Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winter Top 5

Well, November (and December) (and a good portion of January) got away from me. Welcome back to my tiny corner of the internet. ;)

And happy winter! Except that we're in the middle of some very NON-winter temps, rendering the snow either dirty and gross or completely nonexistent. But it's only January, and this is Minnesota, so we likely have lots more cold and snow in our future.

Anyway, here's what I'm loving right now.

1) Books
I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, but I did decide to be intentional about not spending too much time on social media. Instead, I've been reading a LOT. A couple noteworthy picks:

Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect was beautiful and real and refreshing. I love Shauna's writing style--at the end of the book I felt like I'd just spent an afternoon listening to her pour her heart out. I had a chance to see her at the Belong Tour in October and she's the same on stage as I imagine she is in her kitchen, preparing a meal to share with friends. Highly recommend all of her books!

Steve Wiens' Beginnings was a far-overdue read for me. It was released a year ago and for some reason, the year got away from me and other books were read instead. I really enjoyed this book and it felt appropriate to read it in January--a beginning. Steve combines Biblical and personal stories throughout the book, which chronicles the seven days of creation. It works so beautifully and is completely captivating. Grab this book and while you're on Amazon, go ahead and pre-order Steve's book Whole, due out this August. :)

2) Larabar bites
I'm a big fan of Larabars. They're so simple and delicious. The coconut chocolate chip are a staple in our cupboard. But sometimes I don't want a whole Larabar. Enter Larabar BITES! The perfect tiny treat! I've only tried the cherry chocolate chip, but they also come in chocolate macaroon, double chocolate brownie, and mint chocolate truffle. Check 'em out.

3) The Office
This is not a new show for us, but it might be even better the second time around. We watched this sporadically when it was on TV 10ish years ago, and when we were perusing Netflix a couple months ago looking for a new show to watch together, this one caught our attention. We love the sitcom length, as we can't always commit to an hour-long show once all the kids are finally in bed and we're nearly falling asleep standing up. ;) So many laugh-out-loud moments. If, for some reason, you've never watched this, please do!

4) Zupas

This is a newish place in Maple Grove, although there are locations in about six different states. It's all soup, salads, and sandwiches, and everything we've tried is awesome. Dan is a fan of the Cuban Grilled Pork Sandwich, and I can't get enough of the Garden Chicken Chop Salad. Everything is super fresh, and every entree comes with a chocolate-covered strawberry! The only downside to all of this awesomeness is that it's always pretty busy. But it's worth it. (Also, they're closed on Sundays)

5) Movies
I love movies this time of year! It's award season and the movie selection is amazing. I have so many on my list, but I've loved the couple I've seen so far:

Leah and I saw Moana after Christmas and just loved it. The music is absolutely incredible and Moana is a perfect (non-princess) female lead. :) Leah is still singing "How Far I'll Go" (with mostly the right words) nearly every day. This will definitely be one we own when it comes out!

Dan and I had a rare day date last week and saw La La Land. SO good. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are charming and perfect. Outstanding music, beautiful story. Go see it!

All done. :) Hang in there, friends! Spring will be here before you know it. ;)

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Grief shared

I've expressed my dislike of "inspirational quote art" before. But I've got another good one for you. ;)

Hannah's birthday is in two days. And the whole week has just felt very heavy. I expressed this to Dan on Sunday or Monday and wasn't sure if this year was feeling harder than other years or if it's always just a crappy week. I have a feeling it's the latter and that it just sneaks up on me every year.

Then I woke up on Tuesday morning with a song in my head and a crazy idea. This year is Hannah's golden birthday (she'd be turning 5 on the 5th). I already had some ideas of ways to incorporate "gold" into the ways we acknowledge her birthday, but I decided to ask others to participate too. I posted on Instagram and Facebook that I'd love people to take a picture of something gold or yellow and share it with me. And I've been overwhelmed with the response. I have quite the collection of photos already. I'll post a full album of them on Facebook tomorrow, but here's a sneak peek:

A funny thing happened as these yellow pictures started coming in. The week felt lighter. People were remembering our girl with us. We didn't have to carry that alone. Just like five years ago, when our world crashed around us, and we felt held and loved and supported like never before. People had our backs. People loved and grieved for our daughter with us.

