Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas is here, fa-la-la-la!

The weekend after Thanksgiving we set up our tree and decorated for Christmas. By far, one of the best moments of our year with the family! I love the holidays. 
 Christmas baking
 Christmas kiss

 Christmas tree and decorations
Christmas craft (homemade gingerbread play dough)

'Tis the season to be jolly!  Looking forward to celebrating the birth of Christ this year with my sweet family.

thanksgiving 2011


This year we spent the holiday in OKC with some of my extended family.  We loved seeing the fall colors really turning, as you can see in the picture of Aron with the stroller on our walk to the park after our Thanksgiving meal.  So much of this season brings back memories of my childhood spent in OKC; no matter how much time has passed, certain sites, smells, even weather, can trigger good memories of life when I was little. The kids did well on the trip, enjoying being in a new place.  I have noticed as they've gotten older that travel has grown more and more enjoyable.  Grateful that we live nearby and can take these trips often!

Toothless wonder

I grew up reading Little Rabbit's Loose Tooth and still read my childhood copy to Maggie from time to time.  Now, she is just like Little Rabbit and has "a window in her mouth" yet again.  In a matter of a week, she lost her two top teeth, bringing the total of lost teeth this year to 4.  She now has that adorable, huge hole on top.  I love it. She seems so grown up and is not quite 5 years old!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

life lately

Life continues to move along and I'm just loving time with my kiddos lately. It's truly delightful to watch them grow and learn and love the world around them. Parenting has its daily challenges of course, but I'm so blessed to have a husband that parents alongside me: he listens to me, encourages me, teaches and corrects the kids, and is passionate about doing life as a family, even amidst this busy season of finishing his Master's degree. I've been feeling more joyful and settled lately, getting to connect with friends over coffee, email, and the phone. This is a necessity for me as "quality time" is almost my number 1 love language.

Here's a glimpse of what we've done these past few weeks.
Our church had a family service on Sunday and both Curren (amazing!) and Maggie did well sitting in the service with us (C is in the orange shirt and M is sitting on his right). There were children's songs, a shortened sermon (16 minutes, all of which Curren basically sat in his chair watching our pastor speak on the screen), and a children' time to come sit and listen to a story up front. I love these Sundays!

We took family pictures on Saturday afternoon and it went well, minus several meltdowns from the kids and Maggie (Maggie?!) failing to cooperate for some of the pictures. I do love the candid shots because let's be honest, this is life with young children, it's not all a soft hue of sunset and peaceful smiles. I do hope Allison (she is my good friend and such a gifted artist!) got at least one good pic of us all smiling. How funny is Kate in the first pic, eating the parking block?

Obligatory pumpkin carving which is more of Aron's thing. I could do without this yearly tradition; sorry, is that just me?
Kate in her hilarious cuteness as of late means we see her like this often daily: sucking her thumb and poking her belly button simultaneously (these 2 invariably go together now) and also just waking up uber happy after nap times (below).

Maggie's latest art creation: a lion. We LOVE it. Her art teacher, a friend here on campus (and art major) is so talented and is doing a fantastic job with Maggie. Inspired by my friend Laurie, I will probably host a "gallery viewing" in a couple months to display all Maggie has learned.
This is the best homemade pizza I've ever both tasted and made. It's so easy and I have batches of dough in the freezer waiting to be thawed and made for weekly dinners. I'll never buy another frozen pizza again, I swear. Many thanks to a friend on campus who hosted a perfect pizza making party and taught us all the tricks of the trade. I'm a believer.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Bright Spot

I love Joy's Hope and was *SUPER* excited to see the launch of The Happy Day Project (see button on the right). Love the idea of blessing others randomly. And I'm stoked to get my kids involved with this too!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Bucket List


This is our fall bucket list and I love it. Maggie, Aron, and I came up with it together and I think it lists reasonable things the we will get to and not-too-out-of-the-ordinary-things that are doable.

