Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fourth Of July Weekend

You guys. I've finally figured it out. And I've been doing it wrong all these years.

I'm a planner by nature. I like order. Structure in my life is a must. In fact, there was a time in my life when I once labeled myself as a control freak-- & actually took pride in that self proclaimed title {insert shudder}. But something's happened to me over the last several years & continues to happen to me as I grow older & sink deeper into my role as a mom & wife... I'm becoming more relaxed. The reigns of life I held onto so tightly at one time, I am learning to loosen that grip & simply go with it. And the outcome? Well, it has been tremendous in my life. 

Take this weekend, for instance. It was so, so good.

I'll be honest. I was a tad apprehensive about going into a three day weekend at the lake without a working boat. We had originally planned this Fourth Of July trip around the excitement that my in-laws had purchased a new boat at the tail end of summer last year & we were chomping at the bit to get it out on the water & give it a go. But as lake life goes {or life in general}, it's unpredictable & the boat we were so looking forward to putting around the lake in, is sitting in a shop waiting to be diagnosed by a mechanic. With no boating opportunity at hand, we were left to fend for ourselves in the fun department. But what would we do?

Come. Take a look. I'll show you what we did.

This kid & fireworks. Lordy, Lordy.

This was the victory dance that ensued after a firework buzzed high into the sky & after several long seconds, the sky finally spit it out & it came down with a BAM...right onto the roof of the house.

Me & my girl. We served as the audience to the boys & their shenanigans...at a safe distance away, of course.

Lake Time.

The weather & water were the just the right temperature this weekend & we spent several hours swimming & jumping & cannon-balling of the dock. And for some added entertainment, we watched as Jett & Coach tried luring real fish into kid-sized buckets using goldfish crackers as bait. 

Cutie cousins.

 Jett & Lulla are head over heels in love with their baby cousin, Raegan. I mean, look at her...can you blame them? For real cuteness, right here, folks. This was Raegan's first overnight trip & she was a little champ! She was such a good baby the entire time & she shared her toys & puffs & squishy little cheeks for kissing. I love this girl & love that our kids are growing up together.

I made a decision before stepping foot into our weekend get away, to go with the flow. No plans. Easy does it. If we want to go swimming, we throw on our suits & go swimming. If the kids need a mid afternoon nap, we hit the pause button to chill in the living room for a half hour to take the edge off. Make a sandwich when we get hungry. Get some fresh air when feeling cramped. The plan I usually stick to, even if it's just the made up one in my head, I crumpled it up into a ball & tossed it into the trash. Best. decision. ever. Because inside that crumpled up ball was the intertwining of unnecessary stress & expectation that almost always sets me up for failure & misery.

Now, that's not to say that every moment of every day was smooth sailing. No siree. You do remember we were traveling with children, right? On Friday night, while sitting around the bonfire, Lulla spun into orbit over the combination of the loud fireworks the guys were shooting off & the melted marshmallow from a s'more being stuck to her fingers. She must have spazzed for a good half hour or more--all through bath time, all through jammie time & not a second of relief during that entire saga. I got frazzled & ruffled & tense like I do when I can't calm my own child. But once my over tired girl was smelling good from her bath, feeling fresh & cozy in clean pajamas & snuggled up in my arms with her Lambie & binky, she was good to go. We both felt the steam of stress release from our bodies...& we moved on.

Grill Masters.

My brother in law so graciously cooked the most delicious grilled steak dinner one evening. Nothing beats a summertime steak, baked potatoe & corn on the cobb dinner. Yum.

Fireworks display over the lake.

The wait for dark was long for two anxious little ones & the chiggers were fierce, but a treat from the local gas station & a quilt on the lawn served as a perfect set up for watching the fireworks displayed over the lake. Jett quieted once the starbursts boomed in the night sky & Lulla nestled into the crook of my arm & hid her face under her chubby hands, exclaiming, "too bright" & "all done" after each loud boom. 

