The Changing Seasons

With September coming to a close tonight, I guess you could say that we are embracing the changing of the seasons in our house.  Although it was warm this weekend, we have had some cooler days and evenings lately that have me longing for Fall.  We've been a little temperature confused in the last couple of days but I have high hopes that we'll cool off again and be back in our sweaters soon.  For my family's sake I need it to cool off because I jumped the gun and started swapping the summer stuff for our fall/winter wear and naturally, the day after I did it we hit 80 degrees. 
Isn't that the way it goes??
I grew anxious to dive in and start the transition largely because the Lord blessed us with a family who handed down tons of clothes for both of my kids and I needed a place to put them!  So I spent a day pulling everything out of every drawer, assessing it and weeding out what was too small or out of season.  I don't know about you, but whenever I do this I have very mixed emotions. 
 On one hand, I get very excited to put some new clothes in their rotation, things I can't wait to see them in or that I know they will enjoy wearing.  But at the same time, I get sad pulling things out that trigger memories of them looking so cute or seeming so little.  It amazes me how quickly and how drastically their sizes change.  In the last couple of weeks I've really noticed how short Ava's pants are, how Carter's arms seem to be sticking out of every long-sleeved shirt or how shoes that fit both of them just a month ago are suddenly too small.  How does that happen??  Do they really grow overnight?  I'm thinking they do!  But I'm also so grateful and feel so blessed when the Lord meets our needs by using other people who give to us so generously.  I appreciate hand me downs so much and I always want that to prompt us to give with the same open arms, resisting the urge to hold tightly to "our" stuff.  It's a blessing to give but it's also a blessing to receive.  We are grateful! 
Ava is turning into a little clothes horse.  She loves to pick out her outfits now and she is tuned into what everyone is wearing.  When I brought home bags and bags of new (to us) clothes for her she was seriously like a kid in a candy store.  She just kept squealing and telling me, "I sooooo escited Mama!  Wook at all dese new clowes for me!"  She especially loves dresses and the more "twirl-ability" the better :) When I ask her about her class at Church or who her friends are she likes to describe people by what they are wearing, ha ha!  She has loved picking out a new thing to wear each day, sometimes multiple times a day, and I'm realizing how often I have to make deals with her regarding clothes and shoes.  I try to be pretty relaxed and let her change outfits or wear what she wants when we're at home but when we go out I hold my ground about what shoes she needs to wear or if I think she'll be too cold or hot.  I seriously thought I had some years before I had to compramise on clothing choices with her but I guess not!  Even now I catch myself telling her how cute she looks based on what she's wearing and then wince a little thinking I need to be clear that I think she's cute all the time, regardless of her outfits or her looks :) Yikes, I'm sure I read too deeply into stuff like that but I just see so many sweet girls in student ministries at our Church who are already enslaved to the approval and opinion of others instead of basing their self-worth on what the Lord says about them.  I think we as Moms can contribute to that if we aren't careful and unknowingly pass down our own insecurities to our daughters too.  At three I think I've got some wiggle room but I do want to choose my words carefully, you know?  
Of course I should probably stop worrying so much about that and instead turn my focus to Carter, who thought he might want to wear the princess crown that Ava loves :) I so badly wanted to text this to Trav at work and tell him that Carter asked me to put this on him then said "Coote!" when I did it!!  That would have brought him home pretty quickly!!
The seasons are changing in many ways right now.  Not only are the leaves falling and children's feet growing, but so are their interests and abilities.  We are just 10 days away from Carter's second birthday, which I can't believe.  I really don't have a toddler on my hands anymore ...Ava is defintely a preschooler and Carter isn't too far behind.  They play so well now and both of them talk constantly.  I can't keep them out of many things (case in point) and I'm starting to reason more and more with them instead of just issue consquences. 
 There is much joy, plenty of opportunities for patience and a greater dependence on the Lord than ever before. 
Things like this mean a great deal more to me these days.  As the seasons change all around me I'm realizing how much I need to change with them.  I need to plug into my source for strength, power, perspective, wisdom and ask the Lord to meet me daily, or hourly in my need.  Change is usually good, although it can be hard and it almost requires work.  I'm so thankful that the Lord is faithful to my children and faithful to me.  For all the times I fail them, I'm so grateful that his grace covers me and reaches deep into their hearts to speak to them too.  I feel like everyday is another day of learning and growing, for me!  I'm realizing that so much of parenthood is learning to roll with the constant changes while holding tightly to the Lord and seeking His wisdom above my own. 
As your October begins, I'm hoping that you will embrace the changing seasons in your life too, knowing that the Lord often uses these times to teach us more about who He is while we rest in Him, our unchanging rock. 
On another note, I have high hopes that all of the new clothes and the outgrown clothes will land in the right spot tomorrow as I'm not sure I can take one more day of chaos and extra laundry...Sound familiar??  Change is a process, no matter what kind it is!
Happy Monday, friends!


