A Trader Joe's Christmas

Have you been into Trader Joe's lately?  I could literally spend an afternoon in there perusing the aisles, sipping on a little sample cup of apple cider, and gathering a cart load of Christmas goodies to take home.  In real life, I am dishing out snacks, cleaning up spilled apple cider from my children and the food in our cart, and dashing through the aisles as fast as my pregnant body can carry me.

One day, sometime soon, I am going to do the whole perusing thing, I'm just not sure that will happen for the next few years...

In my reindeer-style dashing through the aisles, I picked up some glorious Christmas-y things at Trader Joe's.  

These dark chocolate covered peppermint joe joe's are hands down my favorite after-kids-go-to-bed-treat.  I might just buy them out before the end of the season.  They are a thick cookie with loads of peppermint and dark chocolate goodness.  The only downfall is there aren't too many in the package, which means I can finish off an entire sleeve of them in about two days.  Yikes.

Next up are these sea salt caramels.  They are divine and I have been popping them in my mouth during nap time.  Have I mentioned this is the first Christmas I have ever been pregnant?  I am taking full advantage of the opportunity to eat Christmas goodies as often as possible with little guilt.

I can't say enough about this yummy sparkling Chardonnay grape juice.  My friend, Annie, had it at our Cooking Club last month and it was delicious, especially to a pregnant momma missing an occasional glass of wine.    It isn't syrupy sweet and the chardonnay grapes make it actually taste like wine.  Yum.

Last, these little trees are just the cutest.  I picked up three of them to cluster together on our dining room table.  I would love to snag a few more to plop around the house.  They have just a touch of sparkle that make them perfect for the holiday season.

There are so many other fun goodies lining the shelves at Trader Joe's.  Pack your bag with snacks and drag your kids there or get a sitter and do some perusing.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year!


Keep It Simple

Turkey.  Stuffing (only Stove Top).  Mashed Potatoes.  Sweet Corn.  Rhoads Rolls.  Green Bean Casserole.  Macaroni And Cheese.  Pumpkin Pie.  Pecan Pie. Apple Pie.  Pumpkin Roll.

This was our menu on Thanksgiving, which we hosted a bit early because of scheduling conflicts.  It was chaotic, memorable, exhausting, yummy and just good to sit around the table with the ones I love and don't get to see too often.  

The children outnumbered the adults, but somehow we managed to all survive and no one got (really) sick and nothing major was broken or destroyed.  In this stage of life, that is a definite Thanksgiving win.

I am living in a 'keep it simple' stage and as this Thanksgiving weekend approaches and I am technically 'done' celebrating, I am looking forward to a 'keep it simple' weekend filled with lots of leftovers, making cookies with my babes, reflecting on the reality that I am so so blessed to live this life, super simple Christmas decorating, and watching lots and lots of football...on the couch...with my feet up.

While being ____ weeks pregnant (who counts on baby #3??) is somewhat forcing me to keep things simple during this holiday season, I think it's about time I embrace this motto whole-heartedly for the next 20 or so years I have babes at home.  

This post is a reminder to myself and every other momma out there trying to do it all, get all the things done, check everything off their to-do list...to KEEP THINGS SIMPLE.

It's good to have goals...

Let's take a deep breath and put our feet up, even if the kids crawl all over us.

Let's find joy and goodness in the mundane of the breakfasts and lunches and clean-ups of the everyday.

Let's laugh with our kids and say 'I'm sorry' when we mess up (I did that a lot the past few days).

Let's remember that homemade banana muffins instead of store bought will not save the world (or our children) from cancer, bullying, or a skinned knee.

Let's really look at our children everyday, because tomorrow they will be a day older and a day closer to leaving the nest.

Let's build memories, not through Instagram-worthy photos, but by the same song sung before bed or the Christmas tradition of picking out a tree or the same three words our kids wake up to every morning or the way we eat dinner together.  

Let's say 'yes' to playing as a family and 'no' to things that take us away from that.

Let's not feel guilty about the half done baby album or the mountainous pile of laundry or the Chic-fil-A that's on our child's dinner plate for the third time this week.

Let's talk to Jesus everyday, even if it's for the thirty seconds we have in the bathroom in the morning.  

Let's turn our phones off and turn our eyes and ears to our babies.

Let's remember there are days for leggings and sweats and days to take a few more minutes to look and feel like we didn't just literally roll out of bed.