I must say that our Fourth of July weekend left me feeling incredibly refreshed & relaxed. I walked away with a renewed vision & focus on the things that are important in my life. It wasn't that I got an overwhelming amount of sleep {let's face it, a pull out couch is no substitute for my Tempurpedic that I left at home}. It was because I made a conscious effort to look at what I have--a campout in the living room with the three people in my life I love so much I cannot even put into words. The delight on my children's faces as they run their legs off exploring the field & trees & property. A place to gather with grandparents & aunts, uncles & cousins to share good food & even sweeter memories. It's all pretty special. And I would be a fool to overlook what I've got because my "plan" didn't go accordingly.

My secret to a successful getaway is to do just that--get away--to leave my everyday normal behind. Like I said before, I truly enjoy the process of planning & organizing. It's a part of me that I think can be useful & beneficial & I don't want that to be stifled, completely. But when it comes to get aways? I'm checking the check list at the door. Allowing myself to break free from me, it feels good sometimes.

And all those years I had it all wrong? Well, I've got plenty of making up to do. Luckily, we've got one more lake trip penciled in on the calendar & I'm ready to do more of getting it right.

I hope you had a fabulous Fourth, as well!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Good Cheap {Summer} Fun

Summertime ranks right up there with Christmastime for me. I love it. Every ounce of it. Hold up... let me backtrack. I could certainly do without waddling around in 90 & 100 degree heat. But aside from the sweat & stink of a hot summer day, you'd better believe I'm plunging for every last dive stick summertime tosses my way. 

I especially love the experience of summertime as a momma. To see the sheer joy a frozen popsicle brings. To hear the high shrieks of a tot whose been doused by the water sprinkler. To lug sunblock scented babies home from the pool & up to their beds for a late afternoon nap. It's my thing. I'm in my element when I'm spending time with my kids, filling up their memory banks with moments they will carry with them forever. 

I hope my children can look back & have some great memories of the summers they had as kids. Because as a momma, whether it's planning a big beach vacation, or taking a roadtrip to the mountains, or just lining up a bunch of simple activities that will keep their little hearts happy, it's not the easiest of tasks to keep our kiddos entertained & active & having a chocked full of fun, summer.

Am I right, moms? Can I get an amen up this blog space? 

For various reasons, namely me being pregnant, Jared & I decided to keep this summer a low key one, where we'd stick close to home & be resourceful with what we've got--like the local pool, our backyard, our place at the lake & some of the specialties that our very own city has to offer. Sure, there have been moments where a trip to Seaside calls my name & makes me regret ever agreeing to this low key 2014 summer plan of ours. But it's also nice to show our kids, to show ourselves, that the magic of summer? It's what you make it. I am beyond thrilled that my children know the feeling of sand between their toes, that they'll one day experience the majesty of standing before a Colorado mountain & that eventually, down the road, they will catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field & walk along the Navy Pier in the busy, buzzing city of Chicago. I feel blessed that they will have summers--not all summers--where they will get to travel & jive to the hum of a different pace of life. They will breathe in the the beauty there is to behold in places far from our own home. 

But I also want them to grasp the beauty in the simple, the low key. Catching fireflies at dusk. Diving off the side of the pool edge umpteen times, until that dive is completely mastered. Drippy sprinkle covered ice cream cones as an after dinner treat.

It doesn't have to be over the top & extravagant to be fun. And we've got proof...

An outdoor movie in the park. 

This night may very well go down as one of my favorite memories of the summer. Not because it was easy. Or because our kids sat still & quiet & watched the movie like little angels {why no, we never once for a second thought that our children's behavior may get us kicked out of the arena...ahem}. It was awesome because we were surrounded by friends, passing babies & bags of candy & Capri Sun drink pouches & laughing until we were literally sick. For a dollar admission, I'd say we got more than our money's worth.

