Best of 2013

Instead of mailing out a long Christmas letter, I figure I’d just update everyone here.

Jacob is now 6 years old and still loves Legos, and has recently discovered Hero Factory.  He loves wrestling, building, reading about sharks, snakes and slimy creatures.  He has such a laid back personality, but can be very detail oriented when it comes to something that is really important to him ei Legos and building.  He is currently playing basketball and taking piano lessons.  I can always count on him to make me laugh.


After a one mile hike in Hocking Hills, Jacob’s still smiling and letting me know all is cool.


Celebrating Jacob’s sixth birthday


Part boy, part lobster


Always looking for ways to be silly and making us laugh. We’re at the shop outside San Angel inn restaurant at Epcot.

When we were in Disney world this past fall, Jacob got selected to be the Beast and dance with Belle.  He was also picked to be the Texas ranger in the HoopDee Doo Revue. In both shows, he had to kiss the damsel. He hated every second of both and boy did we love teasing him about it!


King Jacob

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Sarah, 8, loves dogs, Calico Critters, Polly Pocket, Littlest Pet Shop and any other small toys.  She loves to eat good food, especially all sorts of meats and dreams of one day opening a restaurant she will call the Meat House (not just a steak house).  We call her our happy child since she is very affectionate and joyful.  She makes friends quickly and is very loyal.  She can often be found cuddling on the coach next to Matt or me.

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Always making friends and always laughing.


Celebrating Sarah’s 8th birthday at her favorite restaurant.


Sarah and papa at her cooking party


Preparing dinner for the family.


More yummy food!


Sarah felt like a princess for a day as a flower girl for her former teacher’s wedding.


We just celebrated Becca’s 10th birthday one week ago.  Becca loves soccer, babies and dogs. She is compassionate and looking for ways to please others.  A voracious reader, she can usually be found in her room or in a corner of our house with a good book.


Spa party
January 2013



She loves her doggies



She loves babies! Here she is with baby Alyssa.


Becca had a great soccer season. This spring she played in two teams, but this past fall we decided to only play on one. Her team went undefeated the whole season except for one loss in a championship game that ended in double overtime. Her team lost by one PK.


She reminds me of Disney’s Rapunzel: sweet, kind, smart, but TOUGH.


And did I mention a little wild?




Becca is always thinking of others and is looking for ways to please Matt and me. She set aside some money for what she knew I would love best: chocolates!

A diligent student of piano and all aspects of academics, Gracie has proven to be trusted with lots of responsibilities at home.  She loves to bake, paint, sing, play piano, and write.  She has the gift of encouragement and loves writing to her friends and family.  She is mature beyond her years and I have come to depend on her a lot as my helper.


She writes multiple letters to one of our Compassion kids in Mexico–in Spanish!

Gracie puts lots of effort into her projects and assignments.  She’s a little perfectionist!




This past summer, Gracie got to experience college life when her choir spent four days at one of University of Cincinnati’s dorms. Don’t worry–I was a chaperone!



Art Party

11 years old!




We went to see Sister Act at the Arnoff and one of my friends from high school, who played Pablo, took us back stage after the show. As a theater lover, Gracie was thrilled to have this amazing opportunity.


Whenever Gracie has an opportunity, she plays on the piano while her friends and her sing along.

Matt and I have been enjoying every second of our kids.  They are a joy to parent and they teach us everyday.  Matt is a kind, patient daddy and despite his VERY BUSY schedule, he takes time to get to spend time with them and know their hearts.


My two handsome men.


The foodies, Sarah and Daddy, enjoying a Lobster Roll at Disney’s Food and Wine Festival.


Daddy took Becca to get her ears pierced for her 10th birthday–at the Mall! Now that is LOVE right there!


A kid and a kid at heart.

This year has been a year of lots of growth and learning for Matt and I as we started our first year of homeschooling.  It’s been a roller coaster ride–lots of ups and downs–but an exciting and thrilling adventure.  Just this year, we got to take lots of fun field trips to the Renaissance Festival, Loveland Castle, Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum, Cincinnati Museum Center, and Disney World.  We went on our second medical/dental mission trip as a family to El Salvador. We had some friends from Honduras live with us while one of the family members got surgery.  We also added two dogs to the family, Kuma and Mary.  My sister couldn’t take them with her to Costa Rica, so we adopted them.  As I write this, I just realized we had a Central American connection to much of our highlights this year!


Flying Pig Marathon
May 2013


First day of School outside the campus (our home!)
August 12, 2013


Our three other family members


Our little Diva. Small in size, but BIG in attitude.



Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Matt and I are telling the kids to look outside the tower so they can get a view and smile and the camera.

These pictures say a lot about our personalities:



We did a lot of DANCING this year!

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Father/Daughter Dance
February 2013


Dancing with my little man
Rausch/Pepper Wedding
November 2013


Gracie and Jacob dancing inside the Beast’s Castle
Magic Kingdom
October 2013


Our last day at Disney World we had a dance party with Stitch.
Magic Kingdom
October 8, 2013


Happy New Year from our family! May you have a blessed 2014!


To whom much is given

Our family just got back from our 2nd mission trip to El Salvador.  Like last time, the Lord opened our eyes to the suffering, poverty and sickness all over the world.  Our only hope is Jesus.

This year we were able to do home visits with the pastor of the church we served with.  Matt was able to examine patients, we gave out eye glasses, toothpaste and toothbrushes and read scripture and shared words of encouragement with those we visited.

We can’t change the circumstances of the people we saw.  Somehow vitamins and pain medications didn’t seem like enough.  The extreme poverty and suffering doesn’t seem right.  But we have Jesus….that’s the only hope we have.  I was reminded that while He walked this earth, His last words were “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  He didn’t mean he had taken care of all the physical hurts and pains of all the peoples.  He meant he had accomplished the will of his Father, which was to make an atonement for our sin.  THAT is what our biggest problem is–OUR SIN.  Not sickness, poverty, family problems..

God said that in this world we would have trouble, but he gives us his peace so “where I am there you may also be.

The kids learned so much on this trip and their eyes were opened to so much.  During the testimony and devotion times during our morning group time, they got to hear others stories.  THis really impacted them as they’ve only heard Matt’s and my story.

We came home physically exhausted, but spiritually renewed.  Since we’ve been back (June 10) we’ve gotten my sisters two dogs to care since they couldn’t go with her to Costa Rica.  We are also have a young girl from Honduras living with us while her daddy undergoes surgery…guess who the surgeon is?

The love of Jesus will make you do crazy things…

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.  

Luke 12:48


What I remember

Everytime I clean out cabinets, drawers, closets, or the storage room, I get a little nostalgic.  I relive little snippets of our lives.

I cleaned out our file cabinets yesterday and got rid of some old tax returns, DEA forms (some unopened in their envelope–I bet they are worth A LOT of money in today’s  black market), application to obtain more DEA forms, old doctor’s day sheets listing patient appointments, dental liability applications, and lots of dental articles I thought I would read when I had time.

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In the stack are some  2008  Texas Aggie magazines, one that featured the village in Tuscany where I studied abroad more than 15 years ago.  Another magazine had Elsa Murano on the cover–the first WOMAN and HISPANIC to be named president of Texas A&M.  I was impressed by her long list of accolades, merits, despite having had to flee Cuba during Castro’s communist reign.  She moved to the US without speaking English.  She resigned a year later from her position as TAMU president.


I found old tax statements from when I was employed at the dental school, when Matt was in residency (reminded me of our humble beginnings!), and also from when he worked at a down town San Antonio hospital (a scary place!)  moonlighting to ensure we would be able to make our mortgage payment.  All this was 10-12 yrs ago.  I cleaned out Mother’s Day Out statements, student loan statements, Continuation Education certificates…all this so important 10 years ago.  I don’t remember the checks I wrote to the Grace Point MDO in San Antonio, but I remember the emotion of taking my sweet little girl (only 18 months old) in the summer of 2005 to be cared for by someone else so I could get some rest.  I remember almost every one of those days and what her teachers would say about her. “She ate everything but her plate!”  “She climbs all over the place!”  “She’s a little monkey!”  “She is such a sweet little girl!”

I found notes from bible studies I’d taken and lists of scriptures I’d memorized years ago…and I still remembered some of them.

I shared with Matt some of my “findings” so we could reminisce and laugh together. The stack of papers that resulted from my purging seem inconsequential now.  What I produced, collected, billed, filled in my days as a dentist was long forgotten.  I couldn’t remember my patients names, but I remember the joy of coming home after a long day at work and seeing my two little girls faces filled with excitement when mama got home.  That’s what really matters and what I remember.

“The heart remembers most what it has loved best. “

(I’ve seen this quote before and don’t know who to credit–if you know the source please let me know!)

Spring Recital 2013

We had the kid’s piano recital at our house.  We had 12 student performing (including me!) and over 50 people at our house!  We cleaned, planned, practiced, practiced and practiced.

