Thursday, January 30, 2014


We are going to Disney World in February, and we are literally counting down the days.


The girls are so excited, and let's be real honest here - I am super excited.  For the trip, we will have four adults and two kiddos, which sounds pretty amazing.  And, though I know the girls will still have hard moments, even at the "Happiest Place on Earth," I really believe they will overall have a great time.  They have been involved in their own wardrobe planning for the trip, which has involved several conversations about which princesses they should dress as on which days.  It's really all quite precious.

But, and I am going to be really honest here again, I find myself torn.  I think that I am glad about the tension inside of myself, but I sometimes wish I could take life a little less seriously.  I mean - it's a trip to Disney World.  Who doesn't want to do that?  And, I do want to do it - that's not the tension.

The tension is this:  I do not want my children believing that Disney World is the peak of all that life has to offer.

I realize that most of the responsibility for this lies with me, the parent.  I want them to have a great time and enjoy it, but I don't want life to feel empty when it's done.  As I've wrestled in my heart with this, I've realized that I want them to know that life is about so much more than a fun trip - though it is an amazing blessing and perk.  Life is about loving the God that we serve and loving others.  

I know teaching them about eternal things and setting their eyes on things above is harder than counting down the days to Disney World, and that is why I find it easy to get trapped in doing what is easy.  I am hoping and praying that they see the Lord in our lives and the different ways that we pour them out.  We are trying to involve them in service, and I know that as they grow older, the opportunities we have to teach will expand.  We talk about people that live differently than we do, and we try to help build a world perspective into them.  Adoption has been a great way to get them asking questions and thinking differently.

And though I pretend that my kiddos need these lessons more than I do, it's something I am still learning and battling.  Yesterday, a guy from our life insurance company came for us to review our policies.  We went through all of our finances and heard more options about socking away money for the future.  It all sounds so good - to have money tucked away for the unknown future and be masters of our financial destiny.

But - this is also not where life is at.  At least, it's not where God wants us to live our life.  We do want to be responsible and plan for the future - especially for our children.  But, I don't want our security to be there, and I also know that we need to be giving a lot along the way.  I firmly believe that we have been blessed to be a blessing and for us to hoard a bunch of money for our future would cause us to miss out on so many giving options all along the way.

Colossians 3:1-2
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

That is far harder than it sounds.  In fact, I think it will be a lifelong journey and battle.  Until then, I will count down the days to Disney and make life insurance decisions while asking the Lord to continue working in our family.  He knows what is best for us, and I believe he will continue to show us what those things are.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


In honor of the polar vortex that is sweeping our nation yet again, I am posting the pictures I took back on Lily's birthday.  Since I came down with the stomach bug later that night and had the birthday party that weekend, I never got around to using these pictures.

In my normal day to day life I don't have a large amount of time for introspection.  And, when I do have time for looking within, I often don't look that far or deep.  My mental energy is usually taxed and spent.


Our church is going through Galatians and talking about grace.  They are preaching it from the pulpit, and we are reading an excellent book on it in our small group.  I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember.  It has been an accepted fact in my life.  But, as an adult, I can see that really, truly grasping God's grace is a lifelong journey.


It requires me looking inside and seeing the depravity in my own heart.  I don't have to look far for that.  I only have to remember back to yesterday.  My selfishness rears its ugly head time and time again.  Sometimes it is more subtle and "justifiable" and all the more dangerous for it.  I want "me time."  I don't want to mess with the logistics and realities of potty training or the heart work that goes along with it in our house.  I don't want to be flexible when my husband needs to change plans.  I don't want to wash the bottles again.  I don't want to put a Puff in my baby's mouth every 45 seconds.  I just want to be left alone to craft, peruse Pinterest and blogs and spend money online for things we don't really need.


But God will not leave me in that state, and I am so thankful.  My default is so ugly.  I don't get things right in my own strength, and even if they look right on the outside, I can assure you that my heart is a mess.  I want people to notice me and sing my praises, though I hate to admit it.  I am not a people-pleaser, but instead, I expect and imagine that people will hold me in high esteem.  It's not pretty in here.


But his grace covers it all.  All of the ugly.  Grace transforms the ugly, wintered woods of my heart into something beautiful.  Something fresh and new and only from him.


Several times over I have read the idea that the longer I walk with God, the more I will realize my need for him.  I don't look better, but slowly and surely, God is transforming my heart, and part of that transformation is realizing my utter need for him.


