6.21.2016

May in Iowa || Farm + Family Recap

May was such a special month. 

We almost never tour in May. It is considered our HOME month of the spring. The funny thing was we weren't very often all at home at one time. But it was just fine-we all had a wonderful time fulfilling our various callings and job duties and loved it. 

At times it almost felt like we were all flying thither and yon and rarely converged in one place at one time for anything except occasional evenings. On those times when we DID all gather around the dinner table...it was loud and noisy and we routinely had fifteen conversations going at one time. (I know, I know...you are thinking "how is that possible? Y'all only have twelve people?" I don't know. All I know is it really seemed that way sometimes!)

Inevitably about ten minutes into each mealtime mom would hold up her hands and say "CHILDREN!! You sound like a pack of __________". 
(all manner of uncomplimentary type animals inserted here) 

Whereupon the noise would descrease slightly for approximately three seconds but before we knew it, the usual mayhem would ensue once again. 
We started the month out with an early morning mulching party to get the orchard in shape for the summer. (This was one of those first chilly mornings before the weather got warmer. Hence the coats and hats.)
Sometimes when we do early morning work parties the older guys are able to join in and then things really fly!
What an outfit, Rebs. =)
During the months of April + May, Denver was employed by a friend doing landscaping, and Josh was employed by a construction crew.
(Above, Denver during his lunch break one day)

Josh with one of his coworkers, at their construction site.

