What I’m Into (December 2017)

Christmas is approaching, and it’s been a really wonderful season so far. Our kids’ excitement grows exponentially each year as we continue traditions and make new memories.

This year, I was thrilled to discover The Giving Manger for our holiday season. To be honest, I find it exhausting to take on all of the responsibility of the season, and it seems to grow each year…which is why I love this new tradition. It’s completely a family endeavor.

The premise is for our family to create gifts for others the entire month of Christmas – by doing and saying kind and helpful things. Each time we do something nice, we put a piece of straw in the manger. The intent is to fill the manger with straw for Jesus by Christmas Day.

Already, Connor and Brenna are enamored with the idea and have been setting out to do acts of kindness each day. I love this activity and all that it encompasses, and in particular, how empowering it is for the kids. It shifts the season from what can become “entertain me! surprise me! give me!” to “what can I do for others?” Doesn’t get any better than that!

Here’s a round-up of some of my other favorite things going on this month…

I feel like I’m in the middle of a million and three books right now, and I guess I’ll see what sticks. (I no longer push myself to finish a book if I can’t get into it!) Some notable books that I just finished and recommend include Refugee (kid lit, so gripping!), Ordinary Grace (historical fiction that I flew through) and The Happiness of Pursuit.

I’m in the early stages of How to Raise an Adult and in the middle of the thriller The Break Down right now. I’m also listening to All the Light We Cannot See on audio in my car – a new habit now that the kids are in school and I’m driving by myself!

We also just started Ann Voskamp’s devotional Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as a family for the Christmas season, and it’s so beautiful. 

Wanting to be intentional about your holiday shopping for the kids in your life? My post about purposeful gifts has been hugely popular – here is a comprehensive list of gifts for kids that spark imagination, offer exciting experiences, help others and last beyond Christmas Day!

While we’re on the subject of holidays… we’re doing a lot of reading on holiday topics in our house right now. Here’s a great list of beautiful children’s books that focus on Jesus’ birth for Christmas.

Planning holiday menus? I’m a sucker for a good appetizer. If you’re looking for a new recipe, here are some of my go-to appetizers that get gobbled up immediately: cheesy crab points, pepperoni pizza dip, and buffalo chicken bites. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving. Family. This holiday is quickly becoming one of my favorites!

I got a very sweet date with this handsome kid for his school’s mother/son event! We made slime and participated in a karate lesson 🙂

Packing our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child! So proud of these two this year as they both used their own money to purchase items for their shoeboxes…

This was on the fall bucket list for a long time, and we finally got a solid leaf pile-jumping day!

Cutting down our family Christmas tree from my in-laws’ farm. We planted these trees when Connor was born, and now they’re big enough for our living room!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Enjoy this beautiful month of love and giving and celebration!

What I’m Into (October/November 2017)

The first time we got the fire going this year (OK fine, by turning on a switch), it was like a long, deep breath exhaled.

My friend Tara and I had lunch the other week, and she told me how grateful she was for the approaching winter season. I hear so many complaints about the frigid temps of winter, so this was a refreshing perspective. “It feels like the year is making you slow down. It’s dark and cold, and you just get a chance, between the warmer seasons that have so many activities, to relax and sit with your family in front of the fire,” she said.

You may have noticed my blog has been a little quieter lately. Or maybe not; with the flurry of information on social media these days, I’m certain no one keeps very close tabs on this page anymore.

It doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about blogging or personal writing; I probably overthink it, actually. But with my kids both in school full-time, the last few months have given me a chance for more self-reflection than I’ve had the last 8 years, and I’ve been sitting in sort of a middle ground, wondering where I’m headed next.

So this past summer and fall, I’ve been living instead of writing about living. And with winter coming, I’m still in the in-between but feeling hopeful and grateful for the moments of living, big and small. Whatever is ahead, the year is exhaling, and for now, I’m going to cherish sitting with my family in front of the fire…

In front of the fire with a Stegosaurus and Curious George on October 31 🙂

Here’s a roundup of some things that have going on in this neck of the woods…

I hit the summer hard with an abundance of light reading – lots of fiction, plenty of YA novels. Which worked well for the warm season. When fall settled in, I drifted into deeper, slower reads, mostly nonfiction.

I just finished I Was Told to Come Alone, written by Souad Mekhennet, a Muslim journalist for the Washington Post. She shares an extremely unique perspective from interviews “behind the lines of the jihad,” and it helped me to understand better many of the world issues today. I also recently completed Evicted, which was a journalistic delve into poverty and eviction in Milwaukee.

Currently, I’m in the middle of Enrique’s Journey and The Longest Road, and next, I’d like to start Just Mercy, which comes highly recommended.

I’ve also been making it a bigger priority to read aloud with the kids. Sometimes during school days, it’s easy to let that slip, but it’s something that we all enjoy so much, and listening to the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast has been a catalyst for prioritizing this!

This story by my friend Ginger is just INCREDIBLE. She shared it with me when it first began and updated me over time, and I couldn’t wait for her to write about it. I know it will – and already has – change many lives.

“We find friendship with the heart; not the eyes. I have found that teaching acceptance, compassion and kindness must be intentional. As a parent, this can be done by not missing out on an opportunity to have your children interact with someone who is different. The more they are exposed to different, the less it becomes a big deal. Children can learn to see ‘different’, and look past the outside and see the heart.” This post by my friend Stacey is absolutely a must-read.

I had the pleasure of being featured on the podcast Orange Socks, which offers support and encouragement to special needs parents across the globe. I think it’s is so important for us to share our stories, to help our fellow parents find hope and not feel isolated, and after browsing the stories on Orange Socks, I felt so uplifted. You can listen to my interview here.

Someone was THRILLED to lose her first tooth!! She’s been dying to lose a tooth for years – thanks to her big brother’s prolific teeth turnover rate. She would ask me for apples and carrots when it got loose, to help the process along, and she finally wiggled it out while on a field trip!

Connor’s Cub Scout troop got to experience our local hospital’s air evacuation team and helicopter landing in our town. All the kids were able to try out the helicopter – and OK, some of the parents may have also jumped at the chance to sit in it too…

In October, for Neonatal Intensive Care Month, I was honored to have the opportunity to team up with my friend and fellow NICU mom Stacy and her nonprofit Triple Heart Foundation. I donated my children’s book That’s How You Know for care packages to the NICU families. It was a surreal feeling to be back on the NICU floor; I hope that we were able to provide a little light into the day of another NICU family with our delivery.

A certain someone in our family has a favorite song: John Deere Green by Joe Diffy. So when we got to ride on a John Deere combine during fall harvest, she was totally thrilled!

May these darker days of winter bring peace and relaxation – and lots of family time in front of the fire!