Christmas at the Crouse House

Christmas is Brian and I’s favorite time of the year. It embraces all things we love about life and we live in the most festive town in the United States, which is perfect for my heart! Our traditions include baking shortbread and ginger cookies, cranberry bread, building fires and drinking the coffee we roasted. We go to as many festivities as we can. In the past 4 days the kids have attended three different Christmas programs and this morning I was needing that quiet moment at home.

Christmas for us begins the day after Thanksgiving. Brian and I take down all the Thanksgiving decor and start the set up for Christmas. The goal is to get it all done before Esther’s birthday, the 1st. The boys’ birthday is only 3 weeks before Esther’s (2019 saw them all age 6 for three weeks!)  so I try to help separate their birthday experiences with an official change of seasons. Now that the kids are older they love to help (we are still working on their understanding of the word “help”). Meaning they usually end up being sent outside to do “something.” Anything. Anything other than stomping on the Christmas lights as we untangle them in the floor. Of course once we are done we discover their handy work in the yard.

This morning I was freshly reminded of that something they did. My industrious kids “planted” trees this year at the front steps of our porch. Which means they broke the biggest branches they could off the pine trees in our yard, dug holes and stuck them in the ground. It looks like what you would expect when you put a 7 foot pine branch in a 6 inch deep hole. Embracing my first morning home all week I decided to re-purpose my new “trees.” This is something I have wanted to do at Christmas ever since we moved here and it was so fun. Thanks for inspiring the project kids!

I tied them together with twine and added cedar and pine cones that had fallen around the yard. I took me about an hour, but I was waiting on loads of laundry anyway. The girls helped me collect my cedar branches and had such fun playing dolls while I tied branches together in the floor. In the past we tried to keep a tree on the front porch, but the wind spoils our plans each year, so this year I focused on the door. Nothing like a country Christmas!

‘Tis the season!


New Kitchen

At the beginning of this year, we renovated our kitchen and Brian joined a unit out in Colorado with the Air Force Reserves. It was a natural move since he was an AF officer for 9 years before we moved here to be closer to family.  Since the day bought our house, renovating the kitchen was a dream of mine. Originally built in 1979, and never updated, we still had orange and brown cornucopia wallpaper  on the walls. Coincidentally, the two events overlapped and Brian traveled quite a bit between his regular job and the reserves. Usually not a problem but this Spring had its own plans.

Eight weeks we worked on the kitchen and I couldn’t have asked for a better company to work with. I’ve done my share of renovations and it’s no small thing to have strange men in my house around my kids all day. This particular company was amazing from the owner to the subcontractors. No worries there.

The day before we tore the kitchen down to studs, I made 14 freezer meals that either fit into my crock pot or my counter top Oster oven- a brilliant wedding gift from my sister. (I had yet to discover the power of an Instant Pot.) Meals were, for the most part covered. The refrigerator was now in the garage which was packed with new appliances of every kind. My dish washing station moved to our master bathroom. It was a little more walking but I got used to it. Having the coffee pot by the crock pot always blew the circuit, so it also joined us in our bedroom.

During most of this time Brian was on short trips here and there, but gone enough to be mostly out of the decision making process. When home, he spent his time chopping wood for our wood burning furnace. It kept us warm as long a the pilot light stayed lit. With Brian gone, I spent the kids nap times hauling wood in from those fantastic piles Brian had made during his most recent stay at home. Which were always nearly gone before he got back. Only 3 more weeks until Spring.

Windows were delayed after a tornado hit the factory in Iowa, inviting a well-timed snow storm in the middle of February. Despite our best efforts to keep the winter out of the gaping open windows, my kids started getting sinus infections and then our furnace went out. Out as in, they made it special order in 1979 and the manufacturer doesn’t make any parts for it any more. Keeping our house warm enough for the kids to recover seemed impossible. Three weeks until Spring indeed.

March came with yellow daffodils and all the warmth promised. The renovation was  finished. Windows were (finally) installed, the coffee pot back in the kitchen, the garage reclaimed, the kids healthy again and Brian came home for a full three weeks with only one 2 week trip left to do in April. All was once again right with the world, what could possibly go wrong?


A Year of Change

Today is the first day of Fall, my favorite season and the change in schedule and weather has brought me back from my blogging sabbatical. This year has been so full of life and change sometimes its best to just be still and embrace it. Which is what I did. However, I do not wish to forget so I am going to start catching up! As I remind myself from time to time, life streaks by as a blur and it is the goal of this blog to remember all the little things that make it so perfect.

