Our Christmas

Like many Mommas, I am recovering from Christmas and remembering the loveliness of it all.  It's hard to believe one of my favorite holidays passed so quickly, but I think that's what Christmas is like for most adults who prepare so much for the special day.  It comes and goes and the magic of the season slowly fades as we all prepare for the long, cold winter ahead.

We spent lots of time with family and cousins, we snuggled at home in our pajamas as a family of four, and ate trays full of cookies and cake and gingerbread men.  There were presents and good food and Thomas the train and surprises and so many fits of laughter and giggles. 

My favorite part of Christmas is always Christmas morning at home with just our little family.  We had a slow morning and Kevin and I actually had to wake the kids up around 8 because we just couldn't wait any longer.  We ate egg casserole and sipped on coffee and hot cocoa as the kids opened their gifts. I'm pretty sure neither Luke or Lily ate anything until lunch, as they were too excited to take time to eat.

After the gifts were opened we reorganized bedrooms and went through some of our old toys to see if there were any we could donate or give away.  It's one of my favorite days of the year to be home as a family.  Even though we didn't have snow this year, we still cuddled up under blankets and stayed in our pajamas all day long.  The day ended with our little tradition of singing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus.

The day after Christmas is always the day to take down the Christmas tree.  I love getting out all the Christmas decorations and I love taking them all down and having a clean, uncluttered slate to start the new year.  Luke was slightly disappointed about the tree getting put away, but he had his train table and Grandma and Grandpa to keep him occupied.

Now that 2016 is almost behind us, I am looking forward to the exciting changes in 2017.  Adding a sweet baby boy and moving into our addition (and out of the basement) will start this year off splendidly.  Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by the ones you love most and have a fantastic 2017!


"I'm sorry, Mommy."

Monday night my phone turned off and wouldn't turn back on.  It happened about midnight and I know this because my white noise app turned off, which woke this pregnant momma right up.  

Like most Americans, my phone is pretty much a lifeline or an extra appendage. I didn't feel safe not being able to communicate with anyone.  Whether or not this is logical, I'm not sure, but it is exactly how I felt.

So, literally five hours later, I woke up, got my kids ready and headed into town to the Apple store in hopes of getting my phone up and running again.  As I pulled up to the store, there was a line of about twenty people out the door waiting to get inside as soon as it opened.  I zipped my kids into their coats and quickly walked to join the crowd.  The nice man who was taking names told me it would be about an hour wait.  We walked and picked up a snack and headed back to the Apple Store because we had no phone for them to contact us when they were ready for us.  

Guys...I sat with my two littles in the Apple Store for 45 minutes until our name came up on their little iPad, with only muffins and my own not-full-of-energy self to entertain my full-of-energy children.  We ate, people-watched, and made about the biggest mess the Apple Store has ever seen.  Bless their hearts, the Apple employees were so kind and many of them came over to chat with the kids.

At one point I was holding Lily as Luke was attempting to jump on me, as well as trying to speak to Nate, the Apple guy and the Verizon customer service person on the phone.  I'm pretty sure people thought I was a crazy person.  And honestly, I thought I was a crazy person.  I hit a breaking point and had to hide my face and take some deep breaths to keep the tears from falling.  Call it hormones or stress or whatever, but it was embarrassing and tough and just a wee bit humbling.

Finally, it was decided I needed a new phone and another 45 minutes later there lie thirty wipes on the table from Lily 'changing diapers' and Luke made about fifty laps around the store, touching something whenever he thought I wasn't looking.  I walked out with a phone that worked and a heightened awareness of how hard this mothering thing can be some days.  I realized I am not able to do this all on my own.  Sometimes I believe that I can 'do it all' without any help.  I believe I can 'mother' my children; keep them fed, clothed, happy and not a major distraction to others, all while keeping up with the daily tasks of this life.  This is obviously not true and I do need help.  Help from others and help and a heaping bowl full of grace from God. 

Yesterday I left the Apple Store exhausted, spent, and needing the grace and love of God.  I drove silently to the Children's Museum, a reward for my babes not completely sending me to the psych ward.  It took me most of yesterday to process and recover from those two hours and I'm glad I took the time to think about it.

