Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fall Top 5

It's the most wonderful time of the year! FALL! I'm in love with this weather and everything about this season. It's already going too fast and pretty soon there will be snow on the ground. But I will enjoy these crisp sunny days while I can. :)

Here's what else I'm enjoying right now!

1) Books. Lots and lots of books.

Jen Hatmaker's Of Mess and Moxie was just about as enjoyable as she gets. So hilarious and also beautifully thought-provoking. Do yourself a favor and pick this up.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is an intriguing memoir chronicling Noah's life in post-apartheid South Africa. I loved this book! Such an unbelievable life and he's a great story-teller.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio is a children's lit book that both Jack and I read (and loved) AND the movie is coming out November 17th! Heart-wrenching story about a boy with facial deformities who attends school and makes friends for the first time. I can't wait to see how they portray it all on screen.

Two young adult lit picks that I loved--The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt and Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. Both are fascinating and captivating stories and quick reads. Bonus: Everything Everything is ALSO a pretty recent movie. :)

2) Nichole Nordeman's Every Mile Mattered

I have loved Nichole for many years, and her newest album is some of her best. I saw her at the Belong Tour last fall and she's just the real deal. And these songs are straight from her life--the good, the bad, and the ugly. ;) Check it out!

3) WoodWick cinnamon chai candle

This is seriously what fall smells like. It's so perfect. And WoodWick candles are awesome because they crackle while they burn. So cozy!

4) Podcasts

"That Sounds Fun" with Annie F. Downs. I first heard Annie on Jen Hatmaker's podcast, and she was awesome, so I checked out a few of her episodes too. She's fantastic to listen to and has a variety of fascinating guests.

I forget why I started following The Lazy Genius on Instagram, but I did and I love her. I've listened to a couple of her podcast episodes, and they're perfect because they're practical and short. :)

I think Jen Hatmaker is also to credit with my introduction to the lovely Jamie Ivey, and her podcast "The Happy Hour" is so much fun. Jamie is real and funny and so easy to listen to.

5) Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

My family recently stopped eating bananas, for whatever unknown reason. It took me approximately six weeks to catch on to this new development, so I have had lots of over-ripe bananas at the ready for all sorts of banana bread recipes. And this chocolate chocolate chip one is one of my favorites. Enjoy. :) (And this one happens to be gluten-free, but just use all-purpose flour if your intestinal tract is cool with it)

Gluten-free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (recipe from my sweet friend at Sweet Anna's!)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups mashed bananas (about 5)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups gluten-free flour (plus 1 teaspoon xanthan gum if your flour blend doesn't already have it)
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 and grease two loaf pans.
Whisk together the flour (plus xanthan gum), cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Mix together mashed bananas and sour cream. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and the vanilla.
Add half of dry mixture and mix well. Add half of banana/sour cream mixture and mix well.
Add remaining dry ingredients and mix, and then remaining banana mixture and mix.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips if you're feeling fancy.
Bake for about an hour.
I love that this makes two loaves--I stick one in the freezer right away and it's like Christmas when I discover it a couple of weeks later. :)

Happy fall, y'all!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

first day

Next week I'm putting two kids on buses for their first days of school.

The first day is always such a mixed bag--saying goodbye to an amazing summer, welcoming back our school year routine, excitement, nervous energy, elation, anxiety.

There's an extra emotion this year and I'm not yet sure exactly what it is.

Because the truth of the matter is, I should be putting three kids on the bus next week.

I should be packing three lunches. Taking three "first day of school" pictures. Meeting three teachers at back-to-school night. Hearing three kids tell me who they sat with at lunch or played with at recess.

This is just one of those parts of grief that doesn't hit you right away. It's not the intensity of hearing your baby no longer has a heartbeat or the heartbreak of cradling her lifeless little body. It's the stuff that will continue to pop up as we realize just how much we're missing without Hannah here.

So as "first day" photos fill your newsfeed, know that there should be more. More cheesy smiles and huge backpacks. More first day jitters and brand new shoes. More kisses goodbye and fresh-off-the-bus hugs.

Monday, August 07, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens!

Actually, The Sound of Music itself is definitely one of my favorite things. Adorable Julie Andrews and the VonTrap Family Singers. What's not to love? 


Know what else I love? I love giving gifts. 

And I have an idea that I'm very excited about. :) Once in a while I share some of my favorite things--books, snacks, music, etc. But rather than just share those things on the blog, I'm going to literally share those things with you! 

On the 10th of every month, I am going to have a giveaway for something fun--a book, a giftcard, music, whatever little thing I happen upon that I want to share with someone. :)

SO, stay tuned on Facebook and Instagram this Thursday for your first chance to win! 