So...whose bright idea was it to pack a bunch of glow sticks for this little outing? I'm sure the guy three rows up who got nailed in the head by a glow bracelet turned lasso is still cussing us to this day. Whoops!

A fun afternoon snack

I'm always on the lookout for something fun to do with the kids at home during the afternoons. Afternoons are tricky. I feel like they drag on a bit, but then really there's only a couple of hours between the time the kids wake from their naps until Jared gets home from work. I hate to get everyone loaded & out the door to go somewhere, just to have to turn around & get home in time to start dinner. So, our afternoons are usually spent at home. And I'm usually perusing Pinterest for something fun to keep them occupied when baby dolls & tractors aren't cutting it. 

This summer sand pudding was a huge hit with the kids. You can find the recipe HERE

I like to include the kids in cooking. More mess? Oh, you'd better believe it. Get this. The sand in this recipe, which is simply made up of Nilla wafers & Oreos crushed & blended, actually feels like real sand when it is spilled onto the floor & you walk across it. But I suppose I'll take the {sticky} sand between my toes considering it is so much fun for the kids. It kept their minds & hands busy at work & gave them such a sense of accomplishment. A snack & an afternoon activity... I dig it.

Water slide rides

You've probably already seen this idea a time or two. It has come across my Pinterest & Facebook feed numerous times so I pinned it & saved it for a quiet afternoon at home. The kids got a huge kick out of sending marbles sailing down pool noodle slides. They raced them & launched them & lined them up in rows like a train. And then when they were all finished, they splashed in the blue colored pool of water at the bottom. Cheap, easy, fun AND educational {those fine motor skills were being put to use & the teacher in me couldn't help but smile about that}!

See? Summer...it's what ya make it.

And with only one full month of summer left, we've got a nice little line up of simple, low key summertime fun waiting to be had.

How are you keeping those kiddos busy this summer? Extravagant or simple, I would love to hear.

Happy Summer!

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Pregnancy--Halfway There

Last week I hit the halfway point in my pregnancy--woo hoo! You know how everyone else tells you how fast it's going by, but when you're the pregnant chick, it feels like forever? Well surprisingly, this pregnancy is flying by at an incredible speed, even for me. I can't decide if I'm thankful for that or if maybe I should be grasping on a little tighter, as this is most likely our last baby & pregnancy {I know, I know, I said that the last time around. But I mean it this time. I'm pretty sure.}.

It's been a different pregnancy from the other two. I guess I half expected it to parallel one or the other of my prior pregnancies, but it has taken on its very own list of pregnancy characteristics & symptoms. Some for the good & some--well, I'll just go ahead & spare you the details. I will tell you that the first trimester nearly killed me. It was horrendous--much worse than my pregnancies with Jett & Lulla & I honestly felt I would never, ever feel good again for as long as I lived. It had me down for the count. But once that twelve week mark hit, a cloud lifted & I have continued to feel really awesome, actually. I've never been one of those women who have been able to say I feel "great" during my pregnancies, so this one has me pleasantly surprised at this point. Other than feeling rather large rather quick & having to traipse around in a bathing suit all summer, there aren't not too many complaints coming from me.

I hadn't seen our little babe since it was a faint flicker of a heartbeat at six weeks pregnant, so I was eagerly anticipating this appointment where we would take a peak at our wee one.

Say hello to our little wiggle worm! 

The scan went well & everything seemed to measure up just as it should. Our baby's heart rate was 136 & he/she wiggled & squirmed & even opened up his/her mouth wide as if smiling really big. We all got quite the kick out of the personality our little one was displaying & our sonographer laughed & exclaimed several times, "What a cute baby!" Agreed.