I like this whole concept of a seasonal to-do list for family times together. Not only does it help you focus in early on what you value (or what your kids' hopes and dreams are), but it also gives you something intentional to do. And it's an added bonus that in the midst of our blogging world where everyone seems to be doing everything well, I don't have to feel defeated if I can't get to all I see before me. It's good to feel successful in your parenting. :)

My friend Casey did a summer list and I loved it and had to do a fall one. I think Leslie may have been the originator of this concept, but I could be wrong. Love her thoughts behind it, too.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

pumpkin patch 2011

We enjoyed the Dallas Arboretum yesterday, traipsing around, looking at the assortment of pumpkins (they used over 50,000 pumpkins to decorate the landscape and also build 3 pumpkin houses!), and of course, choosing a couple to take home and carve. The kids enjoyed the afternoon and we snapped some traditional annual pictures. I couldn't find the one from last year (old computer died, only so many pics got transferred). Regardless, my kid are looking so grown-up to me!

I did find a photo of me and Mags (age 22 months) upon our return to Chicago, prior to Curren's birth. My how, time flies!

I love the fall season and all it brings.
Fall 2009, a blast from the past






Monday, October 17, 2011

in those dark moments

Something I've noticed is that when I am not handling life well as a mom, blogging gets shelved and I kind of go dark for awhile (hence my almost-month hiatus from here). I'm still reaching out to friends and family, calling, initiating, I do these things well, but eventually I back off and isolate myself and spiral into loneliness. It's an interesting cycle for me--chaos brings isolation which brings loneliness. It's a real spiritual battle for me to stay in it (being honest and living life with others) and to *not* isolate myself. The hard thing I'm still trying to work through is when those closest to me also happen to be crazy busy or not handling life well as a mom either, and they are thus, not as available to me.

Many times, I have left voicemails for a few close friends and my sister that say, "I'm having a really, really hard day and I just need to talk." Sometimes, I've even been close to tears when I leave those voicemails. It's very humbling for me, to be real and raw in the moment and to ask for help. I'm getting better at it because I care deeply about doing life well in community, but I also find I have to force myself to reach out in the moment (not a day or 2 later; you know how it goes, checking in with a friend, "How are you?" "Oh, I had a rotten day on Tuesday, but I'm better today.") I think those who know you best should see you in your most glorious and your most difficult times. I feel deeply grateful to have a number of close, close friends who know me and seek me out.

On the other side of some very tough days, weeks, or longer seasons, I see God's faithfulness, drawing me into a closer relationship with Him through prayer and time in His Word. In these recent hard days, I've fought to stay focused on Him. God's grace is good, moment by moment.

How do you handle loneliness and those dark moments in life?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

on being away and coming home



I left on our anniversary day in September for a good friend's wedding in which I was a bridesmaid. It was a fantastic trip, overall, as I was able to ride 1st class (redeemed Aron's air miles for the same amount as a coach seat, who could pass that up?!) and eat a real meal with real silverware and even have leg room to spare. I read books on the plane and just relaxed. It was heavenly.

The wedding was incredibly gorgeous, set on a ranch in the hills, with a cool breeze blowing, and the day was perfect, just perfect. Cayla has wanted to be a wife and mother since I've known her (13 years) and at the right time, God brought Mike into her life and almost one-year to the day they met, they got married. Super cool, right? She also lived well in her singleness, traveling the world with Cru, training and equipping students on short and long-term missions teams. Singleness was very difficult at times, but she truly was able to live well in the moment and do incredible things for the Lord. Love that.

I know some of you know her and some of you don't, but if you have 3 minutes, it's worth your while to scroll through their wedding album. The photographer was incredible, the day captured splendidly, and so much of it I would do if I was getting married; I still loved our wedding day, but I loved so much of what Cayla and Mike did for their special day. Check it out here.

