Top 10 of the Florida Keys #7

 Number Seven: Swimming

What vacation with small children would be complete without a swimming pool?

The lagoon-style pool at the resort where we stayed was amazing. Michael and I couldn’t get over how beautiful the landscaping around it was. So green and tropical, and so different from the snow-white landscape of the Frozen Tundra that we’ve been staring at since November.

We also couldn’t get over the iguanas that strolled around the pool on the warmest day of our visit. Creepy! Of course, that was the day I didn’t bring my camera to the pool. We did count at least five iguanas — one even had orange spikes! The girls didn’t want to go anywhere near those creatures, but they didn’t freak out as much as I thought they might. We also saw many tiny lizards — Florida chameleons — near the pool and elsewhere around the resort. But that’s another story

Back to swimming. Linnea loves her goggles; Laurel has a love-hate relationship with hers.

Linnea loves leaping into the water.

Laurel still needs a little help getting into deep water. 

Her little toes just didn’t want to let go!

But pretending to ride on her own personal sea turtle was great fun.

The 70-something weather was a smidge cold for Linnea, who crept out of the pool to warm up for a while. This is the same kid who often complains about being hot when she is outside wearing her snowpants. Go figure.

And then there’s Laurel, never happy to leave the pool.

Our Florida Keys Top 10 nears the finish with Number Eight coming up soon!

Florida Keys Top 10 Series

Number 10: Sunsets

Number 9: Tranquility

Number 8: Seascapes

Number 7: Swimming

Number 6: Sand Castles

Number 5: Key West

Number 4: Seashells

Number 3: Sailing

Number 2: Dolphins

Number 1: Sea Turtles

Top 10 of the Florida Keys #4

Our Florida Keys Top 10 continues today with Linnea’s favorite.

Number Four: Seashells

She searches. And she searches.

For seashells. By the seashore.

Slightly satisfied.

Still she needs to search for more.

So she searches.

And she searches.

She scurries to.

She scurries fro.

Will she ever stop? I don’t think so.

Florida Keys Top 10 Series

Number 10: Sunsets

Number 9: Tranquility

Number 8: Seascapes

Number 7: Swimming

Number 6: Sand Castles

Number 5: Key West

Number 4: Seashells

Number 3: Sailing

Number 2: Dolphins

Number 1: Sea Turtles

Top 10 of the Florida Keys

Don’t re-freeze if thawed. These instructions are important to heed if you are a frozen chicken breast, but they are hard to follow if you are a Minnesotan returning from a week-long Florida vacation in February. Frozen since sometime in November, we did indeed thaw while on vacation. Seasoned in sea salt and sand, we warmed up well in the Florida sunshine and Atlantic water. But now we are back home in the Frozen Tundra and diligently trying not to re-freeze because that would be so distasteful

While I still feel thawed and still have a little sand between my toes, I am eager to bask with you in the warm memories! I plan to serve up our family’s Top 10 of the Florida Keys. Of course, I don’t want to over-stuff this post with all the photos and stories from a week-long trip. That’d be too messy. A trip like this calls for several small courses! So do enjoy this one, and please come back often so you don’t miss anything!

Number One: Sea Turtles

“So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems… And God saw that it was good.”

— Genesis 1:21

Of the top 10 things we love about the Florida Keys, the sea turtles rank pretty high. The first full day we spent in the Keys, we devoted a large chunk of time to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL.

Sea turtles happen to be my favorite animal — I fell in love with them while Michael and I were vacationing in the Cayman Islands several years ago. Anyway, sea turtles are Linnea’s favorite, too, which made the Turtle Hospital a must-see.

Touring the hospital and learning about sea turtle injuries was quite intriguing. I never knew sea turtles had so many health challenges!  Shark bites, boat propeller incidents and entanglement in fishing line are a few primary causes of injury for these captivating creatures. The hospital’s emergency room and operating room offer pretty impressive care, and the folks who work at the hospital are clearly devoted to helping these amazing creatures recover from whatever ails them. 

During a recent cold snap in the area, the water temperature dropped into the 50s and many sea turtles suffered from “cold stunning.” As a result, the hospital took in more than 170 turtles in January — that’s more patients than the hospital typically gets in a full year! Most of those turtles had already been released when we were there, but 20 or so were still there recovering in outside tanks like this.

The girls adored seeing the sea turtles up close! We saw Loggerheads, Hawks Bills, Green Turtles, and the rare Kemp’s Ridleys.

Without a doubt, everyone’s favorite turtle was Scooter, an adorable 1-year-old Loggerhead who is perfectly healthy.

Scooter goes with the hospital biologists when they visit schools, and he helps educate students about sea turtles and what the hospital does. While the tour guide was holding him, Scooter waved his fin at Laurel.

Toward the end of the tour, our guide passed around some catfish food for us to feed to the turtles. The turtles were anticipating this, so they followed us closely — they swam and we walked alongside the water.

