Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Giveaway winner

On this super cold morning, picking a winner for the giveaway was a treat. Winning comment was #6, belonging to…

Crystal Bowers!

 

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

6

Monday, January 5, 2015

Resolutions for the New Year

 

*Last day to enter to win the movie “The Promise”…enter here!”

discipline & intentionality

Today we spent the morning putting away Christmas and getting things back in order. The New Year always reminds me of the third trimester of pregnancy. Nesting instinct goes crazy trying to purge and organize. With all the chaos and mess and fun and joy of Christmas, the New Year always makes me want to put things back into order.

I’ve spent the past few weeks reflecting a bit on 2014…the year we started thinking we’d always be a family of three and ended as a family of four. The year of my last positive pregnancy test, my last pregnancy, giving birth to my last baby, the last newborn snuggles. So much joy intermixed with so much sanctification. There’s nothing like having a baby to show you who you really are. I remember so many years ago it seems praying as we waited that God would grove our family because we needed more sanctification. Truly I did. And we’re in it. Being more sanctified than ever as we face our full out selfishness. And now 2015 is beginning.

I’m not one to make resolutions because I know they won’t fully be fulfilled. Instead I just make note of some areas I’d like to improve on and leave it at that. On top of that for the past couple of years I have chosen a word to guide my year. In 2013 it was grace. 2014 was prudence. And 2015 is DISCIPLINE.

Since 2013 I can truly say that I have grown in the areas of grace and prudence. Maybe not enough for others to notice but enough to impact our little family and our home. And for 2015 I hope to grow in discipline. Particularly in reference to our home, to my mothering, and in being present. I’ve found this past year that there are so many times I just want to hide away. The first 6-12 months of having a baby are SO hard for me. Give me all your 2-4 year olds and I will happily enjoy them. But this two kid thing…it’s been a sanctifying and soul stretching endeavor. The lyrics “I need thee every hour…” have been sung in this house more than ever lately. I realized slowing down when I want to speed up and finish something already is just what the doctor ordered. My get out of the house and push through has been replaced with stay home and push through. I’ve had to reorder a few things, reconfigure normal, and to be honest, it’s been hard for me.

So in 2015 I’m striving for discipline and intentionality. Sometimes I find that I’m too spread out…too many things I want to learn about, grow in, and conquer that instead of finishing anything, they all get done half-heartedly. So I’ve narrowed the focus, honing in on what I really want to accomplish, and will be praying to that end. That the Lord will grow me in discipline and intentionality for His glory and for the good of my family and my home.

So here are some of the improvement areas I’m focusing in on:

The Girls

-memorizing verses with Elizabeth

-reading her Bible with her and praying with her

-creating a more structured learning/art time by planning in advance

-starting some chores around the house (with a chore chart)

-continuing to be flexible when it comes to Meghan and her “schedule” – something that is so different the second time (for the better)

-Get outside this winter every day that it is 30 degrees or above.

Our House

-get back into having a better cleaning schedule

-continue with my monthly meal planning

-have some restraint with purchases and be more discerning about what comes in

ME

-prioritize time in the word and finishing my BSF study. I have plenty of time to finish this but I happen to be the queen of procrastination and super good at finishing under pressure. Instead I’d rather find the time daily to do each day so that I can actually enjoy studying instead of rushing through it. My mentor is holding me accountable for this one and because I know what my days look like, I’m not giving myself the excuse that two small children make it difficult.

-get off my phone. I’ve decided phones are the stay at home moms way to zone out/catch a break. Enough said.

-start using my sewing machine again, read more, and learn about oils/use oils on a more regular basis

Family

-continue with once a month kid fun days

-dates with Elizabeth

-movie nights

-be intentional

-serve together. we are thinking of doing meals on wheels as a family and trying to participate as we can in the Big Serve opportunities at our church.

Marriage

-we used to go out and then we had another baby. go out more together and plan intentional time to spend together at home post-bedtime.

-pray together more often (a goal of both of ours)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Christmas Recap & A GIVEAWAY!!

