Louisa and Beatrix – Newborn Photoshoot!

By Katie

Bethlehem Twins 2017 Dec 13_01

A week or so after Louisa and Beatrix made their entrance into the world, Rita Zietsma, from Rita Zietsma Photography, made the 3 hour drive to visit them and to snap a few pictures.

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In addition to being a beloved aunt, she also was the photographer who took the newborn shots of Atticus and Vivien.   I love that she has been there to capture all my kids in their first weeks of life.

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She doesn’t only do Newborn Photography, but has a stunning array of works of art.  You can check out her website here and see some gorgeous shots from her work and travels.



I can’t believe this happened 3.5 months ago already.  Lousia and Beatrix seem like giants compared to these tiny babies!

Looking back at these shots is reminding me to really try to treasure this time with Lousia and Beatrix.  I have said before that I struggle in the first year, but even seeing how much they have grown already makes me realize that this season is so fleeting.

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This is the funniest shot to me: we couldn’t get Vivien to smile for the life of us!

Looking at teeny tiny Louisa and Beatrix made me want to see the newborn shots of Atticus and Vivien as well.  It has only been 4 years since Will and I started on this journey of parenthood.  How our life has changed!


Beatrix reminds me so much of Atticus!  But I have heard there is a lot of VanGrootheest in Beatrix, and there is so much Bethlehem in Atticus, I don’t know what to think anymore!


I see a lot of Vivien in Louisa.  Especially in this shot:

Bethlehem Vivien Newborn 2015 Jun 12_24-Edit

And my favourite shot of Vivien’s session.  I can’t believe these 2 monkeys were ever this small!

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Wow.  God has richly blessed me!

Now, if only all of parenthood was as idyllic as these shots make it seem!


Can We Live in a Porn-Free World?

By Katie

*This post contains affiliate links.  It doesn’t cost you anything, but it may give us something*

This post is a departure from my usual posts. But its important.

I attend BayRidge Alliance Church with my family.  One of the ministries offered by BayRidge is Shift Parenting Seminars, designed to equip parents to raise their children in the fear of the Lord in a world bent on evil.

This past Sunday, BayRidge hosted Strength to Fight for its March seminar.  Strength to Fight is an organization that sheds light on the evils of the porn industry and equips parents to prepare their children to navigate a porni-fied world.

Josh Gilman spoke of the awful statistics that tell of the havoc porn is reeking on our homes.  The stats brought shock to my heart and tears to my eyes.  The stats of how many men and women and children are entrapped, of how the porn being produced is violent and sadistic, that this violent porn is setting the parameters of how men and women and adolescents  view sex and relationships.

But I don’t want to focus on those facts.  You probably have heard them and maybe you feel defeated already.  But Gilman left me with a way to beat the porn industry: to talk about its evils, to put words to my disgust, and to give words to others to speak of theirs.

And so I am.

One of the things that shocked me was that MindGeek, a company that disseminates over 90% of the porn worldwide, is located in Montreal.   Montreal, Canada.  That’s 3 hours down the 401 from me. In a global world, that is my back yard.

He believes that a bill geared towards limiting the availability of porn in Canada was gutted due to MPs being influenced by MindGeek.  That has got to stop.  We can not have a corporation dedicated to destroying lives for money influencing our government.

But there is hope: Gilman said that they are starting to see, in the last 2 to 3 years, internal correspondence in MindGeek speaking of their  fear that public opinion may be shifting away from being accepting of porn.

We can live in a porn-free world.

Gilman believes that we can change our porno-fied culture within the generation, much like public acceptance of slavery was shifted over a short time.  But it needs to be because of the people.  We need to say out loud, to our family, friends and neighbours, that this worldview is not ok.

I come to the table as a mom.  I fear for my son and daughters.  My initial thought is to shelter them, to shut them off from the world.  But I was told that they will eventually encounter pornographic images, and my responsibility is to teach them how to deal with it.

Right now,  I am not worried that my kids will accidentally click something, because they currently do not have access.  My kids get no screen time.

But some day they will.  And I want to start building the foundation of trust and openness today, so that if they do encounter something in the future, they will know they can talk to me.