Here’s a quick recap since March, all of which I will post about soon:

  • Kitchen: We finished our kitchen! After an 8 week full on kitchen renovation, I am happy to say we survived and I have the pictures to prove it!
  • The Natural Disaster: At the end of April, while my husband was on a trip (of course!) we got about 8″ of rain which flooded not just our valley but our home too.  Let’s suffice it to say I now have a streak of white in my hair and I officially look like Anna from Frozen.
  • Girls Trip: My first girls trip to Nashville, TN for my birthday!
  • Potty Trained: Everyone, it happened. I don’t know how we made it here, but we are finally out of all diapers. Which is a huge accomplishment for anyone, even more so when you consider how many this house went through. Shall we say FREEDOM?
  • First Family Vacation: Okay. This post will be full of vulnerability and lessons learned because it was pretty much a nightmare. So – no, our pictures did not make it to social media. However, we may consider selling movie rights if anyone is interested. (Making lemonade here…)
  • Anniversary: 8 Years in August! This was a different year for us as a couple for several reasons. Mainly because, this season in life tends to be demanding. Brian and I saw growth here in 2019. Growth isn’t always pleasant, but if we want our marriage to be stronger and closer it is necessary to work through all the things this season threw at us.
  • Back to School: We made it. It is always a day of tears for me but gosh I am just so proud of these kiddos!

This is all for now. It’s more of a teaser for you and an outline for me! But, I am happy to say that I am back and excited to be actively posting again. I have missed you all! Besides, what better season for you and I to reunite in than the Pumpkin Spice season?

Question for my followers: How important are the recipes to you? Do you want them in the post? Should I simply add them to the home page menu? Remove completely? Please post your thoughts below, I love to hear from you! 


Book Review: The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker

Grace spends her life in a tight knit community surrounded by people she loves. Kind, generous and friendly her neighbors believe in each other and do whatever it takes to support their friends and family in their shared values. Even when it requires murder.

When her brother, Jamie,  begins to question the holy rules, the red rope and the boundary it represents Grace finds herself caught in the middle and unable to go back to the days before.

Ted Dekker and his daughter Rachelle Dekker team up to release a spine tingling book about the power of fear and the lives we choose because of it. In comparison, it ranks right along with Frank Peretti’s The Oath.  An excellent look into the levels of spiritual warfare and the impact it takes on our daily lives, with or without us knowing it. Fear and the crippling authority we choose to give it often masquerades as protection. It creeps in and binds the lives of the faithful as well as the lives of the unknowing.

The Girl Behind the Red Rope was engaging and even spine tingling. Definitely I recommend it, however for those of you whose husbands are out of town… maybe not reading it at bedtime (speaking of the power of fear!).  Would that we all would see the truth of God’s light in us and the call to live without fear. In perfect love – God’s perfect love – there is no fear. Only peace and joy. What a difference we would all make if we took this truth to heart and lived without a spirit fear.

Happy reading!


Hello, Spring

Few things bring that quiet smile to my face than the wild daffodils that bloom by the hundreds in our woods. Washed down from forgotten homesteads of days gone by, these daffodils fill the woods with bursts of yellow issuing in the first signs of Spring.

Usually, on the first warm day we are home, I take the kids on an overdue walk through the woods where we pick as many flowers as we can and bring them back to the kitchen.

Walking through the woods hand in hand with my two year old girls, and keeping that mindful eye on my boys and Esther racing through the trees way ahead of me couldn’t make my heart sing more.

These are the sweet moments that will always be set apart in my mind as the years go by. The days when we came home with flowers, rocks and toads in our pockets.

Sometimes it’s way too easy for me to hide away inside working at my computer while the kids play; feeling too overwhelmed and behind on my checklist to stop and savor a fleeting moment.

It’s all about priorities though, isnt it? Choosing to take that break, hold that tiny hand, name the toad Jake. (Every toad is named Jake at our house, so just in case you meet one you’ll know it by name.)

Work is always there and rarely can I tell you the blur of what happened on what day. But those special walks in the woods picking daffodils, those I’ll remember years to come.

I encourage you to seize that moment and make that memory wherever you are at. Make as many as you can. They are the bread that fuels the ordinary and difficult days ahead. They are the joy set before you and the glory that trails behind.


