Welcome, Silas!

(Thanks to my Mom at Little Earthling Photography for the family photos!)

Well life sure has been busy this year. Time flies when you’re having fun right? There’s been lots of craziness too (toddlers, man…) but plenty of fun. Let me address the title of this post first since that’s kind of some big news. We had a baby!

After Juniper was born I told Jared, next time let’s not announce when we’re pregnant. We’ll just be like ‘surprise we had a baby!’ that would be so funny eh? So, we did it. We told a few people but never made an announcement, and yes, it was indeed the fun surprise I had anticipated.

My mom came for a few weeks and I’m so glad! We have really missed all my family these past few years being stuck apart because of travel restrictions. The hardest part was not knowing when we could see each other again. Thankfully New Zealand’s border restrictions eased in time for my mom to come for Silas’ birth! Silas was more considerate than his siblings and only waited three days past his ‘due date’ to be born (Abel was 10 days and Juniper was 8). Thank you Silas! Abel and Juniper adored having grandma around and so did Jared and I. The thing you may not realise about a long distance relationship is that once you and your significant other are together, you still have to do long distance. With your friends and family. It’s just not the same as spending time in person, so we really, really enjoyed having my mom here. She also bought us lots of Lego which we are really enjoying. We had some Duplo already for the kids but Jared and I got our first regular Lego and I think it’s safe to say it will not be our last, either.

Thankfully my pregnancy with Silas was pretty smooth sailing. The usual first trimester morning sickness kicked my butt, but once I got over that I felt pretty good, and everything was pretty normal. Juniper’s pregnancy was STRESSful especially the last month. There were concerns over what turned out to be nothing. I’ll have to write her birth story soon! Anyway, because of that I was determined not to stress no matter what happened. It’s easier said than done, but hey, we did it!

I changed my mind about where to give birth a few times. Initially I was determined to have a home birth, then decided to be in the hospital, and at 39 weeks decided to try staying at home. I’m so glad! The birth went so well and there was no need for us to be in the hospital. The hospital was also extremely busy and understaffed and I’m glad we weren’t there unnecessarily.

We decided to skip finding out the sex of our baby and have another surprise (Abel was a surprise, and we found out with Juniper).

I was trying very hard to be patient knowing that babies come when they’re ready, and it’s easier to distract yourself when you have toddlers keeping you busy. My due date was on Sunday, and although I had some braxton hicks the week before, my uterus had been pretty radio silent for days (baby was still moving fine, but no contractions or cramping or anything to signal labour). Finally on Tuesday I started having some mild contractions and I was excited knowing that whether labour was near or not, that was a good sign. I woke up around midnight with the contractions more painful and went back to sleep. Around 2am they were definite labour contractions, still pretty mild and about ten minutes apart, so I stayed in bed and tried to sleep. At 5am I couldn’t stay still anymore during the contractions, so I went in the lounge to avoid disturbing Jared. By 7am the contractions were irregular and hardly uncomfortable, and continued that way the rest of the day. I called my midwife, Jana, to let her know what was happening, so she could get the portable gas from the hospital (I didn’t end up using it!), as I was pretty certain that we’d be having a baby in the next day or two.

Around 5pm the contracations started getting stronger and consistent again. My midwife texted to ask if I wanted her to stop by on her way home, but since I was still handling the contractions fine I didn’t see any need for it and told her I would be in touch when labour intensified. Around 5:30 I called Jared to let him know that Abel and Juniper should stay at his parents that night. He came home around 6:30 and then took them out to his parents’ house. I spent some time in our bedroom labouring, and got in the shower for a bit (I can’t remember if that was before or after Jared got back). The contractions were getting really intense but in between them I felt completely fine so I found it hard to estimate how far along I might be.

Jared got home around 8 and I started crying and having trouble getting through the contractions. Mom came into the room and she and Jared both helped me through the contractions. Finally I told Jared that we should call the midwife. He asked about the timing of my contractions and I told him I didn’t know but it didn’t matter, he should call her anyways as they were very intense and close together now. Jana arrived around 9pm. Eventually she was able to do a cervical check (it was hard to catch a break between the contractions) and I was 8cm dilated. I was encouraged to hear that, as I suspected I was quite far along. I could tell I was reaching transition as I felt shaky and a little sick. My mom kept reminding me to relax in between the contractions. It was so odd because each contraction was very intense and difficult but in between them I could feel perfectly normal. I reminded myself that the contractions were not going to get stronger at this point, just closer together.

I started feeling a bit pushy but I was concerned because this was where I got stuck with Abel’s labour, and I was afraid to try pushing before I was fully dilated. I told Jana and she encouraged me that the cervix was very thin and stretchy when she felt it, so I was fine to push. She called Maran, her backup, to be there for the delivery. I started pushing just enough to help me get through each contraction. I was wedged between our bed and the wall, and when I started really pushing, I moved to the end of the bed where there was more space. The pushes started feeling different and more productive and I got very quiet just focusing. It was so great to just follow my instincts and push when and how I wanted to. My waters finally broke while I was pushing. As the baby started to crown I thought man this is hard work, and the head is really bony, I’m sure Juniper’s wasn’t this bony (it probably wasn’t because my water broke earlier with her labour and her head had more moulding). It was very hard work but I was encouraged knowing that it was nearly over, and I was doing it. Once his head was born, then I pushed his body out, and he was wrapped up in his cord which scared Jared for a moment as his neck looked to be at an odd angle. Once he was untangled and I grabbed him, I could see he was a boy! The name we chose for him is Silas Charles.

