to listen to them.  You see, it could be said that I grew up on Gaither music.  But even more accurately, it could be said that I grew up on my parents singing Gaither music.

I’m pretty sure this video is from a Gaither Homecoming video.  And no disrespect to Sandi Patty, but she doesn’t quite do it like Mom.  And no disrespect to Bill Gaither, but he doesn’t quite get the same effect as Dad (not that anyone could).  So enjoy this well-written song.  The chords start out simple, but then build up in a beautiful and dramatic way as the song progresses.  And the truth of this song is profound and lasting.  It’s good for me to remember that “God Gave the Song.”

My Surgery

Since this blog is about my life (not just the kids, not just the church, and not just homeschooling), I would be remiss if I didn’t post something about the surgery I had two weeks ago. Don’t worry. It wasn’t an emergency and it wasn’t life-threatening.

Here is how it all went down. In August I went in for my annual exam. Everything looks great and I’m feeling good. All of my blood work numbers came back with healthy results and I have still managed to avoid getting on any regular medications and I’m hoping to avoid that for a very long time. At the doctor visit, the wonderful nurse practitioner asked me if I had any concerns. I told her that my only concern was the bump on my head. She said, “I don’t see a bump.” But as I pulled back my hair she could see what I was talking about and didn’t think twice about referring me to a surgeon. The best way for me to describe the bump’s location is to say that if the bump continued to grow, you would think I was growing a unicorn horn. Kind of weird, but still true.

A few weeks later at the surgeon’s office, it was decided that the bump was too big for a quick fix. I was going to need surgery. So we made plans and tried to be as prepared as possible. For the outpatient surgery, Brent went with me and kept reminding me that everything was going to be okay. Before the surgery, it was fascinating to watch all of the nurses and doctors work together as a team. At first it was a little overwhelming to have a whole bunch of people buzzing around me. But I reminded myself that all of them were there to make sure of one thing: to make sure that the procedure was a success. I kind of like having all of those people on my side. It ended up being reassuring to have them all there.

When I first woke up from the surgery I had two clear thoughts. The first was, “I woke up! Hurray!” The second was, “Wow! My head hurts!” They tried to give me some kind of narcotic medicine for the pain, but my body didn’t react very well to that. So I was sent home to start my prescription pain meds that I had filled ahead of time. That meds kept me in a daze for about a day. But honestly, it wasn’t helping much with the throbbing in my head. So eventually, I just decided to scrap it. Goodbye weird medicine!

During the surgery, the bump removal also meant there was some skin removal. Which means that there was a lot of skin stretching to bring everything back together. (Sorry if that’s kind of gross for some of you.). So now, instead of a unicorn horn, I have a Frankenstein scar! What an exchange! At least it isn’t permanent. All of my stitches will be gone after awhile, some next week and some a few weeks later.

I’m pretty pleased with the post-surgery progress. Here are some of the things that have been helpful with my body’s recovery:

1. Ice packs. (and a little ibuprofen). No medicine has been nearly effective as an ice pack in helping with my head’s throbbing. So I just take some ibuprofen once or twice a day to avoid a headache for the sensitive head, but I’m much more diligent about icing the scar area on a regular basis.

2. Vitamins. My surgeon gave me some literature that recommended taking vitamin C and zinc to help the body as it was healing. I like any solution that’s cheap and easy.

3. Walking shoes. (This is another part that might seem kind of gross.). Any surgery veteran knows that the first question your doctor will ask you is, “How are you feeling?” But the next question is usually, “Have you had a bowel movement?” Awkward! But still important. I tried to eat lots of fiber, even though I wasn’t eating much, and tried to start walking as soon as possible to try get things “moving along.” On the day I was ready to go buy some milk of magnesia, everything started working again! Thank goodness.

The other advantage to staying active was that it caused a distraction. Going for walks kept my mind and body busy about lots of things, so that I wasn’t always focused on the hurting head.

4. Accepting help. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t be too proud to let your friends and family help you. Prayers, meals, rides for the kids’ activities, whatever helps.

5. Patience. I wanted to be able to just jump back into regular life with a regular schedule. But there was no way I could pull that off! Oh well. I guess it’s better to heal right than heal fast. I also didn’t want to overdue it and make the recovery last even longer.

