Saturday, January 04, 2014

2013 in review and looking forward to 2014

Dear friends and family and random readers --

During 2013 our household moved from the Wartburg Seminary campus to Harmony, MN for a year of internship and field work. Now that Shawn is halfway through his pastoral internship with three area churches (Greenfield Lutheran in Harmony, St. Paul Lutheran at Big Spring and St. Matthew’s Lutheran in Granger) the rest of us are getting used to hearing everyone in the community refer to him as “Pastor Shawn.” Unfortunately due to Tami’s schedule as a Chaplain Resident at Mayo Clinic hospitals we rarely get to worship together, but that makes the Sundays we do join together to worship at one or more of the churches all the more special.

Nessa is enjoying her year as a 3rd-grader at Fillmore Central Elementary school in nearby Preston, MN, and her obsessions this past year have included the extremes of Harry Potter (all books and movies) and the smurfs (mom & dad are a bit tired of hearing La la la-la la). Thankfully Nessa also enjoys playing in the snow, legos, Barbies, arts and crafts, many games, and still loves to share her love for reading. This year Nessa was a wise man in the Greenfield Lutheran Kid’s Christmas program, and sang a verse of “We Three Kings” solo, and she loved being in the program so much that she was very sad when it was over.

Megan, a sophomore at La Crescent High School, is now driving as often as she can while still dreaming of the day she will own her own car. She started her first “real job” this year working at the Hokah Hardware store which is awesome for spending money although it adds to her busy schedule.

When not working or studying (although it's a lot of work she is happily taking both Chemistry and Biology this year and tells me she loves the lab work they get to do), Megan loves to hunt and participate in shooting sports (bow hunting is her new favorite). She is also a great cook and baker, and we all appreciate that talent!

Now a few photos and tidbits from the past year:

OK, so this first photo is actually from the very end of 2012 ... happy sisters snuggling on the couch in our home in Dubuque, and showing me Nessa has had the same basic hair cut for over a year now (wow, time flies!)

Here is Megan with Grandma Karen holding up Megan's first quilt that she made (with LOTs of help and inspiration from Grandma). Megan and Tami spent part of Megan's Spring Break in 2013 up in Cumberland and most of our time was spent on this lovely quilt! Beautiful memories!

Nessa on her 8th birthday (April 2, 2013). She wanted the log roll cake like we had had at Christmas, so Tami made it happen even in the midst of our busy Spring semester schedule.

And before we knew it, it was time for our move to Harmony, MN for internship year! (Also, Tami apparently doesn't have any great pics from summer ... this is also where you might notice that I do not have many pics of Shawn ... thankfully he hasn't changed except for a few more grey hairs ... but I promise some pictures of him actually in-action sometime this year)

Above is Nessa standing in our "library" in our home in Harmony this summer. Below is Nessa using Tami's well-used yoga mat to spread legos out on while enjoying time in our three-season porch. We used that porch A LOT when we first moved in, and then realized even a 3-season porch can only be used about 6 months out of the year in MN ... Tami misses yoga on the porch every morning and everyone else is probably tired of dealing with the yoga mat and cushions in the family room.

Tami turned 42 this year and the girls helped celebrate with cake while Shawn took a pic:

We spent August unpacking the Harmony house (otherwise known as "the vicarage") and just in time (Nessa was getting bored without a neighborhood full of kids), it was back to school! Below is a pic of Tami and Nessa on their first day to school/Residency.

And then it was time for Megan's hunting season(s) to begin. She had a successful hunting year ... but what I love best is her smile! And those happy eyes aren't bad either!

And finally a few pictures from Christmas 2013 (when I was the only one snapping pics):

 This cold cold winter has made our family room and the fire place that we can turn on with a flip of a switch one of the favorite places in the house! It also makes a great places to hang our Christmas stockings!


This next year should find us moving back to the Wartburg Seminary Campus in Dubuque in August 2014, as Shawn and Tami embark on one last academic year (graduation May 2015!) prior to moving wherever their first ministry calls take them. For now though we take things one day at a time loving each other and those people God puts before us each day in ministry. We hold each of you in our hearts and prayers as we embrace the New Year! As always you can find us sharing frequent funny tidbits, photos, and more on Facebook as well as catch occasional thoughtful blog posts (we promise updates in early 2014!). We look forward to hearing from and visiting with each of you soon!