I was especially proud of Jared & I, that we made it out of the appointment WITHOUT finding out the sex of our baby. We've both wavered at different points in our plan of keeping the sex of the baby a secret until delivery day--Jared at the very beginning of the pregnancy & me the night before the scan when curiosity was getting the better half of me, so I was a tad worried that once that baby of ours was displayed on a screen in front of us & we had the opportunity to know in an instant, that we may cave from the temptation. But nope, we held strong & left that appointment flexing our muscles at how tough we are under pressure ;).  It helped that our baby stayed in the breech position throughout the duration of the scan, making it difficult to see the goods even if we'd wanted to.

We are excited {& sometimes a little anxious} at the thought of our family expanding. Jett is over the moon--he prayed every night before bed for a good six months that God would put a baby brother in his Momma's belly--which has left us to have the conversation on several accounts that God doesn't always give us what we want, but rather, what we need. He seems to have come to grips with this & is still very excited at the thought of becoming a big brother for the second time--even if it is to another sister. Lulla knows there's a baby in my belly. Sometimes she'll point to it & one time, out of nowhere, she gently placed her hand on my growing tummy & held it there. But for the most part, she could really care less about all the fuss of a new baby joining in family. She's queen bee for now & she's clutching that title good & hard. Jared & I, we feel blessed. We have learned, in the past couple of years especially, just how tender, how precious, how fragile new life is. The once naive eyes we peered through can now see so crystal clear, what a true miracle each & every new baby brought into this world is. We feel honored to be parents & we already feel our hearts opening up, creating new space to house an endless amount of love for this new life that is growing.

My view for the summer

My craft room is getting booted to the basement & transformed into a nursery. Tubs of newborn clothes are being pulled from storage & getting laundered {Thank you, Mom for taking care of that! You're the best!}. My maternity photo session is scheduled on the calendar. A short list of new baby "needsis tucked away in my notebook. The excitement is beginning to brew & bubble & the reality of it all is starting to settle in. 

We're halfway there, folks!

Friday, June 20, 2014

This Is How We Roll

Have you heard this song?

I'm pretty sure it's our summer anthem. Jett. is. addicted. Some music awards show was playing in the background one evening & this song was performed & my boy, he fell hard for it. He has since worn out youtube & the country music station in my car searching for & listening to it. The kid loves music & I love that. 

I know, I know, I realize this song gets a bad wrap because of it's hip hop wanna be edge & I realize the old country music stars may be rolling over in their graves at the fact that this actually classifies as country music. But last I checked, I'm no Patsy Cline. And I can dig what the Florida Georgia Line are puttin' down. I'm a music junkie & my son hasn't fallen too far from the music junkie tree. I've got an appreciation for just about every genre of music out there & there isn't much I can't find some enjoyment from. 

Okay, okay, you got me. Luke Bryan is a little hottie boom bottie & at least if I have to watch a video 254 times a day, I get to sneak a few peaks at him ;). 

So without further adieu... this is how we roll-- summer style.

Evenings spent at the ballfield.

This is Jett's first summer of t-ball & he is loving it. Actually, our whole family is loving it. There are some sweet friendships & memories being made up at those ball fields under the hot summer sun. And the entertainment is top notch--seeing a bunch of three & four year olds dog pile on top of one another in the outfield in an attempt to be the one who gets the ball in their glove--it's absolutely hilarious. 

Thanks to The Sandlot  movie, he wanted to have what those Sandlot boys passed around at the fair & stuffed into the side of their cheeks  {& eventually proceeded to upchuck all over the place}. We told him it was gum. And Daddy went on the hunt to find Big League Chew. Because we knew if we handed him a piece of Hubba Bubba, he was gonna flip on us & tell us he wanted the kind you dip out of the package. Oh boy. 

Number 4 {he chose the number 4 because he's four. Duh.} likes hitting the ball & running the bases. After that, it all kind of gets boring for him. Once in awhile a ball will roll his way when he's fielding & he will go for it, but usually, he, along with half the rest of the team, are busy collecting dirt in their gloves while they're out fielding. 