Both of the boys were privileged to work on excellent crews and they had a great time learning new skills and expanding their horizons, along with meeting new people and making new friends.
Our hotel managers were on vacation for the first week and a half of May, so Allison stayed at the hotel and ran the place while they were gone. As always she just threw herself into the job and accomplished so much-everything from deep cleaning to catching up different projects to scheduling employee meetings and friend meetings in the lobby. 
She got an iced tea delivery from the local coffee shop one day, courtesy of her very awesome boss. =) (aka Dad)
Girls night @ the hotel, while Allison was working, with these girls. We are blessed with some of the dearest friends in the world!
Our dear grandpa (mom's dad, from NY) had surgery the first week of May to remove a cyst in his throat. Mom was able to get a last minute flight and spend a few days out there after his surgery, helping my grandma and aunts cook for him and nurse him back to health.
Dinner with her three sisters who live in the same area as her parents.
Mom enjoyed cooking up yummy foods for grandpa while she was there!
They had a wonderful time together!
Moms newest grand-neice, little Emma, was born the day before mom got to NY, so she got to be one of the first to meet her!
Our church is just literally one of our favorite places to be. We are so encouraged and challenged each week by the incredible messages and music that make up each service.
There is also just never a dull moment there. You never know what you might see at church. On this particular evening, we had pirates raid the stage. You just have to be there to understand. =) 
Work for the Lord should always be fun and our church pastoral team is a great example of this.
I'm guessing your pastor never appeared behind the pulpit quite like this? Yes, we have one of a kind!
(Taylor hard at work in the kitchen)
With mom in NY and Allison at the hotel and some of the boys gone working off the farm, things around the house were a little quieter! Not much though-the rest of us can be almost loud enough to make up for those who were missing. =) 
We did some special spring cleaning projects, food projects, and hosted company, amongst other things. 
As you can see, we ran into some rain issues during planting season. Thankfully we had gotten started in good time, so the rain didn't set things back too much. 
 Whenever we have little ones come over, they always love to tag along and "help" with the chores on the farm. Here, Hudson had a very enthusiastic assistant in our pastors' little son. =)
Liz and her little helper, baking up a storm of something!
The boys hard at work hauling hay late at night.
Company time. =) One of our favorite activities to do with guests is to load up either with our trucks or a hay wagon and head out for an evening in the woods, back at our campsite. It is so quiet and peaceful and away from everything and we just love spending evenings back there!
Sugar free maple cinnamon rolls for breakfast one morning. 
Normally I put sugar in our cinnamon rolls, but this particular morning one of our guests that we had there for breakfast, couldn't have sugar, so I took my "tried and true" recipe and did a few tweaks. Maple syrup/honey for the dough, and then maple sugar with cinnamon (and butter of course. always lots of butter) for the filling. The glaze was made with more melted butter and maple sugar.
Maple Sugar. Let me just step on a soapbox for a moment and introduce y'all to MAPLE SUGAR
This stuff is literally life changing. It is so good that I just gave it its own direct link above that will take you straight to bags and bags of it! (well, where you can order bags and bags of it!) 
We are blessed to have friends in the upper peninsula who run their own maple syrup sugar bush farm. They kindly let us test their new products occasionally. (we are most willing and happy testers!) Anyways their maple sugar is really the last word in maple products. And their maple cream too. And obviously their maple syrup. 
Mother's Day celebration + picture with the best mama in the world!
We love her so much!
We celebrated Allison's twenty-second birthday with Indian cuisine, chocolate mousse cake, gifts, and a movie night.
Ah, how we love our very own dramatic Allison! =)
We all get so excited when the corn comes up + starts to grow!Beautiful sight to these farmer eyes. =)
We took full advantage of our time home and various ones of us enjoyed dozens of morning + evening walks/jogs. We are also quite partial to our Iowa sunrises and sunsets.
Mitchell worked the hotel front desk for Allison one morning when she had something else planned. His instructions were to call her if an emergency occurred. (since technically he wasn't trained in to run the front desk to begin with) 
Halfway through his "shift", he sent the above picture out on our family text loop, along with the following statement, "Guys, I could really get into this line of work. Sitting here keeping an eye on the guests eating breakfast in the lobby, and watching basketball on the lobby TV. Quite the life you have doing this, Allison." 
Whereupon Allison responding with a slightly testy response of how that was NOT the life SHE lived when working the front desk. She also informed him that his bill cap did NOT fit the dress code whatsoever. 
Basically he almost got fired. =)
Denver has killer lawn mowing skills and also has quite an eye with his iPhone camera. 
As always, music practice continues! Rebecca is thriving on her new piano lessons and flying through her books.
Mom with her crew, planting garden! As you can see by the two above pictures, Rebecca's little doll rides around with her almost everywhere these days. =) She's quite the little mama.
April and May were big school months and the children got ALOT done! They are working through the summer with several subjects but taking a much lighter load due to the Bible Bee (five youngest) + the WeCare ReadAThon (three youngest) that they are involved in.
A "picnic" with Miss Carolyn after their morning history lesson.
New life on the farm!
We older ones had our ABF (adult bible fellowship) class over one evening for dinner and volleyball.
We babysat for this little sweetheart and her brothers one morning. 
Costco and coffee and sister time is one of the best combinations out there!
Allison hosted her girls retreat. The one evening she brought all the girls back to the campsite and our family prepared a cookout for them. 
One of Denver's best friends came with his sister. She attended the retreat, and he hung out here at our house. 
Amongst a very large variety of activities, the guys managed to record a very unique and, um, "highly individual" instrumental version of a well-know song. =)
The current plans are to release this song on iTunes in the very near future...so stay tuned for that announcement!
More music practice!
The big farm project for May was replacing all of the mattresses in the barn. 
For the farmers reading this, you can imagine that this was quite the project-turning the cows out into the front lot, replacing those mattresses in time to get the cows back in for milking time, and then go on to the next section and repeat the whole process.
Removing the old mats...
It was quite the production!
Sparks flying...
Apparently when they finished the project they decided to have a little fun and Hudson pretended to be a cow for a bit. When one of the guys texted this picture, mom said, "Send him in so I can put him to work doing something constructive! He apparently has too much time on his hands." =)
The burn pile with the old mattresses made quite the smoke out!
Everything back in order...with new mattresses this time!
We oldest five enjoyed a weekend getaway with our ABF class to a beautiful hunting lodge in southern Iowa. (you may remember hearing about it in this post, as it is the same place we had our little family vacation last year)
It was a fabulous time of grilling, eating, talking, singing, shooting, and volleyball with our class, our group leaders, and our pastor + his wife. We made some great memories!
The two babies who attended the retreat as well were in high demand! Here, Mitchell managed to snag this little beauty and put her right to sleep.
One of our most-asked questions from people is this: "How in the world do y'all farm and garden AND travel?"
The answer is in the picture above. =) We work hard before we leave. Weeding, mulching, hoeing, mulching, trimming, and did I mention mulching? 
Denver, our ever-faithful gardener. He loves all things gardening and landscaping and he is mom's right hand man in the gardening department.
Due to the large amount of company we host, we are unable to "take off" whenever we have guests.
God blessed us this spring with the sweetest visiting friends who were all willing to chip in and work hard right alongside of us! In the picture above, mom got a few additions to her crew!
Hardworking boys!
Of course, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy sooo.....we don't just work all the time. =)
The boy combination of our family + these visiting friends who also have six boys, seems to make for some unusual activities for the guys. 
I do feel quite sorry for whoever had to end up washing those clothes. ( that would be yours truly =))
Allison and this lovely little lady, cooking up a multitude of yummy muffins!
An amazing cookout spread make by our sweet traveling friends. 
These two favorite ladies come and visit us nearly every Memorial Day and we make an abundance of memories every time they are with us! (Mom was in VS with them "back in the day" almost thirty years ago, and they have remained close friends for life!)
Dad took the five youngest on a biking excursion one Saturday morning.
Looks like someone needed to take a little break for a nap. 
Most likely this was while the little ragamuffins were exploring. =)
And I believe we already mentioned music practice. =) 
Allison hanging out at church with this little lady/
As I mentioned in my last post, mom did a Bible study this spring with a group of moms from our church. 