Another Christmas has come and gone and it seems like everything else lately it went by so quickly. In my mind it feels as though we just set up the tree, hung the advent calendar and began talking about the precious gift of the baby Jesus.

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We started out the season by putting up our Christmas tree a bit early this year, on my birthday in November. It was so much fun as Elizabeth was finally old enough to participate and get excited. With our house decorated we began advent with Advent gifts (new Christmas pajamas and a new book to add to our collection.) I also wrapped all of our Christmas books thinking we would unwrap one each day but that only lasted a week tops. Someone in the house was too excited and couldn’t quite comprehend the “one a day” reality. In truth, it was nice to have them all open! Though we have a good collection of our own I followed Jenny Rigney’s advice and checked out quite a few from the library in advance.

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I love that we are starting our own family traditions…things to look forward to as a family. We didn’t do something everyday and I definitely didn’t plan themed activities. We’re still working on getting this two kid thing down. But we did do some. We did the Advent Box, worked through our felt advent calendar, lit advent candles, read Christmas books, had movie nights every Friday night through Advent (more on this in a bit), celebrated the life of St. Nicholas, made Christmas cookies, read through Ann Voscamp’s Advent book (which I’m sad to say I didn’t really enjoy), and had a few fun friend outings.

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This year we spent Christmas in Minnesota and it was our first Christmas Eve at our new church. They have a time during the service when they invite all the kids up front…which is a LOT of kids and I took Elizabeth down. I wish we had it on tape but after she sat for a few minutes she proceeded to take a tour of the stage, weaving through all the kids. There were so many people so I wasn’t able to grab her but she eventually made her way back. It was so stinking cute!

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While all the traditions are fun, I loved how this year Elizabeth really caught on to the meaning of Christmas. She knew who it was about and what happened. Throughout Advent we spent each Friday night watching a Christmas themed movie. We started with Veggietales Legend of St. Nicholas on the eve of St. Nicholas day. We also enjoyed A Charlie Brown Christmas, Winnie the Pooh Christmas, and two Nativity themed movies. In years past Alex and I have watched The Nativity on Christmas Eve so I was on the hunt this year for a good nativity film aimed at kids. We were blessed to receive two to review on the blog from a friend. I actually bought one of them before we were given the ones to review so I have one to give away to one of you!!

The two nativity films we viewed were The Promise and Greatest Heroes and Legends Nativity.

Here’s my review of The Promise:

This came recommended from a dear friend whom I highly respect and it did not disappoint. Elizabeth is only 2.5 so she had a bit of a hard time sitting still for the movie which could have been due to plenty of different things. It should be noted unless she’s watching Super Why, it’s difficult for her to sit through any movie. But this movie, from a mom and dad perspective ,was pretty accurate, very entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. It feels a bit like a Pixar film in terms of animation and most of the movie is done in song, similar to Disney. The film follows the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus pretty accurately and starts by showing the oppression of the Israelites by the Romans. It then portrays the budding love story of Mary and Joseph which is so touching. One thing I really appreciated about the film was tender way it portrayed the family relationships. It was very endearing. Everything was really well done and it was hard to remember that we were watching a “Christian” film if you know what I mean:)

One of the reasons I think it failed to hold Elizabeth’s attention is due to the fact that most of the movie is done in song. But I can tell you that next year she’ll probably be all over that and will be catching on to all the songs. It was such a well-made film that I’m glad to have it in our film collection and will be delighted to pull it out year after year on Christmas Eve as a new tradition.

And as far as the Greatest Heroes and Legends Nativity:

Well that one surprisingly kept the attention of our 2.5 year old while not quite capturing the attention of dad. Alex watched this one with her one afternoon and so I’m taking his opinions for the review. The story was somewhat accurate, the nativity included the visit from the Wise men which really didn’t happen until some years later. Also this was more your average “Christian” movie. The animation was far more dated and choppy, the songs and commentary were a bit distracting to adults but Elizabeth didn’t seem to mind them, and there is a longer commentary in the beginning by Charlton Heston which we forwarded through. Overall this was also a great option for viewing the Nativity story and is by no means a bad choice for Christmas. It is fairly accurate, held the attention of our daughter, and told the story of Jesus’ birth which when it comes down to it, is all we were looking for.