After Silas was born, Jana and Maran helped me onto the bed and I cuddled Silas as we waited for the placenta to be born. He took a while to figure out how to latch on and breastfeed. After the placenta was born and the midwives took care of me, I was able to shower and dress and get back in bed. I was so looking forward to a home birth so we could just relax in our own bed after the birth, but we didn’t really sleep at all. There was a bit of meconium in the amniotic fluid so we were instructed to keep an eye on Silas’ breathing and temperature. Well, I was exhausted, but was trying to watch his breathing and ensure he was doing fine, so I hardly slept. Thankfully Jared’s parents kept Abel and Juniper for a few days so we did get some good rest in the following days!

It was so amazing to have a home birth and to have such a straightforward and good birth experience! Abel’s birth was pretty darn traumatic, Juniper’s was ok but not a great experience, and Silas’ was really beautiful, AND the shortest at just 5 1/2 hours of active labour plus the labour earlier that morning. It was the labour to be jealous of. You know when you hear someone had a great, short, labour and think wow that’s great but so not fair… well I finally got that labour.


My Favorite Love Story: Part 2

My favorite love story: Part 2

Jared and I met in New Zealand and got married exactly seven months later. Many of you were interested to hear about our whirlwind romance! For the story of how I came to NZ and met Jared, click here to read part one of our love story.


It was the morning after I had met Jared and he’d asked for my number. I didn’t check my phone right away because I had stayed the night at my friends house and I hadn’t had much time to think everything over. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to text him back.

When I first announced that I was moving to NZ for six months, e v e r y o n e told me I would meet some cute Kiwi guy and get married. I informed them that, in fact, my one goal was to *not* meet a guy. I wasn’t interested in falling in love with someone who lived on the opposite side of the globe. Nope, not for me.

At this point I had been in NZ for over three months, and to be honest I was homesick. I had a great church and friends and had been on lots of fun adventures, but I still missed home. I was very sure that I would visit NZ again sometime, but I wouldn’t want to live there long-term again.

All this was going through my head but at the same time, just the week before, I had spent a lot of quiet time with the Lord and finally surrendered to whatever He wanted for me. Even if it meant a Kiwi guy sweeping me off my feet. You never know what the Lord has in store for you, and when you say ‘I absolutely will not…’ you might miss out on some pretty amazing things.


Finally I decided to reply to Jared’s text, and we began to get to know each other. Over the next few weeks we texted more and more regularly and I found he was a kind, genuine, and godly man. I decided to ask him to come visit me (he lived in Whangarei and I lived in Arapuni – around five hours drive apart). I asked Ben and Adalia if it was okay, since I was living with them. They didn’t mind, but my sister gave it to me straight up – a long distance relationship is very hard.

Jared was more than happy to come visit me and we began to make plans. But as the date of his visit drew nearer, and I thought more about what my sister had said, I began to grow anxious. I knew that Jared visiting, and seeing each other in person again, would be a step forward in our relationship. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that.

Jared and I had only known each other for a few weeks at this point, but I knew that he really liked me, and because we were from different countries, I was due to go back home in a few months, and we believe in intentional relationships, I was already thinking about the future. If our friendship continued, and turned into something more, and if we did someday get married, one of us would eventually join the other. It wouldn’t be fair to ask Jared to consider moving to the US if I wasn’t willing to move to New Zealand. We both had to be willing. I wasn’t, not yet, anyways.

I finally decided I had to tell Jared not to visit. The whole morning I was so anxious and I didn’t text him because I didn’t know how to say it. He had quickly become a good friend and I enjoyed texting him. If I told him not to come, he might get upset, and never want to talk to me again.

Eventually I couldn’t put it off any longer and I told him, I’m not sure if you should come visit.

His response surprised me. Yes, he was disappointed, I could tell. But he moved on and continued talking to me as usual. He still wanted to be my friend, regardless, and for that I was so thankful.

Towards the end of January, Adalia and I went on a week-long holiday to Australia. We had an amazing time relaxing in the sun and eating an embarrassing amount of ice cream, and had a few fun adventures as well – you can read more about it here and here! While we were in Australia, we ran out of wifi and I couldn’t text Jared for a whole day. I was upset because I didn’t want Jared to think I was ignoring him! I felt so bad – I really didn’t want to hurt him. Finally the next day I was able to connect to wifi and I was so relieved to text Jared and let him know that I wasn’t ignoring him!

It was then that I realized that I really liked him…

Same Blog, New Website!

Hi friends! It’s been almost a month since I posted here, which I have to apologize for. We are still doing great and little Abel is now twelve weeks old! He’s growing so fast and I am so obsessed with him. I love being his mom!

The last several weeks I’ve been working on a new project which I’m so excited about! For months now I’ve been thinking about upgrading this blog by changing it to a new web address and I finally have!

The Canadian American Kiwi is still going strong but now you can find us at www.tillycutforth.com

I won’t be posting here anymore, so make sure you bookmark my new website so you don’t miss a post!



Five Things I Never Thought I Would Do

What are some things you never thought would happen to you? Today I’m sharing five of the biggest moments in my life that changed me and that I didn’t expect!



When I was fifteen, my grandma told me that she and my grandpa were planning a trip to Colombia, to visit missionaries they had been good friends with for thirty years. She wanted me to come.

I was terrified. I didn’t know anything about Colombia. I barely knew where it was. I had no idea what to expect, and I didn’t want to go, but I said yes. As the days went by and the trip was getting closer and closer, I was getting more nervous all the time. I secretly hoped that the trip would be cancelled, but I didn’t want to admit that I was scared, and I knew that I was lucky to get to go.