Saturday, August 05, 2017


Last week I noticed that the kids and I had a completely open calendar for about seven days in a row. So rather than fill them with beach days and playdates, we decided to keep them empty. And it was exactly what all of us needed.

The summer has been full and crazy and wonderful and tiring. But I think we were all ready for a change of pace.

We stayed in our pajamas way too late. We watched movies and had popcorn for lunch. We read books and played games. It was glorious.

I read a book this week called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren, and her final chapter was so perfectly timed: "Sleeping: Sabbath, Rest, and the Work of God." Here are a few of Warren's thoughts on Sabbath.

  • Rest is not simply a physical need--it is not only our brains and muscles and eyelids that must learn habits of rest. We need holistic rest--physical, psychological, and spiritual. 
  • We learn to rest by practice, by routine, over time. This is true of our bodies, our minds, and our souls, which are always intertwined.
  • We are finite, weak creatures who are abundantly cared for by our strong and loving Creator. In our workaholic, image-barraged, overcaffeinated, entertainment-addiction, and supercharged culture, submission to our creatureliness is a necessary and often overlooked part of discipleship. 
  • God wants to give us not just lives of holiness and prayer but also of sufficient rest. And perhaps a key step toward a life of prayer and holiness is simply receiving the gift of a good night's sleep. 
So if your schedule allows, I'd highly recommend taking an extended sabbath. No agendas, no plans. Just rest. :)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Summer Top 5

Happy Summer! We're in the thick of it, friends! It's hard to believe we're a little over halfway through my kids' summer break, but I guess time flies when you're having fun. ;)

Other than my sweet kids, here's what else I'm enjoying right now!

1) Books. Holy cow, the books. Too many to pick from, so I'll keep their descriptions short. Just know that I highly recommend all of them!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Ove is the quintessential curmudgeon, but you can't help but love him. Super sweet, quirky story.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner is a memoir recounting her life growing up in a polygamist family. So fascinating and often heartbreaking.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult tells the stories of a white supremacist and the black nurse who is assigned to take care of his newborn baby. Extremely eye-opening and absolutely riveting.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly are both amazing, captivating stories set in World War II.

What is the Bible? by Rob Bell. I know Rob Bell more from podcasts and his Nooma videos than from his past books, but this was a fantastic read. Christians have a variety of opinions on Bell, but I think he's a fantastic writer and thinker. And he's funny. :)

2) Jeni's ice cream

I met up with some friends in Nashville last month and had my first taste of Jeni's ice cream. If you have an actual Jeni's ice cream shop near you, you know what's up. If you don't, then you need to go splurge on a pint (locally, I think Whole Foods is the best bet for finding it in a store). It's pricey (like $10/pint....) but it's kind of otherworldly. My personal favorites were Brown Butter Almond Brittle (which I was also able to find here in a pint) and Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk. Ridiculous.

3) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Confession: I haven't actually watched the current season. Just consider this a recommendation to watch the first two seasons if you haven't yet! It's a quirky, hilarious Netflix original, and Ellie Kemper is simply the best!

4) Thai Crunch Salad

This is the perfect summer salad! We've had it recently with grilled chicken, and it's so delicious. Check out the recipe here.

5) Podcasts
Two of my favorite people have new podcasts!

Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist have joined the podcast world and so far they're both pretty amazing. I enjoy them both as authors because they're real and funny and inspiring, and it's all the same in their podcast episodes and interviews. So good.

There you have it. Enjoy the long, warm days, my friends! :)

Thursday, June 08, 2017


Today is the last day of school! It's one of my favorite days of the year. I remember the last day of school as a kid. It was magic! I remember the sweaty classroom and signing yearbooks and surprise ice cream treats.

But obviously the best part of the last day of school is that tomorrow is the first day of summer vacation! Last year at this time I came across a blog post by Amber Salhus where she declared that they were going to embrace that summer as the "Summer of Fun." So we did the same! We embraced the chaos and the mundane, the sunny days and the rainy ones. And it was the best thing we could have done.

Because guess what? Being a mom isn't always an easy ride. I have a toddler who never stops moving, a daughter who never stops talking, and a tween whose increasing independence is giving me indigestion. We have tantrums, extracurricular activities, and chores all around.

***Spoiler alert! Embracing "Summer of Fun" doesn't make any of those things go away.***

But finding the joy in every day makes even the boring, difficult, busy days much easier to stomach. And it also changes everyone's attitude. When you are intentional about being grateful for the simple things, your eyes will be opened to how amazing life really is.

