Thursday my family came for dinner and a gift exchange. We were sad Julie and Dustin had to stay home because of the flu.

Dress up time is all the time!

Andy's family visited from Friday-Wednesday. What a fun time!


More dress up! Is that a princess pose or a robot pose?

Happy Ezra.

Christmas is so much more fun with little ones!

At this moment I think Micah was wanting Thomas the train, who was the sought after gift. Once Rachel found him upstairs hiding with Thomas trying to get a little playtime in before the owner (Caden) could snatch it away.

Storytime. It was hard for Caden to sit and act interested.

Whew, it's done!

We finished our bathroom remodel before Christmas. It was nice to have it in use again and to have the den with no more mess.


We are busy getting ready for Christmas here. I know that's the case for everyone, tis the season! Andy's family is spending about 5 days with us. We are so excited to have them! The poor kidos keep thinking they are coming today whenever we mention it.

Our bathroom is on the down down hill. Almost done! You will have to wait for the final reveal, but I will expose the mess it's made. No this is not the garage, this is a shot from the bathroom door into the den. How embarassing.

We are trying to clean, dejunk and rearrange, Christmas shop, do some baking, make a menu, and a list of fun activities for our company to do.

Sorry, but I can't seem to get my layout right! Oh well! Does anyone know what the problem is?

Here is a GREAT recipe for biscotti, one of our favorite holiday foods. It's so yummy to dip in hot drinks.

Holiday Biscotti

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
Red and green sugar crystals, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.
Form the dough into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.
Stir the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet and drizzle biscotti with chocolate. Wait for the chocolate to set. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 35 minutes.
The biscotti can be made ahead. Store them in an airtight container up to 4 days, or wrap them in foil and freeze in resealable plastic bags up to 3 weeks.


Birthday card from Leyla

just thought I would post the card Leyla wrote for my birthday a couple weeks ago:

Dear Daddy, Happy Birthday! I love you Daddy and so do you. Daddy I got a present for you and a card. I'm going to say happy birthday to you when I see you. Dear Daddy welcome to your party. You're the best Daddy ever! I love penguins and I love you!
Love Leyla

gotta love it!

and congrats to my former roomate and life long friend whom I never talk to any more M-T-H on kiddo numero duo!


Congrats to Micah and Emily who are now expecting there 2nd child! We are soooo happy for you!

A little about our Thanksgiving week:
Happy birthday to my dear husband (last Tues.)! He is a 29. I love him more each year.
We worked vigorously on our bathroom remodel. It's very close to being done, pictures soon to come!
We stayed up at my parents for 3 nights. It was a great time to just be with the family. Even though we live farely close, it's hard to coordinate everyone being in one place at the same time! I'm thankful that we all get a long so well and love being with each other!

Us. Not in our best "picture mood". The 2 girls were recovering from the stomach flu, ugg.
Julie, Dustin and Tyson.

Josie and Bullseye. =)

That's everyone!


If anyone is interested...

Emmaus alumni has a blog site, but is only available to alumni. People participate however they want from debates, info, prayer requests, to just having fun.

The creators have now made a similar site that's free and available to the public: www.shoutlife.com. The good thing about these sites is they are monitored pretty conservatively, so it can be edifying to the participants. So if you want to check it out, go ahead and you'll probably find some familiar faces.


Jen is at a Lady's Bible study tonight with our church, and now that the kids are in bed I thought I would update myself on what everyone's blogging these days.

Our date night that Jen mentioned on last Saturday was great. What an experience to see people who now have a shot at life they otherwise wouldn't have had without Christ. Prison, drugs, alcohol abuse, you name it - now on the road to recovery thanks to some caring individuals and most of all Christ. Hope Ministries is a neat organization that is very Christ centered. I was visiting with one of the directors recently and he recounted a recent story in which the VA administration approached Hope Ministries with a very large amount of annual funding because of the success rate of the recovery of its residents and their long term sustainability. Hope was clear from the begining that they would not accept any funding if there were strings attached regarding how they run their ministry - of course the VA said that was fine, but well into the arrangement someone finally mentioned that they would like Hope Ministries not say Jesus so much, and not require its residents to attend chapel. The reply, as it was told to me was "you came to us because of the success of the program, and now you want to take away the one thing that makes it successful. No thank you." Obviously walking away from that much money is dificult for any mission work, but hey, I don't recall finances ever being a problem for God.

I don't know how many of you have heard of or listened to much of Ravi Zacharius, but I have been listening to downloaded messages of his for some time now. This week I listened to a 5 part series entitled "Worship: A clue to meaning in life". It is definetly one of the more profound pieces of oratory that I have heard in a while. Ravi, as he often does, masterfully combines several soaring thoughts and concepts and weaves them understandibly in a mind numbing 3-4 minute segment at the end of part 4. Well worth the download if you get a chance.

