Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas tree picture {the REAL story}

How hard can this be?

Mady's not happy...Dylan looks like a pirate...

Cute, but baby sister is MIA

Now it's all falling apart...

Everyone look at the camera (preferably at the same time)!

Thought this was going to be the money shot but Mady's head got in the way.


{Except that was the first picture I took. Guess I should have quit while I was ahead!}

What are you willing to go through to get that classic Christmas shot?

Friday, December 17, 2010

room mom-ing

No one tells you

when you bring your baby boy home from the hospital

that someday you will be up later than you would like

(while he sleeps soundly upstairs)

baking reindeer cookies

with pretzel antlers and M&M faces

for his kindergarten Christmas party.

And no one tells you

the next day


you will be so glad that you did.

Monday, December 13, 2010

oh, Ella!

Here is our dilemma lately...if Ella naps in the afternoon, she's up until 10pm at night. If she doesn't nap, she either a) cries, whines and throws herself on the ground from 4pm-7pm or b) falls asleep in odd places when you really don't want her to (i.e. 5:00 at night). Here are a couple of my more recent attempts to keep her up during the day (in hopes of a little kid-free time in the evening).

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

In the first photo I had sent her to her room for time-out because she was driving me nuts (product of a no-nap day) and I was trying to make dinner. We went to call her down to eat and Matt found her like this. Hilarious, but bedtime was no fun that night.

The second picture just happened today - again I am trying to keep her up so she'll go to bed on time for me tonight (Matt always works late on Monday nights and it helps my night if I can get all three kids down by 7:30 or so). I told her she could watch a movie, things got eerily quiet, and when I went to check on her, there she was, out cold. It's only 2:00 in the afternoon and I can actually hear snoring as I type this.

Anyone out there have any ideas for bridging this nap/no-nap phase? We went through it with Dylan too but it didn't seem to be quite as difficult with him (and it didn't last this long). Help!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

blogs, blogs, blogs

I've come across a few new blogs in the past few weeks - thought I would pass them along since that's how we all find the good ones...word of mouth. (I hope you are all still enjoying Young House Love and Catalog Living as much as I am).

And if you haven't discovered the beauty of Google Reader yet, you really need to climb aboard. I thought about posting about Reader *ahem* years ago but I figured everyone knew about it already. Sounds like some of my friends out there are simply sliding into their 30's, not even pretending to stay up on things ;)

  • Simple Organized Living - I came across this site through some Facebook friends. I want to be that really organized person and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't. She has great tips on staying organized, time management, saving money, etc.
  • Money Saving Mom - I go through phases where I sign up for freebies on-line like crazy and then phases where it doesn't even cross my mind. I appreciate sites like this one that list them all for you, so you can visit this site when the mood strikes and sign up for some free stuff. You have to pick and choose your offers but I've gotten some great stuff FREE in the last few months - Starbuck Via samples, a Fisher Price TRIO car, and handful of shampoo/conditioner samples (great for travel). Stick with the companies you've heard of before so you don't end up with crazy offers filling your inbox (I use my gmail account for these which filters out the spam pretty well and you can usually opt out of the email marketing right away).
  • Simple Mom Reviews - I picked this one up from Facebook too - a friend of a friend writes reviews for this site. Most of their reviews involve giveaways so this is essentially a giveaway site. I am determined to win something fabulous one of these days* so I've been entering them a lot - especially when they are relatively easy and don't take much time. The ones on this site usually involve leaving a comment or "liking" a page on Facebook. [*I have won in the past few months, some loot from Thirty-One, a newsboy cap from Rylee's Collection and a $5 Seattle's Best gift card from Joyous Photography - these were all Facebook deals though...I'd love to win something through a blog giveaway as's a simple pleasure in life).

Monday, December 6, 2010

let's take the "work" out of work out

4 friends.
20 dollars each.
5 days a week.
15 minute minimum.
Miss a work out, 5 dollars buys you back in.
Last one standing takes the jar.
What motivates you?

home team

A few months ago, I read Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist's newest book and I meant to blog about it then. A friend is reading it now so I've been thinking about it all over again. It's a good read - there are themes that run through out the book but each chapter can stand on its own too which is great for those of us (OK, all of us) who are a little short on time most days.