After the tour, we visited the gift shop. Having saved up her allowance for weeks in hopes of buying a stuffed sea turtle, Laurel delighted in finally wrapping her arms around this one.

Notice it has an orange bandage — the tour guide/reptile biologist carefully treated Laurel’s little turtle before releasing it to her. So cute! Linnea had to have one, too.

Its fin needed a white bandage, as you can see.

I think these turtles are going to be well cared for, don’t you?

Thanks for joining us at the Turtle Hospital. Stay tuned for the next post, when we learn more about another favorite sea creature as our Top 10 of the Florida Keys continues!

Florida Keys Top 10 Series

Number 10: Sunsets

Number 9: Tranquility

Number 8: Seascapes

Number 7: Swimming

Number 6: Sand Castles

Number 5: Key West

Number 4: Seashells

Number 3: Sailing

Number 2: Dolphins

Number 1: Sea Turtles

Love is in the Hair

Linnea donated 10 inches of her beautiful, silky smooth blond hair to Locks of Love today. Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides  hair pieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

Long before…

And shortly after…

Love is most definitely in the hair.

It’s a Snow Day!

Someone recently asked me if homeschoolers ever get snow days.

By my measurement, that’s a deep question. So I guess it requires a pretty deep answer. 

Consider the beauty of a snow day: Catch up on sleep. Hang out all day with people you love dearly. Take a break from the usual routine of school or work. Stay home. Wear your pajamas all day. Sip some hot chocolate in the middle of the afternoon. Slow down and enjoy a new experience outside like sledding or building a snowman.

Homeschooling is a lot like that. A flexible schedule allows homeschoolers to catch up on sleep when they’ve been deprived. They hang out all day with the people they love dearly. They can wear pajamas all day, though we never make it much past 8 a.m. in ours. Homeschoolers often have time to enjoy a new experience as a family, whether it’s through a book that’s read-aloud, a field trip to the theatre or museum, or a science project worked on together.

Also consider the classic book Snowy Day, written by Ezra Jack Keats. It’s a simple story of a little boy who wakes up to a winter wonderland of snow. Since school is canceled, the boy spends the entire day exploring and playing in the fresh snow. Among other things, he experiments with his foot prints, makes a snowangel, and eventually discovers that snowballs melt when brought inside. That one day he learns more about snow than he ever would learn about it in a classroom.

Likewise, when there’s an opportunity to sink deeply into a certain subject,

homeschoolers have the freedom to wallow in it for a while.

They also have the freedom to step back and view it from a totally different angle.

Don’t get me wrong. A classroom can be great for practicing handwriting and studying spelling words and reading all about this incredible world our Father created. But often a textbook experience falls way short of a true learning experience. And that’s what’s great about education that isn’t trapped inside the four walls of a classroom. That’s why it’s essential for students to have the freedom to go out into the world to learn about it up close, first hand!

Most folks agree, enjoying a snow day is the safe, cozy thing to do when the snow is really piling up outside. And for our family, homeschooling is a safe and cozy way to truly learn about this great big world God created.

Yes, homeschooling has its ups.

And homeschooling has its downsides.

But we strive to enjoy the ride anyhow.

And we are thankful for friends who help us up when we reach the bottom.

Together may we reach new heights every day, whether it’s a snow day or not.

“I Knew She’d Love it!”

Linnea knew she’d love it!

The middle of January is drawing near, and I am supposed to be writing my Christmas thank-you notes. Actually, by now I think I am supposed to have already mailed my thank-you notes. 

To be exact, I’ve only put off writing my thank yous on paper until now. I’ve written them in my head over and over! I keep pondering the lovely, heartfelt gifts my family and I received this Christmas, and I feel so loved. Of course, I don’t usually write a note for every single gift I receive, especially if I’ve already thanked the gift-giver in person. But you know how it is. Some gifts are given with such love, thoughtfulness and effort, that you simply must express your gratitude thoroughly in writing! 

Anyone who knows me well knows that gift giving is one of my love languages. It’s how I show loved ones that I know them and care for them and treasure them dearly. 

I knew she'd love it!


I knew she'd love it!


I knew she'd love it!
I knew she'd love it!

 So I suppose the reverse is true to some degree; receiving good gifts is one way I feel loved because it shows that I am known and someone cares for and treasures me, too.

My oldest daughter, Linnea, shares this love language as well. She is constantly giving gifts to me, her father, her sister, and nearly anyone else within reach. She loves to give! And she often gives good gifts: a baby toy for a friend with a new baby, a toy cell phone for her little sister who loves talk and pretend, and a sweet song for her daddy who loves anything musical.  

This Christmas Linnea gave me a beautiful silver bracelet with three shiny silver charms; one says “joy,” which is Linnea’s middle name, another says “hope,” which is Laurel’s middle name, and the third one says, “Mom.” She picked out the charms all by herself, and according to my husband, the store clerk nearly broke down and bawled when Linnea told her the significance of the charms she selected. What a sweetie! 