There is a book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures.  This book had been on my radar for a while, and I had heard positive things about it from other parents.  Strength to Fight was selling copies and I picked up the junior version, written for 3-6 year olds.

Good Pictures Bad Pictures gives me the language to speak to my children in a way to prepare them and protect them, without scaring them.  It tells them what is bad, and what to do if they see something that is bad.

I read it to my kids today.  I read the very basic version and I did not include words like “pornography” because the other idea that stuck with me was “be specific, but not graphic.”  My kids are sheltered, and I don’t want to give them more then they can handle.  You need to prepare your kids as they become ready, building on previous conversations.

The last few pages of the book gives kids practical things they can do if they encounter a bad picture.

Today, Atticus walked by me and casually said, “if I see a bad picture, I can tell my mom.”

This is how I can protect my kids.  They need to know that if they encounter porn it is bad, but it doesn’t make them bad.  They need to know they can tell me and we will walk that path together.  They need to know I will not react in fear and anger, but in love.

Good Pictures Bad Pictures also talked about what to do if someone tries take bad pictures of kids.  I believe this book gives language to kids so they know what is good and bad and they can protect themselves.

I weep for the world that we are in.  But I take joy in the work of organizations like Strength to Fight who are working to equip me to help and protect my kids.

*This post contains affiliate links.  It doesn’t cost you anything, but it may give us something*

Its Been 3 Months.

by Katie



Its been a while.

But, I feel like I have the perfect little scapegoats: Louisa and Beatrix (case in point: immediately after writing that sentence, Louisa started  crying and needed her soother.)


They are 13 weeks old.  But it might be 14 weeks.  I am at the point where the weeks blend into each other, and  I should be saying their age in months.

So, they are 3 months.

I can’t believe it because it seems like yesterday I was sitting on my bed getting ready to go to the hospital, but it also feels like 13 years since I got to sleep without waking up to feed a baby or two.

The first year is my least favourite year of parenting.  I feel that it is a year fraught with anxiety and stress and crying and hormones.   I am always convinced that there is something wrong with either one or both of the babies.  I feel helpless when they are both crying because they want my attention, and despite the fact that there are two babies, there still is only 1 of me.


I haven’t been able to tandem feed because both Louisa and Beatrix have a bit of reflux.  Not enough to medicate, but enough that if I don’t hold them upright immediately after a feed they spit up all their food all over.  In Beatrix’s case, its a spew that can go several feet.  In Louisa’s case, its a constant dribble.   Not tandem feeding means that I am feeding approximately 276 hours a day.

But these incredible months have also been filled with cuddles and smiles and coos and lots of love.  It is a humbling to see 2 little newborns develop and learn.  It is a blessing to see Atticus and Vivien love and play with them.  Atticus is actively trying to teach them to talk.  Vivien to trying to teach them … I am not sure what, but it involves a lot of toys and singing and patting.


They are starting to notice each other when they are laying beside each other.  The smiles they give to each other are precious!


I still can’t believe that God has given me 2 of His children to raise.  There are many times my heart cries out to God, telling Him that I was right and that I can’t do twins.  But there times of peace as well, when I feel myself being help up by Him; times when I don’t know how I am going to make it to the end of the day, but I do make it through His strength;  times when I am so overwhelmed by His love, that He gave up His Son for me.

I am so thankful for these 2 girls and for their older brother and sister.



Best. Movie. Ever.

by Vicki

I don’t normally watch movies. I don’t normally go to the theaters. I definitely don’t normally do a movie review. In all honesty, this will probably by my one and only.


This movie begs to be watched, reviewed, and shared. I watched the entire movie having to remind myself to breath – because I was enjoying it just so much! Its been all the rage for a couple of weeks now so I know you probably won’t be surprised when I say:

Go watch The Greatest Showman.

Just do it. Watch it. Now. Stop reading this post and go watch the movie.

One of my good friends invited me to go and watch with her, and well, I guess I owe her ‘one’ for introducing me to my new favorite movie! Haha!