Friday Night Fans

I've been spending a lot of my time lately like this...
 ...on the sidelines with this motely crew.  This is my typical set-up.  I pratically have everything but the kitchen sink at most games.  Snacks, drinks, books, chairs, blankets, coats, hats and two little people who are always ready for action :)
We don't have to come.  But because we love this guy, he tends to pull our heartstrings everytime and we go to cheer for his team, to be "with" him and to give our support on the sidelines...although we rarely stay put on the sidelines!  Most of the time I'm chasing one child or the other, but we manage to watch a play here and there and of course we're always ready to cheer when we score a goal.  I wanted to be there especially tonight because it's been a long week.  Our favorite coach has pneumonia (seriously, that makes a round of pneumonia for each one of us this year!) and we lost a game last night that we could have won.  We all needed a happy ending after a week of things not quite going our way! 
It was a beautiful night and the game was at a gorgeous soccer complex.  We had grass and endless amounts of it to run, to jump and to play. 
So naturally, Carter thought he'd sprawl out on the sidewalk :)
And work on his breakdancing skills?
That face!  That kid!
He knew he was making me laugh :)
He is something else! Boy, do we love him :)
Not to mention his older sidekick, Miss Personality.
Can you even stand her in that outfit??
If Carter is my wild card, she is our full house!  She is always pushing the envelope when it comes to my clearly defined boundary lines, or saddling up next to a fan who has a treat she thinks she'd like to try :) She loves to yell, "Go Soufwest!" and "Go Stars!"  She's a mess but she's been really fun to watch the game with.  She loves her Daddy and likes to yell at him from the stands :) 
This little guy mostly likes to snack.

Or run from me!
Don't let this picture fool you.  The amount of time Carter actually spends in that chair is next to none.  I like to think of it as simply a home base that he touches here and there :)
You know, when he needs another snack.
I was hoping the games might get a little easier for me this year...Not sure why I ever thought that!  They are far from "easy" but, they are definitely more fun!
I love these little fans like crazy.
We've had a good time this season and on nights like this one, it's hard to argue with gorgeous weather and several hours of playing outside.  There are lots of things we could do on a Friday night, but going to Daddy's soccer games really seems like a win/win for everyone.
And speaking of winning, that's exactly what we did!  We won!  We woke up at half time and scored 5 goals in the second half to win 5-0.  Not a bad way to end our Friday night!  
I say it every season and I'm saying it again.  Win or lose, we love the coach!  We come for him and we cheer for him.  We had a great end to our week and we went out for pizza to celebrate :)
We are heading in to the tournament play next week but it's been a fun season and I'm glad we've been able to go to most of the games.  Next year I have high hopes that I'll finally be able to sit in my chair and drink my coffee for at least a half, but I think I might still be dreaming a little bit!  Who knows? 
I'm thankful for a happy ending tonight, for some good family time and for a beautiful September night.  This is such a simple season of life and I love it...
Happy weekend, friends! 


