A Bushel of Brooks

A Bushel of Brooks
Us as we are ...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas brought sooooo many good memories this year! We had our family Christmas together on Christmas Eve morning. For the first year (with probably many to follow!), we let the boys sleep in sleeping bags in the living room by the light of our Christmas tree. There was MUCH excitement in the room! My dad came over and read stories and sang Christmas carols with us to them that night. Since we both have big families, Eli and I really work to keep what we spend on the boys under control. They don't need big amounts of money spent on them. The focus is on giving to each other, enjoying gifts, and realizing that Jesus needs to be the center of our celebrations! It also helps that they are still young ... expensive electronic gifts are not at the top of their lists - yet! They love LEGOS, and board games, and small toys in stockings. Those things still bring big grins!

Ready for Stockings!

All three big boys got Daddy a rubber mallet!
It was fun to hear them stirring around 6am, and then have Jonah tiptoeing into our room to see if we were awake (we were). Such a sweet family time that morning!

Jonah got them mustaches = )
Christmas Day we headed by 8am to Eli's parents house, just as we have done year after year. Our family has grown and grown, and I believe there were 22 of us there Christmas morning this year! That means present-opening can take quite awhile, but we enjoy it! We came home by 1 for some much needed nap/down time for ALL of us!

Uncle Seth, Aunt Ann, and Aunt Joy with the boys
Silly brothers
Sweet cousins
At 4 we headed over to Ed and Betty's house. Dear friends of ours. They were having an open house for family and friends to come over and have snacks and play games! We couldn't miss it. We were only able to stay about 45 minutes, but I am so glad we dropped by.

And then headed from their to my extended family's Christmas dinner. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and family we don't get to see all the time! Not everyone can make it every year, but I treasure the time with whoever can be there! My Opa and Oma would be so thrilled that the family continues to make time to get together a few times a year, no matter how big or spread out the Willems clan gets.

Exhausted? Yep! But, still happy. The boys were still wriggling with excitement because there was ONE MORE CHRISTMAS. Opa and Oma's. We let them sleep in the living room one more time = ) Why not? Before long the Christmas tree will be down and it won't even be an option anymore. I figured they could have naps if they needed it! We had so much fun with my family.

My dad and Abram
And then? And it was Saturday afternoon and we were five Christmas celebrations behind us. Full of good food, good company, and lots of love. I was exhausted (I am quite a bit of an introvert and that was a lot of people time!), but it was such a great weekend. We all came away with wonderful memories and I am still smiling when I think back on all those celebrations!

My brother, Isaac and Selah
The Willems!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Trying to Slow Down

Just when the year seems to ramp up its pace (hellooooo holidays!), I feel the urge and desire within me to s.l.o.w. everything down. I know there are many people who are not as fond of holidays, or maybe the holiday time is tough because of family members no longer around. Or perhaps it feels more like a lonely time. And my heart aches for those around me that are walking that path.

And so I want to draw them in. Into what? Into the beauty that I believe is in this month.

But the so-called "hustle and bustle" is surely trying to suck us all in. Suck my boys into the wanting and getting of it all. And I want to see past all that. I want them to see past all that.

See the babe lying in the manger. See the greatest gift of all. Realize that all these gifts and goodies around us are suppose to be just a physical reminder of the gift of God's son coming earth! I want it to stir our hearts to give to others. To be an extension of God's love throughout this season. And not just consumers.

We get to do so many fun things in December. A Christmas advent countdown that Eli started for me before the boys were even born (isn't he awesome?); gift shopping for family and friends; singing along to Christmas songs in the van and at home; practicing for the church program; wrapping presents; watching Christmas movies; and the list could go on and  on!

First day of Advent countdown - no one can smile normally!
But what I really want my little family to get a hold of is the deeper message of hope. And to find it, I know that we have to slow down and take the time to reflect. Maybe some think that four little boys make such a lofty goal impossible. I say no.

Amidst their short attention spans and light saber fights, they have childlike faith. They experience wonder. I just want to catch it. Rein it in, even in short moments each day, and sit together to talk about how Spirit became flesh and walked among us. Ask them how they can extend love and kindness to those around us who really, really need to see it demonstrated. Sure, sometimes their answers are off the mark, but at the same time, my little boys know what it is to feel love. They are loved. They know it! I want to draw from that and teach them to find in their everyday moments, an opportunity to give it to others.

I know I fail miserably. And so will they. And the Lord keeps gently reminding me to walk in His mercy, because that is the only way I will have mercy to pour out. It's only two weeks until Christmas! And even though the days are packed (with good things!), it isn't an excuse to miss out. I don't want to miss the chance to be a light. Or to see the lighting up in my own Bushels' eyes when they realize the deeper meaning of Christ coming to earth.

And so each day, I am trying to take what time we can, and slow it down. Take more time on the couch to sit together. Reminding each other to look for moments. Taking more time to be silly and laugh even, so that the boys know that even though Mommy is busy, she is never too busy to be present with them.

I love Christmas. It is such a gift. And really, to truly enjoy a gift, don't we often have to slow down and savor it??? That is exactly where I want to be found right now.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Full Recovery!

