Tuesday, February 25, 2014

currently reading: Notes from a Blue Bike

Do you ever read a book and find yourself thinking (or shouting), "yes! yes!!" the whole time?  Or, if you're an annotator like me, you keep writing it in the margins, accompanied by a mixture of stars and underlining and brackets and arrows?  When I like a book, you can tell just by flipping through because it will be embellished with my pencil markings.  And if you were to pick up this book, I think you'd realize pretty quickly that I liked it.  It resonated with me in a deep way.  

Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of TheArtofSimple.net, a website inspiring people to live simply.  Her latest book is Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.  In this book, Tsh shares about the journey her family has taken to duplicate the slower lifestyle they enjoyed overseas as they have transitioned back to the States.

The book is divided into seven sections.  With an introduction and a conclusion as bookends, Tsh writes about the five areas in which they have chosen to be intentional: food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.  Notes from a Blue Bike is a collection of essays with tips for simple living sprinkled throughout, instead of a "how-to" book.

I hadn't heard of Tsh before this book or seen her website, so this was truly my first introduction to her writing.  And I loved the book!  I loved the essay format and hearing how their family decided upon these intentional steps and reading how it actually worked within the family.  I appreciated all the sections (really!), but, at this point in life, the work and education sections held the most meaning to me.

In the work section, Tsh talks about managing a business from her home with her husband.  She writes about finding time to write in the midst of being a busy mom with little ones at home.  It was a message I needed to hear: that it's okay for me to take time to do something I love.  She writes of slowing down and setting limits, but also of valuing your work and treating it like it is "worthy of my dedication, practice, focus, and excellence. (Because it is)."  I was interested to hear how she and her husband manage the business together, but I also appreciated that she included examples of many other families with different work schedules who have made adjustments in order to find what works for them.  In other words, Tsh isn't expecting that what works for her family is what will work best for mine.    

I also appreciated the chapter on education as Tsh shares their journey to find the right fit educationally for each child, each year.  After swearing that she would never homeschool her children, Tsh spends a year homeschooling and falls in love with parts of it.  But later they decide that the best decision for their family is to send their children to public school.  She writes about the value of exposing your children to books and of giving them room to be creative.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Tsh's life doesn't seem simple and I understand where they are coming from.  Her life certainly isn't straightforward - she's lived all over, she works strange hours, and her children have had multiple schooling options within a few years.  Her life is complicated.  But I believe she wants to live a full life and is choosing to do so as simply as possible.  If you're looking for a practical, step-by-step guide to simple living, you will probably be disappointed.

Notes from a Blue Bike is balanced, which is what I like about it.  The main message is to find what is important to you and then adjust your life to reflect that.  Tsh doesn't write expecting that every reader will move to a farm and live off the land.  She writes for ordinary people and ordinary families looking to make small changes.  And I like that because I am an ordinary person with an ordinary family.  I hope that you read it and, if you do, let me know what you think of it!

I was given a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

**Like what you're reading?  Consider following me on Bloglovin' or Feedly to get regular updates!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

because life is full of twists and turns

Did you know that my blog has a subtitle?  Well, it does.  At least, it does in my head.  In my head, it reads like this:

this glorious maze: because life is full of twists and turns

I named this blog at a confusing, disappointing stage in life  My life looked nothing like it had just a year before.  And it certainly looked nothing like what I planned it would look like.

I thought I would be working part-time and going to grad school full time while my husband served in the Air Force.  We would be blissfully happy newly-weds, working hard to pay off student debt, yet enjoying every chance to just be together.  We would adventure together, through travel and living overseas.  My plan was glorious.

Instead, that year I became a stay-at-home-mom to a baby that I adored, but definitely hadn't planned on having.  Instead of my dreamy ambition to study, write important papers, and debate theology in seminary classes, my days were filled with diapers and spit-up.  We were exhausted and depleted, in every sense: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We were in the trenches in the war for joy.  I never would have planned this.  My life didn't feel so glorious at that moment.

This wasn't the first time my life has looked radically different than I had imagined.  And I can say with absolute certainty that it won't be the last.

Because life is full of twists and turns.

Isn't it though?

Stop right now, right where you are and picture what you thought life would look like.  Close your eyes, if it helps you.