Bloom Book Club Discussion

 Happy Wednesday, friends!
Today is the day you can find me at (in)courage weighing in on the Bloom Book Club discussion from Chapter 5 on Waste, in Jen Hatmaker's book Seven. I loved the video from this week, glad to know I'm not the only one who feels very behind in this area and convicted.  There is no way one of us can solve the world's waste and consumption problems but if that's where you're stuck, I think you've missed the whole point.  We do answer to the Lord for our own choices and we are accountable to Him in the way we steward the gifts He's given us.  Taking care of the world He gave us and the world He created is part of our job as citizens here.  We may not make a dent as an individual but if we all made better choices collectively, we'd make more than a dent in this growing problem.  If nothing else, for the years my children are under our roof I want them to see us struggle with our consumption.  I want them to hear us discuss when and why we make the purchases we do, I want them to see us choose to consider others better than ourselves, and I pray that what we talk about and stand for in public is really what they see us living out in our home. 

So, hop over and join me today!  And if *waste* is not your thing, come over anyway and weigh in.  Grace, not shame, is for you today!! 



I have some fun news to share with you this morning...I've been keeping a little secret from you but today I'm letting you in on it.  Remember my tweets, my instagrams and my posts this summer about the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker?  I picked it up after hearing so much about it and before I knew it I was completely sold on it.  Sold, as in I couldn't stop thinking about it, talking about it or engaging in social media about it.  The heart of the book just resonated with me in a big way, for a variety of reasons, and also it just flat out made me laugh.  You probably grew tired of me mentioning it but here I am again, bringing it back up :)
You're welcome.
A couple of months ago, I responded to a tweet (insert reflective pause *here*...who knew that would be a phrase we'd ever utter with conviction a few years ago??) about the in(courage) bloom book club.  They announced that they were choosing to read Seven for the month of September and that they were looking for some guest posts to accompany the videos and to my delight, they asked me if I would be willing to write one??  Ummmm, YES!!!  I'd recently written about the impact it had on me in relation to the homeless ministry that we serve in so I was assuming I'd hop in on a chapter regarding clothes or possessions or maybe food?  But to my surprise they asked for a post on chapter 5, waste.  Yes, I said WASTE.  Probably the one chapter that didn't necessarily echo my current lifestyle choices!  Ha ha!!
But as the Lord likes to do, He had greater things in store for me and almost more than any other chapter in the book He really challenged my thinking and my beliefs about waste in my life.  The issue of stewardship kept coming up and hasn't left me since. 

So on Wednesday, a little post I wrote about chapter 5 will be appearing on the in(courage) blog!  Yay!  But here is the fun part....
If you haven't read the book, (DO IT!!) don't worry you can still follow along!  This is the 5th week of the series and each week two of my fave bloggers are posting an interview on that chapter with Jen Hatmaker.  If you have no idea what the book is about and or what the big deal is, watch them.  You will laugh and hear her heart and be challenged.  In a good, convicting way not in a guilt-inducing way!  Also, Jen is hilarious.  You will love her.  We've never met, except through twitter a few weeks ago, but she is like my psuedo girlfriend in Texas.  A fellow Pastor's wife who I hope to meet in real life someday! 
So, watch this video from today and get caught up on chapter 5 and the topic of Waste.  Then look for my guest post on Wednesday, which will make more sense to you after you watch the video and certainly if you've read the book.  You can also go back and watch the previous 4 videos on Seven.  The chapters they've covered so far are: Food, Clothes, Possessions and Media.  Umm, ouch.  You probably have some excess in every one of those ares like I do, right??

7 - Month 5: Waste, Bloom (in)courage Book Club from Bloom (in)courage on Vimeo.