November was full of great things, but it was also full of infections. I had mastitis twice, and Abram had two ear infections. Yuck!

Fourth kid. The third one that I have nursed sucessfully, and I had never EVER had mastitis before! Many of my friends had had it, and I have heard of the horrors. But when I woke up that morning in November (and Eli was out of town) with the pain I was experiencing, followed by chills, muscle aches, etc. ... I will forever want to do whatever I can for anyone else experiencing the horridness. I seriously told Eli over the phone that I would rather be in labor at that point: unmedicated labor. I walked around all day with this heat pad stuck in the side of my bra, alternating tylenol and ibuprofen and hoping for some relief.

Thankfully, since I was home sans hubby, the doctor called in antibiotics for me and didn't make me come in for an office visit. About two days later I was in recovery, although it took a few good days for everything "up top" to clear up and un-clog. Ugh.

Around that time as well, Abram got an ear infection, so we were dealing with a cranky boy during the day. His sleep isn't amazing anyway, so it doesn't seem that bad when he has had ear infections, and I count my blessings on that one!

Two weeks later? Yup. I woke up with the same exact thing. And Abram had already been back to the doctor and still had one ear infection. This time, though, our roles reversed. Poor little guy took a full five days to finally cheer back up.

Abram is a naturally happy boy. People comment on it all the time. He loves to laugh, play, and has such a sweet nature at home. But those five days he was sad. Lots of tears, and needing to be held. And that happened as we were entering Thanksgiving week. He and I missed the dinner at church because he was running a fever. He spent many times just laying on me that day, hot and tired and unsure why he felt that way. And four days into that, I woke up with mastitis again. = ( Abram and I were a definite sickly pair for one day. I carried him on my back quite a bit because he needed to be held, and I was attempting to not put pressure on my chest.

This time when I called, I just begged my nurse for another call in for meds. I knew the symptoms, Eli was working that day, and all I wanted was (hopefully) quick relief before we were at people's houses the next day for Thanksgiving meals. The doctor was in agreement, and this round cleared up fast.

Sometimes these things just happen! You can't anticipate them, you can't get out of them, you just have to walk through them, right? Much like a lot of life, I think. As I look around at all the things going on around us, I see how I often cannot change the circumstances and have little control over them. But I do have control over my attitude and how I approach what lies in my daily path. And some of what I encounter is just plain ugly, not fun, not easy. But I can still accept the grace God extends to me each day to walk humbly but confidently forward. I'm not asking for more sickness or infections (!), but no matter what happens, my joy can still shine.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Oh Gosh.

I'm sorry, but can anyone explain to me how it is suddenly November 20th? Time flies. Always. And I know that it does and that it would, but here we are. Thanksgiving is next week. I have two turkeys to cook in the next five days. My brain has been exploding with gym choreography. We've been doing school. Eli and I have been trying to clean out all the boys' toys and rooms (ha!) before we even consider letting them get presents at Christmas!

There has been so much in my month. And much of it didn't even happen in my household. News of bombings, attacks ... transitions at church ... transitions at my work ... you name it.

And here's what is amazing. I can still experience peace.


Throughout this month, I have sought to focus on the best thing: Jesus. Let me tell you, there is no shortage of items that I could worry about all day and all night. In fact, I wouldn't even need to repeat items because the list could be so long. I could fear ISIS, terrorism, worry about job security, have anxiety over so many things! But I cannot and will not go there. I must focus on the One who holds the world in His hands.

It doesn't mean that sometimes I have to wrestle to get there. In fact, I have to seek after this peace, pursue it, take hold of it. But it is there. And I am so grateful for the tenderness of my heavenly Father that extends this peace to me and that I can find rest in His arms. I believe in this one true God. I can't explain all the whys of everything that happens. But I believe that He sees a much bigger picture than I can ever get.

I am only guaranteed what I have today. None of us have hands on anything more. We have what we have right now. And I want to experience fully what lies before me. My husband, My children. My family. My neighborhood. My friends. LIFE. And if I worry about the multitude of things out there to worry about, I immediately lose that fulfilled today that I have been given. I can't be thankful and worry at the same time! And so I am looking up. Teaching my children to look up. To extend kindness to each other and others (um yes, we fail all the time!). I may not be able to do much, but I want to make a small difference in someone's day ... every day! How can I bless as I have been blessed?

I was just thinking about someone who has been an amazing blessing to me and my family. And just filling up with gratitude for what she has given to us. Things that she might consider small, but have been HUGE to us. And challenged to look around and see who I can do the same for. In the darkness of the world, the nit-picky politics all around us, who can I be a light to? Who can I encourage? And I can only really do it well when I'm keeping my eyes on Jesus and letting the worries and fears drop at the foot of the cross.

I don't get there all the time. But that's where I want to find myself more and more. That would be taking my today, and living it well.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Eli is out of town. Certainly not on one of his longer trips, but still not here. And although the boys and I still keep a fairly regular schedule, and others always jump in to help out, it just isn't the same. Daddy is gone.

