Operation Christmas Child

Now that Thanksgiving is passed, I consider it officially the Christmas season!

Over these last few months, our family has had the wonderful privilege of participating in a project hosted by Samaritan’s Purse, called Operation Christmas Child. Each year, organizations and individuals have the chance to collect items to pack into a shoe box. The idea is to fill it with toiletries, toys, and trinkets for kids of different age ranges. These boxes will have the gospel message of God’s love enclosed, and then go out to kids around the world who would otherwise never receive a Christmas gift. Take a look at this official promo video from Samaritan’s Purse to see the amazing smiles of the youngsters who receive a box. It brings tears to my eyes! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6VQLYfPDbE

packing OCC boxes 7

Can I tell you? It was such a joyful project to join in on! River Run Christian Church did a super job of encouraging a collection of items to pack into the shoe boxes since July — flip flops, toothpaste and brushes, pencils and markers, notebooks, toys and more. The older kids had contests each week with their small groups over who could bring in the most items. One night the 3 of them took in 42 washcloths and 65 bars of soap! The younger 2 got to bring home an empty box and choose all the items that went into it themselves. We had a family night out at the store choosing items to go into these boxes. What a special time it was to put care and thought into what a five year old boy or a 3 year old girl in a third world country would be receiving as their (probably only) Christmas gift.

packing OCC boxes 8

To top it all off, we joined numerous others on a Sunday afternoon and took over the gym at River Run for a “box-packing” party. Over 800 boxes were packed up that day! Each box was carefully chosen and prayed over and stacked up to be shipped out later that week. Our kids loved it. Ken and I loved it. We were blessed by the time. And I pray it will have a profound affect on our kiddos for a lifetime.

packing OCC boxes  packing OCC boxes 3

packing OCC boxes 2 packing OCC boxes 6

Merry Christmas! Let the countdown begin! 😉


I’m thankful for . . . Part 2

**I’m going to take a little time to write a “featurette” about each of the kids this Thanksgiving season. Because, well – I’m thankful for them! And I love ‘em. How unique they are! We are blessed by them being a part of our family and we enjoy watching each unfold into the person God has created him or her to be, and we are grateful.** If you missed the first part about Jake, you can read it here.

Today we’re featuring our 2nd born son, Cole — This guy is laid back. But hyper. He’s quiet. Yet talkative. Contradictory? Not really. Cole *is* laid back, until you feed him sugar. Then he’s hyper. And he’s quiet, until he’s really warmed up to you and has something on his mind. Then he’s very talkative.


He’s also very busy. These days, you can find him tearing through his school work. Not because he loves it. No; he’s almost always got a project on his mind and knows that getting school done will then allow him to get his chores done which will free him up to getting on with the things in life that matter most to him. Hunting. Fishing. Exploring. Creating. Building. Trapping. Making smoke bombs and fireworks. He’s got numerous hobbies and interests. Like rabbit hunting. He skinned it, cooked it, and then ate it.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES rabbit fried dean and coles hunt

“Cole??!!” I call this morning. “Yes?” He answers from the dining room table where he’s tackling grammar. Or was it signing up online for the FL boater’s licensing course? Or –is it possible– both?? Yep, I told you he’s got numerous interests. 🙂

Cole is a great student. I enjoy teaching this kid. We learn similarly so it makes homeschooling him pretty simple. He’s focused and independent. He likes a list so he knows what’s required of him. He can sit down in the middle of a crowded room, with all sorts of noise happening, and get his work done.


