2017 Christmas Letter

???Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.???


Until the SOUL felt its worth??? That really gave me pause this season.?? I LOVE that line.?? Jesus.?? He arrives on the scene and??in that moment, this brilliant??personification of love incarnate come to declare our?? incredible value…our worth.?? That moment in time declared it in such an epic way.?? And then came hope…

It’s been a good year for the Brinkman family and we are so thankful that 2017 was (relatively) free of ER visits, disasters, heart attacks, loss of loved ones…etc.?? It was a “glorious morn” kind of year following the epic 2016 year (of which I have no desire to repeat!)

A little update on our tribe…wait…I retract that.?? I started off with the intention of a straight forward summary but in typical Doni fashion I digressed often and turned this letter into a novel.?? How incredibly typical of me.?? So…you may want to skim for the good stuff.?? But first, let’s open with a 17 second song from Troy…



Well…he is just fabulous.?? Fabulous in every way.?? He looks good.?? He feels good.?? You’d never know a heart attack and bells palsy were part of his 2016 story.?? The yonder broke indeed!?? Yay!?? Not enough words to describe how much I adore this guy.?? This year I have just really enjoyed watching him as a Daddy.?? He is a GREAT daddy.?? So incredibly patient.?? He is really good at investing in us and he invests in such a myriad of ways.?? From building fish tanks, video game reviews, reading stories, lake trips, mountain trips, fishing trips, camping trips, beach trips, and just time at the dinner table and late night tv with mama.?? He spends quality and quantity time with his tribe.?? He is still working for COX (it’s been over a decade now) and has been doing some sidework as well – he is a software engineer so I am lucky to have an awesome IT department around here (and believe me I need it!)


Hmmm…some of you might not even KNOW my name is Donielle.?? My Dad nicknamed me Doni hoping people would stop calling HIM Donny.?? I have often thought I would rather have been called Elle (as in Ellie).?? That would have worked just as well and been more feminine.?? Sadly, that ship sailed.?? You can’t easily insist on a new nickname past 40.?? Can you??? I won’t be mad at you if you try it.?? Really.?? (Insert hopeful smile).?? This is where I need a string of emoticons but somehow they don’t always translate in blog updates (they sometimes change to things like random question marks).?? Jim hates emoticons.?? Hates them.?? I think that is weird.?? So I text them to him all the time.?? I am just ornery like that.

Let’s see…I am still having fun with my photography business but I have to keep it scaled back as I can’t homeschool and be a full time business owner.?? Too much plate spinning.?? This blog used to have my business posts in it but I switched them over to my business website (www.livelovedphotography.com) about two years ago and now it is back to a personal blog.?? Homeschooling keeps me more than busy these days.?? The last two years have been a challenge with all four being homeschooled.?? I realized recently though that in another 18 months, we’ll start sliding back down the hill because Tanner is already a Junior so I am nearing the schooling finish line with him.

I have been enjoying creating composite art this year as well.?? An example of this would be our Christmas card!?? I planned for this picture in August and it darn near didn’t get done.?? I invested my time working on these projects this year because I realized that my dreams for what I want to capture are bigger than what I can physically accomplish so sometimes I have to force the square through the round hole by finding another way to get ‘er done.?? No…I didn’t take the kids up north…in the snow…with a tree…and a sled…and winter boots (that we don’t even own or need)…in a classic truck.?? I wanted to.?? Wouldn’t that be a fun Christmas adventure??? Instead I had to create my vision.?? First I went to Goodwill and bought cheap outfits.?? I tried to find several gray elements because gray is relatively easy when it comes to color changes.?? Then I took a staged picture (with mom’s borrowed lantern that I “kinda” forgot to ask about…forgiveness rather than permission??) in my kitchen.?? Then I sat on it for a bit until inspiration struck.?? Really had to wait that one out.?? That is the trouble with art.?? You can’t just “do” it.?? It has to come to you.?? So you have to wait for it.?? I knew basically what I wanted but it took some doing to gather all the necessary pieces to build my scene.?? ??I also created a custom color palette choosing the red of the truck to be my central color.?? That way, I knew exactly what color harmonies would work best for my scene when I changed the color of their outfits.?? ??Here is a little behind the scenes of what I started with.

If you are interested in more of these fun art composites, hit the Live Loved Art link in the top menu and it will show the different pieces I composited this year.?? It’s fun.?? Total mom time that I LOVE.

