Challenge Accepted

Today has been a challenging day.  I realize it's only 1:20 PM as I write, so there's still so much left in this day.  But there have been many challenging days leading up to this one, so it's easy to allow it to get the best of me.

Just as I was writing in my journal about how challenging today has been, I heard my kids playing outside with our neighbors who came over for the afternoon.  After a brother/sister scuffle between our neighbor kids, my girls were left with no friend over because their little buddy went home with hurt feelings from her brother.  This sort of thing is not uncommon, and, oftentimes, my kids are the culprits of these kinds of situations.  I thought it would just be commonplace for my kids and that, while the girls would be disappointed, it would just be what happened.  End of story.

BUT...they turned their disappointment into ACTION.

The next thing I knew, Laina was in the kitchen trying to find ANY ingredients we had to make her broken hearted friend a treat.  She ended up finding the ingredients for a strawberry smoothie.

Meanwhile, Maurah and Hayden put their creative hats on and created a "happy bottle," - a recycled lemon juice bottle filled with water and art supplies to shake and watch float.

When our neighbor left, she was not smiling like this!  All it took was some thoughtfulness and compassion from the girls to show her that she was loved and that she was wanted.  

It took ACTION.

Sometimes, on these challenging days, I look around and don't necessarily feel blessed.  It's easy to look at the problems in front of me instead of the goodness.  I can easily get stuck in this space, especially when the days don't seem to get easier.

But today, the girls taught me that sometimes it's best to take your disappointments and turn them into ACTION.  Take what's hurt and turn it into LOVE.  

This day that I had labeled as being so challenging has now turned into a day where I'm CHALLENGED.  

What a gift these little ladies and their huge hearts are to their mama.

July Little Things

July was another full month around here, and that will be clear from all of the pictures on this post!  Full of life and celebration and full of some pretty heavy emotion.  We had my sister and her family coming to Wisconsin to celebrate the 4th of July.  Laina decided she was making a campsite and would be waiting for them all day long.  Unfortunately, we had to have her move because we had some important things to do first.  

This was our important thing to do - send off our friends, the Grabendikes.  We waited with Chloe and Caleb while their parents signed the final papers on the sale of their Wisconsin home.

We were not happy about this move...

But God made Himself and His beauty known to us even on this sad day.

And these last few minutes with these people we love so much will be treasured forever.  

The impact these two have had on our kids is indescribable.  Possibly unbeknownst to them, they really became like older siblings that our kids look up to with stars in their eyes.  Caleb instilled a love of snowboarding in Cole, and Chloe has shared so many fun memories with our girls.  Beyond this, there has always been a natural bond as these six are kids whose dads are pastors.  There is something unique about this, that not many people understand.  There are a lot of eyes on these kids as they grow up, and it's not always easy to live up to other people's expectations.  Chloe and Caleb were such a good example of what it's like to have a dad in ministry - and Scott and Kara taught Jake and me SO much about parenting.  We are going to miss these guys so much!

Scott and Kara came a couple of hours later, and darn it if I didn't get a picture of our last moments with them.  We did a cinnamon roll hug with everyone and then squeezed each other individually.  We drove away with our last sight of this sweet family holding hands and praying together before their trip.  That's a scene I won't soon forget.  On our way home, I sat in the back with our kids, who were so sad.  They're now at ages where goodbyes mean something and they can really know and experience the pain that comes from losing loved ones.  Hayden especially had tears, so we just held hands and silently cried together in the back seat.

Thankfully, we had something to distract us once we got home because my sister and her family were already at our house!  We were not expecting them yet, and I fully believe God blessed us with that sweet surprise.  We had planned on going to Little Amerricka Amusement Park that day, so we ate a quick lunch and loaded us all up in our two vehicles to head there for the afternoon.  Tears were gone and it was smiles all around!

Total random sidenote - the water boat that our kids are spraying right here actually had my college geology professor and his son in it!  It was hilarious for me to watch these two worlds of mine collide and to see my kids completely soak my professor!



Let's all take this moment to acknowledge that my sister and Maurah are defiitely the bravest of our crew - I will NEVER get on this ride!  Love their love for adventure!


What a great way to spend the first day of July.

Throughout the week, Jake and Laina worked hard on a dining table Jake was building for some friends of ours.  Laina took her painting job very seriously.

While these two worked hard, the rest of the crew starting playing some pretty awesome yard games - like jump through the hoop as it rolls by!

 Laina decided that this type of game deserved some attention and she took a break from her work.

We then went to our favorite parade in Stone Bank with some of our very favorite people.

Poor AJ had an accident on the trampoline the day before and got four stitches in his lip.  That is another July memory that will not be soon erased from my mind!  He was such a trooper.

Maurah had my camera and took this beautiful shot of her cousin.  That girl has a future in photography, I tell you!