Perhaps you imagined being married and instead find yourself single.  

Perhaps you planned on being done with diapers and potty training and thought you'd celebrate when the youngest child entered kindergarden.  But instead you welcomed a surprise baby and geared up for another 4,000 diaper changes (and, of course, innumerable joys).

Perhaps you planned on being overseas doing missions works, but finances or sickness held you back. 

Perhaps you thought that you'd still be at that Church or in the friendship or with that company.  But instead find yourself wounded and in shock and just trying to figure out what the hell happened that it could have ended like that.  

Or...perhaps you hadn't really thought too much about the future, but you certainly DIDN'T plan on it looking like this.

The thing is, sometimes (often?) we look back and see that that out of the surprises, out of the horrible, came something beautiful.  Or, at least, something worthy.

There's something wondrous about this maze of life, isn't there?

Somehow these life events, the good and the bad, mingle together.  Pretty soon you're not quite sure these good/bad categories are as exclusive as you thought they were.  Is it just the way life is, that we grow and learn from hard events?  Or is it God, with His nonsensical exchange rate of beauty for ashes?

This maze of life is beautiful.  And this maze is brutal.  (Author Glennon Melton mixes the two together, just as life does, and says that life is "brutiful".  The longer I live, the more I think that should be a real word.)

When we get to the end of this maze, or when we just get to a resting point along the trail, will we look back and see how the good and the bad mingled together and how the maze turned into something glorious?

I sure hope so.

What's ahead for you?  Does the path look straight?  Are you walking in a haze and unsure where you're going?  No matter where you find yourself, take a deep breath, and then keep trekking.  I hope you'll find that the maze ends up being glorious.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

parenting as a post-evangelical

My son is young.  18 months, in fact.  He's just moved out of the nursery and into the toddler class at church.  Each week when we pick him up, we now receive a coloring sheet that coordinates with the lesson from that morning.  Never mind that our son actually doesn't color much, his sheet always come back with a few scribbles.  (I have a suspicion that a kind teacher is the one responsible for those scribbles!  And to that I say, God bless our ever-patient teachers who works with a room full of busy toddlers!)

Perhaps it's silly, but those coloring sheets represent one of my struggles with parenting: what do I teach my son about God?

I was raised in a world of Awana, Adventures in Odyssey, Veggie Tales, sword drills, and elaborate VBS programs.  I learned isolated verses and isolated stories.  I was told that this (very confusing) book was actually God's love letter to me.  I sang about being "a C, a C-H, a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N" and about "O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E" being the very best way to show that I believed.  (side note: speaking for all poor spellers, why did churches require so much spelling in their songs??)

I didn't just learn these things: I taught them too.  I spent two years in a Christian ministry teaching little ones about things like instant obedience and the umbrella of protection.  And, at that time, I really believed that I was teaching them truth.

Before I go further, perhaps I should clarify: this isn't a criticism of my parents, Sunday school teachers, or VBS leaders**.  I know that they all had the best of intentions.  But as my faith has evolved, I have realized that I am no longer comfortable receiving the pat answers and equally uncomfortable giving them.

Here's the problem, those pat answers, those cliches and platitudes, they are the script I know.  I am fluent in Christian-ese, but even more so in childhood Christian-ese.  I know the songs (complete with hand motions), I know the verses about obedience, I know the overly simplistic applications from stories like Jonah and the not-whale.  These are comfortable and familiar for me.

It's one thing to change my own views and wrestle with my faith.  It's quite another to figure out what to teach my son.

Right now, the best way I know how to teach my son about God is to live out my faith honestly in front of him.

I want my son to love God.  And I want him to have a big, big picture of God and of what He is doing in the world.  I want to teach him about hermeneutics, that there is more than one way to interpret a verse and that that's okay.  I want him to know that we can disagree with denominations and yet still be united in Christ.  I want him to see that my husband and I have a growing, questioning faith, and that we disagree about some theology, but that it doesn't make the other one "less than".

I don't want to shy away from hard questions or give trite answers to things that I totally don't understand (which seems to be a lot of things).  I want to tell him that I don't understand many parts of the Bible and that it doesn't mean I am having a crisis of faith.  And I don't want to shut down discussions by concluding that "God's ways are higher than our ways" so we just shouldn't worry about it.

