Friday, August 19, 2016

August Top 5

Summer is winding down (sad face), but fall is around the corner (happy face, as long as it's a good one!). Here's some of what I'm enjoying right now. :)

1) Books!
We vacationed since my last top 5, which means I had a little more time to read for fun. A few of my favorites from the last month:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

This was our latest bookclub pick and we all loved it. It's a murder mystery set in England in 1950 whose narrator is an 11-year-old girl who you'll just fall in love with. And it's the first of a handful of books based on the same character, so there are more to look forward to.

Wild in the Hollow

I mentioned in July that Seth Haines' Coming Clean was on my list of things to read, after doing a 30-day journal of his. Well, Seth's book is still on my "to read" list, but his wife's book is now on my "already read" list. ;) And it was fabulous. So honest and raw and inspiring. I adore memoirs, so this was right up my alley. You'll also want to follow her on social media because her four boys are simply adorable.

Night Driving

I went to college with Addie and was super excited to read her first book, When We were on Fire a few years ago. Night Driving was just as beautiful and real as her debut memoir. Her writing style is just lovely and you'll want to sit down for a cup of gas station coffee and chat about everything under the sun. :)

2) Olympics!
Obviously, the Summer Olympics in Rio is pretty much all that's been on my television for the last two weeks straight. The Olympics got its own blog post last week, so I won't bore you with anymore ramblings about Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and the Final Five and happy tears and the awesomeness of Jen Hatmaker's Olympic commentary. But honestly, I'm not sure what I'm going to do when these games are over. I love that there's just always something on TV that I want to watch. I'll probably sink into a deep depression next week when NBC is back to America's Got Talent. :(

3) Lundberg Fiesta Lime Rice Chips
For a variety of digestive reasons, Jackson has recently joined me as the second gluten-free eater in our house. I'm trying to make the transition as painless as possible for him, so we're experimenting with some new recipes, including one for pizza crust. It calls for psyllium husk powder, which required a trip to somewhere a little fancier than Target. I mean, who has psyllium husk powder just sitting in their pantry? Not I. So we ventured into Whole Foods yesterday, and of course we did not leave the store with ONLY psyllium husk powder. "Whole Foods. Come for the psyllium husk powder, stay for all the free samples!" And so we did. They happened to be sampling these amazing rice chips and we bought two bags. THEY. ARE. SO. GOOD. We've had them on their own and with salsa, but I can't imagine how amazing they'd be with guacamole. Mmmm. Go buy some and be happy.

4) On Being podcast

I'm still enjoying my morning walks with podcasts in my earbuds, and Krista Tippett has delivered a few great ones. She actually has a fascinating backstory and produces her podcast from Loring Park in Minneapolis. Local love! A few of my favorites of hers have been interview with Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and the Indigo Girls. And her voice is so soothing--I could listen to her interview a 6-year-old about macaroni and cheese and still love it. I need more podcast time. I keep coming across podcasts I want to listen to, and my "unplayed" list is growing longer and longer. Oh, #FirstWorldProblems.

5) These crazies!

Yes, I'm including my children in my favorite things this month. Because we have had a seriously awesome summer and I just love them to pieces. There's a future blog post coming on this, so I won't say too much now. But the joy they've exuded this summer has blessed my heart, and I'm mourning the impending beginning of school right along with them!

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer, my friends!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympic Fever!

Okay, guys. We're almost halfway through this two-week Rio Summer Olympic experience. And frankly, I need to process. Join me, won't you?

I love the Olympics. I always have. I mean, when else does the world come together like this? Yes, there are still horrible things happening all over the place. But this feels like a couple weeks of beautiful coming together and (mostly, ha!) healthy competition. I have very fond memories of watching both summer and winter games as a kid (you know, when both summer and winter were the same year every four years?). I longed to watch gymnastics and figure skating and wished I wasn't too tall for either. :) I remember the summer Olympics being on American soil--Atlanta in 1996. Our women's gymnastics team, the "magnificent seven" won gold. Oh, and that vault by Kerri Strug. Bless her heart.

In the last few Olympics, it's gotten even more exciting, particularly with the addition of Michael Phelps to the world of swimming. I can distinctly remember sitting in the office of our first home in 2004, playing a game on the desktop computer (haha--this was obviously before kids) and watching this 19-year-old swimming phenom taking the Athens summer games by storm.