So, today I am thankful.  It's all grace.  The good and the bad that happen - all of it.


Jesus came to bring the dead to life, to trade a heart of stone for a heart of flesh.


I need to preach this to myself daily, hourly, secondly, because I quickly forget that all is grace, and it is a free gift that I may humbly accept.  Thank you, Lord.

Monday, January 27, 2014


These are the sounds of my life right now, and this little post will help me remember it many years from now when this time is a hazy fuzz of forgetfulness.  Anytime one of the big girls tattles on the other, John and I look at one another and say, "Thump thump."  We decided that is the sound that is made when someone gets thrown under the bus.  We pretty much say it all the time.

"Bella was hitting me."

Thump, thump.

"Lily won't share the puzzle."

Thump, thump.

"I am sick of Bella talking.  And, she colored on the wall/book/table/floor/couch."

Thump, thump.

"Lily is not answering me, and she pulled my hair."

Thump, thump.

I'm sure other parents with preschoolers can relate to this.  John actually said, "I am so glad that I know that other kids tattle, otherwise, I would just think that ours were extreme tattlers."  I'm pretty sure that's not the case.  I imagine that they are both extraordinarily average in this area, and we basically ignore it and/or send them back to deal with it themselves.


Good thing they are so cute.  Bella's potty training has taken many twists and unfortunate turns in the past several weeks.  Currently, I am letting her wear the much coveted Frozen dress on days when there is success and progress.  Otherwise, it hangs in the bathroom, far from reach.  Today there was success, so we shall celebrate today and small victories.


The other sound that epitomizes my life right now is "Crunch crunch."  That's the sound that is made when you step on a wayward Cheerio or Puff.  And many seem to have lost their way in our home.


Though they usually start in the kitchen, I am amazed at where I will step on them.  This Puff travel is facilitated by older sisters who will bring Puffs to babies in many locations in our home.  And then I step on them.  Inevitably.

But, who am I to deny Puffs from these faces?  Not on my watch.


This is the soundtrack of my life.  Well, these sounds and Frozen music, obviously.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Last year, we found out about the twins and normal life ceased to exist.  I did not plan for meals.  It was like food happened to us, and I am still not exactly sure what we ate from about March 25 to late December of this year.  The meal calendar that lives on our refrigerator was stuck on the week that  the life storm of twins came through - much like the calendar at the glass factory when a storm wiped it out.  People graciously brought us meals for several months, and I know we've had a lot of CFA, but other than that, it has been pretty patch work.

So, at the beginning of this month, I decided it was time to reclaim dinner time.  I am capable of making meal plans, and it is so helpful when I actually do it.  I don't run into the constant problem of 4 p.m. reoccurring every day, like it so often does, and me not having any clue what we will eat for dinner that evening.  And, it seems like the people at my house expect to eat dinner every single night.  So high maintenance.

I looked back in my Evernote from last January.  Side note: do you use Evernote?  If not, then you should.  It's like a magical note keeper/life organizer/list maker app that you can use on your phone and computer.  I especially like to use it when I am party planning to keep track of everything, and it has proven its worth in the meal planning biz as well.

This is what it looks like when pulled up online.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 3.59.47 PM

I plan for three weeks at a time, and I have figured out that actually cooking 3 meals in a week is what works for us.  We usually eat out for one dinner a week, and eat at CFA for another one, and the other nights we can do leftovers or breakfast for dinner or pull out a freezer meal.  I like a lot of variety, so I went back to Pinterest and looked at the fun recipes that I have pinned, and I put those links into the Evernote, so I can pull them up from my phone while cooking.  This works well for me, and I love it.  It has felt really good to have a plan again, and we are certainly eating much better than we were.

Some of the things we've had in the last three weeks that I rediscovered a love for and would highly recommend are:
Grilled Pork Chops with Balsamic Caramelized Pears
Spinach Tortillini Soup
Panera's Stove Top Mac N Cheese
Tiramisu Toffee Dessert

In other food related news, I bought a food dehydrator.  Here was my reasoning.  Yogurt Melts are expensive, even the off brand.  I thought to myself, there has to be a way to make these cheaper, and with four kids eating them, I need to.  After researching at-home-freeze-drying, which is not a thing, I discovered that you can dehydrate yogurt.  I don't think my first attempt is going to be successful.  I forgot to look up instructions until after I had already put the yogurt on the paper.  All sites recommended lightly greasing the paper beforehand.  So, then I sprayed Pam onto the yogurt drops in a desperate attempt to save them.  They are drying right now, but I don't think it's going to work out.  However, there is great hope for the future, and since the dehydrator cost me $30 on Amazon, if I make enough Yogurt Melts to fill 10 bags worth, I will regain my investment.


