In Everything Give Thanks

“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

{1 Thes. 5:18}


1,001. Jessica’s words that encourage me to keep counting {A Diamond in the Rough}

1,002. surprisingly lovable llamas

1,003. trail hikes with Carmella and Chocolate Chip

1,004. a fantastic field trip with dear friends

1,005. a special visit by Great Grandma

1,006. hot tea with breakfast

1,007. introducing Great Grandma to our favorite red wagon, Lacie, at the apple orchard

1,008. slices of Sweet 16, Honeycrisp and SweetTango apples

1,009. sips of hot apple cider

1,010. fruit-seekers crunching through the fallen leaves

1,011. tree branches sagging heavy with ripe apples

1,012. little girls happily snatching apples

1,013. chasing butterflies wildly through the vineyard and orchard

1,014. the monarch that finally lets me capture it on camera

1,015. the brilliant display of fall colors in the trees

1,016. rains that rush in just before we leave the apple orchard

1,017. big hats and a fancy tea luncheon with Great Grandma

1,018. the cheery, busy squeak of our apple peeler

1,019. Great Grandma’s help with our pie baking tradition

1,020. the smell of cinnamon lofting throughout the house

1,021. Piper’s free seminar on Let the Nations Be Glad

1,022. God’s promises in the Psalms and in Isaiah

1,023. prayers and praises in the Psalms

1,024. character lessons in compassion, kindness, creativity and courage from Betsy-Tacy

1,025. little girls bubbling with excitement as they share thoughts about the book

1,026. our own little “Sand Store” of bottles full of colorful sand

1,027. a sunny autumn morning at the park with friends

1,028. another hard eucharisteo: the fall that fractures both bones in her delicate little forearm

1,029. the kind, dear friend eagerly helping so many ways — the help that comes from the Maker of Heaven and Earth

1,030. strength and peace that gets us through a traumatic Friday

1,031. words, freshly memorized in Isaiah 53, that help calm her sobs

1,031. medicine that helps manage her pain and the pastor who speaks healing Words to us

1,032. quiet moments in the hospital room, just before her surgery, watching the sun rise and the birds fly in formation and then later reading Malachi 4:2 – “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.”

1,033. the skilled hands of both surgeons and the kind, familiar face in the pre-op/recovery room

1,034. a real plaster cast for her Girls-n-Grace doll, too

1,035. Debra, Kathy and Stacey, three exceptional nurses on the pediatrics floor

1,036. peace that passes understanding while she undergoes surgery

1,037. the prayers of countless friends and family as we wait

1,038. bendable nails that help keep her bones in place

1,039. her groggy, sleepy smile after surgery

1,040. friends cheering at the curbside as she leaves the hospital — and the sweet little boy who does a “happy jog” of joy

1,041. the soft gray shawl that is just her size and keeps her arms and shoulders warm

1,042. cards and gifts and balloons and callers for the injured one

1,043. homemade soup and bread

1,044. her fearless ambition to become ambidextrous

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel,  from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the LORD.”

{1 Chronicles 16:36}

You’re invited! Check out other bloggers’ posts in the One Thousand Gifts community by clicking the graphic below. Or click here  to check out all previous posts in my “Counting to 1,000” series.

Counting to 1,000 (869-904)

“I will give thanks to the LORD because of His righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.”

-Psalm 7:17

Giving thanks as my One Thousand Gifts list grows ever so close to the goal. Here are items 869 through 904:

869. giggles and silliness with “chin men” faces

870. a building to borrow for homeschool classes

871. a tiny butterfly hiding in the bright orange mums

872. teamwork within the church

873. two full days devoted to school preparations

874. the thoughtful, fun daddy who takes them on a day trip to St. Paul

875. his strong hands strumming the red guitar he built himself

876. road-tripping to Northfield with a dear friend

877. relaxing hours spent chatting and catching up with girlfriends at Goodbye Blue Monday

878. a steaming mug of Mexican hot chocolate

879. the princess picture she created for her little sister

880. ice cubes to numb a fat lip

881. frisbee fun in the backyard

882. reflections in the bird bath

883. bumblebees hiding in the hostas

884. the growing little maple tree she inadvertently planted

885. an end-of-summer teddy bear tea party

886. dear friends for my daughters

887. bear brownies

888. raindrops sparkling like jewels on the windshield

889. a bookshelf full of new books

890. bulletin boards

891. new school supplies

892. a freshly re-organized school room

893. fun geography ideas shared on Pinterest

894. the smell of hot dogs and burgers sizzling on the grill while the cicadas sing the song of summer’s end

895. hands ready to minister to a newly single parent

896. a full roster for my “Girls of Character” study

897. how gently she holds the egg that didn’t hatch

898. Jamie Grace pounding out “Hold Me” on her guitar

899. their kind, encouraging words

900. the broken dryer and piles of dirty laundry

901. the smart husband who knows how to take the dryer apart, fix it and put it back together again

902. the beautiful hummingbird that perches long at the feeder

903. the 108-minutes-and-31-seconds phone conversation with my big brother

904. my nephew’s 4 years and the sound of his sweet little voice on the other end of the phone

You’re invited! Check out other bloggers’ posts in the One Thousand Gifts community by clicking the graphic below. Or click here  to check out all previous posts in my “Counting to 1,000” series.