Today I felt like the behaviors were coming out all over the place. The boys were so excited about today! We were going to the Hy-Vee store to trick or treat, so they were going to wear their costumes. Seriously, though I kept warning them this wouldn't be a "big" event, Reuben was counting down the days all week. And they went to bed excited last night about it all. I was thrilled we didn't have to be at the gym until 11 this morning, so we would actually have bit of a morning at home. Time to be a little lazy in pajamas and not be trying to get out the door.

And it all started out okay, most of the boys slept in a little later than normal because they were tired from the day before. And they were happy to be reading books in the living room, and playing with some little toys a friend had given them.

But as the day wore on ...

And I don't want to unveil my children. I know I have my own ugliness that pops up when I am tired or cranky or something is off within me. And I certainly wouldn't be thrilled to have it broadcast to anyone who can find it.

But I just saw it - battled it. Jonah wanted to run the show. Daddy isn't here, and by golly, the firstborn wanted to step up and run things. And Matthias? Not about to tell than happen. In true three year old fashion, his fists came into play because his words don't feel powerful enough.

I know the job description. My job is to be a mother. Not a friend right now. To love them, but to train them. And I felt like a referee today. Only the time outs and talks weren't going through the ears and producing any change.

We talked some tonight. The boys tell me how much they love each other! And I know that they do. I see it demonstrated each and every day. But, they miss Daddy and they are excellent at pushing each others' buttons. But, it isn't enough. I shared with them about servant leadership. Talking to Jonah about how he is a leader, but he has to be a servant leader. Things won't go well if he gets bossy. Matthias has to use hands for kindness. To bring healing. And Reuben has to stay calm. We talked about fighting for peace in our home, not fighting for fighting's sake.

And then we pray. Pray that our hearts would be soft towards each other. And oh how I pray along with them! That my own heart would not get frustrated alongside theirs, but that I would find the teaching moments and teach with a gentleness that comes from Jesus. I love these boys with a fierce love that can almost feel overwhelming, but I hate when dissension breaks a day. Eli is a great dad! But, even he can't solve all those problems. The boys have to learn to step back and make right choices. We have to parent to help them get there (HUGE job!), especially in a tough day.

And so, as I lay my own head down tonight, my prayer is for them. That they would wake in the morning with renewed strength to grow. They are growing each day. May they grow into men of honor and strength. And when they get up in the morning, may their little hearts be inclined to be kind to their brothers. A friend of mine once said, "One of the greatest gifts you can give to your child(ren) is siblings." They'll have each other long past Eli and I.  I believe that - and I know that someday they will too! Even if right now that is hard for a small child to see.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fire Station Visit

Matthias got to join the ranks of his older brother this semester as he headed off to preschool two mornings a week. He does great in terms of being happy to run into his classroom, give us reports when he gets home, and seems to generally enjoy his time there. But, for the first several weeks, he would still express that he did not want to go when he work up and realized it was a "school day" for him. Most of this simply stems from the fact that he realizes the bigger boys aren't headed "to" a school, and so he would rather stay with them. But he loves his crafts, singing time, and his new friends at school. And just in in the last two weeks, we haven't heard those words when we mention school. Tuesday of this week, all three boys were eating breakfast at the table together ... I said "And Matthias, you get to go to school today!" And he just grinned right back at me and said "Yay! I love school."


At the beginning of this month, his class visited a local fire station - always a favorite activity with little kids! His brothers got the the same experience when they were in preschool as well. And although I wish I could have been there, I was glad that Eli was able to take the time from work to go with him. Eli got to accompany Reuben on his trip, and I think Jonah as well. Makes for good memories with a Daddy and his boy.

And they come home with great stories. To a little three year old, sitting in a fire truck is BIG stuff. And getting to hold the hose? Even better = )

It seems like schools do less field trips than they used to. And I understand, it is tough and takes work to pull off. There isn't a trip to the pumpkin patch as a school (which is fine - we had our family trip!), and I believe this fire station visit is one of the only field trips the kids go on this year. Definitely thrilled that Matthias got to participate and meet his classmates there.

Sometimes it is just the little things like this that can make such an impression and create stories for them to tell. And as an adult, I can often forget that. My little man loves adventure and trying new things and being brave. This little outing gave him a little taste of feeling "big".

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Field Trips

Let me just be straight out honest and say that homeschool field trips intimidate me. Not because I don't love seeing the boys experience things and learn all kinds of information through hands on experience ... mostly because it is the littles that make it challenging. Not that I am wishing them away, but I can imagine taking on Jonah and Reuben on field trips and that sounds great! Easy! Fun!

But add in a three year old with loads of energy, a nearly one year old that needs to be carried, sometimes nursed, etc., and field trips (at least to me) can seem a bit more of a task than a fun outing.

With the baby being little last spring, we really didn't do many field trips at all. We used our backyard for outside learning = ) But I have purposed that we can do this! We can get out more this year in terms of outside learning activities.

Truly, we enjoy getting our school done at home. And there are sooooo many resources available online now that all kinds of learning can be done in all kinds of ways. But, there is nothing like seeing a reenactment of pioneer days. Or walking through a one room schoolhouse. Learning to march like colonial soldiers. Riding in a stagecoach behind horses. All those things can be talked about and watched on a screen ... but real experience trumps all that!