And it just keeps getting better and more exciting every time another Olympic year rolls around. I think what makes this year particularly fun is that Jack and Leah are old enough to actually enjoy watching some of the events. I'm sitting in the family room with both of them right now, as the afternoon coverage bounces among the various events happening live. We're marveling at the men's 1500-meter freestyle swim. (You guys--that's roughly 15 minutes of swimming without stopping. God help me). This is on the heels of seeing the semifinal of the men's 50-meter freestyle swim last night. It's one length of the pool and they literally don't breathe at all until they finish. The pool is a blur of splashing water and flailing bodies. Insanity.

We're waiting for coverage to return to rowing finals, which is a very exciting event for Jack and me, having both read The Boys in the Boat this year. (Side note--if you haven't read it, please do. And they adapted it for younger readers, which Jack loved). We're watching women's indoor volleyball and qualifying high jumps in track and field. We're hoping that the "trampoline" event listed in the schedule actually going to happen. Because that is so fun to watch!

I think another factor in the excitement of this particular summer Olympics is social media. Obviously, Twitter and Facebook has existed for previous Olympics. But memes are a more recent addition to the social media world, and there have been a plethora of amazing ones.

And, of course, Phelps face....

Also? Jen Hatmaker. Jen has made these Olympic games so enjoyable. She's hilarious--I'd love to sit and watch some events with her. :) 

I also feel like this first week has been such an emotional rollercoaster. The Olympics make me so happy! But also, THE TEARS! My top tear-jerker moments?
1) The refugee team entering the stadium at the opening ceremonies.
2) Michael Phelps running into the stands to kiss his baby.
3) Women's gymnastics gold and announcing their team name, the Final Five. So touching!
4) David Boudia and Steele Johnson's interview after winning silver.
5) Anytime the person on the medal stand starts to tear up (I'm looking at you, Phelps, you softy). 
6) Aly Raisman finishing her floor routine. She immediately started bawling, and then so did I.
7) Simone Manuel winning (tying for) gold in the 100-meter freestyle, making history as the first African American woman to win gold in an individual swimming event. 

Okay, a little over week left, people. Swimming is coming to an end, and now we get to delve into track and field! I said on Facebook yesterday, I'm a little concerned for my emotional health when these games are over. I'm going to be so depressed when I can't turn on the TV and watch whatever sport happens to be going on. Talk about withdrawal! Lord help us all. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

14 years

Happy Anniversary to this amazing man of mine! Fourteen years ago we had no idea what was in store for our life together. God knew what he was doing when he gave us each other.

So grateful for you, my love! xoxo

"It's a sweet, sweet thing
Standing here with you and nothing to hide
Light shining down to our very insides
Sharing our secrets, bearing our souls,
Helping each other come clean.

Better than our promises
Is the day we got to keep them
I wish those two could see us now"

Friday, July 15, 2016

July Top 5-ish

Hey, Happy Midsummer! Here is this month's list of things I'm enjoying right now. :)

1) Friday Night Lights

So I finished Grey's Anatomy and still haven't found another show to watch during naptime. I'm not in too much of a hurry because naptime is a different beast when Jack and Leah are home, but I'll find something once school starts long as Will is still napping! Anyway, Dan and I needed another show to watch at night when the kids go to bed. We've had some great ones (Lost, 24, Parenthood, Breaking Bad, and most recently Parks and Rec.), so it always feels like we have big shoes to fill with what we pick. I had read something about Friday Night Lights recently, and I knew at least one of the writers also wrote for Parenthood, which we adored. Plus Dan played high school football and I love Kyle Chandler, so it seemed like the stars were correctly aligned. We're only a few episodes in, but we're both hooked! The culture of high school football in Texas is just so fascinating. I'm looking forward to getting further into the story, but so far so good. :)

2) Outshine Peach Fruit Bars

I mentioned in June that I crave cold things in the summer, and these fruit bars are always in my freezer. There are a ton of awesome flavors (pomegranate is another fave), but the peach are pretty perfect. I don't share them with my kids--they get the cheap Target popsicles and they know the "big popsicles" are mine. Ha! I'm so mean. ;)

3) Sara Groves

I recently organized some CDs (do other people still own CDs?) and realized I have a ton of music that I never listen to. I'm generally listening to the radio in the car or Pandora in the house. So I bought a mid-90s-style travel CD wallet and filled it with CDs to keep in the car to mix up my radio listening. A HUGE chunk of the CDs--at least 10--are Sara Groves. I've been listening to her older stuff and remembering why I've loved her for so long. She's so real and an extremely talented songwriter. Her albums have spoken to me in so many stages of my life and it's been fun to remember as I listen to everything. 

