Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween.

Our family had some fun and festivities with some of our neighbors this afternoon and evening. The weather was cold and windy, but that didn't seem to slow any of the kids down. We somehow managed to get 5 kids into costumes- from a baby kangaroo to a lumberjack- and they brought home plenty of candy to keep them sugared up and happy for several weeks. =)
If you happen to see a crazy MN Viking's fan at Lambeau Field during the Vikings/Packers game tomorrow, it very well could be Chip. He may or may not be a happy fan- we won't know that until the end of the 4th quarter. Enjoy your extra hour of sleep tonight as we adjust our clocks back. I've been looking forward to it all day! Hope you all had a Happy Halloween too!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Crazy Love In Action

Our friends, the Loecken family, were featured on Good Morning America this morning, both in a taped segment and also live with their big RV on the plaza. I invite you to check out their story and be inspired and challenged too!
The basic premise is that they traveled to Africa and did some short-term mission work. After coming back home (to their comfortable home in GA) they felt led to do more and act on how they had been impacted by their trip.
That's what ultimately brought them to where they are now- living out of an RV, traveling across the country and serving everyday people all along the way.
If you click on this GMA link you can scroll down and watch their video piece titled, "AmeriCANS- Family's Mission to Serve". You can read a lot more about their family travels and what their up to and where they've been by reading their blog here. I know Jay and Beth and their kids would be thrilled to have you stop by and would be even more thrilled to know they have more prayer supporters as they continue to go wherever God leads them! It seems like such a radical thing- to uproot your family and go wherever you feel led, but that's precisely they way Jesus did ministry and the Loecken's admit that they feel like they receive more blessings than they give. They make it look "easy"- to love and serve. I need to open my heart and mind up and jump in and do more. They've inspired me! Crazy love in action...the world could use more of that, wouldn't you agree?!
{Loecken family photo used by Jay's permission}

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More randomness.

I like it when you buy food and it actually looks like the picture on the package when you get it out of the box. =) These mixed veggies are what Crew and I ate for lunch and for 99 cents they were colorful, tasty and looked like their picture! We had some whole wheat toast with deli ham and provolone too. In case you wondered what he is eating right now. All finger food.
The other half of my dining room table was, and still is, covered with cardstock, fabric and leaves. I've been trying to play around and cutting out leaves and sewing them onto cards seemed like a good idea to me. Now, if I could manage to get them in the mail and delivered to friends, I'll really feel like I've accomplished something!
The self portraits were snapped an hour ago. I colored my hair twice in 2 days {again!} and am happy to say that I got it to a shade I can live with for the next month or so. =) Or maybe I should say I got the gray/purple/blue streaks out and now I actually have to come up with a costume if I plan on dressing up for Halloween this weekend. My hair was so obviously gray/purple that when Sarah Jessica Parker for Garnier Nutrisse came on tv yesterday afternoon, Bella looked at me during the ad and said, "That's what you need, Mom!". I think I need a little more than a hair color fix to turn into her, but I did swipe on some new red lipstick today. I bought it last week on a buy 1, get 1 free deal at the grocery store. Now that I stop and think about buying boxed haircolor and lipstick at Meijer, I shouldn't be surprised that I don't look like a movie star. The good news is that I'm not trying to be one. =)
My theory is that if you look better, you'll feel better. With 2 kids not feeling so hot here at our house (Wyndham and Ava) I am trying to avoid getting sick. I know my theory doesn't hold much water, but there's no harm in trying. I'm sure if I end up staying healthy it has more to do with colored veggies than it does about lipstick and hair color.
I also think I need to consider taking a nice long blog break. Because this randomness is making me look crazier than I am. At least my hair is the right color though! Important stuff. Really.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Read this today...

"The older we get, the fewer things we find that are worth standing in line for". Isn't that the truth! Have you read any good quotes lately? Also, what would you stand in line for more than an hour for?
I'd stand in line for a nice family picture or this.
Although I think after standing in line for an hour, there wouldn't be too many smiles to capture! I'm trying to de-clutter my countertops today and this blogpost is my break from that. So pardon the randomness of it. I think I'm going crazy from the mess that seems to never end around here. I'm going to be a minimalist in my next life. Ha!
Here's one more random thing for your day...scroll down this blog to see some cute felt garland. I like it alot. And I don't think it would clutter up my counter, but would look good draped behind everyone if we were to take an autumn picture. =)

Friday, October 23, 2009

My little guys.

I snapped these photos on the only clear fall day we've had all month long, it seems! I don't know about the weather where you are, but here in west Michigan it's been way too wet and cool for my liking. I am really hoping for some sunshine and dry weather in the next week or so. It would be nice to get out and enjoy some autumn weather. As you can see, Crew was happy to be outside and barefoot as well. Until he realized I was just using my Blackberry phone as a prop to get his attention during the picture-taking session. I couldn't resist capturing his sudden mood swing and cry on camera when the fact sunk in to his little head. Brock thought his attitude change was funny too. Poor Crew, he's having to learn that you don't always get what you want at such a young age, and there's not much sympathy for him either! Life is tough, huh?!
I've heard it said that if we all were to toss our troubles into one big pile, that we would quickly scramble to grab back hold of our own. I don't know if I would agree with that statement in my own life, but it does make one stop and think about what we do have to be thankful for. I've found that gratitude- for even the smallest blessings in life- is one of the surest ways to experience contentment and keep complaints to a minimum. I also firmly believe that without a true relationship and belief in God and His ways that some things in this life can be truly overwhelming. I'm so glad that in the good times and bad times I can trust that God is in control. There's something so amazing and reassuring to have such a Peace. Especially when things don't "go our way".
I'd like to share this quote by A.W.Pink with you in regards to God's faithfulness- which is what I lean on no matter what circumstances come my way. It reads:
"Far above all finite comprehension is the unchanging faithfulness of God. Everything about God is great, vast, incomparable. He never forgets, never fails, never falters, never forfeits His word". I don't know about you, but I find that trusting in an unchanging, loving God is something that gives a deep and satisfying calm in an otherwise uncertain world. I hope you are trusting in Him too!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mid-morning coffee break.

I took it as a sign after seeing this recipe pop up on at least three different occasions the past couple of days. My sister (Hi Steph!) even emailed me the link and a note to say she was thinking of me when she came across this latte. So this morning was the day I acted on it and I am now sipping the rewards of doing so. It's a homemade pumkin spice latte and I'm enjoying every sip as well as doing myself a favor and giving my body the 100% recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. Good stuff, if you ask me.
Here's the link to the recipe. I modified it only slightly and added a touch more cinnamon and nutmeg. I also got really gourmet and pulled out a frothing device I got years ago when I interned on the tv show "Good Company". I may not have gotten a job as a result of that internship, but I did gain good experience and still can make the best frothy milk on the block.
I suppose I could have best used this morning coffee break making beds around my house and starting some laundry, but I will admit, it feels kind of nice to just kick back and enjoy something a little extra indulgent once in awhile. After 1000 blogposts, I feel I've earned a little "me time". =)
{As for winner of the previous post... Becky! Make sure we touch base at school in the next few days. You're the lucky winner this time! I've got a little something for you. I hope you'll enjoy it.}
Now, my latte is almost gone and it's time to get back to reality. Which seems a bit nicer after a big dose of homemade vitamin A!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Post 1000.

I just got done baking and eating some pumpkin bread. It's especially tasty with some cinnamon swirl cream cheese spread on it. My kids all love this. The recipe is here, but I cut back on the sugar to 2 cups and instead of 1 cup of oil I used 1/4 cup oil and 3/4 cup of natural applesauce. Also the baking time needs to be doubled. So maybe I actually reinvented this recipe. I highly recommend it, if you're in the mood for something pumpkin. Delicious and easy.
I can't believe I've blogged 1000 times. I was thinking back to when it all began. I had less clutter around my house, one less kid, a live-in nanny/friend, and not a clue what I would "say" from day to day. I was failry new to the whole world of blogging and had actually only been following a handful of them for a few months when I started kicking around the idea of my own place in cyberworld.
Chip said, "Why would anyone want to read your blog?", I didn't have a good response other than, "It's just going to be for our families and friends". I often emailed them updates and photos as to what our family was going through and thought a blog might be a handy way to just put it all out there and then let them check in when it was convenient. I had no idea this place would actually take on a life of its own. =)
It's been really wonderful to "meet" so many of you. Several of you have become friends- through scrapbooking and more. So many of you have encouraged me through emails and real mail and I have loved that you share your life stories right back. It's definitely been fun to be able to look back through the many stories and especially the photos and see how life has changed and evolved in the past few years. I would have forgotten so many of the details here and am so glad that I have paused and blogged about things like kids putting jammies in the toilet and Chip running over a skunk late one night. Those are the things that happen, but are quickly forgotten in the bustle of daiy life. I'm happy that I have been able to watch Wyndham accomplish new things and see Crew grow inside me and out. I am happy to look back on funny things my kids have said and look forward to many more. There have been serious topics, moments I wish I didn't have to blog and things I am still churning over in my mind wondering how they will 'look' on the blog as they play themselves out too.
My original blog name (which lasted about 2 days) was "Life- This side of Heaven". That's really what this is about, and for me it all comes down to the Nitty.Gritty.
I'm so glad that you all have somehow come to this place- my space in the web- and been touched in some small way. I don't know how long I'll keep blogging, but hope that I can capture a lot more before I call it quits. I'm glad I was able to show Chip that I did have something to say and that- if even only for our family- documenting life experiences this way is truly valuable.
Thanks for playing along this week and saying hello from wherever you are. I was surpised at the number of people reading from Indiana...Hi you guys! We drive through the corner of your state on our travels to MN, so be sure to wave hello on our next trip. I had Chip pick a number between 1 and 143 and he chose #78. Congrats to Susan of Granger, IN...I'll be sending you a Starbuck's giftcard and a chocolate bar in the mail soon! (Send me your address at )
Now, to the rest of you, if you didn't play along yet, or you want one more chance, tell me your favorite candy bar or holiday dessert and I'll have Chip pick another number sometime by Sunday night. I'm not sure why anyone wants random mail from me, but I sure do have fun sending mail and it could be coming to a box near you!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The wishing.

I don't know if I become more keenly aware of the brilliance of the changing colors of the leaves each year, or if at their peek my emotions are simply touched in new ways, but it always hits me at least once. This year is no exception. Some of the reds seem a deeper red. Some of the oranges and yellows are so vivid they seem to make the trees appear lit up. Despite the cold and the wet weather we have been having for several days, the leaves are still turning colors and the changing season is in full swing. That, coupled with the recent death of little Jaymun and the daily growth and changes we see in our little Crew from day to day, makes me pause and think and wonder and ponder. All over again.
I pulled out a couple of photos of Teagan and Brock and remembered the time I shared with them at this time of year. Fall can be such a fun time of the year- especially if the weather stays just warm enough to enjoy long afternoons outside. There's something so wonderful about the fresh air and crisp leaves and the reality that living in Michigan means the snow could start to fall at anytime, so you need to take advantage of being outside without being bundled up as much as you can. =) I recall those afternoons outside with Teagan and Brock so clearly. We would go next door and rake a couple of bags of leaves (after asking permission to rake and take their leaves!) and then bring them home to our front lawn and dump them out and jump in them. The leaves would spread wider and wider and Teagan would ask for the rake and I'm sure she would have even skipped dinner to stay outdoors and jump and play awhile longer. We moved from this home across town after the snow fell and as I looked at these pictures I realized Teagan never got to jump in the leaves at our "new" house.
I never would have imagined as I took this picture that this would be the last time I would capture Teagan on film playing in the leaves. I know I have looked at these pictures and wished for these moments back again. It happens every year. If you want to know the truth, it can happen anytime. It often does. Ask any parent who has lost a child and they will likely say the same thing I am writing here today. The "wishing" never ends.
There are moments I wish I had back. Moments I wish I could re-live. There are moments I wish I could do over. There are moments I wish I could freeze and never let them go. It's a part of grief that just is. The wishing. It never ends. A part of my heart will always be reserved for "wishing", however the other part of my heart knows there's something so intense and incredible about the "here". The now is to not be taken lightly, although I somehow lose sight of this fact all too often.
Yesterday as I reflected and rediscovered the brilliance of the changing colors of fall, I also was 'present enough' to grab the camera and capture the now. Crew is walking and becoming a little boy before my eyes. He is changing almost everyday! The other 4 kids are so full of energy too, but happen to be away at school and therapy more than he does, thus he gets in the pictures more often. But I still want to take note of these moments. I certainly could wish back a lot of moments from the past. The truth is I could very easily allow myself to get stuck in the wishing and wanting them back. I have found that when the "wishing" hits me, it can serve as a reminder to open my eyes to today. To the very moments I have right now.
There's something so amazing about giving my child a hug while thinking, "this feels so great and is truly a gift and someday I will wish for this moment back", as it happens. Or watching Crew take his wobbly steps and noticing the next day he has gotten faster and sturdier overnight and right then I know that I have been witness to yet another moment of wishing.
The changing colors of the season do make me miss Teagan so much and wish for a part of my simple life back. But it also colors my life in a way that helps me take on a new focus- one that sharpens the present and makes me feel very grateful for what I hold in my hands today.
The wishing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heartache and Joy.

Their story has touched me since we first swapped emails a few years ago. I have invited you, my friends, to pray several times for Jaymun and his family. Today Jaymun is healed and in Heaven. But his family will need our prayers more than ever.
I invite you to pray and sign his guest book if you are so inclined. My heart aches for them and rejoices at the same time. They will see Jaymun again. But in the meantime, their journey is far from over. Thanks for caring. And praying. I know they appreciate it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nearing 1000.

I actually made something crafty today. And played around with a new banner to wish you all a Happy Autumn. The sun is out and it's {finally!} the kind of fall day I really like- crisp and relaxing.
Are you ready for some fun around here this week? This is post #997, so I was thinking that since it's so close to 1000, I should have a little giveaway. Just leave your name and either how you know me or where you live (city/state or town/country). I'll get some goodies together and then have a drawing. I might even pick 2 winners. Who knows. =)
But I promise it will be fun. And for those of you who like Starbuck's I have a hunch there may be a giftcard involved. So say hello here and cross your fingers that your number will be picked in the next few days!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Some great suggestions...

This morning as I turned to the October 9th reading in the book Simple Abundance- A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach it was such a great list full of good ideas to strive for in regards to coping with stress. Maybe some of the things on this list are things that you need to work on, refine, and implement in your life too. I know I'm not perfect and unless you are, there is sure to be something to strike a chord with you too. Enjoy these suggestions and good luck as you seek to become more of who you are meant be today.
Oct. 9- Coping with Stress
Is there a woman alive who doesn't suffer from stress? If there is, seek her out, ask her to share her wisdom. When you find her, I'd be willing to bet she'll offer the following suggestions:
Cultivate gratitude.
Carve out an hour a day for solitude.
Begin and end the day with prayer, meditation, reflection.
Keep it simple.
Keep your house picked up.
Don't overschedule.
Strive for realistic deadlines.
Never make a promise you can't keep.
Allow an extra half hour for everything you do.
Create quiet surroundings at home and at work.
Go to bed at nine o'clock twice a week.
Always carry around something interesting to read.
Breathe- deeply and often.
Move- walk, dance, run; find a sport you enjoy.
Drink pure spring water. Lots of it.
Eat only when hungry.
If it's not delicious, don't eat it.
Be instead of do.
Set aside one day a week for rest and renewal.
Laugh more often.
Luxuriate in your senses.
Always opt for comfort.
If you don't love it, live without it.
Let Mother Nature nuture.
Don't answer the telephone during dinner.
Stop trying to please everybody.
Start pleasing yourself.
Stay away from negative people.
Don't squander precious resources: time, creative energy, emotion.
Nuture friendships.
Don't be afraid of your passion.
Approach problems as challenges.
Honor your aspirations.
Set achievable goals.
Surrender expectations.
Savor beauty.
Create boundaries.
For every "yes", let there be a "no".
Don't worry; be happy.
Remember, happiness is a living emotion.
Exchange security for serenity.
Care for your soul.
Cherish your dreams.
Express love every day.
Search for your authentic self until you find her.

While I don't agree with every single thing on this list, nor does it seem possible to put them all into practice in my life, I think there are some worthy goals and great suggestions on it. Seeking ways to be better is one step toward actually getting there; actually doing something is the next step!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Seasonal inspiration.

I have seen these velvet pumpkins on several different sites/blogs in the past week (photo credit to Indie Rocket here). Since they are so pretty and unique and making me wish I had some or could make some of my own, I thought I'd post them here too. I love that the colors are so non-traditional- no golds or oranges to be seen, and yet they somehow say autumn in a really big way.
Besides velvet pumpkins, I also have this thought on my mind today- one I heard on the radio and have no idea who to loosely quote or attribute credit to, but I'll share it nonetheless. The thought is this:
When you suddenly find that your world is upside-down, maybe it's not really upside-down at all, but in fact, right-side up. It may be that you need a change in perspective!
Isn't that a neat way to put it?! I know I have been there too many times in my life to count anymore- living at times as though the world is against me and feeling desparate to try to gain the upperhand or take back control and "flip" things back the way I want them to be. I know how life can turn so suddenly and leave me feeling helpless and scared and frustrated and depressed, even. I have to remind myself that just because something doesn't feel right or line up with the way I would choose things to go in life, means that I'm on the wrong path. It means I need to refocus. Or reallign myself with the way God is leading and directing in my life.
It's so hard to try to live in the moment and yet "see the bigger picture" at the same time, isn't it? That's what I feel like I am struggling with most in my life/heart right now. No, life isn't upside-down for us at this time, but I sometimes need to be prepared for what lies ahead. Perspective, can indeed, change everything!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Exciting stuff. =)

This is the sort of stuff going on in our lives and home right now. Ava learned how to make her own toast. Crew wishes he could. =) He took the top tray off his booster seat and put it on his head the other day. He had no clue there were noodles on his head. He just sat there smiling and making faces at us as we laughed and called him silly names like "Mr. Macaroni" and "Cheesehead". He walked about 4 or 5 steps from chair to couch this morning. It's exciting around here, I tell ya! Even if it does involve falling down or making a mess in the process. It's all part of an exciting life!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Going bananas. =)

Every time I go to the grocery store I have bananas on my shopping list. We eat a lot of them around here. Crew loves them now that he can eat small bites with his own little hands. The rest of us like them sliced on top of peanut butter toast, or on ice cream drizzled with chocolate and caramel, or even blended with yogurt and orange juice for a healthy smoothie. We like them lots of ways.
I'm thinking the next time I buy a fresh bunch of bananas I will turn them into choco-banana-pops like the picture you see here. (Find the recipe here.) Yum!
I'm also in the mood for French Toast after I saw this recipe from Bobby Flay- Peanut Butter and Banana Stuffed French Toast. Definitely worth trying!
If you've got a favorite recipe using bananas or something handmade/cute with monkeys on it, let me know. I'm in the mood for fun and goodness! Thanks!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Catching up and planning ahead.

Helloooooooooo... are you still there? Oh! Hi Mom. =)
Our days continue to just run from one to the next with a string of ordinary stuff to tie them all together. I don't quite have a routine established or predictable schedule, but I guess that's what keeps this mom on her toes. No day is the same as the one before, but not all that different at the same time. Funny how that works; it's the season of our lives right now!
I looked back and realized I never posted photos of Wyndham and Ava's first day of school. They are in the same kindergarten class this year and it is going very well. They both love their teacher and helpers and have activities that keep them learning and busy Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Wyndham comes home wiped out and ready to veg out in her room with a few videos. I snapped that picture of her in her room yesterday afternoon. Ava needs a nap, but fights it and somehow manages to get through the day without one. Crew continues to creep along furniture and take a couple of steps on his own as well. He still LOVES to climb the stairs and did that about 6 times yesterday. I am anxious for him to learn how to get down too. It will make my stress levels drop in half, I'm sure of that!
Bella is loving school and reading is one of her favorite subjects. She is enjoying reading to Ava and Wyndham at bedtime each night and in turn it's something the kids all have fun doing together.
Do you need some color in your life right now? If so, Ava and I spotted this cake and recipe online this morning and she has decided that she wants this cake on her next birthday. Which is in March- five and a half months away. Nothing like planning ahead, right?! I think we may have to make this cake before then too.
That sums things up around here for today anyway. We're definitely feeling the effects of fall around here as we awoke to cool temperatures- in the low 30's this morning! It's time to pull out the pumpkin recipes and electric blanket too. Some of my favorite things in life. Not much changes afterall...we like the simple things around here!