Just so you know, the bump the surgeon removed was tested. It was a cyst and had no cancer in it. Praise the Lord! And now I’ve made it three days Ina row without any ibuprofen or ice packs. Hurray! So there you go, the complete surgery report with more details than you ever wanted. At least I can say that I’m not holding things back from the blog, right? Happy healing!

Happy birthday Will!


Today is my brother’s birthday! He’s my favorite brother in the whole wide world. He’s a talented and committed young man and it was our privilege to celebrate him today. Will is a willing servant. He is an amazing uncle. And I love the fact that I get to be his sister. Happy birthday, brother!

what do you do all day?

Here is a truth:  no one will ever, and I mean ever, accuse Brent and I of over-scheduling our kids.  Ever.  I have heard reports and read many articles about children who are constantly rushed and who have very little free time in their days because they are so scheduled with activities.  And it stresses them out!  No thank you, I think I’ll pass on that.

Last night at dinner, Brent and I were discussing how it might be nice to sign up the kids for a few more activities in the fall, maybe a sport or a class or a club.  That may or may not happen.  We’ll have to wait and see.  As our dinner conversation progressed, we tried to evaluate the big picture when it came to our kids and their “extra curriculars”.  Our kids can read (for pleasure or for information), follow directions, carry on a conversation with a friend or a stranger, problem solve, work hard, and use their imaginations.  Now Brent and I know better than anyone that our kids aren’t perfect.  Believe me!  There are some particular character traits that we continue to try to develop.  But we feel pretty good about our kids’ progress in the skills and traits that matter most.  And we want our schedules to foster and enhance that development, not impede it.

So what does a group of siblings do all day if every minute of the day isn’t scheduled and planned?  Are there really days, especially in the summer, where there is no particular agenda beyond some daily chores and mealtimes?  What happens when they get bored?  These are all good questions.  To be perfectly honest, when boredom comes, and believe me it does come, that’s when the really creative stuff starts to happen.  Eventually, the best games get invented, all the little bugs in the back yard get noticed, the quality books get devoured, the pretend adventures get really interesting.  They usually involve lots of rescuing, and swashbuckling, and all sorts of ways to save the world from imminent disaster.  I mean, what’s the point of playing pretend if you can’t save the world while you’re doing it?  I had so much fun today watching the kids make their way through the day without a parent-led plan.  It just happened.  And it was great!

checking on the bean plants

checking on the bean plants

making her way through an adventure

making her way through an adventure

helping Mom in the kitchen

helping Mom in the kitchen

creating clues for a scavenger hunt.  FYI:  this activity probably accomplishes a whole lot of Common Core standards.

creating clues for a scavenger hunt. FYI: this activity probably accomplishes a whole lot of Common Core standards.

finding a clue on the hunt

finding a clue on the hunt

searching every nook and cranny

searching every nook and cranny


Don’t worry if there are unscheduled parts of your day, especially your child’s day.  When we have a chunk of hours without a plan, I don’t panic, or even try to get really purposeful.  I just think, “Oh goody!  That means something fun is going to develop.  Something good is bound to happen.”  The kids know where the toys are, where the books are, where the school supplies are, and where the boundaries are.  That’s pretty much all they need.  And they know where I am when they’re ready to share and tell me the cool things they’ve been doing.  I can’t wait to hear all about it.


old friend, new adventure

Now when I say “old friend”, I don’t really mean that he’s that old, it’s just that we’ve known him for a long time and we haven’t seen him for about 12 years.  For about a week we had a visit from our friend Chris.  He and Brent attended graduate school together in Ft. Worth back in our Dallas days.  He knew us when Emma was born.  And he’s now a middle school choir teacher in Ft. Worth.  (My dad says that all middle school teachers are going straight to heaven!)