So there you have it – two new movies you can try out next year during the Advent season or on Christmas Eve like we do at our house! We really enjoyed The Promise and we’d love for your family to enjoy it next year as well.

TO ENTER: Leave a comment with your favorite Christmas Tradition!

giveaway ends 1/5/15

*This film was bought by me for the giveaway. I did receive two movies from Fish Flix for the review*

 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

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2014

the year of small but significant moments as a family

our days were spent shaking our heads in amazement that our family was expanding, cuddling our second daughter Meghan Joy (9/25/14), dancing to the music at the farmer’s market on Saturdays, eating the best bismarks from Sunrise Donuts, enjoying lazy days at the pool, celebrating Elizabeth’s 2nd birthday, building sand castles at the beach, stomping our boots through the rain and the snow, washing mud covered hands from overhauling our yard, wearing ear muffs at mealtimes as Alex renovated our kitchen, teaching Bible verses and singing Jesus Loves You, rocking babies to sleep, reading story upon story, celebrating 8 years of marriage relaxing with friends and family, climbing all over the playground, walking around the block picking up leaves, wiping tears and issuing discipline, being sanctified, playing multiple rounds of golf, laughing with girlfriends, wondering what on earth we were doing…the list could go on.

because for us these little moments throughout our days were creating the life we always longed for…

the life as a family.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

{if you received our card, please excuse the spelling error. the first set of cards had a spelling error and the second set had no errors but was too wide for the card. I’m obviously sleep deprived!}

Friday, December 12, 2014

Life Lately

I have a feeling from now on posts will look a lot like this. To be honest, I’ve started using Tumblr to share highlights of the girls with our families and I love that I can upload pictures from my phone a lot faster than writing a blog post. So as a result this blog is getting a bit neglected. And let’s be honest, it’s the best time of the year and there’s no way I’m missing out on that.

BUT we have been up to some fun things.

1. Elizabeth is potty-trained. Hallelujah! It was a very painless and easy transition. We realized she could hold it right when she turned two and we were visiting a splash pad. So she’s been ready for awhile but we held off due to the new sibling piece. Happy to say less than a handful of accidents later, we’re in the clear. Cue the happy dance that we only have one in diapers (sans nap/bedtime for E)

2. We are on the hunt for a mini-van. Cue the happy dance as well. I’m sure I will feel like I’ve really arrived into motherhood when I sit in the front seat and drive my happy crew around. That last part was sarcastic because if you drove along with us at certain times (thank goodness it’s not that often) you’d hear Elizabeth screaming “Be Quiet” to her sister who’s screaming her head off. The other day at a stop sign I got it on camera and it is the FUNNIEST thing ever. We’ve had to be careful though because that big sister picked up on its hilarity and loves to communicate like that. So now you hear all sorts of “That’s not a loving or kind way to speak to your sister” even though our minds are crying…yes, I wish I could yell that out! HA!

But mini-van. We’re stuck between going for the Town and Country because they’re nice and less $$ and a Toyota Sienna. Alex is certain it’s an “Apple vs. PC-drinking the Kool Aid” type of thing…saying people have been brainwashed by marketing to believe one is really better than the other. I don’t really care what we get as long as it has leather seats. I’m so over cloth with kids. I already told him I didn’t need to be there to test drive, hoping he begins to believe that as he would like to test drive with all 4 of us present. Um, you crazy? Did you not watch the screaming children video I just took. Ha!

