Sunday, December 30, 2012

{twenty-twelve} Looking Back

Time to turn the page to a brand new year.
But, first, a look back.

2012 was filled with 
and heartache,
and lows,
tears of laughter 
and of sadness,
new beginnings 
and chapters closed,
exciting growth 
and bittersweet "last times".

It was a very full year.
We're learning to look for the gifts and give thanks (in all things) for the beauty.
What I hope we remember when we look back is the JOY.

Here's a recap of 
where we've been
{as we look forward to where we're going next}

We ring in 2012, family-style.
Once again, we head for the sunny skies of the Bahamas.
I choose one word for the new year: F-O-C-U-S.
The girls and I rush (and slide) through a wintry sort of race.

We fill each other's love tanks with the sweetest sort of mail.
We go indoor rock climbing (& date night is never the same).
We work through Lent and end up 40 bags (at least!) lighter.
It's a Leap Year!

We attempt a cleanse.
I run The Jig (alone, sadly) and come home with a PR.
We enjoy an unseasonably warm spring.
I spend the weekend away with my Bible and my yoga mat. (File this under: Who knew?)

I try to find time.
It's baseball season (again)!
Dylan is featured in his first art show.
Our family walks for water.

Our boys fall in love with biking.
I run like I have never run before.
We celebrate eleven.
The girls enjoy a weekend away in the Windy City.
Ella loses her first tooth and learns to ride a bike.

We celebrate the beginning of summertime.
We help staff a lemonade stand.
We celebrate Daddy (and he goes GF).
The world is a safer place after the big kids attend safety camp.

We enjoy everything Pure Michigan has to offer.
I decide it's time to start saying no.
We try to beat the heat.
We throw an Olympics party.
Our journey with orthodontics begins.

We rough it in the North Woods for a long weekend.
D & E's first concert: Needtobreathe.
Happy birthday to me. {Farewell & Hello}
Cottage Week. Oh, man.
We visit Denver and our hearts are never the same again.

We finally stop putting off Procrastination Day.
Mady moves into a big girl bed.
Two firsts: making sushi and playing artist. (I'm not quitting my day job for either.)

Our community begins again.
Book club wraps up.
We celebrate my birthday. (Two months later.)
We head south to the place where dreams really do come true.
We hit the 'hood disguised as a biker man, bride, and Tinkerbell.

Our basement remodel begins.
 We muscle through Birthday Week 2012Three, Six & Eight.
We relax up north in a cozy cabin + zip down water slides.
The first flu of the season hits hard.

Advent arrives. And we wait expectantly.
The boys cruise through their first cyclocross races.
We limp over the Workout Challenge: Year 2 marker.
Mady LOVES her first go at "music class".

{...and if you wanna go way back, you can go here: 2011 & 2010}

Thursday, December 27, 2012

...& the rest of the Tinsel.

We started the season with the best of intentions...

{insert real life}

...but in the end, we kind of petered out.

In the spirit of celebrating the days that get done, however, I wanted to share snapshots of Truth in the Tinsel, Days 13-21.

The flu hit our house on Day 22 and in between my fits of delirium naps, I did actually try to push through. My need for sleep eventually won out so the crafts sat untouched.

And then last night, in the midst of my bummed out attitude over missing a favorite Christmas party, I packed up all things Christmas.

So while maybe we'll still get to the remaining readings + crafts over Christmas break, I really kind of doubt it.

And that's OK.

Or at least, I'm working towards getting to a place where that's OK ;)

All in all, I enjoyed our Truth in the Tinsel experience. And mom to mom, in case you're thinking of doing this next year, here are my real, live opinions on this Advent experience.

Our kids were at good ages to appreciate it all (8, 6 & 3). Any younger than three, and I'm not sure how much a child would "get" out of it (as it was, nap time was often the easiest time for us to sit down with the big kids for the readings which means Mady sometimes missed out). Any older than eight, and a child might find the crafts too "easy".

It definitely helped to be prepared. If you try it next year, I'd use some days in early November to get everything gathered and ready to go. I had many supplies on hand already, like the felt, yarn, and paint and grabbed some of the more unique items at the dollar store or Hobby Lobby (i.e. glitter foam, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.)

Back at home, I stashed everything in one big craft bin in the dining room and it was pretty easy to throw things together each day (or even better, the night before) once everything was in one place and easily accessible.

The kids have little Christmas trees in their rooms, so it worked well to hang ornaments there each day. If we did it again, I might not turn them all into ornaments (this is up to you most days - there are no specific instructions so the hot glue gun came in handy) and instead leave them out on the table in a big bowl or something. I can picture little hands enjoying pulling them out and playing with them later.

Lastly, check your expectations at the door. It's OK not to follow the directions. It's OK to skip around and not do all the days. It's OK to let kids be kids. The purpose of it all, after all, is to turn little eyes on Him, not to win Crafty Mother of the Year.

