Currently

Happy Monday, and happy Halloween! I’ve never been more happy to not be in the classroom as I am right now. Monday + Halloween is the worst elementary school combo I can think of.

Since it’s already November,  I’m linking up with Anne in Residence and A Short Blonde for their first Wednesday link up as well. I haven’t done a little update in a few weeks, so here’s a little bit about what I’m currently doing!

Celebrating || my bestie’s new baby girl! She arrived last week, and I was excited to be able to spend most of my time in the hospital during her labor. It’s such an interesting and beautiful process, and it was really neat to be a part of it from the outside, versus being the mother in labor. Here’s a picture of sweet Adele being snuggled by my J.

Hoping || for a few good pictures for a Christmas card! My friend Mary Catherine was sweet enough to come take pictures of our family last night, and when I get done writing this post, I plan to go through them, and try to arrange a few for our Christmas card. There’s a sneak peek below…

Wearing || blanket scarves and ponchos and big sweaters. This is sort of new for me, but I found a couple of things at Target and one at TJ Maxx that I fell in love with, and they’re going to be my favorite accent pieces this fall. A couple of them are tribal patterns, which I love! They don’t work super well with coats, mostly because they’re bulky, so it’s likely that I’ll drop them when it gets really cold – maybe around Christmas time. This photo is a peek from our shoot with MC yesterday, and I’m wearing one of those pieces I love!

Enjoying || a quick date with Hubby yesterday afternoon! My mom has been in town for the past few days, and during naptime, she let us go to our local beer growler store and enjoy a couple of flights. It’s been a while since we were able to just sneak out like that. Our dates usually take a lot of planning.

Eating || So. Much. Pho. It’s such a good fall treat, and fairly healthy. If you don’t know anything about it, it’s basically chicken noodle soup, Vietnamese style. You can also get different kinds of meat, but it’s delicious broth, rice noodles, onions, bean sprouts, and toppings like cilantro, Thai basil, lime juice, and/or hot sauce. The weather cools off, and there’s nothing I like better to eat. The kids like it as well, so that’s an added bonus! But all this pho does remind me that it’s almost RAMEN TIME!

Googling || blog post topic ideas. I know that seems a little trite, but I’m going to join some writer friends in publishing a blog post every day for the month of November. It’s a spin-off of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which works for me, since I’m not writing a novel (and don’t really plan to). But I love writing, so NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) is a perfect excuse to write and write and write some more. When I began this blog, I wrote something almost every day for the first several months. But as I got busier and wrote about a lot of things that I’d been saving up for, ya know, the first 28 years of my life, I ran out of QUITE as much material. That being said, kids are constant fodder for writing, and the world is constantly changing. I plan to keep it up!

Well, this catches you up a little bit on my life. What’s going on with you currently?

Holiday Get-Togethers: 5 Tips for a Good Time With Your Family

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus.

The holidays can be a time of love, laughter, and making memories. They can also be a time of too much travel, high stress levels, or even hurt feelings and unwanted drama. Here are a few tips to make the most out of your holiday get-togethers.

  1. Set the boundaries early. If you’re hosting, set a date and time for everyone to arrive… and also to go home. If you’re hosting a meal, it’s okay to say, “Everyone is invited for dinner from 5:00-8:00pm!” That’s plenty of time to eat and love on each other, if you say it is. If you’re hosting out of town family for a few days, it’s alright to tell them they’re welcome from the 24th-27th. The end. It’s easier to tell everyone that on the front end, than to welcome guests for who knows how long. An open-ended invitation can lead to someone overstaying their welcome.
  2. Keep your family on a semi-normal sleep schedule. If your baby usually takes a nap, try to still let her. If your toddler goes to bed super early, try not to extend his bedtime too late. Tired kiddos can make for difficult days, and sacrificing their sleep (or yours!) just to make something happen isn’t always a good choice.
  3. Make sure your family is fed. This sounds obvious when the holidays seem like they’re all about eating, but sometimes adults can eat huge lunches and not feel the need to eat much dinner… but kids and even teens are still going to need at least three meals a day, even if they forged themselves on turkey at lunch (or if they’re like mine, are three desserts).
  4. Make time to relax. This looks different for everyone, but especially if you have an introvert in your family (or you are one!) it’s important to have some time to zone out, read a book by yourself, or snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. Sometimes time with your own family unit gets scarce when you’re trying to see extended family.
  5. Don’t overcommit. This is the theme that ties 1-4 together, but it might be the most difficult one to achieve. It’s okay to not make the entire feast for your 30-member family all by yourself. It’s okay not to attend a Christmas party every single weekend in December. You don’t have to say yes to everything – be released right now from the pressure to do it all!

