Preparing the Soil

August 29, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

A Weekend in Madison

After leaving Wheaton, we headed to Madison, Wisconsin to spend the weekend with my sister and her husband and two beautiful girls. It was such a relaxing time after a busy two weeks. We lingered long over coffee, had a great time at a nearby lake, enjoyed four-wheeling at my brother-in-law’s parents’ house, and soaked in the beauty of their new home and land.

The last time we saw them was when Zachary was born (as in, they arrived just hours after delivery) and so it was good to spend time with them at a time when I was a little more “with it.” I so enjoyed watching my sister be a mom and seeing the cousins play. We are so thankful for and blessed by their generous hospitality.

He loves his new camera

He loves his new camera

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Waiting for the ferry

Waiting for the ferry

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Future ball player

Future ball player

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Could she be any sweeter?

Could she be any sweeter?

©Janet Phillips_august16_2014_web-24 ©Janet Phillips_august16_2014_web-25 ©Janet Phillips_august16_2014_web-28 ©Janet Phillips_august16_2014_web-31

My beautiful sister

My beautiful sister

©Janet Phillips_august16_2014_web-42

Love her little smile!

Love her little smile!

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Sweet girls.

Sweet girls.

My brother in law treated us to ice cream at the ferry.

My brother in law treated us to ice cream at the ferry.

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Here comes Mr. Z!

Here comes Mr. Z!

©Janet Phillips_august16_2014_web-75

Alaina and Avery were best buddies for the weekend.

Alaina and Avery were best buddies for the weekend.

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She's growing up right before my very eyes.

She’s growing up right before my very eyes.

She loved getting the chance to drive!

She loved getting the chance to drive!

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August 28, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

Cantigny Park (Wheaton, IL)

After leaving Grand Rapids, we headed to Wheaton, IL to catch up with some dear friends of ours. We worked with Scott and Debbie when we lived in Malaysia and they were instrumental in helping us shape our view of family and parenting. Even way back then, when I just had two little ones, I knew that they were a wealth of wisdom. I soaked it all up and all these years later, we are still living out many of the ideals we saw in their family.

One of my favorite things about this particular family is that they shatter the view that there is only one right way to parent. They have three kids, have never homeschooled, and Debbie has worked for much of the time she has had kids. And yet, their commitment to family surpasses almost anything I have ever seen. The sacrifices they have made for their children are humbling. We hadn’t seen them in five years and their once-little boys are all grown up now, but once again, I soaked in all they had to offer and was reminded of what happens when we take this parenting thing seriously.

(I’m so sad we forgot to get a picture of all of us!)

We spent the following morning with Debbie and one of the boys. They took us to Cantigny Park in Wheaton. The kids had a great time climbing on all the tanks, learning more about wars we have touched on in school, and visiting the museum.

©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-2 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-4 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-7 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-9 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-11 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-15 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-16 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-18 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-21 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-22 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-29 ©Janet Phillips_august15_2014_web-30After Cantigny, they treated us to a yummy lunch (my first Chipotle experience) and then they took us to the “Little Popcorn Store” in Wheaton, a TINY store created in an alley. The kids loved picking out (and eating!) candy.

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August 27, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

Romulus & Grand Rapids

After camping at the beach for the weekend, we spent a few days with Jason’s parents in Romulus. It was nice to have a few down days (and a few clean days!) The kids always love to be with their grandparents. We’re thankful for their willingness to help us get whatever we need done (and there were a lot of things that needed done!)

We also got to spend a few hours with my sister and her five kids. They were visiting from Texas and our paths crossed for just an afternoon.

©Janet Phillips_august12_2014_web-3 ©Janet Phillips_august12_2014_web-6

Zach loved playing with toys from when his daddy was little

Zach loved playing with toys from when his daddy was little

After leaving the Detroit area, we headed to Grand Rapids to visit some good friends of ours. Jen & Adam were good friends with Jason during college and we have continued to see them every time we are in town. We even buried a time capsule together on December 31, 1999 and we look forward to opening it in just over ten years! We enjoyed a great few days playing in the pool, eating amazing food (Jen is such a good cook!), and hiking and swimming at Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

After waiting for WEEKS, Katie's wiggly tooth finally came out.

After waiting for WEEKS, Katie’s wiggly tooth finally came out.