One of her chapters is called "the home team". She writes,

Lately, I've been working hard on my commitment to the home team. Everybody has a home team: it's the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It's the people who, near or far, know everything that's wrong with you and love you anyway. The home team people are the ones you can text with five minutes' notice, saying, I'm on my way and I'm bringing tacos.

...these are the people you visit in the hospital no matter what. These are the people whose weddings you attend, no matter how far the destination is or what terrible thing they've chosen for you to wear. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they're at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are the people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.

Matt and I are in a season of our lives where I am constantly reminded of how blessed we are by our families, our friendships, our communities. I can hardly talk about our home team without wanting to run out, get t-shirts printed up, and start handing them out.

There are moments that literally take my breath away.

There was the time after we had Mady and we were still at the hospital and people kept calling and showing up and bringing kids and presents and balloons and pretty soon our room was filled to the brim and it was the happiest sort of thing. I remember someone saw a picture of it later and said, "Woah! That is a lot of people," and the way they said it made it sound like it was a bad thing; I remember being puzzled by that.

Or a few weeks ago, I told some friends I was in a bit of a funk - nothing serious, just kind of sad about the mundaneness of life, tired of my husband working long hours - and a day or two later a friend knocks on my door and hands me dinner.

The way people remember our kids' birthdays and celebrate them with us.

The way our community gives and gives and then says, please, please don't return the favor.

The laugh-out-loud emails, texts and Facebook posts.

The last minute, please-come-over-for-dinner-don't-bring-everything-we've-got-it-covered invitations.

The moment when we looked around the funeral home and realized just how many people made an effort to come, to make sure we were doing OK, to give us a hug.

The relief of being real and no one even batting an eye. Realizing you've actually forgotten how to be fake, how to pretend.

The ridiculousness of taking up multiple rows in church with people we've gathered through the years - small group friends, childhood friends, family members, new friends [if you ever find yourself at Mars Hill at 9am, you can find us in the section near the sound booth.] The feeling of attending a large church and realizing that years have passed since it's actually felt large.

The feeling that yes, this is it. That sigh of relief - this is how God created us to live - living, loving, laughing with our home team.

The blessing of seeing Him through others and the privilege of being Him to others.

If you need a home team, it's never too late to start recruiting. If you already have a home team, make sure those people know what they mean to you.

To our home team: you know who you are. Thank you. We love you dearly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

a cupcake for our cupcake

One more birthday post and you won't hear from me regarding cakes, candles, and chaos for another year. 

Our strategy is to celebrate each child's birthday on their actual birthday at home and try to make things as special for them as possible - 
Ella chose ice cream for her treat (she didn't believe she could turn four until she had blown out candles so we stuck her candle in her bowl of ice cream) and Dylan had birthday french toast - Daddy made breakfast for us before he had to leave for work.

These pictures are from the party at my parents' house last Saturday night. The kids love spending time with their cousins and they were very excited for their birthday cupcakes! 
(courtesy of Costco, of course)

Mady experienced her first cupcake and LOVED it. This baby knows how to eat. Before we could finish singing or blow our her candle for her, she was already digging in. She ate, and ate, and ate: two cupcakes total plus the part of Ella's cupcake that she stole when Ella wasn't looking. Sneaky baby.

It's hard to believe she's one already!

The rest of the birthday gang.

clean sweep

I have been in an organizing/de-cluttering sort of mood the past few days. Kind of like nesting only without the pregnancy (it is a relief to me that this phenomenon still happens even when you're not expecting - during my last, LAST nesting period a little over a year ago I wondered how I would ever get anything done again). Our friends just moved, my mom's been working on her house, and I've been reading about it over here...a perfect storm, I guess you could say.

My main focus has been the unfinished basement. We are not pack-rats, but things were getting bad down there. Can't-walk-through-the-room, sign-us-up-for-Hoarders bad. I wish I had taken a Before picture but just trust me when I say it wasn't good.