Lately, faith for me has been getting down in the figurative mud and wrestling.  It hasn't been pretty or clean or dignified.  But it has been honest and sincere.  I want so badly for my son to see this in my life.

I know this isn't comfortable to read.  I know that some people will read this and think I am a horrible, God-forsaking parent.  But I timidly would like to speak up for myself and say that I am not.  I'm studying and seeking and trying to do the very best to teach my son a full picture of God.  I'm just not sure I can tell him pat answers to things I don't even understand and teach him verses hijacked from their context.

This parenting thing is HARD.

This Christianity thing is HARD.

Put those two really-hard-things together?

Whew!  I think, in the most sincere sense, I could use some prayers.

**It IS a criticism of youth groups because to this day I get the heebie-jeebies thinking about church youth groups.  To anyone stuck in a youth group now, I have one message: IT GETS BETTER.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Common Misperceptions about Military Life

Last week I used Facebook to do an informal poll of my military friends, asking what the most common misperceptions were about military life.  Today I've rolled all those responses (along with few of my own) into this post.  I'm sure that other military families will laugh (or maybe cry!) at a few of these.  And hopefully it will give civilians a peek into our lifestyle.

1.  We Move All the Time
Actually, this depends on your job!  Some people stay at the same base for years, like a family we met when we first moved to Offutt AFB.  They had moved here a year before us, but came from Texas where they had been stationed for 17 years!  Others rotate between just a few bases, so they might move back to one where they already lived.  And others, like us, can be stationed pretty much anywhere in the world and move every two to four years for normal assignments.        

Related to this is We Move All The Time THUS Moving is No Big Deal.  Also not true.  Moving is routinely listed among the most stressful life experiences and military families are not exempt from those stressors.  It's hard to watch all your belongings get packed up and wonder what will get lost or broken.  It's hard to explain to your children why they won't be able to see their friends again.  It's hard to find a new church or a new school.  It's hard to be in a town where you don't know a single soul and have to consult your GPS every time you leave your driveway.  It's hard to explain how you can make such deep friendships in just a few years.  It's always hard to say goodbye to the familiar and walk into the unknown.

2.  We Are a Special Breed of Humans
This comes from statements like, "6 month deployment?  I could never do that!" or "You are handling this deployment so well!  I'd be on the couch in a puddle of tears!"  I always get annoyed when people say that to me even though I know they are well-meaning.

Here's the truth: if you were in our position, you would do what you had to do.  You get through the six month deployment because you don't have a choice.  You're not collapsed on the couch in tears each day because life keeps going around you.  As one person said, "Of course I miss him, but life goes on, kids need to be fed and the dog needs a walk.  Bills need to be paid, and that kitchen drawer needs a new rail.  I'm not strong or brave, I just do what needs to be done.  Sometimes I even manage to handle it with grace and I save the blubbering until the kids go to bed. ;)"

3.  We Agree With ______________.
Insert "the war" or "the President" or another phrase having to do with politics into the space above. We don't all agree on politics.  But people generally keep their mouths shut and just do their job, which is the way I prefer it.

4.  We Are All Gun-Totin' Texans
No.  Just no.  :)

5.  There's a Correlation Between Arrogance and Rank
Usually I get a tad nervous meeting someone O5 and up (Lt Col, Col and Generals).  But all of the higher ranking officers that I've met so far have been very down to earth and friendly.  I'm certain that there ARE high ranking officers who are arrogant just as there are first term airmen who are arrogant.  But I think it has a lot more to do with personality than rank.

6.  Our Lives Are Like an Episode of Army Wives
We love the show Army Wives so I'm not here to trash talk it!  But let's be honest: it's nothing like real military life.  The most notable difference to me is that Army Wives ignores fraternization rules.  It's not just that it would be unlikely for lower ranking airmen to hang out at the General's house...there are actual rules that keep that from happening.

7.  We Are Like a Big Family
Yes and no.  We kept hearing about how wonderful the military was and how it was like a big family.  But it sure took us awhile to feel that way!  The military can be a tight, caring community when you're living away from all your friends and family.  But you have to leave your house.  No one is going to come to your front door and drag you to events.  So if you want to feel the family, to JOIN the family, you have to take the first step and get involved.