Tami (,
Shawn (,
Megan and Nessa

P.S. While I get nostalgic when I look at this blog, it's probably about time to actually update the pics and links on the borders of the posts (you know for those actually viewing in a browser on a computer instead of using a phone or tablet like I do most of the time!)

Monday, January 09, 2012

A New Year's Wish

Shawn here.*

So much for our intent to try to update this once a month. The reality of the seminary work schedule, where there's always something to do and always something due, kept that from happening. Perhaps once a year is a realistic schedule? In any case, this post will serve as our version of a year-in-review Christmas letter.

For those of you who have been completely out of touch, and who haven't read any of the previous posts on this blog, and aren't Facebook friends with us, and who haven't talked to any of our other friends/relatives in 2011, and ... is there anyone who meets all of these qualifications? If you do, you should know that we moved in July.

OK, there was a bit more to it than that. Let's recap. At the beginning of 2011, Shawn was employed by SAP as a computer programmer, Tami was employed by Thrivent Financial as a Financial Advisor, Megan was attending La Crescent Middle School in La Crescent, MN, and Nessa was attending La Crescent Montessori School. I'm happy to report that Megan is still attending La Crescent Middle School and doing well (more below). As for the rest of us, well...

Even last January, big changes were afoot. Shawn and Tami had both applied to and been accepted at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, IA, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America--Shawn in the Masters of Divinity program and Tami in the Master of Arts, DiaconalMinistry program. Shawn had already been granted permission by the La Crosse Area Synod of the ELCA to enter seminary, while Tami was still working through that process.

In February, Tami left Thrivent Financial in order to concentrate on getting our house ready to sell. This became her full-time "job" for over two months. She was very, very good at it. She chose several realtors for us to interview, arranged the meetings, started going through all of the accumulated clutter in our house, and doing everything else necessary to get the house on the market. In March, we were able to take advantage of some unseasonably warm weather to paint the exterior trim on our house. Then, naturally, after weeks of warm weather and occasional rain and just after Tami bought lots of flowers to place around the exterior of the house for showings, it snowed on the day they were going to come take pictures for the listing.

On April 2nd, Nessa turned six, and had some of her cousins and a few friends come to our house for the party. Tami had her final interview with the Synod and was also given permission to enter seminary. Shawn learned that he had been nominated for a full-tuition scholarship through theELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission. Also, all of Tami's hard work on the house (Shawn helped some with the painting and hauled things to storage units, but really, Tami did 80%+ of the work) and the excellent advice of our realtor paid off when we got a signed counteroffer approximately 50 hours after the first showing of the house. Yes, two days. Yes, we realize how blessed we were--it was a major prayer answered. Later in April we had a major hailstorm which shattered the rear window on our van, broke a couple of windows in the living room, and caused damage to the roof. Fortunately, this did not cause the buyers to change their minds.

In May we closed on our house and moved to the old farmhouse on Tami's parents' farm inRidgeway, MN, 20 minutes west of the Mississippi River. For the next two months the upstairs floor of the farmhouse was our home. Thank you Grandpa and Grandma Groth! Almost all of our possessions were in two storage units, awaiting the move to Dubuque. It was no fun moving twice in two months, but it was so much better than some of the alternatives!

In June, Nessa had her bridging ceremony at La Crescent Montessori School, symbolizing that she had finished her time in one multiyear classroom and was moving on to another. It was bittersweet for all of us because Nessa wasn't going to be in that new classroom. Also in June, Shawn was told that he had been awarded the full tuition scholarship from the ELCA. Finally, on Thursday, June 30th, Shawn walked out of the door at SAP for the last time, saying goodbye to his career as a computer programmer. That wasn't bittersweet at all. He misses the people, but not the job.

