Thursday, November 28, 2013

happy thanksgiving!

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world."
-John Milton

happy thanksgiving from my family to yours!

We hope you are surrounded by those you love and that you fall asleep counting your blessings.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

thanksgiving feast

{my mom's famous cinnamon rolls, which are technically sticky buns but we didn't know that until we were older so we call them cinnamon rolls}

My sister and her family are visiting us for Thanksgiving and I cannot wait!  It's going to be great for many reasons, but one thing I'm looking forward to is cooking together.  My entire family likes to cook and try new recipes, but Thanksgiving is about the classics.  When my sister and I talk on the phone, we've planned all of our family favorites.  I don't cook these foods normally (especially not since Whole30!) so I'm looking forward to eating my childhood favorites.

My only concern is how we're going to cook all the food in my kitchen!  Most of it needs to be in the oven at the same time, so I'm getting creative about alternate heating sources like the crockpot.  It's going to be a juggling act to get all of our dishes cooked and serve them warm, but hopefully I'm up for the challenge.  :)

I've made some things ahead of time, like the cinnamon rolls pictured above.  But I'm excited to have a full kitchen on Thanksgiving, even if it's hectic.  I love having my family around and making memories in the kitchen and around the table.  

What's your favorite Thanksgiving side dish?  I'm looking forward to Kentucky spoon bread which I haven't had in YEARS!

Monday, November 25, 2013

repost: gratitude wall

Note: I wrote about our gratitude wall back in April, but thought that re-posting it again (with a few changes) would be a good way to begin Thanksgiving week on the blog.  My apologizes about the iPhone pictures...I was too tired to grab the real camera today and fuss with getting the perfect picture.

{our gratitude wall, complete with a quote from Spurgeon who just so happens to share a name with my son}

For a few years, I kept a gratitude journal.  It was a spiritual disciple as I trained myself to see beauty in discouraging circumstances and identify God's good gifts on a daily basis.  My list lengthened.  Soon I had listed over 1000 things that I was grateful for.  Slowly I fell out of the habit of writing them down.  Life got busy and my writing time grew slimmer.

Then I started noticing how much I was bothered by negative people who couldn't find anything nice to say, but instead focused on criticisms.  Let's be honest:  it's a slippery slope before we're all there.  When I said that gratitude was a spiritual discipline for me, I really meant it.  I have to practice it or I'll never learn.

I decided to transform my gratitude journal into a gratitude wall.  This was it was visible and communal.  We set aside a little wall in our kitchen where we write down our "grateful for's" (as we call them) on sticky notes and are working on covering the wall.  As we fill the space, we are making a visible testimony to God's goodness and reminding ourselves of what He's done.  I can't wait until our son is older and he can participate too.  My husband is the one responsible for writing on the chalkboard.  He doesn't change it often, so it's a bit of a surprise to walk downstairs one morning as see a new quote, note or picture.  

As you can see from the pictures, we've added quite a few since we began.  As our son gets taller, we've had to stop adding them to the bottom because he's learned to pull them off.  Recently we've failed at writing down our thanks.  I still think them in my head and sometimes I even stop in the kitchen to read our old notes hanging there.  I'm sure we won't keep this up forever - after all, we're a military family so we'll probably be moving in the next couple of years.  But perhaps we'll pull the sticky notes out each November as a way to ground our hearts in gratitude. 

{February 2013}                                                {April 2013}

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

how to make a {base} house a home

When I rejoined Facebook last month I was kicking and screaming (figuratively, of course).  I've been able to connect with other military wives in our squadron, which was the only reason I joined.  My friend, Ashley, also told me about a FB group for families stationed at Offutt AFB so I joined that as well.  She explained that it was a good way to get information and connect with people and she was right!

One topic that gets revisited frequently on the thread is about base housing.  Choosing a home for your family is such a big decision so it's nice to see people giving information to newcomers and helping them make a good decision.  I've written about our experience with base housing here and here.

Today I thought I'd share a few ideas of how to turn your base house into a home.

Cover the Walls
When we first walked into our home, all we saw was beige.  The walls, doors and moldings were all the exact same shade of flat paint.  And the carpet was only a shade or two different.  It reminded me of an old, ugly hospital ward.

I was disappointed that our housing office doesn't allow painting, so instead we've covered the walls with other things.  Downstairs I have family pictures hanging.  And in our son's nursery I hung a pennant that my mom made.  In our dining room, I hung twine between two nails and used clothespins to hang 4x6 pictures.  If you're decorating on a tight budget, try looking for cheap frames at Goodwill and spray painting them to match.

