Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Another Birthday in the Books

To me, birthdays are a BIG deal. I mean, come on. They are a celebration of the day you entered the world as a tiny baby with perfect little features that only God himself could create. It's a day when you reflect on all the years you've had before you- all the ways you've grown as a person, all the people you've met along the way, and all the memories you have made up until that point. It's not an ordinary day to me, and it never will be.

I try to go big on birthdays, especially for my husband and kids. I'd love to go all out for my friends and family, and I hope that is something that gets better with time, but for now, I count the people I love lucky to get a card on their special day. Going big doesn't necessarily mean big fancy parties with lots of money spent. I'd love to throw a real "pinterest" party, but the fact of the matter is....we can't afford to. And that's okay. Sure, we've done the big cake thing, and Oooed and Aaahhhed at how perfect the cakes were and how much time, effort and talent went into making it,

 but I don't want my kids to look back and remember what we gave them or how much money we spent on them. I want them to remember the memories that were created and how special we made them feel.

So we make it a point to make our kids' birthdays as extra special as we can from waking them up to the birthday song, giving them a special breakfast, letting them choose their dinner destination, writing out their birth stories, sharing memories we've made with them and watching them bask in the love of all of those around them who try to make their day even more special. We've kept certain traditions and changed others up, but regardless of what we do, they know they are loved. They know they are special. They know that I got the best gift of all the day they were born. It is worth far more than lavish gifts for me to see the tears roll down my daughter's face when we throw a surprise party for her even though we only spent $20 on a birthday gift. Carter will never remember what we gave him for each birthday, but when he asks me to tell him about the day he was born over and over, I know he gets it. Engraved in my memory will be the million times Sawyer yelled to anyone who would listen, "Hey, Say happy birthday to me." They get it.

And then there's Dan. He works so hard to provide for our family. He rarely makes time for himself, which can make him irritable at times, but nevertheless, it is evident that family comes first for him. We are so very very blessed by him, by the work ethic he is passing on to our children, by the time he carves out of his busy schedule to spend quality time with us, by flat out showing he loves us every single day. Blessed almost doesn't seem like a powerful enough word to describe it. So on his birthday, I want him to know that I am so thankful he was born. I am thankful he was put into my life by God's own hand. I want him to know that making memories is the best way we can relive these moments over and over again, and so I plan. I plan his birthday/birthday weekend intentionally and intricately because it ranks right up there with my favorite holidays, and fits nicely into the feature presentation that is the last three months of the year.

This year we did something we've done in the past, but it never fails to deliver with it's clear glass lake, aubergine, rust and golden colored leaves, lots of laughter and exploring, and best of all, dreaming about where we want to be and what we want to do years from now. I love to dream, about as much as I love to reflect. There's something about the unknown, the opportunity, the clean slate that makes me incredibly happy.

Lake of the Ozarks does that for us. This is the third year in a row we have made the trek 8 hours south to visit Jeff and Amanda. Jeff has held a special place in my heart since we were in elementary school, and through his friendship with Dan, our friendship was rekindled in high school, and we've made so many great memories in the 9 years we've been friends.

 It hasn't been without it's ups and downs, but we have weathered rocky storms and made it out the other side. Amanda was the cherry on top. I am so thankful to call her friend, and excited to continue to make new memories with them as a couple.

Our weekend looked a lot like card games and laughter, boat rides and steak suppers, birthday breakfast and balloons, baseball games and hot tubs, cave touring and state park exploring, pumpkin spice lattes and boursin cheese, lots and lots of snacks and hard fall cider and most of all,  putting another successful birthday in the books.

Thanks Jeff and Amanda and Casey and Amy for making memories with us. Thanks for helping me make birthdays a big deal. You are #amazeballs.

Monday, October 21, 2013


A few months ago, I expressed on my blog that I was terrified of what the next year was going to bring for our family. Adding an extra $643 into our budget wasn't going to be easy, if even possible on months where unexpected bills popped up. By the time the middle of August came around, I was having trouble sleeping at night. I tried selling what I could, I was trying to cut corners everywhere possible, and weekly I would sit down and do the budget waiting for the ball to drop.

