Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Well, I definitely didn't stay quite on track with my little Thankful project!

Here are a few highlights as we finish off the month:

Last Sunday, Cody had the awesome opportunity to baptize Cloe!  We are so very thankful for her desire to follow Jesus!

We spent Thanksgiving with all of Cody's family in southern Iowa.   I am thankful for these two little cousins--just a year apart.  They are both so sweet and laid back. Guess they're leaving all the orneriness for the older kids!

The weather was beautiful on Thanksgiving Day!  Grandpa had a fun little project going on in his backyard.  The kids thought they were pretty big stuff getting to move dirt!  Soon, they'll be enjoying  electricity in the clubhouse Grandpa is building!

ALL the cousins had so much fun together!  I am truly thankful for family!

Now on to December...phew!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I realize I've started to fall behind quickly on these thankful posts!  Life is full right now!  Here we go...

Day 16:  I am really thankful that God provided a perfect fit with a little babysitting job two mornings a week.  Not only is the schedule perfect, but really, the boys are perfect, too!  I love them!  It's been fun to watch three little guys--ages 4 months, 1 year and 2 years old--all react and play off each other!

Day 17:  We are all so thankful for the kids' elementary school!  Parent / Teacher Conferences went really well!  We think we have the best teachers in the whole school, and we're pretty proud of our kids' accomplishments, too!  A huge answer to prayer was hearing that Cloe has just taken off with a love for reading and sticks her nose in a book anytime she's given a chance during school!

Day 18:  I am thankful for both my parents and Cody's parents.  The more we work with families, I realize what a special privilege it is to have all of our parents living and also thriving in strong marriages.  We so appreciate that our parents are always willing and eager babysitters!  They also help us in so many others ways...we are blessed!

Day 19:  We are all thankful for our TWO NEW NEPHEWS!  My sister's family adopted two sweet little boys today on National Adoption Day!  I put into motion some stellar tear-holding-back-moves this morning during the hearing at the courthouse.  My favorite phrase of the day was when my brother-in-law was being read a list of things by the judge and the judge said, "Their forever father."   These two sweet little boys will never need to fear the things that have happened to them in the past.  Their new family is their forever family.  We love them so much!  I couldn't be more proud of my sister!  Maddox is quite fond of her, as well!  He wore his JOY outfit in love for Aunt Joy!  (Sorry Aunt Katie, Aunt Denise, and Aunt Calli...if we can find outfits with your names bedazzled on them, we will buy them, too!)

Phew...that was just the beginning of our packed weekend!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Day 15:  I am so thankful for the sunshine these last few days! 
It's putting a cheerful spin on this super busy week!'s a glimpse of my Pinterest projects!  (the scent of Mod Podge is forever lodged in my head!)

Monday, November 14, 2011


Catching up!

Day 12:  I am thankful for fun family times on little day trips!

Saturday, we headed out bright and early for a quick trip to Ikea in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Some Christmas surprises were in stock there and needed to be picked up.
 Woo-hoo!  Swedish Meatballs and fun, inexpensive surprises waited ahead!

Of course, we couldn't drive all that way without a quick loop around the Mall of America!
Lego Woody just makes everyone excited!  The American Girl Store brought so much excitement that I forgot to take a picture!

Eight hours in the car + five hours shopping = one happy, tired family!

Day 13:  I am so thankful for the independence and responsibilities these three sweeties can handle!

Sunday nights we host a small group of young married couples in our home--a.k.a. no kids allowed.  At 7:00, our kids are responsible to take showers, get their pajamas on, brush their teeth, pick up their toys, read a Bible story, pray together, and get themselves in bed. (all without too much noise!)  They have done this so amazingly well for the last nine weeks!  At the end of the evening when our guests leave, I always look at Cody just stunned that our children were able to accomplish such tasks with no problems and no conflicts.  We both are so thankful that they are willing to participate in this way in the ministry we are having with young couples!  Okay...enough mama bragging! :)

Day 14:  I am SO thankful for Christmas music!  
Say what you will, you naysayers out obviously haven't heard The David Crowder Band's new Christmas CD Oh For Joy!