We have two tall bookshelves (and will need another soon) that add height to the room.  And yes, putting up bookshelves definitely count as decorating.  :)

I love walking into a home and seeing lots of family pictures and a tasteful amount of decorations.  Decorations are tricky though because they often look cheap/tacky or they're expensive.

If you are lucky enough to live in a base house that allows painting, I would paint accent walls.  That way you get the pop of color, but when you move out, you only have to repaint one wall of each room!  Livia from All Things Life and Air Force Wife talks more about that here.

Keep It Clean
Magic Erasers are THE BEST for our walls.  Since our paint is so flat, it shows dirt very quickly and is a pain to keep clean.  I use Magic Erasers regularly and am amazed at how much better my walls and baseboard each time.  (fyi, I am not being paid to say's my honest opinion)

The same is true of our carpets - they show everything!  We vacuum regularly, but let's be honest: having a toddler in the house means that we have many spills on our carpet.  Several of our friends own their own carpet cleaner and use it on a regular basis.  Since we're planning to live in base housing for awhile, I'd love to own one as well to keep the carpets from getting stained.

Decorate The Outside
Since our houses all look similar, you really need to add your touch to the outside to make it your own.  When we first moved into our home, we didn't have a lot of extra money so we focused all of our decorating on the inside where we would enjoy it.  I'll never forget the time that we saw neighborhood kids in our backyard using our water spigot because they thought our house was empty!  This was after we'd lived there for several months!  We're trying to do better about decorating outside our home and making it look lived in, but our neighborhood puts us to shame!  So many people put up elaborate decorations for holidays and take meticulous care of their yard during the summer.  We love taking walks and seeing how the exact same house can look different depending on the owners' personal style.

What suggestions do you have about turning a house into a home?

Monday, November 18, 2013

who do you read?

Who do you read when you're trying to find the right words?

Which authors make you murmur "yes!" aloud as though you're sitting there having a conversation?  Or cause you to underline ferociously and annotate in the margins?

This summer I read Shauna Niequist's book Bread and Wine and I still haven't recovered.  I felt understood.  And the way she strung words together was magical.

Lately I've been struggling to write.  When I do get the time to sit in front of my computer, the words don't come out.  So I'm going back to the basics, going back to reading.  When I know I'm not writing well, I can at least be reading well.

So I'm going to my bookshelf and pulling out the authors I love.

Am I crazy?  Who do you read when you need inspiration?

Monday, November 11, 2013

currently reading: The Beauty of Broken

"There is no such thing as a perfect family".  

This is the premise for Elisa Morgan's new book The Beauty of Broken.  Morgan is the former CEO of MOPS International and a well-known speaker in addition to authoring several books.  In this book, Morgan shares deeply personal stories from her own life.

I was attracted to the cover of this book and the fact that Morgan, being in charge of MOPS International, was writing honestly about her life.  It's easy to assume that leaders (especially Christian leaders) have everything under control, but it is encouraging to see how they will make an impact with "messy" lives.  In the book, Morgan covers a wide range of issues she's gone through in life including marriage, adoption, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, drug addiction, infertility, alcoholism, divorce, sibling relationships and death.  

Morgan writes that Christians often make family values into a formula, acting as thought if you do A, B and C, your children will turn out to be perfect, beautiful, godly adults.  From her own life experience, Morgan shows that it's usually not that easy.  Life, and especially parenting, is messy and complicated.  

At the end of each chapter Morgan includes a "breakthrough" section.  One of these wrote about going to "Church" with her husband and son.  As you read on, you realize that she's actually talking about AA.  I loved her description of AA as Church because I got the same feeling when I visited a few AA meetings - there was something holy and sacred about people being vulnerable and holding each other up even when they know the worst about you.

As much as I wanted to like this book, I fought against it.  In a forward, Morgan writes that this is her story and asks that we "don't judge" her family members based on what she wrote.  But it's not just her story.  And sometimes even though you are involved in someone else's story, it's still not yours to tell.  I truly hope that each family member read this before it was published and signed off on the sections pertaining to them.

More than that, however, was Morgan's endless need to put a positive (read: spiritual) spin on everything.  I understand that Christians want to see God's hand in everything, but I felt she took it too far.  {SPOILER ALERT} One example is when Morgan's grandbaby is born far too early.  She writes, "Tissue-paper skin.  Sunken lungs. Delicate limbs.  There was no way he could have lived in this world.  He was not made for it.  He was made for another world."  It made me angry - it is an overly romanticized, spiritualized view of death.  The baby wasn't "made for another world"; he just wasn't made to leave his mother's womb that early.  

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It was distasteful to read Morgan "[putting] a bow on everything' (something her daughter accuses her of in the book) by trying to force there to be beauty in everything or to write a good ending to a story that perhaps hasn't resolved yet.  But it was an easy read and could be an encouragement when family struggles and parenting seem overwhelming.