3. I’m excited for Christmas and yes, I’m excited for all the gifts my children will receive. Obviously I’m fully aware that’s not what it’s about, but if they’re going to get things I’m glad they’re getting what they are. I rarely buy a toy. In fact I’m having a hard time thinking of toys I’ve bought this year, so I’m ready for some fresh new things for them to play with. Myself included. We do the whole 4 gift thing (want/need/wear/read) and even then she’s getting art supplies and puzzles. Because our kids are so young and our family sticks to our Amazon wish list, they get things we “need.” Most of the toys they are getting expand imaginative play and re-stock our art cabinet. I’m sure when they get a bit older I’ll be all over the experience/membership thing, but for right now we’re good stocking our playroom.

4. This season is going by so FAST. I just dressed our little peanut into 3-6 month clothing. Little Megs is so teeny. She weighed in at a hefty 11 pounds and just hit the 18% for height. I love how different kids can be! She’s been the greatest. Seriously. I’m sure it partially has to do with the fact that I’ve been here, done this before. I can actually figure her out. I can read her signs. It all seems so obvious this time around. She’s such a mellow kid unless she’s tired…both my kids were that way so we’re protecting sleep as much as possible, which isn’t really all that possible but somehow it’s working out. I’m dreading the day we transition to the crib. The rock n play is amazing.

5. We planned our vacation for the winter and I am so excited. I know there may be pangs of jealousy but winter hasn’t been that bad yet, has it? Probably has. Alex says he suffers from SAD and who am I to argue:) Orlando because it’s a direct flight and there’s golf and a resort with a pool. That’s all we need…and my mother to join us of course. Looking forward to doing life somewhere other than home for a week because let’s be honest, that’s all vacation looks like with little ones along.

6. We’ve had our Christmas tree up for some time now and I’m loving this season of Advent and Christmas with our littles. Elizabeth is totally into the tree and the songs and the baby Jesus. We’ve managed to read most of the days in Anne Voscamp’s new book and although they may be a bit over E’s head they’ve been great for my heart. And we’ve made some cookies and declared Friday nights as Christmas movie nights. On tonight is Frosty or Charlie Brown. Haven’t decided yet! It really is the best time of the year. But now we need some snow!

So there you have it a little peek into our life as of late.

How’s your advent/Christmas/Holiday season going thus far? Favorite traditions?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Monthly Meals…An Update

We are into our third month of monthly meal planning and I’m back with an update. I’ve had a few people ask how it’s been going and so I thought I would check back in. To be honest, I think this “spur of the moment, cook by the seat of my pants” girl is fully converted. I LOVE it.

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That last little phrase is one I really, honestly never thought I would udder. But as we’ve gone on I’ve realized a few things that happen as a result of my monthly meal plan.

-making dinner is less stressful (note I didn’t say NOT stressful. It’s witching hour, y’all)

-we save money (because I’m not buying things haphazardly and then wasting them)

-we waste less food (our refrigerator is SO empty at the end of the month…it’s great!)

-it still allows for flexibility (we keep at least two days/week open)

-you grocery shop less (this one actually makes me sad because I adore grocery shopping but with two littles in the cold winter, it’s actually a bonus)

The first month we planned our menu for the month was the month following Meghan’s birth. We were blessed by so many incredible people and were brought so many delicious meals that I only had to make a handful of things. The bonus was that many of the meals could be postponed until November. So we’ve now successfully finished our first month and I just did the shopping for December. Yesterday the girls and I hit up Costco and Target for our staples and monthly needs. After this one big shop of the month I tend to run to the store once a week to replenish things like milk and get other things that may have been missed.

I’ve found that by spending a couple of hours before the month begins to plan the menu and walk through our kitchen with my master grocery list, circling what we need, has been so helpful. I have a list of 45 or so of our favorite meals documented that I pull our menu from. That way we  start each month with a stocked kitchen, meaning any meal on the menu for the month can for the most part be swapped for another (unless some random ingredient is needed). Plus it allows for me to plan our menu with grouped items. For example, if I have the menu planned out I am far more likely to reuse a leftover or ingredient and remake it into something else because I’ve purposefully planned a meal that sounds good. Also we have a leftover night planned into our week…usually Wednesday or Thursday. We are not huge leftover fans in general so whatever I make Monday/Tuesday is usually what is up for grabs later. I plan for this. Tonight I made this amazing Potato Leek Soup paired with a salad. Wednesday it will get paired with paninis and then be gone. Makes me feel better especially if I don’t want to or can’t eat it for lunch the next day. And the menu is posted in one of our cabinet doors so I can always reference it.