Finally the day came, and we flew from Vancouver to Toronto to Bogota. The moment I looked out the airplane window and saw Colombia for the first time, every fear I had was gone. I instantly fell in love with the country. Those three weeks were incredible. I got to spend time with some amazing people. Enjoy this gorgeous country. Learn some Spanish, which I still think is the most beautiful language.

We spent time with Indian women whose tribe had been displaced from their village due to a volcano. We heard the stories of two of these women and their husbands who had been tortured for their faith. And I realized that God was much, much bigger than my idea of Him. Going to church on Sundays and reading my Bible here and there was good. But I realized that God really truly loved me on a personal level and wanted a relationship with me, not just to be the one I prayed to, hoping He would answer.

I will never forget the time I spent in Colombia, and the people I met. I really hope that one day I can go back to visit!

This is the first thing I never expected. I never thought I would fall in love with a country I was terrified of. I never thought I would discover a love for travelling and expanding my horizons beyond just my hometown. I never thought I would have friends that I love so much.


Since my sister Adalia moved to New Zealand with her husband, I had been wanting to visit her. I didn’t know when, or for how long, but I was incredibly jealous when my little sister Kalina went to visit her for two weeks. Little did I know that a few months later, it would be my turn. After I finished high school and college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to pursue more education, I wasn’t sure if I wanted a career, and I was both scared and excited at all the possibilities. Adalia asked me if I wanted to come visit her. Sure, I thought, why not? I was sure I wanted to visit for a whole month, but then my sister asked if I would stay for six months.

At first I wasn’t sure. I would miss Thanksgiving. Christmas. Did I want to spend that much time away from my family and friends? Six months… is a long time.

But I said yes, and started saving and preparing for this new adventure. I had never been to New Zealand before, and I only knew a handful of people – My sister, her husband, and his immediate family. Honestly, I think it was a little crazy.

It turned out to be an incredible experience and I met some amazing friends! If I hadn’t gone, and if I hadn’t stayed for six months, I wouldn’t have met them, and I wouldn’t have met Jared either, and wouldn’t be here now!


When I announced that I was heading to New Zealand for six months, e v e r y body said ‘Ooh are you going to find a husband?!’ I always responded with an emphatic NO. That was absolutely not the point. In fact, my one goal was to not find a husband. I didn’t want to have a long distance relationship, and although I enjoyed my time in New Zealand and I would gladly visit again, I didn’t want to move there.

After three months in New Zealand, I had successfully managed so far without falling in love with anyone. And then Jared came along. At first, I wasn’t even sure if I should text him back. Did I really want to start getting to know a Kiwi? Jared lived five hours away, so we texted for several weeks and then started talking about visiting each other. I invited him to come visit and then a few days later changed my mind, and as bad as I felt about it, I told him not to come.

We kept texting though, and as we got to know each other even better I realized I would never find a man like him again. I invited him to come visit, again, and this time I didn’t back out. We started dating, we kept texting, I went to visit him a few times, and before we knew it, it was time for me to go back to the States. We didn’t know when we would see each other again, so it was a sad goodbye. When I got home, we figured out the time difference and we video chatted and texted every day.

Jared came to visit in May and we got engaged, and in August we got married, seven months to the day from when we met (not planned!).

I never expected to marry a guy from New Zealand. I never expected to move to New Zealand. I never expected to get married after knowing someone for seven months. I always thought I would get married young, but when I turned 18 I never expected that I would be married before my next birthday.


I have always loved children and babies. I’ve babysat for ten years, and I worked as a nanny for several years. I couldn’t wait to have my own babies someday, and once Jared and I got married I was always dreaming about the day we’d have children. When we got pregnant, I was SO excited, and spent the pregnancy looking forward to meeting our baby and falling so in love, and soaking up every single precious moment. I’d heard of people who didn’t instantly fall in love with their baby, but I knew that wouldn’t be me! I was so excited to meet this baby and would most definitely have an instant overwhelming love and bond with him.

During my labor I reminded myself that each contraction was bringing us closer to the moment we would finally meet our precious child. I looked forward to bringing him into the world, holding him in my arms for the first time, gazing at his little face and falling so, so in love with him.

Then things didn’t go as planned. After laboring at home for twelve hours, we went to the hospital and I spent another twelve hours laboring there. When I finally went for a c-section, I was so exhausted I was struggling to stay awake as they wheeled me to another part of the hospital. When Abel was born I was distracted by the terribly uncomfortable feeling of whatever it was that the doctors were doing to my stomach. I was glad to meet our son but I was even more happy that my labor was finally over, and couldn’t wait for the doctors to finish tugging my insides around.

Once Abel was out and we were back in the maternity ward, I was so tired and, by then, full of meds, that I don’t remember much of that first night. I certainly didn’t have that moment where I locked eyes with my baby and fell in love.

As cute as he was and as much as I liked him, I didn’t feel how I expected. It was hard, feeding him every few hours, recovering from the c-section, and, once my mom left and Jared returned to work, taking care of Abel on my own most of the day. There were many times I thought, Motherhood is amazing? This isn’t really all that great. It’s so hard! Way harder than I thought.

After a few weeks, I felt less like I was drowning, and I was definitely falling in love with him. He was no longer feeding around the clock, I could put him down for naps and have a little bit of alone time, he started sleeping better, and I really made an effort to enjoy the moments that I could. We had issues on and off with breastfeeding for several weeks, but we stuck it out and it got better. Now he’s seven weeks and he’s smiling, cooing, and I can enjoy feeding him and feeling his little hands grab at me as he eats.