I would like to figure out how to dehydrate other stuff too, but I haven't gotten that far.  I also didn't account for the bulk of the thing, and I am not sure where it will be stored when not in use.  These are serious first world problems.

Well - if you were needing some inspiration to start meal planning, I hope this helped!  And, if you were going to start making your own yogurt melts with a dehydrator, I hope you have been warned against randomly spraying Pam over yogurt.  It does not look appealing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Right this very second, I should be picking up my disaster of a kitchen and probably starting to mix frosting for cookies.  Unfortunately, my energy level is low due to this cold that I have and the general lack of sleep at our house right now, so I am sitting on the couch trying to work up the where with all to do much else.  So, sedentary blogging it is!

I did muster the energy to wrangle the babies for 9 month pictures when we got home from Mother's Day Out.  I thought about waiting a couple of days until Violet looks a little less pitiful, but, I don't know when that will be.  When I spoke with the doctors office, they said that sometimes a cold can take about 2 weeks to run its course.  Joy.  So, Violet doesn't look quite as perky as usual in these pics, but she doesn't seem to feel that bad, which I am so thankful for.

I feel that we are right in the thick of it with the twins.  Having two babies at once really is more difficult than I even thought it would be.  We are feeding them solids twice a day, and William usually is much easier to feed than Violet, still.  Though we do now know they are delayed, they are still making physical progress, which is really encouraging.  They love being in their bouncers, and they are both becoming so vocal, especially William.

Can you believe they have been around for 9 whole months?  Me either.


How's Violet doing at 9 months old?  Well, this week she has a cold that is clouding her little life a bit.  Bless her heart.  She is starting to sleep moderately better at night, which is encouraging.  Though she is in no way mobile yet, she is an incredibly active baby.  She is constantly kicking and moving and grabbing.  She loves people, and especially loves watching and being near her two older sisters.  Her smile covers her entire face, with her cheeks trying to bury her bright eyes.


And 9 months finds William possibly getting teeth.  That is the only thing we can point to for the upswing in high screeching screaming coming from his crib in the night that is only assuaged by a bottle.  His sleep has gone backwards, unfortunately, so it sort of feels like we can't win.  (But we are less angry about it in the night, so I guess we are winning.)  I am very much hoping that the teeth start coming out of hiding, because this build up to their appearance has not been pleasant.  But, William is still pleasant much of the time.  He is really a very happy baby who responds to people so well with his precious smile that lights up his whole face.


Anytime we sit them next to one another, Violet tries to get William's paci.  Like she doesn't have her own.


The girls wanted in on this photo shoot, which I was loathe to do, because I just wanted to be done.  In the first picture, you can see that Bella actually wanted to try to take a selfie with William.  By the second picture, the babies and I were over it all.


William and Violet, you are loved beyond words, and we are forever grateful that God put you in our family.  Happy 9 months!

Here are the other months!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


This month is a blur.  I think hopping from holidays to birthday to regular life just makes it whiz by.  Here's what's up at our house in the high/low format that I'm so fond of.

High:  Things are a bit slower around here, and that is for the best.  We still have four kids, now FIVE  and under, but we have a little less going on, which definitely allows us to enjoy more of our time.  These two in particular are getting cuter by the day.


Low:  We have been battling a wide range of illnesses since right before Lily's birthday party.  I got a mild stomach bug two nights before the party, and both John and Rachel had it the Monday after.  In the past week, many of us have had various cold symptoms, and Violet had pink eye in one eye and then in the other eye.  Thankfully, no one else has gotten it.


(Such a pitiful face.)

Low:  It is never fun to take all four kids to the doctor's office by myself.  The girls like to ask about 50 billion times if they or anyone else along on the trip will have to get shots.  And then they often ask the nurses and the doctor, if they are paying attention.  To say they are paranoid would be a vast understatement.


Low:  Both of William's baths in the last week have been prompted by finding him in the bouncer, bouncing in poop.  Ahh the delights of infancy.  (That's a poopy foot in the picture, for you viewing pleasure.)


High:  The afternoon light in my house has been really delightful.  This time of year it bathes the house during and just after nap time, casting rainbows throughout the entryway.  Light has a cheering effect that I have been grateful for.

