Monday, October 15, 2018

Fall Top 5

Happy fall! We got snow yesterday, so I'm hoping it actually IS still fall and not already winter. I saw something yesterday that summed it up well--"Fall is my favorite day of the year." That's what it feels like this year. And I'm afraid I missed the day. (Although I see 60 degrees and sun in the forecast for one day this week, so maybe I didn't!) Anyway, I hope fall is treating you well. Here are some things I'm liking. :)

1) Tuft and Needle

Dan worked for Select Comfort when we got married, and we got a great deal on a mattress out of it. Well, after over a decade of sleeping on it, it was no longer our favorite mattress. So a couple of years ago, we researched some of the new "mail order mattress" companies (you've probably heard of lots of them--Leesa, Purple, Casper, Lull, etc) and decided to give Tuft and Needle a try. And we LOVE it. The mattress is amazing and their customer service is outstanding. Well, they have expanded their line of accessories, and just recently we got their sheets and I got a pillow. We were VERY excited to find sheets that fit (since most mattresses are super thick these days, most sheets are made to accommodate them and they didn't fit the T&N mattress very well). And I've been very pleased with my pillow--it's soft but supportive. So if you're in the market for a new mattress or pillow, give them a try! Everything has a 100-night trial period to make sure you love it. :)

2) The Nester

I don't think I've ever included a person in my top 5 lists, but I guess there's a first time for everything. Myquillyn Smith, otherwise known as "The Nester" is my favorite person these days when it comes to my house. Her first book, The Nesting Place, is a great introduction to decor and style, and her second book, The Cozy Minimalist Home, is coming out next Tuesday and I'm super excited about it. Her goal in this book is to show that "cozy" doesn't need to mean "cluttered," and "minimal" doesn't need to mean "cold." Follow her on Instagram (@thenester) and preorder her book here!

3) Podcasts

I started listening to The Bible Binge when it began last year, and it is the perfect mix of educational, inspirational, and hilarious. It's hosted by Knox McCoy and Jamie Golden of The Popcast (see below) and they do a really good job of balancing making me laugh and making me think. :)

The Popcast is Knox and Jamie's first podcast, but I had never listened to it until I started listening to The Bible Binge. It's a hilarious weekly pop culture review, and I promise you will not get through an episode without cry-laughing. (It's a fun one to listen to while I walk--I think people driving by must think I'm crazy).

Emily P Freeman is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram, and her podcast The Next Right Things is one of my favorites to listen to. Her voice is so calming, and episodes aren't long or overwhelming. She's a gem.

The Simple Show with Tsh Oxenreider is a new one for me (although Tsh isn't new to me), but I'm really enjoying it. I listened the other day while I was decluttering my boys' room because I knew she had done a three-episode series with The Lazy Genius (another podcast fave, but I've already told you that...) and I really enjoyed it.

4) Books!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman is so quirky and delightful! You'll love this character, her orderly little world, and a glimpse into her socially awkward mind. :)

I ADORED Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, so I was very excited for The Great Alone to come out, and it did not disappoint. Set in Alaska in the late 70s and beyond, it's an amazing tale of frontier survival.

I talked about Annie F Downs' Remember God briefly on Facebook after I read it (actually listened to it) because it was so well-timed with Will's birthday (which is always a complicated time for me as we are also approaching our season of grief). It chronicles a trying year in Downs' life where she recounts God's faithfulness through trials.  She's a beautiful writer (and also really fun to listen to!).

I read The Sacred Enneagram by Christopher Heuertz in preparation for an Enneagram workshop that he did at our church. In hindsight, being pretty new to the Enneagram, I probably should have started with something a little more straightforward and basic, but this was a really great book. And I'm glad I read it before the workshop--it made everything he talked about make a little more sense. :)

Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires was a "green light" from The Popcast's Jamie Golden. Ruth was the food critic for the New York Times and then the editor in chief at Gourmet magazine. The book recounts Ruth's time as food critic and her many disguises and reviews. It was so enjoyable to read, and it made me want to go eat in fancy restaurants. ;) It also includes some recipes, which was really fun.

5) Pumpkin bread!

I discovered this recipe from Smitten Kitchen last year and it's one of our favorites. I love it because it uses a whole can of pumpkin, so you don't have to figure out what to do with what's left after you measure out one cup. :) (Also, I make this gluten-free by substituting the wheat flour cup for cup with gluten-free and adding xanthan gum). You can find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Here's to fall, whether it feels like it or not, and the cozy hygge days that are just around the corner. :)

Saturday, October 13, 2018


I'm looking at the sun shining right now, but our weather has been pretty gloomy for a while. And to match the darkness in the skies, I feel like I've been met with so much sad news. From friends and strangers, from faraway places in the news. I was cleaning up some resource lists on this blog the other day, and I came across a list of songs I had clung to after we lost Hannah. It's amazing how music can bring you back to a specific time so clearly.

