Sunday, September 30, 2012

Five things I'm loving right now.

I found myself in a momentary funk the other day, when I spotted a tweet about a five things I love link party over at a blog called Back to the Basics. (Social networking at it's finest.) 

I scraped myself off the couch, thought of five current favorites fairly quickly, and instantly felt like the glass was once again half-full. Some of these things I have loved for a good, long time (lattes!), some of these things I have just recently learned to love (change...oy).
Here you go...five things I'm loving right now...

Slowing Down. I'm in the process of reading One Thousand Giftsand I'm learning a lot about gratitude. #1 observation: it's hard to be grateful when you're always in a hurry. I'm trying to put less on my calendar each week and manage my time better. I want to build space into my life so I have time to practice gratitude. I want to adopt a childlike attitude of wonder. I want to enjoy my life not just live it. I want to notice the little things. Like these fish. In Meijer. Because grocery shopping, like life, is not an emergency.

Elementary School-ers. I love mine, of course, but I'm also talking about the bigger realm of K through 5th graders. I've never been the type to come alive in a room full of toddlers, making animal sounds, crawling around on my hands and knees, reading the same book 56 times... but as I volunteer in D & E's school, I'm learning that I enjoy this age group a whole lot. I like talking to them, learning their names, sharing a kind word, sending a smile their way. Kids this age are sweet, receptive, and still think Dylan T.'s mom is cool.  

Change. I know. Not the obvious choice for a "things I love" post, but hear me out. I've heard it said that change is a form of loss. And loss can be sad and scary and uncomfortable. But I've also heard it said that change is to be expected. And when I shift my perspective and realize that change is a natural part of life, suddenly it doesn't seem so frightening. When I realize that out of change and loss often springs new life and opportunity, I am filled with hope and renewed energy and gratitude. I'm filled with thankfulness for what was... and for what will be.

Lattes. Previous fav: rasberry white chocolate mocha. Current fav: pumpkin spice (I also love all things seasonal). I know the statistics on what I could be doing with the $5 dollars I spend a couple times a week on lattes, but I also know that lattes make me feel warm and fuzzy and can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary one (or salvage a particularly terrible grocery store outing). I also found a workaround to any latte-inspired guilt: I pick one up for a friend too and suddenly it's an act of generosity, rather than indulgence. It's my little way of paying the latte love forward.

All things SILLY. Here's a theory: we take ourselves a bit too seriously. Want to experience joy, spread joy, laugh a little (or a lot)? Try acting silly. For my dear friend Theresa's birthday, we spent the morning driving around from place to place, collecting birthday freebies. The list included a bear claw, an ice cream sundae, two cute bowls, queso dip, an appetizer, a piece of chocolate cake and some ready-to-bake cookie dough. We allowed ourselves to act ridiculous, laughed until our sides hurt, and garnered a lot of smiles from strangers. Silly? Yes. An amazeballs way to spend a morning? Absolutely.
Enough about me. What five things are you loving right now?

Linking up here...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Insta.Life // Super September

September is in full swing, but besides the big kids' school schedules, our fall has been blissfully not busy. Dylan's not playing soccer this year, and Ella's taking a little break from gymnastics which means the after-school hours have been filled with watching Little House on the Prairie re-runs, baking treats, playing with the neighbor kids, and generally not rushing around in the minivan.

We have some winter and spring activities on the docket, so we'll be carpooling around soon enough, but for now we're enjoying the empty space on our calendar. (Not that we haven't been staying on for a peak into some of our mini moments.)

 One last summer day spent at The Condo, enjoying rootbeer rocket pops.

 Theresa & I are hosting a book club of sorts...and I am enjoying the guilty pleasure of writing in pen in my copy of One Thousand Gifts.

A well-earned breakfast break halfway through a 24 mile bike ride.

 Our spoiled baby enjoying a foot rub (and a movie) with big brother.

 Life Lesson #67: take time to celebrate.

 Sushi 101: take an industrial kitchen, add a generous helping of good friends, toss in some seaweed, rice, fish eggs, and sake...and enjoy!

Post-bike ride park playing.

 A favorite after school activity with my Ella.
1 C peanut butter, 1 C sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp. baking powder. 350, 10 minutes.

 Applesauce day!
9 hours, 70 quarts, one hot mess. Phew!

Nice dam view.

 Sometimes being big brother is hard work.

We checked our inhibitions at the door, donned smocks, and played artist.
No one's quitting their day jobs, but we had a blast!