Look at the Birds! Part 2

Now that everyone in our family has seen more than a dozen robins in our yard, we are overdue for our annual First Robin Tea Party — a sure sign of spring in this house!

Sadly, I have not been very good about planning the minor details, such as the party date, the guest list and invitations. Maybe those are the major details! Oh dear. My brain is still in a state of thawing out from our long, harsh winter. Well anway, I have been slowly adding spring decor — mostly birds and eggs — around the house. I’ve also been stumbling across new ideas for the party itself.

New Artwork

I often admire the Christian artwork available through DaySpring, but I’m cheap when it comes to that sort of home decorating, especially when my options are limited. (Or maybe I am just too much of a control freak?) So one evening I was playing around in Photoshop Elements and decided to make my own springy artwork. Here’s what I made:

I had Mpix print it on 12 x 12-inch paper, and then I threw it in a scrapbooking frame and set it up on the bathroom shelf. I think I like it. What say you?

Menu Changes

As in years past, we plan to make mud pies with (gummy) earth worms — the recipe for those is posted here. But this year I have a new recipe for the edible bird nests. I’ll try to report back on how that works out since nobody ever ate the ones we made last year. Sigh. I also added crackers to the menu since I recently found out that Target’s version of Goldfish crackers are bird-shaped and called “Chickadees.” How fitting!

New Literature

What I am thrilled most about for this year’s party is a new picture book! The Story of the Easter Robin, written by Dandi Daley Mackall, is a beautifully illustrated tale about a little girl, her grandmother and a robin’s nest build on a window ledge at the grandmother’s house. The book also incorporates the Pennsylvania Dutch legend of the robin’s red breast — a symbol of Christ’s suffering and love — as well as the tradition of decorating eggs in the style of Pennsylvania Dutch Easter birds. I love this book so much I bought extra copies to send to my nieces!

Memory Work

One of my memory verses for last month was Psalm 91:1,4 — very fitting scriptures for our robin tea party discussion, as is the passage of Matthew 6:25-27

Over the past several months, the girls and I have memorized a new poem that fits quite nicely with our bird theme.

Little Bird

a Mother Goose rhyme

Once I saw a little bird

come hop, hop, hop.

So I cried, “Little bird,

Will you stop, stop, stop?”

And was going to the window

To say, “How do you do?”

When he shook his little tail

And far away he flew.

Of course, the best-ever poem for the first robin tea party is this one, which we all still have memorized from last year’s party. 

To the First Robin

by Louisa May Alcott

Welcome, welcome little stranger,

Fear no harm and fear no danger

We are glad to see you here,

For you sing ‘sweet spring is near.’

Now the white snow melts away,

Now the flowers blossom gay.

Come, dear bird, and build your nest

For we love our robin best.

 If I ever actually stop piddling around with minor details, set a date and invite real-live people to the party, I will take pictures and share a slide show of the celebration.

In the meantime, let’s all go get some fresh, spring air! Shall we?

Fairy Tea: Take 2


When my oldest daughter turned 6, I threw a fairy tea party for her. Evidently, she has fond memories of it because she wanted another fairy tea for her 8th birthday earlier this month.

This year’s menu was much simplier! We served mini-pizzas from Pizza Hut, baby goldfish crackers, fairy-sized carrot sticks, raspberries and blackberries, ginger peach tea, lemonade, chocolate cake, and raspberry floats.

Here are the photo highlights:

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5 Tips for a Tiny Tea Party

1. If sending out invitations, hand-written and hand-delivered adds a very special touch.

2. If eating on the patio with two dolls, two female relatives and too many mosquitoes, make it short and sweet. What’s more, be especially thankful when the mosquitoes land on your doll instead of you.

Linnea: “Ha-ha! Linn keeps tricking the mosquitoes!”

3. If serving things that your 4-year-old guest particularly likes to eat, expect to discover some unexpected food allergies.

Laurel: “My Strawberry Shortcake doll is allergic to bread, so can I eat hers? Strawberry Shortcake is allergic to vanilla wafers… Strawberry Shortcake is allergic to chocolate…”

4. If hand-washing the dishes afterward, try not to break the dishes or your sister’s heart.

Mom: Careful, Laurel! Don’t toss the dishes into the sink. They are breakable.