©Janet Phillips_august13_2014_web-3

They've both got holes

They’ve both got holes

©Janet Phillips_august13_2014_web-8 ©Janet Phillips_august13_2014_web-9

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

©Janet Phillips_august13_2014_web-18 ©Janet Phillips_august13_2014_web-19

It was so fun to see this beautiful young woman. I still remember her as a two day old infant. She is a beautiful and sweet spirited girl with amazing artistic talent.

It was so fun to see this beautiful young woman. I still remember her as a two day old infant. She is a beautiful and sweet spirited girl with amazing artistic talent.

©Janet Phillips_august13_2014_web-21

August 26, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

Sterling State Park (Lake Erie)

After leaving Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio, we traveled to Jason’s parents house, just outside of Detroit. We spent one night there and then headed just a half an hour away for a wonderful weekend of camping in Sterling State Park on Lake Erie with friends of ours from Indonesia. Although is was a very different camping experience (no trees and lots of wind!), we had a great time at the beach. We did lots of playing in the sand and water, a bit of walking, and a lot of wonderful catching up with beautiful like-minding friends. It was such a blessing!

She's such a beautiful mama!

She’s such a beautiful mama!

Nothing like french toast on a windy morning.

Nothing like french toast on a windy morning.

Bird chasing!

Bird chasing!

What a beautiful family!

What a beautiful family!

©Janet Phillips_august10_2014_web-20

We're so thankful for a friendship that started six years ago as we all moved to Indonesia (except their were 4 less of us then!)

We’re so thankful for a friendship that started six years ago as we all moved to Indonesia (except there were 4 less of us then!)

Early morning sun

Early morning sun

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The kids LOVED to chase the seagulls!

The kids LOVED to chase the seagulls!

Daddy-daughter moments melt my heart

Daddy-daughter moments melt my heart

Apparently Zachary likes hummus, A LOT.

Apparently Zachary likes hummus, A LOT.

©janetphillips_august9_2014_web-88

Sweet Luisa

Sweet Luisa

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S'more experimenting

S’more experimenting

Alaina's s'more invention

Alaina’s s’more invention

©janetphillips_august9_2014_web-97

Sun-burned Alaina and Luisa had a great time together!

Sun-burned Alaina and Luisa had a great time together!

©janetphillips_august9_2014_web-114

August 25, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

Why We’re Road Tripping

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We’ve been without internet (other than on my phone), so there haven’t been a lot of updates about our trip. However, we’ve spent the last few days with my parents in Bozeman, MT, and the dreary and COLD weather has given me a chance to get photos downloaded and edited and ready to share. We start camping again tomorrow, but I’ve got posts scheduled to catch you up on our trip so far. It’s hard to believe we are halfway done. It’s been AMAZING and I am excited to see what the next three weeks bring.

Before the onslaught of photos, I thought I would point you to a post I wrote over at The Daily Digi about why we are road tripping. This is definitely not the extent of our whys, but what I wrote shares the biggest part of my heart as it relates to this trip.

WHY WE’RE ROAD TRIPPING

August 15, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

It’s Already Day 12

It’s hard to believe that we are already 12 days into our trip. It has gone so incredibly fast and been so incredibly busy. Thankfully, though, it has also been incredibly good. We’ve spent amazing time as a family, we’ve seen many family and friends, seen beautiful scenery, hiked many glorious miles, and have even gotten some good ‘ol roadschooling in (including Jason who had to finish up a class — we’re SO glad to have that work done and submitted!) It’s been busier than I would like, but things will start to slow down from this point on and I am excited to see what the next few weeks will bring.

Here’s a quick rundown of the trip so far:

Days 1-3: North Carolina to Hocking Hills State Park (Ohio). We camped as a family and did a lot of hiking and enjoying our beautiful campsite.

Day 4: Hocking Hills to Romulus, Michigan (outside of Detroit). Spent the night with Jason’s parents.

Days 5-6: Camping at Sterling State Park with some friends from Indonesia. Camping on the beach was definitely a different experience (it was WINDY!) but we had a great time catching up and playing in the sand.

Day 7-8: Back to Romulus for a few days with Jason’s parents. We also were able to spend a few hours with my older sister and her five kids. I had lunch with a scrapping friend, we did a little thrift store shopping (to pick up a few things we realized we needed), and rearragned our packing so that we could leave our camper for the rest of the month (that was part of our plan…we’re not done camping, but we’ll do some tent camping and we’ll rent a camper later in the trip).