Silly me. God promised me that He had my back. He reminds me of this daily, and yet, I felt like this time he was just kidding. He had gotten us through college where there were numerous occasions where I wondered if we would have groceries on the table or if our electricity bill would be paid. He got us through my student loans when I worked as a preschool teacher on an hourly wage that didn't have benefits or paid sick leave. He got us through those summer months in between when I had an $8 an hour job for less than 25 hours a week, and he got us through those moments when I wasn't getting paid at all, like for example, two weeks off at Christmas.

 So why was I so worried that things would be any different now? He always provided. Always. But then I thought, well this is too many times. If we were smarter with our money this time around, we wouldn't be in this situation. We don't deserve it. You know what? We don't deserve it. God doesn't give us things because we deserve them. It's called grace, Mandi. God's kinda in the business of that. If we just dish out a little faith, he'll send us home with some grace. It's the way he works.

And you know what? He delivered.  Like I knew in my heart he would. Dan's been able to work a lot of overtime, and bless his dear heart, he's doing so with such a graceful and grateful attitude. He doesn't complain about it. He doesn't take out his exhaustion or frustration on his family. In fact, our marriage is better than it's ever been. It's made our family stronger. Not only have we been okay, but our dishwasher, water softener and vacuum took a dump in the last few weeks and have all had to be replaced. We've managed to get those payments squared away and still put food on the table.

I'm not naive enough to believe that's the way it always works or that if I'd had all the faith in the world that I'd be rewarded more. I know that's not true, but I'm learning to have peace with what is and what will be. I know that we will make it through whatever is thrown at us because God told me He won't leave me. I'm never going this journey of life alone. Never.

Sometimes my prayers are answered in a short amount of time. Sometimes it takes months or years. Whatever crossroads you are in right now, life changing or temporarily uncomfortable...please please please remember that God is there. He's listening. He will use this situation to stretch and grow you, and I promise he will use it for good. Somewhere.

Dish out a little faith, and you'll get a little grace in return. Scouts honor.

As for our week?? It was good. The temperature is starting to cool off quickly, and we're spending more time inside. The days are getting unfortunately shorter, but that just means more family time which is always good. Here's a little snippet of our week.

My kiddos participated in the Kinsey 1K. It was very very cold outside, but they were proud of their effort and so was I! It makes me feel good that I'm instilling a love of running in their souls. 

We realized this week that we have not done family photos, and being that it is supposed to snow tomorrow, we are running out of time. Dan's eye was bugging him on Saturday and the temps were in the 30's so yesterday we ended up taking our tripod to the Puddle Jumper in Orange City to take a few there, and my mom finished off the rest by her place. Obviously tripod work is very amateur, but my mom got some good ones and I think we'll have some good ones to choose from for our Christmas card!

We don't have many leaves off the trees yet by us, but that hasn't stopped my kids from raking up every last leaf they can find to create a jumping pile. It is Fall over here by golly. And we are enjoying.
Oh yes...and Jeff and Amanda spent some QT with us Saturday morning, even though Casey, Amy, Dan and I are headed to Missouri to stay with them this weekend for Dan's birthday. My kids were more than thrilled. They love these two. So do we a little bit.

Hope your Monday is off to a better start than mine. It's Moscato Monday over here. Hopefully I'm a lot less irritable tomorrow. :)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Capitalizing on Fall

Last year around this time, my boot was just coming off, and enjoying Fall was one of those things that kind of got away from me. I was too busy rehabing my foot and going away on different weekends, that we kind of just forgot about Fall. For someone who thrives on the last three months of the year, I can't believe that it happened that way, but it did. We ended up realizing a week before Halloween that we hadn't gone to Pumpkinland or even thought about costumes. It wasn't enough to just run in and grab a few prepicked pumpkins. We had to do the whole shebang. It was a tradition afterall. So we headed out to the pumpkin patch and spent 30 minutes looking for 5 pumpkins that weren't smashed or already molding out. It was a challenge to say the least.
Last year's pumpkin picking attempt. It looks much colder last year!