One song in particular, I Have a Shelter, spoke to me in this place of darkness. The second half of every verse starts with "O, Jesus, I will hide in you." Oh, what a prayer. Let us hide in Him, friends.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Summer Top 5

Happy August!

Holy buckets, the summer is flying. But it's not over yet! Still over a month of kids off of school, and hopefully a GOOD couple of months of summer weather still on the docket. :)

Anyway, it's been a full June and July, but here's what I'm loving right now.

1) Won't You Be My Neighbor?

I grew up in a world where the only kids' shows on PBS were Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I especially loved Mr. Rogers, so I was so excited when I saw an ad for this movie a few months ago. It opened on my birthday, and Dan and I made a date of it a couple of weeks later. It's so good! And it's an amazing message of kindness in a world that doesn't always feel very kind. He was an outstanding man, and the movie tells so many great stories! It's definitely a must-see.

2) My new BIKE!

Dan surprised me the week before my birthday with a trip to The Hub to get a new bike. And, bike-mechanic-in-training that he is, he's been making it even cooler for the last month or so. We've gotten to take a few bike rides in the last couple weeks, and I am already enjoying it so much and looking forward to lots more bike time this fall. (Side note, if you're in the market for a new bike, everyone at The Hub is SO great. Highly recommend them) :)

3) Colony House Only the Lonely

Okay, this isn't new, but once in a while it pops up on my iTunes or when Dan puts some music on outside, and I remember how good it is. Dan and I got to see them live with Judah and the Lion in February, and it was super fun. Check them out if you haven't yet!

4) Summer food!

Isn't summer food the best food? I mean, I love a good pot of soup in January, but I think summer food is for sure my favorite. Everything on the grill, all the produce in season, and THIS recipe for corn salsa that is so perfect now that sweet corn is everywhere. Enjoy!

Corn and black bean salsa
6-8 ears sweet corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 bunch of cilantro (or more if you're like that), chopped
Juice of about 3 limes
salt and pepper
Toss everything together and enjoy with tortilla chips!
(If you're an avocado lover and the salsa is going to get eaten fairly soon after you make it, chop a couple up and add them. So good.)

5) Books!

Here you go, people. A little fiction, a little non. Something for everyone. ;)

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk was surprisingly delightful. Lillian walks all over New York City on New Year's Eve over the course of the book, flashing back to stories from her long and fascinating life.

Everybody Always is Bob Goff's follow up to Love Does, and it's just as great. He is an incredible story teller, and you'll want to be his friend. :) (Spoiler alert--stay tuned for giveaway day on August 10th to get your hands on this!)

No One Ever Asked is I think the third book I've read by Katie Ganshert, and it might be my favorite. It tells the story of a southern area's school district merging through the eyes of the various people it affects. Ganshert tackles the topic of racism gracefully and develops a wide range of fascinating characters.

I have followed Jamie Wright (known on social media as "Jamie the Very Worst Missionary") for a couple of years and was excited to read her memoir ("or whatever"). She is so fun to read, and she shines an important light on missions. But amid the thought-provoking parts, she also had me laughing SO hard. (Maneuvering the airport to come back to the US from Costa Rica with a cat they'd acquired while living there? Gold).

And Sugar by Kimberly Stuart, the perfect easy summer read. :) Charlie is a pastry chef in NYC, and she moves to Seattle to work in a restaurant with a friend from culinary school. Well, it turns out the friend is actually filming a reality show about the restaurant industry. Kind of classic rom-com in book form.

Phew! That's all for now, friends. Enjoy these last weeks of summer! Hopefully they'll drag on like our winter seemed to just months ago. ;)

Thursday, May 31, 2018

School's (Almost) Out for Summer!

(You're welcome for the earworm)

But it's true. In one week, my kids will be officially on summer vacation! I can't believe it's already been nine months since we put them back on the bus for a new school year, brand new backpacks full of pencils and notebooks. Alas, here we are. Staring another three-month summer break square in the face.

And I know that summer hits us all a little differently. So my goal with this post is not to say, "Yay, it's summer! Time for everything amazing and fun and awesome!"

My goal with this post is to say one thing.

Are you super excited to have all of your kids home every single day? Fantastic.

Are you dreading the chaos that the summer brings and aren't sure how you're going to survive? Hang in there.

Are you planning your summer down to the hour with sports and day camps and playdates and outings? More power to you.

Are you hoping your kids can entertain themselves and not get into too much mischief in the process? I feel you.