Day 9-10: From Romulus to Grand Rapids, Michigan. We had a great time with good friends of ours and their four girls. Jason has been friends with this couple since college and I have been privileged to know them the last 16 years. We try to see them whenever we are in town and we look foward to 2025 when we get to unearth the time capsule we buried together December 31, 1999. We had a great time (and a few late nights!) and had a gorgeous day at Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

Day 11: Grand Rapids to Wheaton, Illinois. We’re having fun catching up with dear friends of ours. We worked with this incredible couple back when we were in Malaysia. They were very instrumental in us learning to parent way back then, including giving us the permission we needed to take this parenting thing as seriously as we wanted to. They were farther ahead in the parenting process and we loved what we saw in their older kids. I asked lots of questions and I am thankful for their loving guidance and example. Between this family and our dear friends at camp, our ideals for parenting were formed.

And that brings us to today, Day 12. We’ll head to Wisconsin to spend the weekend with my other sister and her sweet family. And then on Monday, we start the long trek out west.

 

And here is the first onslaught on photos. Lots of people have wanted to see pictures from our trip and I have been negligent in posting (thankfully, the negligence is due to enjoying amazing time with family and friends and staying off the computer!)

HOCKING HILLS STATE PARK 

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My sweet girl

My sweet girl

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They share my love of taking photos

They share my love of taking photos

She loves photographing moss

She loves photographing moss

©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-56 ©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-54 ©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-50 ©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-48

Tight spaces!

Tight spaces!

©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-40 ©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-38 ©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-36 ©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-33

Bethany has a crazy obsession with daddy long legs. She catches them and puts them in her bucket. Or, if she doesn't have her bucket, she just carries them around.

Bethany has a crazy obsession with daddy long legs. She catches them and puts them in her bucket. Or, if she doesn’t have her bucket, she just carries them around.

Bethany loves to stop at the "drinking mountain."

Bethany loves to stop at the “drinking mountain.”

©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-26

We stumbled upon this mama and her two babies

We stumbled upon this mama and her two babies

©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-18 ©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-10 ©Janet Phillips_august6_2014_web-6

An early morning walk with my three "bigs"

An early morning walk with my three “bigs”

"Home" for three days

“Home” for three days

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Alaina has been good at making sure I get in some photos

Alaina has been good at making sure I get in some photos

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York Peppermint Patty s'mores!

York Peppermint Patty s’mores!

(c) Janet Phillips_august4_2014_web-29

Journaling our trip

Journaling our trip

(c) Janet Phillips_august4_2014_web-25 (c) Janet Phillips_august4_2014_web-23 (c) Janet Phillips_august4_2014_web-20 (c) Janet Phillips_august4_2014_web-15

The beautiful lake just beyond our campsite

The beautiful lake just beyond our campsite

(c) Janet Phillips_august4_2014_web-10 (c) Janet Phillips_august4_2014_web-8

July 23, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

A-Camping We Will Go (part 2)

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After leaving Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we headed to Fall Creek Falls State Park to meet up with friends for five days of camping. We were really looking forward to spending time with them! We were also really looking forward to seeing up camp and then just STAYING for five days. Setting up and tearing down takes a lot of work and we were anxious to just be for a while.

I find it very helpful when others share some of the nitty-gritty details of trips and so I thought I would share a little about the logistical arrangements of camping with two large families.

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Two families

Two Campsites

Two pop-up campers

One tent

Eleven kids (ages 11, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6, 5, 3, 3, 1, 1)

madeitwork

Our friends made the reservations at the campground, and they picked AMAZING spots. We had two sites on a small loop off the main loop of the campground. This meant that there were no cars coming through, except for the few cars of the campsites next to us. This allowed the kids to spend lots of time running around and scootering around the loop.  There were no sites to the back of us which meant 1) less noise, 2) more privacy 3) prettier woodsy view, 4) deer that walked through regularly. The bathhouse was just a 1-2 minute walk, which made cleaning off dirty kids super easy.

Each family had their own pop-up camper. We wanted to be able to have our doors facing each other (and thus create a sense of one big shared site) and so our friends maneuvered their camper to turn backward so that our doors opened up to the same side.

