she’s here!

We are delighted to announce the birth of our daughter, Anne Rebecca. Her name means “God has been gracious” and honors the prayers of Hannah, which I have often echoed, and the example of the prophetess Anna, who found her life’s satisfaction not in a child of her own, but in the salvation offered in the only child ever promised to anyone – Jesus. (Her middle name runs in my family, and she joins a long line of wonderful women named or middle-named Rebecca stretching for eight generations now.) This has been quite a journey, and our Annie is an undeserved gift from the God who has been gracious every step along the way.hummel family



“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
the Angel who has delivered me from all harm
— May He bless this girl.
May she be called by the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
and may she increase greatly upon this earth.”
-from Israel’s blessing to his grandsons Ephraim (“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”) and Manasseh (“God has made me forget my sorrow”) as recorded in Genesis 48.

reading round-up (4.25.14)

This week feels a bit like recovery of an excitement overdose. After months of life in the doldrums, we had lots of company and a fun Easter trip to Wisconsin (because moving to Minnesota means we are closer to one little branch of our family and we want to take advantage of that!). Now we’re getting ourselves straightened out again. It’s been a classic rainy April, at least this week (better than snow!!), and it is hard to motivate myself to walk the pup with all the puddles and raindrops. He’d probably love it, but then I’d end up needing to bathe him every day… so complicated. I play lots of running games in the house, but I can tell it’s not working as well as a good, exhausting, hour-long romp through the neighborhood.

[One] Stuff From People I Actually Know In Real Life: There are some practical and thoughtful tips on clothing and freedom here from Mary, which I’m finding encouraging while trying to tackle looking fabulous with a changing body, small budget, and small wardrobe. I nosily asked her to share some thoughts on the topic and I am very glad she did! I also appreciated her guest post “We Sleep Well with Tired Bodies,” from our friend Hannah’s blog.

[Two] I thought these articles on miscarriage from Verily Magazine were excellent. (Be sure to check out Part 1, too.) Though this speaks mostly of women without referencing the fathers, the points about depression, and anxiety statistics for women/couples who are recovering from a pregnancy loss are particularly important. (I know I often get blank looks when I tell others that the rates of divorce, suicide, and all sorts of anxious/depressive/compulsive behaviors skyrocket for several years after a miscarriage, and the numbers are even higher with a stillbirth or infant death… This is uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s true. I think more people will get the help they need if everyone knows how much this impacts parents!)

[Three] Perhaps this past week’s birthday of The Bard may encourage you to Brush Up Your Shakespeare?

[Four] Our new house (yes, yes, yes, more pictures coming soon!) is overrun by… I can’t even say it… spiders. Icky ones. Crawly ones. BIG ONES. Aaron said he was more scared of Iraqi camel spiders than the possible loss of life or limb during his deployment, so we are a sorry match in this department. If we still had chickens they would eat the spiders, but Max is no help. I may resort to other extreme but still rational measures.


[Five] In case you are interested in
boosting church attendance… Stephen Colbert has some friendly commentary about those not interested in sharing the regular messages of unconditional love and eternal salvation and turn to Mixed Martial Arts. (This is a joke, of course!)

[Six] This is a helpful radio interview on infertility and God’s will from He Remembers the Barren. And while I don’t necessarily ascribe to everything  in this article about fertility and God’s will by Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter, I think she has written a very thoughtful and worthy read on the topic of family planning. Maybe the best encouragement for people thinking about expanding their family is when she says, “I just would rather not have the kind of suffering that comes from trying to avoid suffering by refusing a treasure.”

[Seven] Aaron and I have found versions of Lady Gaga’s song Bad Romance that speak to each of our nerdy, specialized fields of study.
For research scientists, rated Pg-13: “Bad Project.”
For classical musicians, no objectionable content: “Fugue on Bad Romance.”

[Easter Bonus — 8] This is your reward for getting to the end of this week’s reading round-up: my favorite Easter meme! One of my BFFs knows the person who runs this blog, so I feel sort of famous when I read it. I’m not Catholic so half the posts totally blow over my head, but the ones with universal Christian jokes are usually hilarious.

Have a wonderful weekend! We’re looking forward to enjoying some downtime and dinner with friends… And May!? Is it going to be May by next weekend? What? Maybe by then we can figure out what our bulb flower situation is here at the Coon Ranch. There are leaves poking up, so I am hopeful! 

