Monday, December 30, 2013

Favorites and Looking Ahead

2013 started with two little kids, and a growing pregnant belly. My word for the year was Enjoy and I can honestly say that I've remembered that word throughout our year and I feel like I've learned how to enjoy the simple things in our life. I don't have this down perfectly, but I've learned that in all circumstances, there's always something to be thankful for and that when I start counting my blessings, my perspective is transformed.

This year I learned that I'm a better Mom when I take my kids outside for adventures and I learned that it's not that hard or even that complicated to get a few little ones packed up for some fun. I learned that I can take them to beaches and explore our area and that even at these young ages, they totally love this.

This year, it was a huge blessing to watch these two crazy kids go from being a couple of fighting toddlers into two little preschoolers who love each other. Over the last year, they've grown so close and that makes my Momma heart so happy.
This year, I did lots of hanging upside down, trying to flip my breech Eliza. When nothing worked to turn her and I thought I might need to have a c-section, that was really a hard time for me. Forever I'll be thankful to my midwife, who found a Doctor who was able to successfully flip her from the outside at 37 weeks and thankfully she stayed head down.

 At 40 weeks, 4 days, I had the most amazing natural birth with her. Welcoming Eliza into our family is hands down the highlight of my year. She is a light. She is a gift and the transition from being a family of 4, to a family of 5 has been amazing.

Sure, it's been a hectic year of Mothering, but even in the chaos, there has been so much grace. Everyday, I've enjoyed this baby. I have never wished for her to get older. It's so different than it was when Judah or Paisley were a baby. With them, I worried about sleep and wondered when they'd crawl or get teeth. With her, I just want to soak up this baby phase. I truly know how quickly it passes and I don't wish it away, ever.

In 2013, we splashed in mud and learned all about making mud pies.
In 2013, I turned 29 and my Mom passed my Grandma's special picnic basket onto me. We loaded it up with real dishes and flowers and celebrated with a fancy picnic on the beach. Okay, minus the pizza. That wasn't fancy.

We sat in patches of flowers and came nose to nose with baby birds that adopted us.

We took our first swimming lessons and Paisley rode her first rides at the fair.

We camped in the backyard for the first time....don't ask about the water in the tent. That's a whole different story. And just for the record, the water happened after camping. The first camping experience was a DRY success.
We hiked to the ice caves and ate wild huckleberries.

We cooked together. A lot.
We wore Christmas jammies, even when it's not Christmas and we fell in love with wake-up smiles.
We wrote down what we're thankful for and shared with family and friends.
We got a tree and tried to intentionally have a slow December.
In 2013, we went on an anniversary date, with our baby as a third wheel. He carved our initials in a tree, while I fed Eliza and cried.

I learned this year that life is sometimes hard, complicated and so good all at the same time. Our words get the best of us and we all mess up. We hurt each other and we hurt for the people that we love. We see so much good and so much ugliness all at the same time and sometimes, it's hard to make sense of it all.

I learned this year that there's grace for the hard days and even when I think I can't do it, I actually AM doing it. I learned that it's okay to feel joy and sadness all at the same time.

2014 will be the year for digging deeper into who God created me to be and it will also be the year for answers. There are dreams that I need to start acting on, and some huge life choices like if we'll homeschool Judah or if he'll attend public school this fall. As I look ahead, I see that this year is going to be the year of answers. Answers to those questions like school choices and answers to the things inside of me that just need a place to come out and belong. I want to study to become a doula and also learn about birth photography. I'm coming to a place in my life where I realize that I'm not only a Mom, but I'm a woman with dreams and goals and that part of being a good Mommy is recognizing my own desires and allowing myself to become the best version of me.

Over the last year I've learned that it's so good to show our children that we're not only Momma, but we're also human beings who need to make the most of one life that we've been given. During this next year I'll be turning 30 and I feel like I'm stepping into more of who I am. My 20's were for doing big things like getting married, having 3 babies, buying a house and figuring out who I am, and this next year is all about embracing who God made me.

We're all different you know and for some reason, it seems like we unintentionally grab a hold of other people's dreams or focus on another woman's gifts, instead of getting to know our maker better and digging into Him, to see how He made us. This year, I want to dig deeper and be so much more alright with the way God made me, than I ever have before.

I want to be okay with my strengths and be okay with my weaknesses. I plan to chase after what God called ME to do, and not what He called someone else to do. I hope that I can learn to really play my part well and not someone else's.

Good old Dr. Seuss keeps on coming to mind and really, he describes all of this perfectly for me.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Why do we always apologize for the way we're made? So what if we're a tad disorganized or maybe a bit of a neat freak? And who cares if you aren't crafty or if maybe you're the next Martha Stewart? Maybe you love to paint, but you don't know anyone else who does. Or you like to write, but no one you know is a writer. Maybe you love staying home all day and reading with your kids, but that doesn't seem like it's important enough or maybe you want to teach your kids at home and that scares you to death. Or maybe, just maybe, you have big dreams and you feel like no one believes in you.

