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Monday, September 1, 2014

Sliding out of Summer

It's no secret that I really don't like summer anymore.

Summer is usually not a friend to Brenna. The heat can be unbearable and often forces us inside because Brenna can't sweat. The pool water is too cold for her. (Not to mention the germs of the public pools and waterparks make me cringe a little.)

But this summer went so fast…almost too fast. We never got the chance to take Connor to the waterpark. We never made it to the shaved ice stand.

This summer, we traveled a lot. We took a huge trip out west, and we went to Indianapolis for the FIRST Conference. I flew to North Carolina for the She Speaks Conference, and I went to the Lake of the Ozarks with my friends.

We were consumed by moving from our first home, living with my parents for a few weeks, and then officially moving in our new house. And we stopped in the middle of it all to grieve a huge loss in our family.

It feels like we packed the experiences of about 4 summers into one this year.

And I didn't even have time to feel disappointed about the fact that everyone else is at the pool all day, and we're not. I didn't have time to look wistfully outdoors, wishing temperature didn't have to be so complicated for our girl.

Instead, I'm left reeling at the back-to-school photos, at the mentions of Halloween costume shopping, at the fall football schedules.

And as we get settled into our new home, I'm still grateful for summer's end. Not only because of the heat and other inconveniences for Brenna's skin, but because it was so rushed.

"Unrush me, Lord," I have prayed ever since attending She Speaks and hearing Lysa TerKeurst speak about stepping away from our overwhelmed schedules, so that God can overwhelm our souls (which is the focus of her new book The Best Yes, which is high on my list to read now.)

Rushing means that I am not using my time and talents as I should be. Rushing means that I am not able to take opportunities to serve others. Rushing leaves me anxious, angry, and impatient.

Summer's end is breathing new life into my soul and bringing a new opportunity to unrush myself.

I feel the relief as our new home gets cleaned up and each box is unpacked. We're starting over this fall - in a new home, with a new schedule, with a new school year. A new opportunity to start over once again with my life... to unrush my days, to better serve those around me, to put my family front and center.

This long Labor Day weekend arrived like a wish - a wish for time to slow down a bit, for the rush to ease. As we slide out of summer and welcome the fall season, I am shifting my focus to the rhythm of my family and friends, instead of the rhythm of rush, and after a packed summer, I am hoping to have more opportunities this fall for deep conversations, spontaneous get-togethers, and all of the goodness that comes from not having a schedule that is burdened with too much obligation.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting Handy with the Step2 Home Depot Handyman Workbench!

Moving into our new house has kept our to-do list long, not only with unpacking, but also finishing up little projects here and there from some of the renovations and remodeling we had done. When Step2 sent us the new Home Depot Handyman Workbench, which is a Toys R Us exclusive, the kids couldn't get it out of the box fast enough. 

I really love that it's small enough not to take up a lot of space, and it has been the perfect entertainment for Connor and Brenna as they "help" with our projects around the house!

The workbench comes with several tools, a working drill, screws, a lantern and a really cool truck that the kids can "build" - it looks like wood, but it's actually soft foam!

Just call her Rosie the Riveter :)

The workbench in action…

Whenever we're given a choice of what to review from Step2's new line of seasonal toys, I always try to select one that sparks a lot of creativity from my kids. This workbench has been so wonderful to introduce them to tools and building/crafting/creating. I would estimate about 75% of our playroom time has been spent with our new workbench and our Step2 Lil Chef's Gourmet Kitchen, and I love seeing their imaginations come out through pretend play with these toys!

I received this toy for being part of the Step2 Ammbassador team - no other compensation was provided.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Digging out of boxes

We just got hooked up to the Internet today in our new house, so I've had a forced hiatus from blogging since last week. Which has been a pretty necessary break as I'm still pretty buried under boxes and consumed with cleaning and unpacking.

I also threw an out-of-town trip in the mix, with a weekend get-away with my childhood friends that we've had in the works for several months and I didn't want to miss it, despite moving the day before. I figured the house will be there to be unpacked, but it's not every day you get to have a girls trip on the lake!

