Musings on Growing Physically…Emotionally…Spiritually

These Past December Days…


Anne and Henry meeting the nicest Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus at our historic museum…Peter watched from the sidelines.


making oh so many cookies and crafts with these fantastic helpers as Henry either destroys or eats all the frosting.

IMG_0614enjoying awesome surprise Christmas goodies from Aunt Marisa. The kiddos kept it under the tree and did one project a day because it was like opening a present.


practicing our ballet moves on Anne’s early birthday surprise day where we went to watch the nutcracker…so fun!


snagging a picture of these lovely ladies that I get to plan MOPS with but also count on, mother with, cry with, pray with and feel so blessed to have in my life.


making oh so many snow angels.

celebrating a full day of Christmas Eve activities with Anne’s Birthday, a nativity program at church, special dinner with Grandma Sue and a lot of JOY and EXCITEMENT.


making Christmas morning magic but always always first putting our minds and hearts set on Christ.


spending some time at Grandpa and Grandma Grimmius.

giving a lot of love to this little cutie, Amelia. Henry loves her ever so much. He positioned himself in the above picture…this is right before hugs and kisses took place.


loving every moment of our extra long weekend together as a WILKEN FAMILY–playing so many games, laughing at lip syncs, watching slide shows, eating AMAZING food-thank you mom and Chris–talking, crying, and just feeling the love of family!


These December days were also full of sickness…so much sickness of every kind that hit every person in our house. These days are full of sick, health, joy, melancholy but there is a whole lot of love in each day that comes from our Savior and for that I’m ever so grateful for each day.


Best Books I Read in 2017

I’m a reader. There have of course been ebbs and flows to my reading, but it is something I make as a priority in my life because I love it.  I heard this quote from Katherine Patterson this year about how fiction is like getting to eavesdrop on the soul. What an accurate statement to describe one facet of why I enjoy reading.


I also love recommending books to people as in finding the absolute perfect book for you to read…and I’m pretty good at it as it was my job for awhile. It is my unofficial job these days.

This year I read 43 books, which I am pretty darn proud of considering I’ve got 3 little ones running around. I don’t have this magical time that people think is necessary for reading, I literally use the time I have and put reading high up on my list. If you want more tips on how to do this, I’m also totally open to chatting about that too.

Best Books I Read This Year:

 Realistic Fiction: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce– If you liked A Man Called Ove…which I totally did, then you like this one. Harold is an extremely likable character to root for as he goes on this pilgrimage that really is about reexamining his life specifically with his son.

Non-Fiction: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore(Another tippy-top favorite…I read so many passages out loud to Ryan) This was an unbelievable true story of girls in the early 1900s that painted dials on clocks so they would glow. However, they dipping their paint brushes in their mouth covered with radium and unknowingly putting a death sentence on themselves. It was unbelievable in the way that corruptions lied and eluded due payment to these poor girls. 

AutoBiography: You Don’t Have to Say you Love Me by Sherman Alexie (Top 3 as well as favorite for the year!) It specifically focuses on the relationship with his mother and his journey through grief both present and past…and working through forgiveness. Told through poetry and prose. It is a hard read with lots of pain in it, but for this white female reader…it offers a little insight and a little understanding to a culture and people group that I know little bit about. 

Classic: Little Men by Louisa May Alcott (FAVORITE READ AND FIND OF THE YEARIt is full of fun adventures of the boys and few girls that Jo and her husband teach at their school. However, I enjoyed so much I believe as a mother and teacher because it speaks to the heart of raising and teaching kiddos.

Historical Fiction: The Librarian of Auschiwitz by Antonio Iturbe This story is about a section of Auschwitz that was a family camp, which I never knew they had, and a school that was established there for a time. You eventually find out this was all a ruse to show the world that the Germans were treating the Jews very well. In that family camp, they established a school, Dita Kraus was the librarian of 8 confiscated books. This is her story. As the author says, the bricks of this novel are true but are held together with well-researched fiction.

Best Young Adult Realistic FictionA List of Cages by Robin RoeBeautiful characters in this YA novel that follows Adam (outgoing, everyone loves, people drawn to him) and Julian (lost, broken, in an abusive home after his parents die). The power of friendship is shown strongly through this novel…that and the characters sold me on it. Beautifully written about 

Best Young Adult Historical FictionOkay for Now by Gary SchmidtSet in 1969-Doug has a lot of negatives against him but then he discovers John James Audobons’s Birds of America and everything cha0nges.

Best Young Adult Dystopia/Sci Fi: Scythe by Neal Shusterman (Okay also like top three for favorite book of this year)Once again Shusterman sets us in the future a perfect would once again ruled by the thunderhead (a computer)…but alas this isn’t people versus computer it is people versus people…and how corruption always sneaks in no matter the foundation you set…(yes thought of our current country a many of times). There is a population problem so there is the role of Scythes to kill (or glean) people. However your chance of getting gleaned is like 1% from living 1 to 100. However…things are changing in the scythedom and two pivitol roles fall to Citra and Rowan who have been asked to apprentice a scythe. 