Get it. Crank it. Love it.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Day 11:  (This one's an easy one!)  I'm thankful for our veterans who have willingly served and fought for our country to protect and preserve the freedoms we so much enjoy!  (I'm also thankful for my dad who served in the navy!)

Happy Veteran's Day!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Day 10:  I am really thankful that these postpartum emotions are only temporary...I'm hoping!  

Seriously, there is no reason I should be getting all teary-eyed as Matt Lauer shares the gifts he's bringing home for Ann, Al, and Natalie from his Where in the World Is Matt Lauer trip.  Stinkin' Today Show.

Now this...

Well, those tears are just from the laughter..."Moooo-ooom, it's so bright!"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Day 9:  I am thankful for our children's program {CREEK KIDS} at Willow Creek.

 (these are our Sparks kids)

Our AWANA kids stuffed 50 boxes with things they had brought for Operation Christmas Child :: Samaritan's Purse.

I L.O.V.E that our children are learning the importance of having a generous heart!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Day 8:  The copycat in me is so thankful for this:

You know you love it, too!

What are you pinning today?

Monday, November 7, 2011


Day 7: I am so thankful for Mondays!

I realize for most people, Monday is the most dreaded day. For us, Monday is Cody's day off. I actually think Monday is my favorite day of the week! During the summer, we try to always do something special with the kids on Mondays. Since school has started, we've tried to make this day a super fun "together" day. We've snagged some great Groupons and Living Social Deals to help with that! I sometimes sneak in a few other Maddox's well-baby checks and shots. Who wouldn't want help with those appointments!?

What day of the week are you most thankful for?

PS Maddox did not get the memo Saturday night. In fact, he started Sunday at 5:00 am. Painful, really. Today was 6:00 am. We're hoping tomorrow will be back to 7:00 am! For the grandmas: he now weighs 14 lb. 10 oz. (40th percentile) and is 26 1/2 in. long (90th percentile). Crazy, we might have a giant in our family!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Day 6:  I am so thankful for this:

You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?   
Well, this one really is!

I am so thankful for our church--as in all these people!  LOVE THEM!  Seriously.  So many really awesome testimonies, friendships, talents, and life stories all coming together.  Love.

I am thankful for the worship that we get to have together!  Singing together for HIM!  It's great!  LOVE our talented, dedicated musicians. 
Learning from God's Word!  Awesome!  You should listen to the podcasts here.

I am thankful that my children eat.up being here.  Even at 7 am on Sunday, they are all smiles.  (the donuts probably help!)

I am also thankful for this building.  It's such a beautiful facility!  (even if it does sit out in the middle of a corn field!  for real!)

Most of all, in this picture, I'm thankful that this is our life.  Cody is the guy leading the worship here.  I love his job, and he does too!

We're so thankful for Willow Creek Baptist Church...everything that those words represent here!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


(Do you think this little guy gets enough attention?)

Day 5:  Another milestone...Maddox, we're thankful for another month with you in our family! 

You are four months old today! 

You smile and drool...and drool and drool and drool! 

You laugh and coo and talk to us in your own sweet little gibberish! 

You aren't rolling yet (like your brothers and sister did at this age),
probably because you have three adoring little people always at your beck and call. 

I'm okay with this, too. 
I'll savor your dependency as I know it will be fleeting all too soon!

You have a grip that's as tight as a kung-fu fighter.

You stand strong on those little legs and can plank with the best of them!  (Daddy's pride and joy!)

Happy Four Months, our little blue-eyed baby!

P.S.  There's this little time change thing happening tonight called Daylight Saving Time.  Please, oh please, oh please, take part in this happy celebration of falling back.  Mama needs this extra hour of sleep.  Thanks, Little Man!

Friday, November 4, 2011


Day 4:  I am thankful for children that are willing to work hard and help out!

Since Maddox was born, our kids have been really pulling a lot of extra weight around the house.  Blame it on having a baby...a c-section...four kids...lack of sleep...laziness...whatever...I just cannot seem to get my act pulled together again and get things done like I use to!  

Every fall, we always hit an orchard and load up on apples.  This year, time was fleeting and a freeze was eminent when we finally made it to an orchard.  To our surprise, the orchard owner said we could have as many apples as we liked as long as we used our own bags.  Unfortunately, I had only one flimsy shopping bag and Cloe's piano bag in the car that day.  So, we headed back the next day armed with large bags ready to be filled with tart, juicy apples!

