Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ready for 2016?

Are you ready for 2016?

We were asked that question, and although I said nothing, I was thinking, "I have no idea!"

Are you ready for 2016?  What about 2015?  Were you ready for that?

Our 2015 was a happy year, and rather status quo.  It turns out, I was ready for 2015, but I didn't know it at the time.  When I look back at most years, though, it seems I was not "ready" for what they would hold.

In 2014, we took our adventure around the U.S.  I most certainly wasn't ready for it.  I had no idea what we were doing!  It may go down as my favorite year of life, but I wasn't ready for it.

In 2013, E was diagnosed with diabetes.  One day, life was normal, and the next, life seemed turned upside down with all the changes that diagnosis brought.  I wasn't ready for 2013, either.

2009.  We found out we were expecting our 4th child.  The oldest was only five years old when the youngest was born in 2010.  I wasn't really ready for that year, either.  But, my daughter is one of the greatest parts of my life.  What a blessing!  :)

I have no idea if I'm ready for 2016, and we'll see what God brings to the year.  I usually feel a little sentimental and a little nervous, leaving one year and moving on to the next, without knowing what the year will bring.  But, I want to rest in whatever God has in store and live as fully as I can.

Enough speculation about 2016!  Here's what the conclusion of 2015 has looked like in photos:

 Our older kids learned to collect leaves on the tractor this fall

 Y has grown old enough to be mildly obsessed with reading, just like his older brothers and parents

I got to practice American money with our ESL students

Char has a great office in a sunbeam with a fire.  And, I get the benefit of him working from home, tending the fire, and chopping lots of firewood.  :)

 We spent a lot of this fall on the trails in the woods.

 and spent time creating new trails and finding new grapevines for swinging

Somehow in 2015, this child grew to look a lot more like a young man.  How a year changes things!

I hope you and your family are enjoying the end of 2015, and that you have a fantastic 2016!  Love from the Utter family!

Friday, October 30, 2015

One thing we did right

This picture will always make me smile.  Nothing like watching your five-year-old buckle the neighbor girl into a life vest so that she could jump off the back deck while your nine-year-old sprays her with a hose so that they can be "swimming."

It's interesting to watch other moms and their kids.  Some kids are piano prodigies, some are in every sport and activity available, some are perfect in school, and some can take apart an engine and put it back together.  Sometimes, I feel inferior as a mom.  But, I look at this picture, and think, "This one thing, we did right."

Yep, I'm glad we've raised the kids outside.  Outside is beauty, creativity, and craziness, and I love it!

I guess I also really like that we're raising them on the Word of God and prayer - first thing in the morning, and last thing at night.  There needs to be a purpose and love in life that's bigger than we are, and I love seeing the kids learn that in Jesus.

And, I like that we're raising them on great literature.  I love lying on the carpeted floor between their bedrooms, and reading the adventure of ideas and Tirzah, the Great Horn Spoon, or Lopez Lomong.

I just love enjoying it all.

I do suppose that we've all done some different things right as parents.  There's some sort of parenting philosophy that we all follow, that's unique to our own family.

 Homeschooling - for this child, anyway

Time with family

 Learning to help and learning to ride


 Investing in others that God puts on our hearts


 And more adventure

Some of what we do right as parents is on purpose, and some out of necessity.  This fall, E switched to the pump for diabetes, and so now I have lots of thoughts about the Omnipod.

I like thinking about life every quarter on this blog, because I want to live life on purpose.  I want to be sure we're getting some things right.  Not everything, but those things that make our family our family, and those things that make this life an Utter Adventure.

What's something you're doing right, in the way you're living as a family?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Of Summer and Mid-life Crisis

This little princess, yes, the youngest of our four cubs, is about to be a kindergartener next week.

She's so precious it makes me teary.

Ever since I chose a college major, I've had life planned out.  I would major in music education, graduate college, work as a music teacher, get married, have children and stay home with them to raise them until they got into school, and that was that.

I've now outlived all the dreams I'd ever set for myself.

See why this blog is about mid-life crisis?

I've heard about this from many other moms, too.  The youngest goes to kindergarten, and now it's time to answer the question, "What am I going to be when I grow up?"  Weird.

Something else was a little weird about our summer.  We've always loved to travel.  We planned vacations for this summer.  Then, we cancelled them.  I suppose once you've been through an experience of selling your house, living in a camper and traveling the USA full-time, it's possible to get to a point of feeling like you've DONE the entire USA.  Very odd.

That said, this was one of my favorite summers EVER.  We had time with friends, friends, and more friends.  We were outside with no time constraints or rushing, enjoying the sunshine, water, adventure of childhood, and chatting times of womanhood.

It was a perfect summer.

Right before school started for the boys, Y asked, "Did you like this year, the 'summer of the lake,' or last year's 'Utter adventure' better?"  Y was actually the only family member that could answer that question.  He liked the adventure better.  The rest of us couldn't choose.

