Happy New Year…..

Doesn’t September feel like a start to a new year??  It always does to me! The cool breeze is in the year, the kiddos are back in school.  We are living in an environment of growth, physically and mentally as our son starts his last year in Middle School.  I love that feeling of growth and want to continue to experience it myself.   Otherwise, my life feels stagnant.   I set goals every year to help myself to continue to grow. 

This time of year I always reflect on my goals for the current year and what I hope to accomplish in the upcoming year.   I am not a New Years Resolution sort of gal,  my new year starts in September.    Just seems logical as we get back into the routine of school.    And worst yet, when I reflect on my goals in September it gets me in gear to finish them by the end of the year.

 

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2015’s Focus – SIMPLIFY

I try to keep my goals to a minimum, I only have 3 goals in 2015.   My goals for 2015 are as follows:

1.  Simplify My Life – to me this meant decreasing my commitments that kept me out of the house and focus on the  activities that matter to me.   I was just feeling stretch too thin and wasn’t enjoying it.   After many years,  I took a break from my book club.   Spending more time at home, having Sunday dinner with our children each week.  Doing things that really makes me happy.   The simple everyday things have more impact then we realize on our own happiness.    We also simplified our life by decreasing the amount of stuff we own.  This is an on-going project, but we have made a lot of progress.   We have no desire to keep up with the Jones’.  We are becoming more selective as to what is allowed to come into our home.  Our desire is to be DEBT FREE!!!

2. Park in the Garage –  this winter we will park at least one of our four cars in the garage!   We took time off in May and really made a big dent in cleaning the garage.  This weekend I had four boxes left to go through, which are done.   The garage is almost done, I just need to organize a bit and get rid of all the empty bins!!  

3.  Organize my photos –  this one I haven’t made much progress on at all.   By cleaning out the garage and around the house, I believe all photos all photos are all in one place.   I want to get at least one photo book made by the end of the year, so this will be my project I will be spending the rest of fall with. 

 

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2016’s Focus – HEALTH

While most of my goals in 2015 focused on simplifying our life.  I hope in 2016 to focus on my health.   My goals for 2016 are as follows:

1.  Healthier  & Happier – I bought the book  52 Small Changes One Year to a Happier,Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal 2 years ago.   Each year I start the book and only make it through the few changes and then lose momentum.  This year I will make it through all 52 weeks.    By blogging about my experience each week, I hope I will get some of you to follow along with me and keep me accountable.     Plus this will get me blogging more than just my menu each week. 

2.  Writing Project – Complete a writing project I would like to do. This is a crazy idea I got one morning in the shower, which is by the way, the location my best ideas come from!!   I am going to give it a try….I blog, that is writing, right??

3.  Continue to Simplify……

 

What are your New Year Goals this September???   Join me in getting Healthier and Happier in 2016.  Look for a blog post each Wednesday discussing the new change we can make that week to aide us in being healthier and happier!

 

Happy  New Year!!

 

New Year – New Goals – New Focus

untitledAnother New Year is upon us and as always my thoughts go to what I want to work on in the new year.  Do you make resolutions??   I dropped the habit of making resolutions a while back, instead making yearly goals.  While goals are similar in nature to resolutions, they allow me to break down what I want to accomplish into smaller steps throughout the year and track my progress.

Goals from past years are still firmly in place within our home.  Once I had the goal that I would menu plan each week to save money and time.   We have faithfully been planning a menu for years, which has saved us money and reduced our stress over the years.  Hopefully menu planning is slowly improving our health as well.   We continue to try to limit the use of processed food and make most things from scratch.

Our attempt to stay away from processed food is also changing our taste.  This year for Christmas Eve as we were starting to come down with a virus of sorts in our home we tried to make the appetizer spread more convenient.  We bought a few boxed appetizers at Sam’s Club to add to our homemade ones to make meal prep a little easier.   The comment heard around the room, “your eggrolls are better”, “Your (insert boxed food item) is better”.  My family rarely likes convenience food anymore.  Except of course my hubby’s preference for Kraft Mac & Cheese vs my homemade Mac & Cheese.

Three years ago my hubby and I set the goal to address our financial life.   We attended Financial Peace University and made a goal to become debt free.   By March of this year we will make last payment on our credit card debt.  We will be free of credit card debt!  WOW!!   We then will conquer our massive student loan debt in pursuit of a simpler, debt free life.  We have faithfully had a weekly budget meeting to discuss our financial goals each week since our first meeting on October 8, 2010.