Here's the thing, friends. There's no one right way to do summer. Your summer might look like a lot of outdoor fun at ballfields and playgrounds and neighborhood pools. Your summer might look like vacations and road trips and camping and lake time. 

Your summer might have you flying by the seat of your pants, trying to make memories for your kids, but really you're just exhausted because KIDS. Your summer might include a lot of screen time and prepackaged snacks because that's just how you roll.

You might be a chore chart-making mom. You might be a "go outside and only come in if someone is bleeding" mom. You might be a swimming lessons/t-ball/VBS/horse camp mom. You might be a last-minute trip to the beach mom. You might be an ice cream for dinner mom. You might be a "spontaneous trip to the biggest candy store" mom. You might be a "go ahead and play outside, but stay where I can see you because you couldn't pay me to leave the comfort of the AC right now" mom.

And you know what? Those are all pretty cool moms. 

So this summer, I encourage you to just do you. Don't try to conform to someone else's idea of a perfect summer. Don't feel guilty when you see someone's amazing summer pictures on Instagram. Don't feel like you're depriving your kids when you see how many activities another mom has lined up for her brood. Don't push yourself to exhaustion in an attempt to give your kids something phenomenal--they also think that popsicles on the deck are pretty phenomenal. 

For the record, I will be posting daily pictures for Summer of Fun again this year, but don't let that deceive you. Some days that picture is pretty mundane. And sometimes I get to 8:00pm and scramble to post something because I'm super put-together. 

(Speaking of Summer of Fun, go read last year's post if you haven't yet).

If you're interested in some further help in regards to summer, I HIGHLY recommend The Lazy Genius most recent podcast series. Her four episodes in the month of May (episodes 62 through 65) all focus on summer strategy. Kendra is just so fantastic and level-headed and I really enjoyed this series. :) (Plus, her episodes are all a very reasonable length--these four are all between 12 and 25 minutes long).

So happy summer! Let's embrace the next 12 weeks and everything that means. Because before you know it, we'll be putting them back on that bus in September. :)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Dear Will

You sweet boy. Our grande finale. You have no idea just how perfectly you've completed our family! Your peaceful water birth arrival on September 30th, 2013 was the exact balm we needed after almost two years of pain and loss. You didn't take the place of Hannah and Charlie, but God knew exactly what we needed in our lives when he gave us you. Sweet, adventurous you.

You're four and a half--a far cry from the tiny baby we held back then. And you're every ounce boy. Trucks and trucks and more trucks. Garbage trucks and firetrucks and dump trucks and construction trucks. You can name them all accurately (and often correct me when I use the wrong term). When we drive by a fire station, you know to look closely in the windows of the big doors to see if you can spot the big trucks. And you know that Friday is garbage day in our neighborhood and listen closely for the trucks as they make their stops. It's all very exciting. :)

You never. stop. moving. From the moment you wake up, you are running and jumping and bouncing. I'm pretty sure you have a motor somewhere inside you that prevents you from staying still for more than a few minutes at a time. You're learning how to play lacrosse, following in your big brother's footsteps. It will be hilarious and awesome to watch you actually play a team sport someday soon!

It's pretty fun to have just you at home when Jack and Leah are in school. You're my little buddy! And you're mostly helpful. ;) When we run errands or get groceries, you're awesome at helping me get what we need. Especially if I promise a trip to browse the toy aisle when we're done! The best part about you being at home is that we still have one whole year of it! You'll turn five in September and will get to be home with me for one more year before you start kindergarten. It's like a bonus year. :)

One of my favorite things about having you at home is that you get to come to BSF with me every week. You've come since you were a baby, but I feel like the last couple of years you've started to really understand what you're learning. And you'll sing the songs in the car with me on the way home. :) You love to tell me all about your friends and your teachers in your class.

As much as you are 100% boy, you are also pretty darn sweet. You have loved to snuggle since the day you were born--you still crawl into bed with me in the morning! And you are quick to offer a hug or kiss to cheer someone up. When Dad walks into the house after work, you're immediately at the top of the stairs yelling "DADDY!" and jumping up and down, of course!

We are so thankful for you. We had ideas of what our family would look like. But God knew what he was doing when he formed our family. You completed us so perfectly. I love your energy, your sweet personality, and your care for others. You are becoming a wonderful little kid and I can't wait to watch you continue to grow! I'm so happy that I'm your mom. I love you!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dear Leah

Oh, my dear girl. Jackson may have made me a mom, but you made me a mom of a daughter. On July 11th, 2009, you FINALLY (seriously, you were nine days past your due date and it was HOT and I was DONE) decided to join us. And we're so glad you did! Because you added something to our family that we didn't even know was missing. A spark of something special. Or like your dad says, God put a ray of sunshine in you. ;)

You're going to be nine in July. I'm not sure how that's possible. I'm pretty sure you were just one, toddling around the yard finding dandelions. You were just three, sitting on the counter and helping me make cookies. You were just five, sneaking a nap in our bed, blanket in your mouth.