Let's say 'yes' to family experiences and 'no' to another toy that will get broken in 24 hours.

Let's work hard to be a family that talks and discusses things at the dinner table.

Let's find balance between friends and family and work and play, but understand that it won't ever be perfect.

Let's give ourselves grace after a bad day and remember that there is no one else more fit to be raising our kids than us and that we have a God that loves us despite our shortcomings in this motherhood thing.

Let's keep our routines and days and nights simple with less stuff, less doing, less perfection...and more snuggle sessions on the couch, more flour on the floor from cookies being baked with little hands, and more doses of grace given to our babies as we raise them in our homes.

Mommas, I'm right with you.  Some days I'm tired and weary and just want to lock myself in the bathroom for five minutes.  And that's okay.

But, I'm promising myself I'm going to keep it simple as much as I can, as often as I can...so I can really be present and enjoy the good stuff of this life.  

Happy Thanksgiving to all you beauties out there doing the good good work of raising babies or praying for babies or caring for someone else's babies.  Will you keep it simple with me?  



Stress and Thankfulness

We are smack dab in the middle of renovation 2.0 on the Trail.  (If you've been around a long time, you might remember our kitchen renovation.) After what seemed like a slow start, things are moving along quickly and our addition before Baby Boy arrives is looking like it could (fingers crossed) be done, in fact, before Baby Boy arrives.

If I'm being completely, 100% honest, the past few months have been a bit above and beyond my normal able-to-handle-stress capacity.  There have been family situations, this sweet pregnancy, and the renovation that has proven to make my body more than shut down a few times due to stress.

This pregnancy has proven to be a wee bit more difficult than the others with aches and pains and sickness that I am not accustomed to because I never experienced it with my other two.  This is all, of course, completely normal, and my little brain and schedule have needed to adjust to these changes.  The renovation, as glorious as it is, has also caused some unforeseen stress that has not helped my body process changes well.

I have been reminded by friends, family, and my adorable, hard-working husband that this will all be worth it and I will be so happy this spring when it's complete.  They are all right of course and right to remind me of the light at the end of the tunnel.  My tribe's good reminders and my God giving me overwhelming grace everyday have helped me to try and find the joy and goodness in these long days at home in a construction zone.

As I write this, my babes are both 'sleeping' in their rooms as sludge hammers and drills power through the walls right beside their heads.  They have been the real troopers through the past few weeks.  Sleeping through the madness, playing in a limited amount of space, having some of their favorite toys removed because we just don't have the room, and loving me despite my shortcomings.  They have a great example, of course.  Kevin has been picking up the slack, getting up with sick babies, and helping me as much as he can when I am down and out.  God knew what He was doing when He created this man of mine.

As this season of dust and sleeping in a construction zone and constant decision making continues, I want to forge in my heart a mantra of thankfulness that will carry me through the long days without water or electricity and nights in the basement when I hear every pipe creak and I convince myself someone is upstairs so I make Kevin get up and make sure our babies are safe. (This is the truth.  Have I mentioned he is a good man?)

I am thankful for my family situations as complicated as they are because I have a family to love and know God is working in them and using it all for His glory.

I am thankful for this sweet baby boy growing inside me everyday because new life is such a precious miracle from God.

I am thankful for this renovation and the opportunity to create a home where our family can grow and Kevin and I can raise our babies in a place that has history and such a good good future.

When I meditate on the things I am thankful for, the stress seems to slowly melt away and these good things come into my vision, reminding me about the goodness and joy of this life I am so blessed to live.


What are you thankful for today?


Lily Jo is Two

Our baby girl is becoming a walking running, non-stop talking, always giggling toddler.  She makes me smile every single day and I sometimes try and remember what life was like without her sweet spirit in my life.  Most of the time I can't remember and I'm okay with that.

Lily is fierce and opinionated, loud and articulate, a wanna-be momma, kind and sweet but wild and free.  She is stubborn and knows what she wants and brings joy and madness and goodness and love to our everyday.  This girl knows how to give kisses and snuggles and how to give me all the feelings.  She is our Lily and her Daddy and I are so so very thankful she is ours.

Here she is...

  • Lily loves to take 'bubble baths' with her big brother (I wish you could hear her say it).  I know this will end someday, but their innocence in pouring and scooping bubbles with each other gives me joy at the end of everyday.
  • Reading books with Luke or Kevin and I is one of Lily's favorite things to do.  She loves books about animals and when she is 'reading' you can hear her mention 'Thomas' a few times.  I'm sure you can guess why.