As you can see, setting a focus goal each year has allowed us to add our goals into our routine and maintain the progress we made.  Goals we set three yeas ago are firmly implanted in our routine and we feel very off balance it we don’t plan a menu or have a weekly budget meeting.

The last few days I have been spending some time thinking about what I would like to improve for our family in 2014??  It finally came to me as I lay in our bedroom battling the illness that has spread through our house since Christmas Day.   Do you love the feeling of being on vacation?   I do, one thing I love is being in a room with very little stuff.   Surfaces in the hotel room are clear of clutter and everything is easy to tidy each day.  It provides me with a sense of peace, relaxation and rejuvenation.

I look around my bedroom and only think, I wish I felt better so I could clean this place up.   I want a simpler life and for me the more simple my life becomes the more content I am in my life.   I love my life, but I would like to spend less time looking for misplaced items, trying to straighten up things we rarely use.  I no longer want my bedroom to be the dumping ground for things without a home.  I want to value relationships and not the maintenance and upkeep of our possessions.

I am not just talking about just de-cluttering our possessions, but de-cluttering our lives as well.  As a working mom, I know the value of my time.  Am I doing things with my time that I am doing out of obligation or wondering what others would think if I quit doing this. Time to de-clutter those things to add more time to bless others.

While our house is fairly organized, it takes time to maintain that.  Our home is not large, but it is the home of many people with many things.   Our household consists of my hubby and I, our youngest son, my brother-in-law, my father-in-law, my niece and her 1 year old son.   We also have a PCA that comes daily to assist my father-in-law each day while we are at work.  So the simpler our life, the easier it is for us all to live together and maintain a home that runs smoothly and doesn’t take all our time to maintain.

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So my goal for 2014 …….We’re simplifying in 2014!!  My goal is to pare down our possessions this year and live a simpler life. We will value our relationships and not our possessions.  While I have been attempting to get closer to my definition of simple living each year, 2014 is the year to really focus on this goal!!   I want to have a home full of what I love (nothing else) and inviting!

Wishing you a happy New Year and a simpler life in 2014!

Love,

Menu Plan Monday: December 2 – 15th, 2013

Menu

December 2 – 15th, 2013

I hope you all enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving with your family.  We had a nice time.  We had 14 people for our Thanksgiving meal and another 9 more who joined us for dessert after our meal.   It was a lovely day spent with those we love!

004Lots of guests meant a lot of help with the dishes!!!

Hard to believe it is already December!   December is a very busy month for us with a lot of entertaining, which means menu planning is even more important for us.  We try to plan simple meals in December.  I am posting the menu for the next two weeks as I am finding my myself very busy.

Planning is the key in our house to having a relaxed holiday season.  After many years of chaos, we have it down to an art at this point.  Today is December 3rd, our Christmas Shopping is done, we have decorated for Christmas and our Christmas Photo cards are already addressed.  Having these items complete allows our family to enjoy the season.  We (mostly me) watch Christmas movies, ring the bell for the Salvation Army and have a number of parties to celebrate the season with our family.

I hope you are finding ways to simplify your holiday season this year so you can focus on what matters most :-)

 Week # 1

2nd – (working late) – Split Pea and Sausage Soup – Bread and Butter

3rd – Macaroni And Cheese – Vegetable

4thPesto Chicken Tortellini Soup x 2– Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

5th – (sort) – Parmesan Crusted Chicken, Rice and Green Beans

3 chicken breasts, thawed, halved and pounded
2/3 Cups mayo
1/3 cups grated Parmesan
5 tsp Italian Bread Crumbs

Combine Mayo and Cheese. Spread on chicken then sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

6th – Crab Salad Croissants – Chips (simple Delicious Cookbook – 62)

7th  –  Ham in Crockpot,  Corn and Mashed Potatoes (good)

8th –  Chicken and Egg Noodle Casserole, Vegetable – (Taste of Home =November 2013 –pg 99)

 Week # 2

9th Loaded Baked Potato Soup, Cheese Pull Apart Bread  x 2

10th – Roast In Crockpot – Roasted Veggies

11th – Grilled Cheese and Noodle Soup

12th (Tom Christmas Choir Concert) – Lasagna Roll Ups – Garlic Bread

13th Taco Night

14th Country Meat Loaf , Baked Potato and Vegetable

15th (Cookie Exchange Party) – Appetizers

For more Menu Planning inspiration stop by and visit Laura at Organizing Junkie and participate in Menu Plan Monday.  Need help getting started menu planning –  Emeals is a great solution.  Many meal plans to chose from at a very affordable price.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!!!