We are in the middle of several remodeling projects that have had some twists and turns. It was all pretty manageable until I realized late in the summer that a roof leak really needed to be a complete re-roof rather than just trying to fix a couple trouble spots. And of course I couldn't convince any roofers that it should be done for free. So what started as wiring a new electrical outlet for a new washer dryer has turned into a new bathroom with new plumbing and electrical and shower and tile and the whole works, a new roof, new siding on the second floor, re-built soffits, all of that painted and a giant void between our kitchen and bathroom which will one day be a kitchen expansion. This week a roofer, sider, painter, and drywaller will have all been at my house at one point or another. Here are a couple midpoint pictures - just studs, plumbing, and insulation at this point. within a couple weeks I should be able to post pictures of it with paint and tile.
Existing Tub

New Shower


Since I said I would put up the "after" of the chair recover, here it is. Nothing special, but much more kid-eatable-on.

Andy and I are going on a date night tonight. Our dear neighbor is babysitting. This is not going to be a typical date, but I'm sure it'll be fun. We are going to serve food for a banquet at a homeless shelter in DSM. It's called Hope ministries and is a solid Christian evangelical organization. Their goal is to see people saved, not just provide for them physically. This is a banquet honoring the "graduates", who have had their lives changed spiritually and are now supporting themselves. Andy has done quite a bit with them, but this with be my first time. Afterwards we'll go out to eat.


This week I've been catching up and trying to get back into my responsibilies after a great weekend with friends in Chicago. We had an amazing time catching up and hanging out together. This weekend has been a hope of ours for years and we finally got it together between our schedules of weddings, babies, moves, and whatever else life brings. The highlight was going to a broadway play. I was in awe of how much talent the lead actresses posessed! =) To be able to act and sing like they did was a wonder. I didn't hear or see one mistake, but I'm also uneducated in this sphere. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Downtown Lakefront thanks to rewards points from Heidi's father in law. Katy lives in Chicago, so she was a great hostess and lead us to wonderful shopping and restaurants. Thank you to our "better halves" for their sacrifice in letting us do this! ~J~


Sisters, Katy and Kari,

syched to see "Wicked"
(not what you think, it's
a take off the Wizard of
Oz) on broadway.

Me, Kaci, Heidi eating seafood.

Heidi, Evie, Kaci at the submarine exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry.


Monday, Monday

What am I going to do today? Since my car is in the shop, I have big plans to accomplish a lot. Not sure if that will happen...

* We normally go to the Y on Mondays, but with no car, I set my alarm for 5:40 so I could go workout before Andy left for work. Did that happen? NO. Maybe I'll go tomorrow...

*It's 10:00 and I HAVE started the laundry. Mondays is laundry day. Yes, I only do it once a week.

*Make bread - 6 loaves.

* Recover dining chair seats. This is the 4th time I've done them since we've been married. I'm going with black foax leather this time, no more fabric. I got it all for $5! It has to be something spill proof and cleanable. I hope this will accomplish practicality and style. Look at these yucky seats! I'll show the "after" when I finish.

* Take screens off window, hose down, put away.

*Wash windows. Ha, yeah right!

*Where do my poor children fit into this? I know they'll be attempting to help me any way they can, they love to "help". Maybe we'll bundle up (it's only in the 40's here) and go for a walk.


I know this is more pictures than people care to see, but I'm doing it for the grandparents sake.=)


Time for an update. I got these pictures a couple weeks ago. We went to a state park with a big wooden playground by a lake. It was the perfect environment for happy pictures. Chloe was the most cooperative, maybe because she's the least "busy" and the most "dependent". Caden was impossible and couldn't be still a moment, he's a boy. Out of over 100 shots, there were some keepers. We have an old camera, so the quality is lacking.

I've been thinking on David lately and how he confidently poured out his heart to God. He gave him honor and praise, but he also told him his troubles and complaints. Often I subconsciously think that I can't say anything negative to God whether it's about a person or situation. For some reason I need to put on an act for Him. The Psalms are filled with David's complaints to God. Isn't it better to tell the Lord these things than anyone else? I seem to tell other's, but not the Lord. Most things we should tell only God and no one else. Afterall there is no one more accepting and trustworthy. I think the Lord wants to hear our complaints and our praise. I think He wants to hear our hearts.

"I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then you knew my path" (Ps. 142:2-3)
Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. (Ps. 62:8)



Here are two fun family activities we did last weekend (both of which were Andy's ideas).

This is the big piece of artwork we created.

Making doughnuts. We had to decorate them with every color of frosting and sprinkles we could find.


Andy's was in a Columbus a couple days last week and Minneapolis 4 days this week. None of us like it when he's gone, including him. We decided to make his traveling a little more pleasant by having the kids spend some time with g'ma, g'pa, uncle Jesse and aunt Josie while I go up to Minn., too.

