Friday, September 23, 2016

September Top 5

Happy Autumn! It's my favorite time of the year. Here are some more of my favorites right now.  :)

1) TEA!
I'm not a coffee drinker, but in the last couple of years I've warmed up (pun intended) to the idea of tea. I'm still exploring, but this is one of my favorites.
And of course, Starbucks passion tea is just as awesome hot as it is iced, so that's another go-to.

2) This is Us
NBC has been advertising this new Parenthood-type drama for a while now. I went in with pretty high hopes and I was not disappointed. I already love the characters and the plot twist at the end was intriguing. Here's the scene that sealed the deal for me.

3) The Year of Living Danishly

Shauna Niequist recommended this book a few weeks ago and I requested it from the library right away. Truth be told, I'm only a few chapters in, but it's absolutely delightful. The author is a joy to read. The Danish concept of hygge is something that Dan and I embraced a couple of years ago (blog post coming), so this idea of the "world's happiest country" has been intriguing to me. The author moves to Denmark for a year when her husband lands a job with Lego. Each chapter covers one month of their year and what the author refers to as her Happiness Project. At this point I either want to move to Denmark or befriend Helen Russell. Maybe both.

4) All Sons and Daughters
I decided to re-do some of my Pandora stations a while ago and have been loving my All Sons and Daughters station! Plus, they're going to be at Open Door next month if you're local. Join me! In the meantime, here's one of my favorites, Great Are You Lord.

5) Cooking!
Summer is all about grilling and salads and light dinners. And that is totally welcome for a couple of months, but by mid-August I'm longing for comfort food and my crock pot and delicious food that takes more than 20 minutes to prepare.
And if I have a table full of people to share that food with? Even better! (Blog post coming on this as well....)

So, there you have it. Hope you're enjoying the change in temps and are settling into the new school year nicely. :)

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Summer of Fun!

Just before Jack and Leah got out of school a few months ago, I came across a blog post that made me think about how I was going to approach my summer with three kids in the house. Around the same time, a friend on Facebook said that she'd be posting a photo every day during the summer to show what they were doing to find the joy in every day. I decided to combine these two ideas and post a photo every day, showing the joy in even the most mundane of days, and to focus on FUN instead of potentially getting stressed or bored or annoyed. :)

I love my children, and I truly do enjoy having them home all summer. I love lazy mornings and going to the beach and eating popsicles outside. But even in the midst of the fun, I tend to still crave structure and routine in our days and weeks. But this summer, I decided to throw all that right out the window. Out with the chore charts and screen time tickets and in with the impromptu ice cream dates, the bonfires, the beach days, and the movie nights.

***Before I continue... Yes, my kids still did chores when I asked, and they didn't have unlimited access to the TV or computer. And no, I did not plan something fun each and every day to keep them entertained and prevent boredom. We got bored. We got annoyed with each other. We had crappy days and long days and right now we all have this horrendous head cold! But that's what made this fun--we had to find the joy in the midst of even the hardest days. When the toddler wouldn't nap and the road construction had us trapped in our own driveway and it was so hot I thought I might actually melt. Because even on those days, I could still find lots of things to be grateful for.

And here's the thing. When you have to find the joy in every day, you realize how amazingly blessed you are. I enjoyed my family so much this summer! I didn't bemoan the mundane tasks of laundry or washing dishes or packing lunches for the beach. Because I was having so much fun with these crazy kids of mine! (And my husband--summer of fun happened on weekends too!)

Here's a smattering of our "summer of fun" photos:

A few days ago, I took the kids out to Applebees for a "farewell to our summer of fun" celebration lunch. I had printed about 40 of this summer's photos and brought them to look through. We spread out the photos on the table and had an awesome time remembering some of the things we'd done. We also talked about our favorite memories and what things we did this summer that we want to do again next summer.

We ate burgers and French fries and ice cream (and Jack wore the barbecue sauce from his ribs all day). We laughed. We remembered.

And now we're heading into a new season. Back to some structure and routine, which I think we're all craving a little right now. But I am mourning the end of this summer. I will be a little sad to put Jack and Leah on the bus on Tuesday morning. (I think Will will be a LOT sad to see them go....)

Thank you, my children, for joining me on this crazy summer ride! Love you lots. ;)

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.