Which lifestyle is better?  Running crazy from one place to the next, to sail in the S.S. Utter and pet wild manatees, cross the country and mine for gold, sail the Mississippi, and explore a temperate rain forest?  Oh, the wonders of God's creation!  Or, to sit on a surf board in the sand, talk with friends, and watch the kids adventure and grow?  Oh, the wonders of these precious, God-given relationships!

Maybe the mid-life crisis feeling comes from wishing none of it would end.  Our little girl is going to kindergarten!

Certainly the mid-life crisis feeling comes from not wanting to waste this life.  How?  By loving God more, loving people more, praying more, and seeing what happens?  That's always my pat answer.  What will it mean?  Maybe by the fall update of this blog, I'll know the answer?

It was a beautiful summer.  Now our little girl is going to kindergarten.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What to eat and how to be healthy? Aak!

I never wanted to care about what we eat.  At all.  I just wanted to feed my family with what my severely limited cooking skills allow.  Plus, doesn't it seem that all nutritional advice is directly contradicted by another piece of nutritional advice?

-Eat only whole grain wheat
-Stop eating any wheat
-Become a vegan
-Vegans stink because they eat too many carbs and not enough protein
-Butter will ruin your cholesterol, use margarine
-Cholesterol from food doesn't really hurt you at all, so eat butter - it's natural

Who wants to think about any of that???

This year, however, Char got his cholesterol tested, and it was 382.  Y tested positive as having allergies to wheat and eggs.  Plus, we already knew E had type 1 diabetes.  My desire to not think about what food we eat was completely thwarted.

What do you do about this??  It seems that foods that are low in cholesterol and foods that are low in carbs (for diabetes) are mutually exclusive.  Oh!  I could feed everyone egg whites, and we could eat lots of omelettes!  Except, Y is allergic to eggs.

It seems there's nothing my whole family can eat, and the whole thing is an unsolvable puzzle.  I hated researching foods, as every piece of advice wouldn't work because of one of the members of my family and their issues.

To be fair, I still hate thinking about food.  However, my friend, Myra, is brilliant.  Here's what I heard Myra say one day:

I think that if we want to be more healthy, we just have to do more of what God created us to do.

1)  Eat the food God made.  If it's made in a factory, don't eat it.
          (This makes sense in general, to avoid all the chemicals, but it makes sense for my family, as
         we have a child with food allergies, and there's allergens in everything!)
2)  God created us to work.  Not to be couch potatoes.  Get some exercise.
3)  Gluttony is a sin.
         (Isn't this verse a bit funny?  Proverbs 23:2, "Put a knife to your throat if you're given to  

Somehow, Myra's rules, based on how God created us, simplified things a lot in my mind.  I'd add a fourth rule, though, for ultimate health, which would include emotional and spiritual health.  The fourth rule is still based on what God created us to do, like Myra's other rules.

4)  Love a lot.  Love God; love other people.  Forgive a lot.

So, last night we had pizza.  There's an amazing pizza recipe that's low-carb for diabetes, with a cream cheese mixture for the crust.  Then, I only need to make another pizza that's  gluten- and egg-free.  After that, I just need to fervently hope that the people who say the cholesterol that you eat doesn't really effect you much, make a really big salad, and we're all set for dinner.

Maybe that's not much of a solution.  I still make three separate dinners most of the time, but each week, I find a few more recipes that fit into the four health rules, and I feel better about our overall eating.

Now, anyone have any miraculous low-carb, low-cholesterol, gluten- and egg-free recipes they care to share?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Deutschland and D-town

Happy Spring, Everyone!

We made it through the winter!  For us, this was a rough winter, especially since we spent the last winter in the southern states.  This winter, the temperature decided to be fun numbers like negative 12 F.  Eek!  However, the earth is now recovering, and it's spring!  My favorite season of all.  I love seeing God bring new life!  Makes me happy every year!  It also makes our children happy to be back outside playing on Mt. St. Utter.

Y tied together grape vines to make his own swing

I was realizing that this blog had largely been a travel blog last year, and I never wrote about Germany.  It was awesome!  I loved every moment!  Since we've spent 8+ months living in an RV and traveling the country, I feel like I know a bit about traveling now.  Yes, there are fun THINGS to see wherever you go, and Germany had many of those!

From castles

to cobblestone streets

quaint villages, that make me so happy


and the Berlin wall
This is a painting on a section of the Berlin Wall that still stands.  It depicts that the Berlin Wall was actually two walls (who knew?), with a grassy area in between them, where you got shot if you tried to cross.  So much to learn. 

where the wall used to be

I loved Germany so much.  I loved seeing the people, the culture, the beauty, the differences and similarities that God puts all over the earth!  I'm so amazed to think how He plans and watches out for us all, all over the globe, and how you can see Him everywhere.  

