Tag: family

My favorite gifts

The greatest earthy gift I have ever received is my family. My husband is my best friend. He still makes my stomach all a flutter. And he is an amazing daddy.


My bonus kids made me a mom when it was the thing I wanted most in the world! Paige returned home from college last night and it was like an extra 5000 watt bulb went on in our house.


Meanwhile, it is hard to fathom our first Christmas without Josh.

And my babies? Well, yesterday about made my heart burst. They have always been performers…when they wanted to be. I wasn’t sure how their first school Christmas program would go, but it was, well, swell. And magical. And I am so proud of them, their big
passion, their little voices, their loving hearts. And perhaps nothing in the world gives me more joy than those special smiles sent from across a room, meant just for their Mama.


Getting to spend time with them building our new life is pretty cool, too. Even though there are many people we miss, even though KK insists she wants snow, being on the beach in December is a fabulous gift, too~


Thank God for kids.

Thank God for His kid.

Thank God for innocent souls singing about ‘the dawn of redeeming grace.’

I hope your Christmas is already merry!

Photo Friday: the thing is

Christmas is not about things. Every sensible person, whether celebrating a secular or Christian holiday season, knows that.

But on this first year in a new home, as we unpack the boxes marked CHRISTMAS, the things, in many cases, equal memories. And their importance radiates ~

even our littles know it.


they were so helpful this year!

this ornament is from Mrs. Harrison, my kindergarten teacher

these I Love Lucy collectibles have been lost since we decorated last Christmas. Welcome back, Ricky, Lucy, Ethel, and Fred!

the I Love Lucy ornaments are all accounted for, too.

Since we have a bigger tree this year, I decided to put some of the special ornaments in groups. This is my favorite section: our family.

This little alcove holds the Charlie Brown Christmas tree Josh gave me last year, our family wreath, and some of our treasured family Christmas pictures.

This was our nativity when I was growing up, and when my mom got a new one, I decided it needs to have heirloom status.

All the kids love watching Daddy set out the Mickey Mouse Clock Shop.

and we all agree: best tree ever.


I’d love to hear about some of your favorite Christmas ‘things.’ What warms your heart when you unpack it every year?

recording love

One of the hardest parts of moving has been leaving behind the little ones in our lives.

(not our little ones, of course).

(though some of these feel like ours)~

(taken by Julie, and even though Henry and George don’t live in IL, we miss them!)

We have been blessed throughout the years to become aunties and uncles, by blood or by name, to a group of lovely kiddos. I also have the treasured role as godmama to Mr. Zachary (who was born 4 months to the day before our Randa,

and of course, the friends of my children hold a special place in our hearts. I absolutely love that through the beauty of Facebook, photo messages, and even old-fashioned email, the girls and I still get to grow up with them.

But when it comes to my nephew and niece, the role is particularly sacred. My nephew Andrew is now 12, no longer victim to my ludicrous nicknames (Prince Pooh, for example) or my over-the-top gifts (a new wardrobe with a side of chocolate and stuffed animals, for example. I’ve learned so much about gift giving since having my own kids). We’ve moved on to having a great conversational relationship, one that involves Andrew teaching us new games and me picking my jaw up off the floor at how much he reminds me of my brother.
But our niece ChloeBug was born only months before we moved away, so I of course worry that she is going to forget who we are. I’m grateful that before we moved, we were able to capture moments like this

and that the girls and I were able to return to Chicagoland for her first birthday.

When it comes to gift-giving, I not only want to be superfluous (pink things. frilly things. completely impractical things), I want to be intentional, sending something that is meaningful and also symbolic of our relationship with our niece and our hopes for her.

So for our first Christmas away from sweet ChloBug, this seems to be the perfect choice:
This is easy-to-use, customizable recorded storybook is one of several offered by Dayspring, and God’s Christmas Promise is a beautifully worded and illustrated telling of the miracle of Christmas.

Though we will not be gathered together on Christmas Eve to eat too much, marvel at the cuteness, and give thanks for the Heaven-sent gift of Jesus, Chlobug will have a package to open. She will hear my voice (and if I can swing it, that of her uncle and cousins, too), and be reminded of a sacred promise, and know that she loved beyond words.