What I'd love in this next year is to feel any chains that hold us back from being who HE created us to be, fall away and that we (talking to myself here!), feel free to truly be who we are. Curly crazy hair, creative, not creative, messy, quiet, shy or outspoken. Maybe that in the New Year, we could focus on not apologizing for how we were made, but instead THANK Him for it.

So, there it is. That's my dream for the year. To be Me'er than Me. To not apologize for my dreams, goals or plans. To move more fully into who I am, and be okay with the fact that I'm different. Because, we're all different, and we were intentionally made different, by the ultimate Creator, who doesn't do anything by accident.

So, what are you dreaming of in the New Year? What are you afraid of chasing after? What's holding you back?
Love you guys. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sunsets and Candyland

Every year it happens. After Christmas, I always get a bit down. Can I just stop here and say that I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer? I'm just being real, k? I guess it's the multiple celebrations packed into a few days and then poof, the last guest leaves and all that's left is a garage full of wrapping paper that needs to be recycled, leftover Christmas goodies, over-stimulated children, a messy house and of course, loads and loads of sweet memories. The sweet memories definitely win, but there's just so much build up before those sweet celebrations and then not much of a cushion for the let down. We say good bye, close the door behind that last family member and then it's over. Christmas comes and bam! It's gone.

A few days before Christmas, as we rushed around, finishing off every last item on our list, I just wished for a few days at home, without anywhere to go. I looked ahead to those days after Christmas, which were completely blank on the calendar and I anticipated those days with no obligations. I wanted to stay home and just do nothing. To let my kids play all day, without loading them up to go anywhere.

Well, those days arrived and it's been exactly what we've needed, but after a couple days at home, I'm ready to move on. One thing I've loved is how well Judah and Paisley play together. They have become best friends and they can play independently for hours. But, there's also been a lot of that post Christmas attitude. You know the one, right?

Today I so desperately wanted to go out and take the kids for a hike somewhere, but Jeremiah had to work and I just don't feel comfortable taking them out by myself. I wish it was safe, but to me, it doesn't seem like it. So, instead we went to Target, because you know, if you can't hike, Target is always a good option.

I love checking out the after Christmas clearance sales. There's something fun about picking up a few new decorations or new wrapping paper and storing them away to bring out next year. I guess it softens the after Christmas letdown for me. I love tucking those unopened rolls of paper away, knowing that when I pull them out again, my kids will be 1 year older and they'll be experiencing Christmas in a new and fresh way.

Over the last few days, between finding homes for the new things, trying to ration the 1200 stickers that each of my children received from an un-named source (no one should have that many stickers, ever) and living at a slower pace, I've discovered a couple things. These things are simple, but even so, they're really sweet.

#1. Late afternoon, at sunset is the perfect time to take the kids out to ride bikes, or blow bubbles. We all bundle up and Eliza goes in the stroller. The evenings have been gorgeous and even in December, this is really perfect.

 Just taking a quick snooze, no biggie.
#2. Judah has officially entered that Chutes & Ladders and Candyland phase and oh man, it's fun. Like, he can play by the rules now and not just push the cards around everywhere, while we "play" the game. Today we played both games a few times and it was a blast. He told me it was the best part of this day. Goodness sakes, this kid is fun.

Wrapping this up with a fun little video of some 2013 Instagram moments. In just 15 seconds, this video barely touches on what an amazing year this has been. I'm forever grateful for thousands of special things that have happened throughout this year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

About The Blog---Updated!

For the next few days, or maybe a week (depending on my time), things might look a bit "under construction" around here. I've been looking forward to dusting the cobwebs off the blog and sprucing things up for the new year. To start, I finally, I mean fiiinnnnnaaallly, updated the "About the Blog" section. Go check it out and tell me if I missed something! It's very likely that I did.

This space has been such a great creative outlet for me and I'm excited to move forward with more boldness into 2014. I feel like this next year is the year to hold nothing back. To write more freely, capture more moments through the lens and chase after the dreams that God's been tucking into our hearts. God has big things in store for this next year and we have every reason to feel expectant and excited!

But, enough of my New Year's speech. All I wanted to say is that the About section is updated and that things might look a little wonky for awhile.
Thanks for hanging in there with me.

The Day After

Our Christmas morning started about 6:30am, which I suppose could have been way earlier. It's so funny to me that the kids just know and earlier than normal, they're rolling out of bed, running down the hall and peeking under the tree.

We started the day with just our family of 5- opening presents, unloading stockings and eating cinnamon rolls. A few hours later, Grandma D and Grandpa P came over and we jumped in for round 2. About this time, the kids started to fly through presents, without stopping to breathe, so we had to remind them to take a breath and slow down- because you know, Christmas is all day long and this isn't a race. Let's remember to breath kids and enjoy! Oh and who's Birthday is it? Not yours.

After that set of Grandparents left, we put the house back into some sort of order and then got ready to welcome my family. Round 3 of Christmas lasted for the rest of the day and it was an absolute blast. I was so proud of all the cousins. It's a family tradition to go around and open one present at a time. Well, when 14 people are opening, this isn't fast- we're talking a few hours, people.

It was so awesome and such an amazing day with family. Last night after everyone left, I collapsed onto the couch and felt so extremely thankful for all of special moments throughout the day. The kids fell asleep as their heads hit the pillows and I went to bed really early as well. You know, Christmas can make you a bit tired!