The kids have been breaking in the new house and are just as in love with it as we are. Brenna clamors to go to the "playroom!" every spare second, and Connor absolutely adores his new room and closet with ample space to play.

We got new chairs delivered on Monday, and Brenna made herself right at home testing them out :)

Between grocery shopping to stock our fridge and pantry up, finishing up little projects, cleaning, and figuring out where to put everything, I feel like the house has consumed every second since we've moved in… it's all been very exciting, but I am looking forward to the long weekend and whipping up some snacks for college football-watching on Saturday!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Moving into our new home!

Yesterday afternoon, we stormed our new home with cleaning supplies and several willing family members ready to carry, clean, unpack and organize.

And after 5 weeks of excitement and waiting, we spent our first night in our new home!

So much will still be a work in progress, but it honestly feels like a completely different house with simple changes like paint, the new addition of Brenna's bathroom and an upstairs laundry room, and some newness in the kitchen.

Before and after of the living room/family room
Brenna's new bathroom is what she is most excited about. Whenever we talk about the new house, she will exclaim "bathroom!" (There has also been lots of talk about using the bathroom, so *here's hoping* that this will be a good motivator for potty training.)

And oh yeah - our MicroSilk bathtub is installed and ready for lots of soaking and exfoliating baths!

I know it will take a bit to get settled, but I'm so grateful to now be in our new house (and equally grateful to my parents for sharing their house with us for the last 3 weeks!) I'm more than ready to start organizing and find our new routine!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to School!

I looked at my summer calendar... blinked ...and landed on mid-August.

This week, Connor started school again, and I'm left wondering where summer went. How has it already been three months since he dressed up in his St. Louis Cardinals gear for his end-of-the-year baseball party in May?

This year, Connor is proud to be walking into the 4-year-old preschool class, way on the other side of the school building, complete with its own preschool playground right outside of his classroom. He will be attending 3 full days each week, which we decided would be a good transition to 5 full days of Kindergarten next year, and he is excited to get to eat lunch in the cafeteria and bring a lunchbox to school this year.

Connor is much more confident this year. He is very much an introverted person and a homebody, but once we get him out, he is excited for the events and people around him, even if he hangs back watching instead of jumping headfirst into participating.

He is my "quiet activity" kid. He loves to read, to do puzzles, to watch his favorite shows of Wild Kratts or Paw Patrol, to enact elaborate games of pretend - and on any given day, we pretend to be koalas or Berenstain Bears or superheroes. His imagination knows no bounds.

Yet quiet activities don't necessarily mean quiet. Connor does not stop talking or asking questions. Ever. The silence while he was at school on Monday and Brenna was napping was a shocking new reality. I actually heard myself think :)

This school year, Connor, I pray that you hold on tight to your sweet and caring disposition. I hope that your curiosity and imagination never leave you. And I pray that you will always do your best and be your best. My thoughts from when you started school last year all still ring true, and you continue to make me proud every day to be your mom.

Happy school year!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dear Parents: Will You Talk To Your Kids About Differences?

Dear fellow parents,

We do a lot of preparing for a new school year, don't we?

My oldest is still in preschool, and yet I feel the rush already - back-to-school events, shopping for school supplies, new shoes, haircuts, getting my camera ready for the first day of school.

There is shopping to be done, schedules to be coordinated, sporting events to drive to. There is so much  excitement over a fresh start, new school supplies, crisp soccer and football uniforms.

We do a lot of preparing for a new school year…for the classroom and for the sports and other extracurricular activities.

But I've been thinking lately that maybe we should do a little more preparing for the people.

A little more preparing for the friendships, for the conflicts, for the teamwork, and for differences.

Can I ask you to do something for me?

Will you make time to bring up the topic of differences to your children this week?

Talk to them, prepare them for other kids who may be different than they are. They may look different, they may talk different, they may dress different, they may like different things.

Explain to them why differences are so wonderful, why they make each of us so special. Teach them that by loving themselves and by loving others as God created each of us, we are praising God. We are God's masterpieces.

It doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out conversation. It can be a simple explanation, or a casual comment, or you could read some books about being yourself and celebrating differences.

I encourage you to be positive, because there is nothing sad about being different. Differences are a good thing, and kids need to learn empathy and understanding without pity.

This school year, challenge your children - not only in academics, in extracurricular activities, but also in relationships. Challenge them in love, in compassion, in kindness. Challenge them not only to do their best, but to be their best - to themselves and to others around them.

And most of all, let them know that differences aren't so different after all, because we are all different. 

From one parent to another… Thank you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Favorites: August15

I admit that I've kind of been a storm cloud lately, as we're hanging in transition while living with my parents and waiting for renovations to be done on our new house…not to mention preparing for school to start on Monday, grieving after a hard week of losing Evan's grandpa, and other life occurrences. I don't do well without order, so I've been trying to take a deep breath and maintain some level of patience and sanity!

A round-up of some of my favorite things, reads, and events this week…

1. A highlight of our week, and definitely deserving of number 1 on a favorites list, is the Illinois State Fair! Evan and I, the kids and my parents all headed to the fair on Monday night with visions of corn dogs dancing in our heads. We got caught in a 10-minute torrential downpour while at the petting zoo tent, but that did not deter our appetites.

Brenna got her first taste - literally - of the fair, and I think she wants to live there. She downed a hot dog, half a gyro, some lemon shake-up, cheese fries, and soft-serve ice cream - yum! (And I'm not even kidding, she wanted more to eat after we got home.) We saw a bunch of friends, rode some rides (including the Giant Slide over and over with Connor), and admired the famous Butter Cow!

2. Living with my parents has its ups and downs - though many more ups than downs, especially as they've been happy to jump in and help with the kids. It's hard to invade someone else's turf, but one of the perks is less to do around the house. Because I've been feeling a little more stressed with all of the chaos lately, I've been treating myself to some afternoon reading time in the cozy sunroom during Brenna's nap. I pull out my Kindle and a Coke, and pretend I'm on vacation for a half hour :)

3. Speaking of reading, I finally broke open a fiction book (well, as much as you can open a book on your Kindle) with the Young Adult novel Eleanor & Park. I wasn't a huge fan of the language, and between that and the slow start, I almost put it down. But after it got going, I was so into the story, and I couldn't wait to pick it back up.

I also recently flew through Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, and after reading that and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years this summer, he's become a new favorite writer of mine.

4. I discovered that a fellow ichthyosis mom has an adorable online gift shop, The Pretty Chicken, and for the month of August, she's donating $4 from the sale of these fantastic Be Brave bracelets to the Foundation for Ichthyosis (FIRST). At just $8, they're a perfect gift for anyone! I picked up one for myself, and one to give away to someone who needs a sweet reminder about how courageous they are.

Some favorite moments from the week…

My mom broke out a Mr. Potato Head puzzle with decal body parts, and we got a little silly with them one morning :)

Pucker up!

Oh my girl. She is going to be the best mommy one day. She is so smitten over any and all babies, and whenever I tell her we're going somewhere, she wants to know if there will be a baby there. She was ecstatic to get to "hold" her little friend during a recent play date.

We recently had one of those Sundays that was truly a day of rest, and it felt so good. We ignored schedules, to-do lists and any thought of responsibility, and just enjoyed each other. In the afternoon, my mom and I went to the pool with Connor, while the other half of the house took afternoon naps. It was glorious.

Sleepy snuggle time with Daddy

Yesterday, Connor got a haircut, and Brenna was really excited about getting one too. Evan's aunt cuts his hair, and the past few times we've gone in, she'll put Brenna up in the chair to prepare her for her first real haircut (which I think will be soon!)
So yesterday, we plopped her in the chair, draped the cape around her neck, and Evan's aunt picked out her wispy fuzz with her comb, while Brenna exclaimed "haircut tickle!" She even spritzed some hairspray behind Brenna's head and then held up the mirror at the end.

There were some excited squeals from the face in the mirror :)

Happy Friday!

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