york swirls

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family! Christmas at our house is always exciting! We started on Friday with all of the girls home. Nathan was here too. (He always seems to be hanging around. I can't understand why...he must like my cooking.)

What would Christmas be without children? Gift-giving at our house is always fun. This year the gifts ranged from 2 pennies, a prized rock, a beloved stuffed animal, coasters made from bathroom tiles, and a hand-painted sign to carhartt coats, clothes, a cash register, Lincoln logs, and bean bag chairs. It was so cute to see the recipient open her gift of two pennies. I was the recipient of the prized rock and the hand-painted sign. Erin modge podged pictures on bathroom tiles & glued felt on the bottoms to make coasters for everyone. Very creative!

We had Christmas with my family on Saturday and will have Christmas with Gary's family on Tuesday. We had our traditional cinnamon rolls and chocolate milk before we left for church this morning. We had a very good crowd at church today. After having Stauffer's lasagna for dinner, we finished opening our presents.

My favorite part of Christmas is, first of all, watching the girls open their presents and then the period of time after they've opened their presents and everyone goes off to try out their gifts. This afternoon some of them went to the schoolroom to start their new paint-by-number projects, some started construction on a stable made of Lincoln logs, some went to the kitchen to try out their new apron and baking tools, and some of us sneaked a few minutes of rest.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Friends Forever

No pictures with this post, but I wanted to journal about my lunch date today. I met my friends, Vicki & Jayne, at the Whistle Stop restaurant in Monon. The occasion was a belated...very belated...birthday celebration. All three of us have April birthdays. We celebrated together last year and decided to make it a tradition, but things got a little crazy this year.
Vicki & I have been friends since kindergarten...such good friends that Vicki's mom made us matching dresses. We used to stand at the top of Vicki's stairs with our guitar & tamborine while we sang the Carpenter's song, "I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation...." We rode our bikes together in the 4th of July parade with streamers woven through our spokes. Our moms even say Vicki got off the bus at my house after school one day without permission from either of our moms. I don't remember that, but as I can imagine, Betty was pretty upset when Vicki didn't get off the bus that afternoon.
Jayne grew up in Kentland, but we ended up together at South Newton High School. We sat next to each other in co-op class before we left school for the day to go to our respective jobs. Jayne was always the life of the party, and she usually had a snack in her purse to share.
Vicki, Jayne, & I graduated together from South Newton in 1985. We celebrated our 44th birthdays today. We had a great time today reminiscing about the many years we've been friends. No matter where our lives have taken us, we've remained friends for these many years.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Preparations

Cookie Cutter Fudge

Spritz Cookies

We worked on Christmas goodies this afternoon. We made the fudge in Christmas tree cookie cutters, angels, and gingerbread men. They turned out so cute. I took them to the ladies at the bank this afternoon, and they were delighted! Wait until our mailman opens the mailbox tomorrow afternoon! He loves it when I leave treats in there for him.
Erin, with the help of the younger ones, used our Pampered Chef cookie press for the first time and made some pretty cookies. They were so yummy that she made a single batch yesterday afternoon that was gone by bedtime, so she made a double batch today. We made two plates to give away, and they've been eating on the rest of them all afternoon. There's still a small bowl of them left....for a little while.

Here's the recipe for the fudge:

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup peanut butter chips

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

Decorator icing or candies, if desired

1. Place each of six 3x1/2-inch mitten-shaped cookie cutters, or other cookie cutters in a simple shape, on 5-inch square of foil. Seal foil tightly around outside of each cookie cutter. Place on cookie sheet. Lightly spray cookie cutters with cooking spray.

2. In 4-cup microwaveable measuring cup, mix chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, milk and butter. Microwave uncovered on high 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until chips are almost melted. Stir in vanilla.

3. Pour mixture into cookie cutter molds, filling to tops of molds. Refrigerate uncovered about 2 hours or until firm. Decorate with icing and candies. Carefully remove foil before giving as a gift.