It was captivating, entertaining, heart breaking and interesting. You go on a journey with the characters and follow along as they develop and grow. The fact that this movie is loosely based on P.T. Barnum’s actual life is pretty cool. While it’s important to note that many details have been changed or dramatized, it is still an interesting snap shot of a different time in history. I love a good historical fiction and this one didn’t disappoint.

Now, it is a musical. But, wow. The music is fun, catchy and adds so much to the story-line. I came home and immediately downloaded the entire sound track to my phone. Its all we’ve been listening to for the past week (+) and my kids already know the words (they actually request certain songs).

I think the movie is good for the entire family. We will definitely be watching it with Peyton when it comes out on Rogers on Demand. She will love the dancing, music and circus acts! Its a clean movie and I believe there was minimal (any?) offending language. Gah! I can’t wait to watch it again! (Which is saying something for me because I normally don’t watch movies more than once).

Anyways, if you are still reading this, go and watch The Greatest Showman. Learn about the circus, P.T. Barnum’s life, and (of course) sit back and enjoy the show!

Go to this link to listen to one of the amazing songs from the soundtrack: A Million Dreams. 😉 My little {valentine’s} gift to you! Because I am a dork I’ve started singing this song to Dax as I rock him to sleep! (Haha, I am. I’m a total dork!).

Have a happy weekend!


Nursery Reveal…(finally).

by Vicki.

Months (and months and months) ago I shared the start of our nursery renovation. At the time I promised a final reveal within the month. Ha! It would have been better to promise it within the year. It took me quite a while to decide on all the little details and to be 100% happy with the final results. But now that I am, I love this room! I love how it looks and I think its my favorite room in the house!

Without further ado, here’s the final reveal of Dax’s Nursery!!!!!

The light is one of my favorite items in the room – an exciting Home Sense find! Its blown glass, wood details, and big bulb wonderment! We also added a little greenery in the form of a hanging plant to freshen the room up a bit and purchased the dresser/change table from a Facebook Auction site (its a beautiful green/grey which I absolutely love). The rug is an IKEA purchase, I love its natural look and it keeps my feet warm for the middle of the night feedings/checks.



The closet is small in the room (this room is small in general) so we needed to find a way to make it more functional. We added these barnboard shelves along the top and sides and added these banana leaf woven baskets (from Walmart) for diapers, next size up clothing, bibs/beanies/suspenders, and shoes/moccassins/Padraigs. It looks great and is super useful for hiding and storing all of those baby things!


I found this wire magazine rack at Home Sense (love me my Home Sense!) and knew it would work so well for Dax’s books, some receiving blankets and this fun apple pillow I bought from PatPat (all the way from Australia). The little house shelves were a find from Walmart (who is really upping its decor game lately) and when I saw them I knew I needed to take them  home with me.


This bear blanket is from the very talented Willow and Wheat (she’s one of my favorite Canadian small shops – a rocking mom at home with her two boys making beautiful items). The monkey is a Jellycat stuffie – we always buy a “special” stuffie for our babies when they come home from the hospital. So far Dax hasn’t overly bonded with the monkey, but I still hold out hope.


It only took 11 months but I finally printed off some newborn photos of Dax. This picture was taken by my very talented Aunt. Rita Zietsma Photography – she’s fun to work with, takes excellent photos, and captured our baby in his yummy newness. The table is from Winners and the lamp and frame are from Home Sense. The little house is from Walmart. Its actually a candle holder but I thought it was cute for Dax’s extra soothers. Can you tell that I am channeling my inner Sherry from Young House Love blog/podcast with the tiny house obsession?! I can’t walk by a little house in a store without at least putting it in my cart (and 99% of the time taking it home with me!).


Of course this room wouldn’t be complete without a bit of macrame! This one is from an etsy shop in France, but I would suggest checking out Macrame by JM if you’re in the market!


I found these frames at Home Sense. Theyre the perfect combination of woody knobyness and texture. The prints come from the etsy shop Synplus Printable Art. I love this wall! Mark worked hard making my shiplap dreams a reality and I just can’t get enough of the wide white planking! It was actually relatively easy to do and not expensive! I see many more shiplap walls in my future 🙂 (#sorrynotsorry Mark!).