I just love how great he is at entertaining younger kids. He has a knack for including them in what he’s doing. He’s playful and fun and little ones are drawn to him. He’s patient with them, including his younger siblings. Dean loves to tag along with Cole and join in on all the fun adventures that are sure to be had! But it might just be tinkering in the garage. And that’s ok, because with Cole around, of course it’ll be fun. At some point, there’ll be a ‘possum in the trap or a fish in the skillet, or knee-boarding behind a golf cart (don’t ask!).

november pool time 4

One of his latest endeavors is gardening. He began with saving pumpkin seeds to plant. Next thing I know, he’s got a garden plot in the back field. Of course that means a fence has got to go up — we have deer back there. No worries, he’s got that covered. He checks in with dad along the way, asking about using this board or that. “Who put these posts in?” I ask. (Silly question). “I did,” he answers. “What did you use?” (Another silly question.) “Those,” pointing to a digging bar and post-hole digger. He’s a man of few words when it comes to his work. The posts don’t wobble; I’m impressed, but shouldn’t be. It just surprises me that a 13 year old boy spends his free time building a fence for his garden. For fun! And to think I brought home a “surprise” for him from the hardware store: garden plants! Broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes and onions. How many kids would think that’s great??!

coles garden 7

He can work alongside Ken on a job site and keep up. He’s got a way of thinking ahead just enough to grab that tool when Ken needs it, or hustle to the trailer for a saw. He’s strong and hardworking. He’s determined and focused and yet still has creativity running wild in his brain . . . like his latest idea of raising pigs.


Cole has a refreshingly black and white outlook on life. And sometimes annoyingly so. You know, things are not always so cut and dry. So he’s got to learn to bend a little with the gray areas of life. And realize that technology isn’t all bad! He’s sassy and sarcastic, and is learning to reign in his tongue (which happens to be my struggle too — poor kid!!) However, we love his “off the cuff” style which shows he’s not overly concerned with what others think of him.

fishing with grandmom.coles big bass on sandhill lake

We’re so thankful for this young man — this boy who is filling out through the shoulders and arms. Which reminds me that he’ll not be a boy much longer. I want to hang on to him. Keep him right where he’s at. He’s fun. He’s energetic. He’s uncomplicated. He’s brave. He’s deep. But I don’t think those aspects will change. I think he’ll keep those traits long into adulthood. I pray he does. God’s got something special planned for this adventurous guy! And I can’t wait to see what it is.

wildmen capture crayfish in pool        SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES


P.S. To all family members: any thoughts on who he remind you of?? 😉

Our first guest.

We had the privilege of hosting our first official guest since moving into this house. I say “official”, because dad helped us move in and actually stayed overnight in the house before we did. But it wasn’t pretty. It was just him, a pillow, and an air mattress. He was a trooper!

But now, NOW we have the guest room all ready. We scurried around to put the finishing touches on it before the guest arrived. (More on the room another time.)

Let’s talk about the guest — who was it? It was my mom! It was so nice having her here! She flew in 2 Mondays ago and stayed for about 6 days. Dad was working back in MD, so mom traveled alone this time. She was easy to accommodate. Her plane actually landed early and she didn’t even say so — she just waited at the airport!

We picked her up and she fell right in line with what we had going for the week. Which wasn’t all that exciting. Mostly just school and work (for Ken). We had a lovely time with her, though. The younger two practiced their reading with her each day, and she read The Long Winter to them. We ran a few errands, ate a few meals at home and a few meals out. She made a trip to the grocery store for me, and hung out with the kids while Ken and I attended a school gathering. She told the kids plenty of stories about her childhood, which prompted Cole to let me know after she’d been gone for a couple days that I didn’t tell good stories. I guess I need to improve that.

A few highlights of the visit were the boys taking her fishing (well, it might have been their highlight, not hers.) They caught their biggest bass ever!

fishing with grandmom

We visited some local thrift shops. Three, to be exact. It was wonderful, since we hadn’t scouted those out before then. And at the last one we found what we had been looking for. Mom had a great idea of fixing up some older furniture pieces into a play kitchen for the girls’ “play house” out in the barn. She patiently planned and painted with Halia:

playhouse kitchen 6

and they turned a couple of cabinets and a little wooden stand into this:

playhouse kitchen 3

playhouse kitchen


This is mom and the girls using the golf cart to “deliver” the kitchen to the play house in the barn:

playhouse kitchen delivery to barn

Mom took a late night trip to the emergency room with the girls and I as well, to be sure Halia hadn’t broken her arm; thankfully, it was just sprained.