I found that the fudge was very thick and was a little challenging to pour and spread in the cookie cutters. Just use your spoon and keep smoothing. I also found that a tiny bit leaked out of the bottom, but it peeled right off after they were set up. Very easy and very cute!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Traditions

The beads in the headliner at the top of the blog have been on our Christmas tree for 25 Christmases. They belonged to Gary's Grandpa Wilbert & Grandma Esther before us. I don't know how old they are, but they hold an honored place on our tree every year.

A Blanket for Lainey

After reading my post about a grave blanket, my mom and dad went out and made one. We went to the cemetery Tuesday afternoon and put it in place. There were quite a few tears. One of the little girls said, "We just wanted her here with us for Christmas."

I sat down a couple of weeks ago with the basket of cards we received before & after we lost Lainey. I read through every one of them again...all 118 of them...so many kind and loving words. I've packed them away in a box. Someday I'd like to send a reply to everyone, but I think that will come after bridal shower, baby shower, and wedding invitations are made and sent, after a wedding, and after a grandson has arrived.

A Trip to North Carolina


We made a trip to Morganton, North Carolina, last weekend where we visited our friends, the Whisnants. We drove straight through Thursday...12 1/2 hours. On Friday, we went out for lunch at Pizza Hut and then bowling. Several of the girls had never been bowling, and the rest of us hadn't been bowling for several years. We had a great time! We didn't record any scores!

On Saturday, we went to visit the Biltmore House. We weren't allowed to use our cameras there, so I don't have any pictures to post here. It was absolutely amazing! The house was built between 1889 and 1895. It is 175,000 square feet with 240 rooms, 34 bedrooms, and 43 bathrooms. Now, that would be plenty of room for us!

On Sunday, we went to church with the Whisnants. We enjoyed dinner at a little country restaurant. Then we went shopping at the Dillards outlet. Talk about bargains! We got $450 worth of clothing for $95!

We drove home Monday. It wasn't a long vacation, but one of the most relaxing we've had in a long time. Gary's phone hardly rang at all. He went three days without charging it! That has to be a record!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lainey's Tree

Before we got our real tree last Friday, the little girls--Erin, Heather, Laura, Kara, Leah, & Nanna--put up the pencil tree and decorated it. I was busy with other things and didn't know what they were up to. They made a sign that says, "In Loving Memory of Lainey Grace," with 6 little hearts under the words with each of their names in the hearts. They took a little wooden sled we use as a decoration and put the teddy bears that the funeral director gave each of them at Lainey's funeral on the sled. Many of you were at the graveside service when he presented them with the teddy bears.

Some of the girls and I went to the cemetery yesterday and put poinsettias on Lainey's grave. I almost bought a grave blanket when we went to get our Christmas tree. It just seems so bare and cold out there...... I know she's not there. She's warm and safe in Jesus' arms...but it just seems so bare and cold out there.....

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Tree

We went to get our Christmas tree on Friday afternoon. We have gone to Miller's Tree Farm near Idaville for several years now to get our tree. Autumn had to work, but the rest of us piled in for our annual adventure. Autumn was waiting for us when we got home to help us decorate it. Nanna wanted this little tree pictured below. It was just her size.

But the rest of us were more inclined to get a taller tree. We ended up with a 7 1/2-foot Canaan fir this year. We usually alternate between a white pine and a fir each year.
Mom & Krissy put on the lights while Meagan popped corn to string.

We've strung popcorn two years in a row. The little ones seem to enjoy it and the birds enjoy it when we put the tree outside after Christmas.

For many years, we have watched the Statler Brothers' Christmas DVD while we decorate the tree. Last night, we watched it through twice. It's a fun tradition we all hold dear. I remember listening to Gene Autry's Christmas record every year when I was a kid. My girls have done the same...only in CD form. Gene Autry is a guest on the Statler Brothers Christmas show, so that makes it even more special. I think when all of the girls are all grown they'll associate Gene Autry, the Statler Brothers, and Bing Crosby with Christmas.