Linnea: And especially because it’s my tea set and I would be horrified!

5. If you are hosting, keep it simple (and spontaneous) so you can embrace the precious time with your special guests. 


Our First Robin Tea Party

To the First Robin

by Louisa May Alcott

Welcome, welcome little stranger,

Fear no harm and fear no danger.

We are glad to see you here,

For you sing, “Sweet spring is near!”

Now the white snow melts away,

Now the flowers blossom gay.

Come dear bird and build your nest,

For we love our robin best.

Last month spring arrived in the Frozen Tundra. It came early — about a month earlier than usual — and our family celebrated with a First Robin Tea Party on the last day of March. 

These teas are becoming an annual tradition around here, and we have a lot of fun with them. The only rule for our tea party is that everyone in the family must see a robin in our yard before we can have the party. (By the way, we stole this rule, and the whole tradition actually, from my aunt who also raised two girls in Minnesota.)

My daughters each invited one friend to join us. This way the party counted as lunch and two playdates! I would say we killed three birds with one stone, but that just seems disrespectful in a posting about the first robin.

Anyway, on our menu this year was an assortment of daisy sandwiches served with pretzel sticks, fresh strawberries, and cheese sticks. Laurel enjoyed a cucumber sandwich.

Linnea’s was cheese, and we also served a PB&J sandwich to one of our guests.

The day before the party, the girls and I made these edible nests using chow mein noodles mixed with melted chocolate chips and melted butterscotch chips. I forgot to include melted marshmallows, which really help the “twigs” stick together better. But these turned out pretty cute anyway, especially with the chocolate robin egg candies nestled in them.

During the party, we listened to some music — Carmen MacRae’s “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bobbin’ Along;” Joel Hansen’s “Songbird;” and “Carnival of the Animals: Aviary” by Saint-Saëns.

The best highlight of the party, though, was when the girls took turns making their own mud pies with earthworms. Here’s Laurel showing the ingredients for such a pie.

  • small graham cracker pie shells (ours were from Keebler)
  • finely crushed chocolate Teddy Grahams (the dirt)
  • milk chocolate pudding (the mud)
  • gummy worms
  • whipped cream (melting snow)

Stick the worm(s) in first and then assemble as desired for a delicious mud pie!

Prior to the party, my daughters and I read A Nest Full of Eggs, by Priscilla Beltz Jenkins, which would have been great to include during the tea party. And, incidently, we found the robin poem by Louisa May Alcott earlier this year when we read a book called Louisa May and Mr. Thoreau’s Flute, which was also a great book.

Happy spring!

“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!”

A Dragon Tea Party

dragontea 005

Yesterday we finally had a Dragon Tea Party, which Laurel has been requesting for several months now. We sipped cinnamon plum tea while we nibbled heart-shaped cucumber sandwiches and cheese sandwiches. We ate fiery rings of dragon’s breath (dried cinammon apples) as well as dragon teeth (shortbread cookies) and pink M&Ms leftover from Laurel’s birthday.

dragontea 001

With so much help from Laurel and Linnea, the party required very little no actual planning on my part, and it covered both lunch and storytime. We might have to do a second one with actual, living, breathing guests, but this time around, we were content to have only stuffed dragons present.

dragontea 003

dragontea 002

Once we were as stuffed as our guests, we read three dragon books:

  1. No Dragons for Tea by Jean Pendzowil
  2. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  3. and, only because Linnea insisted, Peek-A-Boo Bard by Julie Aigner-Clark

And, after all the dragons awoke from their naps, I let the girls watch Pete’s Dragon. Just because. I loved that movie when I was little.

Oh, and by the way, if you read about our Teddy Bear Stay-Cation this summer, I should mention that we have two more additions to our list of teddy bear books. They are:

  1. Where’s My Teddy by Jez Alborough
  2. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen (Laurel’s new favorite)

Happy reading!

A Fairy Tea for Linnea’s 6th Birthday

Linnea is 6! Her party was a “fairy tea” with four of her little friends and her little sister. I served flower sandwiches, apple and pear slices, forest fairy trail mix, graham crackers iced with Pixie Dust, shortbread cookies, cranberry white chocolate scones with clotted cream, raspberry cups, chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and raspberry sherbert floats. I also served ginger peach tea, cinnamon plum tea, and lots of apple juice! All the girls looked so lovely, and they had fun decorating picture frames with ribbon and flowers. We read a book about creating fairy houses, and we played with tea sets and felt boards. It was a lot of fun! Many thanks to my dear cousin Rachel for all her help with the party preparations and the party crowd!