This year, I looked at the ten day forecast, chose a day with the help of my husband that wouldn't be too windy or cold, far enough away from days that had predicted rain, and off we went. Fall delivered in a way that makes my heart skip a beat. The sun was setting. There was golden light. It was a beautiful, crisp Fall evening, and my kids were all in good moods.

I'm pretty sure she picked the largest one in the patch.

They stopped briefly for me to snap a picture before darting through the corn trying to escape their father.

I'm in very few photographs, and that's usually a good thing, but I do want to look back on my children's lives and remember that I was at least a part of the madness. :)

A good old boots picture never gets old. Does it say Fall loudly enough?

Saturday we went in for the kill. We capitalized on Fall big time. It was one of those days where I stood back frequently throughout the day and just said, "I'm so blessed". It wasn't necessarily anything special that made me feel that way. In fact, most of my morning into the afternoon was spent cleaning my house, doing the 17 loads of laundry that needed to be folded and put away, emptying and filling the dishwasher a plethora of times, vacuuming, dusting, etc. However, today was different than most days when I have so much to do that cleaning just becomes "a shakedown", you know, a quick 30 minute, everyone take a station, don't whine about it or you'll end up in your room type of day.

No, Saturday was a little different. We woke up, snuggled, enjoyed each other's company for awhile, and decided to bake some pumpkin crescents. My boys helped me make them, stirring, pouring, and mixing ever so carefully. I made a perfect Fall sangria. Jaedyn came home from a sleepover around lunch time, and shortly thereafter, Dan came home from work. And then something magical happened. Everyone...and I mean EVERYONE pitched in. Everyone helped out with everything, and there was NO COMPLAINING. None. They just all took a spot and got down to business. It was incredible. In three hours, we had cleaned six rooms and folded and put away loads of laundry in the double digits. I don't know if it was because they knew that if they all pitched in, we'd get to decorate our pumpkins faster, but even so, I was floored and very proud of them.

He's my wingman when it comes to opening up those darn tubes. I hate em.

Powdered sugar is so tasty.

If you look carefully you can see the spit in the palm of his hand. You're welcome.

LOVED these. Glad they only made 8 as I gave away five and Sawyer and I split the rest. I have to do what I can to get rid of the goods so that I don't eat them all. Nobody, but Sawyer or I likes pumpkin in this family so I guess if you live close, you may be lucky on the receiving end!
Very yummy Fall Sangria- 1 bottle of moscato, 24 oz of sprite, a pear, a honeycrisp apple, and some raspberries.

He loves to do the laundry and pause to dance a little jig inside the washing machine. I really should have a video.

Painting was our medium of choice this year. Dan used his drill to create some cool pumpkin designs with his and Jaedyn's pumpkin, while the boys and I decided to get crafty with our paint. We are all pretty proud of our creations. :)

Jaedyn's disco ball.

Dan is VERY proud of this creation, and I must say, he is very talented with that drill.

My contribution to the pumpkin decorating. Thank you pinterest!

We ended the evening with a movie on the big screen. Jaedyn surprised us with some smoothies and popcorn while we sat down to watch Hotel Transylvania. It was a perfect Fall day indeed. As I finish this post, I'm feeling stressed because I'm trying to get it finished quickly. My writing isn't what it could be, and I'm sure I will hit publish when I should be proofreading for errors, but my four year old has been whining that he wants to play a game on the computer. The TV is blaring loud. My 10 year old wants my help to write a story, and I could really use a nap, and yet when I stand back and look at it from a different perspective, I realize that my crazy, chaotic life is only going to be this way for a short amount of time. Too soon, my kids will be grown up and it will be just Dan and I in our empty house. So I'll take a deep breath and enjoy the noise while it lasts. Happy Sunday!