I thought for their last morning together (before we left on tour for the summer) it would be fun to do something a little special. 

{Note: and here is reason #1,599 to have a large family...when there's so many of you, the options you have open are literally limitless}

So I appointed Mitchell, Allison, + Denver (with help of our younger four) to be in charge of the seventeen children who were there. (besides the babies who stayed with their moms)

They were sent to the park with a picnic lunch. The moms all dropped their kids off at the park and then came to our house, where mom led the Bible study, and I prepared a gourmet luncheon for them. 

Unfortunately I didn't get an pictures of the actual Bible study or lunch. 
But Denver got a few pictures of their time with the kiddos. One is the picture above. Not sure which one of them, but someone got the grand idea to take all seventeen children out for ice cream. What a party. Mitchell told me that there were several old ladies sitting on a park bench right outside of the ice cream shop, and he said their expressions (while watching all those little kids pile out of our vehicles) was absolutely PRICELESS. =)
No doubt they thought some kind of invasion had defended upon our peaceful little town of Kalona!!

All in all the day was quite a success. I had a grand time cooking lunch. The moms all enjoyed eating a fancy lunch together with friends. The children loved the park and their picnic and the ice cream. My siblings loved taking care of all of them and laughing at all their antics. And my mom loved the opportunity to invest in the lives of other moms.

It is ALWAYS more blessed to give than to receive!
Liz and Rebs, planting!
Another group of guests, all loaded up on the hay wagon and ready to head back to the woods for a cookout.
Rebs feeding the baby in the bunch. =)
These little guys were pleased as punch for a ride on Denver's four wheeler. Just look at their faces!
The children made an Egyptian meal to celebrate the end of their history course with Miss Carolyn. 
They really got into their costuming and Allison even did makeup for Liz which was...quite shocking. =)
One of the delicious Egyptian desserts...an orange flavored flan/custard.
Denver and Mom were did the landscaping at the hotel this year.
Elizabeth was my trusty outfit designer co-laborer this spring. Even at age twelve, she already has a great eye for colors, design, and putting things together.
After a number of years and trying multiple people pairs to be in charge of our "family band clothing design" department, I think we have finally hit upon the winning combo! Most people in our family love to shop, but some of us get stressed out by deadlines and knowing that we "have" to come home with something. (which is how it is when we are outfit shopping)
Liz and I both have this "thrill of the hunt" and absolutely enjoy every part of the process, no matter how long it takes. Hey, the longer it goes...the more stores to shop at, and the more time to shop, yes?!
Its a good thing I'm not a guy because I do have a SERIOUS weakness for ties. I honestly have more fun picking out the guys outfits than I do the girls! =)
Of course, beings that we had to drive all the way to Bettendorf for Burlington Coat Factory, and beings that one of the coolest things about said store is their epic hat collection...we had to have a little fun trying on hats. =)
Morning devotions...friends joining right in with our daily schedule!
I was privileged to babysit this little angel for several days while her parents were on an anniversary trip. We had such fun. She even kept me company while I did office work! 
Denver was sure she was old enough to add broccoli to her diet repertoire. Poor child! 
Probably the funniest thing that happened the whole time she was at our house was the one night that several of the boys were fighting over her. They were each sure that it was their turn to hold her. Well finally Denver somehow won out. His joy was short-lived; about five minutes later I was in the other room and heard this, 
"Oh wow...what is this...oh no...guys, help me...CHELSY COME HELP ME!!!"
She chose such great timing for her epic blowout. =)
One day when Allison got home from work, she found everyone gone except for Mom and the two youngest. This gave her the idea to take the littles to the coffee shop and give mom a few quiet hours. Hence, above sibling date. =)
Busy in the kitchen. Please don't mind the rather prominent fly tape that is dangling from the ceiling. #farmlife
Sunday lunch company one of our last Sunday's at home.