Now for some presents.....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Trip to the Museum

Gary, Nanna, & Leah in the combine simulator.
Kara & Laura trying their hand at the combine simulator.

Krissy showing the girls how to pull the rope. This was to show us how much strength it would take to pull someone out of a bin of corn if they were trapped.

Nanna playing with one of the interactive exhibits.

We went to Indianapolis Tuesday to the Indiana State Museum. The above pictures are from the Amazing Maize exhibit. We enjoyed our first visit to this museum. We also enjoyed an Imax movie presentation of "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure." What an amazing story!!!! This was several of the girls' first experience at an Imax theater. They all loved it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Counting My Blessings

Just a few of the things I'm thankful for....

  • All 9 of my girls and my hubby sitting around me at this very minute watching "Casanova Brown", an old Gary Cooper movie.

  • A 23-lb. turkey is in the oven all "dressed" and programmed to start cooking at 3:30 a.m.

  • Double ovens and a 6-burner cooktop

  • A good harvest

  • My husband, Mr. Steady

  • Autumn

  • Meagan

  • Krissy

  • Erin

  • Heather

  • Laura

  • Kara

  • Leah

  • Analise

  • A very nice son-in-law-to-be that's always fixing things for me

  • A sweet grandson on the way

  • Family and friends

  • The privilege of being Lainey's mom

  • A year of trials, pain, and growth

  • Taking a giant step from faith to trust through the trials, fear, and pain

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Dress

Nathan says Autumn's smile is permanent. It's certainly been on her face a lot these past few days since he put the ring on her finger!
A little teaser.....you'll have to wait for February to see the rest.

Autumn, Meagan, Krissy, and I went shopping yesterday in Greenwood...wedding shopping. We had a great day! We found THE dress, the veil, fabric and patterns for the other girls' dresses, the men's ties and shirts. Autumn's dress was marked down to just $25 more than half price; the girls' fabric was half price; the men's ties and shirts were buy one-get one free. What a blessing!!

"In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and shall direct thy paths." God surely directed our path yesterday. We found THE dress in the first store...the first one...and almost half price. As Autumn was standing in front of the mirrors, she said how much she loved the dress and asked if there was any reason to keep shopping. None of us could see any reason to keep shopping if she loved the dress that much, and it fits her perfectly and won't even need any alterations. God is good!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our Friends, The Whisnants

We had a great weekend with the Whisnants. They stopped at our house Saturday morning for breakfast before heading to Rockford, Illinois, to sing. We all loaded up Sunday afternoon and went to Champaign, Illinois, to hear them sing Sunday night. Their concert was wonderful, as usual. Jeff & Susan even dedicated a song to the newly-engaged couple, Autumn & Nathan. They sing a beautiful duet of a song called "I Delighted in the Lord". It's kind of a become Autumn & Nathan's song. The words of the chorus are "I delighted in the Lord and he gave me you. You were the desire of my heart. We are living proof His Word is true. I delighted in the Lord and He gave me you."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dinner with the Evans'

Dr. Wendell Evans was our special guest speaker at church Sunday as we celebrated the church's 17th anniversary. We were honored to host Dr. & Mrs. Evans for dinner. Dr. Evans is the President Emeritus of Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point. He is a godly man that we are honored to call our friend.

Monday, November 7, 2011


12 days old
Autumn has always loved to play the piano.

Seems impossible to imagine it's been 22 years! At this very moment, Gary is rushing to finish the last field of corn before the rain that is predicted moves in. Exactly 22 years ago, Gary finished harvest at about 9 p.m. on November 6th. Just minutes after he came in the house that night, my water broke. I showered, got my bag, and we went to the hospital. Early the next morning, Autumn was born....and it was raining.

Happy birthday, Autumn! We love you, and we're proud of you!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Farm Hands

I can't believe it's been two weeks since I've posted anything on the blog!! The time has just flown by. We have been so busy with so many things, including helping in the field. This picture was taken with the girls' cell phone Tuesday afternoon. We were trying to get the beautiful trees and grassy hill in the background, but the picture doesn't do them justice.