Today has been filled with lots of play for the kids and lots of time for me to find homes for all the new stuff. Also, I'm slowly starting to put away some of the Christmas decor. I know, it's early and most folks would frown on this, but I love Christmas and when Christmas is over, I love getting my house back! So, I'll pace myself, put it away over a few days and maybe know one will notice...wink wink.

A few snapshots....
All of the kids listening to a story at church on Christmas Eve. 
 Christmas Eve candlelight service. I love, love, love this tradition.

A happy Christmas explosion all over the living room. 
And today we're doing lots of this....
I hope your Christmas was great and tell me, are you ready to throw out all of the sugar like I am? Oh my, I need it gone!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gingerbread Biscotti

After church yesterday, I got a hankering to make some biscotti. It was sort of a random idea, but Gingerbread Biscotti just sounded so good and so, I went with it. It's kind of like when you wake up in the middle of the night with a crazy idea, that ends up actually being a really great idea, or the solution to a problem that you've been trying to figure out. Know what I mean?

This biscotti is so very, very good and I bet you already have the ingredients to make it. I ate more than I should have, shared some with the kids and then saved the rest to have with family on Christmas morning. We're big coffee drinkers so, I'm sure we'll all be extra perky while we open presents. Woohoo! It's sure to be a wild time.
 Gingerbread Biscotti

1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup molasses
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
3/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup white chocolate chips, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar, eggs, and molasses. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; mix into egg mixture to form a stiff dough.
Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a roll the length of the cookie. Place rolls on cookie sheet, and pat down to flatten the dough to 1/2 inch thickness.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.
When cool enough to touch, cut into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. Place sliced biscotti on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until toasted and crispy.

While the biscotti cools completely, melt white chocolate chips in a double broiler. Drizzle the white chocolate over the biscotti and then let it completely set.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Weekend Shenanigans

Saturday the kids and I headed out early to go finish our shopping. Yes, by choice I took my 3 shopping on the Saturday before Christmas. Before we headed out, I got us all pumped up. We were going to be like little elves, getting the rest of our presents ready. Well, it was golden, absolutely golden. After 2 hours in Target, without a single tear or meltdown, I felt like I wanted to squeeze them all so tight and kiss their heads 100 times. They were so good and now I can officially say that we're done shopping, that is, unless I forgot someone. Goodness, I hope not.
On our way home, we stopped to smell the horses, in the middle of the road, of course.  You know, it's one of the perks of living in a small town. I love this place, I love my girl and I love these horses, which we can enjoy, without having to care for.
Later in the day, I decided that since Christmas is just about here, it's about time that we decorate a gingerbread house. You know, that sounds fun, right?

So, can we just stop here and talk honestly for a second about decorating gingerbread houses with a few little kids? I posted this on Instagram and I'm repeating myself, but I've got to say it again. Anyone who thinks it's relaxing to decorate gingerbread houses with really little kids is lying. Either that, or they're way more fun than I am. Come on, us Moms try to make it fun, but the candy was rolling off the table, frosting was going everywhere, the house is about to fall and I was starting to twitch. We do this stuff for the kids and inside my head, there's this constant pep-talk happening. "It's okay. It'll all clean up. Angela, stop nagging. This is supposed to be fun. Yes Angela, this is FUN. Oh you forgot? Well, this is FUN (as more candy rolls onto the floor). The kids love this stuff. What's Christmas without a gingerbread house?"

So, maybe our gingerbread house won't be winning any prizes this year, but we did have a great time making it. The kids think it's just perfect, so much so that they've been asking me every 10 minutes if they can eat the entire dried out, extra crispy cottage that they created.
Another Christmas must-do that we crossed off our list this weekend is the Lights of Christmas. Last year, we unintentionally went on a pay-what-you-can night and the lines were insane. Just leaving the parking lot was a 2 hour ordeal. I was pregnant with Eliza, I almost had to pee in the woods and I swore to myself that it'd be okay if we never came back. But, you know, it's the Lights of Christmas and it's fun so, we gave it another shot. This year, we made sure it was just a regular night and oh man, it was so perfect. A major Lights of Christmas redemption happened tonight. 

The lines were short, we did the train ride, the kids rode the horses, we listened to some really fun music, ate the best fresh donuts ever, hugged the snowman and of course, jumped in lots of puddles. 
Lights of Christmas 2013- Major success. 
The last thing I want to talk about is Gingerbread Biscotti. If you were here right now, I'd make you a fresh cup of coffee and give you a piece of this Biscotti to dip and enjoy. Normally, I'm not a huge Biscotti person, but something about this Biscotti has stolen my heart. So much so, that I'm afraid I might eat it all before Christmas morning. Really, I'm just blogging about it so, my Mom will see that I made it and I won't be able to eat it all in secret. It's an accountability thing you know and tomorrow I'll be sharing the recipe!

I hope that you had a great weekend and that in the midst of all of your last minute preparations, you have time to remember the real reason that we're celebrating. He came for us, He loves us and He gave himself for us. What a perfect gift that is! 


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