4) God Centered Mom podcast

I found this podcast on a couple different lists as I looked for new podcasts to get into. I'm usually not a huge fan of the typical "Christian mom blog," but I decided to give this a try anyway and I'm SO glad I did. God Centered Mom is Heather MacFadyen and so far the episodes I've listened to have been applicable and encouraging. (Some favorites are "Pain Not Wasted" with Peggy Banks and "The Respect Effect" with Emerson Eggerichs). She's been doing this for a while, so I have LOTS of episodes to choose from!

5) Seth Haines' "Coming Clean"

Okay, this one shouldn't actually count until next month because I haven't technically STARTED the book. ;) But I somehow subscribed to his "Coming Clean 30-day Journal" and it's awesome. (I really wish I could tell how how I signed up for this, but I cannot. If you want to search longer than I did just now, check out his Facebook page or website). As Seth says, everyone is addicted to something. And the journal prompts he has put together are kind of cool. I also have his wife Amber's book "Wild in the Hollow" on deck for vacation reading next week, so stay tuned for that review too. :)

(Which reminds me of one of my favorite children's books, The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z! by Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin. The book is alliterative and so hilarious. Check it out here)

Okay, on to my final favorite thing this month....

Our new ice cream maker!!! So about a month ago, I got an Amazon credit because of some weird settlement with Kindle. Anyway, all of a sudden I got $30 from them and then my brother gave me an Amazon giftcard for my birthday. I had been sort of thinking about looking at ice cream makers because it sounded like something fun to do with the kids this summer. And then I remembered how much a friend of mine LOVES the ice cream maker attachment for her Kitchenaid mixer, so I decided to get it. I have had my Kitchenaid mixer for over five years and I don't use it for very much. But I like it enough for the things I DO use it for (pizza dough and whipping cream--about 3 times a year for each), that I keep it around. Well now I have a whole new use for my mixer! And it's been really fun. As soon as it came (well, 15 hours after it came--the bowl has to freeze first), we made some vanilla ice cream. Then we made strawberry and chocolate. All of them were delicious (and I think all of us liked a different one best). We're having friends for dinner tonight, so last night I made more vanilla and this morning I made raspberry sorbet. I snuck a taste before sticking it in the freezer, and it's pretty amazing. Looking forward to dessert. :)

So there you have it. Happy July! And here's to enjoying more of the sun and ignoring the back-to-school section at Target!

Friday, July 08, 2016

Be all there

It feels as though the world is coming apart at the seams right now.

In the last few days alone, the loss of life has been staggering. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Five police officers in Dallas, TX.

There are not adequate words right now. Nothing can make this right. Doing noting feels helpless, but really, what is there to do?

Jim Elliot said, "Wherever you are, be all there."

So here I am. Loving and mothering three littles who are growing up in a painful, scary world. But I can raise these babies of mine to love. To cherish and respect people regardless of the color of their skin. To bring peace to the chaos. To forgive and to help and to unite. To pray for each other and this world.

It doesn't feel big. But it's I'm supposed to be. So I will be all here.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Eight years ago today, I said goodbye to Julie. She was leaving on a hiking/camping trip with a group of students through Angel Tree ministries.

What I didn't know is that I was saying goodbye to Julie for a lot longer than a long weekend. The trip was cut short when Julie and one of the students were taken by the currents of the Temperance River.

It's funny how memory works. How selective it is, leaving seemingly random bits of the story to be recalled. I remember what I was wearing that last time I saw her. I walked outside where she was walking in from the parking lot and the wind caught the skirt I was wearing and she said something about it being like Marilyn Monroe over the air vents in that iconic photo.