This field is one we farm north of Watseka, Illinois. The variety of corn we planted there this year was dropping ears on the ground pretty bad. We went over there Tuesday afternoon and walked the field with buckets picking up the ears and throwing them in the bed of Gary's pickup. We walked 4 1/2 hours picking up corn until it was too dark to see. Then we ran into Watseka & got pizza and brought it back to the field.

The man that owns the field was there helping. While we were standing around eating our pizza, he said, "They'll remember this for the rest of their lives." I'm sure they'll remember it, but maybe not as a good memory!!

In all seriousness, one of these days they'll appreciate it. I had to work hard when I was a kid. I can't remember ever thinking I hated it or that my parents were mean. I guess my parents made it seem rewarding. I hope we've done the same for our girls. I can remember when I went to the woods with my dad to cut firewood, my dad would tell me to make a game out of it....try to beat my time from the last load or something like that. I know it taught me a lot of character, and I'm one tough cookie!! The girls will benefit from all this hard work one of these days.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Leah - The Graduate

Leah's kindergarten graduation party got pushed aside this spring with all we went through with Lainey. We decided to try and squeeze it in this weekend because Uncle Bill & Aunt Debbie and their kids were going to be up from Lexington for the weekend. We had the grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles and cousins over for a little party this afternoon. Leah had a great time opening her gifts and playing with her cousins.

A Visit from our Friends, The Whisnants

Gary let Austin Whisnant move the combine and put the auger out.
Ethan Whisnant enjoyed driving the Ranger.
The Whisnants, a Southern Gospel singing group, spent Thursday afternoon and evening with us. They parked their bus in the driveway for the night. On Friday morning, Gary & the girls showed them the cows and tried to explain how harvest works. Since it rained so much this week, Gary wasn't able to give them a ride in the combine. Then we all loaded up and went to Wheatland, Indiana, for their concert Friday night. We enjoyed supper afterwards at Denny's before heading our separate ways. We didn't get any pictures of the whole group of us because we were too busy, but "a good time was had by all."
It was the Whisnant's song, Even in the Valley, that meant so much to me during my pregnancy and the loss of Lainey. I will post a Youtube link to the song below.

The Whisnants - Even in the Valley

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Picnic Anyone?

Next time you're invited to our house for a meal, it just might be under our new shelter house. My mom & dad thought this might be a nice addition to our cooking/eating area outside, and I'm sure it will be. They had the contractor that put the roof on their house come over and put this up for us. Isn't it great? Of course, we got it finished just in time for the cold and wind and rain this week! We're checking into our options and cost for enclosing the sides. Then we would put a wood-burning stove inside to cook on and to provide heat during the colder months. Wouldn't that make a great place to go inside to warm up and have a cup of hot chocolate while you're out sledding and playing in the snow? And, of course, we already know it will make a great place to sit in the shade and picnic during the warmer months.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lainey Grace

Lainey has been on my mind a lot this week. The girls and I put fall flowers on her grave this week. I thought I'd take a picture of the stone that is there now for those of you that haven't seen it. We haven't ordered a permanent one yet. I have been selling baked goods at the elevator where Autumn works. I made another deposit in Lainey's fund today. So far we've deposited $136 from our baked goods sales....slowly working our way towards that baby grand piano for the church in Lainey's memory.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our Family Farm Operation

Do you think we should wash it today? This is after following a tractor and wagons from one farm to the other last night after dark with my flashers going. I lost track, but I think I made the round-trip about 10 times. One mile each way was gravel. The dust was billowing so bad behind the wagons that at times I couldn't see them just 15 feet in front of me.