I love my hubby, love that he took such stellar care of our kiddos while I was away, but man, it took almost 2 full weeks to get back in the groove of things, with kids being off, Aron not feeling well, both of us exhausted from our respective weekends, etc. Getting way is completely necessary at these stage of life with young kids, but at some point, the "getting back into the groove" on the other side might not be worth it. At least not for such a long stretch of time. Regardless, my in-laws were incredible hosts and it was fun to catch up with them and also to get to spend so much time with my close friend, Linds. And of course, all the wedding festivities. I'm so glad I was able t be a part of it!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wedding anniversary

9 years ago, I married the love of my life. And he is still that today, my Love! Our marriage is sweeter and richer today than it was when we said "I do." Our history began over 14 1/2 years ago; the roots of this relationship go deep.

Aron, you are a profound example of God's great grace in my life. You have shaped me, truly, into who I am today. I am humbled, almost daily, with how you love me. You listen to me as I process aloud, you give me breaks from mothering when I'm in need, you serve me around the home without being asked, you love to spend time with the kids, and you love to do life with our little family.

You are a safe place for me, a place I've learned to rest and trust in as a harbor from this world. I have thrived under your love and care. Ultimately, you are so very Christ-like; you are fulfilling your duty and joy as a husband by loving me, your bride, as Christ loves His church, giving His life as a ransom (Eph. 5:25). You are constantly putting my needs above your own. It blows my mind and it doesn't get more achingly beautiful than that.

Happy 9th, Aron! I'm eagerly and joyfully anticipating what is to come.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

some shel silverstein

videoI don't advocate this kind of talk in our family, but we've been listening to a lot of Shel Silverstein in the car and his rendition of "One Sister For Sale" is totally hilarious and the kids love it.

Curren cracks me up!

s'mores



Saturday night we headed to Rachel's house for fajitas and s'mores. Gotta love cooking over a fire pit in the fall! How cute are Hud and Mags? Love their sweet smiles.

It's a really unique experience to return to friendships after moving away; not many people get that opportunity. I have loved being back in Dallas and reconnecting in person with my good friends.

breakfast picnic

On Saturday morning we met our friends Tyce and Bethany and their boys at Coffee Park (our new fav and so appropriately named) for breakfast. This wonderful family used to live across from us when we first lived on campus at DTS. Tyce graduated in May and they are living in Tyler, TX, not too far from here. Bethany quickly grew to be one of my closest friends here on campus and we've remained close in the time spent apart. I love how God providentially placed us as hall mates 3 years ago.

I baked a quiche lorraine (with my own pie crust!) and it turned out yummy. Even Mags, who does not eat eggs, really liked this "breakfast pie." I think that's what I'm going to call it from now on. Bethany picked up muffins and coffee from Central Market (if this isn't one of the most glorious stores ever created, I'm not sure what is) and we devoured our delicious breakfast in the park on a cool, fall morning.

I told Bethany going into our time together that I had high hopes it would be idyllic--fall weather, good food, our husbands getting to catch up, the kids playing well, she and I getting to connect--and guess what?! It totally met all of my expectations. Love that.

So thankful for good friends and ones that all parities involved really get along (wives, husbands, and kids), a true and rare gift. We love you guys!

Bennet and Kate--the two newest additions to the family. B is 3 1/2 months older than Kate and totally smitten with her. I think they make a lovely couple, no?!
Asher and Cademon, whom Maggie adores playing with!
My kiddos, having a hard time smiling for the picture
The wonderful Jensen family
So thankful for this friendship!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

my boy


Oh, this boy. He melts my heart...that's always a strange phrase to me when people use it. I think what I want to say is that my heart swells with joy when I look into his face, especially in the mornings when he comes out declaring, "Good morning, Mama! The sun is yellow!" I love to watch him learn and grow. He knows how to put his shoes on and clear his place at the table by himself. He unexpectedly walks up to me most days and says, "I love you, mama!" and can quote most of The Hungry Caterpillar. He drums on everything with my spatulas and everything he holds in his hands at some point becomes a guitar (be it my broom or a pencil). And it's these times of sweetness that I need to savor, to remember when the hard times come.