Our family also brought and set up a tent. This large tent served three purposes. First, it was our changing room. We didn’t want clothes all over the camper and with the ages of our kids, we can’t just change openly anymore. Our tent has three subdividivisions with walls which made changing easy. The second purpose of the tent was to house our camping toilet. Our friends have a toilet in their camper, but we don’t. During the day, most of us would use the bathhouse, but during the nighttime (or anytime when the little girls needed to go), we used the camping toilet in the tent. And no, they don’t smell. Those little contraptions are very well-designed. The third use of the tent was for Zachary and his pack ‘n ‘play. He is not at the age when he can be in a bed with others…he just thinks it is party time. He (and we!) sleep much better if he is isolated. He napped and slept at night in one of the sections of the tent.

As for meals, we decided to loosely coordinate what we were having, but each family brought and prepared their own food. With this many people, it would just be too much to prep and prepare for everyone at once. We did our best to have dinners ready at the same time and we all sat together along two picnic tables that we put together. Breakfasts were simple, but yummy: French toasts, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches/burritos, cereal, oatmeal, and fruit. Lunches were either snacky foods like cheese and crackers or were simple like pasta or leftovers. Many of the dinners were prepped ahead of time and so we feasted on amazing things like enchilada soup, grilled chicken, hamburgers, grilled pizza, and of course, the obligatory hot dog night.

Time

One of the great things about camping for a stretch longer than a weekend (we had five nights) is that you can slow your schedule down. Most days, we did only one big activity (hiking, swimming, etc). Mornings were slow. We enjoyed long cups of coffee, late breakfasts, our individual Bible times, and warming ourselves by the fire (three nights were in the 50s!) The two babies still take one long nap a day and so often, the dads would take the other kids to one of the ranger activities around the park. While the babies napped, the mamas read, chatted, showered, and rested ourselves.

In the afternoons, we spent our time exploring the gorgeous park. Then we would come back to the site, make dinner, eat, clean up, have a fire and s’mores, and head to bed. I’ve got lots of photos from our various hikes and swims, but for today, just a few photos of life around the campsite. Enjoy!

©janetphillips_july17_2014_web-77

Homemade breakfast sandwiches are yummy!

Homemade breakfast sandwiches are yummy!

So is oatmeal!

So is oatmeal!

Wildlife!

Wildlife!

Lots of scooter riding (and falling!)

Lots of scooter riding (and falling!)

©janetphillips_july14_2014_web-31

©janetphillips_july13_2014_web-28_copy©janetphillips_july13_2014_web-19_copy©janetphillips_july14_2014_web-34

Good help is easy to find!

Good help is easy to find!

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The two three year olds spent much of their week running back into the field behind the sites and picking wildflowers, all the while singing, "It's a beautiful day to pick flowers!"

The two three year olds spent much of their week running back into the field behind the sites and picking wildflowers, all the while singing, “It’s a beautiful day to pick flowers!”

©janetphillips_july16_2014_web-6 ©janetphillips_july16_2014_web-13 ©janetphillips_july16_2014_web-14

July 22, 2014
by Janet
2 Comments

A-Camping We Will Go! (part one)

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©janetphillips_july12_2014_web-55

Every morning as I woke up this past week  — chilled air and slightly damp clothes sticking to me — these words spilled out of my mouth:

 I LOVE camping.

I know it isn’t everyone’s sentiment…but I really, really love it.

Sure, it’s messy. It’s muddy. It’s wet and cold and it sometimes it means a baby who wants to play rather than go to sleep.

But I LOVE camping.

Along with all that mess and mud is something amazing:

It’s beautiful.

It’s being outside in God’s creation.

It’s roasting marshmallows with sticky-fingered kids and looking for the perfect s’more recipe.

It’s long walks with friends in the cool of the morning.

It’s putting your watch, work, and makeup away.

It’s looking at the gorgeous stars as you share your hearts with friends.

It’s listening to three year old girls sing, “It’s a beautiful day to pick flowers!”

It’s watching a mama deer and her babes drink from the river.

It’s hot coffee, both to drink and to keep your hands warm.

It’s time for extra cuddles, from big kids and small kids alike.

It’s chicken, pizza, french toast, and even cookies cooked on the grill.

It’s lazy mornings with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

It’s bliss.