Your smile is infectious and has been since the first time we saw it. And it's genuine! You have a very sweet, happy spirit that can find the joy in just about anything. And that joy is often expressed through dance. Lack of formal training doesn't hold you back! Whether it's just dancing along to The Greatest Showman soundtrack, or copying a routine you found on YouTube, it's a joy to watch you express yourself. :)

You're in love with horses right now. I say right now, but it's been for a while, and I don't see the fascination going away anytime soon! We went to Mother-Daughter weekend at Shamineau last week, and I think you would have been happy to just stay and help in the horse barn the entire weekend! It's so fun to see your enchantment with these animals--you teach me things all the time!

You decided last year that you wanted to play soccer. And bonus--Dad was your coach! You're starting the second year of that set-up and you LOVE it. And I LOVE watching you play! You have a heart for the game and it's so great to watch you work at something and succeed. You're learning how to be part of a team and work together. Not a bad skill to have for the rest of your life! :)

I adore watching you learn. Because it's not always something that comes easy for you. I'm so proud of you for sticking with it when it's hard. And for celebrating the small victories as they come. You've been an inspiration to me to be patient and keep working. I think you can conquer whatever comes your way in school now!

You are one of the most tenderhearted people I know. A few years ago we joked that your love language is card-writing. And it's still true! You love making cards for people, whether it's a birthday or just for fun. Or like this week, when you made me a card to say you were sorry for how you'd acted that morning before you left for school. :) You leave post-it notes around the house for the whole family. You love playing with Will and helping him build whatever Lego creation he has dreamed up. You have so much fun playing with and taking care of younger kids who come over sometimes. You definitely have a heart for others!

Thanks for everything you add to our family! Your spunk, your sensitivity, your creativity, your love. We are so blessed that God gave you to us. I can't imagine our house without you in it--your smile, your songs, your helping hand. I'm excited to watch you continue to grow and become a young woman. You have so much to offer the world and it's fun to see you start to discover just what that looks like. I am so glad I get to be your mom. Thanks for being my girl. I love you!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dear Jackson

On March 19th, 2006, at 1:36 in the morning, you made me a mom. You flew (almost literally) into this world, and rocked our lives from the get go! As soon as they laid your 9 1/2 pound "little" self on me, I knew that this mom thing was what I was made for.

It kind of blows me away to think that you've been ours for over 12 years. It feels like just yesterday that you were a curious toddler, climbing and exploring. Or a confident kindergartener, walking down the hall and toward more independence. Skilled with a lightsaber at five years old. Seriously amazing artist at seven. Devouring Harry Potter at nine.

You've made us laugh since practically day one. I can still hear your little kid voice, telling jokes or asking hilarious questions. And laughing so hard you would nearly (or actually) pee your pants. Now you just laugh so hard that you nearly pass out. :)

I love remembering birthday parties. Curious George, Thomas the Train, and Hot Wheels themes have morphed into game nights at Dave and Busters, movie theaters, and sleepovers. And the gifts have changed too. From the excitement of a brand-new bike or pack after pack of Pokemon cards to now wanting cash and Amazon gift cards to get the big-ticket stuff. ;)

You seem to have found "your sport" in lacrosse and it's SO fun to watch you play. I'm excited for our summer of kids in sports. :) It is definitely instilling in you important things--determination, perseverance, and being a part of a team. Plus you're the tallest kid on the field by at least five inches--you've gotta use your size to your advantage. ;)

You're almost finished with your first year of middle school. To be honest, I think I was more nervous about the transition than you were. Maybe it's because I can still remember middle school and you were blissfully unaware of all that awaited you. :) But you have soared this year. You've taken each new challenge in stride and have (almost) finished sixth grade with finesse. Two trimesters (so far) on the A Honor Roll. Another year of saxophone under your belt. You go above and beyond in everything.

And you know what? You're just a nice kid. Like, genuinely nice. You're helpful and responsible and sensitive and kind. You're always looking for ways to help. When you come home from school and I ask how your day was, you always answer and then ask how mine was. That's not typical tween behavior. Then again, you're not a typical tween! You're actually pretty exceptional. :)

So thanks for being such an amazing part of our family. For carrying the first-born torch like a pro. For being a loving, caring big brother to Leah and Will. I'm so proud of the boy you are and the man (eek!) you are becoming. This world is better because you're in it, and I know you're going to do amazing things. I'm beyond blessed to be your mom. I love you!