To celebrate a milestone birthday (he’s younger than I am) Chris has been on a 40 day road trip across parts of North America that he’s’ never seen before.  We were glad that Bend, Oregon made it on his itinerary.  He certainly made the most of his time here, seeing Multnomah Falls, the coast, Portland, MacKenzie Pass, and Crater Lake.  Even though he has seen many beautiful places, I think that one of the best things about his trip is “the daily challenge”.  Before leaving Texas, he had some friends write down forty daily challenges that are some kind of way to pay it forward, a random act of kindness.  So every day, Chris opens up a new envelope to find out what his new challenge of the day is.  On one of his days here, he had to serenade someone.  So the staff at the Vietnamese restaurant got a serenade after lunch!  That’s just not something you see everyday!

the serenade

the serenade

Brent recording the whole thing and cracking up laughing the whole time

Brent recording the whole thing and cracking up laughing the whole time

a captive audience

a captive audience


The best part of the visit for me was watching Brent and his friend from school quickly return to the friendly banter and joking that they had all those years ago.  We all have friends that we don’t see for a long time that we don’t have to work hard at getting comfortable with again.  The fun and games start up right away.  For Brent, Chris is one of those friends.

So now he’s off to the next part of his adventure.  Happy traveling!


just say no

I was getting a few things at Target today and couldn’t help but notice the new big signs they have hanging from the ceiling right now. There used to be signs with bright and shiny colors in lots of fun shapes with words about having fun in the sun. But no more! To my despair, all I could see aisle after aisle were great big signs in the shape of no. 2 pencils pointing me towards the section of the store that is full of school supplies. Say it ain’t so! It’s too soon! Summer isn’t even halfway done. How could I possibly even think about giving up summertime and start planning for school again!

So here is how I know in my heart that I should respond to the giant no. 2 pencils and all that they represent. I will take Nancy Reagan’s advice and just say no! I will get what I need from Target, turn around, walk out of the store, and completely ignore those big new signs. I will start thinking about school when I’m good and ready. But that’s not happening right now. Right now I’m thinking about sunshine and hiking and cookouts and holidays and absolutely no school, the way summer should be. Just say no!

off to camp

Today was a day that our little Lauren would say that she has waited her whole life to come. Because today she went to summer camp. She was excited and nervous and anxious all at the same time. She has some fantastic counselors and the other camp staff members are all-stars too. So we know she’s going to have a great time. It will be a lot of fun to hear all of her camp stories at the end of the week. Happy camping!




Sometimes we have conversations that crack me up, and then later I’ll wish that I had written it down so I could remember it.  Luckily, I actually did that recently.  It’s not long, or even that deep, but I thought it was kind of funny.  Enjoy!

It all started with siblings (who shall remain nameless for the time being) bothering each other a little too much in the back seat of the family van.  So in response to that, I wanted to say something philosophical about how we should try to be helpful to our family members rather than trying to get on their nerves.  Here is how it went:


Me:    “We are blessings in each other’s lives, not burdens.”

An awkward moment of silence.

A child in the back seat:    “Mom, is that Shakespeare?”

Me chuckling:    “No, it’s just me.”


Maybe after the kids are gone, my next career will be playwright, or maybe author of sonnets.  But first I have to figure out how to keep my kids from bugging each other in the car.


A few weeks ago, Mom and I saw a documentary about the food industry and obesity. It’s called Fed Up. Later, I watched it again with Brent. I guess one time wasn’t enough for me and I needed to see it twice to really get the message. The film makes some very convincing points, especially when it comes to added sugar in our diet.

So because of this, Brent and I have been working hard to eliminate excess sugar from our diet. And for us, that means cutting out soda for awhile. Hopefully, for me, that means cutting out sugar for a very very long while. We’ve been successful so far, but tonight we ran into a major temptation. Oh Lord, give me strength!

After Saturday night service we walked into Wendy’s and saw that they had totally changed how they serve drinks. They had installed one of those super-duper-cool shiny silver all-in-one drink dispensers. When the kids saw it, they started squealing with delight and all the drink possibilities. And all I could think was, “It’s not fair!”

I guess this was the first big test to see whether or not we could resist temptation. I’m happy to report that the grown ups did not drink any soda. Hurray! One small step for us, one giant step for mankind, right? Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that monumental, but it was still a battle won. I guess even the small victories are important. As they say in sports: a W is a W, and I am definitely claiming this one for the win column.