As I prayed and processed, I had an epiphany that those two hours really didn't matter.  Yes, I may be spent and exhausted and in need of grace.  But, can I be honest?  That is pretty much my tag line these days.  My kids didn't even think twice about yesterday and they probably definitely won't remember it.  I need to remember that those moments, those hard days when I think I've come to my limits, God has more for me.  He gives me the ability and the strength to power through those times and loves me through it all.  He shows up even when I want to hide in a corner with my broken phone and muffins.  He holds my hand as I hold my babies' hands.  He is always by my side and gives me the help I am in desperate need of.

I am pretty sure I will try really hard to never go to the Apple Store alone with two small children again.  Lesson learned.  But, there was a sweet moment right after we left the store that will forever be embedded in my mind.  I was loading the kids into the backseat and Luke looked at me, cocked his head a bit and asked me if I was sad.  Usually he asks me if I am happy and my reply is almost always yes, because I am.  This boy of mine noticed something different in me.  I told him Mommy was just tired and a little sad and that kid said, in the most sincere voice, "I'm sorry, Mommy."  That made my insides go to mush and I felt a bit of guilt for him having to say sorry to me, but then I realized that I am doing my best to raise a kind boy and those three heartfelt words were so very, very kind. 

Mommas, you are doing good work.  In those hard moments, on the hard days, remember we all have them.  We all need help and grace raising our babies and that is exactly why God sent His only son to earth so He can be with us always. He is with you...in the good, glorious "I'm sorry, Mommy" moments and in the embarrassing, humbling, being a hot mess at the Apple Store moments.  You've got this...with God's help.


Inexpensive Christmas-y Things

We had a fun Christmas-y week, spent between time at home, a few Christmas events, and MOPS meetings.  December is such a fun, festive time of year and we are soaking up every minute of it.  

Today I'm sharing some simple, inexpensive ways I have added a bit of Christmas all around the house.  Sometimes it's the little things that make the season extra special.

First up is this Mrs. Meyer's peppermint hand soap.  I am a bit obsessed with peppermint this time of year and love everything Mrs. Meyer's, so this is a perfect fit.  I am also using the peppermint dish soap right now and I love running a bath of yummy smelling soapy water to wipe down all the counters at the end of each day.  

Friends near and far are some of the best gifts and I was lucky enough to visit one of my dear friends this week and do a bit of kid-free shopping.  Paige and I met in Des Moines and had four glorious hours to shop, have a meal together, and finish numerous conversations.  If my babies would have joined me, we probably would have shopped, broke up a few fights, fed my children two or three boxes of goldfish, cleaned up constant messes, and maybe finished one conversation in our four hours together.  She gifted me this cute little mug and I have already sipped on a cup of peppermint hot chocolate in it.  A Christmas mug always puts me in the Christmas spirit.

The only thing better than a Christmas mug is a Christmas candle.  This Home for the Holidays candle from Mercy Candle Company smells delicious and what makes this candle stand out from the rest is Mercy Candle Company gives fifty cents from each candle sale to help end human trafficking.  I love giving my business to companies that make a difference.

Last, I can't help but mention a super inexpensive way to add a little Christmas cheer throughout the house.  Go outside and cut a few evergreen branches and spread them throughout the house.  This makes me so happy and is...well...free.  

I hope you have a wonderful December weekend filled with memory making and Christmas-y things.


How to Have a Simple Christmas

In this season of raising babies in the midst of a renovation and being pregnant, I have proclaimed a simple Christmas this year.  I hope to keep the motto 'keep it simple' as long as possible, well into next year when we welcome our third little one.

Today I'm sharing some ways I am keeping Christmas simple this year.  These are not original and come from chatting with friends, family, Pinterest, and sometimes come to me in the middle of the night when I get up to use the bathroom for the third time. #pregnantproblems

Guilt-Free Decorating
This year I didn't want to get out the garland that wraps around the railing. I didn't want to put every single Christmas platter or tree or decoration on my countertops.  So, I didn't.  I chose the things that make Christmas feel special to me and let the kids help.  I also am utilizing as many natural elements as possible: fresh greenery cut from outside, mini trees from Trader Joe's, a poinsettia...things that can be tossed outside in the burn pile or scattered for animals to use when we are finished with them.

Simplify the Advent Calendar
In the past I have done an advent calendar of sorts with my littles.  One blogger does 25 random acts of kindness and I was inspired by her last year to do this with my kids.  Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I quit half way through because it was just too too much.  Partly because we live about 25 minutes from anything and partly because December is just plain crazy and my energy tapped out about December 12.