The week is still hard. I wish this wasn't reality. But this will always be our story. I'm just grateful for friends who are willing to be a part of the story with us. And for a God who remains faithful through it all.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

On the weather, Sandra McCracken, and remembering

As we approach Hannah's birthday, I'm in that time of year of intense remembering. Remembering what our lives were like five years ago and how innocent we were. Remembering how much has changed since then and where God has brought us. Some days this remembering is subtle. And then there are days like last Thursday.

One of the most prominent memories this time of year is the weather. There is a certain perfect fall day that is very reminiscent of the first week of November, 2011. The sky is absolutely clear, the temperature is cool enough to need a jacket, but we're all in denial that winter is coming and likely refuse that extra layer, and the sun is intense and beautiful. Last Thursday was exactly that--amazingly crisp and clear and just lovely. The kids and I met some friends for lunch and ran a few errands, and I welcomed the cool reminders on my face. I remember how weird it felt that November 3, 2011 was such a beautiful day. Didn't the world know the news we'd just gotten? Didn't it care that there was nothing beautiful about our life that day? I woke up the morning of November 4th to more of the same--headed to the hospital under the clear, blue, sunny sky. And November 5th, the sun came up outside our hospital room as we held our dear, tiny daughter. We drove home, empty-handed, with the heat on in the car. Because, well, no jackets. So when these fall days threaten to steal my joy and bring me back to a place of bitter pain, I don't let them. I live for the reminders that Hannah was a part of our lives.

On Thursday night, Dan and I went to an All Sons and Daughters concert at Open Door. The opening act was their friend Sandra McCracken. I knew I'd heard of Sandra before, but I didn't think I'd recognize anything. And I didn't--not any particular song, anyway. But as soon as she began to sing, her very distinct voice transported me, again, to 2011. I knew right away that she'd sung a song with Indelible Grace, one of a handful of songs my cousin had sent me after Hannah died. It was a song that I listened to multiple times a day for many months. "Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul" is a perfectly honest hymn of grief. It was exactly the song I needed in those first days (and weeks and months), when I wasn't yet ready to say "It is well with my soul."

Thy mercy seat is open still
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend thy will
And wait beneath thy feet

Oh, how grief sneaks in when we're not expecting it. And even sometimes when we are. I know it's inevitable in these next couple weeks. And I welcome the memories.

Friday, October 14, 2016

October 15th

October is "Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness" month, with October 15th set aside as the specific awareness day.

This day feels different every year. But no matter how many years pass, it will always be significant. Hannah and Charlie will always be a part of our family. And although grief is forever changing, I am honored to speak their names and remember their brief lives.

"When a child loses his parent, he is called an orphan. When a spouse loses her partner, she is called a widow. When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world."
-Ronald Reagan, October 1988

Friday, October 07, 2016

Together is better

It's Friday. Which means I am simultaneously reminiscing about this past Tuesday and counting the days until next Tuesday.

You see, Tuesdays are kind of a big deal around here lately.

It started innocently enough. I told a friend that I was going to bring him and his roommates dinner, and we planned a date for that to happen. And then, a few days prior, I re-noticed a verse hanging on the wall in my dining room.

Truth be told, I bought this about 7 months ago because it was pretty and it talked about eating so it worked well for a dining room. (I know--I'm super deep and spiritual). The more I thought about it and talked to Dan about it, the more I felt like I wanted to be people who actually DO that, not just people who have a Bible verse ABOUT that on their wall. So I told my friend, in so many words, "Change in plans! I'll still feed you, but you should come to our house for dinner." And they did.

The first week, it was our friend and two of his roommates. The next week, it increased by three--the fourth roommate, plus two more friends. And the next two weeks brought two more friends to our increasingly cozy table.

And now Tuesdays are totally our favorite part of the week! We eat and drink and laugh so hard we cry. It's kind of an indescribably beautiful thing.

And my kids? They're in their glory. :)

These people, most of whom were strangers just a few weeks ago, are now some of the dearest people to me. And we're only a month in! Just imagine the shenanigans that lie ahead!

Love you, friends! See you in four days. ;)

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. ;)