Jump in and join us, or just watch the videos for something to think about and enjoy.  I promise you will be laughing, these girls are funny!!
Happy Monday, friends :)


Instagram Life

It's Friday, how about an Instagram photo update?  There is no real point to this post except that I thought I'd share some photos that tickle me and the stories behind them.  Enjoy :)  
Here is what I love about little kids and their imaginations.  This the minivan for Ava's "Loving Family" and these are some of the passengers who were rockin the mini when I found it like this:
A mail carrier, a pig farmer, a construction worker, a baseball player and a little girl in pigtails you can't see.  That's quite a carpool route!
Here is my little Minnesota fishing girl.  Travis and Ava have formed a bond this summer over fishing and I just love it.  Better yet, they love it!!
I adore this picture.  Barefoot on the dock, fish on the pole, perfect summer night on the lake.
So cute.  She caught like 7 fish this night and couldn't wait to burst through the door to tell me all about it when she got home. Can't wait til Carter can join them next summer!
 My Mom sent this to me recently. 
I love her. 
She has the BEST sense of humor and she is always making us laugh! 
 I love how colorful my dishwasher has gotten since I've had kids.  I load it at least once, sometimes twice in a day, so I'll take the extra sunshine when I can get it!  Ha ha!
 On any given day there is a fairy, a princess, a cheerleader or a gymnast in my home.  Sometimes we get lucky and all of those people make an appearance in the course of one day :)  We have a little girl who LOVES to dress up and it never stops tickling me to see her in her many costumes throughout the day!
 On the other hand, this little guy has only intensified his love for his giraffe, his paci and his blankies.  He's definitely all boy,very rough and tumble, but I think he's also a little lover at heart.  He's never met a soft blanket he didn't love!  It's pretty common to find him with all of his "stuff" while he plays.  But I remember from Ava's 2 year appt that this is the age when they really attach to a toy or a blanket, so I guess we are right on schedule!  I do have my work cut out for me in trying to ditch that paci however.  I will have a sad little guy on my hands when that day comes...
 Pizza with Daddy.
We're undecided if eating out with them is getting easier yet.  We don't have to bring as much gear along but they no longer stay in their seats.  It's kind of a toss up!  We thought pizza would be a slam dunk this night. Turns out we were wrong...I'm pretty sure we set a record for fastest meal.  I think we were in and out of there in 10 was a necessary exit before one of us freaked out! 
Travis and I were definitely more at risk than the children :) :) :)
 I've made the switch in my morning coffee and this weekend I'm pulling out the seasonal decorations.  Yes friends, today is *officially* the first day of Fall but I've been celebrating for the last 2 weeks!  Pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice creamer, caramel apple's all about the sensory experience over here. 
 I scored some big wife points recently when I suggested that we upgrade our TV.  We haven't bought a TV for the last 8 years, which is mostly due to the fact that we haven't really cared too much.  We watch TV but it isn't hugely important to us.  However, we do love to watch sports and especially football.  So I thought with the collge and NFL seasons starting, my hardworking husband deserved a new TV to enjoy his teams :)
The kids and I surprised him with one while he was working last week.  We'd talked about a particular TV to buy but I ended up getting one that was bigger and better for the same price.  Love when that happens!  He was a happy man and we've had some fun watching lots of games in what feels like a theater experience.  Ok, It's not quite that big, but when we were used to our 36" TV, a 50" feels gigantic to us :)
When we were at the library a few weeks ago for the kids, I spotted this on my way out and decided I had to read it.  It was a fascinating read, it was mostly about her faith and her private life and how fame and fortune shaped her.  BeBe Winans was a close friend of hers and her family and I totally enjoyed hearing his perspective on her life and her friendship.  I read it in like 2 days. 
 This would be a great poolside or vacation read! 
 These perfect Fall days have taken us outside quite a bit.  Chalk and bubbles are like kryptonite to my kids.  They'll do anything to play with them!
 Carter mostly eats the bubbles (which is gross) but I've come to the conclusion that he's incapable of understanding how to blow them without that wand going in his mouth.  I've just surrendered to the inevitable for now!
 As cute as this little girl is, she desperately needed a haircut.  We were sick of always watching her brush those bangs out of her eyes and she's in a season where she refuses to let me do anything with her hair.  Just combing it is enough to send us both in a timeout!
 But nothing was as bad as the mullet Carter was sporting all of a sudden!  I have no idea how it got so bad, so quickly but it did :)  This kid has thick hair and a lot of it.  I can't believe how much maintenance is required to keep him clean cut!  I threatened to buzz it but Travis wouldn't let me. 
 Ava got a pretty dramatic bob, which is adorable on her.  It happened kind of quickly and was shorter than I asked it to be but I do love it.  I had to leave Ava to the stylist on her own because...
 ...this little turkey was in full-on meltdown mode for his entire haircut.  He cried and screamed and threw a fit while I basically held him down so the other poor stylist could cut his mop.  It was pure torture for all of us and I couldn't supervise Ava's cut in between Carter's fits.  I called Travis after this was all over and told him I was never getting their hair cut again without him.  It's just not right that I should have to endure the misery alone :)  Good thing this kid is cute!  It's kept him in our family more than once... Ha ha :)
 I am still loving my new dishes and loving a quiet morning even more!  This week has been busy but a little coffee, some yummy toast and Fernando Ortega waking me up in the morning is the perfect remedy! 
Happy Friday, friends! 