The purpose is to discover the treasures in the tinsel. (And I believe we did!)

Local? Going to give it a go next year? I have some extra supplies for one lucky lady who contacts me soon!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Christmas Flu (bah humbug!)

There is a serious lack of Christmas photos on my camera this year. Things didn't go exactly as planned as the achy/fever flu wiped out Mommy and then Mady.

The big kids had a wonderful Christmas (we went old school this year...race track + art easel). Matt also came out a big winner with his shower radio courtesy of Ella and the Bauer Elementary Secret Santa Shop.

Mommy and Mady's Christmas looked a little more like this:

I stayed home with her last night, so we missed the party at Matt's parents' house. I've never had a sick kiddo on Christmas before, although I think every mom has a holiday flu tale to tell. I have reluctantly entered the ranks, and I hope this is my one and only story like this to my credit.

The upside? No letdown. Poor little pumpkin hasn't even opened her gifts yet.

Hope your Christmas was a little bit quite a bit merrier!

Friday, December 14, 2012

A few of my favorite things.

{Invite Inspiration}

My secret dream is to host a favorite things party.

I saw the idea on Pinterest and have been smitten with the idea ever since. Basically, you invite a handful of girlfriends over and ask them to each bring five of their favorite things within a set price limit. Then at the party, you get to share your favorites, exchange items, and everyone goes home with a bag filled with some well-loved, picked-with-care lovely little things.

Sound fun to anyone else? I thought so.

The Nester has also hosted her version of a favorite things party and she shared some new favorites over on her blog today. In the spirit of favorites, Friday, and frivolous fun, here are a few of my current favorites.

Paper Mate Flair Pens. Love these. My list-making / calendar-writing life has vastly improved since I started keeping a pot full of these (and these) on my desk. Because life is better lived in color.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I'm reading this currently and it's eye-opening, life-changing, and my personal favorite: h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s. I've thought about buying a whole boatload of these books and passing them out to everyone I know. But that seems excessive. So instead, I am deeply committed to sharing this book (and my copy!) with anyone who acts borderline interested in the topic.

L'Occitane Hand Cream. Dry winter hands make me bonkers. This is the hand cream dreams are made of. It's pricey but it makes your hands feel like a million bucks, so I say it's worth it.

Lindor Truffles. Theresa handed me a handful of these the other day after a particularly strenuous hill run (yes, we see the irony here and we're OK with it), and I've been enjoying them ever since. My absolute favorite, always in good taste, stay-at-home mom joke is that we sit around eat and bon bons all day. Case in point: I'm eating one as I type right now. At 10am.

Fiestaware Gusto Bowls. I *may* have bought myself new dishes on our 10th wedding anniversary. I choose Fiestaware (scarlet, cobalt, peacock & shamrock), and I love the sight of COLOR smiling back at me whenever I open our cupboards. These gusto bowls are particularly favorite pieces, and I think they would be a cheerful addition to anyone's kitchen.

Lakeshore Candle Company Candles. This is a local (West MI) company and they make the most amazing soy candles. My absolute favorite is the Apple Cider.

What would you bring to a favorite things party??

Some favorite things party inspiration: Joy's Hope // The Nester // A Place for Us

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Treasures in the Tinsel.

Our Advent trees are starting to fill up!
We're at the halfway point of Advent -- and our first Truth in the Tinsel experience. I'm happy (and pleasantly surprised!) to report that it's going well. I'm an organized, rule-following sort of girl so while I knew we'd start strong, I wondered if after a few days it would all fall apart (as even the most well-intentioned endeavors sometimes do).

The secret here has nothing to do with any super mom powers on my part, but everything to do with the fact the kids LOVE it. They fight (sibling occupational hazard) over who gets to open the door on the Advent calendar each morning for the "clue" and then ask (most days) when it's time to do the reading + craft as soon as they get off the bus from school.

Day 1 - Light // Day 2 - Kingdom // Day 3 - Zechariah // Day 4 - Gabriel
I admit the daily crafting with kids thing can look a little intimidating on the surface - a recipe for chaos, messes, another daily "to do", and more work for mom. And while there is a little planning - and glitter! argh! - involved, 1) it's totally worth it, and 2) it's not really about the crafting at all. 

There's something bigger going on here.

Day 5 - Joseph // Day 6 - Elizabeth & Mary // Day 7 - Song // Day 8 - Sun
The beauty of experiencing Advent via Truth in the Tinsel is in the simplicity, the repetition, the togetherness, and The Story. (And, of course, in the fact that another brilliant mom did all the planning for you.) While their little hands are busy crafting, their hearts and minds seem to be engaged.