[As always, more Friday links and quick reading over at Conversion Diary!] 

Sickie Blogging – Happy Fall!

Nothing inspires a thought such as, “Oh, I guess I could update my blog after a month to reassure people I’m not dead,” like being in bed with a nasty fall bug and a series of exhausting half-finished projects taunting me while I am home ill.

What has life been like in the past weeks? Busy. We remodeled the bathroom entirely. Our family had another wedding in Michigan, making it my fourth trip back-and-forth across the midwest this summer.

Aaron is feverishly working on his dissertation. My piano studio is keeping me so busy that I have a waiting list of students who would want to take lessons if I had a slot available. We have been working very hard for years, and these successes are marvelous gifts. In a way, this feels like we are getting that second burst of energy at the end of a race, as though the light at the end of a tunnel is blindingly bright.  We’re also doing some re-dreaming about the next phase of our life after he graduates, and discerning how to walk best with our desire for a family, our location, and our vocations. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to look like we had planned, but God has been very gracious to close and open doors in a way that takes some of the agony out of making these big decisions. A saving grace in some of these hectic days is that we have sold a significant amount of our stuff online, which streamlines some parts of life while we’re settling into a Fall that’s turning into a whole new kind of adventure.


Autumn is my favorite season, bringing the delights of soups, sweaters, candles, plaid, roasted acorn squash, hot wassail, and bonfires to accompany the witness of nature: God ordains a lot of beauty in seasons of ending and loss. I’m really thankful that is true.

a look at our life as a WAHC.

As the typical use of the English language degenerates rapidly, probably in inverse relation to the availability of social networking, those of us who read things online often see acronyms that succinctly describe a person’s current state, such as SAHM for Stay-at-home-mom or WASP to describe White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants. Honestly, I don’t understand why these four-letter titles are such a common part of web lingo, since other than texting or twitter most technological communication doesn’t have a word or character limit. (I might also argue that over-using these things reveals a limit to one’s moral character, my own included, but that’s not the issue here.)

Those objections aside, if this is how people are talking these days I suppose I can’t completely beat it. So I’m coming to terms with the facts: this week we have been a DINK (Double-income-no-kids) WAHC (Work-at-home-couple). The first title seems less glamorous when I clarify that these incomes would keep us well below the poverty level if we only had one of them.

As a change from his usual 70-hour researching work week in the lab, Aaron is laboriously writing for a deadline at the end of this month. As if this doesn’t sound hard enough on it’s own, scientific research publications look like another language. Working from the couch at home is a small comfort in the midst of this task.

And when I’m not changing the world one music lesson at a time, my grand central office is in the kitchen. I hear stand-up desks are all the rage these days. The location is a bit torturous because I keep getting distracted and trying to clean things.
As apparent in our pictures, we have been drinking copious amounts of fresh french-press coffee.

This DINK WAHC status allows opportunity to observe the shiny nose of our deer in it’s temporary home above the fireplace,

and check out the guppies in our new fish tank to see if they will be popping out babies under our careful watch.

…but the biggest benefit of this is coming up with ridiculous inside jokes. This morning, it’s that I shout, “I am (You are) being summoned!” in a British accent when one of us get a text message.

We were just talking about how we’re spending years in a stage of life neither of us really imagined being in for long. Of course graduate studies are demanding, but this PhD program is strenuous and it feels like it’s taking forever, and we’re uncertain about how many “roots” to put down where we live, childless, pinching pennies by necessity… It is very, very easy to feel like we’re just in a holding pattern, waiting for the rest of life to get here. So on the surface life usually feels quite stagnant, but we’d be missing out on so much if that is all we focus on. It often seems strange to settle into this DINK WAHC life, but it’s what we’ve got. Of course we look forward to things being different, and it can be difficult to balance contentment now and hoping for what is ahead. Weeks like this are such a gracious reminder that what we’ve got now is good, too.