I think the reason I hadn't blogged about Germany until now, was that I knew I couldn't post pictures of my favorite part.  Having traveled a lot, I LOVE seeing interesting places and THINGS everywhere, but my favorite part is still the people.  

getting to know Friederieke was fantastic, and she translated for me for the week of camp

I love the chance to "get into" a place more and interact in the culture and the people.  I can't post any pictures of the kids at the English camp, just like random people aren't supposed to post pictures of my kids on the internet, but they were so fun!  I loved them!  Such a wonderful time!

I enjoyed Germany and the people so much that Char and I actually thought and prayed about moving our family to Berlin for two years.  It seems that God is saying, "not now," but maybe sometime in the future.  If anyone ever wants to rent our house on top of Mt. St. Utter for a few years, let us know!  In the meantime, we think about taking a tour of Europe together, Char and I, but it just sounds like it would be missing so much, to be on a tour bus and not interacting with the people.

So, we are currently settling more into rural life here in D-town.  Before we left, we lived in suburbia.  Now, we live in the country, and I am SO happy to see our kids out enjoying the spring: jumping down cliffs, bike riding through the yard, and creating fort after fort in the woods, and becoming a muddy mess.  The kids now have so much space that I have to have a whistle hanging by the door to piercingly call them back when I want them.  They could be anywhere!  Here in the country, our middle schooler needs to take a walkie-talkie out to the bus stop at the end of our drive since our driveway is so long.  We are also plotting which kinds of chicks to get, or eggs to hatch after spring break, and life in the country is going well!

Since we've been in one place, we've been enjoying watching organized sports games again.  B's basketball team lost every single game of the season, but then amusingly, came back to win the tournament at the end.  Here they are, holding their trophies:

E has been doing well, mainly enjoying playing outside, playing with friends, and playing with Max the dog.  Max didn't really want his photo taken here, maybe because he knows he's been a bit of a doggie terrorist lately, trying to take out any neighboring dogs.  We're trying to figure out what to do about this, but E sure adores him, and Max loves people!

Char has continued working from home, and experiencing a severe lack of adventure.  Because of this, he took the concealed carry class and has been enjoying practicing shooting targets and also taking B and E to kids' trap shooting club.  

Then there's Miss I.  I took this picture of her looking studious.  I was trying to motivate myself to turn in her kindergarten registration forms for the fall.  They're here, filled out, and I haven't been able to bring myself to actually register her.  

So that's life, as of late, for the Utter family.  We hope you're having a great spring, and that you have a blessed Easter.  Christ is risen!  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mountain life

Hello from Mt. St. Utter!

Yes, we've been out west and traveled in real mountain ranges, but yes, I still insist on calling our home Mt. St. Utter.  This has been confirmed by my children.  Char took B and E skiing at Boston Mills.  Upon arriving home and sledding on our driveway, B informed us that the ski slope was "not quite as steep as our driveway."

This makes our driveway the perfect place to practice snow boarding skills.

For everyone who worries about our kids sledding into our road, our car was parked at the bottom of the drive.  This wasn't necessarily intentional.  Char does a fantastic job of plowing and salting our drive.  I feel very well cared for!  But, you still may need four wheel drive to visit us on our mountain in the winter.

Here on Mt. St. Utter, even with four wheel drive, you still get to hear your children make exciting comments like, "Mom!  We spun around, slid down the driveway backwards, and tore up all the grass!  I'm never going to get to school."  Mt. St. Utter just realizes that there are times to stay home and relax in front of the fireplace.  Or relax by being crazy in the backyard, being towed on sleds behind a four-wheeler, like this:

There's just time to enjoy the scenery.  See the deer party in the backyard?

Plus, there's always the barn hockey arena.

Of course, now that it's winter and we're inside more often, we have to spend a great deal of time trying to convince our children that it would be better to live in a room that did NOT look like it was ransacked by a robber intent on finding all of Miss I's plastic jewelry.

The best news of the winter, though, is Chera and Jagan's new twins, Judah and Justus.  We play a daily guessing game, trying to figure out which baby is which.

Like most families this winter, our family has had a share of sickness.  Y has chronic stomach and headache issues.  Currently, we're taking him to Whole Body Health in Medina, and they're trying weird techniques of allergy elimination on him, involving sticking vials of grains and eggs into his socks for 15 minute time segments.  They're also giving him lots of various vitamin supplements.  For anyone who ever wondered about allergy elimination, I'll try to keep this blog posted with the results.  I feel like we've tried absolutely everything else, but if anyone has ideas, please let me know!

In a few weeks, we'll see if I can update this blog from Germany, where I'll be going on a mission trip, to help at an English camp.  I'm super excited, as I'd been thinking that next year, once Miss I is in kindergarten, that I might like to learn to teach ESL (English as a Second Language.)  It didn't necessarily seem overly practical to me to go to Germany and leave behind my husband and four kids for a bit, but I'd prayed about it, and God provided the money to go in under two weeks.  Before I saw the paper about how much the flight would cost ($1234), He'd already provided $1236.  So, it will soon be time to go to Germany.  

I hope you are all doing well!  From our snowy mountain to yours, Happy January to you!