Happy Cooking!!

Celebrating Everyday Life: The South Dakota Edition

Tommy and I headed to South Dakota to spend the week with my parents in Aberdeen, SD.   Here are some highlights from our week.  We did a lot of Geocaching….during the day and night.  Word of advice if it looks like the cache is hid in the alley….not a good cache to look for in the middle of the night!  Near a duck pond is a bit dangerous….but the ducks were not suspicious of us at all.  I think our night time adventures were Tommy’s favorite and mine!  If you have never gone Geocaching, you need to check out this very entertaining activity.  We used the Geocaching.com phone app for all our searching!

We were very happy to be able to spend time with my great nephews, Samuel and Gracen.   They also enjoy treasure hunting, as we call it!

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The car rides while geocaching were entertaining to say the least!

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Our first cache near the cemetery…..and yep, they are going the WRONG way!

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Searching and searching……

While geocaching we had the opportunity to check out a lot of parks around Aberdeen.   Geocaching is a great activity to do with energetic little boys.  Many caches are hid near parks, so we had plenty of time to play at each!  We were outside all day running and being loud.  Great Memories…..

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We checked out the Brown County Fair – Tommy even went to his very first Rodeo! 009

Our first time at Cherry Berry…….YUMMY!!!!  I decided that I really like Cherry Berry….and I have to locate the one closest to us in MN.

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Random Pictures By Gracen and Samuel

Usually I have Random Pictures from Tommy….this week my great nephews are the photographers!

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My mom is going to love this one!

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Yep, we were geocaching near the trailer park on Roosevelt.  Didn’t find this one. But we played at the park!

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I thought I was going to get arrested for this picture.  I have to teach Gracen about zoom!   He really, really, really wanted a picture of the dancing flower in this apartment window.  Just like any good, little stalker he took about 5 pictures of these poor people’s window to get the perfect shot of the dancing flower.  I can just see the headlines….weird lady in van with MN plates letting children take random pictures out the van!

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A quick shot as we drive by Gracen’s school!

Our Adventures at Storybook Land:

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You can’t go to Aberdeen, SD, without spending a day at Storybook Land!!  I thought this would surely tire the boys out….but I think it ended up tiring Grandma and I out more!

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Off to see the Wizard….the wonderful Wizard of Oz

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Visiting the Farm Animals…….we forgot to ride the tractor!  There will always be next year…..

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Lots of photo opportunities with the various Nursery Rhyme Characters!

My favorite part of my trip each year is getting to spend time with my favorite three guys!!  I can’t wait until Mallory is old enough to join the fun! She wasn’t too sure what to think of that goofy Auntie!

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Tommy with Gracen and Samuel

The bonus this year was I was able to spend a little time with one of my brothers, Danny.  I really wish I could have spent more time with him.  He is an excellent geocaching partner…..though we need to get some taller friends to go with.  I come from a very short family, not good when trying to reach a cache in a tree!!

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My niece Susan, her daughter Mallory and my brother, Danny!

Hope your week is filled with wonderful everyday and vacation moments with family and friends!  Make a point to capture your memories!

Blessings,

Celebrating Everyday Life: August 4th, 2013

Another week filled with everyday blessings.  I love the summer months in Minnesota.  Summer seems to inspire moments when you look around and see what an amazing world we are blessed with.  The colors and sounds of summer!

My biggest blessing this week is that Tommy came home from camp!  We love hearing all about his fun at camp and how his faith was enriched.  Some of my best childhood memories were at bible camp.

Camp Fun: Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp in Story City, Iowa.

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Ranch Camp: Tommy with his horse, Sundae.  He loved his horse.  He learned how to walk and trot.  He also learned to saddle and groom his horse.  He learned how to wade his horse across a river and the put on a final horse show on Friday, showing what they learned. What a wonderful memory this will be for him!

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Tommy raved about the food at Riverside and strengthened his relationship with God.