The girls all played in the back of the van with Kara's new birthday toys until about 10:00. Krissy came & picked them up and put them to bed for me. Autumn doesn't know it, but she was in charge last night while she was upstairs asleep and the girls were all sleeping...but they knew if they needed anything that Autumn was there. When I got home about 1:20 a.m., everyone was sleeping peacefully.
Meagan is unloading the grain cart into the wagons for Nathan & Autumn to take them to the bin and unload them. Autumn & Nathan "pooped out" at 8:00, so Bruce, Heather & I took over. I guess we'll forgive them since it was 9:00 Nathan's time, he had an hour's drive home, and he'd been up since 3:30 a.m. We sure appreciated his and everyone's help last night. Autumn wasn't feeling well and had worked from 7-4. Krissy worked from 7-7 and came home to a cold supper. Then she did the dishes & laundry and put the girls to bed for me while I was driving around in circles in a dust storm. Farm life is a family affair...team work.

The pictures directly above and below are from last Friday when we were cutting beans. (Last night we were picking corn.) The picture above shows how we put the grain in the bins. I've helped with that more this year than I have for a long time. Once we get Grandpa up on that tractor, he usually stays there since he's 81 years old. (Last night, he pooped out at 9 p.m.) Thus they need extra help (me) to swing that hopper around after someone (Meagan) pulls the tractor and wagon(s) up there.

This is what we were doing last night until 1 a.m. Bruce drove the tractor pulling the wagons. Heather rode with him to be "the hooker." She would pull the hitch pin on the empty wagons to drop them in the field for Gary & Meagan to fill. Then she would hold the wagon tongue and put the pin in on the full set of wagons. Then we would drive 2 1/2 miles to the other farm where the bin was. Heather & I would push the hopper under the wagon once Bruce got close enough. Then he would get up on the John Deere tractor you see in the picture and start it & turn on the PTO that runs the auger while Heather & I opened the doors to let the grain flow out of the wagon and into the hopper.

Happy Birthday, Kara!!!!

Birthday Meals-on-Wheels

Kara turns 8 today-Columbus Day. We had her birthday party last night IN THE FIELD! This is the first time in those 8 years we've actually had her birthday party in the field, but it just worked out that we needed to this year. She loved it because the girls love to eat in the field.

Heather & Erin made Kara a General Lee birthday cake. (It's chocolate underneath that orange icing.)

A very happy birthday girl! When Kara was born 8 years ago, she was very cooperative and was born on a Sunday so her daddy didn't have to miss any work because he always takes Sundays off. We all got dressed and ready to go back to the evening church service when I decided it was time for Kara to come. The girls all put their play clothes back on and went to Grandma's house. By the end of the church service, Kara was born so we could call the church to let everybody know why we weren't there. She was our biggest baby, weighing 11 lbs. 1 oz.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Karen's Kitchen

Twice baked potatoes


Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies

Gluten-free apple crisp (round) & Regular apple crisp (oblong)

I thought maybe some of you would like to see what a day in my kitchen brings forth. I have people ask me all the time about how I feed all of us. This is what came out of my kitchen yesterday afternoon.

I sent the 2 apple crisps to work with Autumn today. Her boss mentioned that they'd been in harvest two weeks already, and Autumn's mom hadn't sent any treats for them yet. I beat her to the punch because I already had these in the oven when I heard that.

The cookies are chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips in them. I only made a single batch because these dry out pretty fast. I usually don't bother making the mess unless I make a double batch of cookies. I kept some of these for snacks and packaged some in bags of 5 cookies each to send with Autumn (except she forgot them and Krissy had to take them for me). I have a little basket at the elevator where Autumn works that I sell baked goods from for $1. I've been adding that money to Lainey's piano fund.

The strombolis were our supper last night....easy to transport to various places since I didn't know where everyone would be at supper time last night. I made the potatoes for a dinner at church tonight.

It takes a lot to feed this crowd. I never start with anything less than 4 pounds of ground beef....whether it's sloppy joes, strombolis, or whatever. For most potato dishes, I start with 12-14 potatoes. It's normal to make a double batch (12 dozen) cookies every 2 or 3 days.