Who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience… Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
– Romans 8, esv.

the deer is here

There are many potential “first post of the year” ideas floating around in my head: reflections on 2011? goals and dreams for 2012? pictures from our holiday road trip? practical financial tips we’ve implemented lately? fun plans for visiting cousins soon? favorite books from the past six months? important life lessons? telling everyone about all the free books I’ve agreed to read and review here? fun crafts I made for Christmas presents? our new fish tank? the delicious meals we’ve eaten on a ridiculously small grocery budget? finishing one of the 12 half-written articles floating around my draft folder?
I’ve never ever had a problem coming up with ideas for any project in my life, writing online included. Instead, I have serious problems with procrastination and letting myself get too overwhelmed and paralyzed thinking of all the things I could do without actually doing anything. It’s been an issue my whole life. But the paralysis of pondering this year’s first post, which is not that big of a deal in the first place, was ended when a very noteworthy event took place in our home last night.

There is a back story here. Last November, Aaron shot a trophy 10-point whitetail buck scoring almost 150 inches (*CORRECTION: 154 1/2 inches*) with his then-new bow. He wanted to get the head mounted, and I agreed to this idea on the condition that we would remodel our kitchen before it was finished. I also stipulated that the mount would have to go in the basement or a “man room” of our next house. I can’t put it in the hunting-themed room of our current house, because it remains the potential nursery if we were to have children while living here. What if the head fell off the wall and an antler speared our baby? Like I said earlier, I think too much and it causes problems sometimes. Well, in case you can’t tell from the lack of updates, the kitchen progress has seriously halted, and I think I’ve been unconsciously avoiding anything that gets us near completion as if I could hold off the inevitable. But now the day I have dreaded is here: the deer head is back from the taxidermist and in our house. Since Aaron didn’t tell me he had picked it up, when he brought it in the house I thought (for just a moment) he was bringing an actual mature buck into the living room. I actually screamed and covered my eyes for at least 30 seconds.  Then Aaron hauled it upstairs, so I’m guessing he’s using one hand for typing a paper while gently, gleefully stroking the fur with the other.

First photo of the deer was with a cell-phone during the post-mortem river rescue…
Then a recovery shot on dry ground
And now, after waiting a year for the necessary drying-out and whatever else it is those taxidermists do, we have a deer head ready to mount. Discussions regarding the actual placement are ongoing.
I just want to know… why does his nose have to be so shiny and lifelike?

He might go in the living room or the kitchen. I’m hoping for the kitchen, as it would be less visible to my piano students. Either way, we will see it from the dinner table, so I hope we have actually finished the meat from this specific animal already. I fully believe hunting is one of the healthiest activities my husband could have, and I’m glad for so much free-range, lean, red meat. But I will still feel a little strange slurping my venison chili underneath this deer’s blank, glassy stare.

a glorious harvest

Even though we’re staying home for a modest Thanksgiving celebration, our cozy house has been bustling for days with culinary preparations and we look forward to enjoying all the wonderful things we love doing for the holidays: logs blazing in the fireplace, hot wassail, music, excessive cheese consumption and a little extra luxury reading. Aaron says these are slightly pretentious activities, but the truth is that we’re just really awesome.

With our other traditions, I’ve noticed that we always get into philosophical money discussions around the holidays, too. These conversations ask not so much “How much are we spending on travel and gifts?” but “Do we like the direction our lifestyle is taking us? What do we want to correct in our current financial path?” Even this year, after we absorbed a significant income reduction and made some noticeable cuts in our spending so I could quit my day job and teach music at home, our conclusion is the same as in the past: we are happiest when we live simply. A shared attitude of renewed contentment is one of the things I love most about this time of year…. but what does it say about our general cultural prosperity that a graduate student and self-employed musician can make a conscious decision to be more frugal? Our cup of blessing overflows! We praise God for the rich supply he has brought us and pray that our lives will become wholesome grain for His glorious harvest, too.

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit as praise to God we yield;
Wheat and tares together sown are to joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring thy final harvest home;

Gather thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in thy presence to abide;
Come, with all thine angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home.
– “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” by Henry Alford, 1844

…Okay, did you think this was going to be a post of thoughtful Thanksgiving commentary? I’m way too ADD to stick with one thing for very long. Those who want to see what our kitchen looks like can now offer thanks for this gift I present: Check out this video of how un-finished (and yet, so beautiful!) the kitchen is looking these days!

faith my eyes


I was going to wipe off the counters and take some pictures for a look-at-how-far-we’ve-come kitchen project update. Instead, there was an unfortunate food incident and the remodeling tales will wait a bit longer!