A Chapter Closed

This summer has been a roller coaster of emotions for me and for my family.  In June we received a call that my Grandpa Bill was in the hospital and not expected to live through the weekend.  We all rallied and my Mom and her sisters found themselves making hard decisions and having those conversations that no one wants to have.  We said our goodbyes, talked candidly about Eternity and made peace after years of broken relationship.  He did in fact live through the weekend and even for a few more months.  But last week, on the 11th of September, the Lord took him home.  His suffering ended on this side of Eternity and we believe that he began his new reality with his Savior. 
 To say that our relationship with him is complicated is an understatement.  Although we are grieving for him now, we've actually been grieving for him for the last 12 years or so.  There is nothing to be gained in sharing the ups and downs in a public way, but I do want to give the Lord the praise He is due for the way He orchestrated our reconciliation with him in His perfect timing.  We can rest at night knowing that we chose and still choose to forgive the wrongs and the hurt.  He died knowing and believing that we loved him dearly and he made it clear how much he regretted his choices and loved us back.  It broke my heart to see him in July, to see his failing body and his thin frame.  We talked about a lot of memories and he held my hand telling me he wished we could go back about 20 years and start again. 
Yep, me too...
For the length of my childhood my Grandpa was a huge part of our lives.  He hung the moon in many ways and we loved Grandpa Bill like any granddaughter would.  He is technically my Mom's stepdad and our step-grandpa I suppose, but he was such an active presence in our lives and a source of love that we never thought of him as anything less than our Grandpa.  We still do.  His life was not an easy one from start to finish.  He was married twice, his first wife died very young of cancer and years later he married my Grandma.  For most of my life my Grandma was very, very sick and he lost a lot of years with her due to her illness.  The end of their marriage was a hard one, my Grandma had dementia and was in a nursing home for 10 years I think?  But as I've tried to process what happened in the years that followed, I think I can simply say he made some mistakes, chose people who abandoned him in the end, and walked away from those of us who loved him all those years, mostly out of guilt and regret I'm sure.  It's a sad story, never one I want my kids to experience or know, but the beauty of the ending is that the Lord truly worked in us and through us all to bring the forgiveness and reconciliation that only He could.  All is forgiven and the chapter is closed.  It doesn't make it easy, it doesn't erase the damage that was done, but we have hope that we will be with him again one day, all of us restored and alive in the presence of Christ.  No one is perfect and we all make mistakes.  This has been a sobering reminder for all of us about the consquences of sin and the shorcomings of man.  When we look to people to give us all we need or to be our savior, we will always be disappointed...we all fall short.  But when we look to Jesus to be our constant, unchanging, unconditional God, He never leaves us lacking!  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and we have learned just how powerful that love is in the face of disappointment and hurt. 
In the end, only because of the power of Christ in me, it is well with my soul when I think of my Grandpa...
 And so when Jesus took him home last week, I packed up my kiddos and drove to Iowa to say goodbye.  Travis wanted to come along but last week was one of the busiest ones he's had in a long time and my parents were so gracious to release us from the pressure of needing to be home.  I knew I could do it with the kids, so we did!  And this is a classic scene of what life with these two little monkeys is like :) Never a dull moment, never a photo opp without a struggle!  Ha ha!
 As we prepared to walk down memory lane with family and friends, we got a kick out of the following pictures from our growing up years!  This one is one of my favorites!  My Mom has never been a Halloween fan, but when she gave in we always dressed up in happy costumes :) :) :) I clearly remember this Halloween and being so happy with my costume, I loved everything about it! 
 This was from our matching dresses era :) Stacie's smile cracks me up here!
 We vacationed a lot in northern Minnesota, in cabins on a lake.  Oh, the irony!
 From a young age my Mom dressed me in little suits...seriously, I always had the formal jacket and bow while my sisters always rocked the big collar look :)