Well that’s all she wrote! I love all the little details, how the room works together, and how soft and calming it feels. It wasn’t so much of a renovation as a revamping: putting up shiplap, painting the walls white, adding a jute rug, hanging cute animal prints in awesome wood frames, adding some new furniture, and making the small closet functional.

Gah! I’m just so happy with this room reveal! Do you have a cute nursery you want to share? I love seeing what other people have done and gathering ideas for my next projects :). Share a link in the comments below!!

My littlest dude and my biggest dude photobombing my photos! 


Faith · Faith Life · Lifestyle

New Year, Same Me.

by Vicki

Happy New Year! I know its a couple of weeks into January, but I think that saying “happy new year” is okay for the entire month of January…soooo “Happy New Year!” 😉


Typically people start the new year with a host of resolutions and goals. We see the year ahead as fresh and as a clean slate, with the possibility of being the “best year yet”. I have to say, I love the idea of a new year. I love the hope that I feel the first day of January. A brand new year, an expanse of time ahead of me with unlimited possibilities.

For 2017 I decided to join the ranks of many and chose a simple word for the year as opposed to multiple resolutions. I chose simplicity and I loved it…for the first month and a half. I eagerly decluttered my house, organized cupboards and closets, used a daily planner, and talked Mark’s ear off about making our busy family schedule simpler. Then…Dax was born and I went into survival mode and didn’t really pay attention to anything else, least of all making sure that I was able to call 2017 “my year of simplicity”. I tried to come back to making our lives simple but I mostly focused on trying to get caught up on sleep (my 10 month still won’t sleep through the night, whats up with that?) and making sure my three kids were fed on a regular basis.

I liked the idea of having a word, but when it came down to it, for me, it became another ‘thing’ that I wasn’t accomplishing. I said I wanted to just use one word so that I wasn’t loading myself down with rules or unattainable goals for the year, but I think, in the end, the word was just a cover for all the unmentioned rules and goals that I saw encompassed in it. I felt like it was another thing (things) that I was failing at.

So, that brings us to this New Year. 2018. A ‘clean slate’. But really, just another 365 days to live our lives.

Maybe I will do a ‘word of the year’ again next year but I don’t think I have the brain power to think of one or the ability to separate it from a list of unaccomplishable goals for this year. No worries though, all is not lost for 2018.

Truthfully, I am continually assessing and reassessing who I am and what I want to accomplish. I try to make little tweaks here and there when I see the need for change. I think that’s really what life is about. Continually taking a look at who we are, where we are going, and making adjustments to make sure we are doing okay.

So I don’t really have set 2018 goals or resolutions. And other than ‘sleep’ I don’t have a word for 2018. But, I do have a list of things that I have been working on lately and that I hope to keep working on. So here goes:

  1. Stop striving for perfection. Its not going to happen this side of Heaven. Accept imperfection and find joy in trying my best no matter what the result.
  2. See the excitement and beauty in the “trying” and not just in the result. I have a hard time starting a project if I can’t see the final result being ‘the best’. Example? I struggle cleaning my kitchen if I know I don’t have the full 1.5 uninterrupted hours to get it done to a sparkling/crumb-free/sanitized result. I need to start being happy with a partially-clean-work-in-progress kitchen. I can’t just freeze and get nothing done because I don’t have uninterrupted time…ever.
  3. To spend time creating. Being creative doesn’t come naturally to me, but when I create something its feels so good! I love decorating my home, writing things on my chalkboards, trying my hand at calligraphy, DIYing, etc etc etc :D.
  4. Spend more time with God! My church is reading the entire Bible together this year and I am so excited about it! Its pretty special to know that what I am reading is being read by my church family too.
  5. To be vulnerable and real. I am imperfect. I have been hurt. My marriage has had mountains and valleys. Sometimes I don’t want to be a mom. I don’t always read my Bible. I cook sometimes and order food in sometimes. Sometimes my house is super clean and organized, and sometimes it looks like a tornado came through. Just showing the good sides of life can be nice, but it can also hinder true relationship. I have found that the more “me” I am, the better I have been able to build my tribe of people who I love and who love me.
  6. To keep trying to make healthier choices for me. Eating Trim Healthy Mama, dancing with my kiddos, and sleeping more (please, Dax!).
  7. To live like Jesus. To love like Jesus. To live for and love Jesus.