  • Before bed every night, Lily gives Daddy hugs and kisses and evaluates the 'ucky' (aka, stubble) on his face.  She loves to tell him if he has a lot or a little and always gives it a kiss.
  • If Lily had to choose one favorite thing in the whole wide world, it would be babies.  She knows all her friends that are babies: Baby Reid, Baby Henry, Baby Kate, Baby Larry, Baby Stella, Baby David, Baby Sawyer, Baby John, Baby Emmy.  She gets so excited when she knows she is about to see a baby and wants nothing more than to rock, snuggle, and hold that babe (regardless of whether it is bigger than she).
  • Lily and Daddy have a special night every Wednesday night when Luke and I go to church.  They play with babies, take walks outside, or go on tractor rides.  Daddy cherishes these few nights where he has her undivided attention; getting loving from her is sometimes work, but always worth it!
  • Lily wakes up talking and doesn't stop until she lays her head down at night.  Her vocabulary grows daily and it is always fun to see what she is going to say next.
  • Luke is her hero.  She follows him, does what he does, mimics him, and just adores him.  The sweet bond they have is simply the best.
  • Eating is one of Lily's favorite pastimes.  She will pretty much each anything, but really enjoys applesauce, yogurt, macaroni and cheese, chocolate, waffles, cookies, broccoli, and casseroles.  
  • Lily is a social butterfly.  She loves to see people and has no problem going to another adult or playing with other children.  No doubt about it, in a family of introverts, she is our extrovert.
  • Climbing, sliding, swinging...Lily appreciates them all.  She has to keep up with Luke, so she has willed herself to be able to do most of these things without a lot of help from mom or dad.
  • The way she says Momma or Daddy melts my heart every single time.  She definitely has us wrapped around her fingers.
  • Lily's 'security blanket' is still her thumb and her belly button.  She wraps her little pointer finger around her nose while she does it and it is the cutest.

Happy Birthday, sweet Lily Jo!


Luke is (gasp) four!

My firstborn is four today.  Four!  The baby boy that grew in my belly for nine months and who I held in my arms weighing 7 pounds 15 ounces four years ago today is now a toddler transforming into a little boy right before my eyes.

He has brought Kevin and I immeasurable amounts of joy and laughter and happiness.  Our hearts are full with love for this kid.

A little bit about our now four year old:
  • He says 'oh, thank you for thinking of me' when he realizes you have done something nice for him or give him something he has been wanting.  (I nearly melt every time he does this!)
  • He is a man of few words, unless he's talking about trains, trucks, or tractors.
  • Loves being a Cubby bear at church and could listen to the CD on repeat for an entire day without asking to turn it off.
  • Luke is passionate about anything with wheels and can play with cars, tractors, and trains all day, every day.
  • He loves putting puzzles together on his own.  Sometimes he likes mom and dad to stay close by, just in case he needs help, but never wants us to touch the pieces.
  • He has his boots on as soon as you say 'tractor ride' or 'combine ride' or 'lawn mower ride' or any kind of ride.
  • Will take or leave food.  His favorites are crescent rolls, Nutella, chocolate, peanut butter, raspberries, and Star Wars macaroni and cheese.
  • Loves wrestle time with Daddy. 
  • Luke has figured out a trip to Target with Grandma Kathy is equivalent to a toy.
  • One of his favorite pastimes is sitting in his room reading all his books.  His go-to books right now are any Thomas books, Winnie-the-Pooh books, and books we use for preschool homeschooling.
  • He can dance with the best of them, as long as he thinks no one is watching.
  • This kid is shy around large groups of kids, but will warm up after ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Tolerates and loves his little sister at the same time.  Sometimes they are two peas in a pod and other times he wants his door shut so he can have some space.
  • Luke loves to cuddle on the couch when he gets up from sleeping.
  • Enjoys playing with other kids' toys, but is still working on sharing his own.
  • Luke asks to go up to Grandma Diane and Papa Gary's house often and loves spending time with them as well as the opportunity to watch a Thomas video. 
  • He knows after Lily goes to bed he has mom and dad all to himself.  We have started having a game night or tractor night or big rig night.  He likes to 'name' the night and gets out the required materials for us to play with him.