(Lily has also enjoyed the light.)

High:  We've had a few really beautiful days that were good for playing outside, which is always so welcome in January.


Low:  That sweet Bellapotomus face pictured above and below is not the Bella that I get all the time.  Being three years old is very tough work, and we have had some pretty major battles in the last couple of weeks.  She very much seems to question whether John and I are actually in charge.  And in some of those moments, I have very much questioned whether or not I want to be in charge.  But, I know in the long run, fighting and winning these battles now will be worth it.  I hope.  And pray.


High:  Lily has become more vocally affectionate, which I am really cherishing.  When I told her today that she was "one of the sweetest girls in the world," she told me that I am "the sweetest mommy in the world."  Coming from a child that likes to keep her cards close to her chest, this is incredibly heart-melting.


High:  Doing life with our great friends is always a high.  One day last week, a friend and I managed to do breakfast, lunch and dinner together.  It makes me feel dramatically more sane when I get to do this mothering gig alongside other people that I love.  The kids love it too as a major added bonus.


High:  John and I got a much needed date night this weekend.  We left the house with nothing planned, and because of the aforementioned cold symptoms, we were a bit indecisive.  That all proved to be in our favor, and we had a great evening that included dinner at a new-to-us restaurant, the new Jack Ryan movie and dessert at an old favorite restaurant.  I love hearing about what's really going on in his head - it's amazing how easy it is to miss stuff in daily life.


Low:  Violet developed a bit of a nasty cough that reached its fever pitch while we were at the girls' gymnastics class yesterday afternoon.  Which is totally the perfect place for that to happen, since we are in a waiting room full of concerned onlookers.  Many of my friends were there too, which was actually helpful, because there was always someone to hold William.  At one point, however, a stranger came over to inquire, and then Violet's nose started to bleed a fair amount.  Nothing like making a scene with a large crowd of witnesses.  While I was waiting on a call back from the nurse at our doctor's office with advice on what to do, I had a precious woman try to tell me not to shower with the twins, all in broken English that I had a hard time following.  I'm not sure why she thought I put the twins in the shower.

After more bloody noses and coughing last night, Violet woke up a different baby today.  We are getting smiles again, and the coughing has subsided considerably.  It's so nice to see happy Violet again.


High:  John brought home flowers after the rather tough day yesterday, and then he offered to stay home with Violet this morning so that I could still catch part of my women's Bible study.  He's a keeper for sure.


I'm hoping that we can kick these colds to the curb.  I am ready to have my energy back, and I certainly need it.  All I feel like doing is laying on the couch, and unfortunately, that is not an option. So, we continue on.  Tis the season.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


This week, we had the babies evaluated by a local organization that tracks infant development.  At our six month doctor visit, both babies were not meeting certain motor skills markers, and that was confirmed at our Wednesday appointment.

Three different therapists were at our house for 1.5 hours smack in the middle of lunch time.  It was a little harried, and there are many questions that I need to be asking that I didn't think of in the moment.  Both babies are doing really well vocally, but they both have pretty big delays in fine and gross motor skills.  They are recommending that we do physical therapy twice a week, and my brain is now whizzing with options and questions that need to be answered.


These are unchartered waters for our family, but not totally unexpected based on some of the twins' medical history.  The good news is that no one was doom and gloom, and we look forward to seeing their progress once they get into therapy.  They do continue to progress at home - it is just slower than it "should" be.

I've had a lot of different responses to this turn of events.  I've asked myself questions like, "Is this because I didn't give them enough tummy time?"  "How in the world will I possibly get them caught up?"  "How will I do the mounds of paperwork that face me?  Again?"

Pretty quickly, I realized that those questions were all about me.  And, though I am sure that more tummy time would have done them well - I haven't done things differently with them than I did with the older girls who did not have these issues.  The twins came with these issues, and though I wish for them that they hadn't, these delays are not the end of the world.

When I look back and see how God so clearly put them in our family and made me their mother, I know that things will work out for all of our bests.  God chose me to mother them and knew that I would be inadequate in many ways, and he gave them to me anyway.  He knew we would be the best for each other, and I find an enormous amount of comfort and grace in that.  This does not depend on me alone, and God knows exactly what is right for William and Violet.  He has known all along.