And so we have ventured out. On two. Hey! It's October and we have done two fields trips! I count that as success in my book (and that doesn't count the pumpkin patch, which of course we visited this month!).

In September, we went with our friends to the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop in Olathe. They were having a homeschool day, so they had lots of reenactors out on the land. The boys ate up being soldiers, looking at the animals, and hearing the cannon go off. I was glad to go with friends, because it made it much more enjoyable. They tried out pioneer kid games, ran around together, and we left sweaty, tired, and happy.

This week we visited Old Prairie Town in Topeka. Got to see lots of old buildings. And actually go inside and see everything. Our family went with us, so we were with cousins, aunts, and grandparents. The boys did fairly well, although a couple times they got a little antsy on the tour.

And so, I think that we need to keep those ideas going! Yes, it takes time, energy, and doesn't always feel easy to do. And truth be told, I would often rather stay at home (hello! mostly an introvert over here!). Yet at the same time, I love doing with the boys. Going with the boys. Even when I wrestle with putting forth the time, the effort, and knowing there are always moments of wanting to pull my hair out a little bit, my goal is to continue throughout this school year and make some great memories.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


Fall is here! Although the temps have still been going up and down, leaves are starting to change colors and the nights are getting cool. And although I'm not ready for freezing cold Kansas to swoop in, there are afternoons that I look at my fireplace with anticipation. Thinking of a cooler day when it will feel like a treat to light it up and snuggle in blankets while we finish up school. = ) I do REALLY like fall.

My home is still such a delight to me. There is hardly a day in which at some point I look around, my heart swells, and I am filled with gratitude for this house. We have been here just a little over one year, and we are so so blessed. Neighborhood friends, space, a great backyard, and the list goes on and on.

I have a good friend - and her living room is always decorated for each season and looks beautiful (like it came out of a magazine!). Decorating is not a strong point for me. I don't "see" it like others see it, but at least I can tell when colors match! Ha! I haven't made it to the point in which each season changes all the decorations in the house, but I certainly wanted to put out things for fall. And I can't put together things to look as classy as she can ... I am content with my homey decorations and the always slightly messy living room no matter how many times we pick up every day.

I was so happy to change the mantel, put up our sparkle pumpkins, and feel like every time I walk into the living room it is singing out the autumn time song to me. Never mind that Eli started talking about putting Christmas decorations up on NOVEMBER 1ST!!!! Has the man gone crazy????

And so, as we go from day to day, some with jackets on, some back to shorts and t-shirts, we are loving fall time. Playing catch in the backyard in the evenings, lots of fire pits, and having the snuggle blankets folded up in the living room for cool mornings.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Today is my mom's birthday.

You know, the older I get, the more I appreciate my mom. The more I ask for her insight and wisdom about situations. I can't imagine her not being around, and I am so so sooooo grateful that for now we get to live close to each other.

She is truly an amazing woman. Her life growing up wasn't the most picture perfect, but she has allowed so much healing to take place. She is kind. She is gentle. She will tell you like it is (and I love that!). She is not an attention-seeker. She plays a mean game of cards. She takes my boys out for treat time with Oma. She has a great laugh. She is a wonderful wife to my dad. She is waaaaay more stylish than me. She is strong.

My mom lives with a lot of pain due to back trouble. She doesn't complain. She still exercises, plays tennis, and stays active.

A lot of times I will ask Mom "How did you handle this? What do you do about ____?" And she will laugh and tell me she can't remember anything. And then I remember that I can't even remember what I cooked for dinner yesterday, let alone remember who's teeth came in when except for the one child whose teeth are actually coming in at this very moment, and I just ask for advice anyway! = )

She will pray for my kids when they are sick or hurt. In fact, often when one of the boys has come down with something, that want Oma to come over and sit with them. Stroke their heads.

I truly cherish my relationship with my mom. Sometimes we have lots to talk about. Sometimes we sit in silence (neither of us are good at small talk!). I am so proud of her. She has walked many paths with grace. Not perfection. None of us are there. But grace. And as she walks an unknown path ahead with that same grace, I am cheering her on. Hoping to encourage her. Hoping she knows that I believe in her just as she has so often believed in me when I needed someone to tell me I could do it.

I know the year ahead has beautiful and good things for her. I can't wait to see them happen and see her surprised by the goodness of God popping up in unexpected places.

Happy birthday Mom - I love you!

Monday, September 14, 2015


Today Abram is 10 months. Maybe it is that each and every child only is a stark reminder that time flies too fast. They grow up too quickly. Stages are achieved and passed on to another in only the blink of an eye. Maybe it is that I know there is a strong possibility that this is my last baby. My last toddler. My last chubby-cheeked Brooks boy. Or maybe it is because I can see even more clearly the miracle of l.i.f.e.

Probably it is the combination ... but this little sweet faced guy is such a joy in our days.