On July 6th the moving trucks came to the storage units and we loaded up everything and headed for Dubuque. We were sad to leave our friends in La Crosse and La Crescent, especially our fellowship group at our home congregation, Good Shepherd in La Crosse, but we were excited to formally start this grand adventure we're on. We spent the next few weeks unpacking, arranging, applying, transferring, and all the other stuff that comes with a change of address, as well as the extra stuff that comes with changing states. On July 16th Megan turned 14. She continues to blossom into a mature, capable teenager. Soon after Megan's birthday, Dubuque was hit by tremendous rains one evening--it rained over 15 inches in 12 hours. We, and several others in seminary housing, got water in our basement. We were lucky--most of our stuff was unpacked and off the floor, and we were able to get the remaining boxes to safety in time. All we really lost were most of our empty boxes, which we had been planning to save, and a few days of unpacking time as we dealt with things. On July 25th Shawn started summer Greek at Wartburg, and seminary officially began. Meanwhile, Tami cooked, took care of paperwork, unpacked, and generally did everything else so Shawn could concentrate on Greek. Nessa contributed by making friends and playing outside a lot.

In August, Tami hit a milestone birthday with class and grace (it helps that she has a much older husband to help her feel young). The celebration was low-key. Nessa started first grade at her new school in Dubuque, Bryant Elementary. The differences between a regular public school and her Montessori school took some getting used to, but she has settled in and is doing very well. She gets glowing reports from her teacher, who can't believe Nessa ever causes problems at home. Nessa's reading has really taken off, and she is into chapter books in a big way. She regularly brings home reading from school, library books from the Bryant library, and library books from the Dubuque public library. We also still read to her--we spent the summer working through A Series of Unfortunate Events and have now moved onto others. Nessa is learning addition and subtraction, and generally does quite well on her spelling tests. She's at that charming stage where her writing is often phonetic and thus sometimes like code to read and decypher, but it's getting better as the year goes along. Nessa generally likes school, but she really likes the after-school room at Wartburg, a room staffed by work-study students where school-aged kids can go for a couple of hours to let off some steam and just have unstructured fun.

Also in August Megan once again started cross-country. She made big strides this year, improving her times and reaching some personal goals. She was pleased with what she accomplished and we are proud of what she has achieved. Megan continues to play trumpet in band and to do well in school. She has an additional distraction this year named Chris, but so far he doesn't seem to have affected her performance too much. However, between Chris and Megan’s girlfriends, we are very glad that our cell phone plan has unlimited texting. Megan continues to get outdoors whenever possible. She did not show goats at the fair for 4H this year, but did compete in several other areas. She also enjoys spending time with her friends at sleepovers and such. Megan is finishing up Confirmation at Good Shepherd and should be confirmed this spring.

Shawn finished Summer Greek a few days before Labor Day, having completed the equivalent of two semesters of Greek in 5 1/2 weeks. He likens it to sprinting a marathon. We all went back to La Crosse for a long Labor Day weekend.

In September, Tami and Shawn started fall semester. The first week was a one-week intensive course for everyone in our class year, and then normal classes started the next week. It took us a while to establish a routine of who does homework when and so on, but once we got it down we got into a rhythm. The semester was unlike anything Shawn or Tami have ever experienced. The amount of reading was huge, and one really needs to plan out when one does which assignments in order to avoid being overwhelmed. It is immersive in every sense, but it is also rewarding and can be exhilarating. Shawn went to Chicago at the end of September for a banquet where he was formally awarded his scholarship. He found it interesting, if a little strange, to be in a room full of bishops, seminary presidents, and other movers and shakers and yet be one of the centers of attention.

In October Megan came to Dubuque for a few days when on break from school. She doesn't get down here very often, so we look forward to it when she comes. Our niece and nephew Ahnika and Cully were here at the same time. Unfortunately, Nessa's break was a different week, so she was in school when her cousins were here. But they still had time to play in the afternoons and on the weekend. Shawn and Tami’s class organized a pumpkin carving event that weekend, and someone else in the community took some wonderful pictures of the kids. Nessa also took an acting class through a local community theatre in October.

In November, Megan got a buck while deer hunting. She was very excited. She had previously gotten a doe, but this was her first buck. Nessa joined a group of seminary kids who are the cheerleaders for the Running Reformers, the Wartburg basketball team in the Dubuque community league.

In December, Shawn and Tami finished their first semester of seminary classes. It was a little crazy getting everything done, but they managed to do it without imploding or exploding. Nessa was in two Christmas programs: she was a shepherd in the program at Good Shepherd, and an angel in the Christmas Eve program at our Dubuque church, St. John's in St. Donatus, IA. She enjoyed them both. We spent Christmas Day here in Dubuque, then went to La Crosse for a few days between Christmas and New Year's. New Year's Eve was a quiet one back in Dubuque.