This boy is growing fast and I am thankful everyday I get to call him mine.  He is my adventure-loving, snuggle-seeking, book-reading, soft-spoken, not-always-so-shy babe and I am blessed with the privilege of watching him learn and grow. My prayers are deep and wide and long and strong for this one.  

Happy Birthday to my Luke!


Travel and Priorities

Written last week in Nanaimo, British Columbia...

Snuggled under a soft, dreamy, cream-colored blanket, my book and laptop sits upon my lap.  My toes are being warmed by the fire in front of me and the guy I'm doing this life thing with sits to my right.  My ever expanding belly bulges before me as a place to rest my hands.  I am staring out a massive picture window at the sea with islands littered beyond it and raindrops falling slowly, almost silently on the water. 

I am calm, centered, free, and uninterrupted.  I am cozy, breathing deeply, peaceful, and (almost) bored.  As a pregnant mom with two littles, I never really thought I would be bored.  But, here I am, 1800 miles away from home, tucked under a blanket (almost) bored.  My littles are at home with Grandma and Papa having the time of their lives while my husband and I reconnect, dream about this baby, explore and experience new places, and read big, thick books, uninterrupted.  

Traveling is our 'couple thing'.  If you've been reading for long, you know our family enjoys travel whenever we can get it, and Kevin and I try and take a vacation, just the two of us, as often as our time, schedules, and little ones will allow. 

If I'm being honest, I was hesitant about this trip.  It's much easier to stay home and do daily life together as a family.  Plus, I always get this queasy feeling just as we are about to be apart.  I like when our family is together, a puzzle with all it's pieces intact.  I don't like the idea of being scattered, some of us on one side of the country and some on the other.  I like us together, as a unit.  So, as I readied us all for being apart, something nudged at me and started to make me feel guilt for leaving Luke and Lily at home.  It made me feel like a 'disconnected mom', a mom not winning, but failing at this motherhood thing, a mom who needs to retreat for a few days to recollect herself.

That feeling and those thoughts sloshed around in my head and my heart and as I said my good-byes to my littles before we left, I couldn't help but feel like a 'bad' mom.  

But, as He always seems to do, God reminded me as soon as we reached our destination why we do this.  Why Kevin and I travel.  Why we pour time and energy into our marriage.  Why we make sacrifices and humble ourselves to ask for help from grandparents.  Why we make this a priority.

It's because our marriage is important and a priority.  It's because we want to not just survive, but thrive.  It's because I want to be the best mom to my babes, and getting away for a few days allows me to do that.  It's because I want our kids to see their parents love each other well and someday know what a strong, thriving marriage looks like.  It's because adult-ing and parenting is hard stuff and sometimes time away is exactly what is needed to refresh the spirit and mind and rewind the patience.  And also, because we enjoy it so so much. 

And you know what?  I feel like a better mom and a better wife, in this chair, feet up, listening to the rain fall (not so silently now) while Grandma and Papa care for and love on our kids and Kevin reads next to me.  I remind myself that this is good, good for our marriage, good for our kids, good for our family.  And it is. 

I sit and bask in the stillness of this place with no noses to wipe and no meals to prepare and no books to read to little ones on my lap.  But, I miss them and that is good.  Because when I wake them up on Sunday morning after this trip is a memory, my reserves will be replenished and I will be a better mom and wife for the days I spent away.  I will wipe those noses without a sigh and prepare meals with love in my heart and read books to my littles with the kind of energy they both deserve.  

And when, inevitably, Luke takes a toy from Lily or Lily screams the high pitch shrill that only us and dogs can hear, I will remember this place, this cream-colored blanket, my toes being warmed by the fire, count to ten and do the parenting and adult-ing that needs to be done with patience and joy accumulated from the time spent apart from my babes.


The Real Deal

Life is about people and relationships and people.  We have some of the best people in our lives and around our kids and I am grateful for these friends everyday.  They are the ones I text for prayer, the ones I can count on for meals or cards or the sweetest signs of friendship when it's needed, the ones that are in the trenches of this parenting stuff and don't judge or eye roll or gossip, they are the ones that cheer our family on through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Life is about people and relationships and I'm pretty sure we are blessed with friends who are the 'real deal'.

This past weekend we had a bonfire at our home and had the best time with the ones we do life together.  Here are some highlights from our fun evening together.

Our crew is growing and we are even missing some.  Love these parents and their littles!

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