I have also been investing my time in Trim Healthy Mama Pinterest boards and vlogs and facebook groups.?? What is THM you say??? Well…it’s a lifestyle eating plan that only about…oh I don’t know…one MILLION women have invested in over the last few years!?? I prayed and prayed that God would help me to find the right inspiration to change my diet.?? After Jim’s heart attack, I had such a sense of anxiety over all the “what ifs”.?? Jim has always been good with his eating plans and his diet did not cause his heart issue.?? But still…I struggle with control and I naturally wanted to control every element that I could to stack the odds.?? Our littles need us for a good long time so that scare properly motivated me.?? Unfortunately, I was struggling to find a plan that I felt I could buy into for the long haul.?? Low carbing always worked well for me (weight wise) but I knew it was not lifetime sustainable.?? I also didn’t like the idea of tossing out some healthy food groups forever.?? The nutshell of THM is simple.?? Stop eating sugar and flour.?? Recent studies are demonstrating that those two items are the culprits in heart disease (not good fats).?? Eat low (10 gram) carb meals with healthy fats and protein.?? Eat low ( 5 grams) fat meals with?? healthy carbs with protein.?? Space them 3 hours apart so that your body can concentrate on burning one fuel source at a time (either fats or carbs…just not both at the same time).?? It is really all about separating your fuel sources as your body doesn’t like to burn both fats and carbs at the same time.?? That is the super simple version anyhow.?? I have truly loved this plan and feel that it is sustainable for me.?? I have been on it for over a year now and still growing strong.?? So I collect recipes like crazy and have introduced all kinds of????healthy foods??into my diet like collagen and gelatin, kefir, chia, sprouted flours, baobob, nutritional yeast, lots of superfoods like okra and…STEVIA (with little to no processing).?? If you are interested, here is a link to their site.

I have struggled with many different gastric issues over the years and also arthritis and I have to say that while on THM, I am SO MUCH BETTER.?? So ya…I am feeling younger than my 44 years these days.?? If you notice the grays though…just too lazy to keep up with that constant chore.?? ??Jim tells me I can’t keep dyeing my hair forever.?? I beg to differ.?? I just can’t keep it a secret because my roots show through too often.?? A sweet young thang at Del Taco complimented me on my sunset blonde streak and told me that I reminded her of a Disney character.?? I said, “Yep.?? Cruella Deville.?? Dyeing it today.”?? Insert her deer in headlights look here.?? I enjoyed listening to her (feeble) attempt to retract that statement.


Big year for our oldest.?? SIXTEEN!?? I think it is a bigger deal for mama quite honestly.?? I gotta give kudos to Daddy here too because he impressed the heck out of me by driving with Tanner nearly every week night since January to get him some good driving hours in.?? When he would get home from work, the two would set off on their evening journey (which included buying mama a polar ice tea).?? They’d be gone about an hour.?? Tanner really enjoyed that time with dad so by the time he took his drivers test he was well prepared.?? They still take their trips a lot of days…just for the sheer fun of the guy time I think.?? Also…we have become tea addicts.

Tanner is a junior in High School.?? He has already finished his math and science credits so this year it is history, IEW (writing), bible, economics, civics, apologetics…stuff like that.?? Much easier year for him than last year actually (Geometry and Chemistry…yuck).?? In this regard, it has been easier for ME as well!?? He is still playing soccer and participating on an archery team.?? He is loving Overwatch, Roblox, The Hunter, Minecraft, and raising his self caught bluegill and minnows.?? He really wishes for ranch life.?? He is a disappointed city kid.?? I would guess him to be about 5 foot 10 right now and he wears about a 10 shoe size.?? I thought he would top out at about 5′ 10″ but now I am second guessing myself.?? His legs are longer than Jim’s (and Jim is 6 foot 1 inches).


January of 2017 resulted in a second teenager in our home.?? Now…at nearly 14…Ty is about 5 foot 11 (I would guess).?? He is between 1/2 and 1 inch taller than his older brother and also wearing a size 10 shoe.?? Yes…he is still a video game lover.?? Definitely his hobby of choice by a mile.?? He is still participating on the archery team with Tanner too.?? Papa has been working with him on driving (the golf cart) and he has really enjoyed that.?? The two of them love to take trips of their own to QT (so Ty can buy a large soft pretzel – he loves those).?? He is such a good big brother and Troy just loves him.?? He often makes Troy’s lunch for me as he and Troy eat a lot of the same foods (they both eat a very limited diet).?? He even reads Troy books and tucks him in at night if Jim and I are occupied (though that is usually Daddy’s nightly routine because Troy has determined that Daddy is best at tuck ins).?? School is going along well for him this year.?? Ty is my kid that stays on task the best and finishes his school day the quickest.?? He is motivated by being “done” so he is a steady worker.?? He also pushed the whole household into Christmas music before Thanksgiving.?? My Elf.?? Ty is also the primary reason I have returned to publishing this blog.?? He loves it and enjoys easy access to it when it is on the web.?? He is my number one reader.?? (So son…this is for you).?? I have been blogging?? for 17 years now and have pdf books created for every year so I really can’t stop until Troy is grown.?? Committed now.