Lulla girl loves t-ball night. She loves running up & down the bleachers with friends, collecting rocks, cheering her Bubba on.  But...I have an inkling there's a different reason our girl gets a scoot in her step come baseball night. Her loved ones--friends, family & grandparents--they all bring fruit snacks to try & bribe Lulla to warm up to them {when I say warm up to them, I mean the people. Not the fruit snacks. She's plenty warmed up to"gummies", as she calls them}. Not even kidding, this girl has 3-4 people every game bringing the big sacks of Welch's fruit snacks for her--simply to convince her to kinda sorta like them. No lie. 

Jett loves a cheering section

A table a the local sno cone stand.

Summer just wouldn't be summer without a fluffy pile of fruity flavored shaved ice every now & again, now would it? Watermelon for Lulla & green apple for Jett. Yummo.

Picnic-ing it.

Before it started to really warm up around our parts, we jumped on any chance we could to take our lunch outdoors.  Less mess, anyone? Our entire backyard is shaded throughout the morning so it provides the perfect grounds for a picnic lunch.

What? Your kid doesn't eat a slice of pizza like this? I swear this child maneuvers her food so that she can make the biggest mess possible. I've never seen anything like it. You should see my kitchen floors..every.single.day.

Spending our days dockside.

It's so exciting to watch our children beginning to develop the same love Jared & I have for our little place at the lake. So many summers before we ever had children, Jared & I spent here together & the place just holds a lot of wonderful memories for us. I love that the kids see past the fact that the house isn't fancy & that sometimes the boats don't work the way they're supposed to. They roll with it & still find the joy in the slower pace that lake life brings. It's a pretty great lesson & has helped Jared & I to mellow a bit when things aren't going as planned. Cause let's face it, how often do things go as planned? Watching these new memories & adventures being built with our kids is food to my soul & I envision many years of skiing, tubing & dangling our feet off the old dock. 

Backyard splashin'.

As a stay at home mom, I'm always trying to find ways to keep my little ones moving, both their bodies & their minds. It helps with moods {both theirs & mine}, it helps to drain energy & it just seems to make the day go smoother when we are all active. But I also like to be home. I'm not a gone from home all day kind of mom. I'm a stay at home mom--& I like to be home. Sure, venturing out is fun sometimes, but I would much rather be making the life we have at home a fun one, a place we enjoy & always want to be. So I have to get creative. I'm not talking about over the top creativity here, either. Something as simple as a water hose & a cheap kiddie pool does the trick many an afternoon at our house. 

Jared isn't the biggest fan of this pool. He hasn't come right out & said it, but it takes up room in his garage, it's bulky & big & he's the one who has to drain it at night. But this pool ain't goin' anywhere. It has saved my life for the past four years & when it breaks...I'll go to the hardware store & cart home a new one. Best twenty bucks I've ever spent.

Summer sippers.

Since I can't have my all time favorite summertime drink at the moment, Strawberry Mojito --I've found something else that wets my whistle. Strawberry Basil Lemonade. 

Here's what you'll need:
Frosted mason jar
Pink lemonade {the Countrytime kind works just fine}
Fresh strawberries
A few basil leaves
Lemon slices
A cute straw to dunk into it

Talk about a summer refreshment.

 Pool bums.

We've got our pool passes. We've got our pool snacks. We've got our friends to share the days with. Nothing beats a day at the pool to break up the summertime heat. We are pool rats & proud of it!

Tell me, how you rollin' this summer?  :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Father's Day

There isn't a person in this world that the kids & I feel more deeply loved from, than this guy right here.

On a daily basis, he makes this family his main priority, being sure that we are well taken care of & that each one of us feel treasured. He is tender & nurturing & so very intentional with our hearts. I knew long ago that he was the one for me, that God had specifically chosen him for me-- to love me, to balance me, to accept the broken pieces of me. I love the way he loves me--that after ten years of marriage, he has never once stopped pursuing me. I love the way he loves others-- that there isn't a single person who could utter a negative word about him--because he's just a true, genuine, honest & precious person. But the one thing I love the most...the one thing I witness day in & day out, through the chaos & noise & tantrums & snuggles...it's the way he fathers.  This guy was made to be a daddy.