trip to hospital for halia's sprained arm

We also visited Park Ave in Winter Park and enjoyed some burgers at an outdoor table. It was a beautiful day! We strolled the avenue and the kids got some ice cream. We laughed a lot while we watched Tim Hawkins’ Greatest Bits dvd — oh my word, did we laugh! She also helped put together a new chore system for me to orchestrate with the kids! So far, we’re one week into it, it’s going well. Thanks, mom! The kids just loved having you here! No really, they did. 😉

Even at the end of the visit, Ken and I enjoyed our extra time with her while we drove her out to the airport in Tampa. A family member had given her a ticket for her return flight, so it was free and that part was great, but Tampa’s a little far — and due to a traffic backup from an accident on I-4 coming home, I think she actually landed before Ken and I pulled back into our driveway! But we stopped and had dinner, so it worked out well — like a little bonus date for us.

It was a special visit with Grandmom and we are thankful she took time to join in on life down here with us. Ken said to me: “She was easy to have here!” Words like that from a son-in-law means it must have been a successful visit. 🙂


First trip back to Maryland after moving.

Let’s hear it for last-minute decisions to visit friends and family!! Ken and I decided that the kids and I would make a trip up north when we realized that Jake had a week OFF classes and Ken had a week FULL of classes (and an all-important test for his FL contractor’s licensing). A quiet house for Ken and a busy week of social engagements for the kids and me turned out to be a win-win for all!

We had a wonderful time in MD, and the bonus was Ken joined us for a couple days when it turned out that he needed to get a truck and trailer up to Maryland. It was a long drive for him, especially to turn around and drive back with us two days later, but it was so nice to see him earlier than we thought, and he enjoyed the chance to [briefly] see family and a couple friends.

We had a super busy and fun week, and packed our days with activities and visiting. It was fantastic to catch up with grandparents, BFF’s, cousins, aunts and uncles, and bask in the cool fall weather. We hit a pumpkin patch (where it rained the whole time!); joined in on a tradition of making apple cider with my family; got a glimpse of the Chesapeake Bay with Ken’s family; celebrated my birthday (several times over — thanks, everyone!!) and generally just had a blast. Here are some pictures to prove it:

digging for dinosaurs


picking a pumpkin

cider making with grandad

jake and adelle


hay ride 3

hay ride

sleepover with jordan

dean and tatum (2)

riss, gracie and adele

grace and halia

I have to say, the drive up was very pleasant – it’s an easy-to-navigate route and the kids were wonderful (most of the time!) There was that moment when some unmentionable liquid spilled a bit on a family member’s backpack. There was also the normal sibling bickering and of course, the restlessness that kicks in at about the 11th hour. We drove through rain the last couple hours. But all in all, I have no complaints and would do it again! Thanks to all our Maryland friends and family for making our visit such a memorable one. See you again soon! 🙂



Have you seen my dining table makeover? We took a “blah” table that we bought off Craigslist and made it just right for our home. We love it! You can read all about it *here* if you haven’t already.

My sister-in-law, Lisa, was also on the hunt for a new table for her dining room. We’d been scouring Craigslist for a piece just right for them, to no avail. Well, she stumbled on something several weekends back that had us all excited so we hooked the truck up to the trailer (well, our husbands did) and the 4 of us hauled out to Downtown Orlando for her 8 foot “solid wood”, “dark brown” find.

Upon arrival at the owner’s house, we *find* that it was a veneer top. And black. And scratched. Well, the scratches we could have done something about, were it solid wood. But it wasn’t. So Lisa decided not to get it, and our trailer stayed empty. Lisa kept a stiff upper lip, knowing that just the right table will come along soon enough. She’s good and patient, that one.

We pulled into 7-11 for a consoling cup of coffee. Turns out Ken’s iced tea was fermented and Lisa’s cream for her coffee was sour. He leaves with nothing and she dumps her coffee in the parking lot trash. (This may or may not be the best time to say it, but the coffees Dave and I were drinking were delicious.)

We settled for a drive by the lake, through a picturesque portion of the Orlando shop district.