What I have learned from school

Here I am in my office wondering how many oatmeal creme pies I can eat before turning into one. Now, I’ll need a new helper day snack for Micah’s class because I have officially eaten too many of them. (Don’t tell Autumn Calabrese, she wouldn’t understand.) What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Micah will likely never find out unless I publish a book about this time in our lives when I used to hide and binge on creme pie cookies.

This new season of school was like going from my slow and steady pace of staying at home all day every day with five little kids, to voluntarily going through one of those old fashioned wringer washers. Between kindergarten and preschool, drop offs and pickups equaled about 3 hours  driving time before one o’clock. Once home, the kids would go nuts while I silently watch the clock count down to “quiet time.” (This is my new version of nap time because I am hopelessly dependent upon those two hour naps and I have discovered the travesty of my kids outgrowing them.)

Although we have five children, they didn’t come one at a time while we acclimated to parenthood. Rather, our first three stormed into our lives in eleven months. For the first time in six years, I am at home with just two and oh how I love these precious hours! Yesterday we read Dr. Seuss’s Sneetches and What Was I Scared Of? (my personal favorite) twice each. Pure bliss.

As the youngest in my family I have often heard the theory and even been accused of the youngest being the favorite. However, it occurred to me this year that the youngest are not favored in a family. They are simply on the receiving end of parents who are waking up to the fact that this family is growing up and will soon be gone. The youngest are around to experience the polished, parenting methods we did not yet have with our first.  It appears like parents favor the youngest but truly, it’s simply a shift of perspective that affects our behavior. By the time our youngest children cruised onto the scene, I had only begun to learn which battles are not worth fighting.

For example: every night Esther used to want to wear her princess dress to bed, and it was a fight  to get her into her pajamas nearly every night. Now, Ruthie wants to live in her Rapunzel dress day and night and I simply don’t care if she does. I realize now what seemed so important in principle earlier, is really not a big deal. In the end my relationship with them supersedes any costume-pajama combo they may come up with. And really – there is such a short window in our lives when we can dress up as a princess every. single. day. Or Captain America if you are my like my boys.

So here’s a toast to this new season and all that I will be learning. This parenthood thing is a refining fire, and it can be easy to focus on the ashes, but more and more I see the strength and beauty of what remains. God has shaped and strengthened me through these little people. It amazes me the impact such a tiny person can have. After all, “A person is a person no matter how small.”




A New Season

You will have to forgive my two month absence. We were busy adjusting our lives from the “baby season” to the “school season.” It has been quite a whirlwind and our schedule is as jam-packed as I was afraid it would be. I have found some helpful tips though that I will share with you here along with some first day of school posts that are a bit belated but worthy of documentation regardless.

Let’s keep it short and sweet. After the first few weeks of kindergarten-preschool drop off and then preschool-kindergarten pick-up I began to realize my morning of cumulative 3 hours in the car would need to be… what shall we say? A different experience?

With frazzled nerves and thinning patience, I made up 4 car rules. I ordered some car organizational things from Amazon and I picked up 5 car toys that are only for the car. Want to know how much noise those toys make??? NONE. It was a struggle finding things that didn’t jingle, twinkle, bong, and blink. But, I found what I was looking for in miniature size no less! Perfect for the car.

Don’t worry, I’ll share my finds.

Car Rules

No Fighting – Agree to Disagree. Answer the first time your name is called by anyone. No obnoxious Noises. No Screaming.

You may be surprised how much is has helped to outline these rules. They have herd me scream them at them for weeks, but only until I made it an official “Car Rule” did it register to them that these were actual expectations.

Car Organization

Back seat organizers. Hand held Dirt Devil with a 16 ft cord and car adapter. Trunk hooks to organize bags and keep them off the floor.

Car Toys

Mini Write and Slide: pen is attached and not easily lost in the car, silent, easy to use, doesn’t get lost, works on dexterity and creativity

Mini Etch-A-Sketch: Silent, nearly indestructible, increases dexterity and creativity, no additional parts to be lost in the car

Pin Push:  Silent, sensory. (This is where you lift your hand on the bottom of the pins and they push up to create the outline of your hand. It’s a favorite, I’ll have to get another one.)

Art Pad & Colored Pencils : Silent, Artistic, Dexterity. (Colored pencils don’t melt like crayons and I have a little zipper case for them.)

These rules, toys and organizational things have really saved my sanity and I hope that as school starts up for you all too, that these tips are helpful. As a rookie, I underestimated the car ride. I’ll not be making that mistake again with young children.