A Bushel of Brooks

A Bushel of Brooks
Us as we are ...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jumping in with both feet

I'm not quite sure how it is already January 28th! The days go by ... and although there are certainly moments in my days that feel like the minutes are barely ticking away, I am amazed at how fast this month has gone. And how full it has been!

We REALLY enjoyed our Christmas break. Eli had more time at home, and the boys and myself needed our break from homeschooling. I got to take off the "teacher" hat and just be Mommy. Which was a breather on both ends! Needless to say, the first few days getting back into the school swing of things might have been a bit rough = ) We made it, and now the routine and rhythm seems back to normal. The boys gave me some pushback that first week.

Some of my most precious moments this month as I look back have been with Matthias. He is at a great stage. Still a little boy, but growing so much in mind and heart. He wakes up every morning and hopes to find Eli reading his Bible in the recliner. Crawls right up into Eli's lap and just wants to snuggle. Those mornings when Eli is early at work or at the gym, I make sure to find a moment to wrap my arms around that little brown haired boy and give him lots of kisses. He is often running to catch up with the two bigger boys, and I strive to ensure each day he (all of them!) gets a bit of one on one time with Mommy.

But at bedtime? At bedtime it is Mommy that he wants. And so I lay next to him to sing the EXACT SAME THREE SONGS that he wants every night and to pray over him. But nearly every night, he interrupts me about halfway through the first song to talk. He wants to talk. He wants to ask questions. And how they make me smile! For about three nights in a row, it was all about who he was going to marry. Mommy? No, Mommy is already married to Daddy. Ms. Betty? No, Ms. Betty is already married to Mr. Ed. And so then I had to tell him he will marry somebody around his own age ... and to that information his eyes opened wide: "I never thought of that before!" And we have had to discuss over and over that he can't really pick who he is going to marry right now. And he finally decided that at age 22 - he'll pick his bride!

We've also had long discussions about Rome and Romans. Because of various Bible stories and acting out of Bible stories at church, he has questions upon questions about Rome (think Roman soldiers, Jesus' crucifixion, etc). Are there bad guys there? Do they live in houses? Do they have food? Can he go to Rome someday? Are they still "hunting" Christians in Rome? Are there nice people in Rome? And on and on and on we go. This topic comes up at bedtime, in car rides, and any other random moment you can think of. Yesterday I finally reassured him that someday he can go to Rome if he really wants to! And he was so thrilled! And then had to be reassured that yes, there is water there to drink and food to eat and even houses to stay in.

And at bedtime after I redirect him back to his songs and we pray, then he relaxes and is asleep within minutes. And I look at those cheeks that still have some chubbiness, his long brown eyelashes, and just want to give him one more kiss.

Thankfully, no one my boys are yet too old to love Mommy and love hugs and snuggles. But I also see how the 6 and 8 year olds are busy. They are lean, muscular, and don't have any of that toddler fat left! And it causes me to - rightfully so - take time to pause and appreciate the little ones. Remember that this is such a fleeting moment in their lives. Not that each stage isn't wonderful! They are. But this halfway between toddlerhood and boyhood is special. The days are full and go by fast, but I hold these memories tight.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas brought sooooo many good memories this year! We had our family Christmas together on Christmas Eve morning. For the first year (with probably many to follow!), we let the boys sleep in sleeping bags in the living room by the light of our Christmas tree. There was MUCH excitement in the room! My dad came over and read stories and sang Christmas carols with us to them that night. Since we both have big families, Eli and I really work to keep what we spend on the boys under control. They don't need big amounts of money spent on them. The focus is on giving to each other, enjoying gifts, and realizing that Jesus needs to be the center of our celebrations! It also helps that they are still young ... expensive electronic gifts are not at the top of their lists - yet! They love LEGOS, and board games, and small toys in stockings. Those things still bring big grins!

Ready for Stockings!

All three big boys got Daddy a rubber mallet!
It was fun to hear them stirring around 6am, and then have Jonah tiptoeing into our room to see if we were awake (we were). Such a sweet family time that morning!

Jonah got them mustaches = )
Christmas Day we headed by 8am to Eli's parents house, just as we have done year after year. Our family has grown and grown, and I believe there were 22 of us there Christmas morning this year! That means present-opening can take quite awhile, but we enjoy it! We came home by 1 for some much needed nap/down time for ALL of us!