I remember seeing the whole team of adults who were going on the trip standing inside the church, holding hands in a circle and praying.

I remember my phone ringing two mornings later, earlier than I usually got phone calls. And Julia's voice on the other end telling me what had happened. And saying, "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh," over and over because it was all too unbelievable. Unimaginable.

I remember walking into church that morning and glancing over at the receptionist's desk. Her desk. I'd glance in that direction every time I walked in the door for a long time, always half expecting to see her face. Always crushed when the reality hit me that I never would again.

I remember the whole staff sitting in a big circle in the chapel. Telling Julie stories. Crying together. I remember walking through the planning of her funeral. A task I'd completed a few other times because it was my job, but never like this. Never for a friend.

I remember seeing her face in the casket at her funeral. And thinking, "That's not Julie. Julie isn't really here." Because everything that made her Julie was gone. The life, the personality, the grace. Her shell was left, but it wasn't her.

And now it's eight years later, and she's still not here. But we remember. I remember the sweet young woman who made me laugh. Her passion for photography and American Idol, for good food and deep friendships. And how she wouldn't drink out of a water bottle because she read it could give you smoker's lips. See? She's still making me smile.

Julie Steiskal
July 28, 1978 - June 25, 2008

Friday, June 17, 2016

June Top 5

I decided to lighten things up around here, at least once a month, and give a little list of things I'm enjoying at the moment. So without further ado, here are my top five things for this month.

1) Starbucks Iced Passion Tea

We Minnesotans endure some long, cold winters. So when summer comes and the weather gets nice and warm, I crave cold things. Popsicles, ice cream, anything frozen and sweet. Now if my waistline and pocketbook didn't protest, I'd enjoy a frappuccino/cooler/frappe every day. Instead I indulge in those about once a month and reach for THIS AMAZINGNESS in between. I'm not a coffee drinker, so this past winter I discovered a love of hot herbal tea, including Passion Tango tea at Starbucks. And LO AND BEHOLD, they also make it iced and it is SO GOOD.

2) Love Beyond Reason by John Ortberg

A few weeks ago, I was searching online about books about God's love and decided to go with this one because I've loved Ortberg's stuff in the past. And I have not been disappointed. He's a very easy author to read, and the content is fantastic.
An excerpt from the first chapter:
"We are all of us rag dolls. Flawed and wounded, broken and bent. Ever since the Fall, every member of the human race has lived on the ragged edge. Partly our raggedness is something that happens to us. Our genes may set us up for certain weaknesses. Our parents may let us down when we need them most. But that's not the whole story. We each make our own deposits into the ragged account of the human race. We choose to deceive when the truth begs to be spoken. We grumble when a little generous praise is called for. We deliberately betray when we're bound by oaths of loyalty. Like a splash of ink in a glass of water, this raggedness permeates our whole being. Our words and thoughts are never entirely free of it. We are rag dolls, all right.
But we are God's rag dolls. He knows all about our raggedness, and He loves us anyhow. Our raggedness is no longer the most important thing about us."

3) Grey's Anatomy

I had never watched this show until I binge-watched it this past school year during Will's naps. I'd sit and crochet and get sucked into their world. The most recent season comes out on Netflix TOMORROW and I will try to make it last longer than a week. ;) And then I'll be all caught up and have a new show to watch in the fall!

4) This Good Word Podcast

I'm a workout DVD junkie, but by the time the snow has melted and the sun is up nice and early, I am dying to get outside. So I've been walking in the mornings before Will wakes up and it's one of my favorite things ever. I have a pathetic lack of music on my phone, so I've started listening to podcasts while I walk. I decided to start with my friend Steve's podcast "This Good Word" and I've enjoyed every single episode. Some are just him, but he also has some awesome interviews (Sarah Bessey and Seth Haines were two of my favorites). I'm almost caught up (he posts a new episode once a week), so I'll have to expand my podcast world pretty soon.

5) Avocado toast

It took me a while to jump on this bandwagon, but now this is one of my favorite quick lunches. I'm the only person in my house who likes avocados, so I often have half of an avocado in the fridge. Sometimes I also have leftover bacon, which takes avocado toast to a whole other level. :)