Visit Dayspring for more on these recordable storybooks.
Thanks to (in)courage for the opportunity to review this product.

sweetest days

Lately, I’ve been a little intrigued by the backlash that some ‘mommy bloggers’ get out there. It seems when a blog becomes popular (and at least one of the ones I read is uberpopular), the more people want to tear down the writer, call it fake, accuse her of using her kids to get free stuff, yada yada.

The simple truth is (and this is coming from someone who has been blogging for 9 years and still has not, as it were, ‘made it’), every blog is a staging area. While we may write more than just our victories, while we might occasionally share our downfalls, sins, dirty laundry, etc, a blog does not representent the ins and outs and fine detail and whole picture of a real life. It isn’t meant to and shouldn’t have to.

With a bit of a knowing smile, I can tell you that a few people have asked where they can read the Real Lowdown of life now that my mom and dad have moved in for awhile. Well, unless you’re talking to me on the phone or in person, this is the closest it’s getting. No secret blog here, no password protected entries. It is what it is. And what this new chapter is, first and foremost, is a big, fat relief. Because some of the difficulties and challenges that I have not blogged about in the past few months are being made a whole lot better by my parents being here. So if that means we occasionally quibble over Soft Scrub vs. vinegar & water, the optimal time to eat dinner, or whether I ever managed to get the kids ready and on time anywhere before they arrived (for the record: never late to school, too often late for everything else), it is worth it to me… not just because their prescence means a shorter (& less expensive) school day for the girls and return of Gym Days and Date Nights, but because. They are my mom and dad. Of course “It” is better because they are here.

And our first few days have been lovely, or as I told a friend: Like a Rockwell painting, a loud one. There has been a lot of cooking and shopping and reorganizing, a lot of squealing little girls getting special attention from four grown-ups (they learned how to play hopscotch and were literally outside all day on Sunday!), a lot of this is how it goes in the south, especially as we marveled at the beauty of a Carolina October night and the masses of stars that are visible in the sky. There have been a few strategy sessions, a few tutorials on using the universal remote for the TV, several explanations of 17 Business vs. 17 Bypass, and a lot of hypothetical plan making. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it brings new life into our house.

The fact is, even with two lively little girls, our home has been too quiet since we moved. When Paige was here, her big old laugh could only fill it out so much. We miss Josh. We miss our dog. We miss traffic. We miss the phone ringing. We miss people stopping in. While we’re making new friends and finding time to catch-up with the old, the placement of our home in a quiet, quiet neighborhood means it’s…quiet. No one is ever ‘in the neighborhood.’ And while this has its plus side, it mostly just equals…quiet.

In the staging area of my blog, I will tell you that everything I thought would happen in my personal growth because of this move… has happened.

I’ve learned how much my people mean to me. I’ve learned to depend more on my husband and God. I’ve learned to take time for the phone calls from ‘home’ and to open my heart to new people. I’ve learned it’s ok to make some U-turns and it’s ok to occasionally hug strangers for a few extra seconds. I’ve learned that it’s ok to slow down and relax a little, the twitchiness will subside. I’ve learned that an ugly laugh is every bit as cleansing as an ugly cry. I’ve learned that there is no place like home, and home can be in more than one place. I’ve learned that, for me, it is still in the hills of Branson, the tucked away studios of Nashville, the fantasyland of a certain mouse-house in Orlando, the more-familiar-than-anything south suburbs of Chicago, and the gorgeous coastline of South Carolina. And a plane ticket to any of those places will always be first on my wish list.

And I’ve been reminded, for perhaps the eleventy-thousandth time, that telling God my plans for how His dreams will be revealed in my life is folly. If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans. If you want to see something really good, wait on His.

The sweetest days are still ahead of us.

my aces

We live in a place where one can find mini golf* every few blocks.

*peewee putt is what I grew up calling it.

And our kids call the lines of attractions up and down the street – the mini golf, the seafood restaurants with giant sea creatures for signs, the digital billboards: beach stuff.

Rod and I have been planning to surprise them one day after school and just go…putt…so this week, we did.


(after snacks, of course)



We climbed up stairs and down.



We found a castle, which practically goes without saying when we’re with Randa.


We marveled, for the bazilllionth time since May, that we live in a place with palm trees.


Rod and I also marveled at how much our kids have grown this summer…in height, ability, sass, and, you know, utter gorgeous-ness.





We allowed ourselves to be worry free for an hour, alone in a place which attracts thousands in the summer time.


And one of us might have gotten a hole in one…


Family is aces.