We went to the Waukesha airport to watch fireworks that night.  It was a long day and we were all EXHAUSTED.  Can you tell?  ;)

All of the girls had manicures and pedicures together.  The way these two were waiting made me flash forward a few years because they looked so old!



Maurah cracked me up as she played with the massage chair during her pedicure.

Lots of plays were put on and Laina took the role of "Miss Wendy."  They all sang about Jesus and how He loves them - made us melt.

Give this girl a character, and she will take it all the way.  Clearly, they were playing "spy."

We taught the kids how to play Ghost in the Graveyard while we waited for the sun to go down and make s'mores.

Once we put the kids to bed, it was time to play some grown-up games!  I'm always begging for people to play board games with me, and having family be our overnight guests is the perfect excuse!

Jake and I went to a wedding in Michigan of our former youth group students, Jordan and Alyssa.  They actually met in our youth group and what a JOY it was to watch them get married and to see so many of our students who are full-fledged adults and making such amazing differences in the world.  We took our time getting there, stopping in our favorite city, Chicago, for lunch.  Our day was filled with great conversation as well as great silence.  We're finding the older we get, the more special it is to just get to be with each other, not saying a word.  I am so sad I didn't take any photos, but seeing their faces was such a gift to us.  We'll never forget our first youth group - the best bunch of "kids."


While we were at the wedding, our kids were back home having the best time with friends!  So thankful for amazing families who take our kids when we need them and make it such a great time for them!

Laina performed in her ballet/tap recital on the last day of summer school.

Jake and I had an hour to kill after the recital so we stopped at church and took a selfie with the last time the name Westbrook would be on the doors of our church.  What a gift Westbrook has been to us.  So bittersweet.

We had lifegroup at our friends and Beckett completely fell in love with Cole, even to the point of feeding him his pacifier!  It is so sweet - I watch them and realize that Cole is playing the role for some of these younger boys that Caleb played in his life.  The seasons keep changing...

Maurah had a great daddy-daughter date.

We finally had a day where we could sleep in.  Hayden made it the longest (in our bed, I might add!), sleeping in until 9:30.  Woohoo!  We're getting closer and closer to us getting to sleep in too!

The girls helped me get our DISASTER of a basement organized and all of these things ready for a garage sale.  I'll have to post an "after" once we have the sale because it's amazing how different it looks!

Love finding these sweet treasures when we're cleaning.  All of the arguing wouldn't make you believe it, but these kids love each other.  I'm so thankful.

We also finally organized the craft room.  This is now my favorite room in the house because everything has a place and it's so calming to be in!

Cole participated in Apple Camp and learned how to code a robot.

I know this is sideways, but I had to share because Hayden and I had a great conversation about setting goals.  I loved her interpretation (and spellings!) and how she really strived to put these into action this summer.  This girl and her diligence are going places!

Hayden did poms class in Summer School and walked in the Dousman Derby Parade.

Then we enjoyed a perfect summer birthday party at our friend's house to cool off!

These two have quickly become two of my closest friends throughout this last year in particular.  We're just missing one from our little group of four (love you, Terri!).  I can't even describe the role they've filled in my life!  Beauties on the inside and out!

I'm pretty sure I will never tire of finding these selfies on my phone.

Hayden mastered the art of handstands.

We had an evening where we just needed daddy time, but daddy was at work writing a sermon.  We decided we could do dinner together at the park and I'm so glad we did!

It was the most glorious evening for summer exploring.

Laina worked and worked at getting her tooth out.  It FINALLY came out at summer school and here is her amazing grin after!

Hayden worked hard at jobs around the house to save some money.

Laina made her own plane...

More gymnastics tricks...

Laina was missing AppleJack even before we left for our week at the cottage!

Now, THAT was an amazing week (posted here).

When we got back from the cottage, Laina had another eye appointment with Dr. Patterson.  We have not been able to figure out exactly what her eyes need, but I'm encouraged by Dr. Patterson and believe we're getting closer to an answer!  She's such a trooper with all of this.

Afterward, we had a bit of downtime while we were waiting for Jake to bring the older kids from school to church to meet us so I could bring them home.  Laina and I sat under our favorite willow tree on our church's property where I read books to her while she swung on the branches.  It was one of those times where you just felt God's hand of blessing over you, and I'm so thankful for those sweet, few moments.

Laina then insisted that I take a photo of our church, so here it is.  I love our kids' love for this building, but even more for what the building represents - a safe place where they learn about an amazing God with people who love them beyond what words can say.  We're in a season of a lot of transition and a lot of grief, but His love stands sure and we are so comforted by that.

A New Spark

June also brought with it a somewhat new adventure for Maurah.  She joined MainStage Academy of Dance in the winter and showcased her work t...