Nothing too crazy. No new morning routines, or exercise regimes, or scheduled cleaning systems. Just me, continuing to be me, striving to be the best me, and living for the God who created me.

So, here’s to the New year, but same me!

If you have decided to start this year off with some goals or resolutions, or just refocusing on things you’ve been working on already….let us know! We love to hear other people’s ideas for inspiration and encouragement!

Hope all of your 2018 dreams, hopes, desires, resolutions, and goals come true! Happy New Year!


Bookish Posts

My Top 10 Books of 2017 with a Few Extras Thrown In

By Katie

There are affiliate Links in this post.   They don’t cost you anything, but may give us something.

I haven’t done a bookish post in while, which may lead you to believe I haven’t been reading.  You would be wrong.   My life has not changed so much that I would put down my book!

In 2017, I read 146 books.  I have read some expected gems, some unexpected  gems, some expected disappointments and some unexpected disappointments.  Overall, it was a good reading year, though not as good as 2015 – it felt like every book I picked up that year was astounding.   It will be a hard year to beat.

Because list writing is fun, I am going to try to do my Top 10 books of 2017.

But before I start, there will be some caveats and disclosures:

There may be some honourable mentions, because I find it impossible to list my best books.  Some people have a Top 10 of all time.  I don’t think I would be able to limit myself to 10 – I could possibly do a Top 100, but not listed in order of favourite-ness.  I don’t think I am decisive enough (see what I did there :P) to list my favourites, but  mostly, I don’t want to hurt the feelings of books that I love, and there are definitely more than 10 books that I love.

Also, I finished re-reading the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Narnia series this year.  We all know that these are incredible books that would make it into pretty much any Top lists.  I will not list them in mine though because I don’t want them to take precious spots in my list.

So, here is a not-so-definitive list of My Top 10 Books of 2017 with a Few Extras Thrown In.

51naG-FeFpL._SL160_The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (along with the 2nd  book: The Angel’s Game).  This was a completely unexpected gem.  I picked this book up from the library as I was walking by the shelf because I liked the cover.  I couldn’t put it down.  This is a gothic mystery and romance, but not an icky romance.  Its a romance about love.  And books.  And the love of books.    Which makes this a perfect novel.   Dealing with the loss of his mother, Daniel’s father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where he is allowed to choose one book.  The book he chooses is so arresting he tries to find other books by the author.  But they all have been systematically destroyed.  If you want to know why, I suggest you pick up the book.

51PMoNFpnuL._SL160_The Sparrow/Children of God by Mary Doria Russell– I actually read The Sparrow last December, and spent the next 11 months scouring used books stores for the sequel Children Of God.  These 2 books read like it should be 1 very large novel as The Sparrow ends in a very unsatisfying way.   These novels tell the story of a distant planet, and the Jesuits journey to discover it, both for science and for God.  Like any exploring group, they misunderstand the social and economic structure of people living there and so disrupt the order.  The outcomes are both devastating 51bDd6BQOCL._SL160_and beneficial for all involved.   Children of God tells the story of the long-term outcome of the interference from Earth.  I loved these books because they dissect the devotion a believer has to God, both in dealing with other’s tragedy and his own.  The journey back to faith can be difficult and seemingly impossible, but also earth-shattering and beautiful.


41fHxOhTrxL._SL160_A Constellation of Vital Phenomena  by Anthony Marra –  This was a re-read for me and I loved it this time around as much as the first time.  The story of the decades (centuries?) long war in Chechnya is told in one of my favourite ways: slowing walking through the present while diving deeply into the past of the characters.   Set in 2004, but reaching back far into history, we learn the story of a few inconsequential people whose lives are torn apart because of wars that don’t benefit them.   Unravelling the mystery of what binds them together, Sonja and Akhmed learn of betrayal, coincidence and forgiveness.