Now I do understand that overwhelming love for your child. I thoroughly enjoy being Abel’s mum. We still have our moments, but overall, I love it!

I never thought that I wouldn’t fall in love with my baby right away.


The summer I finished 11th grade, and my first year of community college, my cousins came to visit. As usual, we had so much fun together! Growing up, we only saw each other every year or two, but every time we would always pick right back up where we left off. My siblings, cousins, and I always have the greatest time and want to spend every second together while they’re visiting. Even when they’re on vacation, my Uncle, Aunt, and cousins find a church to go to that is similar to their home church, which usually meant an Independent Baptist church.


That Sunday they were visiting, I went to church with them, and, as dramatic as this sounds, it changed my life. I had no idea, that day, that the people I met at that church would become my best friends and my second family. I enjoyed the church service and meeting everyone, and the next day my family and my cousins all went along to the church’s Memorial Day picnic. We had a great time enjoying good food, fellowship, and volleyball.

My cousin Elijah stayed with us for several weeks after the rest of his family went home. He continued going to the Baptist church while he was with us, and I went to church with my family on Sunday mornings but went with Elijah on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. Before long, I was becoming good friends with the families in the church. When Elijah went back to his family in Calgary, I went too and stayed with my cousins for a few weeks, and went to my cousin Arianna’s high school graduation. When I got back home, I continued going to the Baptist church whenever I could and before long it was ‘my church’. I still went to my family’s church on Sunday mornings, but I was a regular at my church on Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, and any opportunity to get involved. My family would come along to church events or picnics, and sometimes my siblings would come to the services with me.

There was nothing wrong with my family’s church. But at this church, I felt like I really belonged, I was always challenged to grow in my relationship with God, and I found a new joy in serving the Lord. I was part of the church family, and found some of my best friends! By the time I turned eighteen, I talked to my parents and asked their permission to join this church, and go there instead of my family’s church even on Sunday mornings. They said yes, and I was excited to become a member of the church.

Just a month and a bit later, I was leaving for New Zealand. I went to church with Ben and Adalia a few times, but I wanted to find a Baptist church, and after some searching I found one half an hour away and began going when possible. A few months later, I met Jared when he visited that church. (It is crazy to think that if I hadn’t gone to church with my cousins four years ago, I wouldn’t have looked for and found the church I attended in New Zealand and I wouldn’t have met Jared!)

I never thought I would go to a different church than my family (while living in the same place).

These five things have had a huge impact on my life! I love how there are some moments that you don’t realize at the time will mean so much to you. I wonder what the next big five moments will be for me?!


Super Mom

Originally published May 2018

Since yesterday was Mother’s Day here in New Zealand, and today is Mother’s Day in the States, I want to take a few moments to appreciate my mom. She really is the best. I have so many amazing memories of my mom.


She’s basically Super Mom. Fourteen kids she’s raised, and still is raising. I love this picture above because it really captures my mom. Holding two babies in her arms while doing an activity or schoolwork with us older kids. She likely had a load of laundry going and dinner cooking. No big deal to her. That’s just everyday life. Somehow my mom managed to homeschool all of my siblings and I, some of us for our entire education and some for parts. Can you imagine homeschooling ten kids at a time?! Or more? I’m not even sure how many of us were homeschooling at the same time. Now some of my siblings are in school and some are homeschooled, so on top of that my mom is also keeping track of after school activities like plays and band practice and performances, and sports. Not to mention appointments for a variety of things (I bet you’ve never taken six kids to the dentist at once). Plus she’s on call as a birth photographer, and does family, newborn, and lifestyle sessions as well… And we can’t forget the daily things like keeping everyone fed (even though she hates cooking), cleaning the house, doing endless loads of laundry…

The first time I really appreciated how much laundry my mom does was a few years ago while my family went on vacation at the Oregon coast. Judah and I were both too busy with school and work to go, so we stayed at home. Mom gave me the job of catching up on the laundry while everyone else was gone.

Now let me give you a little backstory. Sometimes in my family’s house we joke about the ‘laundry fairy’ or the ‘cleaning fairy’ or the ‘dishes fairy’ basically any kind of fairy that could do housework. If somebody’s complaining about folding laundry my mom will say ‘Who’s going to do it, the laundry fairy?’ When my sisters and I didn’t want to clean our room, she’d say, ‘What, do you think the cleaning fairy is going to come do it?’

Well, as I did load after load of laundry I realized that my mom is the laundry fairy. And even the cleaning fairy and the dishes fairy and… Fourteen kids, two parents, that’s a lot of laundry right? Even now that there’s ‘just’ nine of my siblings at home, that’s still a lot of laundry. Well, that means that there should always be laundry going. And I didn’t realize before that week of catching up on laundry, how much work it is just to make sure that the laundry is constantly going. Switch the wet laundry to the dryer. Start a new load. Fold the freshly dried load. Repeat every hour.

Now that I have my own house, I can appreciate my mom even more. Sure, my siblings have their daily chores, and I did too growing up, but if the person who’s supposed to do the dishes is gone, who does them? A lot of times, it’s mom. Who does the organizing, who supervises and participates in Saturday cleanup? Mom. The older I get the more I realize how amazing my mom is.

Housework, kids’ activities, appointments, photography business, and more- how in the world does my mom have time to throw awesome parties, or enjoy reading, hiking, knitting? I have no idea, but somehow she does it, and she’s amazing at it.