This is the first year we've really intentionally worked through the story with the kids and I love taking our time to do it, over the course of 24 days... slowly... piece by piece. Characters are introduced, themes are brought to light, the story builds. The big kids remember what it was like to wait for Mady to be born and we talk about that a lot - the way we prepared for and anticipated our baby's arrival. In the same way, celebrating Advent each year helps us to focus, to anticipate, to hope, as we tell the story of baby Jesus.

Day 9 - Joseph // Day 10 - Dream // Day 11 - Jesus' Name // Day 12 - Census
It's been amazing to see the big kids engaged, reading the story themselves, asking questions {immaculate conception?? anyone? anyone??}, exploring what's next, and deciding in their 6 & 8 year old hearts what the story of Jesus means for them, right here, right now.

And it warms my heart to watch as our little one wanders around, wreaks havoc at the craft table, and rearranges our Little People Nativity.

Sure, sometimes it's messy. Sometimes we wind up frustrated. Sometimes it seems like a bit of extra work. And it's most definitely not always picture perfect.

But three kids, all different ages, all preparing for Christmas in their own way? This mama will take it.

Come Lord Jesus, come.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A day at the {cyclocross} races.

Yesterday afternoon our family enjoyed a day at the cyclocross races on one of the last "warm" (50 degree) days in Michigan at nearby park. The boys scouted it out last Sunday as spectators, and this week Dylan was ready to give it a go.

If you've never heard of cyclocross, it's a form of bike racing that takes place typically in the fall or winter on a short course featuring trails, grass, hills, and obstacles which require the rider to hop off his or her bike and carry it for short portions. Dylan signed up for the one loop kids' race (about 15 minutes worth of riding) and Matt did the longer race after that (5 loops, taking about 45 minutes).

Dylan was excited to start but then the experience proved to be a little tougher than he anticipated. Dylan is a first born and hates to fail or feel silly and he got stressed out pretty quickly. Luckily, Matt was riding beside him and could talk him through it. As they passed by and we cheered, I could see Dylan fighting back tears, his eight-year-old lip quivering. He's so close to being a big boy, but still a little boy at heart. But he kept going, and our boys finished strong (well, Matt did anyway).

Meanwhile, Mady discovered the little kids' course set up, complete with super cute balance bikes. She happens to be getting one of these for Christmas and we were happy to see that it will be a big hit. She "rode" and rode around the course, over the ramp and the little barrier they had set up.

I think we may have another rider on our hands.

In the end, Dylan won his division. His eyes lit up when we told him the news, and he has already broken into his winnings: a 6-pack of A&W root beer  The day was redeemed and a bike racing career may have been born. (Small print: he was the only rider in his division, but you had better believe we're not telling him that.)

On a related side note, there is a favorite family story of a young Matt crying before a bike race at the county fair, worried about how he would do. His parents talked him through it...and then he took first place. It's in Dylan's genes.

Tonight, before bed, Dylan prayed out loud, "And thank you I could do the bike race and win some rootbeer and thank you that my whole family was there to watch me and cheer me on."


Saturday, December 1, 2012


It's Advent season and we're ready to snuggle in, slow down, and prepare our hearts for what's ahead. I love hearing what others are up to during this season - some are turning off the TV, some already have their Christmas shopping done and wrapped up, some are finding ways to journey through the season together, as a family or community.

We're trying Truth in the Tinsel this year, an ebook/devotional I spotted in the blogosphere somewhere, somehow. We'll be reading a passage each day, talking about it a bit, and then crafting a little ornament. I retrieved my craft supplies from the basement storage room (no small feat at this phase in the game), took a trip to the Dollar Tree and Hobby Lobby, and I believe we're in business. I'm excited to try it, and I really hope this will help shift the focus to Him, rather than retail America.

I'm also reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess right now with a community of people organized by my friend Lisa, and that's been an interesting contrast to this season of stuff. I've wanted to read the book for a while and I kept waiting for the "right" time. This book club opportunity popped up and it's turned out to be exactly the right sort of time to think about and challenge the way we relate to excess (so far we've read the chapters on food, clothes, possessions, and media).

An Advent Prayer
by bleedingoutloud
Holy Christ, we acknowledge all that is broken in our world and in ourselves and we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Come into the cracks and crevices and rifts in our community. Into the violence and the homelessness. Into the anger and divisiveness. Into our losses and lack. Into marriages and relationships that have grown cold. 
Bring peace. Bring wholeness. Bring healing. Bring hope. 
We wait. We watch. We live with anticipation because in you, Christ, we believe God has come among us and has begun putting the world back together. And we trust that You will come again and finish the work You began. 
Holy Christ, hear our Advent prayer: Come, Lord Jesus! Come.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Insta.Life // Notably November

November was a doozy. It included many, many celebrations, not to mention the kids' annual photo session, an election, a weekend get-a-way, and living with a minor construction zone beneath our feet, Oh, and let's not forget about Turkey Day. Sprinkled between the big moments, however, were some small ones too.