8.  We Are Well Paid
When I polled my friends on Facebook, this was a major trend.  We have some wonderful benefits as military families, healthcare and housing being the most prominent.  My husband and I are very thankful for those benefits.  When our son was born, we didn't see a single bill for my care or our hospital stay.  I don't take that lightly - it is a huge benefit of military life.  But...my husband is making quite a bit less money than he could be if he were in the private sector so it can be a bit discouraging to think about that and think of student loans that might already be paid off.

Your pay stays the same no matter how many dependents you have, so what might seem like a lot of money to a single airman means that a family of five is barely scraping by.  Many military families are eligible for WIC which is a great help.  Additionally, there are some medical issues, like fertility treatments or certain therapies, that are not fully covered by our health insurance.  Another piece in this whole puzzle of finances is that it is harder for military spouses to work so often you find many single-income families (and that's a whole different discussion!:).

9.  Spouses Aren't Affected All That Much
If my husband wasn't in the military, he could have taken a job in a city where I wanted to go to grad school.  Instead I'm researching programs that I can do online or waiting until we are stationed at a base with a good program nearby and then hurrying to finish my degree before we have to move again.  It is not the worst situation, but it's not ideal either.

As a military spouse, your education and your career will always, always come second.  It's just what you have to accept when you marry into the military.  That being said, I think military spouses should still pursue their dreams and learn to make it work within the military lifestyle.  It's great to see universities and employers who are willing to work with military spouses to help further their possibilities.

10.  Dual Military Couples Shouldn't Have Children
Related: Dual military couples can't care for their children as well as families with one civilian parent. Ugh.  I hated even typing that! But I know that this is said (or at least implied) sometimes when both parents are active duty, so I wanted to mention this.  Certainly it might be more challenging to have both parents on active duty, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't have children or that they can't care for their children as well.  I know families who have decided that the best thing for them is to have one active duty parent and one stay-at-home parent.  I know families who have decided that what works for them is to have one active duty parent and one who has a civilian job.  And I know families that have decided it's best for both parents to be active duty.  All of these families love their children and are trying to do what is best for their family.

11.  Our Kids are Military Brats, So They're Used To This
Oh, how we all wish that was true.  If you talk to any parent about the challenges of military life, I can guarantee that the hardest part (by far) is watching their children struggle with our lifestyle.  Deployments and moves are hard on the adults, but they are so much harder on the children!  Children who were fully potty trained start having accidents.  Others get separation anxiety thinking that the at-home parent might leave just like the deployed parent.  Some children act out in school.  Children cry and ask why they won't be able to see their friends at the new base.  My husband and I have chosen this lifestyle, but I would hate to see my children paying the price in the future.

12.  We Joined Because We're Super Patriotic
This might be true of some people.  But others joined because the military paid for their college.  Or because it's a tough economy and they needed a steady job.  Or because their child needs health care.  Or because the military was the only place they could get the job they wanted, like being a paratrooper.

Okay, YOUR TURN!   What is a common misperception that you would like to clear up about military life?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Registry Tips (for parents who plan on having multiple children)

When my husband and I got married, we knew we wanted children.  Plural.  

So when I was pregnant with our son, Hadden, we thought careful about what we put on our baby registry, knowing that we wanted things to last for at least one more child.  Today I wanted to share our suggestions of how to plan for multiple children.

**Side note before anyone reads too much into this post.  It is not an announcement.  We are NOT expecting a baby.  :)

1.  Cloth Diapers
I promise you: it's not as hard as it seems!  I've written a little about cloth diapering here and here.  I think the real key is finding a system that works for you - the right diapers, the right pail, the right detergent, etc.  If you're considering cloth diapering, I could recommend a few links to check out.

Overall, it's a great way to save money and help the environment.  It was definitely an investment in the beginning, but now that we have the diapers ready for the next child!  Since we live in base housing, we don't pay for water so the only cost will be more diaper liners and detergent.  