Not only that, but mom is an amazing advocate for her children. When Apollo was a baby and the doctor’s couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him (and didn’t really try that hard, to begin with), my mom thoroughly researched what it could be. She read every book on every possibility, and finally thanks to the suggestion of a blog reader she pushed the doctors to check for a double aortic arch- and that’s what they found. It didn’t stop there. My mom became an expert on heart defects, and when Apollo had to get a feeding tube placed, she mastered that as well.

With my other siblings with special needs too, my mom has done her absolute best and learned everything about the issues my siblings have. It is not easy being my mom. Not easy doing all she does everyday, especially when at times people don’t believe in or won’t accommodate my siblings’ special needs. But she does it, every day, and when it’s too hard, that’s when she grows stronger. I can say without a doubt that my mom is the strongest person I know. I want to be like her.

Mom, I love you, and you’re my inspiration and my hero!

Kim Gasper Photography

The Value Of A Moment

Originally published April 2018

The value of a moment… how I realized I was taking things for granted.


I was 18, and had every possibility you could imagine in my future. I had just finished school and I had so many options for what to do next. Maybe I would work for a year and save up to go to Bible college; maybe I would go visit my sister in New Zealand- for at least a month; maybe I would travel the world; or find a job and build my savings account; I felt like I could do anything. So when my sister sent me a message asking if I wanted to come visit her in New Zealand, I eagerly agreed to. Then she sent me another message asking me to stay for several months… even six months. I was a little hesitant… that’s a long time!

A long time to be away from my family, my friends, my church. I would miss Thanksgiving… Christmas… but I realized that spending half a year (half a year?! It sounds so long!) in another part of the world was nothing short of an amazing adventure. So I would miss Thanksgiving; but I would be at home for the next Thanksgiving, and the next, and next… and Christmas? It comes every year. I’d be home for the next Christmas, to enjoy the festive music playing in every store, abundant decorations, the smell of warm gingerbread, hot chocolate and candy canes, Christmas movies, the biting cold, and the family traditions leading up to and on the day of Christmas.

Yes, there was always the next year.

So I decided to do it- to go to New Zealand for six months. I didn’t know many people there; only my sister, her husband, and his family. I had never been to New Zealand before. I knew I wanted to go sometime, but I’d never imagined going for such a long period of time.


Having something specific to work towards gave me motivation to transition to working full time and I enjoyed seeing my savings account grow after each long week. Between work and church, I was barely home, but I didn’t mind the long hours because I really enjoyed my job as a nanny, spending time with and taking care of four precious children.

As the days passed, I started preparing for my move. Going somewhere for six months really is living there, not just visiting. I sorted through what to take and what to leave behind. Soon it was only a matter of days until I left, and I finished packing, made sure I had my passport and my visa, and anxiously awaited the day I would fly out.

Saying goodbye to my family and my friends was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Not the most difficult; that was saying goodbye the second time. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Knowing that I wouldn’t see any of them again for six months was challenging. But I knew that we would be reunited, and we vowed to keep in touch in the meantime.

If I don’t know what to expect in a situation, I go into it without any expectations, ready for whatever happens. So, without any idea what the next six months would hold, I was off. My dad and I woke up at 2:30am and he drove me to the airport. We got some breakfast, checked my bags, said goodbye, and I went through security. I’m not a huge fan of flying (which is kinda funny since I’ve been on 30+ planes!) but at least on the long flights there are movies to distract from the fact that you are travelling hundreds of miles per hour and are thousands of feet in the air. I had a layover in Hawaii, and can I just add that the airport there is prettyyyy confusing. It took me a while to figure out how to get to my gate; and what my gate even was. Once I did, I enjoyed the view of the tarmac as I waited to board my flight.

When I arrived in Auckland, my sister Adalia, her husband Ben, and his brother Jason picked me up from the airport. I can proudly say my first food in New Zealand was McDonalds… what can I say, it was late at night and when someone offers you chicken nuggets, you never say no.

It was amazing to see my sister again after 2 1/2 years, and get to know Ben better, as well as his family. Those six months were so precious, and one of my favorite things was getting to spend a week with just Adalia vacationing in Australia!


After a few weeks in New Zealand, I was surprised at how much I missed my family. It’s one thing to go away for a few days, or weeks; even when I went to Malawi and was gone for two months, I knew I would be returning home to my family where I would once again be with them every day, for years.

But when you start getting older, you realize that you might not have much time left with them. With Ben and Adalia both working, and since I only worked for a couple weeks while I was in New Zealand, the house was often empty and quiet; with thirteen siblings, I wasn’t used to that. It just made me realize how far away I was from my other siblings and my parents, and I missed each of them. Anyone who knew me for those six months could easily tell you that I was a little bit homesick, even though I was in a great church and made several amazing friends.


Realizing that the time we have together is so precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted, I tried my best to enjoy each moment, both while I was in New Zealand- I have some amazing memories from those six months- and when I returned home in March. The year before, when I was in school and when I was working, I was often too busy or tired to do things with my family. After returning from New Zealand, I tried to spend more time with them. Instead of crashing in my room on the odd day I got home while it was still light outside, I would join my siblings while they watched a movie. I went jogging with Tucker. Tried to be more involved, and live with my family instead of just alongside them.

I challenge you to do the same. I know I still take things for granted at times, but I do try to slow down and appreciate all that I’ve been blessed with. Since returning to the States, I got engaged, married, and moved to New Zealand permanently (which I might add is wholly different than even moving somewhere for six months). Thankfully my friends and I have been wayyy better about actually keeping in touch this time around, and since being here, I’ve gotten to see my mom and Jubilee, and my dad, which is pretty amazing considering Adalia waited two whole years for any of us to come visit her when she moved here.