Last weekend, we had the drivers and their families over for a farewell party on Saturday and a carry-in dinner at church on Sunday. I made 2-8 lb. hams, a double batch of twice baked potatoes, a double batch of green bean casserole, a large bar pan (Pampered Chef) of pumpkin bars, a half sheet pan of brownies, 2-9x13 pans of apple pie bars, 6 eggs worth of homemade noodles with 3 lbs. of chicken......for starters. My friend told me I should open a restaurant. I told her I DO run a restaurant!!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beginning Harvest on the Cooper Farm

They're putting the grain platform on the combine to start combining soybeans. Meagan is in the combine with Gary on one side of the head and Nathan on the other giving her directions. They opened up the field across the road late this afternoon. The girls are looking forward to a long day of riding in the combine tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Harvest--Our Favorite Season

Excitement is running high around here!! Gary's going to start combining beans tomorrow. This is everyone's favorite time of the year at our house.....riding with Dad in the combine....riding with Meagan in the tractor.....riding with Bruce in the semi.....packing the picnic basket and cooler to eat meals in the field.....going to the elevator to get peanuts.....following a tractor after dark with our flashers going.....banging on the side of the wagon to get the last of the beans or corn to run out....the smell of freshly turned dirt. Farmers are just a breed of their own and farm kids are just different from other kids. We LOVE being a farm family. (The picture above was taken exactly a year ago, 10/6/2010. Meagan is running the grain cart while Gary dumps on-the-go. I'll post current pictures later....when I have some!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Posting Comments

Meagan did "something" this evening. I don't know what it was, but she said I should post that you can leave comments now without any "complications." I've had a few people tell me they would leave a comment, but they weren't sure how to do it. Try leaving one! I'd love to hear from some of you. I miss the Guestbook on the Caring Bridge site. It's been all one-sided on the blog.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The End of an Era

After a decade in the trucking business, we are coming off the road. We are having a "going-out-of-business" sale...Anybody need a semi? As you can see, we have a whole barnlot full of them.

This decision has been a long time coming, but there were many factors that were indicators that this was God's timing. September 30th was our last day. Cooper Trucking began April 1, 2001, with a $5 investment to open a checking account. The guy we were working for carried the loan on our first truck. Scott Floyd was our first driver.

Over the past 10 1/2 years, we've seen 30 drivers come through here. God has given us the opportunity to minister to many of them in different ways. We've presented the Gospel to them every year at our annual Christmas party. We even were blessed to see one driver that we had to let go accept Christ as his Savior when he met Gary to turn in his truck and phone. It has been a decade of growth as our faith has been increased. There have been good times and bad, happy times and sad, mountain peaks and valleys.

It's been a bit scary to take this step, but exciting at the same time. The business has become very stressful. Gary is really looking forward to harvest without having to spend his day trying to orchestrate truck repairs over the phone while sitting at the end of the field with everyone waiting on him to get off the phone.

People have asked, "What are you going to do with all your spare time?" or "What are you going to do now?" The answers to those questions would be that we plan to be able to spend more time together as a family, to be more involved in our church, to actually be able to talk to Gary, to be able to go places when we want to & not have to stay close to home in case there's a service call. Nineteen years ago, we told Gary's dad that we didn't want to take over the dairy operation when he retired because we didn't want to be tied down and never able to leave home. The trucks have become those dairy cows to us. Somebody we'd never met before asked Gary today if he was retired. I snickered and said, "He's not old enough to retire even though he looks like it." Gary said he hoped it would feel like he was retired in the near future without all the trucks and drivers to babysit.

This has been quite a year with Lainey, Krissy, and now this...so many life-changing events. As you all know, music is a big part of our life and I'm always quoting a favorite song. What comes to mind now is .......Here on the potter's wheel, I find myself once more...I'll trust the potter's hand. He knows what's best for me. He has a perfect plan these human eyes can't see. He's the potter. I'm the clay. He knows just how much I can take. When I face the fire again, I'll trust the potter's hand.