Around White Bear Lake:

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Ryan’s first visit to Cup N Cone in downtown White Bear Lake.

 

 

Hubby and I spent the day wandering around White Bear Lake.  We love our hometown and it’s everyday charm.  My hubby has lived in White Bear Lake all his life and has wonderful memories of his childhood all around town.

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I spy a “cute boy”…………think I will follow him.

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Cute Boy and I love the Gazebo as it brings back memories of our wedding day!

 

Fun At Como Park: 

Today, hubby and I took our nieces and nephew to Como Park Zoo.  It was a beautiful day and so good to spend the afternoon together.

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Eating Dippin’ Dots………….Ryan wasn’t so sure about the cold dots his mama was feeding him.

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My favorite photo of the day!!  Nic, Chelsea, Ryan and Kristen.

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Our family: Hubby and I with our youngest son, Tommy.

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       How cute is he?!?!?

 

 

 

 

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Someone caught me taking her picture……POSE!!

This picture is sure to leave you with a smile on your face….

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Nightly game of tug the bib with Great Grandpa! What a blessing!

Hope your week is filled with wonderful everyday moments with family and friends!

Blessings,

Celebrating Everyday Life: – July 28th, 2013

It has been a very busy week in our home.  Tommy has been in Musical Theater Camp all week and headed to Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp in Iowa today.

Musical Theater Camp
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This was the first year Tommy has participated in Musical Theater Camp at our church.  I was so impressed by the entire production.   We have such amazing and talented staff that work with our kiddo!

Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp
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Tommy headed to camp this afternoon.  He will be gone until Friday, which he is fine with but Mom is missing him already.  Today as we were getting ready to send our little guy off to camp, I was struck by what an amazing church family we have.   The pictures above were sent to us by one of those amazing parents.  What a relief that the Verley’s were taking the kids down to camp!  They are the greatest!

Ryan and Chelsea

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Hanging out at the library while Mommy is at work.

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Fun at the Beach

Random Pictures from Tommy….
I have always loved finding pictures on my camera taken by my children.  They are always a wonderful look into their thoughts!   These are some of the pictures I found this week from our budding photographer, Tommy!  Never know what you will find, seems this week that Tommy was admiring the beauty of flowers in random neighbor’s yard!

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In Our Garden:

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Picking Raspberries with Dad

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Our beans are flowering and we have some small tomatoes.

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In Our Kitchen:
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New Recipes Tried:  Easy Skillet Lasagna – very easy and good!   Holiday Tortellini Soup another winner from our Taste of Home Best Loved Recipes cookbook!

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I has has some leftover refrigerator pizza dough so I made bread sticks out of it.  These turn out very good, I was surprised!

Hope your week is filled with wonderful everyday moments with family and friends!

Blessings,

jen

A Snapshot Of Our Week: July 21, 2013

Another week has flown by in our household.  We have enjoyed some nice warm summer temps here in Minnesota.   I will have to get down to White Bear Lake and take some pictures to share with you.  White Bear is beautiful in the summer!

I am loving updating everyone on our happenings each week as it is getting me to take more pictures and reflect more on how wonderful our day to day moments are .   There is so much beauty and love in the everyday moments.

The Color Run…..

Josh and Tommy ran in The Color Run on July 14th at the MN State Fair Grounds.  I love that Josh takes the time to do things with his little brother.  These will be wonderful memories for them both.

The Before Picture:

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The After Picture:

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Playdate with Ryan….

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Cousins……enjoying hanging out!

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Ryan is on the move….good thing we still have our baby gate!  I don’t think our dogs appreciate how fast Ryan is able to to crawl.

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Gotta love that smile…..trying so hard to open Auntie’s cupboards!

Celebrations:  Birthdays, Anniversaries and New Jobs!

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Cute Boy turns………………………..49!!  Enjoy that last bit of your 40’s honey…the 50 train is coming down the track!

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Happy Anniversary!  Our son, Josh and his wife, Amy are celebrating their 1st Wedding Anniversary today!   Wishing them a lifetime of happiness!

We also celebrated this week that Amy was hired by Nystrom and Associates!

Random Pictures from Tommy….

I have always loved finding pictures on my camera taken by my children.  They are always a wonderful look into their thoughts!   These are some of the pictures I found this week from our budding photographer, Tommy!