And not just me. The moment I walk into the living room with him in my arms at 6:30 am (because why would he want to give me more sleep, right???), the boys are all over him: "Abram! Abram!" Wanting him to give them smiles and giggles. Playing peek-a-boo with him. Matthias trying to hold him and walk him like he sees the other two do. I know that one day Abram will be 2 or 3, and will be the ornery one like Matthias is now ... and he won't seem so cute to Jonah and Reuben OR Matthias then! Because he will be getting into their things. But now? Now we just relish our ten month old.

Abram is crawling like a little mad man. He can move fast. He pulls up on everything - EVERYTHING. And he is completely comfortable with cruising along things as well. I don't think it will be long before he is attempting a few steps on his own. He is thrilled that he is mobile and is happy to follow us, or make a mad dash for the bathroom when he thinks no one is looking.

He loves to smile and giggle. He has learned to wave now, and mimics the sounds for "Hi" and "Bye" when he waves. He is very friendly to anyone, although he doesn't like to be held by strangers. He wants to give hi-fives, and is eager to give kisses to Momma and Daddy.

I would love to report that he sleeps through the night, but he doesn't. Sigh. I still am up with him at least once, maybe twice a night. We will get there! And I know I will feel amazing ... because I am going on 10 months without a stretch longer than six hours of sleep.

About two months ago he had no teeth. And now he has seven, with an eighth one looking close! That also might contribute to some of the not-so-great nights. Lotso teeth in a short time! But now those little boy grins are so cute with teeth popping through. He is long, but he isn't a chubby boy. He moves too much! = )

Abram is a great eater. We didn't do too many pureed foods, waited until about six and seven months, and then have done of lots of letting him try what we are eating as long as he can mush it and won't choke on it. He eats basically everything! Meat, pasta, veggies, fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese, crackers, cereal, oatmeal, you name it! Hoping this trend continues as we have already weathered our share of picky eating issues in this house.

He loves to play with his brothers, wrestle with Daddy, and pretty much be close to me whenever possible. He does well in the daycare at the gym for the hours that I work. He loves Oma when she comes over to help the boys with math or piano. Sure, there are times when I wish he was a bit more easygoing and would sit with toys or books and not find me and want me to hold him. But, I also remind myself of what I just put at the beginning of this: time goes too fast and soon enough I won't have a baby. I will have a toddler. And then a little boy. So, I give him snuggles and love and pray that he grows strong.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Matthias is in full-out THREE YEAR OLD stage.

I am not sure who said that the two's were or are terrible. And I'm not even saying three's are terrible, but I find them much more challenging than two's!

Matthias is extremely verbal. He always has been. This is great in so many ways, because he can communicate what he wants, what his needs are, what is hurting when he has an injury or feels sick. But, it also means that little boy can talk back like nobody's business. = ) Sooooo, we're working a lot on saying "Yes, Mom" instead of "no" or just spouting off whatever he feels like. Using kind works with his big brothers and not angry ones when he feels left out.

But this verbal ability keeps us rolling with laughter! This kid just makes us laugh. Because he says this silliest things every day! And he is processing new information all the time. Trying to figure out time: past and present. Many days he looks at me, "You're my Mom." and I respond, "Yes, I am!" And he responds back in a very satisfied tone of voice: "And I'm your son." And how can you not give that boy a squeeze after that and reassure him how glad you are that he is your son??? Cannot resist.

Matthias loves to play play play. Normally, he is always attempting to keep up with his big brothers and do what they do. But, in the last few months, it has been great to see him make good friends with a couple of other three year olds at the gym and really play more age appropriate games with them. House. Pet Store. Babies, Dinosaurs ... etc. He loves it!

He just started preschool yesterday. Just like the other two boys went to preschool at 3 years, so is Matthias. I think it is such a great time to play with other kids, learn to listen to teachers and follow instructions. Enjoy making messy crafts and singing songs. Preschool is full of those things, and I don't always get those kinds of things done in my house! He is pretty much fearless - in many areas, and there was no looking back at Mom when he ran into class yesterday! "Bye Mom!" as he settled right in at the playdough table. Although, after we picked him up and the boys were asking if he did his school, he quickly responded "They didn't even have any math books there. I will have to do my real work at home like you."

Matthias doesn't know strangers, and is happy to talk to most people. And he will ask you if you have any gum or lip gloss to share = ) He plays hard all day long, and usually falls asleep within minutes of laying his head on his pillow at night.

It thrills both Eli and I as we already see him desiring to know more about Jesus. The other day he was asking me when Jesus died on the cross. And then "where did he die on the cross???" And I was telling it him it was a long time ago, and he just sighs this huge sigh ... "BUT I WANT TO SEE HIM DIE ON THE CROSS FOR ME!!!!" He loves to sing songs from VBS and play praise music on his guitar for us. He is already a force to be reckoned with, and we pray all that energy get used for the Kingdom as he grows into a mighty man.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Reuben is such a great kid.

Maybe we would all say that about all our kids - and of course I think that about all my boys. But, each day, Reuben just does something that makes me laugh or smile or want to just pull him in my arms and squeeze him to death.