Carson giving swing rides to some of our guests' little ones.

One beautiful day near the end of May, our church had our evening service outdoors at our pastor's home. It was a perfect evening.
This group of little ladies might be the upcoming hair + makeup crew for the Live Animal Christmas Play. You never know! They sure showed some promising skills here! =)
It's an "all hands on deck" project to keep our farm looking good! Denver does all of our weed eating. 
Mulching time for the gardens. We put down newspaper and cardboard (after weeding and hoeing everything well) and then covered it with old hay.
Tired and dirty and happy work team!
So thankful for all the friends God has given us. We haven't done a very good job staying connected with this family since we have all been growing up and moving different directions. We have many good memories from "the old days" of being in the same homeschool group and jamming together back when we were all getting started with music lessons and taking from the same teachers. 
It was a joy to reconnect with them one of the last evenings before we left on tour. They made pizza and s'mores for us in their new outdoor brick oven. It was such fun to help with the process, and it was some of the very best pizza I have ever eaten!
Some of us got to help!
The little girls found the perfect spot to sit while waiting for their s'mores. =)
The beginning of June...time to get the bus ready to leave!! Here are Allison and Rebs, carrying loads of kitchen supplies and food.
Carson gave the bus one last maintenance check....and Liz danced around on the roof for a while. =)
We had "the last supper" as we like to call it- a big, special brunch together before we left. And then we did a real last supper that night.
"The last supper" meal always calls for special food. For brunch we had waffles with whipped cream, eggs, sausage, and chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast. 
Allison making the waffles.
Dinner was Allison's famous ribeye steak, potatoes, and homemade ice-cream. #AMAZING
Our dining room table was graced by many beautiful bouquets of flowers throughout May.
Flowers courtesy of Allison's flower garden and arrangements courtesy of Allison + Liz. 
A beautiful black and white shot that one of the boys took of our cornfields. Love this view!

Enjoying an evening sunset while out on a walk.
///////////////////////////////////////
"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; 
withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming
the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man."
-Colossians 4:2-6

8 comments:

  1. Looks like ya'll have been busy!! My brother wants to know what kind of farmers you are? we live around a lot of crop farmers and he seems to be interested in it!
    Clo, Is. 53:5, #UNASHAMED, heresclo.blogspot.com, YouTube channel-Clo Hale

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  2. Wow, you guys are one busy family! All the hosting guests, farm work, and family time you squeeze in there is Just amazing.

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  3. You are so right about our church. I missed the Wednesday service last week and I felt like I missed a months worth of Bible teaching. It's so good to have a church that doesn't bend to our culture and stays true to God's Word while still being the most fun place to spend a Sunday.
    As always, you all are always in our prayers in ABF. Enjoy your time with family over the next few weeks too.

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  4. Me an Rebecca our so much alike she Carries her baby around everywhere and I Carrie my beau bear around an u guys sound like a pack of uhmm monkeys lol hugs lov u guys an God bless u guysπŸ˜‰πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ•ΆπŸ˜˜

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  5. wonderful update Chels, as usual=) Haha, the "highly individual" song is interesting, I'm sure=) And I loved the creativity of the historical costumes=)

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  6. Wow sounds like this has been a busy month for you. love all your posts, always waiting for more

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  7. I love this post! God bless y'all on your tour. Praying for you!

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  8. We are so blessed to see an awesome family like this. Thank you for inspiring us with your music and songs. To God alone be all the glory. God bless you all.

    -From the Philippines

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