Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

We have a mix of Thanksgiving and Christmas in our house right now, evidence that we are in the midst of that familiar end-of-season transition and everything holidays filling our homes, our calendars, and our hearts from now through the end of 2016.  The thankful tree is full of leaves that remind me of timely blessings from this November - Cruz's cute penmanship on leaves that read, neighbor boys to play with, a nice cozy couch, and the dentist, at least three leaves that say something about the Cubs, and my personal favorite leaf from Mila that reads, "Hugs from Mommy and power bombs from Daddy."  November is such a fitting prequel to the holiday season, an opportunity to slow down and be intentional about recognizing the important blessings that filled up our cup this year, and a way to reset and ready our hearts and minds for Advent.

Aside from my family, my friends, my church, and my community being at the top of my thankful list this year, I am also incredibly thankful for a job that not only challenges me and fills my cup everyday, but one that also gives me the gift of a lot of time off during the holidays.  With Thanksgiving week off, I had the opportunity to indulge in some time for myself, as well as plenty of time with my family over Thanksgiving week.  My week started at Panera, at a table to myself with a chai, my computer, and endless lists to dream and scheme.  With a goal this year to have my shopping completely done by December 1st, I crafted shopping lists and grocery lists, sweet little notes to stick in the kids' advent calendar and other random acts of kindness to sprinkle throughout our December.  Then, with Christmas music playing in the car for the first time this season, I ran errands with a smile on my face, feeling like a little elf ready to transform our home into its own Christmas village house.

Santa hats, blanket forts, and peanut butter and jelly suppers to kick off Thanksgiving weekI love when they play together and create their own fun (and not fight!).  

Tuesday's rainy, dreary day was met with hot coffee and a day with nothing on the agenda but making this house sparkle with Christmas.  I did everything but the trees, and loved having lots of time to focus on the details.  Last year was different, for it was the first Christmas in our new house and I had no clue how to go about decorating this space for Christmas, let alone most of the walls.  But this year was good.  I soaked up the smell of fresh evergreen garland on our mantle, threw in some relics from Cruz's campfire party, and transformed our front entry table into a cocoa bar complete with Santa mugs, Christmas tree stir sticks, and to-go cups with hopeful plans to send every visitor home with a warm cup of cocoa in their hands.  Then, I treated myself to a few special stops at my favorite stores downtown before picking up the kids.  It was just the right time as they were filled to the brim with new inventory before the shopping weekend ahead, and I was pleased to snag a few favorite goodies for gift baskets and my own front stoop.  With Fig and Frolic being our own little slice of Magnolia, and Miss Wonderful now carrying my favorite, Rifle Paper products, I was in heaven wandering up and down those sidewalks.

Tuesday was good, but Wednesday was even better.  I had the kids home all day and purposely planned only fun adventures that we could do together.  The day started with blueberry donuts and conversations about the tooth fairy, who made her second stop at our house the night before.  The kids took a long swim in the big tub while I got ready, and then we went to Wal-Mart for Thanksgiving groceries and other meal ideas to keep us fed for the long and lazy weekend ahead.  I let the kids look in the toy section for a long while, each picking out toys for our Christmas store at church, and we celebrated with subs from Subway afterwards.  Then, it was home to decorate their own rooms for Christmas.

Mila's rooms is especially sweet this year as I just refinished an old dresser I scored from Craigslist.  Her little white tree looked extra Cindy-Lou-Who beside her aqua blue dresser, and I sat back and watched as she independently hung each and every ornament by herself.  She's at a fun age this year and I am starting to see glimpses that she is going to eat up these holidays as much as her mommy does.  I loved when she wrapped her arms around my legs and said, "thank you for my tree, mommy!" and "Santa's going to be so happy!" 

After Mila's tree was up and her room was all cozy, I climbed into bed with her and sang her to sleep.  Then, we moved on to Cruz's room, stringing popcorn and unpacking several superhero ornaments for his tree.  Then we spent the afternoon reading books, drawing pictures, and playing Uno, until a rested Mila emerged from her room, rearing to go. 

As tradition would have it, our Thanksgiving Eve was met with a trip to Barnes and Noble, where I've learned by now that we will mostly likely have the entire kids' section to ourselves at 5:00 the night before Thanksgiving.  I noted Christmas ideas for the kids as they congregated around Lego inspiration books and Calico Critter baby displays, and we nestled ourselves in the back corner for Gerald and Piggie's new Thankful book and one very long Little Mermaid book Mila always seems to locate.  I love me a book store, but a quiet book store during the holidays is about as good as it gets.

Since Thanksgiving involves a day of lots of cooking, the Wednesday before has always equaled a night out for us.  This year it was Beau's idea to head down to Newton's.  The revolving diner lights, long windows, and cozy back booth fit my mood to a tee, and we enjoyed Hansen's cheese curds, pancakes, and Blue Moons as we talked about the weekend ahead and all things turkey on Beau's Big Green Egg.

We ended our Thanksgiving Eve piled under the covers in our bed, with a movie, Christmas lights, and endless snuggles.  These are the days my heart feels most content


Sunday, November 27, 2016


"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2016"

Cruz: My favorite Thanksgiving memory of you?  Making our first cocoas of the season, playing endless games of UNO with you by the fire, and listening to your giggles during Home Alone tonight.  

Mila: And my favorite memories of you?  Your twirly dresses all weekend, how you asked me for an Elsa braid Thanksgiving day, and skip down the sidewalk Friday night as you exclaimed, "Let's go see Santa!" at the Holiday Hoopla.  

So much good!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


"a portrait of each of my children, once each week, in 2016"

Cruz: You came home and said you wrote about pb and js in your writer's notebook.  You then asked if you could make your own and proceeded to demonstrate each step to near perfection.  I guess I need to hand over the reigns more often.

Mila: You loved this little reindeer I found in the Christmas stuff today and looked pretty snuggly tucked in your bed with your new flannel sheets tonight.  I love these cozy nights before a day off from school.  The energy is up, our nerves are calmed, and we have extra time for tickles, books, and back rubs before bed.  The holidays are going to be fun with you, little girl.   

Monday, November 21, 2016

BELONG in Community

Last month, myself and eight other women I love traveled to St. Paul for a weekend getaway, sans kids and husbands and laundry and cooking.  We took Friday off and packed the car with suitcases full of cozy knits and our favorite blankets, stopped for cinnamon chais at Starbucks, and made sure to carve out enough space in our day for a not-so-quick trip to Ikea for a blue and white ticking stripe chair, picture frames, and a cartful of other goods that just barely fit in the back of the car.  We sipped sangria out of mason jars, talked about everything from politics, to our marriages, to our favorite grocery store chain, and finally pulled down a little dead end road to our home for the weekend, a quiet and quaint two story nestled amidst the prettiest fall trees and a crystal blue lake.  We unpacked grocery bags of Riesling and fancy cheese, Dove chocolate and popcorn, and crackers, hummus and veggies, and laughed over the fact that all nine of us had to be ready by 8:30 the next morning with one shower and a "pretty good" working toilet. 

We spent a good portion of our weekend attending the BELONG Tour, a conference put on by two of my favorite women - Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist, along with other women warriors and story-tellers like Nichole Nordeman, Angela Davis, Sharon Irving, and the wonderful, Patsy Clairmont.  The conference is about empowering women to find community, passion, and purpose in a life that doesn't always feel like our own, and is told through stories, songs, and inspiring talks by this wise and wonderful group of women.  We laughed a lot, cried a little, and I scribbled notes in my journal like "Do it afraid!" and "Clear the shelf", as we soaked up a rare weekend to connect, reset, and grow in community together.

I loved the conference, but loved our time at our Airbnb the most.  I loved sharing pots of coffee with these women in our pajamas, gathering around the kitchen peninsula while Jess cooked eggs.  But most of all, I loved the afternoon that followed the conference.  After two days of sitting and hearing the stories of the speakers, we had an entire afternoon and night to process it all together.  We filled the kitchen with finger foods, changed into our coziest knits, poured wine in plastic dixie cups, and sat around a table on the deck, overlooking this lake on the prettiest fall days, and talked until the stars came out.  And then, we filed in to the living room, Katie built us a fire, and we piled on the big sectional until most of us fell asleep.  And even more than those big voices of the women who write the books I read before bed, these women who live in my own community inspired and challenged me with their stories, their struggles, and their depth of faith in a God who made them each so unique and equipped with their very own piece of His story to tell.  I marvel at God's majesty - his beautiful earth and all that's in, but most of all his people.  I shake my head in wonder at a God that created us all so different, and then equipped each of us with our own unique purpose to live out his church during our short stay here.  It's so important we carve out time to stop and see God's face in the stories of the people around us.  Whether that's the people we live with, the people we work with, or the people in the grocery store line.  Weekends like this are a rare gem, but our everyday encounters with others are not.

I am thankful for this weekend of learning and growing in community, and thankful for this tribe of uniquely gifted women to share with.  And thankful for nine husbands who took care of our combined twenty-five children while we enjoyed our time away.  They are a blessing, too!            


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