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In the Garden:

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We have some surprise dill plants that made a return visit this year.  This makes Grandpa very happy.  I made Salmon with a dill sauce the other day!!  I will need to share that recipe as it was definitely a keeper.

We planted a lot of extra Basil this year to keep up with the demand for our Pesto.  The first large vat of pesto has been made, eaten, gifted and frozen for this winter!  Hubby had the great idea to make Pesto for Josh and Amy’s Anniversary gift!

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Many blooms on the one lonely cucumber plant in the garden!  Blooms starting on our summer squash as well.  I hope we will be able to freeze some squash this year.

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My hubby’s pride and joy!!!  His beans…..he is a bean farmer, ya know!   (…and I, The Bean Farmer’s Wife)  Smile

Even with our late planting, I think we will have plenty of beans to freeze for the winter.   Nothing better than garden beans in the middle of a harsh Minnesota winter!

In Our Kitchen:

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New recipes tried:  Broccoli Soup and Chocolate Chip Cheese Cake Bars (These bars are very rich….so cut them into small pieces!! About 1 1/2” by 1 1/2” works well.)  We also made Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce, which was really good!  Of course, I forgot to take a picture of this meal :-(

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Old Recipes Revisited:  Chicken Fried Rice and Homemade Pesto.

Hope your week is filled with wonderful everyday moments with family and friends!

Blessings,

jen

July Review: Field Trips, 4th of July Celebration and SOCCER!!

Summer is always so bittersweet for me.  I wish I was able to be home with our son over the summer, but both my hubby and I work full time outside of the home.   Our youngest son, Tommy is 11 and we try to keep him pretty busy over the summer.  Otherwise he would be home and playing video games all summer, which is not what we want for him.

The first week of July, Tommy attended Day Camp through his school.  He had a great time and was happy to see his classmates.  He went on field trips to MN Zoo, Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Sculpture Gardens.

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Water Fun at the Minnesota Zoo

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Appreciating Art @ Minneapolis Institute of Art

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The second week of July, Tommy was with the family of his best friend for a couple of days of the week.  They are a great family and we are so grateful they include him in their summer fun. They went to the Minnesota Zoo, Snail Lake and to play on the Giant Slip n Slide in Shoreview.  We are blessed with such good friends.

We had a wonderful 4th of July with family.  It is great to have the day off and even better to spend it with family!

The Food…….

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The Fun……

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The People We Love……

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SOCCER…..and More Soccer!!

It has been a fun soccer season, though very rainy.  Tommy has improved greatly as a player this season.   He continues to love the game and his Dad is his biggest fan! White Bear Lake ended the season with 4 wins, 6 losses and 2 ties. Today, they are in Hudson, Wisconsin at the MYSA State Tournament Qualifiers and again it is a very soggy day on the field.

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We hope your July has been filled with good food, good friends and endless summer fun!

Blessings,

jen

June in Review: School Field Trips, Gardening and Fun with Friends and Family

It feels like summer is speeding by!  Living in Minnesota, our summers are loved but way too short! We have had a crazy amount of rain and a slow start to warm temperatures this year.   V__8814

My hubby’s brother, Pete came to visit from Virginia.  Pete stayed with us for a week.   All our children were home to visit with him.

School ended for our youngest on June 6th.  He completed 5th grade and will be moving onto Middle School next year.   It is always hard for me when our baby passes another milestone.

Tommy’s End of Year Field Trips in June:  Feed My Starving Children and Historic Fort Snelling

One of my favorite things about our little guy’s school is the amount of field trips and learning opportunities that are available outside of the classroom.  I am sure this is due to the small classroom size, but it has been fabulous.   I always recommend Magnuson Christian School to anyone with elementary age children.  Great School!

Feed My Starving Children:

Feed my Satrving Children

Praying over the food they package before it is shipped.

Magnuson Christian School 5th Grade Field Trip to Historic Fort Snelling:

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Fun times with our favorite little people, Ryan and Fiona!

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Our garden was finally planted after many delays due to rain!! We normally have our garden planted on Mother’s Day.   Our growing season is pretty short in Minnesota so I hope we still have a harvest.

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LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!  Can’t believe our youngest son is heading to Middle School next year!

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Summer Fun Begins…………lunch with friends and camping.

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Wishing you a wonderful summer full of time with friends and family.

Enjoy!