Uncle Seth, Aunt Ann, and Aunt Joy with the boys
Silly brothers
Sweet cousins
At 4 we headed over to Ed and Betty's house. Dear friends of ours. They were having an open house for family and friends to come over and have snacks and play games! We couldn't miss it. We were only able to stay about 45 minutes, but I am so glad we dropped by.

And then headed from their to my extended family's Christmas dinner. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and family we don't get to see all the time! Not everyone can make it every year, but I treasure the time with whoever can be there! My Opa and Oma would be so thrilled that the family continues to make time to get together a few times a year, no matter how big or spread out the Willems clan gets.

Exhausted? Yep! But, still happy. The boys were still wriggling with excitement because there was ONE MORE CHRISTMAS. Opa and Oma's. We let them sleep in the living room one more time = ) Why not? Before long the Christmas tree will be down and it won't even be an option anymore. I figured they could have naps if they needed it! We had so much fun with my family.

My dad and Abram
And then? And it was Saturday afternoon and we were five Christmas celebrations behind us. Full of good food, good company, and lots of love. I was exhausted (I am quite a bit of an introvert and that was a lot of people time!), but it was such a great weekend. We all came away with wonderful memories and I am still smiling when I think back on all those celebrations!

My brother, Isaac and Selah
The Willems!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Trying to Slow Down

Just when the year seems to ramp up its pace (hellooooo holidays!), I feel the urge and desire within me to s.l.o.w. everything down. I know there are many people who are not as fond of holidays, or maybe the holiday time is tough because of family members no longer around. Or perhaps it feels more like a lonely time. And my heart aches for those around me that are walking that path.

And so I want to draw them in. Into what? Into the beauty that I believe is in this month.

But the so-called "hustle and bustle" is surely trying to suck us all in. Suck my boys into the wanting and getting of it all. And I want to see past all that. I want them to see past all that.

See the babe lying in the manger. See the greatest gift of all. Realize that all these gifts and goodies around us are suppose to be just a physical reminder of the gift of God's son coming earth! I want it to stir our hearts to give to others. To be an extension of God's love throughout this season. And not just consumers.

We get to do so many fun things in December. A Christmas advent countdown that Eli started for me before the boys were even born (isn't he awesome?); gift shopping for family and friends; singing along to Christmas songs in the van and at home; practicing for the church program; wrapping presents; watching Christmas movies; and the list could go on and  on!

First day of Advent countdown - no one can smile normally!
But what I really want my little family to get a hold of is the deeper message of hope. And to find it, I know that we have to slow down and take the time to reflect. Maybe some think that four little boys make such a lofty goal impossible. I say no.

Amidst their short attention spans and light saber fights, they have childlike faith. They experience wonder. I just want to catch it. Rein it in, even in short moments each day, and sit together to talk about how Spirit became flesh and walked among us. Ask them how they can extend love and kindness to those around us who really, really need to see it demonstrated. Sure, sometimes their answers are off the mark, but at the same time, my little boys know what it is to feel love. They are loved. They know it! I want to draw from that and teach them to find in their everyday moments, an opportunity to give it to others.

I know I fail miserably. And so will they. And the Lord keeps gently reminding me to walk in His mercy, because that is the only way I will have mercy to pour out. It's only two weeks until Christmas! And even though the days are packed (with good things!), it isn't an excuse to miss out. I don't want to miss the chance to be a light. Or to see the lighting up in my own Bushels' eyes when they realize the deeper meaning of Christ coming to earth.

And so each day, I am trying to take what time we can, and slow it down. Take more time on the couch to sit together. Reminding each other to look for moments. Taking more time to be silly and laugh even, so that the boys know that even though Mommy is busy, she is never too busy to be present with them.

I love Christmas. It is such a gift. And really, to truly enjoy a gift, don't we often have to slow down and savor it??? That is exactly where I want to be found right now.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Full Recovery!

November was full of great things, but it was also full of infections. I had mastitis twice, and Abram had two ear infections. Yuck!

Fourth kid. The third one that I have nursed sucessfully, and I had never EVER had mastitis before! Many of my friends had had it, and I have heard of the horrors. But when I woke up that morning in November (and Eli was out of town) with the pain I was experiencing, followed by chills, muscle aches, etc. ... I will forever want to do whatever I can for anyone else experiencing the horridness. I seriously told Eli over the phone that I would rather be in labor at that point: unmedicated labor. I walked around all day with this heat pad stuck in the side of my bra, alternating tylenol and ibuprofen and hoping for some relief.