These past two years have just taught me that you may never know until after the fact that it’s the last time you’ll spend Christmas at home. The last time you’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in the fall. The last time you’ll be sipping eggnog as snowflakes fall. The last time you’ll celebrate Independence Day in the country the holiday is all about. Even things as simple as the last time you go shopping with your sister, or the last time you watch a movie with the family; you might not know.


So, are you sufficiently sad after reading that last paragraph? I’m sorry, but please let me finish. I’m not just telling you how growing up sucks. Change can be an amazing thing. (Yes I’m still trying to convince myself of that as well) And what makes it easier is fully appreciating each moment so you don’t feel like you’ve missed out. I would hate to have spent six months in New Zealand just moping around missing my family and friends in the States. If I did, I’d spend the next few months moping around thinking about how I missed my New Zealand family and friends. No, appreciate each moment and don’t look back. The past is already finished, and you can’t change it. So the best you can do is to make sure you don’t repeat the mistakes you’ve made before. In this case, I made the mistake of not appreciating my family enough, and it’s a mistake I don’t want to make again- with anyone, anywhere. God has truly given me amazing family and friends, all over the world, and I’m so thankful for each one of them.

Have you been taking anything for granted lately? As Dr. Seuss put it, ‘Sometimes you don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.’

Let’s do our best to enjoy each moment so the memories we have fill our hearts with contentment; not regret.


The Laundry Fairy

Originally published August 2015

Since we have so many people in my family (16) and 12 at home currently, well we have a lot of laundry! And of course I know that, and I always have, but this past week my family has been gone camping in Oregon. They were gone for six days but Judah and I had to stay home because we’re both taking classes this summer and were unable to miss an entire week of school, especially since it’s so close to the end of the quarter. I did miss finals week last quarter, but that was different because it was a regular quarter- Summer quarter is the same amount of material, just in way less time- eight weeks instead of twelve. Yup so it’s busy!

So anyways while the rest of the family was gone mom asked me to catch up on the laundry. So of course, I did. But wow! Running a house for a week made me realize… it’s hard work! And I really don’t appreciate my mom enough. I spent days doing the laundry(of course I was at school/babysitting/etc. but I did several loads a day until I caught up) until it was all clean (a rare event in our household! Because you’re always wearing clothes… and making more dirty laundry!) and then sat down and folded it all at once. In 45 minutes. Wow. It took a long time! Sometimes we’ll joke…. the laundry fairy came! Or actually more often it’s ‘the laundry fairy *didn’t* come’. And this past week…

I’ve realized that my mom is the laundry fairy.


Really, it’s been tedious just catching up on a normal amount of laundry from 12 people… but she is constantly doing laundry, all the time, laundry that keeps piling up day after day from 12 people… so yes, my mom is the laundry fairy!

As well as… the meal fairy. Making meals is work. I like it… but it’s work, too! And requires planning, etc.

And… the dishes fairy. Now, us kids do the dishes in the evenings (at least we’re supposed to). I don’t know if the kids do breakfast and lunch dishes or if mom does, but either way she does do dishes at some point throughout the day. And not just after meals but there’s also washing dishes from making dinner, or cleaning up the kitchen before cooking so that she has room to make a meal.

And how could we forget the boss fairy… because honestly there’s a bit of work to be done around here each day. Laundry, dishes, meals, and keeping the house clean in general. Who does all that work? Well mom does a lot of it. And us kids have chores, of course. But who gives us our chores and tells us to do them when we forget (or ‘forget’)? Mom. So she’s pretty much the laundry fairy, the meal fairy, the dishes fairy, and the fairy of everything in general. Wow!

Before this week, I didn’t really appreciate mom and all the work she does enough. So mom, thank you! Thank you for all you do, even when people (like me!) don’t really notice or appreciate it like they should. You really are the laundry, meal, and dish fairy, and a mom fairy too!


My Favorite Things About Being Homeschooled

Originally published March 2018

I never went to public school. I was homeschooled for my entire education, until I started community college at 16 (through a dual enrollment program).


I LOVED it. I have never wished that I went to public school (or private school for that matter). In fact there were many times I was glad I didn’t! Now just a disclaimer- I’m not going to judge you if you don’t homeschool. I’m not going to judge you if you do. I know that every family is different, and you have to do what’s best for your family. But for me? It was amazing for me!

There are so many things that I loved about my education, and here are just a few of my favorite things about being homeschooled!

My mom made homeschooling so much fun. She was the fun mom. She found exciting ways for us to learn, and she threw parties just for the sake of it! I’m including a lot of links to her past blog posts here, since she has been blogging for a long time and a lot of what I’m mentioning is shared there. All the photos are hers as well! (Perks of having a photographer/blogger mom!)

There are a lot of things I loved about homeschooling. Some people love sleeping until noon and doing school in their pajamas.

Not us. We got up at 7:00 every morning. Did our morning chores, got dressed, had breakfast. Then we started school at 9:00. (I think… it’s been a while) There were a few subjects my siblings and I all did together, and some we did separately.

We did history together. My mom used Story of the World and we would all gather around the dining room table while she would read us a chapter (or put on the CD) and we colored a picture to go along with the story. We also did art together my mom found a couple great drawing books that we went through together. Here’s a picture I drew when I was 11. Believe me when I say I’ve not improved since then, but I’ve just gotten worse because I haven’t practiced. The Lee Hammond books are great for learning though, and if I put my mind to it and practiced a lot I’m sure I could improve!