What would you add to this list for surviving the holidays?

Things Toddlers Say 

Happy Tuesday! It’s been busy around here (more on that later!) so I’ve only just realized it’s actually Tuesday. Enjoy these funnies!

 J: You know what was on the tv?

Me: What?
J: A fairy ghost car!

Hubby: We’re going to Jimmy John’s for lunch!
EK: Where does he live?
J: Is that his name?

J: Mama, you know what I’m gonna do with my lunch?
Me: What?
J: I’m gonna eat it all!
Me: Great!
J: Yummmmm.

J, getting in my bed at the crack: There’s no room for me!
Sorry kid, it’s actually my bed.

Bedtime stalling techniques…
J: Is there a baby in your tummy?
Me: Nope, just the food I ate.
J: So squishy!
Me: Well thanks.
J: Can I see how soft your eyebrows are?
Me: I guess so.
J: So soft! And your earrings are so pretty! Tomorrow when the sun comes up I can play with them?
Me: Uh, yeah, good night.

EK, above: Mom! I can feel my forehead!

Me: Are you going to take one more big bite?
Ek: I’m gonna take the biggest bite! Biggest than Jesus!
Me: Okay…

Me: How’d you get so big?
EK: Because we went to lunch together!

J, when he woke from a long nap: You know why I’m cold? Cause it’s windy outside.

At bedtime…
J: Your earrings are bally, I guess.
Me: What?
J: Your earrings are bally.
Me: What do you mean?
J, flicks one earring: They’re balls. And silver. Can I wear one?
Me: Oh. And, uh, maybe tomorrow. (And then I run away laugh-crying.)

Eating a salad…
J: A cucumber fell into my mouth!
EK: Look, a green bracelet! (Green pepper ring)
J: And a purple necklace! (Purple onion ring)

Telling me about the babysitter…
J: She was nice. I liked her. I was not rude to she. I was only nice to she. So she was not rude.
Me: Well I guess that’s good!

EK: Daddy, I’m sorry J pooped on your bed while he was naked.
Everyone: What?!
(Rest assured- that didn’t actually happen.)

J: Do you know what I’m gonna be on Halloween?
EK: No noggin!
J: Don’t say no noggin!
Me: What are you gonna be, babe?
J: No noggin!!!!!
(If you’ve not watched Curious George’s Boo Fest, that’s what it’s from. It’s on Netflix!)

At breakfast…
EK: You know the the boys could be when they grow up? J could be a daddy and D could be a grandfather!
J: I actually want to be a pirate daddy. You could be a pirate mommy!
EK: I don’t WANT to be a pirate mommy!
Me: Seems legit.

What silly things are you kids saying these days?

The Most Unlikely Guest

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus

Our house sometimes feels like grand central station.

We constantly come and go, and have friends, family members, babysitters, and sometimes others coming and going as well. We have what might be called an open door policy: people are welcome at most hours of most days. We host people several times a week, at different times of day, in various states of “clean” or “put together”.

But what we’ve realized is that people don’t care about dirty floors or a sink full of dishes. Well, most of them, thank goodness. They don’t care that I’ve typically got at least one kid clad only in underwear. They don’t mind that we’re just getting home, or preparing to leave, or that it’s bedtime and we need to be absent for twenty or thirty minutes. What they do care about is that they can come, just as crazy, flustered and broken as we are, and be welcomed. They can walk in, throw off their burdens and their self-consciousness and just be with us. We try to hold off on judgements and even advice-giving, and just show love, acceptance, and grace.