My strategy:
  • Clear out all the little boy clothes to a couple of adorable little guys in my life. It can be a little emotional sorting through the baby Dilly clothes but I pushed through. I have one tiny bin of toddler stuff left but I am pretty much cleared out.
  • Organize my garage sale pile. I'm not generally a garage sale type gal, but I had one here last spring with some friends and we had a lot of fun people-watching, negotiating, and eating, so I'm game for doing another one this year. Plus I made almost $400 and got rid of a bunch of stuff I have yet to miss.
  • Craigslist, Craigslist, Craigslist. I love Craigslist. With minimal effort this week I have cleared out several medium-ish items that were just taking up space. Some people may find the whole thing creepy but I have met several quite nice people through the years. For example, this week I sold our baby swing to a couple with 6 and 8 year old boys who are expecting their first baby girl soon, and I met a nice young girl who works days doing environmental work (cleaning up the Kalamazoo oil spill right now) who was happy to take three bar stools and a spice rack off my hands.
  • Donate to people who might actually need it. We have a Love INC drop-off site nearby - I brought a load of stuff over there (including our old computer and printer that was taking up a lot of space) and brought a couple bags of clothes (for the Have It/Need It? room) and some good-condition nursery toys to our church (side note: I went through my pantry last week and loaded up a bag of stuff I just won't get to using in time to send with Dylan to school for a food-drive - if you think about it for a minute, you can usually find the right place for your still-in-good-shape stuff).
  • Sort out the luggage closet. We have more luggage than one family has any right to. My parents love to give us luggage for gifts - the kids will each receive six pieces during the early years of their lives, four duffle bags in various sizes plus two rolling duffles, all in matching colors, complete with their intials (gotta love my mom for that!). The beauty of this gift is that if you give kids luggage, it implies that you expect them to go places, and how cool is that? The downside is a very disorganized pile of bags in the basement. Anyway, everything is now contained. Viola.
  • Say good-bye to ugly gift wrap. I'm somewhat of a gift-wrap-aholic. This week I sorted through it all, tossed the beat-up, unattractive stuff, and separated the Christmas from the every day stuff.
  • Label!! So...I recently acquired a label maker. I realize this makes me a dork. I don't care. It's magic.
The After:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Oh, Madelyn Mae. Where to begin?

Our baby, our brown-eyed girl - our baby princess
Little Peanut. Scootcher. Tunky-Tot. Mady Pady.

And I'll admit, sometimes we also call her 
Slime-Knocker, Gooberstein, Fuzz Head, and Stinky Buns.

With this little one, we have made an extra effort from day one to cherish every snuggle, every stage, every milestone - we have held her more than our other babies, let her stay up later than the others, and it is hard for her do much wrong in this house, even as far as Big Brother and Big Sister are concerned. 

In short, we all adore her.

And you wonder how youngest children end up the way they do.

(Note: this is only Year One - 
we will try to instill a little character in her as she grows.)

She loves
her doggy
her mommy
her da-da
her thumb
those two bigger little humans we have running around the house
and a nice, warm bottle at the end of a long day.

She is the perfect ending to the amazing family God has blessed us with: 
she is the tie breaker, the grand finale, the baby.

Oh, how we love her. Happy 1st birthday, Pumpkin.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


We call him Little Man but he's not seeming quite so little to us these days. Sometimes I catch him out of the corner of my eye and I see the teenager he's going to be, the grown-up man.

Six years old.

Hard to believe.  

There is something about your first-born, your first baby. He's the one that made us a Mommy and a Daddy. We expect so much out of him - we always comment that if he was the baby of the family we would let so much more slide. But he's our oldest, so we expect a lot...the burden of being the first-born (oldest children grow up to be presidents and astronauts - he'll thank us later). But sometimes it's good to remember that's he still little. Just six.

Dylan is our deep-thinking, 
All boy. 
He loves his Daddy - his best friend. 
Looks after his two little sisters. 
And still has time to give his Mommy hugs when she asks for them. 
He's not perfect, but we know who he is - we can see who God created to him be.

 And those brown eyes. Enough to melt his Mommy's heart, every time.

We love you, Dylan Matthew. 
We are so thankful that you are our first-born, our first baby. 
God has great things planned for you.

photos by Mindy Leigh :)

Friday, November 12, 2010


Four years ago, we were waiting for Ella - I was induced so we knew she was coming, although we didn't know that she was a she. We knew if we had a baby girl, we would name her Ella but we had no idea what was about to hit us!