Reuben can be super intense. Watch out! If he is wanting to tell you a story, or recount something that happened, or explain something about Minecraft (sooooo not my favorite topic right now!), his blue eyes get really wide, and his voice gets and loud and you HAD BETTER PAY ATTENTION. Or he will keep getting louder. When he is allowed to play video games, the entire little six year old body in engaged. Mind you, all you need to do is push buttons, but his legs are kicking, his mouth is open, and he is moving all over the place. He reminds me so much of my younger brother Isaac. Watching them play video games together last week was sooooo much fun! He loves to do dance moves, and again, super intense and focused on his moves. And we just started soccer this week, and I have heard him say several times to me "My big game is in ___ days!!!!!" Focused. Intense. Ready.

And then there is the Reuben that moves s.l.o.w.  Like molasses. Like could you walk any slower down the hallway??? He can work hard, but then he gives out. He has a smaller gas tank that Jonah, who requires probably two hours less sleep than Reuben for a good day. Reuben needs to go to bed early and sleep late to really have a good day. He is just that way! And how I mentioned in the last post that Jonah is ready for the next thing??? Reuben is always the one we're turning back around to and reminding to catch up (this brings back lots of memories of zoo trips and Silver Dollar City).

Of course Reuben wants to do everything that Jonah does. And many challenges in his little world are continuing to see that Jonah truly is two years older than him, and therefore things just sometimes are not fair. He can't run as fast, he doesn't always catch on to games as fast. This is hard for him, because he wants to be with Jonah always. And for the most part, Jonah is happy to have Reuben as his partner, but there are times it doesn't work out that, and Reuben takes it pretty hard.

What is Reuben into? Reuben loves music. Dancing to music, singing songs, learning piano. He is very excited about this soccer season. He often wants to play card games. He still likes to pull out stuffed animals and play with Matthias every now and then, but also loves to play with our neighborhood friends. And a lot of the time, he likes whatever Jonah likes. He has been saving saving saving up his money that they earn from making dog treats for their grandma to sell at the farmer's market, and is hoping Eli and I will give him permission to spend it all on a huge Lego castle set. We're still deciding on that one = )

Reuben loves Jesus. He loves to sing worship songs at church. He struggles with being afraid of being alone. He reminds me of myself when I was young. I have strong memories of going to get my dad in the middle of the night because of nightmares or feeling afraid. Reuben is like that. So, we're working through some struggles of trusting that our lives are in God's hands with him.

This boy is sooooo special. He has a generous heart. Some nights when I say goodnight to him, he will say "Mom? I think we forgot to snuggle today. Tomorrow can we make sure and have some snuggle time on the couch?" He needs those physical hugs. I pray that we instill courage into this mighty little man!

Sunday, August 16, 2015


I figured I would write about my firstborn first, as I think about where all the boys are currently at.


8 years old. Preparing to start third grade within this next week. Growing up. Wearing size 4 shoes (yikes!). But still little boy enough to come and ask for some snuggles on the couch.

Jonah has a tender heart. Especially for the little ones. He adores Abram to pieces. He cares deeply for his little cousins. Love animals. Likes hugs.

But he is also growing up. And while Abram receives lots of smiles and tickles, Jonah struggles with Matthias. Matthias who wants to be "in" all of his business. Wants to mess with all of Jonah's things. And as any older sibling out there knows, it is a challenge! A legitimate challenge. And so there are lots of learning opportunities in Jonah's world right now about handling conflict appropriately.

Jonah is ready to be big at times. He wants to join Eli at youth group activities. Wishes he could carry a phone around at all times like the teenagers and his parents (not yet!). Likes to point out that it will only be three more years until he can come to youth group himself. He wants to go fishing and hunting with Eli.

And then there is still my boy that comes up and asks if he can help me mix brownies. Or when he gets hurt, there is still a little boy in there that would love the comfort of mom or dad's arms. And rightly so.

He is wondering about his world. He asks about right and wrong - and like any firstborn there is a lot of black and white! He asks questions about things he learns about church, and hears from friends. But I still see his childlike faith as he tells me the Trinity makes complete sense to him = )

When I think of Jonah and the things that he is "into" right now: He is a reader. We find him with his nose in books all the time. And getting him to put down a book can be tough! He is taking piano now, and likes to master songs. The game minecraft is waaaayyyy important to him right now. So much that Eli and I feel like plugging our ears sometimes when he and Reuben get to talking about it!

Jonah is still a super picky eater. We offer new foods, attempt to get him to try new foods, but this isn't an area we have seen lots of progress. So, we just pray a lot that at some point it will change! And we consider it a miracle he is so strong and healthy, because his diet is so limited.

He is already ready for the next thing. When we go places, Jonah is always steps ahead of everyone else, moving on! He wants to check the mail everyday, just in hopes something new or exciting is there for us. He can't wait to experience things, so much so that we often have to remind him to slow down a bit.

He is a blessing. He couldn't be anything else! I pray a lot that as Eli and I experience parenting with him first, God's grace will be on him. Being the first child, we of course make choices with him that we might not make later on because we ourselves are learning from our own mistakes. But each child is unique. We pray as we raise him, that we parent him and teach him in a manner that means something to him. That resonates with his personality and giftings. I can't wait to see what this school year brings for him! I love this boy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Abram will be 9 months in just two short days! Yikes! My little guy is growing fast. My goal (fingers crossed!) is to do a little post about each boy this month. So that I can remember where they are at right now. What they are learning, what do they struggle with? What are my favorite things going on with each of them during these particular ages!