**I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest opinion.

Happy Veteran's Day

Thank you to everyone who has served and sacrificed for our country, especially military members and their spouses.  Happy Veteran's Day from my family to yours!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

when being a good mother means making a fool of myself in public

I thought that marrying a nerd would ensure that I didn't have huge technology fails.

Well, I was wrong.

I know I was wrong because on Friday evening we found ourselves driving 40 minutes away with my jacked-up phone in tow.  H had skipped his second nap that day, but finally fell asleep when we were pulling into the shopping center.  And then he woke up as soon as we parked the car.  Of course.

We made our way into the store only to learn that a new device had been released that very day so they were extremely limited on technicians.  Of course.  And I had completely forgotten that you can book appointments online instead of standing in line.  Of course.  See a trend here?

Thankfully my gracious husband decided to make the best of it.  He should, after all, considering his nerd skills had failed me!  We found a Mexican restaurant next door and soon settled in with a quesadilla, a burrito and a plain tortilla for Baby.  We only had an hour to wait until our scheduled appointment to fix my phone.  Our bellies full and our hearts happy, we watched as a storm swelled outside and enjoyed being warm and dry on the wet, cold, windy night.  Hadden had fun standing in our booth and screeching at other customers.  He was so perfectly a toddler that night.  Busy, yet captivated by the simplest things, like the nearby ice machine that rumbled as customers filled their cups.

Our hour was over and we made our way back to the store.  10 minutes past our appointment time in a busy shop was not boding well with our usually-happy son.  There were so many shiny things and he wanted to touch them all!  My husband and I did a quick back-and-forth about what we should do and ended up agreeing that I should take him outside since there was no telling how long it would be.

Pushing open the huge, heavy glass door, I saw that the rain had stopped, leaving puddles to dodge and a damp, cool breeze.  The shopping area had wide sidewalks and piped in music.  We had adjusted Hadden's stroller seat so that he was facing me as I pushed - I love it that way.  Love seeing his little eyes dart from one thing to the next and being able to talk to him.

Soon, however, Hadden was getting fussy.  It had been a long day, after all, and he was ready to be done in his stroller.


I suddenly swerved the stroller to the left, making an airplane noise to accompany it.  Then I dodged back to the right again.

His eyes lit up and a smile quickly followed.  I knew that I had his attention and that we'd gone from simply wasting time to having fun.


The stroller came to a sudden halt and then jerked back to a start a moment later.  Hadden laughed uproariously.

All around the shopping area I was swerving and shifting and stopping.  And my son could not stop giggling.  He knew I was being silly and he was loving it.  I tried a few times, to stop in a store and look around, but he soon made it be known that he was tired of shopping.  There are times when he needs to learn to be content with what we are doing.  But I knew this was different.  This was a time when we'd already asked a lot of him and he had been patient for over an hour already.

The shopping center wasn't very busy, so we weren't in other people's way.  But I did get self-conscious a few times as people walked by us.  Man, I'd give anything to be browsing the racks at The Loft right now, but instead I'm doing a ridiculous dance routine with a hefty stroller and a chortling one-year-old.

I think and then over-think my parenting.  I spent a long while thinking through the pros and cons of whether or not my child should own things with characters on them.  I have an arsenal of books, articles and blog posts stored up that deal with protecting your child from abuse and teaching them basic consent about their bodies.  I make sure he is surrounded by books and nature and loving people and sturdy, intentional, well-made toys.  I have Strong Feelings about almost everything in regards to parenting.

All of that boils down to: I really, really, really want to be a good mom.

But pushing my son around that shopping center and hearing his belly laughs as I jerked his stroller back and forth made me think.  I still think of those things are important.  I still want to study and learn and practice to be a better parent.

But sometimes being a good mother is letting go of my self-image.  It is climbing the playground and racing down the slide.  It is getting on all fours and growling like mad as my giggling son hides behind the couch.  And it is making a fool of myself at a shopping outlet to bring a smile to his sweet face.

My son will be grown up one day and I'm sure he'll have a list a mile long of what I did wrong.  Maybe he'll see and appreciate my intentional actions and recognize that I was doing the best I could for him.  Even if he appreciates it, I don't think it will be a memory.

Sometimes being a good mom means letting go of all of my good intentions and ideas to simply be.  To be present.  To be silly.  To be myself.  To let my son see that, in addition to wanting to do well at raising him, I enjoy him!

While all the intentional parts of parenting are important, I'm thinking that the best gift we can give our child is our delight in their personhood.

Hadden was laughing in joy last night, but he wasn't the only one.  I was giggling along with him.  We made a memory that night, which I won't soon forget.
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