A sunny, fall afternoon spent stroller-ing around the city, taking in the art. {including this piece entitled Stick-to-it-ive-ness}

Linking up here:
life rearranged

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Red Balloons & Sharpies

I spent my morning outside of my normal routine today: hanging out on Division Avenue {a street in Grand Rapids traditionally known for its homeless shelters and prostitutes}, handing out red balloons and handbills.

A bit of explanation: Theresa, K3, I volunteered to man one of the five ArtPrize locations of The Manasseh Project. Each of the five stations is designed to bring awareness to one of the root causes of sexual exploitation. All together, the five different locations tell the story of "The Child" (a woman who grew up right here in Grand Rapids, named Leslie).

Our particular location was called Relational Gaps, and it spoke to the cycle of abuse leading to abuse or neglect leading to abuse. In Leslie's story, she spent her childhood hiding from her violent, alcoholic father, only to be taken advantage of by another male relative. From there she sought belonging on the streets, from her pimp, and from the men who bought her.

[The other root causes of human trafficking and exploitation include Demand, Sexual Abuse, Substance Abuse, and Poverty. Read more about them here. Spoiler alert: Leslie's story is ultimately redemptive and you can find it here.]

Heavy stuff. Not my typical morning of toddler play dates or grocery store stops.

We began the morning a bit apprehensive as we looked around at the neighborhood, the "clientele", and wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. We started to read the large white wall that had been constructed. The question on it said, "What relationship are you missing that makes you feel vulnerable?" There were Sharpies hung along the wall as well, an open invitation for people to answer the question in their own handwriting, in their own words.

After a slow start, people began to stop. They wanted to talk, to engage. They wanted to know what we were doing. They wanted to know why. They wanted to be heard. They wanted to share their story. They wanted someone to listen.

In all honesty, on a normal day if I found myself walking around downtown, these are not the sort of people I would stop to talk to. Many were homeless, possessions trailing behind them in bags. Many were drunk or strung out (our station just happened to be right next to the neighborhood liquor store). Some were disabled. Most were poor, weary, dirty, and hungry.

But they were also friendly and open and willing to share. When we greeted them with a smile, gave them eye contact and our full attention, they came alive. Some told us through tears in their eyes just how missing relationships and exploitation had directly affected their lives. They looked relieved that someone was giving a name to their life experiences.

Some people walked by two, three, four times before they finally stopped and wrote something on the wall. We periodically checked the wall for new words, and those words often broke our hearts.

It was a heavy morning. A heartbreaking morning. But worthwhile and beautiful and filled to the brim at the same time. The air was chilly, but the sun was bright. And I am deeply grateful I had the opportunity to connect with others in our community and to experience a small piece of their stories.

And now, as someone entrusted with their stories, I want to do my part to help pass them along. I think more than anything, we all want to know that we are important and worth something and simply not forgotten. Human trafficking is real and it's ugly and it's right here in our city. Let's not get so busy and disconnected and distracted that we forget or simply look away.

If you're local, and you want to know more, you can check out The Manasseh Project's various locations around town as well as their main art exhibit, The Child, located near Blue Bridge & Campau. (ArtPrize Vote #52868).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

#SheReadsTruth // Proverbs

The She Reads Truth community just wrapped up a 31-day study on the book of Proverbs. My reading was a little disjointed at times because of vacations, but I did catch back up and finish strong. 

I read through Proverbs using The Message translation this time, and I love the strong, blunt, clear truths and themes that came up time and time again. I love writing the words down and seeing them in my own handwriting. It's not the same as truly knowing the wisdom or actually practicing it or honest-to-goodness-ly living it, but it's a start.

So much goodness packed into each chapter.

Enjoying some quiet time on a rainy, cool summer morning.

At the cottage enjoying some cute company (and the view).

A timely verse for Project Purge // garage sale week.

A main theme of Proverbs: w-i-s-d-o-m. It's worth it's weight in gold.

Back to reality. An 11pm catch-up session.

Something I would go back and tell my younger self if I could: 
Learn to receive. It's a beautiful thing.

Thinking a lot about my words and how I use them.
Words kill, words give life.

Love the images here and the challenge to build and furnish well.

Blunt. True. Oy.

Someone else around here loves colored pens too.

The closing proverb is a good one!
Interested in learning more about She Reads Truth
Find the details here
A new plan starts Monday, September 17!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Procrastination Day

I first read about the idea of a Procrastination Day in an issue of Real Simple, several months back. I found the idea hilarious. And brilliant. And incredibly productive. I wanted to give it a try.