I think my matching socks are particularly a nice touch!
 The little family :) I know my Dad would go back to these years in a heartbeat!  Good for me to remember when I want to fast forward 10 years with my own kids some times! 
 One of the many Sundays after Church when we had lunch with my grandparents. 
I really miss that tradition...
 And just for fun, this is from my college years and my sister's high school years. 
So. Much. Hair.

This a picture of my Grandpa's younger brothers, his nephew, my cousin and my cousin's 3 boys.  
 The big cousins, minus Stacie who couldn't come back from South Carolina. 
 All of my cousins on my Mom's Grandpa was a blessed man!
 With our Moms, my Grandpa's three daughters. 
My cousin Noah and Cody.  We are all about the same age and we were the original three!  We're the oldest kids in our families and we were pretty inseperable growing up.  For the first four years it was only the three of us, so you can imagine that we have lots of memories with our Grandpa Bill. 
 Love them both, can't believe we are this OLD!!
One of my sweet co-workers who trained me in High School did the flowers for us. 
This was the arrangement from the grandkids...
 ...and this was near him from his great-grandkids.  He had 6 little ones...Although my kids really didn't know him, Ava has been praying for Grandpa Bill for months now.  She has made me tear up on more than one occastion with her precious little prayers on his behalf.  He cried when he saw her picture for the first time because she looked just like I did when I was a little girl. 
My Grandpa served in the Korean War and therefore had the honor of full military burial, which is truly an incredibly moving thing.
To see older veterans, who didn't know him but honored him as one of their own...amazing. 
 This scene was hard to photograph but it was a beautiful depiction of the Korean war, my Grandpa would have been so moved by it. 
I am so grateful for the men and women who serve our country. 
They are robbed of the honor and respect they are due so often, but in death they are defintely treated properly.
We chose to give his Memorial Funds to an organization that arranges Honor Flights for Veterans to go to Washington DC and see the WW2 and Korean War Memorials.  My Grandpa would be so proud of that.  You can read a great story about it here
 His funeral was on a gorgeous, Fall day...
 And although we were missing Stacie Jo...
 ...she was well represented.  My Mom found this adorable thing she wrote when she was 8 and my Mom read a wonderful tribute Stacie wrote on facebook at the funeral. 
We missed you but we didn't forget you Stace :)
As we were driving to the cemetary, we passed a local attraction that my Grandpa LOVED, which was in full swing last week.  The National Cattle Congress is a tradition in my hometown, kind of a cross between a week-long livestock show and a county fair.  I have so many memories of my Grandpa and the Cattle Congress.  We thought it was fitting that it was happening when he died.  So that night, after dinner we took the kids to experience it too!  My Grandpa would have loved that.
 It's been years and years since I've been there, but it was the PERFECT Fall night and we had such a great time!
 There were animals galore and lots of events to watch...
 ...the kids did not know what to think of this pig staring and snorting at them :)
 Pretty horse,  his name was Dreamsicle :)
 We introduced the kids to the world of Tom Thumb donuts.  They approved!
All in all, a great night.  Fun to be outside, fun to walk around and see everything, fun to re-live old memories and think about my Grandpa.  So glad we did that!
It was good to be home, hard to say goodbye and yet, I'm grateful for the way this chapter ended and for the hope of Heaven we share!  I stopped at our favorite cupcake place to bring a treat home for Travis.  Nothing like a little sugar coma to wrap up an emotional week :)