With a short window of time to make lunch between an appointment and piano lessons today, I threw a spaghetti squash in the microwave without poking the flesh to release steam while it cooked. The entire squash exploded when I cut it open afterwards and now I have mild burns all over my face, neck, arms and hands. Since my right eyebrow got the worst of the heat, I’m guessing I’d be in the emergency room if I hadn’t been wearing glasses to catch the stuff headed for my eyes!  I’m following my doctor’s orders for treatment and I should heal quickly without permanent damage since it’s more like a blazing sunburn than the “hot curling iron” feel. But it’s a little haunting to think – what if I hadn’t come back into the house for my glasses before that appointment this morning?

Since the kitchen is still carpeted, I’m toying with the idea of ripping it up and going down to the subfloor instead of cleaning the edible war zone. I even found a chunk of squash that flew over the island and into the back hallway. I suppose we should really think about getting a dog for these heavy-duty jobs.

…Keep me responsible, be it a light or heavy load
Keep me guessing, these blessings in disguise
And I’ll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes.
-Faith My Eyes, Caedmon’s Call

Future selves

Having it together - censored from the hilarious and inappropriate SomeEcards site

In recent conversation Aaron found out someone looked up to him and thought he really had his life together. This is an encouraging compliment because we both feel like we are still flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to “having life together.” While we are both still shocked at Aaron’s effortless deception, this comment prompted some dinner discussions about our “future selves.” They are like our current selves, only in the future, when we are more disciplined and better at things, and maybe even have life figured out.

I think most of this dreaming is good and healthy, and it’s good to know that there is purpose in day-to-day happenings. For instance, future Aaron maintains his buffness and has a PhD, so current Aaron needs to lift weights and work on science. Since future Abby has 25 piano students, current Abby works on meeting more potential music lesson families. Though some of our musings are probably a bit far-fetched, it’s fun to think about what we can do now to succeed later.

You can’t get so caught up in living for the future that you forget the importance of the here and now, though, so Calvin (Aaron’s inner child) is right to muse as he does here:

Calvin and Hobbes

acquainted with grief

What a full summer for us! There are plenty of exciting pictures of long-awaited kitchen progress to share soon (I’m cooking on the new stove already and we have the bar counter top ready to install!), and I’m very pleased with some other home projects we have accomplished as well, like making over the brick fireplace and relaying some stone pathways outside before reseeding all the grass. This has been a good season, and we are grateful for the chances to improve our home and see so many beloved friends and family. …And then at the end of this excellent summer, I find myself thrown into situations where grief is all around, both for myself and those I hold dear.  This is truly a heavy thing to think on and discuss.

The Thinker

Someone who isn’t in the midst of this can pull all sorts of cliche comments out of thin air, trying to explain gut-wrenching heartache by saying things like,  “Everything happens for a reason,” or “Things will get better; your good time will come soon,” but those are shallow answers to one who is devastated by sadness. A trite comment cannot explain away the painfully simple truth: grief is hard, dark and lonely. Whether you are witness to the deep soul-groaning of the bereaved or experiencing it yourself, the weight of difficulty seems unbearable and cruel. It is true comfort for a Christian to cling to Jesus, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, in these times.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53, esv)

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? …Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8, esv)


Because a crazy summer full of:
A) Two new work projects. Both are going well, but I’m still not over the hump of the work-from-home learning curve. I have gone from four weekly students to at least seventeen over the course of a few weeks and I love it. As I wave goodbye to a kid leaving after their lesson, I think “How is this really my job!?”
B) A kitchen remodel. Also going well, and I am way behind on posting those updates. I’ll just say that right now there is a hole between the kitchen and the guest room, one of the two towers is down and the island has no counter.
C) Other desired outdoor projects weigh heavily on us, like readjusting some plant beds, building a retaining wall and putting in a fire pit.
D) At least eight sets of overnight visitors from out of town.
…wasn’t enough, we’ve had some laundry issues. More specifically, washing machine water drainage issues. So until figuring out what the problem was and getting it fixed a few nights ago, we haven’t been able to do laundry for nearly three weeks.

Now that we’re back up and running, this is what the bed looks like at all times. As soon as I get it cleaned off, another series of baskets is ready to be dumped on there. I’m thinking I’ll finally have it all done today. I also think if we could make it this far without doing the laundry, we have too many clothes.