There are two reasons we do this. First, it’s what I would want someone to do for me. For example, when I show up to church on Sunday and Thursday mornings, I have two or three kids in tow, as well as all my belongings I’ll need for a morning of worship and work. I’m packing breakfast and activities for the kiddos, backpacks, jackets, my iPad and purse, waters for all, coffee for survival and whatever junk I’ve already acquired onto myself for the morning. If I came into an environment of shame, I’d crumble immediately. There would be no way to survive the next few hours without a group of people who love me, and know my situation as well as my heart. I need their grace and acceptance as I attempt to lead them – while wrangling my children and their breakfast.

The second reason is that Christ calls us into a spirit of hospitality, acceptance, love, and grace. He calls us to open our hearts, minds, homes and lives to ministry of all types. Working in a church or on a predetermined mission field is not the only way to minister to the masses. Sometimes, living life alongside someone, not hiding your blemishes and flaws, and genuinely loving someone is a bigger testament to what I believe and whom I represent than if I were to force Scriptures or sermons on a stranger, trying to convince them I knew what I was talking about. (Nothing against evangelism with strangers – just presenting another kind of evangelism opportunity.)

Hospitality can feel, at times, like too much work. But just presenting an opportunity for relationship to happen, together with people who either need or want to be a part of the message that’s told by your life can make a huge impact on even the most unlikely guest.

Our First Chapter Book

Recently, I’ve been noticing that my daughter was ready to read something big… something that went on from night to night, and didn’t even need to have pictures! This was a big deal for us, since she is only four and cannot read yet. It was also a challenge because the brothers wouldn’t be reading this book… just EK and me. I remember my mom reading Harry Potter to my brother and me as they came out, and now I’m a Potterhead. I’d love to cause a deep love for a story in my kids.

I happened to be at Barnes and Noble about this time buying a few new books for our home and a friend of mine with a new baby. Naturally, I wandered to the chapter book section (within the children’s books) and began looking around. I came upon a new series of books, sponsored by Disney’s Hyperion, and thought they looked very interesting, as they were set in our home state. They were books about a special girl called Serafina, and the first of the series mentioned something about a black cloak. So after reading the back cover, I snagged it.

It wasn’t until a couple of chapters in that I realized this was a little over EK’s head. I don’t mean that she couldn’t keep up with the story. I mean more that I would need to stop and explain words a little too often, and I would need to alter the words here and there… a lot of “kill” or “murder” and many details about blood.

That being said, I learned two things. I learned that I need to be a lot more familiar with the book I choose to read to her than reading the back cover.  I need to ask friends, do research, or choose a book I have read before or have time to read before I start it with her. Next, she is ready for an interesting and complicated storyline. She loved the book, asking me questions and keeping up from day to day (or few days) between reading sessions. Four and a half is not too young to read a chapter book and expect them to remember it! I just should have been a little choosier with the book.

Tomorrow we plan to visit Barnes and Noble after school to choose our next book. I plan to lead her to a certain direction, but I am excited to begin a new journey with my daughter that is just for us. 

What have you read to your kids? Do you have a suggestion for what we should read next?

Things Toddlers Say

Happy Tuesday! Not much to say besides my kids just keep on being silly. Enjoy!

At bedtime…
J: My ears are pully. And my nose is beepy. (Then he socks himself in his nose.)

J, holding out his pinkie to Hubby: Can I put my pinkie-promise in your big belly button?

J to my mom: You’re the funniest guy!

J: EK, you’re the best and I love you.

J, while standing close to my face: What color are your eyes?
Me: What color do they look like?
J: I don’t know. I think they’re nice.

Tales from preschool…
EK gets a muffin and exclaims: Damn! That’s a big muffin!

J: I wanna give you a kiss on your back!

J, anytime I call him my little/baby boy: I’m a BIG boy! (Always in various degrees of indignance.)