We ended up in Winter Park to check out Ken’s new office. We found some parking to accommodate a truck and (empty) trailer and headed across the street from a restaurant called Burgerfi. None of us had been there, but one of us had heard great things and all of us had to try it! Their claim to fame is all natural burgers – hormone-free, grass-fed – everything I prefer with my beef.

I found this photo of the Winter Park Burgerfi — decorated for Christmas. Which it obviously wasn’t when we were there.

I bet the burgers are fabulous. I’d like to find out for myself. But being that it was getting late and we had kind-of, sort-of had dinner already, we decided to go “light” and split some French fries, onion rings and a “Concrete”. What’s a concrete, you ask? So did I. Actually, I just read the menu where it explained that it was Burgerfi’s custard layered with basically any other dessert of your choice. Since we were sticking with a “light” theme (ha!), we chose Key Lime.

I’m telling you, it was a decision we didn’t regret. The Key Lime was so fabulous! You might wonder why we didn’t get 2 concretes. Why, actually, we did – one for each couple! And just when we were scraping the bottom of the cups (Lisa thinks I may have gotten some plastic cup on my spoon), it came to mind that I maybe should have taken a picture. Just to put right here in this little post. But I didn’t. I was busy scraping plastic from the side of my cup. So I had to borrow a picture from the freely-sharing World Wide Web.

This, my friends, is a Key Lime Concrete:

And to think I had foolishly assumed I wasn’t hungry and that we wouldn’t be able to finish our concrete. So much for eating “light”. 🙂


P.S. Since that eventful, delicious evening, I’m happy to report that Lisa has found just the right table for her dining room! Patience paid off. 😉

Rocking ‘Riss.

We love our front porch rockers. Nothing like sitting in them with a mug of coffee, the ceiling fan on and the local tree frogs serenading. Rain or shine, it’s a nice place to be.

I’ve mentioned it previously: even before we moved our bodies into our new home, my dad had picked some rocking chairs out of the trash at the end of a neighbor’s driveway. What a treasure! He not only hauled them over to our new porch, but he put in his own sweat and time to paint them!

I casually mentioned I like the idea of black chairs. He gently informed me he wanted white chairs. They were his, after all. They’re just on loan to us while he’s not here. When he visits, they’ll be his. But I’m sure he’ll share.

In the meantime, Riss is keeping them from “rusting up”. And she’d love it if Grandad were here, rocking right next to her!

rocking riss

–Beth 🙂

P.S. I fessed up to the neighbor that it was we who took the chairs. She said she figured someone would take them, which is why she put them out. She had intended to refinish them herself, but got overwhelmed by other projects so she decided to abandon the idea. I know the feeling!

First day of school.

What a day of mixed emotions! Jake started high school today! Actually, he pretty much started last week. But today was his official first day with Circle Christian School, a private home school academy where he’ll be taking classes twice a week. His classes are: Humanities (which includes Language Arts and American History, presented through a biblical worldview), a 3 hr. class; Biology, a 1.5 hr. class; and Algebra 1, a 1.5 hour class. Of course, his day will include a lunch break and a couple 10 min. breaks. It’s going to be a challenging year for him, based on what we see the in class overviews. I’m sure he’s up for the challenge! I really look forward to learning alongside him. He’ll have a few other subjects at home as well, altogether earning 7.5 credits for 9th grade.

Anyway, back to the mixed emotions part. It’s a complicated thing to be so proud and excited and sad at the same time. It seemed not too long ago that I was taking pictures of his first day of Kindergarten. Really, he’s the same sweet, sensitive and funny and thoughtful boy he was at 5. Just in a bigger package. We checked his height this morning; he’s grown over 1.5 inches just since April!