I am NOT a musical person at all.  I never knew the difference between an eighth note and a treble clef, a sharp and a flat or where middle C was–even after YEARS of the kids taking piano.  Yes…pretty much clueless.

Jacob started taking piano lessons last September a few weeks after starting kindergarten, and I decided I would learn with him.  I have run multiple marathons, graduated dental school while I was pregnant with my second child, finished the Insanity 60 day program and this ranks right up there with one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.  My mind just does not think “music”.  The girls like the fact that they know more than Mama in one discipline of life  and it humbles me EVERYDAY.  I say everyday because I try to practice everyday.


It hasn’t been an easy road for us.  While Matt is gifted naturally in music (he’s gifted in most thing actually!), our girls are way far ahead of us therefore it’s hard for us challenge them musically.  So I started lessons to encourage them in their musical efforts and so I can learn something new.  I would have preferred picking up crocheting or knitting, so that no one can actually see or hear all my failures.  I’ve never heard of a “knitting recital” where you are forced to make something out of  decorative yarn while you have audience.  Don’t get me wrong.  There’s so many ways you can bless others with knitting, but knitting, unlike playing piano, is something you can do without having to engage your whole mind.   With piano, as with the playing of most instruments, you must be constantly focused.  Playing piano is a “whole body” activity.  This is what has been sooo hard for me.  As a mama to four little ones, my brain just doesn’t focus like it used to–which is why I love running…don’t have to think about much!


Here’s some pictures from our recital.


Some of our audience.


Gracie played “Grande Sonate Pathétique” in C Minor Op. 13 and “Stars” from Les Misérables. She played from memory!


Becca played “Moonlight Sonata” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Misérables
(We LOVE Les Misérables!)


Sarah played “Ode to Joy” and another song called “Snake Dance” from her piano book.


Jacob played “Hush Little Baby” and Ludwig’s Theme.

and I played “Turkey in the Straw” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Cookies Made by Servati’s Bakery:


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So happy it’s over! We can now celebrate!


Piano Rocks!


Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Psalm 100 (ESV)

Our favorite books

This is my first link up EVER and it’s about my favorite thing:  BOOKS. I’m linking up with Kelly’s Korner.

It goes without saying that we love books.  We finally decided to get our a nice set of bookshelves to organize our books.  I am very particular about what books our kids read.  One book that has been a good “filter” for all the quality books we have in our home has been Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt and also Jan Bloom’s reading list for boys in her book Who Should we then Read?

Our three girls ages 7-10 are really into all the girly books like the Little House books, Little Women, The Yearling.  I only have one boy and have found that it is really hard to find books that engage boys.  Jacob loves reading books filled with adventure, violence, suspense, disturbing facts, and an ultimate hero.

I found some that he and our girls both love!  Our favorites:

Beatrix Potter the Complete works.  No violence here, but Jacob can relate to all of Peters adventures filled with suspense (both have 3 sisters).  Good for ages 3-8.


The adventures of Odysseus. We like to introduce them to the classics early on so they become familiar with them and when they are older, they can read the unabridged versions and not be so afraid.  Jacob liked the part when Odysseus took out the Cyclops’ eye.  Good for ages 4-10

My favorite!  I cry every time!  Boys will LOVE this book published by Lamplighter Publishing.  Every family should have Teddy’s Button.  Teddy wants to be a soldier just like his father.  He discovers that the greatest war he will face will be against his worst enemy–HIMSELF! Good for ages 4-10.


The adventures of Robinson Crusoe.  Another abridged version they loved.  Good for ages 6-10

The Yearling.  We just started this as a read-a-loud and they are loving it.  Good for ages 6-14.

And because our kids understand Spanish and love to get a good laugh, we won’t leave out the Skippy Jon Jones books.  Skippy also has  3 sisters and loves to go on lots of “adventures” in his closet.  Good for ages 3-7

Here is my favorite section of our library.


We also go to the library A LOT and take out no less than about 80 books at a time.  We have a designated area for them on our bookshelf so they don’t get lost in there somewhere.  We’ve only lost one book over the years, so I’d say that’s not too bad.


My encouragement to other moms who have struggling readers has been to have books all over the house.  Get them used to books (sorry books on your ipad is just not the same).  They will pick them up and read eventually.

I was at the Cincinnati Homeschool Convention this weekend and one of the most interesting talks I went to was by Adam Andrews whose lecture was about teaching literature using the Socratic method.  He was very helpful in showing parents how to naturally discuss and analyze any book with our kids.  We’ve been doing this with our kids since they were about 4 yrs old, and now have laid a good foundation for them to ask themselves these same questions when they read a book.