©janetphillips_july12_2014_web-56

The plan was to spend two nights together as a family in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then meeting up friends for five days at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Due to some problems with the lights on our camper, we had to delay our start by a day. But after a long and slow trip, complete with car trouble, we finally arrived at the park and had one night alone as a family. After a very busy few months it was so wonderful to just be together. After setting up camp, we ate tacos and then the kids played in the woods. Marshmallows and bed followed. The next morning was spent on a nice walk, getting our car fixed, and cleaning up camp. Our time was short, but it was oh-so-sweet.

We needed to stop to get something for the car, so we decided on a WalMart parking lot breakfast picnic!

We needed to stop to get something for the car, so we decided on a WalMart parking lot breakfast picnic!

©janetphillips_july12_2014_web-5

It takes sites like this to say, "Woah...we have a big family!"

It takes sites like this to say, “Woah…we have a big family!”

I've heard of a beach bum before, but this is my first experience with a camping bum!

I’ve heard of a beach bum before, but this is my first experience with a camping bum. Oh well, “dirt don’t hurt.”

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Nothing beat French Toast while camping!

Nothing beats French Toast while camping!

The site next to us was empty and had just had its tent pad res-anded. Our kids were in sandbox heaven!

The site next to us was empty and had just had its tent pad re-sanded. Our kids were in sandbox heaven!

 

Stay tuned for Part Two! 

 

July 12, 2014
by Janet
3 Comments

She’s Beautiful

She's Beautiful | www.preparingthesoil.com

 

We’re headed out for the week to go camping with some dear friends, but I have been meaning to post these photos for a while now. A few weeks ago, as my sweet Alaina was coming in from playing outside, I saw this beautiful young woman in front of me and asked if I could take some pictures. She reluctantly agreed. She only gave me a few minutes before the silly faces came out, but what I saw made me swell with pride.

This girl is truly amazing.  She’s 11 1/2 and she is…well…amazing. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to explain how truly amazing she is. All I know is that I am blessed to have her and it is so incredible to watch the Lord work in heart as He grows and matures her. As I see her selfless service and the way she looks out for her siblings and is always watching and waiting to see if I need something, I am truly in awe. Although part of me wants to keep her little forever, I am so very excited to see the woman that God is growing her into. I believe that she will be one of my very best friends one day. Her character blesses me, gives me hope, and inspires me. I am one lucky mama.

And let me tell you…she has great hair.

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July 9, 2014
by Janet
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We Met Them Six Years Ago

We were attending a two week training course before leaving for Indonesia. We would see them in the halls of the nursery as we each walked from room to room picking up children. I remember standing outside talking with them, being thankful for an instant connection with another family. They had their two children and we our four, and we chatted by the baby pool as the kids splashed and we talked of our future: ours in Indonesia and theirs in China.

I prayed, right then and there, silently in my heart: “Lord, I want them in Indonesia. They are meant to be there.” I told no one but Jason.

One sold house, one positive pregnancy test, one “wait to come to China until later” and a whole bunch of prayers followed. Through twisty and turny stories of God’s faithfulness, their plane touched down in Indonesia six months after ours. Her belly seven months swollen, two toe-headed boys clinging to mama’s legs, and finally, we were together again.

For two and a half years we enjoyed their friendship and fellowship. We enjoyed trips to the beach, to Malaysia, to Jakarta. We enjoyed ice cream with the kids and PB&J sandwiches on the floor the day they left Indonesia. They were balm to our souls, in more ways than they will ever know.

And then God called them back to the US. My heart grieved. It still grieves for the loss. And yet, my heart rejoices that in the past three years since our homes have had different names, we have remained close. Emails, phone calls, visits. Our hearts have remained knitted together and I still selfishly pray for the day when we are reunited for the long haul.

Our families look different than they did six years ago. In 2008, there were six kids between us. Now there are eleven.

In a fun string of events, I was able to spend two days in their hometown. It was a totally different experience being with them without my family. With my kids not there to need me and to attract their kids’ attention, I was able to truly enjoy their family all to myself. Games on the couch, long and unexpected hugs from their sweet boys, and lots of “Aunt Janet, watch THIS!” It was a blessing.

And then I got to watch them with my camera. The heat and the bugs kept our evening short, but still, my camera got to capture their love and sweetness and silliness. I am so blessed to know them.

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