We’re so thankful for this young man in our family and are grateful for what the Lord is doing in his life. We look forward to seeing what special things lie in store for him in the future! We will miss him while he’s away 2 days per week, but feel much peace about where he is studying and what he is learning it makes it worth it.

august 2007 020jake 1st day 9th grade

First day of 2nd grade (Jake on the left, Cole on the right); First day of 9th grade. Super cute either way! 🙂

Keeping me on my toes still at home are 4 other “Maucklets” who look to me as their primary instructor – yikes! Although there is a desk in each of the rooms upstairs (girls’ and boys’), they all decided to work near each other at the new table in the dining/school room. I am loving the way the room is coming together and it’s so pleasant to be in that I happily agreed. (More on the room in another post). Marissa called out to everyone to give her a hand moving all the chairs from the kitchen table to the dining room table (since I don’t have the chairs refinished yet). It was sweet to observe them excitedly preparing the place they were going to be working.

first day school 2014 4

We all fit around it with room to spread books out a bit. And, it doubles as a cafeteria at lunch time:

first day school 2014

Dean initially said while sitting at the table early in the day, “I’m so excited to be starting school again!” I think the enthusiasm wore off by the end school time. The kids overall were eager learners. We got a visit from a wild visitor — a gopher turtle crossing the front yard — so we took a break to observe it closer.

gopher turtle

That led me to make studying gopher tortoises with Dean and Marissa our science for the day. After all, we do live in Florida now and should be familiar with the natural habitat. Here’s what they each dictated to me for the science journals:

“The gopher tortoise grows to 10-16 inches. They are a wild species. Do not touch them. They are endangered. The females have a flat bottom shell, and the males have a bump on theirs.” (Marissa)

“A gopher tortoise has strong legs for digging tunnels and holes. It can live as long as 100 years. Other animals find safety in the holes. When the eggs are in cooler temperatures, it hatches a male. If the temperature is warmer, it hatches a female.” (Dean)

Now you know a little bit about gopher turtles, too! Just what you’ve been dying to know, huh??!!

gopher turtle first day school

(That’s one of our kitty cats right next to the tortoise)

I wouldn’t say we accomplished a whole day’s worth of school, by any means. But we enjoyed our time and put up a good effort! So that’s good enough for a first day for me.


P.S. Jake came home saying his day was OK — not bad and not great. First days can be like that. The setting was pretty overwhelming and he only knew (more like, recognized) one other person. And it was a girl. So it’s not like they hit it off. 🙂 But he has a positive attitude about it all and I appreciate that. He’ll know plenty of other kids in no time!

Girls’ Room Re-do.

When we decided to start painting our “new-to-us” house in Florida, Ken and I both agreed to paint our girls’ room first. The room they ended up making theirs was a grain mustard color with dingy blue drapes, and not at all appropriate for two young ladies. Here are some before pictures. I think you’ll agree it had to go!

girls' room before 1 girls room before 2 girls room before 3

We also wanted to switch up the bed situation. The layout wasn’t flowing like we wanted it to. The twin beds weren’t working for the space. Since the girls ended up sharing a twin bed most of the time, we decided to use the beautiful full size bed given to us by a friend of my parent’s. It had previously been our guest room bed, but since we anticipate more visitors in Florida than we had in Maryland, we knew we wanted to upgrade the guest bed to a queen size. So we brought the bed from the guest room and then decorated with everything we already had. We decided the room needed an area rug to soften the space and quiet it a bit, so we found one on clearance in Target! It’s an indoor/outdoor carpet and very easy to clean. We love how it pops in the room! We also picked up the night tables at an antique market in a nearby quaint town called Oviedo. Ken and his brother David and all the kids were very patient while my sister-in-law and I scoured the place. But we came away with the night tables so it was a successful visit! It all came together quite beautifully and the girls are really happy with the room. I’m so glad! The colors throughout the space blend so nicely and I can use pink, purple, grey and aqua (as you see a lot of in the photos) as accents. The color we used on the wall is called Coquette, from the Baer paint collection. Enjoy these “after” shots:

girls room after 1 girls room after 3 girls room after 4 girls room after 6 girls room after 7 girls room after 8

girls room after 2

It’s so much cheerier and brighter now! A beautiful room for beautiful girls!

girls (2)

–Beth 🙂

An Afternoon Treat.