Sometimes I lay in bed at night, or daydream in the car about the things my children will have to say about the kind of momma I was, once they're all grown up. Will they think I was a good mom? Did I take the time to sit down on the floor & play with them enough? Did I listen to the needs of their heart? Did I snuggle & cuddle enough or did I let the grocery lists & laundry & household chores take precedence more than I should have? Was my tone of voice too harsh too often? Was I fun & playful? Will they need years of therapy because I've botched the job?  All of these questions & more run through my head as I focus on doing the best that I can & praying my children grow up to know that above everything, they were loved with every ounce of momma heart that I have. 

But I don't question what these kids will have to say about their dad one day down the road. They will say he was the best kind of dad any kid could ever ask for. Hands down. He's the kind of dad that leaves loves notes on post-its & video messages on the ipad for us to wake up to in the mornings. He's the kind of dad who walks through the door in the evening, drops his bags, kisses their momma & scoops those babies up, spending the rest of the evening provoking giggles & shrieks & squeals of laughter from their bellies. He's the daddy that jumps in & does bath time routines & kneels by their beds every single night to lead prayer time. He says "I love you" til their little hearts flow over. He is the best example I could ever wish for my children. These kids of ours are lucky little ducks. And I know they will never doubt the love & energy their daddy put into them.

And that kind of daddy deserves a little pampering, don't you think?

Jared's a no fuss kind of guy. He doesn't spend money on himself. He doesn't take off on weekend guy trips. He doesn't have expensive hobbies. He's a simple man with simple requests--home cooked meals, quality time spent with his family, it's the little things that mean the most to him. 

So Jett & I came up with a few things that would make him feel celebrated on Father's Day.

Letting him sleep in a little on Sunday morning. Jared refuses to ever sleep in. Even if he's exhausted, he will decline my every offer of letting him catch a few zzz's while I get the kiddos out of the way. He's afraid he'll miss out on something. It was no easy task to force Jared to stay in bed & to force Jett downstairs with me, but I persuaded them by talking up the surprises we needed to prepare. They both obliged. 

His favorite breakfast, the one I only make at Christmastime because it is labor intensive--made from scratch cinnamon rolls. He says every time I make them, "I could eat a whole pan of these by myself." On Father's Day, he did just that. In fact, in the days following, I think he may have cleared several pans of cinnamon rolls all by himself. 

We spent a quiet, lazy morning at home, just the four of us. Jett presented Jared with the new garage door opener & keypad he had insisted on getting for Jared for Father's Day. It was a gift that was completely his idea & he was proud as a peacock to finally be able to spill the beans about it. 

***We weren't leaving Lulla out of all the fun. Our girl likes to sleep in & if you choose to wake her, you'll pay for it the entire day through. She's still too little to understand what the fuss of  Father's Day is so we figured she wouldn't feel too slighted by missing out on the morning portion of the celebrating.***

Later that afternoon, my parents visited & we grilled out & spent the rest of the evening outdoors. We topped off the day with root beer floats--my dad's all time favorite treat. 

I think the highlight of my dad's day was that little miss Lulla, who can be quite the Grandma's girl, snubbed my mom & chose to be by Papa's side for the entire afternoon. 

It was a wonderful day, perfect for celebrating the men who have always given so much of themselves to this family of ours. 

And not to be left out, my father in law. If you want to know how my husband came to be the wonderful father that he is, you need not look any further than his very own father. Jared has had a wonderful example & I & my children are blessed because of it. 

How did you celebrate Father's Day? I loved seeing the facebook & Instagram feed of the many fathers being celebrated. What a beautiful thing to be able to shower some love back on the ones who love us so much.