January finds Shawn and Tami on J-Term. Tami is in Gettysburg, PA, for a required Formation Event in her Diaconal Ministry program, so Shawn is in Dubuque with Nessa and doing an independent study consisting of reading several books by C. S. Lewis. Megan and Nessa are back in school. Spring semester begins for Shawn and Tami at the end of January.

We had been working towards this year for quite a while, and now that we have finally experienced it I think it was everything we hoped it would be. The journey is far from complete, so stay tuned. In the meantime, we wish you all a happy, healthy, and blessed 2012.


*Tami and I used to have posts to this blog automatically become Notes on both of our Facebook pages. I believe Facebook has disconnected that, but just in case I'm wrong, those who see this on Facebook should know who the author is (in case it isn't evident stylistically).

Monday, September 05, 2011

Back to School Time!

Tami here, with a quick update (long overdue, I realize!)

In order to actually get this published, unlike the few times I started a transition post this Spring and Summer, it will be primarily done in bullet points. Since most of our readers are also facebook friends I will also leave the photos out as we have posted them there for you to see. However, since facebook posts get lost over time and there seem to many friends just catching bits of our journey, we decided that it is still a good idea to keep the family blog going, and one of us will try to post at least once a month.

  • Our permanent address is now Dubuque, IA. If you do not have this address, and would like it, please send us a private message or email. (We quickly and successfully sold our house in La Crosse in April! and then stayed at the farm (thanks Mom and Dad Groth!) until moving here in July)
  • We moved to Dubuque to attend Wartburg Seminary (we as in Tami and Shawn)
  • Shawn just completed Summer Greek as the first requirement for his M.Div degree at Wartburg. He finished with an A if any of you are wondering. This means he can translate New Testament Greek (or knows how to find and use tools to do so).
  • Tami and Shawn both start Fall 2011 classes this week! Watch for links to our blogs to follow our specific journeys more closely.
  • Tami is looking forward to getting into a fall routine that includes leaving Thursdays after class to go up to "the farm" to spend time with Megan. (This means I will spend all or most of each Friday studying somewhere in La Crosse -- let me know if you want to provide a study break sometime.)
  • Shawn is enjoying not having to mow the lawn or fix bugs!
  • Shawn embarked on a Paleo/Primal nutritional plan earlier this summer (with Tam's help), and has lost about 30 pounds and several inches (he didn't take great before and after measurements because the intent was solely for health reasons rather than weight loss. He is also walking and doing a few other exercise and feeling great!
  • Tami is exercising for the love of it rather than training for any races and now does as much walking as running as she looks forward to getting back to Yoga as well as possibly trying some new exercise classes her in Dubuque.

  • Nessa has always been slow to warm up to changes that are not her idea and takes extra time to transition so we are so thankful that she is making lots of new friends and doing wonderful here in the Wartburg community!
  • Nessa started first grade here a couple of weeks ago, and seems to love school. So far, she does her homework without complaint and is enjoying all subjects.
  • If asked, her favorite "subject" is still recess, lunch or possibly PE.
  • Nessa has decided to be a snow princess for Halloween. This is good news for mom because the most I will need to buy is a new tiara to replace the one that broke.
  • Nessa made the final decision on where our Dubuque church home would be, and she selected, St. John's Lutheran Church in St. Donatus, IA
  • Nessa lost her first tooth a couple of weeks ago -- while eating homemade ice cream! Doesn't say a lot for our ice cream making skills, but it will be remembered!
  • Nessa says her favorite thing about where we live now is "the kids!!!!" She LOVES playing outside and learning new group games (there are about 40 kids in our Wartburg student housing neighborhood)

  • Megan is remaining in the La Crescent area to attend school and is looking forward to starting 8th grade this week!
  • Megan started her second season of Cross Country by running her personal best one mile at the first meet!!! (we're so proud of you Megan!)
  • Megan again took many projects too the Houston County fair, and looks forward to returning to take goats again next year.
  • By observation I would say that Megan's favorite thing to do is hang out with her friends, and why not they are a wonderful group!
The much-appreciated cool weather that arrived today has me even more in the "back-to-school" mood, and has confirmed that this is indeed my favorite time of the year.