An advent calendar or a countdown to Christmas is still important to me and it's a tradition I want to share with my children for years to come.  This year I decided on five random acts of kindness and the rest of the days are filled with simple things like 'sip on hot cocoa', 'have a pajama day', 'read a Christmas book in front of the tree' and there are even a few pieces of candy sprinkled in there when I know that day will be busy.  It took a bit of planning, but I think we might actually make it all the way to December 25 this year.

Fewer Gifts
Kevin and I have never been big on 'stuff'.  We like to keep things simple and clutter free as much as possible, toys included.  Both of our kids have their birthdays in November, so they are already overloaded with stuff come Christmas.  Sometime before Luke was born I found a Christmas gift idea on Pinterest that included four gifts: something to wear, something to read, something you want, something you need.  We have done this the past few years and while it seems simple enough, there were times Luke didn't need anything to wear or there wasn't anything he needed and it made it tough because I felt like I was buying things unnecessarily.

My mother-in-law told me about giving three gifts to each child to represent how Jesus received three gifts.  That is what we are doing this year.  Both kids will receive three gifts, no guidelines involved, just three gifts.  They will also get their stockings filled with small things like stickers and new toothbrushes.  Simple enough for me.

Kevin and I decided we will only fill each other's stockings this year.  With the renovation and new baby coming, it just makes sense to give ourselves one less thing on our to-do list...plus we are having a Christmas date night and that is a present in itself!

Leave Space on the Calendar
About a week ago Kevin and I sat down with our calendars and talked about the things that were important for us to do as a family this year during the Christmas season.  There were three things on the list: visit Lauritzen Gardens, go to the kid's Christmas event at church, and visit Santa and the big tree at the Durham Museum.  We put these on our calendars along with the few events we have as a couple and the few I have with girlfriends.  We did have to rethink and say 'no' to a few things this year, but that is what is best for our family.  Our calendar is not overloaded this year.  There are a few Saturdays and Sundays that are actually free.  We even planned a Christmas date night.  It took about twenty minutes on a Sunday afternoon and was so worth it. A last caveat to this...when I see a family on Facebook or Instagram doing something totally Christmas-y I...#1 don't feel guilty about it and #2 promise myself I will not add that incredible tradition to our plate this year.  Every family is different and none of us can do it all.

Easy Gifting
'Gifts' is one of my top love languages.  I love to give thoughtful and meaningful gifts to the ones I love, especially at Christmas time.  I am trying to simplify that this year and shop online as much as possible as well as think about gifting similar gifts to groups of people.  For example, I am giving one super easy gift to all of Luke and Lily's church teachers, MOPS teachers, our neighbors, the mailman, etc.  I want people to feel loved and thanked this season, but I think it can be done in a way that doesn't bring bunches of stress to the giver.

Another way I made gifts easier this year was by starting early.  I have a special tub I keep items I collect that will be perfect for my mom or Kevin's sister, etc.  I store it away and then have it ready for when Christmas is here.

Festive, Simple Fashion
Dressing myself and two children during the holidays is no joke.  When we are going to a fun Christmas event or party where pictures will be taken, I want us to look somewhat presentable.  This year I have two to three outfits picked out for each of us for these events.  Luke has a few shirts and jeans, Lily a few dresses and a pair of leggings with a top.  I have a few tops paired with jeans or leggings and one dress for more formal gatherings.  Kevin is on his own, because he always looks good and selecting male clothing is not my gift.  I can feel confident when I push snooze on Saturday morning because I know there is something for all of us to wear.

Implementing Freezer Meals and Leftovers
Making dinner has not been something I have been wanting to do a whole lot of lately.  I have been using the crock pot at least twice a week, using up my freezer meals I made this fall and being creative with leftovers to make our food and my time more plentiful.  This is helpful all year long, but especially during this busy season.

Giving Myself Grace
Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I want to take in as much as possible and enjoy the magic and wonder that fills December.  I love to read a Christmas book and watch Christmas movies on the couch cuddled under a blanket with a cup of peppermint hot cocoa.  I am giving myself permission and grace to do this the next few weeks during nap time or at night after the kids go to bed.  Besides, this season only comes around once a year.

As one of the best seasons comes to life around us, I want to slow down, take it in, and make as many memories as possible.  They may not be picture perfect and there might be tears and whining intertwined with those memories, but that is real life and I'm thankful for this Christmas season nonetheless. Keeping it simple this year will help us to focus on the real reason for the season, the baby that was born to save the world.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope your Christmas is merry, bright, and simple!


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!

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