I really dislike labeling kids as "stubborn," I think this has such negative connotation. For truly, because of our sinful natures we are ALL stubborn and choose our own way all the time, refusing to listen to wisdom; we all do what is right in our own eyes (Prov. 3:7). With that said, I also think some children are more compliant than others so their "stubborn" ways go unnoticed or overshadowed by a sibling's. Regardless, any sinful, defiant behavior needs to be corrected and currently, I am in a tough season with my boy. Curren is my more "spirited" and challenging child and is pushing me to new levels of growth in my own spiritual life.

For example, he is an *extremely* picky eater. And has been for most of his little life. I haven't met many kids who are as selective about food as he or gets as angry as he does that he can't have what he wants (milk!). It has caused me to cry in recent days, it's such a frustrating battle. "No whinning," "food first, then milk," are common phrases he hears, and yet he continues to push, and push, and push. He's also been waking up early and getting in his sisters' beds at night. And he wants more water when he gets put to bed. And again, when he doesn't get what he wants, he gets frustrated. Oh, so frustrated and angry.

When days, hours, or minutes push me to utter discouragement (too many days recently!), I pray first. It's been helping a great deal; this new challenge in my parenting is causing me to seek the Lord's help anew. I try to encourage the positive areas I see in Curren, while gently and lovingly correcting his behavior (this can be so tough). In such dark moments, I remind myself of his sweet and gentle side: daredevil, adventure-loving, active, hilarious belly laugh, sweet right-cheek dimple, sharing toys with Kate, playtime with Maggie, helper in the kitchen, snuggler at night.

Thanks to my children, I see my own sinfulness in ways I never anticipated: I'm quicker to frustration, anger, joy-lessness, selfishness, *especially* when my children need me most--in their OWN sinful moments and it's almost always (always!) when I want to do my own thing--clean the kitchen, talk to a friend on the phone (and it's only a quick call, what the heck!), a playdate where I simply NEED mom time and want to visit with my friend while all the kids should play happily together, etc.). Talk about needing Christs's strength to not only help me examine my own heart, but to help my children do the same.

I'm continuing to find joy in my mothering. It's a sweet, humbling, and beyond-challenging job of shaping these little souls God has given to us. But, He gives strength and I'm thankful for that.

ballerinas

There is something so terribly special about sisters. I love the way my girls interact. Maggie's love for Kate is kind and gentle. She shares easily with her and loves to make her laugh. And for the most part, when Kate is sad, Maggie is quick to comfort her.

My sister is my best friend, a comforter, a listener, and someone who really gets me and loves me as I am. I hope our paths cross again one day soon, I miss doing life with her. It's hard to believe that pre-kids we lived next door to each other! Those were special days.

For now, I watch my girls and look forward to their continued growth in friendship as they learn to cherish each other and do life together.



Saturday, September 17, 2011

new recipes

I've been making some new recipes this week and overall, been very happy with them. I have been using a new favorite cookbook, Poor Girl Gourmet, for many of my main dishes and all have been excellent. Below, I made the smashed sweet potatoes and braised pork shoulder and it was outstanding. A good company meal, ones I'm always on the look for when guests come to dinner. The honey balsamic chicken thighs with roasted thyme carrots is also amazing. One thing I think I'm still learning to do well and finally ready to master is cooking meat. It's so easy to overcook or undercook it, both of which are less than desirable. The meat dishes from PGG have turned out perfect. This is a dessert I made for a mom's prayer group that I recently joined here on campus. As a side note, I'm loving this group already, wonderful ladies at the same season of life I'm in, with children my age or older; much to be learned and gained by weekly fellowship and community. I brought these Biscoff Cheesecake Bars at the rec of my friend Renee and they were delish. I couldn't find the Biscoff brand cookies, so bought another cookie, a chocolate coconut one and thought it tasted great. I hear the Biscoff brand (which I spotted at another market today) is addicting! These bars were better when they had sat overnight. Even Aron, who does not like cheesecake or sour cream at all (AT ALL), loved these bars.