But, we did have a little milestone with Abram last night. Ever since he has been born, this little boy has disliked water. Baths have always gone hand in hand with tears. I kept thinking that surely he would get past it! But, no matter the toy, the water cloth to suck on, the position we tried, that little baby would cry.

The pool was not any better. We tried, but even just getting his toes in the water made his little face scrunch up ... and then he wailed! So, the couple times we have headed to the pool, Abram has gone to Grandma's instead. It just doesn't work! Hot hot weather means a little baby needs to cool off. But if cooling off meant getting in the water, then why? I couldn't deal with keeping an eye on three other boys plus holding a baby that freaked out every time a drip of water hit him = )

I basically had given up. Baths were as fast as possible, and I didn't foresee a change.

But then last night! I was running water because he needed a bath. He has had a cold and that little face had snot all over it. His knees were dirty from crawling all over the house the past few days. It was just time!

Matthias ran in and asked if he could get in too. Why not? So, I let the water get a little deeper. Matthias climbed in. I set Abram in next to him, aaaannnnddd ...

He loved it!

He started splashing around and giggling and smiling! Oh, I was so happy. You have no idea how often I have put off baths with him because it felt so traumatic!

And Matthias just L.O.V.E.D. being the "big brother" in the bath this time around. Getting to show off toys. Helping wash soap bubbles on his little brother. He is so used to things the other way around in his world. I kept Abram in there as long as possible, because Eli was running an errand and I wanted him to see the boys in there too.

And of course? Had to take some pictures. Some of my favorite pictures from over the years are of little boys sitting in the bathtub, peeking little faces over the sides. Laughing. Splashing. Big 'ole grins on their faces. And finally, finally, Abram can join the ranks.

Are baths a mess? Yes. Water gets all over the bathroom. Heck, it gets all over me! But, seeing those happy faces is worth it. So worth it.

Friday, July 31, 2015


July is winding up. August will begin tomorrow. And even though the temperatures are still high, I hear the whisper of promise that fall will soon be here. Moms are thinking about back to school shopping, I am getting slightly panicked that I don't have all my curriculums picked out and on the way quite yet, the boys have already started talking about the Harvest Party, I have pumpkins growing in my backyard. This summer is going by so quickly. Full of good things. But the fall is full of changes.

From the outside looking in, probably most would think that the change rocking my world is not really such a big deal. But from the inside of the change, it is huge.

I have grown up with my dad working the same place. Mustard Seed Church. His role evolved over the years, but I remember as a small girl sometimes visiting him at work. And I remember his various offices, office decor, etc., as the church grew. I saw him eventually take over the Lead Pastor position from my grandfather and lead our church with love. He has been a good shepherd. My dad and Eli top my list of amazing men that I have intense respect for.

And he is stepping down.

For me, I cannot imagine living my life without faith. Faith in a God that is bigger than myself. Faith in Him that holds the world in His hands. Because without that faith, I would be rocked. But as it is, though my world may feel shaken, I know without a doubt that I can still stand firm.

But I cannot also imagine my dad not being there, in the physical sense of being at the church building. Not having his office across from Eli's. Not being there when I go to events or Bible studies and being able to pop in his office, give him a hug and tell him that I love him. I know I will still see him! But, to close the door on this era is tough for me.

I have to believe, to chose to keep that faith, that there are great things in store for my parents. That what lies ahead of them can be even better than what they have put their heart and souls into the years behind them. Sometimes that is hard to believe. Some days it feel easier. I am not one who looks for change ... I would rather keep the status quo, maintain what feels secure and go on with life. Change isn't always easy. But even painful change can bring about beauty.

Some days I have walked down the office hallway and my throat chokes up. Or I have to take a deep breath when I hear Jonah ask "Opa? Are you going to still go to our church? Because I don't want to miss seeing you there". Maybe that seems small to some, but it is a huge change for our family.

But as I enter the next two months of transition time and the true changes begin, I have to fight for that faith, for that belief that He really does have good plans for my parents. For myself and Eli. For my children. For the whole body of believers that I love. And in the times that I see them grieve the loss of what they have known, stand beside them as they look towards the unknown. Be their support, be their cheerleader as they walk out their own walk of faith.

There is no time that I can remember being this proud of my parents. Proud that they are willing to take risks, to step out in faith, and to be vulnerable. Most of us in the world would not be that brave. I know someday we will look back on this time and see the why. Sometimes it is hard to see the why in the right now. I can be okay with that. And I am also okay with admitting that some days I will be sad, and some days I will feel fine!

No matter the job, the vocation, etc., they will always be my mom and dad. The same mom and dad who were just at my house, making sure the boys were getting to bed okay since Eli is in KC tonight. The same dad who goes grocery shopping with Eli or I each week, just because. Because he loves us. I have truly wonderful parents, and I just pray that their next something wonderful shows up on their doorstep at the perfect time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Denver Trip

Sooooooo, I had super high hopes for June and thought I would get in a posting groove. Ha! Eli had a long trip - and I assumed I would be able to get tons done?! Apparently I was removed from real life.