Since I’m usually an impromptu cook and we like to randomly go out as a family I worried that we would waste food. But I’ve found the opposite to be true. Because there are so many options for the month and we have two nights that I don’t plan meals for we can easily move and rotate depending on our moods. I’ve already swapped things because we had the ingredients or didn’t have them. It’s super flexible.

Also did I mention I’m less stressed during the most stressful part of the day. Seriously. I used to try and menu plan by the week but to be honest, it was just more of a headache because we’d miss meals, waste food, etc. Not too mention that every week I had to sit down and plan things out. Now I only have to do it once, I have most of the ingredients in the house for almost all of the meals, and the recipes I’ve been using are our favorites and are pretty tame in terms of prep/execution. I’m pretty certain Alex has enjoyed knowing that dinner is on the table, usually hot, and I’m not calling him to pick something up on the way home.

So there you have it. I’m a monthly meal planner convert.

And I LOVE it!

Monday, November 24, 2014

thoughts on my birthday

Today I spent the beginning of my 34th year putting up our Christmas tree. I think this is a first for me on my birthday…a head start due to Thanksgiving travel and Advent starting the day after we return.

And it was quite possibly one of the better birthday’s I’ve had of late. My amazing mother in law had taken care of Elizabeth a few times over the course of the past week including yesterday afternoon so Alex and I could do just what I wanted. Run errands. Seriously. I chose in good conscience to run errands with my husband coffee in hand. And to be honest, I can’t recall the last time we did that. Window shopped, sipped coffee, did a few returns and bought a few fun things. It was fantastic.

I’m tempted to write “that’s what life has become…running errands as a birthday wish” all full of fun sarcasm and yet I wrote it and deleted because it’s not true. I was reminded this morning as I awoke to silence and the heard the littles awake, how much I’ve wanted this life. This life where on your birthday you run errands because the days are so full loving on littles.

I’ll be honest…the almost full day break, the sleepover, and the afternoon alone with my husband gave me plenty of time away from those girls but my heart ached for them to return. That’s the way it is as a mommy.

And so, on the eve of my birthday I sat on the counter with Elizabeth sharing a bowl of pasta because I hadn’t eaten dinner far later than she should have been awake. And we spent today making a royal holiday mess in our house because we had to examine and talk about every thing we brought out of the boxes. And I’m so glad I chose to slow down today.

To enjoy all those little stops and starts without any agenda for the day other than getting Chipotle for lunch because we have no food in our house. And God showered grace upon me because Meghan slept the entire time at the restaurant, our newly potty trained 2 year old told me she had to use the bathroom and we made it in time, and our lunch was delicious, not too mention the company in which it was eaten was fantastic. I mean how can you not love a 2 year old that looks at her half of the burrito bowl and says, “chipotle, get in my belly.” (side note…a burrito bowl with a tortilla on the side is the best bang for your buck. I love burritos but the bowls are easier for e to eat so it’s a win, win.)

A good friend reminded me today about how grand this life I’m living is. Just four short years ago I truly believed I’d never be a mommy. And now this. Mess and chaos and chocolate ice cream dripping down chins. Discipline mixed in when things don’t go quite right.

This was a random array of thoughts, but I don’t want to forget today. Because it was one of the best birthday weeks, not to mention actual birthday, I’ve ever had.

I’m going to blink and before I know it more years will pass…just as I was reminded when I posted a picture from my 21st birthday 13 years ago on my sisters facebook page. 13 years ago. So much has changed and yet it feels just like yesterday.

blink and life passes by.

andrea, don’t let the minor things get in the way of embracing those littles and loving them fully. you’re going to blink and life is going to pass you by. put your phone down. don’t worry about capturing the perfect shot. just take it all in. observe and treasure. and join right in.