This is how picture morning looks at our house. Imagine some yelling, near freezing temperatures, an uncooperative toddler, and you get the picture.
{Good news, Mindy is a miracle worker and we ended up with some great shots}

We voted!
And evicted some mousey friends...again (true story) all on the same Tuesday.

Cleaning Mady's room. It seemed like a good idea when I started.

Water slides & birthday cake or BUST! Headed north.

Pure torture (for him and me). How to choose? How to choose??

On the agenda for our long, lazy Thanksgiving weekend:
updating the baby books of my not-so-little "babies" anymore.

Tooling around town on Small Business Saturday with my favorite peeps.
Possibly my favorite Instagram ever.

A quick trip to Lowe's for door knobs.
 ...and suddenly I'm feeling like the third wheel ;)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

stomach flu {sunny side up}

Our baby girl is under the weather. Nothing catastrophic, just a little bout with stomach flu.

She'll survive, and so will my laundry room (that's the hope anyway).

And with all of life's inconveniences, both big and small, we get to decide whether to look for the good in it or simply see the bad. So while the last 24 hours were not in the original plan (and we feel so bad for our sad, sick little girl), I keep coming across little bright spots.

You can blame it on Ann Voskamp.

Stomach flu, sunny side up, if you will.

Here are some gifts moments among the "Clean up on Aisle Five!" moments:

I am thankful that our schedule was clear yesterday and today.

I am thankful I am able to stay home with her on the days when she's healthy, and when she's not.

I am thankful for washing machines. (Oh man, am I ever.)

I am thankful for a husband who hops out of bed at the first sound of trouble before I have one eye open, strips sheets off the bed with the best of them, and sets up temporary sleeping solutions without complaint.

I am thankful we have enough extra blankets, sheets, towels, and sleeping bags for 1am, 3am, and 5am bedding changes.

I am thankful for a doctor we trust, and medical care we can afford. (Coincidentally, Mady's 3 year well-child visit was scheduled a year ago for this morning. Pop quiz: what do you call a well-child appointment when your child isn't well? I don't know either.)

I am thankful God wired us Mommies not to shirk away from our germ-laden, little vomit volcanoes but instead to cuddle them a little closer and tackle clean-up jobs bravely and head-on.

I am thankful for texts from friends who check in on us, offer to bring me a latte, act interested in the status of my laundry mound, and generally commiserate (because we've all been there, haven't we?)

I am thankful God chose me to be her mama - to be the one to comfort her, to tell her it's OK, to make her world as right as it can be when you're three years old and feeling yucky.

Now if the rest of us catch this bug, I might be singing a different tune....but for now, I'm choosing joy.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Three of my favorites.
Today on Thanksgiving {and everyday}.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

cupcakes & water slides.

Three birthday's down, one to go! We saved the littlest Terps' big day for last, and she's not so little any more, now she's T-H-R-E-E!

Our Mady brings so much joy into our household. The big kids have delighted in her from day one and love to look out for her. Mommy and Daddy hold her just a little bit longer than necessary, and we have savored first the baby moments and now the toddler moments because we know she's the last one to come up through the ranks. She can be strong willed at times, but mostly she's just funny and sweet.

We celebrated her birthday a little early because of our weekend plans. It got confusing trying to explain to her which day was her actual birthday, what with the seemingly endless birthday-ing and cupcake eating, so we kind of gave up. We'll try to clarify that better for her next year.

Madelyn Mae, you are dearly loved, and I'm so glad we were able to celebrate YOU. We love that you're three now, but please stay little always, OK?

We had scarcely wiped the frosting off our lips when it was time to pack up and head up north. The kids went to school for half a day on Friday and then we loaded up the minivan with two moms and five kids (the dads drove up a little later). We met up with a couple other families in a beautiful mountain cabin and settled in for the weekend. Our first order of business? Why another round of birthday cake, of course.

The evenings were spent wrangling kids into bed, playing Pit, raiding the kitchen, and laughing into the wee hours of the night. On Saturday we spent the day at Avalanche Bay, an indoor water park, and played until we crashed. I love spending time with these people - no matter what chaos surrounds us, there is always a relaxed, easy-going, happy vibe. 

We almost didn't take this picture...there were cries of protest from those of us still in some version of our pajamas...but I'm so glad we did. Yes we look a little sleep deprived complete with bags under our eyes {for future reference, five wiggly boys in four bunk beds + three giggly girls in a walk in closet + three toddlers sleeping with mommies and daddies = not a lot of sleep for anyone involved} but I can also see our full, happy hearts.

I'm thankful for our three year old, some time away from the hustle and bustle of every day life, and these dear, dear friends.

Sayonara, Birthday Season! Until next year!

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