EK’s lullaby she made up: Jesus, you love me, and all the people love you. And never fear! And we love you and you love me the best.

Proof that I’m a thirsty person and J doesn’t have much faith in my ability to do things one handed (like catch him when he’s catapulting off of a piece of furniture): J is always shouting at me to “Put your coffee down!” or “Put your water down!” or obviously beer or wine or whatever I’m holding. But you can bet he calls the drink by name.

Walking into the grocery store, all five of us holding hands…
J: Aw! This is my family!

When EK’s supposed to be asleep…
Me: You’re singing a little too loud since your brothers are sleeping. Could you sing a little more quietly till you fall asleep?
EK: Like this? *sings softly*
Me: That’s great! Good night!
EK: *genuine yawn* I’m tired.
Me: You could… ya know… go to sleep.
EK: Oh yeah!

EK, standing in a pillowcase: Mom, look! I’m a mermaid! A real one!

Bedtime snuggles…
J, holding up five fingers: Look mom, my family!
Me: Yes! There are five of us!
J: (Holds up his thumb.) This one is Daddy. (Adds his index finger) This one is me.
Me: What are the rest of us?
J: I’m all done.
Me: Okay.

She’s done…
EK: J is eating tomatoes and then spitting them back in the bowl!
Me: Tell him that’s yucky and to please stop.
EK: He just keeps doing it! And I’m DONE of that.
Me: I usually say “done WITH that.”

Do your kids pick up on your phrases? What do your kids say that sounds a little (or a lot) like you?

How to Achieve the Perfect Family Photo

This post also appeared on My Big Jesus.

As you start thinking ahead to the holidays, you might be pondering ways to get the perfect family photograph. Whether you want to frame it as a gift for Grandma, or plaster it on a card to send to 500 of your closest friends, getting a perfect photo of your entire family is likely on your to-do list. If you’re like me, and you have young children, I have a few easy tips to make the process easier, and ensure a valuable, timeless product at the end of your session. You don’t want your Christmas card to look like mine did last year (see #2 – actually included on last year’s Christmas card). Here are my suggestions as you plan your endeavor to get the “perfect family photo”:

1. Hire a photographer. Like your mom, brother, or an unsuspecting stranger with an iPhone. This will ensure that the person taking the picture has the skills and equipment necessary to catch the perfect moment of a genuine group smile. (Or if you’re on a budget, invest in a selfie stick.)IMG_2199.jpg

2. Dress your brood well. First, make sure you give your kids coordinating names that will result in the same monogram for each child. Then, choose a neutral color for everyone to wear, and make sure each shirt is monogrammed in a coordinating “pop” color. It’s also important to wear hair bows, shoes, jewelry, belts, and scarves that match the monogram’s accent color. Finally, make sure you don’t eat in the outfit in which you plan to photograph. You wouldn’t want that marinara stain to ruin your Christmas card!img_0033

3. Strike a pose. Make sure each subject in the photo is being still, and smiling with just the right amount of teeth showing. Hands folded in laps and slight head tilts are recommended. Never allow movement while the pictures are being taken.DSC_0232.jpg

4. Keep your eyes open. To be certain that none of your photos include a blinking subject, make sure your family knows that blinking is not allowed. Pass the eyedrops around before you get started, so that there will be no need to blink to prevent dryness of the eye. (Note: this also prevents the eyes half-closed look, as though the subject is about to sneeze.)DSC_0269.jpg

5. Work the natural light. Morning and evening are the best times to take photos outside. Skip breakfast or dinner to ensure that the lighting is perfect. Tell those cranky, hungry children if they’d just smile, you could all go eat… and maybe have some of your own natural light.DSC_0186.jpg

6. Choose a few props. Pumpkins are always a nice choice for the fall, and beaches, snow, mountains, or lakes could be nice choices for other times of year, too! Be sure to bring things like these with you for the session.DSC_0026.jpg

7. Let your family be themselves. As long as it’s their happy, cute, lovey-dovey selves.DSC_0548.jpg

I hope that these simple tips help you get the perfect framer of your family!