And I don't know about you, but when I signed on for this mom gig, I signed on for the good and the bad. And sometimes I forget that. We obviously live for the highs--the first words, the honor rolls, the choir concerts, the soccer goals. But it's kind of a package deal. We also get sleepless nights, puking kids, picky eaters, defiant toddlers, endless laundry, sibling arguments, and attitude problems.

I could let that stuff get to me. Or I could remember that God chose me for this job--to shepherd these three little (or not-so-little...) lives on this earth. I can either fight it and make it much more difficult than I need to, or I can embrace every part of it and make the most of these days He's gifted us.

Feel free to join us! As I did last year, I'll be posting a photo every day on Instagram and Facebook. Buckle up! It's #SummerOfFun!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Top 5

It's spring. Sure, it's 37 degrees and there may or may not be snow in the forecast, but I promise--according to the calendar anyway, it IS spring.

SO, here's what is happening in my SPRING world right now.

1) Books
I'm still plugging away at my long list of books. Here are some of my faves. :)

Scot McKnight's A Fellowship of Differents was recommended by a couple of friends and it did not disappoint. He writes about church and community and what those things have become and what they're supposed to look like, based on the apostle Paul's teaching.

I don't remember where I recently heard about Richard Rohr's Falling Upward, but something I read had referenced or recommended it, so I requested it from the library. I haven't read anything of his before, but I loved it! From the book jacket: " Rohr offers a new paradigm for understanding one of the most profound of life's mysteries: how our failings can be the foundation for our ongoing spiritual growth....We grow spiritually more by doing it wrong than my doing it right."

A couple weeks ago I got on the library waiting list for Anne Lamott's new book, Hallelujah Anyway. But in the process, I stumbled upon Small Victories which I had somehow totally missed. I've read all of Lamott's nonfiction (and a few of her novels), so I was excited to have a "new" one. :) But I was a little nervous for two reasons. One, I did not love Lamott's two books before this one--Help Thanks Wow and Stitches. They were okay, but they felt a little forced and they were both super short. Second, it's "advertised" as "new and selected pieces." (I feared that this would be like reading Glennon Doyle Melton's Carry On, Warrior, which was literally almost ALL previous blog posts that I'd already read). Anyway, Small Victories is a wonderful collection of essays, most of which were new to me (and the couple of stories that were familiar were fun to read again). I adore Lamott's writing and it's been a while since I read anything by her, so this was a fun few days of hearing her voice again. :)

2) Call the Midwife
I've been reading more than crocheting lately, and therefore watching less TV. But over the last few weeks, I did manage to catch up on season 5 of Call the Midwife on Netflix and have also caught up on the season that's currently airing on PBS on Sunday nights. I started watching this show when it started in 2012 and it's still one of my favorites. It makes me want to live in London in the 1950s and 60s. :)

3) Goodie Girl Mint Slims
Jack and I were SUPER excited to find a gluten-free version of thin mint girl scout cookies! They weren't cheap (a little better deal online if you ordered a case of 6 boxes--which we did and have been slowly rationing). ;) Locally, they're available at HyVee and--rumor has it--Walmart. (The brand has other types of cookies as well). :)

4) Beauty and the Beast
I took Jack and Leah to see this the weekend it came out last month and we ALL loved it. (And I'm tempted to see it again while it's still in theaters!) Seriously, it's so lovely and well done. A beautiful nod to the animated original. The music is sublime. And such a fantastic cast (including all of the voices of the household objects!)

5) Cold remedies
Okay, this is pathetic, but I'm two weeks into a ridiculous head cold/cough and this stuff is quite literally saving my life. Or at least my sanity.

So it started as what I thought was seasonal allergies (and I still think that was at least part of what was going on). So I dutifully alternated Benadryl at night and Claritin in the morning. And it worked until I got the worst sore throat of recent memory. So I added ibuprofen to the mix and took a trip to the Minute Clinic to rule out strep. Then I woke up the next day to find that this head congestion/whatever had set up camp in my lungs. 

This meant that I was coughing up a storm, day and night. Luckily I had some Robitussin with Codeine left from a few months ago, so I added that to the nightly routine. Unfortunately, it didn't do much. So I started researching "dry cough remedies" online and tried lots of fun things like dark chocolate, almonds, tea, gargling, and steam. Nothing helped.

Then a very wise FB friend said "Albuterol?" and I thought, "Why not?!" We have a nebulizer for Will, and Leah was recently prescribed albuterol for a lingering cough, so I knew I had some and decided to give it a try. And lo and behold, it actually helped a little bit. I'm still coughing and congested, but this darling seal does at least bring some relief before bed so I don't curse my lungs as soon as I'm horizontal.

So, happy spring! May your skies be sunny, your windows open, and your seasonal allergies short-lived. :)