2.  Avoid Pink and Blue
When you're buying big items like a carseat, pack n play or bedding, buy it in a neutral color/pattern.  I have a not-so-secret annoyance with PINK! and BLUE! everything, so I'm aware that this is a soapbox area.  But from a practicality standpoint, it makes sense to purchase neutral too.  This also doubles your chances of reselling the items when you're done with them.

3.  Buy High Quality, Gender Neutral Clothing
If you're like us, there's no way you're forking out $40 for a sweater that your baby will puke all over.  But on the other hand, if you purchase a lot of low-cost clothing items, you might notice that they don't last as long.  We buy almost all of our son's clothing at consignment stores.  My favorite finds so far have been a name brand red pea coat and a Gap baby pullover!  We paid less than $5 for items that originally cost over $30 and you can't even tell that they're used.

We also prefer to buy clothing items that are not highly gendered.  Again, part of this is my philosophy and part of it is practicality.  If we have a daughter next, I am not expecting that she will wear ALL of her brother's clothes, but it will be nice to reuse some of his things.

4.  Invest In Nice Toy Sets
I might write a whole post about this sometime, but (so far) we have had a strict "no characters" rule for Hadden.  No toys or clothes or cups or shoes or anything that is "branded".  No Elmo, no Dora, no "Georgie" (Curious George) unless it is in a book.  My (wonderful and wise) sister explained it to her daughter like this on a shoe-shopping exhibition a few years back, "You don't want those shoes because they are comfortable or because they will serve you well.  The only reason you want those shoes is because they have Dora on them."

Additionally, I came across this interesting blog the other day called "Free Our Kids".  The blogger set out on a yearlong experiment to not spend any money on her son.  Here's what she said as they've neared the end of the experiment:

"In the course of this year, J’s had a few shiny and new gifts from people who weren’t bound by my crazy no-spend ethos. And watching those things get battered and bashed over the course of the year, I’ve noticed a pattern. The toys that are branded with popular cartoon characters – the Fireman Sam fire station he got for his birthday, for instance, from a relative – have fallen apart and needed fiddly resticking over and over again. Plus, he can only play the set stories with them: there’s a fire, someone gets stuck on Pontypandy Mountain yadda yadda yadda.
But the brio train set is built to survive generations of train crashes and hurlings off the top bunk (I know, because we still have some of the bits that Tom and his siblings tried determinedly to destroy in the seventies). The Sylvanian Family camper van we borrowed from J’s older cousin earlier in the year could be sent on any number of different adventures. They’re better quality and better for the imagination. Better for the environment, better for my head space – frankly – because they’re better looking and less cluttering for our house-space. So next year, there may be a little spending, but there won’t be any more plastic trash. Fewer, well chosen, unbranded, good quality toys. Toys that can be shared by a boy and his little sister because they’re neither ‘sugar and spice and all things pinkified’ or ‘bright blue snips, snails and puppy dog tails’"

I feel the same way.  I spent hours playing with a Brio train set as a child and can't wait for Hadden to start collecting his own.  My husband, on the other hand, loved Legos.  My siblings (and now my niece) have spent hours playing with Playmobile.  These are the types of toys I want to invest in.

This is not to say that we will never have cheap toys in the house.  But if you DO want to have some of those plastic, characterized toys, I suggest getting them second-hand. We got my son this tiny piano from a local consignment store and paid $3.50.  If he tires of it, we can sell it back to the same shop!  Check Craig's List and garage sales for used toys too!

5.  Double Stroller
Or more specifically, buy a stroller that converts into to a double.  We knew that the one baby item we wanted to splurge on was our stroller.  We LOVE our stroller and especially love that when we purchased it, Amazon was running a special promotion so we got the second seat for free!  If you're planning on spacing out your children, this might not be important to you.  But if you'd like to have a couple children close together, you'll definitely want a double stroller, so why not have one from the beginning?  We've been able to use our second seat a few times with friends, but it will be fun when we actually NEED both seats.  

Also, the graphic designer for this post was Kaylee Mitchell, who is a fellow military spouse!  If you're looking for a graphic designer, check out her FB page! :)  

**The items pictured above can all be found on Amazon.  Here are affiliate links to the cloth diaper, pack 'n play, sweater, train set, and stroller.