I see this picture and think “Laughing all the way”.?? She is fun at 9.?? She has the biggest laugh (and loudest by a mile).?? Our girls emotional pendulum swings wide.?? In a house of boys, she brings the estrogen balance for sure.?? There is no halfway about her.?? She is all in or all out.?? All up or all down.?? She is loving gymnastics this year and cartwheels everywhere we go.?? It is kind of an obsession actually.?? I had to laugh at all the random cartwheel pictures this year.?? I also laugh (sort of) at all the selfies taken on my cell phone that look like this.

On Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, Tori and Tanner (along with Noah, Braxtyn, Cozy, Quinn, and Beth) were baptized at our home church.?? This was such a precious time for our family.?? We did a quick video for her baptism as she explained her “why”.


(Ignore Troy.?? Try.?? Try hard.)


She is in her second year on the archery team with her brothers.?? A challenge for her but she is still working at it.?? She and Ty could care less about archery as a sport but they want to be part of a team for the people time.?? This year she has loved Britaly – Youtube reality tv type – two sisters who do gymnastics.?? They have daily episodes and she hates to miss them.?? I am totally over the slime phase but wow did we go through a lot of Elmer’s glue in her 9th year.?? Good grief.?? Jim and I are ready to ban slime, silly putty, playdough, clay, etc…from this house.?? Truly driving us nuts.?? It can be found everywhere – from hair, to carpet to clothes…I even had to throw some books away.?? Girl’s are so messy.?? Jim was delighted when his work clothes were washed with her stuff and subsequently GLITTERED.?? LOL.?? ??When she was born he said our house exploded pink.?? I don’t think that has changed much in a near decade.?? She leaves a big footprint around here.?? She (and Ty also) is learning to cook and likes baking.?? She has also been making gummys (trying to funnel that slime energy into something more productive).?? She is an avid collector of makeup, makeup brushes and nailpolish.?? She is not allowed to wear makeup out at 9 but she loves to play with it at home and she is getting pretty good at it.?? We come from a long line of women who love their frosting so that one she got from me.?? She also loves boots like I do and she has?? 3 pair on her Christmas list this year.?? ??Her favorite music this year has been Jordan Feliz and NeedToBreathe (favorites of mine as well!)?? She also loves Hillsong United like me (I just can’t get enough of the Wonder album…my FAVORITE!).?? I love that she still REQUIRES tuck in time at night.?? She is R.E.L.E.N.T.L.E.S.S. about that.?? We have been doing the Kids Jesus Calling together and she loves it.?? Lots of good mom/daughter talk time come out of our evening chats.?? She is a very observant and insightful little woman and I really really like her (on top of loving her to pieces).



And he might just be the cutest six year old in the history of ever.?? I am not kidding.?? You may be tempted to think this is a mom brag but if you have spent time with our youngest, you know I am being straight up here.?? He is a teddy bear personified.?? Even those dark eyes with long long lashes remind me of a teddy.?? He is FUNNY and adorable and precious and sensitive and loving and sweet, sweet, sweet.?? ??If you are in the mood for Troy funnies, just scroll back through this year’s blog when your bored and zero in on the “Troy” sections.?? I have several cute Troy quotes/stories written down.?? But here are a couple of Troy moments for you to enjoy (because seeing is believing):

Troy singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame (as superman)

If you watched the baptism video of Tori above, you will enjoy the Troy highlights.?? I told him he could not say a word.?? He didn’t.?? I need to have a longer contract next time though because clearly I did not cover all my bases.


Troy being very upset about a blood draw to his finger.?? This was a facebook sensation earlier in the year LOL.


He is in first grade (sort of).?? He was a young kindergartener so I am playing this by ear.?? Sometimes determining grade is difficult with homeschooling.?? He enjoys math the most.?? He loves to watch tv, he has a super long attention span for his favorite shows.?? His list is:?? Mickey Mouse, Teen Titans, Peppa Pig, Team Oomizoomi, Paw Patrol, Blaze and OK-KO.?? He also loves Minecraft and watching Preston Blake minecraft videos.

He is such a people person and makes friends every where he goes.?? I could write about his antics all day but I guess I’ll just have to say “trust me on this” so I don’t??expand the word count any further on this Christmas “letter”.


So that is about the sum of it folks!?? And hey…thanks for showing up here and investing your time reading this letter.?? ??We hope all is well with our loved ones both near and far!?? The world has just gotten so big that it is tough to catch up with people in a truly meaningful way.?? This method stinks compared to sitting in a quiet room having quality chat time with the people we care about…but it’s the best we got for now so I embrace it and hope seasons will come that will allow us more real time with our extended tribe.?? Until then…have a wonderful Christmas.

Love the Brinkmans

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