It took about a year and a half to get the idea off the ground (#ironic), but yesterday Theresa and I completed our first ever Procrastination Day.

Just to be clear - Procrastination Day is when you make a concentrated attempt to accomplish all of the things that have been nagging on you and weighing you down...all the petty tasks you've been avoiding and putting off.

(My mom thought it would be more fun if it was a day when you just put things off even further and had fun instead....which is also brilliant in it's own way.)

But Procrastination Day would be terrible if you didn't have a buddy, so definitely bring a buddy along. Never have our To Do lists felt more doable, our errands more energizing, nor our mundane tasks more magnificent.

Armed with our list, we started the morning with a coffee pep talk. We spent the next 5 1/2 hours trying to knock off as much on our list as we could (while also realizing it wasn't all going to happen today...and that's OK). 

T's biggest victory: getting her iCloud/iPhone debacle figured out. (Good news: her husband no longer receives all of the texts I send her. Bad news: my texts are usually quite hilarious so he's really missing out now.)

My biggest victory? TWO new pairs of jeans meaning I am set for a while. Hallelujah.

In the end, we won some, we lost some, but we made a valiant effort. Our To Do lists are a little better off than when we started the day, we enjoyed each other's company while daring to do the dreadful ...and we're already working on next month's list.

Friday, September 7, 2012


My mom says babies are babies until they are three. This is very comforting when your little one is not yet three because it gives them plenty of time to be a baby.

It's not so comforting when your baby is almost three.

And it's really not helpful when said baby is your. last. baby.

This weekend Mady traded up her toddler bed for a big girl full bed (my bed when I was a little girl too!)

Add her tiny little toddler bed to "The List":

Good bye itty bitty newborn clothes and impossibly small diapers;
Good bye newborn screams (and sleepless nights).
Good bye newborn smells...and newborn snuggles.
Good bye nursing, good bye bottles;
Good bye baby food and high chairs and booster seats;
Good bye baby spoons and formula dispensers and bibs.
Good bye baby gym, baby bath, jungle ExerSaucer, Graco swing.
Good bye paci's (hello, thumb!).
Good bye infant carrier - and hauling it everywhere we go;
Good bye Pampers (sizes 1, 2 & 3). Good bye changing table.
Good bye double stroller and push along car.
Good bye onesies and cute little hats,
See you later 3-6, 6-12, 12-18, 18-24...and 2T.
Good bye baby pool float.
Good bye crib. Good bye Pack N' Play.
Good bye toddler bed. Good bye crib sheets.

And the here today, just-about-gone tomorrow:
Strollers, sippy cups, board books, and Pull-Ups.

It's hard to believe that in January, we'll be signing her up for preschool next fall (and also a bit laughable if you've carried on a conversation with Mady recently... I keep asking Matt, "Will they let her come if she still can't talk?!")

But with every good bye, there's always a hello. Hello sleeping through the night, hello self-feeding, hello putting shoes on, hello independence.

(Hers and ours.)

That's where the bittersweet comes in. With every item we pack away or pass on, we're also gaining something new, something fresh, something filled with hope, ready to shine in a not-so-distant future.

Because childhoods are fleeting and fast, but that's OK. We only have them in our nest for but a moment, but that moment is beautiful and full and it's enough.

So remember the past. Savor the now. And look brightly towards the future.

Accept the bitter. Embrace the sweet.

It a mama's only choice.

{Favorite Mady Posts}

All photography is the work of Mindy of Mindy Leigh Photography.
Yes, we like her. We like her A LOT.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

And they're off!

First Day of School!
A couple of happy, school-aged, all-day, every-day kiddos!

Our morning went off with out a hitch! (Aside from opening Mady's door to find her covered in exploded Pull-Up goo...I totally affirm all of you cloth diapering mamas.)

Further proof that they really are growing up: no grumbles or complaining about my before school picture taking. Just a lot of sweet smiles...

 ...followed by a couple of goofball moments.

And now a new phase of life is upon us: loads of Mommy & Mady time!

P.S. Part of our morning success was due to this new printable - no nagging, just a couple of kids who kept checking into the kitchen to see what was next on the morning checklist {printable credit: Children Inspire Design}.

Change is always bittersweet, but today I'm celebrating new beginnings, fresh challenges, and growing, healthy kiddos!

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