Monday, February 10, 2014

the missing toothbrush

Getting ready for bed I notice my husband moving things around in haste and searching through drawers and cupboards in the bathroom.

"What are you looking for?"

"My toothbrush!  I think Hadden had it again."

As he moves into the bedroom to check under the bed, I have a faint recollection of where it might be.  As usual, our toddler hung out with me as I got ready that morning and, as usual, he rifled through his father's toiletries.  I silently retrieve the missing toothbrush and place it in his drawer, where he's already looked several times.

"Have you looked in your drawer?"

There were a few moments of silence before I ask again.

"Darling, have you checked the drawer?"

"My drawer?  You mean where I always put it?  Of course I checked there."

He paces into the bathroom and opens the drawer, grabbing the once-missing toothbrush at once.

"...alright...where was it this time?"  He seems reluctant to hear my answer.

I don't respond because I'm busy trying to muffle my laugher in a towel.

He looks around the bathroom suspiciously.

"Was..." he begins at first, "Did he leave it on the floor of the shower?"

I try to suppress a rueful smile as he waffles between annoyance and amusement.


I wait a moment before responding diplomatically, "I'll buy you a new toothbrush tomorrow, dear."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

currently reading: The Question That Never Goes Away

I think I should rename this series "books from the pile on my bedside table".  And by 'bedside table' I mean the metal folding chair that I use as a bedside table.  My life is so glamourous!  ;)  This week I have been actively reading three books: one to review, one to enjoy, and one to help my husband and I figure out how the heck to parent our toddler thoughtfully.

The book I am reviewing this week is The Question That Never Goes Away, courtesy of BookLook Bloggers (formally BookSneeze).

Philip Yancey is the author of Where Is God When It Hurts?, which he wrote in 1977 to explore suffering from a Christian perspective.  Now, over 30 years later, he released a sequel: The Question That Never Goes Away.  Since writing his first book, Yancey has become somewhat of an expert on the topic of pain, receiving countless letters from hurting people and numerous speaking invitations.  The Question That Never Goes Away is based off of Yancey's personal experiences with three different events: the four year long siege of Sarajevo, the 2011 tsunami in Japan, and the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Each of these events were horrific and ghastly in their own way, but they raised the same question: Where was God during this and why did He let it happen?

I was thrilled to see this book available for review from BookLook Bloggers.  I've read Where is God When it Hurts? and Disappointment with God (both by Yancey) before and thought I would like this one as well.  I wasn't disappointed.  Yancey is a thoughtful, compassionate author.  Since I am interested in the theology of suffering, I have read books by multiple Christians authors on the subject.  Yancey is one of my favorites.  Unlike many others, he avoids offering platitudes or prescriptive advice.  Yancey points to Jesus' example of avoiding answering why suffering exists, instead focusing on our response to suffering.  I appreciate that Yancey faces the issue of suffering head-on and writes of how he was affected personally rather than tackling the subject from a strictly academic perspective.

Some may be disappointed by this book.  Yancey doesn't offer a definitive answer on suffering.  But that is what I like about it.  I feel that any answer he could have given would have probably fallen short.  He wrote rawly about his experiences and emotions in Sarajevo, Japan and Newtown and instead of tying them up with a flippant clique about God's will, Yancey lets the heaviness of these situations resound.  Yancey is an author who seems comfortable admitting that we don't have all the answers, but instead, gives us tools and encouragement to continue living under the weight of unanswered questions.  This book is so important for all Christians would read - I wish that more people would take the time to consider this topic seriously before spouting off harsh words following tragedies.

**I received a copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for an honest review.
**This post contains Amazon Affiliate links

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I'm a Redbud!

Member of Redbud Writers Guild

Earlier this week I found out that I was accepted into the Redbud Writers Guild, a collection of Christian women bloggers, authors and speakers.  I am thrilled!  I had applied a few months ago and hadn't heard back so I assumed I hadn't been accepted.  When I got the email, my excitement was immediately followed by the most profound sense of humility.  Just by looking through the short biographies, you can tell that this is an incredible group of women who are gifted in communication.  I'm a beginning writer so I know I have a lot to learn from them.