Lastly, I made my own carnitas this week and they were killer. I'll make them all the time. Great to have the meat in the freezer for a quick and easy meal. I took pork tacos and the fixins to friends who had a new baby this week and had enough left over for our dinner. No picture, but trust me, this recipe ROCKED.

What have you been making lately?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

homeschooling



I've officially started the homeschooling journey! While I myself was not home schooled, after my experience teaching at a homeschool co-op in California over 10 years ago, I knew that's what I wanted to do with my own children some day. I actually love the model of part-time at home, part-time at a school; a beautiful blending of both worlds for me. But, believe it or not, I have felt overwhelmed with starting the process. The amount of resources available is overwhelming, which is both a good and bad thing for me. But, after some research and talking with other moms, I've come up with a game plan for this year. I'm sure as we go along, I'll be gathering info for Kindergarten next year, but we have time before we are doing full-time homeschooling. I welcome this year to test the waters!

Maggie is doing another year of Pre-K and I am also hoping to have focused time for Curren to work on ABC's, numbers, sorting, and other various activities, least of which include time to work on sitting still and listening skills, even if it's for 5-10 minutes. For some children, I do not think these skills come naturally when it comes to learning. I can tell that Maggie is a more compliant child and said skills have been easier for her. My sweet boy on the other hand has a much more difficult time with said skills, so I'm welcoming the opportunity this year to use Maggie's schooling time (which we are doing 2-4x a week, I haven't quite figured out if I'm going to expand beyond only Tuesdays and Thursdays) to work with Curren as well.

For Language Arts and Math, I plan to use the Uppercase Letters, Lowercase Letters, and My First Book of Numbers 1-30 from Kumon. I love their approach of teaching how to write the ABC's, the colorful pages and texture (thick, good quality paper), and the simplicity of each lesson, taking no more than a couple of minutes per page. Maggie has already worked through some of these books in the past year, My First Book of Cutting and My First Book of Coloring, both of which I attribute to the fact that she colored very well by age 3 1/2 and can cut well now. In short, I think you can do no wrong with Kumon. And an added bonus is they are reasonably priced.

For Bible, we will be reading The Jesus Storybook Bible continuously, memorizing a verse each week, working through Catechsims, incorporating lessons from Desiring God's The ABC's of God, and also reading through a fantastic ABC book of key players in early church history, The Church History ABC's.

For Science, I plan to use the kit Lindsay (see below) recommends available on Amazon: Primary Science Set and Big Bag of Science. I'm loving the idea of this being a daddy and Maggie activity once a week.

I found Lindsay's post on her schedule and curriculum choices for her homeschool day extremely helpful and plan to utilize much of what she recommends (I didn't list various items on my blog, because she listed them on hers). If you don't follow "Passionate Homemaking" I cannot recommend this wonderful site enough. It's one of my top 3 favorite blogs.

I plan to include poetry, other math actives besides the workbook mentioned above, history, cooking together, service projects, team teaching 1x a month with a couple friends on campus, and 1x a month field trips with said friends.

We are off to a good start with our homeschooling year, wrapping up our time together on Tuesday with a science experiment I have wanted to do with Mags for awhile. It was actually a rather impromptu moment I seized to have her pretend to be a Paleontologist (what she wants to be when she grows up) and excavate the ice (grated, I hid no bones in it, but it was still fun for her). She asked questions, tried a varied of tools to "dig" out the toys, and was very patient with the process. It's fun how sometimes the moment/activities that you think are just "OK," not stellar, turn out to be the highlight of the day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Curly hair!

After I saw this post on Julie's blog, I had to give it a try. I'll admit I was really skeptical as my hair is fine and thin, but wouldn't you know, it totally worked!? Wash hair at night and dry, tuck it into an elastic headband, curls arrive the next morning. Seriously cool.

I LOVE it, it was so easy to do and believe it or not, lasted almost 2 days. I didn't wash my hair before church on Sunday, but there was still wave and curl to it. How much better can it be than getting up in the morning and your hair has basically styled itself?! Seriously cool.

It's my favorite new go-to style.

You know you are loving the bathroom robe shot. Just keeping it real.