Resurrection Sunday 2013

My favorite Easter poem:

Christmas Is Really For the Children

Christmas is really
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men,
kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.

Easter is not really
for the children
unless accompanied by
a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails,
a spear and allegations
of body snatching.
It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world.
It is not good for people
of a nervous disposition.
They would do better to
think on rabbits, chickens
and the first snowdrop
of spring.

Or they’d do better to
wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking
too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up
or whether there’s any connection.

Steve Turner

I love this poem.  It so eloquently says what I believe.  We had a fun day of worshiping at our church, and then we had some family time at Grammy and Papa’s.  I forgot to take a family picture this year.   This is one with their cousins.


This is what 36 looks like:

(So I hardly take pictures of myself, but I had to take one for our bios for El Salvador so here you go:)


A few more wrinkles, a few more spots, but confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

We spent the day at a soccer tournament in Ohio for Becca’s team.  She had an 8:00am game…it was freezing!  By the afternoon game at 1pm, it had warmed to 37 degrees.  No better way to spend a birthday than on a soccer field.

The kids made me some birthday cards and gave me some opera cream chocolates they bought by pitching in and buying them.

I have the sweetest kids.  Birthdays are a big deal around here and Matt and I always want to make them feel special.  They love to do the same for Mama and Daddy.

Here the card Gracie made for me.  I think even Tiger mom would approve.


Thankful for so much this year!

Spring is here?

We are in full spring swing here, though it didn’t feel like it when I looked at my thermostat and it said the outside temperature was 15 degrees.   It’s been good excuse to snuggle up on the couch together in the evenings as we listen to our kids play the piano or read from the Book of Virtues.  The longer winter decides to linger, the more snuggle time we get.

Spring soccer starts this week, and Becca already has a soccer tournament this weekend.  We have an 8:00am game…it will be like 20 degrees.

We’re also preparing for our big piano recital coming up next month.  The girls are as nervous as heck, but Jacob has no idea what’s going on.  I am one proud mama.  They’ve been such diligent students, practicing daily, going over their songs.

On another note, all our paperwork is submitted and flights are booked for our trip to El Salvador!  We are so excited to be going on another family mission trip!  The kids over head over heels thrilled.  We will be there with some familiar people, but most will be team members we don’t know.

I’ve kinda been in a funk the past two weeks so all the plans I had for this Easter season are pretty much washed down the drain.  But that’s ok.  I’m realizing more and more that in my weakness He is strong.  I don’t have to try so hard.  He takes my defects and deficiencies and fills me up.  He rose and conquered the grave.  I can celebrate my weaknesses.  That is something to smile about.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Philippians 3:10-12 (NIV)

3 in 1 Tour

Yesterday we went to the 3 in 1 tour with Mandisa, Laura Story and Brandon Heath.

It was such a great evening of worship and praising our God!  Mandisa rocked the house!  She was so great.  And it was so awesome to hear Laura sing “Blessings” and share the story behind it.

I love the chorus of Mandisa’s song “Stronger”:

When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
And things can only get better
Believe me
This is gonna make you stronger

My girls loved going to a concert for the first time being among other believers who have a passion for Jesus.  Gracie said to me at one point “Wow, I never knew Christians could be so cool”.  Ummm, hello?  What about your mama and daddy? 002

We got to chat with Laura Story a little before the concert.


Thanks to my sister-in-law, Angie (who worked with Laura’s husband a long time ago), we were able to stop by after the show and say hi to Mandisa and Laura.  I don’t know what was the deal with Jacob’s face…he’s so goofy sometimes!

The highlight of the night was when Laura sang “Blessings”.  Here are my favorite parts of the song:

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

If you haven’t heard this song, look it up and listen to it.  You will be encouraged.

There’s nothing like worshiping the Lord with your kids, and singing and dancing to our great and mighty God.

Welcome to our home library!

I’ve had numerous people ask about my dining room turned “library” so I will post some pictures here. It’s more than our reading area as we use it for homework, imagining, creating, daydreaming.

You are welcome to visit any time!264


I had a different quote framed that wasn’t very edifying, so I changed it for this one. It may or may not have said something about liking big books and not lying about it.

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I finally labeled all the children’s books.  Its been so easy for our kids to find what they need and keep them organized.

The “library” keeps evolving as we add more books, and get rid of ones we’re not reading-mainly the beginning readers and picture books.  Anyone interested in beginning reader books?

And for the record–yes, I like big books.  And I can not lie.