Also, in her Friday art class, Linnea made me the cutest, most colorful little “pinch pot” with a lid. 

Linnea knew I'd love it!


What a treasure! I store my bracelet and earrings in it every night. 

Did you know that giving good gifts is related to the Golden Rule? In fact, Matthew 7:9-12 says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” 

Ultimately, the greatest Gift-Giver is God. As James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift if from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” 

So in light of that verse, this is my thank-you note to God for some of the good, perfect and memorable gifts He has graciously given me and for which I am ever so thankful. 

Thank You, Father, for these gifts You knew I’d love. Thank You for… 

1. a smile that reveals what she didn’t for Christmas – teeth 

thank You


2. Christmas doodling by a 4-year-old who just rediscovered markers 

thank You


3. hot tea in a tiny teacup prepared just for me by a very lady-like 7-year-old 

thank You


4. groggy hugs just after naptime from a cuddly 4-year-old 

5. cozy storytimes together with a favorite book and two favorite bears 

thank You


6. warm, delicious home-cooked meals and uplifting conversations shared with very dear friends in Minnesota and in Iowa 

7. gleeful cries near the Advent Calendar day after day 

8. the feel and fragrance of a carefully selected Balsam Fir 

thank You


9. delicate little fingers plinking out “Away in a Manager” on the piano 

thank You


1o. little secrets that slip innocently from the lips of a 4-year-old overjoyed about buying a gift for her daddy 

11. little secrets that are broadcast loudly, yet innocently, from the observant lips of a 4-year-old who likes when packages arrive at the door 

thank You


12. carefully crafted gifts from the creative hands of a 7-year-old 

thank You


13. a deeply heartfelt “Oh, thank you, Mommy!” from a 4-year-old receiving her own copy of a treasured book 

14. the sweet little exchange of gifts between to very loving sisters on Christmas Eve 

thank You


15. the giddy, child-like excitement in a grown man receiving the latest accessory for his guitar  

16. the giddy, child-like excitement of a grown man heading off to pull an ice house onto a frozen lake 

17. the sweet creamy taste of homemade chocolate fudge 

18. the glow of Christmas lights crusted over with snow 

thank You


19. finding and catching up with very dear old friends who live far, far away 

20. and snow falling on snow falling on snow falling on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and many days thereafter 

thank You


I think I hear God saying, “I knew she’d love it!”

The Christmas Story

Our whole family participated in the children’s Christmas program at our church last Sunday. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun, but we are all glad it is over! Whew!

Linnea played the part of the youngest daughter in the family. She had seven lines, and she was quite a convincing little actress! I played the part of the mom. A real stretch, I know. I was glad I only had three lines!

Laurel performed several songs as part of the children’s choir.

And Michael performed three songs as a caroler and as part of a trio.

You can check out more photos of the dress rehearsal simply by hopping over to our church’s blog. Enjoy!

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

We’ve been getting in the Christmas spirit around here. Since returning from our action-packed trip south in November (which I promise to post about later), we have:

played outside in the lightly falling snow,

rode a tractor-drawn wagon to hunt for a tree,

found the perfect tree,

smiled about finding the perfect tree,

lighted the perfect tree,

trimmed the perfect tree,

posed for a photo in front of the tree despite questionable nap hair,

hunted for candy canes,

sipped hot chocolate,

guzzled hot chocolate,

served hot chocolate,

taken a horse-drawn wagon ride, which would have been a sleigh ride if it had been AFTER the blizzard,

gotten all dressed up  to go see Cinderella live at the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis,

endured our first blizzard of the season (sorry, it was way too cold to document with a photograph)

performed “Away in a Manger” on piano at the local nursing home,

and sung “Away in a Manger” for the local nursing home residents.

Whew! It’s no wonder we’re tired!

It’s a Boot Scootin’ Birthday!

This weekend we are celebrating the birthday of our little cowgirl!

We celebrated with peanuts, pretzels and homemade horse cupcakes corraled in a white picket fence.

We celebrated with cowgirl friends.

We celebrated with the cowgirl lil’ sister.

We celebrated with games.

We celebrated with horse-themed presents.

We celebrated with candles and singing.

We celebrated, and we thanked God for seven precious years with our sweet Linnea. May there be happy trails to number eight!

Little Alice Meets Big Alice

As mentioned previously, Linnea is a fan of Alice in Wonderland. She has been reading the classic all by herself this fall and was on chapter 4 last I checked. Earlier this week I found The Nursery Alice online and read it to both girls. And then yesterday Linnea and I journeyed down the rabbit-hole at Stages Theatre in Hopkins to watch a live performance of Alice in Wonderland. It was curious and wonderful! I let Linnea wear her Alice costume, and after the show she met the actress who played Alice. Here’s a picture of Little Alice and Big Alice: