Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My Favorite Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day sort of snuck up on me this year.  Our family, like everyone else it seems, has been passing around one virus after another since the new year started and we were barely tackling the daily stuff, let alone finding space to craft Cruz's very first Valentine's box, carve out time for him to write out the names of twenty classmates, and make sure I added a new paper heart to their bedroom doors with a daily message of love leading up to Valentine's day.  In fact, the day before Valentine's day, I was up to an unimpressive total of seven hearts on their doors instead of thirteen, and this was just enough to make me put just a little more thought into ways to make our ordinary Tuesday just a little bit extraordinary.  

And as it often turns out for me, these little adventures of thinking on my feet and making the most of the space I have often lead to some of the sweetest surprises.  Since Tuesday is one of my busier days of the workweek, I knew there wouldn't be time for much dinner prep.  We considered going out to eat as a family, but something called me to stay home and make things special here.  So, we thawed a roast overnight and threw it in the slow cooker the next morning with carrots, potatoes, and a yummy balsamic glaze.  

Then, during my lunch break Tuesday, I swung by Scratch Cupcakery for our dessert, then ran home to transform our dining room into a little getaway for our romantic dinner for four.  It was amazing what two strings of white Christmas lights did for the ambience, and I could only imagine how pretty it would look at night with all the lights off.  With a little bit of time to spare, I wrote love notes on the remaining seven paper hearts, but instead of hanging them on their doors, created a little scavenger hunt by taping each heart in random places throughout the house for the kids to find when they got home.

The kids noticed the Christmas light decor instantly, as well as the cupcakes and pretty red packages at each of their table settings.  Otis Redding set the mood and the scent of our dinner filled the air.  When Beau got home, we cracked open a bottle of red, passed around bowls of red raspberries and yummy baked bread, and all sat down for what would be one of my favorite family dinners ever.

As we ate, we all took turns sharing things we loved most about each other.  I told Mila I loved that she always asks for family hugs, and Mila told Daddy that she likes when he plays babies with her.  Beau loves when Cruz does projects with him, and Cruz loves when I make him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  We went around and around and the presents and cupcakes kept them at the table for much longer than typical!  It was the first dinner conversation that gave me a little peak into our family years from now - hopefully just engaging in longer and deeper moments around the table. 

After cupcakes, a new Lego set for Cruz, and a new Ariel doll for Mila, it was off to bed for the kids.  Then, with a box of assorted chocolates and the rest of our wine, Beau and I curled up together on the couch and snuck in an extra date night ourselves.  We wrote down our favorite ten memories of our last ten years and shared them with each other.  The list reminded us of memories of him carrying me across the threshold of his tiny apartment the night of our first date, and spending three hours making a single Bobby Flay recipe in the duplex, only to spend another three hours doing dishes in our dishwasher-less apartment.  We told each other that looking back, we both a feeling we would get married after our first date.  And then we laughed and said that even if we were on the fence, Beau's sweet Grandma J confirmed our marriage plans the moment she saw us together a month or so into our relationship.  Boy would she love to see the little life we've created now...

I went to bed happy, content, and full of love for this stage our family is in.  These years of having the kids here go by fast and it's easy to get caught in the shuffle of the daily grind of this life.  That's why I love even the sappy, Hallmark holidays, for they give us a good excuse to bring in a little magic to the mundane, a sparkle amidst the structure, a little extraordinary in the otherwise ordinary.  When the kids are big and grown, I hope when Valentine's Day rolls around they recall white lights thrown all over the dining room, paper hearts taped to the toilet seat, and dance parties to Otis Redding.  But most of all, I hope they recall the sweet messages of love shared around our table, and a love that far surpasses any holiday on the calendar.

More pictures of our Valentine's Day... 

...Mila got the fun Valentines this year!  Cruz just wanted a box of superhero ones with Reeses!  What would we do without Target's dollar bins?! 

...The weekend before Valentines, Beau and I took each kid on a fun little date.  Mila and I dropped the boys off at the movie theater for the new Lego Batman movie, and Mila and I went and got our nails did!

...Cruz's Valentine's box turned out so cool.  Believe it or not, the box was inspired by decor from Cruz's 4th birthday party, and I even had a few leftover supplies in a box downstairs!  Just a wrapped cereal box with a few fun accessories.  It was quite the hit! 

...One of my favorite Valentine's day traditions.  Sorting through all the kids' cards and candies.  The kids were fans, too. :)


Monday, February 20, 2017

This Weekend

As I fell into the couch just after 8:00 last night, the screen door still cracked open in the kitchen letting a chilled, crisp air fill our dimly lit home, I had to remind myself for the twentieth time that it was indeed only February.  I opened up my gratitude journal and filled two entire pages of notes from this little gift of a February weekend, with temperatures that we haven't seen since 1930.  It seemed the world, or at least the Midwest, crawled out of hibernation this weekend, for the playgrounds, sidewalks, campus, and Four Queens were full of people out to get a taste of this unexpected heat wave.  I laughed at how especially dead everything looked, reminding me that the grass is not quite ready to start turning green and that the weather forecast for next weekend looks to be about half of where we were Saturday, but it was enough hope to remind us of all the good things to come.  I encouraged Cruz to feel that hope on his cheeks as we leaned back on the swings and felt the sunshine on our face.  I reminded them of how light that hope felt as we hopped in the car for church with no coats on.  And we savored every bite of that hope as we shared strawberry cheesecake and cookie dough ice cream as we explored our pretty campus Sunday afternoon.  Cruz asked me if the groundhog got it wrong, and I told him I sure hope so!  

A few good things from our warm and sunny February weekend...    

453.  The neighborhood boy gang.  Reunited!  I love this picture so much.  Cruz played sunup to sundown on Saturday, and I asked Beau if he thought Cruz had any idea how blessed he is to live in a cul de sac with so many boys to play with.  It was pretty sweet to have Braydon's nose up against our office window several times this weekend, although ask me how I feel about this in July...I may have a different reaction! :)

454. Walks with my girl.  Cassie gave Mila the prettiest braid at daycare Friday afternoon and I couldn't get enough of her golden her locks looked in the sunshine.  We walked down to get the mail and Mila had to stop several times to scold the baby in her stroller.

455. Brats on the grill and Jack Johnson playing on the deck.  The deck may need a good spring cleaning, but we didn't care.

456. Orchard Hill's Family Dance Party.  Cruz ran around with Claire and Mila ate four bags of popcorn.  Typically we have a hard time keeping track of her, but this year, we could always bet she was near the concession stand!  I love how many families show up for this event, love that Brad Myers stands on stage and shreds Vacation Bible School songs for the kids, and love how they immediately crash when we get home.  Can we do family dance parties every Friday in the wintertime?!

457. Saturday dinner parties.  We fit twelve people around our table, ate grilled steaks, garlic potatoes, green beans and cherry tomatoes, sipped cucumber mojitos, and savored individual chocolate mousse cakes with honey mint berries and topped with gold leaf flakes for dessert.  When Katy offers to bring dessert, we aren't surprised when it garnished with gold.  And the guys cleaned up the entire kitchen while the ladies drank wine!

458. A Dave Bartlett church service.  I am so grateful for this leader of our church.  His sermon was simple but so very powerful.  Love God, love others.  As long as those big rocks are front and center in our lives, all the little rocks just fall into place.

459. A true Sabbath.  I declared it to be when we got home from church.  It was simply too nice to finish that load of laundry or attempt to get ahead for the week.  I sat on the porch and finished Chip and Joanna's Magnolia Story, while the rest of the family napped.  It was glorious!

460. An afternoon at the park.  Beau and I talked on the balance beam while the kids chased each other around.  Cruz showed us that he can pump his legs high on the swings.  We raced each other up the pair of bright blue curly slides, and screamed as Daddy tried to grab our feet and pull us down.  We stopped to feel the sunshine on our face, the wind in our hair, and the dirt on our hands.

461. Spontaneous stops at Sidecar for coffee and Insomnia Cookies for ice cream.  Running into college girls studying for midterms.  Holding both kids' hands as we ran across the street. 

462. Exploring through the old East Gym.  The kids loved the see-through elevator that went up past the rooftop, Beau loved the old wood beams and exposed piping, and I loved the natural light pouring in through my favorite hidden window on the west side.


463. Mila in her romper and the way her blond curls fell down her back just so.

464. The kids starting a pickup game of hide-and-seek amidst the sea the college kids having their own fun outside.  Mila's loud count to twenty, their request to "make a sound" when they can't find each other, and the sound of church music playing from the Campanile.  And then Beau and I joined in and played girls vs. boys. 

465. The sunroof down on the way home.  Quick detours through old and new neighborhoods.

466. A movie night before bed.  That ended like this... 



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