We’d had a busy week. It was Friday and we all felt like having a little fun. And a treat! We had been hearing about a great ice cream place called Jeremiah’s – Italian ice, to be exact. So the kids and I headed over there in the afternoon, since Ken had a work appointment and would be a little late. We took our nephew, Jonathan. Since he is a regular there, he helped us know what was most tasty. We each ordered at the window, and then sat at a table with an umbrella – it was a hot afternoon, and our gelati (Italian ice layered with soft serve ice cream) was such a treat! If you ever have the chance to get an ice cream, Italian ice, or gelati at Jeremiah’s, take the opportunity. You won’t be sorry! Our crowd ordered chocolate ice cream, sour apple Italian ice, sour apple gelati, strawberry lemon gelati, and cotton candy gelati. I would recommend them all (well, the sour apple Italian ice wasn’t my favorite). I sampled every variety. 🙂


at jeremiah's 1

It cracks me up that Dean couldn’t take the time to look up from his ice cream while the picture was being taken!





New Digs — a photo tour.

As most of you are familiar with, we moved from a beautiful home in Maryland that we had recently remodeled. Now we’ve moved into a beautiful home in Florida, but it’s not recently remodeled (well, except for the pool — more on that later!). Here are some shots of the house very soon after moving in. It is wonderfully “live-able” but also has plenty of future projects for us to dream about. Good thing I’m married to such a handy man!

Here is the view from the front; we’ve already pulled the picket fencing. The front yard is much larger than the fence encompasses and it chopped up the yard, also making cutting the grass within the fence possible only by push mower. It looks much more “open” now with it out. 

front of house, before fence takeout










Here is the side view; it’s what you see as you pull up the driveway. We love the palm trees!

front of house, from driveway

This is the great room — a family room/kitchen combo. We are getting used to the commotion and noise level produced by sound bouncing off high ceilings and wood floors and an open floor plan.

And with our family, there are plenty of sounds bouncing!

We have plans to update the lighting, and “quiet” the backsplash. It’s a tad busy for our taste. We eat many meals at the table in the kitchen and need to get a table for our dining room so we can have more dinners together in there.

family room to kitchen view                                                 

Another shot from the family room to the kitchen. It’s fun being able to observe most of the kids’ interactions while I am busy in the kitchen — a room I spend much of my time!

kitchen and family room combo











These are a couple more angles of the great room. The kids’ bedrooms are upstairs, where you see the balcony railings. It’s so convenient to just call up my orders and instruction to the kids! There is a boys’ room and a girls’ room and a bathroom for them to share. Oh, and what a terrific ledge is in the family room — perfect for housing Ken’s carved decoy collection!

 kitchen to family room.jpg 2 family room, view coming in from lanaikitchen to family room

I’m still playing “musical furniture” with the place. I am so thankful that most of the furniture we brought with us is fitting quite nicely. I’ve listed a few pieces on Craigslist and found a few as well. I’ve even been able to “barter” some of my pieces for some of my sister-in-law’s pieces! It’s been quite handy!

And now for the fun part — the pool! Wow, what a blessing this has been. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe we are able to enjoy such a luxury daily, right in the backyard! There is a lovely hot tup that spills into the pool. We’ve even been sitting in the tub while a rainbow arched over the side yard. Just beautiful! This pool was put in less than a year ago and was well-designed..pool

Dean gives it a thumbs up! This is the view from the lanai. You’ll notice the barn in the background. We hope to pull it down sometime and relocate it because we have a great big backyard to view but the barn blocks it.view from lanai to pool

The lanai has a lot of space to work with. Thinking a ping pong table may find it’s way here eventually! 🙂

lanai, continued









The lanai has some really cool screen panels that push all the way open or can be fully closed. This is the view from the pool area.view from pool to lanai

Finally, the front porch. We briefly discussed how taking the railings down could give it even a more spacious feel. So one rainy Sunday afternoon, Ken just hacked right into those old railings. We do love the way it looks. We have columns to work on but it’s just fine for now. 

porch railing takeout

As I said, we’ve got plenty to enjoy and plenty to work on in the future. I’ll keep you posted as we make updates around the place and give you more detail on each room. I’ve already been picking out paint!

–Beth 🙂