From the moment she came crashing into this world (screaming her head off, complicated delivery and all) she has kept us on our toes. I remember Matt coming back to the hospital the next morning after she was born (both of our heads still reeling, "we have a girl"), looking at me and saying, "but I have to give her away" - the next 20+ years flashing before our eyes.

We are four years into it and she is a wonder.

She is spunky, 
funny (in her words: 'larious),
clumsy (in a graceful sort of way),
a little nuts, 
tender-hearted (you should see her with her twins, Sally and Emily), 
tomboy-ish (she has to keep up with big brother), 
and one of the prettiest princesses you will ever meet.

Oh, and have I mentioned her blonde hair and blue eyes??

Happy 4th birthday, Ella Jeanne.
We are so glad God sent you to live in our family.
You are a blessing and a joy.

photos by Mindy Leigh :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

whoopie pies

I made some whoopie pies today in honor of Matt's birthday - he's not a big fan of cake and even if he was, we eat enough cake during birthday season to last us for a while. This was my first time making the pies and I have to pass along the recipe because they are really good. I got the recipe from my friend Theresa (who will be thrilled to be mentioned in a recipe post)...who got it from her friend, Rachel Ray. Enjoy!


  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, 1 stick melted, 1/2 stick softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt
  • 1-2/3 cups flour
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.
  3. Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop 12 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  5. Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.
Other Tips:
  • It's important that the eggs be at room temperature.
  • Use an ice cream scoop with a clicker like they say - I filled mine about 3/4 full otherwise they turn out really big.
  • Parchment paper is important. It's in the baking aisle.
  • I had to bake mine a few minutes longer than the 10 minutes they say.
  • I doubled the recipe. Makes 12-14 pies if you double, 6-7 if you don't (twice as many cookie halves before you put them together...kind of confusing).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

it's beginning to look a lot like...

...birthday season! It's that time of year again...a warm-up to Christmas...everyone's a year older! (except Mommy)...complete and utter chaos! OK, it's fun too and we get a lot of birthday-ing out of our system in one fell swoop. I know, I know...try not to be jealous that you didn't consider this route when planning your families.

We kicked off the festivities tonight at Matt's parents' house. Mady is the proud new owner of a Bitty Baby (that she laughs very nervously around), Ella has a new princess dress, a play birthday cake, and (wait for it) a Barbie toilet that really flushes (plus Barbie and Kelly), and let's just say that Dylan will be spending his entire day tomorrow trying out his new Nerf gun and target.
It was a great night and just the beginning. I'm very happy to be the Mommy of an almost 6 year old, almost 4 year old, and almost 1 year old (and I think Matt has a birthday in there somewhere too!)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I know everyone posts Halloween pictures this time of year, but some of these are just classic and I had to share. We were in Disney the week before Halloween so I wasn't very prepared this year - I kind of thought in the back of my mind that somehow we would miss the holiday all together and then I realized while we were away that we would be back just in time. We got off the plane in Grand Rapids at 3pm and were ready to trick or treat by 6pm. Luckily, all I had to do was borrow a Superman costume from our friends across the street for Dylan, unpack Ella's princess dress from her suitcase, and dig out a chicken suit for Mady from our costume bin downstairs.
Our little princess.
I asked Dylan to take a picture of Mady and me. He took one, looked proud of himself and said, "I got everything except your eyes and your forehead."
Second try (handed the camera to Matt this time) - Mady really wasn't this happy. She was still exhausted from our trip but she tolerated the chicken suit as long as she was being held.
We introduced the chicken to the bear -
love Ty's calm...Mady...a little dramatic.
Our kids + our favorite neighbors' kids - an adorable bear and Batman.
Take One: the chicken tries to escape.
Take Two: that's a little better.
Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

big girl

I snapped this picture of Mady last night - Dylan and Ella were playing in the front yard and she was having so much fun watching them and "yelling" at them. She just turned 11 months old and it seems like she's suddenly growing up so fast. She has six teeth now - four on top, two on bottom - and she's eating more and more table food (bananas and whole wheat bread are two of her favorite foods...and chocolate chip cookies that Daddy sneaks her).