That's what drew me to the Redbuds in the beginning though - I was told that members are at different levels as writers and this group was created to encourage and nurture each other.  After just a few days, I can tell that this is a special group of women and I'm excited to learn from them.

I'd love for you to connect with more Redbuds via the websiteFacebook or Twitter!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

the family you choose.

"Friends are the family you choose for yourself."

I'm still not sure what prompted me to do it.  But I asked them to dinner.

It was a bit out of my comfort zone, going up to complete strangers and asking them to come to our home, but it felt right at the moment.

I turned around in church that day because I heard a baby who sounded almost the same age as my own baby.  I noticed that her parents were visiting the church and were about our age.  Also, he had "the haircut".  They're probably Air Force, I whispered to my husband.  Let's go introduce ourselves.

And so after the service ended, we did.  They were Air Force (the haircut never lies, you see).  And their daughter was similar in age to Hadden.  They were new to the area.  And they were living in an empty house with only the supplies as they carried in their car as they waited for the movers to bring the rest of their things.

Come over for dinner!  I said, remembering when we visited a church and someone said the same to us.  We hurriedly exchanged phone numbers, scribbled on the back of the bulletin and I promised to contact them soon.

Later that week they came for dinner.  Their household goods still hadn't arrived so we urged them to come another time and use our washer and dryer rather than camping out at a laundromat.  One dinner lead into another which led into them inviting us over which began an unending cycle.

That was the beginning of a great friendship.

Today our children, now toddlers, greeted each other with with glee.  We get together often, sharing meals and taking turns babysitting.  Neither of us attend the church where we first met, so we kept each other updated as we visited churches and, eventually, each found the right fit for our family.  I know that I could call at any hour and they would be at our door to help if we needed it. 

There is much more I could say about our friendship, but I'll leave it at this: they are the family we have chosen.

Sometimes I think about what we would be missing if we hadn't gone up to them that day at church.  We would have missed out on true friends (the kind with whom you can be relaxed and comfortable), a ridiculous amount of laughter, our son's first friend, and the best Mexican food of my life.

The next time you meet someone new, take a step outside your comfort zone and invite them to dinner because it might just be the beginning of a lifelong friendship!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Our (very low-key) Superbowl Party!

Last night we had my favorite kind of party!  We wanted to watch the Superbowl at home and cheer on my husband's beloved Broncos (no further mention of the actual game from hereon out because you KNOW how that turned out - so disappointing!).  We invited our good friends over for the evening, which always works out well because our toddlers wear each other out and we can all sit around and talk.  The kiddos share each others food and drinks and toys and, for the most part, play nicely together.  It's a little bit chaotic in the best way possible - noisy and messy, but full of love and laughter.

Back to hosting:  I love finding the perfect recipes that I think our friends will enjoy.  I love an excuse to clean the house really thoroughly.  I love knowing that our friends don't really care if the house is clean or the recipes turn out just right.  I love creating an environment that will be relaxing to our guests.  I love having friends who are comfortable opening my fridge and grabbing a drink.  I love knowing that our friends don't really care if the house is clean or the recipes turn out just right.   I love the mess that results, too.  There's something nice about a house that has been lived in and filled with happy memories.  

Here are a few iPhone pictures I took throughout the night.  I'm including links to the recipes I used too!

Waiting for our guests to arrive, Hadden played his favorite game of shutting himself between the glass door and the front door.  I'm not sure why he loves this so, but he does!

We don't usually drink bottled water, but I needed these little bottles for a project so I was happy to have people over to help empty them!

These pictures don't do justice to the food so you might as well visit the links.  These bacon wrapped sausages were GONE.  I thought we would have leftovers, but nope.  The major downfall was that the brown sugar burned so the pan is going to be a headache to clean.

The caprese garlic bread was delicious - the fresh basil and tomatoes reminded me of summer!  We will definitely make this one again.  Not pictured are puppy chow and cream cheese sausage dip (I substituted a can of corn for one of the cans of Rotel).  The dip got high praise from our friends, so I'll probably make it the next time we have a party.

I took 12 different pictures of the toddlers playing and this was the BEST one I got!  Such busy little people!

It was a sad night in the Glorioso-Mays house, but we are still had such a good time with friends.  What did you do for the Superbowl?
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