Eager to roam the orchard!
 I know it's dorky, but I LOVE their matchy matchy puffy coats!
 When we'd picked all the apples we could reach from the ground, these two little monkeys scrambled up the branches for more!  Cloe and I stood at the bottom while they plunked apples down for us to catch.

This was the best part--after letting the apples simmer all night in the crock pot, our little team formed an assembly line.   Cloe was the smasher, Carson was the dipper, and McClain was the "host" who ordered more dipping and smashing.  (Can you tell they love game shows?)  Of course, everyone had to take a turn at each job.  The reward for helping was a heaping bowl of fresh, hot applesauce!
(Even Maddox got to sample some...shhhh!)

Our freezer is full of applesauce ready to be enjoyed all throughout the winter thanks to some really sweet, helpful kiddos!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Day 3:  I am so thankful that this little girl is turning into a bookworm!

Seriously, after working so crazy hard for the last three years of school (and summer vacations), this little lady is picking up chapter books and having a hard time putting them down!  I love it when she comes to tell me her alarm clock "accidentally" says an hour later than when she's suppose to put the book down and go to sleep.  Yippee!  There's a spark lighting up there that is nothing short of a huge answer to prayer!  Hallelujah!!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Day 2:  I am thankful for new family pictures!

It felt like Christmas today as I tore into the special package containing our new family pictures!  I LOVE pictures and the special moments in time they capture with our children!

Thank you, Alisa!  We appreciate you taking a day away from your family to capture special moments for our family!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I'm jumping on the grateful train for the month of November!

Here we go!
Starting slightly shallow...

Day 1:  I'm thankful for yummy caramel apples!

Our Best Bites has the most sugary, gooey, delicious recipe.

Homemade Caramel for Apple Dipping
Recipe from Bon App├ętit, slightly adapted by and slightly copycatted by me...


1 pound dark brown sugar (about 2 cups packed brown sugar)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt (I left this out)
12 medium sized apples (I did 3 large, 9 medium, and still had over 2 cups of caramel left)
popsicle sticks or chopsticks or forks and tongue depressors

Optional: melted chocolate in zip-top bags


Wash and dry apples; place sticks in cores and put on a baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill.

To prepare caramel, combine first 8 ingredients in heavy 2 1/2-quart saucepan. Stir with wooden or silicone spatula over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves (no crystals are felt when caramel is rubbed between fingers), occasionally scraping down sides with a spatula, about 15 minutes.

Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to side of pan. (Or use your husband's milk steaming thermometer for lattes and hope it doesn't ruin it!)  Increase heat to medium-high; cook caramel at rolling boil until thermometer registers 236°F (or 220 degrees because that's all the higher it goes...augh!), stirring constantly but slowly with clean spatula and occasionally scraping down sides of pan,  about 12 minutes.

Pour caramel into a bowl.  Submerge thermometer bulb in caramel.  Cool to 200°F, about 20 minutes.

Holding stick, dip 1 apple into 200°F caramel, submerging all but very top of apple. (We like them dipped all the way to the top so a little caramel pools around the top!)  Lift apple out, allowing excess caramel to drip back into bowl. Turn apple caramel side up and hold for several seconds to help set caramel around apple. (should have done this step...a lot of our caramel pooled around the bottom)
If needed, gently scrape the bottom of the apple to remove excess caramel. Place coated apple on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining apples and caramel, spacing apples apart (caramel will pool a bit on foil).

Drizzle melted chocolate over caramel-coated apples and sprinkle with decorations. Chill until set, about 1 hour. Cover; chill up to 1 week or wrap in cellophane bags for gift giving.

(Our Best Bites has some great tips on topping that can be added to these caramel apples, too!)

I had some extra help from this little guy.  Asthma was kicking his tail, so he stayed home from school.  He loved drizzling the melted chocolate over the top.  This is the only picture I got of the finished products.  They disappear quickly!

We bagged up three of the apples in pretty Halloween sacks and delivered them to our teachers after school.  It was a perfect little gift!