Just Because It Was So Good: Some Writer! The Story of E.B White by Melissa Sweet-If you have read anything by E.B White…Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, Trumpter’s Swan…then you need to read this Y.A biography on him. It is beautiful and a feast for the eyes. Melissa Sweet is amazing in her illustrations and picture collages and thought process of ever visual detail…it all connects! She uses a type writer for quotes directly from E.B White…which is awesome. This is great to read by yourself or to your kids who love E.B White. Just Beautiful.

Happy 5th Birthday Anne Girl


Today, after much waiting, you are FIVE! Five! Oh my, your momma is having a hard time saying that because it just seems so very big and well it is very big my sweet girl.

Some Very Exciting Achievements This Past Year Include:

*Clearing Dishes/Making Bed and other Acts of Service for our family

*Pumping on the Swing

*Getting the Hang of the Balance Bike

*Mastery of the alphabet uppercase and lowercase and knowing the majority of the sounds

*People and Animal and scene drawings

*Writing and Illustrating your Very FIRST Books that you thought up completely on your own

*Helping make lunches

*Creative play that you come up with and tell your brothers how to play


Some Lovely Things I want to Remember about you Right Now:

*Your ever so helpful nature with the little brothers. I would be at a lost without my second in command.

*Your absolute love of reading. Often sitting on the little Mickey Couch and reading all the books to either yourself, Henry, Peter, or a doll.

*Your Silliness and the jokes you make

*Your curiosity about everything around you.


Oh we love you ever so much sweet Anne Girl and our so grateful for each year of life we have had the opportunity to be your parents. Praying for the year ahead for more growth in all areas of life!

These November Days…


watching an ever so awesome production of Little Mermaid. This was Peter’s first musical: he did awesome!


hosting the Maloney family (minus Chris) at our house for about 32 hours. We had seven cousins  dressing up, reading, acting, dancing, tumbling, racing cars, eating, crying, sleeping, and hard core playing. We even got our November tea party in there too. We barely saw Leeland and Peter and they only surfaced to just quickly wolf something down so they could go back to playing. Oh love cousin time…it was crazy but the best kind of crazy!

disguising our turkeys so they don’t get eaten for Thanksgiving! Both Anne and Peter come up with their own ideas and I help execute. Aunt Marisa started us on this very fun tradition.



Embracing these warmer end of November days…even got a Thanksgiving walk and formerly Grandma’s Vogel land where I remember many a Thanksgiving walks there.


celebrating Thanksgiving at Grandma Sue’s house with these little turkeys.

decorating for CHRISTMAS!!! This mama decided to change a few things up to our normal decorating traditions…mainly for sanity reasons. First, Ryan and I got the tree up and lights on while the kids were napping…HUGE HELP to the stress and craziness of decorating since they can’t help with this part. Second, I got rid of doing appetizers and frappe(even though I love this drink…not many of the others do) and we did pizza and another special Christmas dessert I remember from my childhood that I could make and put in the freezer several days ahead…so much better. This was a solid lesson in saying, “It is okay to change up traditions!”

The kiddos were so good and decorating this year. Ryan and I barely put any on. The picture of Peter is a great example of how he likes to hang ornaments: all on one branch. Henry is oh Henry. He actually was super good during the actual process and then of course attacked and threw ornaments the days after. He has since slowed down on this as mom is slowing moving all ornaments upwards 🙂

It is A LOT of work to be the magic maker…aka a mom at Christmas…but it is worth it and that is also why you throw in there desserts that you especially enjoy eating!IMG_0588

“Mom show me how to take a selfie with your phone” …things you thought you would never hear from your lips as a child 🙂

November slowed down a lot, and it was great to have less commitments. We are full and ready to take on December this household! There is much joy as we celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus…plus the added excitement of a certain girl is turning five. Ready for the Joy of this season!


Operation Christmas Child 2017

Every year my heart burst with the opportunity that is Operation Christmas Child.


As always, we do a shoebox that correlates to the ages of our kiddos plus we do some extra boxes for boys age 10-14 because I once heard it is the least picked age group and gender.


As always we shop together, pack together, and  pray over them together. As always it awesomeness mixed with real life chaos and craziness.


You always picture it being this calm and caring moment where you speak lessons of the importance of loving your neighbor. However, reality is you have your oldest girl trying to cut all the tags herself whilst reminding me she would really love a doll like this herself; your three year old running the toy truck you bought back and forth, back and forth while turning on all the flashlights; and dear Henry unpacking every single item you place in a box plus throwing and hiding said items while you are not looking while also trying to stab himself with said scissors your four year old has.

This is reality.

However, it doesn’t matter because in the midst of what is life is the rooted lesson that as a family we make time to give together. We value the importance of honoring what God calls us to do: love your neighbor.

So if you haven’t done Operation Christmas Child, you still have time to join in on this opportunity to pack some joy for our neighbors of the world.

An awesomebook that I highly recommend reading with this season of giving coming up is Boxes for Katje by Cadence Fleming. It is a beautiful story based on the author’s mother’s life about boxes that were sent from America to the children of Holland after WWII.