I was up there Mon - Wed, so we had a 2 evenings together "on the town" (we stayed downtown). =) The first night we went to a Jazz restaurant. The food was great and the jazz group talented. It's funny how music brings strangers together because the whole place was just feeling it. Now, we don't have much jive in our blood, but if you didn't at least tap your foot or let out a little hoot, you just didn't belong. Haha.

The next night we were put on a long wait list to Andy's fav steak house. We killed the time by going to the Basilica, a Catholic cathedral, to check it out. What an amazing piece of architecture! Click here if you are interested in viewing pictures and information. We invited ourselves in during mass so we tip toed to the back row and sat like little church mice. It's bewildering how men seek to find peace in this life and hope for eternity in so many different avenues. The gospel is simple "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved", it's not of our own doings, it's doesn't include an uncertain eternity, it doesn't need to be made more complex or added to by religious rituals. What a relief that is to me! What a peace, what a hope!

Then we ate the best steaks of our life at Manny's steak house.

Oh yeah, and I just had to hit Ikea and Trader Joes, not to mention some other good shopping. Ikea is an exhausting place and I can't decide if I like it or not. You have to go through the entire 2 level store to be able to exit. This is no small store, it includes a child care zone, a cafeteria style restaurant, a furniture warehouse, a food market... They do have great things for your home at low prices, consequently the quality seemed to be lacking. I love Trader Joes! My first visit there was in Boston, so this time I brought a cooler. Hehe. They sell organic and all natural ingredient products at awesome prices. Why can't there be one in IA?

The kids had fun at my parents. On the way home I asked them if they ate good while they were there. Leyla says, "oh yeah, we ate lots of candy".
My parents have a huge white fluffy dog, Brutis, who's mixed breed is a mystery, but we think great pyrenees/ alaskan malamute. Anyways, tonight we were looking at a Bible animal book and I pointed to the polar bear and asked Chloe what animal it was. Chloe says "it's a hoo hoo (the twin's name for a dog), Brutis, mommy Brutis!" She was quite proud of herself. =)


We really do love each other!

I couldn't resist sharing these snapshots I got the other day of the twins.


just thinking

Two questions I have tonight as I ponder your existence,

One - in 1 Cor 13, does anyone have any thoughts as to why Paul closes w/ Faith, Hope, Love, these three...Why not service, giving, kindness, godliness, longsuffering, you-fill-in-the-blank? Is he indicating these are the pinnacle of Christian living? Certainly love is, which of course is reflected in being the greatest commandment and the second like unto it. But why the other two?

And Two - I said something the other day that I can't figure out if it was deeply brilliant or blazingly stupid. At work I was discussing a particular land purchase / development deal we are currently working through, and said to a co-worker, "so what it boils down to is, if you don't know anything, what do you know?" Hmmm...what does that mean really?


These Rolie Polie Olie (Clayton) and Zowie (Leyla) costumes didn't sell, but they made for a cute picture.

This weekend I held a garage sale here. We are in a prime location for one, so we only used signs to advertise. (Plus the fact that I procrastinated and did not get the ad in on time).

With the contribution of 7 families, we were scrounging for tables to put everything on. It was a HUGE sale just like the sign said! Leah, Heidi, and I had the most stuff and also ran the show along with the help of our 8 children. Thank you to Heather, Laila, and Julie for helping out also!

Are garage sales worth it? Basically we spent all day Thursday setting up and pricing, then held the actual sale on Friday and Saturday. We came away with, exhaustion, fun fellowship, $860, and a garage to still clean out... I'm not sure if it was worth it, but oh well.

However, it sure feels good to rid of stuff you don't need. I was also reminded to evaluate more seriously my purchases. I know what I paid for most items was a lot more than what I sold them for...

We were quite entertained by what folks actually buy:
>A pop can chiller, all you do is place your soda on this battery operated rotating mechanism and it promised to have your drink chilled in seconds!
>A S'mores Wizard, enjoy the nostalgia of making s'mores indoors, huh?
>Crushed, half way torn apart pink FAKE tulips.
>Picture frames and cds were popular sales.
>Stuffed animals, doesn't everyone have too many of these?

Watch out! You'd be surprise how many sneaky tag switchers there are! Come on people, it's a garage sale, you're already getting a deal!


Isn't it great!

I know most of you know, but I just want to shout it from the roof top! This news has been the highlight of my week! Here I go, "I'M SO HAPPY THERE IS LITTLE HELLER JR. ON THE WAY!!!!!! CONGRATS, JOHN AND KARI!!!!!" Jenica (obviously).


Some more

Josh and Brook (his shirt says "do you have your ticket to my gun show?" with arrows pointing to his biceps)

Andrew, Holly & James

L o n g Awaited Camp Pics



Nate and Rachel

Caleb and Anna


Kicking back

Josh C., Andy, Nate