I didn't get near as much done as I normally do, and we missed him tremendously. Just shows what a great dad and father he is! I'll attempt to catch up this month, although I am already feeling overwhelmed a bit as I look forward to several things on my plate along the way.

The highlight of June was a family trip to Colorado. When Natalie moved away three years ago, we promised we would bring the boys to hike mountains and visit. Fast forward three years and we STILL had not gone! It was waaayyyy overdue. And speaking of being due, my sweet friend is going to be having twin little girls within the next two weeks! I wanted to spend some quality time with her before babies arrived, and give the boys a chance for an extended camping time.

My dad came with us, which was amazing. He and Eli camped with the three big boys, and Abram - my little not-so-good sleeper - and I spent our nights in Natalie's house. A crying baby at night in a tent with six other people? Didn't seem like too good an idea to all of us! So, we spent our days together, hiking, museums, movies, swimming, etc., and I got evenings to sit on the couch and chat for hours with Natalie, which was a balm to this heart. I have missed her sooooo much.

The boys loved camping! It was hot, like 95 degrees during the day! But, they had a great time. And although we were nervous about how everyone would do on the drive, I would say overall it was pretty good. Good enough that we would actually do it again. = )

We tried our best to take some pictures on the "real" camera, so here are a few.

Reuben and Daddy in the tent

Tree Climbing!

Top 'o the mountain!

Mommy and Abram hiking! He LOVED hiking in the front pack!

Opa and the boys at the lookout spot

Me and my stud

Climbing around

Hanging out at the campground

So glad Opa was there!

Buddies - at least most of the time! Matthias always pushes the limits at some point - Ha!

Friday, June 12, 2015


With a second born allergic to dogs and cats ... and Eli being allergic to cats (and seriously disliking them), and honestly allergic to dogs as well, we knew that having a dog or a puppy or something similar is out of the question for us. Which has been kinda sad. We love dogs - especially huskies - and with four little boys, it almost seems wrong to not have them get a puppy and grow up with a dog around.

But not the Brooks. We can't risk it. One weekend with Matthias was a baby we stayed two nights with friends who had three dogs. Not realizing HOW allergic Reuben was. He had allergic reactions all over the place, and we nearly thought we were going to have to leave and get a hotel. Maybe we should have! We were using his inhaler, but the poor kid couldn't sleep at night because he was so congested and all sorts of junk. That's when we realized how bad his allergies were with dog hair.

So we switched our idea of pets to lizards or turtles. Eli was totally down with this, having worked at Pet World in town for years during middle school and high school. I just laid down my foot and said NO SNAKES!!! I can handle lizards and turtles just fine, but there are not going to be any snakes living in my house (at least not with my permission!!!!)

And as of the last several months, we decided that we might want a sulcata tortoise. They originate from the desert areas, and can grow up to 100 pounds and live nearly 100 years. Eli was quite thrilled with the idea it might help keep the grass mowed, and that the boys could learn to maybe ride one when they were little. I figured a vegetarian tortoise can eat leftover compost, grass, weeds, and sounded fairly low-maintenance. The boys? They just thought it sounded AMAZING!!!!

We waited a bit, thinking we would get a baby, which would mean a big set up inside for a few years before the tortoise would be big enough to live outside. On a whim, Eli went to Pet World several weeks ago to ask the owner if he might be able to get us a baby soon. He asked if we wanted a teenager!!!! Long story, but he knew of a teacher with a 16 year old sulcata that needed a new home. He was 55 pounds and getting to big to continue to live at the school, and be hauled to her house during summer break. He gave Eli her contact info, Eli called her, and the rest is history.

Or, the rest was a lot of work! She said Atlas could come live with us - which meant Eli (and my amazing dad) got to work building an 8x12 insulated house under our deck for Atlas. Complete with a good roof to keep out the rain, a door for us to go in, a little door for him to go in and out from, and all sorts of stuff. A Big Project! And actually still has a little to be done, but it's nearly there.

And Atlas moved in.

He is well loved. And all our neighbors are quite enthralled with him as well! As he lumbers around the yard eating clover, we love to watch him and I worry about him like he's a little baby. Is he warm enough? Does he seem happy with us? etc etc etc. Ridiculous, I know!

The boys are doing a great job taking care of him, checking on him morning and night. Cleaning up tortoise poop (which thankfully doesn't smell at all!), and the like. Matthias loves to slip on his boots and tromp after Jonah, who does most of the work. They are doing great with him.

We have had tons of rain the last month, which he doesn't like so well, so he has spent many days mostly in his house, but as the temps rise - and omigosh they are!!!! - we see him out and about more and more. And even a tortoise has a personality. He is determined to try and get into the shed. Even though we have now barricaded it because he figured out how to open the doors, yesterday he got past the barricades and go into there. Little/big Stinker. But we adore him. And since he has such a long life span, we will have him for quite a long time!!!!