51iLpdD3PwL._SL160_The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker– This was a completely unexpected gem! Set in turn-of-the-century New York, 2 mythical creatures unexpectedly meet, one a Kabbalistic creature made of Clay, the other a fire-born Syrian creature captured in a copper flask.  Their connection is mystical and their story is a combination of fairy tale, folk lore, magic and ancient history.


51p7+rEf+TL._SL160_Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys– Telling the story of the little-known sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, this novel weaves the story of refugees in Eastern Europe fleeing before the Red Army in World War II.  With incredible character development, (the Shoemaker has become one of my all time favourite characters.  And that list is also not definitive), the outcome of horrible tragedy made my mother’s heart weep.


51kvVxIyCFL._SL160_The DoveKeepers by Alice Hoffman-  When I picked up this book, I was informed by a number of people that it was in their (definitive) Top Ten of All Time list.  I can see why.   Telling the story of Fall of Masada and expounding on historian Josephus’ claim that 2 women and 5 children survived the mass killing, Hoffman creates 4 strong, independent and very different women through whose eyes we can witness the lives, loves and losses of 900 people 2000 years ago.

41OZMb3IWvL._SL160_When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi– This memoir deals with death and dying and knowing that its going to happen to you.  After nearly completing all his training, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi learns he has aggressive, stage IV cancer.  Wrestling with questions of what makes life worth living, even in the face of dying, this book is a must read.


41XUJ28Aq+L._SL160_The Circle by Dave Eggers – I enjoyed this book immensely, but  I am mostly including it because I think it’s a must read for everyone who got an Amazon Echo or Google Home for Christmas  :D.   In a world where everything can be known, should it be?  How close is our society to believing that Privacy is Theft?  This fictional tale tells the story of large online company that connects people socially, economically and finally politically.  What are we giving up in order to be connected?

41fDi8fUSOL._SL160_The 100 year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson– I loved this book because its about a journey while reflecting on the past.  This book is unbelievable and funny but also well written and engaging.  Allan Karlsson has lived an unbelievable life and decides he isn’t done living it on his 100th birthday at the old age home.  So he leaves, and continues to live, while stealing $50 million from a gang.  You can imagine what happens next…

51cZQHwLd8L._SL160_The Orphan’s Master’s Son by Adam Johnson– After reading Escape from Camp 14 a few years ago, I have sought out books about North Korea.  This Pulitzer Prize winner delves into many different areas of life in North Korea using Jun Do, a professional kidnapper, to navigate the treacherous political landscape of the corrupt and cruel dictatorship.

I can not fathom that while I sit in my warm house with a full belly there are still labour camps and  starvation and deprivation of individual autonomy to this magnitude in this world.   I realize there are a lot of places where social injustice runs rampant, but there is something about North Korea that seems to strip its people of their humanity.  While reading Escape from Camp 14, what struck me to my core was how the author told of competing for food with his mother.  What kind of life does one have to live in order to see your children as competitors not your loves for whom you would give up your life?  I would argue that mothers facing a wide variety of horrors have continued to put their children’s lives ahead of their own:  what does one have to experience in order to have that mother’s-love stripped away so completely?

51RVsEqgUJL._SL160_Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – I love Ann Patchett.  Her ability to weave a tale is almost unparalleled.  This novel is of a hostage situation in a South American country in which unexpected love blossoms.  The only thing that would make this novel better is if you skip the last 3 pages.  While they don’t ruin the book, they take it down a few notches.


61SY37C4a0L._SL160_The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – Imagining the Underground Railroad as an actual Railroad with trains and conductors and stations, Whitehead tells the story of an escaped slave looking for the freedom to live her life while always running from the slave catcher who just sees himself as upholding the law.    The gross injustices that blacks faced in pre-civil war America are investigated and laid bare as a people try to build a community that welcomes them.  This novel won a Pulitzer with good reason.

Well.  There you have it.  My Top 10 as told with 14 books.

Have you read any of these titles?  Do any sound interesting enough to pick up?  What were your favourites in 2017 – hit me up – my TBR list has only 2 or 3 hundred books on.  I need to bulk it up 😉