These Past October Days…


Visited our favorite pumpkin patch, my friend’s parents grow tremendous amount of pumpkins. Then they have fun pumpkin picking party where you come home with a trunk full of pumpkins and squash. Plus, I got an awesome family picture and some individuals shots too: Win Win Win!

Firefighter Open House Day. We had a special in with a certain firefighter in training that made the kiddos feel so comfortable and tried everything. Henry did not want to leave these big steering wheels!

Attending and loving every single story time. Ms. Patty and the Albert Lea Library are just plain AMAZING.

Meeting JJ and her family at the Riverside Nature Center in Faribault on one of the last beautiful fall days. The phrase, “walking on streets of gold” kept floating through my head as we adventured in the woods.


Enjoying one last campfire. I think we had around thirty this spring, summer, and fall. It made our evenings extra special and cozy.

Our annual walk out at Arrowhead County Park. Henry loves his up high view.

Painting and carving our awesome pumpkins. Anne wanted a kitty and so momma stretched beyond her classic jack-lantern face and made one. Peter wanted an owl and my husband is clearly awesome and artistic and carved the above Owl. Anne FINALLY helped scoop out the guts and seed from the inside! Hurray…it wasn’t too gross this year.


Sipped tea, ate cookies, listened to classical music, and read poetry at our October tea party. We are trying to have one once a month. So far we are two for two! They are work but so worth it. Even though they mainly just enjoy the cookies and tea…they are also getting exposure to poetry which makes this English teacher happy. If you ever want to join us…just let me know. We love tea party guests.


Had Henry dedicated this past Sunday. Grandparents were there and loved having this moment to publicly declare that Henry is a gift from God and we give his life to you Lord God. Loved that Pastor Dave knelt and prayed for Henry.



Eagerly awaiting Trick or Treating ALL OCTOBER Long. We had a “What do you want to be when you Grow up?” theme going on: A ballerina and two firefighters. We went to our local nursing home and enjoyed gathering candy in the warm cozy hallways. We stopped at a few neighbors houses too. They mostly enjoyed handing out the candy to the ones that stopped at our house. Anne was dutiful in her role of holding the bowl.

October was FULL . It was also filled with Sing n Sprout class happening in our basement, continuing school almost everyday and planning for homeschool. It was full but we also had oh so many days to stop and watch sunsets, see leaves changing, and embrace the beauty and amazement that is fall in my mind. This fall for some reason solidified that it is my favorite season. These days are God Given and for that I’m thankful!

These Final Days of Summer…

Faired it up again way back in middle of August at my hometown fair. Two days with 7 little ones and one day there was several down pours. There was rides, corn, sharks, food, and SO MUCH fun had between all the cousins at the best county fair there around!

Traveled to a “cabin” aka house on Green Lake for a Wilken Family Vacation. Not all Wilkens could make it…but all the little cousins were there the whole week and there was so much good cousin time. Even though the weather stayed a bit chilled for August the kiddos persevered and played in the sand and water…sometimes with jackets…regardless. It was the clearest lake I’ve ever discovered in Minnesota. It was our first attempt at a house on the lake since dad died and there were more emotions than I thought I would have…mainly anxiety/fear of something bad happening; however, we had many people praying for us and it was a lovely week. I only ever want to vacation where there are cousins to play with!


Started preschool for Anne and Peter. I’m homeschooling the kiddos…for now..and it has been a great start to the year. Anne loves school and Peter is so eager to jump in…so we have a fairly solid yet loose go with the flow plan each morning which includes circle time, calendar, songs, letters, writing, art, math and lots and lots and lots of reading out loud. I have a multitude of reasons for why we are homeschooling…which you are more than welcome to ask personally any time…but I still always doubt myself too. Thankfully, there have been lots of small wonderful moments through these first few weeks where I look around and I think, “yes, this is right. This is what is right for our family.”


First official hair cut for Anne Girl..age 4 1/2. She was so pumped and her hair looks so healthy and lovely now!


Firefighter training for this handsome, hard working hubby. He is fulfilling a dream and is part of the on-call firefighters for A.L. This entails a class twice a week through Decemberish and lots of reading from an enormous textbook. He is still bussing plus being a great daddy to his kiddos always making time for “play tag just a little bit” as Peter would say.


Embracing lots of evening walks with this crew while daddy is at said firefighter classes.


Visiting friends and always creating the most unique ways to play that mommy would never think about.

Eating and crafting all the apples.


this kid is keeping me on my toes, teaching me what patience means again, clinging to me for dear life still, learning to go upstairs, trying to stand on his own, letting me get really good at cleaning multiple times a day, working my upper arm muscles, getting into constant mischief, and making me say…oh dear I’m concerned for what maybe up ahead. But man is he cute and though life is loud and SO MESSY, I can’t imagine life with out our Henry.

These last summer days have been full of such good things. But it has also been a season of great change and waiting for us and those are hard seasons to be in…but always I’m grateful for this life that I’m beyond blessed to have.



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