She is pulling up on everything and can stand on her own for a few seconds at a time. She looks around at us and grins until she falls on her bottom. Yesterday for the first time, I caught her walking while holding onto the couch. Big sister walked at 11 1/2 months; I'm guessing Mady might follow in her footsteps.

We are counting down the days until we are done with formula and bottles and the infant car seat (remember how your baby stuff was all shiny and new with Kid #1? By Kid #3 all you want to do is throw it in the nearest trash container.)

She is definitely the baby in our family - she gets lots of extra attention and I'm sure we're coddling her in a lot ways...but she still has a lot of  years ahead of her to develop some character, right? For now, she is our baby and we love her to pieces.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mini Monkey Breads

You know how you save recipes thinking "I'll try that later" and then never do? I have an entire folder devoted to this idea - and today I finally did try one out. The recipe is just a basic monkey bread recipe but you make mini ones in muffin tins instead of a big one in a Bundt pan. I cut all the ingredients in four also so I could use just one small can of biscuits - it ended up making 6 muffin sized loafs which was perfect for an after school treat.

Mini Monkey Breads (makes 6)
1 can buttermilk biscuits (7.5 oz)
1/4 C sugar (or just under)
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 C brown sugar (or just under)
2-3 T butter

Cut each biscuit in four. Shake with cinnamon and sugar in a gallon Ziploc bag. Place biscuits inside muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full (spray bottoms first with Pam). Over the stove combine butter and brown sugar, melting the butter completely. Spoon the liquid over each muffin cup. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown.

cold turkey

We are trying to kick our Pull-Ups-at-night habit around here (note: there is a reason why there haven't been many recent blog posts around here: this is as exciting as it gets around here).

Last Monday morning, somehow a Pull-Up exploded in our room as Dylan and Ella were doing their first-thing-in-the-morning-run-around-mom-and-dad's-room routine and I decided I had enough of the pee-filled chemical holders known as Pull-Ups. I made up a big speech about how they were big kids and we could do this and we were going to give away their Pull-Ups to other kids who need them. Poof. The Pull-Ups vanished from the hall closet and I vowed not to look back. Or at least give it a good week.

It's been a week and it's actually going better than expected. They have each had a couple of completely dry nights and a few "almost" nights. I think the most encouraging thing is that they actually seem to care - some of you have been the lucky recipients of sleeping-in-underwear updates by our dear children (if you see them on a morning when they were dry all night, they are going to tell you about it....just a warning.)

I have done a couple of late night sheet changings and a lot of extra wash this past week, but I haven't had to throw any wet Pull-Ups in the trash dumpster or fork over any more money at Target...and the grins on my kid's faces in the morning are priceless...all in all, I call it a success.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

hey, tooth fairy!

First loose tooth! Time to give the Tooth Fairy directions to our house. What's the going rate these days?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

polka party

Just ordered these Robeez for Mady. I can't get over the cuteness. One of those moments (I know, it's trivial) that I love having little girls!

If you don't have one - a little girl - I strongly suggest you go out and get yourself one ;)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Princess Moonka

Yes, you read that right, we call her Moonka (Moo-nka, not monkey, like Jalen thinks). Sometimes it's Moonks or Moonkeys (long "o") or even Toonks - it doesn't matter what the variation, it's always the same spunky, blond-haired little girl we're referring to. I hardly remember when it started but I think I recall her crawling around our new-to-us house as a baby with determination set on her brow and Matt calling her Princess Moonka Moonka. Funny how nicknames stick.

The other night Dylan was with my parents for the evening, so we decided to go out for Chinese - after all, we only had two kids (funny how your perspective changes through the years). Since Mady hasn't yet mastered the art of conversation, Matt and I were able to have some one-on-one conversations with our Ella. On the way home, we asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. In her sweet little matter of fact voice she told us, "I'm going to have a house...and a baby...and then I will push the itty bitty buttons on the c'puter. And have a cat. But not a dog."

There you have it. Dear, sweet Ella, we can't wait to see who you continue to become!
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