If you are interested in following our blogs that will focus on faith and our journey through seminary, you can find them here:

Shawn's is at: Leaving Myself Behind
Tami's is at: Love and Belief

And as always you can find our various brief updates on Facebook! (For those of you that are new FB friends, our family blog posts as a note in both of our FB feeds.) But if we neglected to tie up all the loose ends and answer your questions about what we are doing these days, please just ask! (And we know we never sent a Christmas letter last year ... we will try to send something out this year, but are not making any promises). We appreciate hearing from each of you in all ways (here on the blog -- please comment -- or in person or other places online).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The official listing links!

I wanted to post this Monday but the activity on the house (and the rest of life) has continued to keep me busy!

So this is a nice link to use to see the shots of the house:

Or, you can see the original Trulia listing here:

Here is the Gerrard-Hoeschler site as well which is a good one to forward to people as you can easily request a showing via the online form :-)

There is an open house this Sunday April 3rd from 11 to 12:30!

and a bonus for pic for all of you --

From 2011-03-25

Nessa enjoying the new pillows she discovered in our bedroom!

As a reminder Shawn and I are both off of Facebook until Easter. This will show up as a note in both of our FB feeds. We will see comments via the emails we get but will not be replying via FB, so contact us privately or reply directly on the blog for any comments back from us please. Thank you for your support, thoughts and prayers this Spring and always!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The sign is up!

Quick note from Tami (reminder to FB readers -- blog posts end up under BOTH my FB notes and Shawn's FB notes*)

I will update with a longer blog post and link to the full listing, but wanted to quickly share my own photo of Nessa next to the For Sale sign that went up in our yard this afternoon! Nessa is not thrilled with the fact that we are selling the house, but is I think glad that I won't be quite so busy prepping the house for sale (of course she doesn't know the reality of having a house for sale yet either).

Friday, November 05, 2010

Nessa learns to tie her shoes ... and a few other things

Tami here -- I have been thinking about resurrecting this blog ever since school started so that I could at least update everyone on what the girls have been up to. I will start with Nessa because we are at the point where nearly anything I say about Megan online needs to be cleared with her first. :-) (But she has all As and accomplished a lot in her first Cross Country season). (Also, for new facebook friends, all of our blog posts show up on both Shawn and my facebook pages as notes)

Isn't that a gorgeous smile? I can tell how proud she is, and I can just hear her going to tell everyone that she can tie!

This morning as after I lifted Nessa into the van and had to quickly tie her shoe I mentioned in passing that she needed to learn to tie her shoes soon.

I was not really complaining though because she has been so busy learning so many other things. I am surprised her head is not swelling with all that knowledge -- like how to read! In a matter of a month things have totally just clicked (like I knew it would at some point) and Nessa has gone from just knowing all the letters and sounds to being able to sound out anything that follows typical phonetics, knowing the most common other rules (like silent e), and memorizing many many sight words! In fact this morning when I dropped Nessa off to school she asked me to stay so she could read to me -- I didn't realize I would be sitting there for 20 minutes! -- it was a long book by her standards (20 to 25 pages??) and while still a very early learning to read type book it was divided into three chapters so I was congratulating her on reading a chapter book. :-)

Nessa has also been busy with many math, science, sensory projects and more. In my next post on her Montessori kindergarten education I will include some specific experiments and works they do in these areas. Nessa went into the year with math as her favorite subject, but at least for awhile reading has claimed that top spot for her attention, and one of the blessings of Montessori is that when Nessa is really interested in working on reading she can chose to work on reading (and related works) most of the day rather than moving from subject to subject. She still works on a wide variety of subjects throughout the week however, and there excellent teacher makes sure the kids are meeting any requirements.

So, back to our story about the morning... Although I had only mentioned shoe tying in passing, Nessa quickly commented that she was going to ask her teacher to get out the tie board today so she could learn, and that is exactly what she did! When I opened my email mid-morning there was a message from her teacher with these pictures! :-)

I'm looking forward to a blessed weekend with a girl who can tie her shoes AND read!