Math, science, language arts, social studies, etc. we did separately. My mom didn’t stick to one particular curriculum but just used what worked best for us. My favorite book was Exploring Creation With Biology by Apologia. It was well written so that it was very interesting, and I loved going through it. The Key to Algebra books were also great, and easy to understand (for me).


Did I mention that Judah and I got to dissect sharks one year? That was pretty cool! 

Another thing my mom did was unit studies. We would choose one topic and study and learn all we could about it! A couple things we did unit studies on were horses, the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Titanic, and even chocolate.

Yes we did an entire unit study on chocolate. When we were finished, we had a chocolate party. My grandma and grandpa came over and mom helped us kids put on skits about what we learned about chocolate, and we had a chocolate fondue and different types of chocolate to try. It was amazing. Every kid’s dream, right?!

When we studied the Civil War, we read all kinds of books, some children’s books and some chapter books that my mom read aloud to us. We learned about hardtack and made our own, we made yarn dolls, hobby horses, and so much more.

We also studied the Titanic. Some of the things we did? We watched the Titanic movie (with mom and dad in control of the remote, to skip the *ahem* more mature parts of the movie). My mom filled a large bowl with ice and water and us kids held our hands in it to see how cold the water was when the Titanic sank. We quickly concluded that it was very unrealistic in the Titanic movie for Jack and Rose to be in the freezing cold water for *so long*. We had a Titanic dinner- my grandparents came over and each person chose a card. When they turned it over, it told them their name and what class they were in… on the Titanic you had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class. At the end of the dinner we found out who survived the Titanic sinking and who didn’t. I was in 3rd class which was fine with me, but I’m pretty sure I died.

My mom had so many great ways to make learning exciting and interesting and get us very involved with it! That’s just a small taste of what we did.

Another awesome perk to being homeschooled? You can take the day off school to go to the park or the library or the museum or wherever. Going to the library, park, or beach during school hours is the best. Why? Just because most people are in school so we have the place to ourselves! Once school gets out, those places are packed.
Going to the aquarium? That was a field trip. And a fun one at that!


The zoo? Also a field trip!


Did I mention our not-back-to-school parties? Every year around the first day of school for our local school districts, we would (together with other homeschooled friends, when possible) have a party to celebrate not going back to school. Don’t worry guys, we would start school a few days later. One year my mom threw a ‘Homeschool Party‘. And another disclaimer- we were not trying to be offensive at all! It was all done in good fun.


Adalia and I learned Japanese for a year and a half… as far as I know, most schools don’t have a Japanese class. Adalia was obsessed with Japan for several years and when mom’s friend started teaching Japanese, mom was quick to sign Adalia up, and I joined too because why not? I’m afraid I don’t remember much (I remember some hiragana and katakana) besides the ‘head and shoulders’ song in Japanese. But it was an awesome experience!


I have so many incredible memories from my childhood and from homeschooling. I couldn’t share them all here if I tried!

Where did you go to school, and did you like it? What’s one of your favorite childhood memories?


Three Life Lessons I Learned in College

Originally published February 2018

When I was 16 I started my first college classes, through a dual enrollment program called Running Start. It was my first time ever being in a classroom setting… unless you count Driver’s Ed which I started a couple weeks earlier. I was homeschooled my whole life up to that point, which I absolutely loved! But never having been in a classroom before meant I didn’t know if I would do amazing or if I would get terrible grades and fail.


My first week at community college, I decided to quit. I had so much homework! So many assignments. Dozens and dozens of pages to read in the next couple of days. I couldn’t do this. The workload was too much. I wasn’t cut out for college. I would just quit school, find a job, and work instead.

Those were really my thoughts. Finally I decided to wait it out at least until the deadline for dropping classes without any consequences, and then I could quit. But I had better at least try.

And the next week, it got better.

I realized that all the reading I had done over the weekend was actually for the next several weeks, not the next day. That was quite a relief… and I got used to the workload, which was not quite as demanding as I had originally thought. I enjoyed my classes and I did really well. Thankfully I found college to be very enjoyable and I loved learning, taking notes, writing papers, and especially quizzes and exams. (I’ve always loved quizzes, exams, or any sort of test… I know, I’m weird!)

The next two years were non. stop. school. Okay I’m exaggerating a bit, because there are breaks in between each quarter. But I had to take classes during summer quarter in between my first and second year, so I didn’t get a long summer break. But I really enjoyed it! Attending community college, especially at 16, was an amazing opportunity. I loved learning, I loved essays and exams and projects. It was amazing to graduate with an Associate’s degree at just 17 (I was just a few months shy of 18).


I learned a lot while I was at college. I learned how to write a good essay. I learned how to do proper research. But more than the academic side, I also learned life lessons.

1. I learned to step outside of my comfort zone.

I used to be incredibly shy. The first week of my second quarter, I had to drop a class that I knew wasn’t going to work out for me. As classes had already started, there weren’t many options left to replace it. The one that I chose was a public speaking class. I don’t know why. If I had thought about it more I would never have taken public speaking. But at the time, I needed something to replace the class I’d dropped, and this is the one that worked with my schedule and sounded interesting.
It was a wonderful experience! I learned how to research and write a speech, to speak better, and to be more comfortable in front of an audience. At the end of the quarter, my class voted me as the most improved student! I’m not taking all credit for that, as my professor was amazing and my class was very supportive of each other. But that never would’ve happened if I had stayed with what was comfortable. If I had decided not to take that class because I was too shy to do public speaking.
I’m still so glad that I took that class! I learned a lot and I was also able to speak about topics that mean a lot to me, which leads into my next point:

2. I learned to stand up for what I believe in.

The city I’m from is very liberal, and the community college I attended even more so. One year they didn’t put a Christmas tree up at Christmastime because someone had told the student council that some people might get offended if there was a Christmas tree… I’m not going to say anymore on that, but I do want to say that it’s a difficult environment at times if you don’t hold to the liberal beliefs and ideologies that many, many of the professors, staff members, and students do.
In my English Honors class, when I stood up to give my presentation to my small class of 13 about my essay topic… I knew that not one person in that room agreed with me. I knew they all took a different stance than mine on the controversial topic that I chose to write about. But I also knew that I had to do the right thing, and stand up for the truth. And not just that I had to- I wanted to. I was pleasantly surprised that instead of the adverse reaction that I had anticipated, my classmates were polite and more or less objective in the ensuing discussion.
Another time, standing up for my beliefs didn’t go so well. In one class, in a graded group project, I found myself in a situation where I had to go along with something that I believed was wrong. I thought about it for several days and battled over what to do and finally came to a conclusion. I decided to just sit out of that project, and take a zero instead. However, that didn’t work. Our professor made us all come to an agreement, people got upset and offended, and when we finally gave our presentation to the class, everyone laughed at us.
Did I enjoy that? Certainly not! But I had to do the right thing. Did I learn from it and grow from it? Yes. And to be honest… if anyone is rude to me or calls me a name now, I don’t even care. I just say, ‘hey, I’ve been called worse’.
These are just a few of the times that I had to stand up for what was right when I didn’t know if anyone else would stand with me. It can be so difficult. Not just because you’re alone, but because sometimes people get offended, or hurt. But I learned that I have to do what’s right, and do it lovingly.

3. I learned to politely disagree.

I used to be pretty gullible and naive. I was eager to believe everyone was genuine and believe what everyone said. But at college, there are all kinds of people, coming from different backgrounds, opinions, and beliefs. Being around so many classmates, professors, and strangers, many different from me, helped me learn to stand for what’s right and to stand for what I believe regardless of what others say. But I learned to do it in a respectful way, too. With so many opinions around me I learned to search for the truth in God’s word.

Photo by Little Earthling Photography

I really enjoyed college! So many of my classes and professors were amazing, but some of my favorites were American history (1900-1980), cultural anthropology, Spanish, and geology.


My Favorite Love Story: Part 1

Originally published February 2018

The way that my husband, Jared, and I met you could almost call chance. But we both know that it was far more than that. I want to tell you our story, but I tend to give long explanations for everything. Same goes with our love story! There’s so much background, so it’s going to take a while to tell. This is the first part.


I graduated high school and community college in May 2016. I was excited to be done with school, and looking forward to what the next few years might bring. I was never someone who knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. For a while I wanted to be an actress, and then I thought about anthropology, or teaching. But nothing really jumped out to me, so when people would ask what I planned to do after college, I would laugh nervously and say ‘I’m not sure yet’. I always wanted to be a wife and a mom some day, and so I wasn’t interested in spending so much time and money going to university for a degree I wouldn’t use much in an area I wasn’t passionate about.


After I graduated, I started looking for more work (I was nannying part time while I was in school) and thinking about what to do next. My sister Adalia, who has been in New Zealand with her husband Ben since 2014, asked if I would like to come stay with them… so I began praying and thinking about how long to go for. I spent the summer working full time as a nanny, and in September I began a crazy adventure. I decided to go to NZ for six months. I knew a total of 7 people in NZ- Adalia, Ben, and several of Ben’s family members. I had no idea what to expect during those six months, but if you know me you know that I am always up for an adventure…


Adalia and I the day after I got to New Zealand. Reunited after over two years!

The next several months were exciting as I got to spend time with my sister and her husband, explore NZ, and make new friends.

I found a wonderful church and the Pastor’s family was the best, instantly being amazing friends to me. They took me to the Karangahake Gorge, to Paeroa, Tauranga, and more. I am so thankful for them!


It was at that church where I met my future husband. In January, Jared was visiting his aunt and uncle in Tauranga. The pastor of the church there would come to the church I attended in Tokoroa to preach for our midweek service on Thursdays. Jared was invited to come along with him, and after thinking about it for a bit he decided to come. I was invited to have dinner with my pastor’s family (who by this time were my good friends) before church, and so was Jared, Pastor Dan, and Thomas (another guy from Tauranga). Jared and I had heard each other’s names mentioned a few times through mutual friends, but knew nothing about each other. We chatted a little bit throughout the evening, and during the church service I turned around and looked right at Jared, which solidified his growing desire to get my number. Jared, my friends, and I were chatting after church and before Jared left with Pastor Dan and Thomas, he asked if I had Facebook. I said yes, and I wrote down my name for him so he could find me. While I was writing, he said, ‘Could you put your number down too?’

I paused for a moment. I was surprised! This was only the second time anyone had asked for my number. The first time that it was someone with the same beliefs/convictions. I hadn’t had my phone for long so it took me a few seconds to remember my number, but when I did I wrote it down for him. He thanked me and then when he went to leave, I went into the kitchen because THAT just happened! Like many girls I always dreamed of meeting a guy, but it was actually happening! As I said, someone had asked for my number before, but all I could do was politely decline him. This was amazing- a godly, bible-believing, Baptist. I took a few minutes to compose myself before coming out of the kitchen. I spent the night at my good friends’ house, so it wasn’t until the next day that I had time to think about what happened and text him back…

Stay tuned for part 2!