Thankfully, since I was home sans hubby, the doctor called in antibiotics for me and didn't make me come in for an office visit. About two days later I was in recovery, although it took a few good days for everything "up top" to clear up and un-clog. Ugh.

Around that time as well, Abram got an ear infection, so we were dealing with a cranky boy during the day. His sleep isn't amazing anyway, so it doesn't seem that bad when he has had ear infections, and I count my blessings on that one!

Two weeks later? Yup. I woke up with the same exact thing. And Abram had already been back to the doctor and still had one ear infection. This time, though, our roles reversed. Poor little guy took a full five days to finally cheer back up.

Abram is a naturally happy boy. People comment on it all the time. He loves to laugh, play, and has such a sweet nature at home. But those five days he was sad. Lots of tears, and needing to be held. And that happened as we were entering Thanksgiving week. He and I missed the dinner at church because he was running a fever. He spent many times just laying on me that day, hot and tired and unsure why he felt that way. And four days into that, I woke up with mastitis again. = ( Abram and I were a definite sickly pair for one day. I carried him on my back quite a bit because he needed to be held, and I was attempting to not put pressure on my chest.

This time when I called, I just begged my nurse for another call in for meds. I knew the symptoms, Eli was working that day, and all I wanted was (hopefully) quick relief before we were at people's houses the next day for Thanksgiving meals. The doctor was in agreement, and this round cleared up fast.

Sometimes these things just happen! You can't anticipate them, you can't get out of them, you just have to walk through them, right? Much like a lot of life, I think. As I look around at all the things going on around us, I see how I often cannot change the circumstances and have little control over them. But I do have control over my attitude and how I approach what lies in my daily path. And some of what I encounter is just plain ugly, not fun, not easy. But I can still accept the grace God extends to me each day to walk humbly but confidently forward. I'm not asking for more sickness or infections (!), but no matter what happens, my joy can still shine.

Friday, November 20, 2015


Oh Gosh.

I'm sorry, but can anyone explain to me how it is suddenly November 20th? Time flies. Always. And I know that it does and that it would, but here we are. Thanksgiving is next week. I have two turkeys to cook in the next five days. My brain has been exploding with gym choreography. We've been doing school. Eli and I have been trying to clean out all the boys' toys and rooms (ha!) before we even consider letting them get presents at Christmas!

There has been so much in my month. And much of it didn't even happen in my household. News of bombings, attacks ... transitions at church ... transitions at my work ... you name it.

And here's what is amazing. I can still experience peace.


Throughout this month, I have sought to focus on the best thing: Jesus. Let me tell you, there is no shortage of items that I could worry about all day and all night. In fact, I wouldn't even need to repeat items because the list could be so long. I could fear ISIS, terrorism, worry about job security, have anxiety over so many things! But I cannot and will not go there. I must focus on the One who holds the world in His hands.

It doesn't mean that sometimes I have to wrestle to get there. In fact, I have to seek after this peace, pursue it, take hold of it. But it is there. And I am so grateful for the tenderness of my heavenly Father that extends this peace to me and that I can find rest in His arms. I believe in this one true God. I can't explain all the whys of everything that happens. But I believe that He sees a much bigger picture than I can ever get.

I am only guaranteed what I have today. None of us have hands on anything more. We have what we have right now. And I want to experience fully what lies before me. My husband, My children. My family. My neighborhood. My friends. LIFE. And if I worry about the multitude of things out there to worry about, I immediately lose that fulfilled today that I have been given. I can't be thankful and worry at the same time! And so I am looking up. Teaching my children to look up. To extend kindness to each other and others (um yes, we fail all the time!). I may not be able to do much, but I want to make a small difference in someone's day ... every day! How can I bless as I have been blessed?

I was just thinking about someone who has been an amazing blessing to me and my family. And just filling up with gratitude for what she has given to us. Things that she might consider small, but have been HUGE to us. And challenged to look around and see who I can do the same for. In the darkness of the world, the nit-picky politics all around us, who can I be a light to? Who can I encourage? And I can only really do it well when I'm keeping my eyes on Jesus and letting the worries and fears drop at the foot of the cross.

I don't get there all the time. But that's where I want to find myself more and more. That would be taking my today, and living it well.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Eli is out of town. Certainly not on one of his longer trips, but still not here. And although the boys and I still keep a fairly regular schedule, and others always jump in to help out, it just isn't the same. Daddy is gone.