Friday, April 02, 2010

To Nessa Rose On Her 5th Birthday

Five years old! I don’t know why that seems like a bigger deal than any of your other birthdays, but it does. Some days you seem like you’re trying to be fifteen, and some days you seem like you want to be two again, but most days you’re just a slightly precocious little girl who (mostly) acts her age, and that’s fine with me.

I see so much of me in you, sweet girl. Sometimes that makes us butt heads because we’re so much alike, and you know how to push my buttons (much to the amusement of your mother). Sometimes it’s just payback; I often think your Grandma Brooks is smiling. But the rest of the time it’s why we have so much fun together. You love to be silly, and I’m very good at silly. You love when I give you ridiculous answers to your questions, and you love telling me my answers are silly. You love asking questions, and I love answering them for you. You love it (most of the time) when I tickle you, and you’ve started trying to learn how to tickle by practicing on me. You love climbing on me and rolling around with me and generally being goofy.

I see your mother in you as well: I often see her attitudes, her expressions, and her gestures coming from you. I enjoy seeing what you’ve drawn from me, what you’ve drawn from her, and what seems to be uniquely your own. We get tantalizing glimpses of the person you’re going to become, and it makes me so curious to know what you’ll be like as you get older. Not that I’m in any hurry—there’s so much to enjoy along the way, and I don’t want to miss it.

We have our struggles. You get very frustrated with the fact that everyone else gets to set the rules and you only get to obey them. You have so much to say and feel and express that you sometimes have trouble doing it all on someone else’s schedule. Your independent streak hasn’t gotten any narrower. I’m sorry for the times that I’m not patient enough with you. I hope someday you’ll understand why that happens. But we have so much fun as well: playing games, exploring the world through your observations and questions, going to the library or the Y or the park, reading stories, and all the other stuff we do. I cherish the good times with you more than almost anything, and every day when I wake up I hope that we’ll find something fun to do together.

A lot of your accomplishments this year have been just getting better at things you were already doing, but there have been some new achievements as well. You can now write your name very well without help, and have started writing other words as well. Your coloring is much better, as are all the other craft things you love to do. You can use a scissors very well when you want to and aren’t in a hurry. You’ve become a good climber, although getting down is sometimes a problem. You love to dance, and do it well enough that other people notice and comment. You’re singing is getting better as well, although stage fright sometimes keeps anyone but your Mom and me from noticing that. You can get milk out of the refrigerator and pour it yourself, even if you do have to stand on the inside floor of the refrigerator to reach the milk.

That brain of yours is a marvel, sweet girl. I am still astonished at times by the connections you make and the things you figure out all on your own. You can use complex sentences and put thoughts together in a logical order when you’re trying to explain or understand something. You have gotten very good at rhyming words and often rattle off a whole string of them, some real and some you’ve just made up. You’ve started exploring letters and their sounds in a serious way. You have a good memory; you’ve memorized the basic story of whole books and all the songs you learn in school and Sunday School. It feels like you’re so close to unlocking the reading code and taking off into whole new worlds all on your own. I will be so happy for you when that happens!

Lastly, you have truly become a child of God. You know that God will listen to you, that he is there for you and loves you. You talk to him regularly. You love Bible stories, videos, and all the fun things you do at church. We’re on that road together, you and I. Your baptism brought both of us to faith, and I look forward to continuing to teach and lead you as I learn and as we go along.

I say this every year, Nessa Rose, but it’s still true: your mommy and I love you, more and more with each passing day. I thank God every day for the two of you and for your sister. The three of you are the greatest of the many blessings I’ve received, and you, sweet girl, are my greatest treasure, my greatest joy, and my grandest adventure. Thank you for being my daughter, Nessa Rose. I can just hear you saying “Daddy, I didn’t have a choice,” and that’s true, but I thank you anyway. No matter what else I have or don’t have, you make me rich beyond measure.

I love you, Nessa Rose. Happy birthday!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So that is how it works!

Tami here.

Yesterday I was looking through Nessa's baby book with her and when we came to the page with pictures right after she was born I read the date listed at the top of the page, "Saturday April 2, 2005."

Nessa got very, very excited, "OH! I was born on my birthday!!!!"

She had such a huge grin on her face that I almost didn't want to explain to her that that was actually the way it works. :-)