I am excited to see the twins make progress.  I am less excited about filling out paperwork, but I can see that doing an adoption did prepare me well for trying to figure stuff like this out.  In the meantime, I am praying that God will equip us all for the task in front of us.  I am continually amazed at the different curve balls that come while we parent, and I am so thankful to walk with a God who promises wisdom to those who ask for it.  And I feel a little desperate on the wisdom front.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I thought that cute princess band-aids would be a fun stocking stuffer for the girls this year.  For reasons only known to my frantic Christmas shopping self, I ordered them from Amazon and got four boxes shipped free with Prime.  With this wealth of band-aids, the girls - especially Bella - have sometimes found ways to "need" them.

"I'm hurt!  I need a band-aid."
"There is a little bit of blood."  (read: tiny, itty bittiest of scratches)
"I have a boo boo.  A band-aid will make it better."


These are the band-aid refrains that ring in my ears several times a week.  And, I get it.  Ariel is beautiful, and I can understand that Bella wants her swimming around her  finger.  It makes everything feel better.  Especially when nothing is really feeling that badly to start with.

While my mom, the elementary school nurse, was here for Lily's birthday weekend, she noticed that Bella had a large rash at the base of her back.  I had seen her scratching it, but I hadn't realized how raw it was looking.  With my mom's insistence and help, we decided to put some cream on it to help clear it up.

You would have thought that we were pulling out her nails one by one if you could have heard Bella screaming.  I know it was not painful, but the fit that she threw was still quite pronounced.  In the morning, the rash was dramatically better, and I have not seen her clawing at her back anymore.

It got me thinking about the things that I make out to be a big deal.  I wonder how often God listens to my prayers and thinks, "I see you asking for a band-aid for that little tiny thing.  What about the giant rash that you are not addressing?  Don't you feel the itch?  Aren't you actually raw?  Don't you see how much help you really need?"

As someone that has always felt capable and competent (to a certain extent), I was used to thinking that I could handle things.  Having four kids has helped me realize my depravity and lack more quickly than I used to.  I really cannot do it.  When someone always needs something and someone else is always crying about something else, I want to retreat into myself and not deal with anything.  It feels overwhelmingly hard many moments during the day, and please don't get me started on how it feels in the night.

So I find myself praying and asking God for the band-aid of having my babies sleep through the night consistently.  But, in my heart of hearts, I can feel God telling me to look at the bigger picture and to ask for bigger help than that.  The help really needs to come to my heart.  I need more of Christ's servant attitude and love and grace that comes while dealing with my children at times that don't feel convenient for me.  God doesn't develop those qualities by using easy and fun things.  No - instead, he places us in situations and circumstances that cause us to cry out to him.

He uses the giant rashes in our life to make us more like himself, and while I may not like it, I can either wither and fail by sinking more into myself and what I want (which does happen sometimes), or I can lean into the Lord's strength, where all grace, peace and strength can be found.  It is there in abundance - waiting for me to ask.  Waiting to be poured out in my moments of utter weakness.

Bit by hard fought bit, I am learning that going through the hard things is where the beautiful growth comes from.  And though refining hurts sometimes and is most certainly exhausting, I want to be more like Christ, and this is what it takes in my life.

All of that said, I won't be sad when the babies do sleep all night most nights.  I'm only human, after-all.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


My brain doesn't appear to be working very well right now, and that is what I am blaming for the super-long, non-catchy title.  This fall took the cake on us having a busy schedule, but I know someone who was a bit busier - my brother in law, Luke of Main Street Studios.  Because he is so good at what he does, his fall was packed full of people clambering to have their pictures made.  Including us.  And, he graciously took our pictures right in the middle of all of his busy.

We used a couple of them on our Christmas card, and I got the rest of them this week, to my great delight.  Both times we took the pictures, William - aka one of the smiliest babies - was not in a smiley mood, but Luke did manage to get a little grin.

Here's my new favorite picture of the twins together to date.


And here's Violet, our sweet bonus girl.


It's amazing that they are already looking a bit different from these portraits!  They seriously change so much in the first year.  Here's precious William.


We used the best family pics on our Christmas card, but there were a few more fun ones.  You have to understand that getting any good shots right now with our crew feels like a miracle.


This is a great behind-the-scenes shot of what it takes to get baby pictures of twins.  It is no joke.


And, I love the reckless abandon of children that can be seen so clearly in this shot that features Lily.


I am so thankful that Luke so graciously captures our family and children at each stage.  Soon, it will be time for nine month pictures - I can hardly believe it!

(To see other pics Luke has taken of our family, click here!)