Today I felt like the behaviors were coming out all over the place. The boys were so excited about today! We were going to the Hy-Vee store to trick or treat, so they were going to wear their costumes. Seriously, though I kept warning them this wouldn't be a "big" event, Reuben was counting down the days all week. And they went to bed excited last night about it all. I was thrilled we didn't have to be at the gym until 11 this morning, so we would actually have bit of a morning at home. Time to be a little lazy in pajamas and not be trying to get out the door.

And it all started out okay, most of the boys slept in a little later than normal because they were tired from the day before. And they were happy to be reading books in the living room, and playing with some little toys a friend had given them.

But as the day wore on ...

And I don't want to unveil my children. I know I have my own ugliness that pops up when I am tired or cranky or something is off within me. And I certainly wouldn't be thrilled to have it broadcast to anyone who can find it.

But I just saw it - battled it. Jonah wanted to run the show. Daddy isn't here, and by golly, the firstborn wanted to step up and run things. And Matthias? Not about to tell than happen. In true three year old fashion, his fists came into play because his words don't feel powerful enough.

I know the job description. My job is to be a mother. Not a friend right now. To love them, but to train them. And I felt like a referee today. Only the time outs and talks weren't going through the ears and producing any change.

We talked some tonight. The boys tell me how much they love each other! And I know that they do. I see it demonstrated each and every day. But, they miss Daddy and they are excellent at pushing each others' buttons. But, it isn't enough. I shared with them about servant leadership. Talking to Jonah about how he is a leader, but he has to be a servant leader. Things won't go well if he gets bossy. Matthias has to use hands for kindness. To bring healing. And Reuben has to stay calm. We talked about fighting for peace in our home, not fighting for fighting's sake.

And then we pray. Pray that our hearts would be soft towards each other. And oh how I pray along with them! That my own heart would not get frustrated alongside theirs, but that I would find the teaching moments and teach with a gentleness that comes from Jesus. I love these boys with a fierce love that can almost feel overwhelming, but I hate when dissension breaks a day. Eli is a great dad! But, even he can't solve all those problems. The boys have to learn to step back and make right choices. We have to parent to help them get there (HUGE job!), especially in a tough day.

And so, as I lay my own head down tonight, my prayer is for them. That they would wake in the morning with renewed strength to grow. They are growing each day. May they grow into men of honor and strength. And when they get up in the morning, may their little hearts be inclined to be kind to their brothers. A friend of mine once said, "One of the greatest gifts you can give to your child(ren) is siblings." They'll have each other long past Eli and I.  I believe that - and I know that someday they will too! Even if right now that is hard for a small child to see.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fire Station Visit

Matthias got to join the ranks of his older brother this semester as he headed off to preschool two mornings a week. He does great in terms of being happy to run into his classroom, give us reports when he gets home, and seems to generally enjoy his time there. But, for the first several weeks, he would still express that he did not want to go when he work up and realized it was a "school day" for him. Most of this simply stems from the fact that he realizes the bigger boys aren't headed "to" a school, and so he would rather stay with them. But he loves his crafts, singing time, and his new friends at school. And just in in the last two weeks, we haven't heard those words when we mention school. Tuesday of this week, all three boys were eating breakfast at the table together ... I said "And Matthias, you get to go to school today!" And he just grinned right back at me and said "Yay! I love school."


At the beginning of this month, his class visited a local fire station - always a favorite activity with little kids! His brothers got the the same experience when they were in preschool as well. And although I wish I could have been there, I was glad that Eli was able to take the time from work to go with him. Eli got to accompany Reuben on his trip, and I think Jonah as well. Makes for good memories with a Daddy and his boy.

And they come home with great stories. To a little three year old, sitting in a fire truck is BIG stuff. And getting to hold the hose? Even better = )

It seems like schools do less field trips than they used to. And I understand, it is tough and takes work to pull off. There isn't a trip to the pumpkin patch as a school (which is fine - we had our family trip!), and I believe this fire station visit is one of the only field trips the kids go on this year. Definitely thrilled that Matthias got to participate and meet his classmates there.

Sometimes it is just the little things like this that can make such an impression and create stories for them to tell. And as an adult, I can often forget that. My little man loves adventure and trying new things and being brave. This little outing gave him a little taste of feeling "big".