Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Falling Forward

We're all sitting on the cusp of something new. It is a natural time to look back on 2014. Hopefully it's a time of celebrating love and success and joyful moments. Usually it's also a time to lament loss and sadness and disappointment. Loved ones passed away, missed job opportunities, difficult relationships.

Unfortunately it's usually the hard stuff that we grab hold of. We cling to what we perceive as our failures, recall all the things we didn't achieve, the resolutions we forgot about in February, the accomplishments we wanted to have by now, whether it's the new car or the new house or the new relationship. Why do we do that? Because most of us do that.

Ann Voskamp did what she does best by writing beautifully and eloquently and truthfully about looking back on a year and being stuck in it. Just stuck in the muck, tires spinning, nothing steady to grab hold of. Or at least that's how we often feel.

Let's do what she learned. What we all need to learn over and over again since it appears that we are quite forgetful humans. Let's Fall Forward. Let's learn from our mistakes and expectantly look forward to what's coming. Even if what's behind us brought fear or scars or hurt. Let's focus on the good that happened. The unexpected joy in a hard day. The laughter in the middle of a whole mess of tears. The love experienced in the midst of hurt. Let's search out the goodness. Let's make a list of it if we have to. A gratitude journal or a mental list each morning before we step out of bed and greet our beautiful, horrible world and its news headlines and busted up marriage and sick kids and infertility and all of it.

Because taking a few minutes to focus on the good in the middle of the broken changes things. It changes us.

So make your resolutions or choose your one word. Ring in the new year with champagne toasts and kisses as you watch the ball drop in Time's Square or fall asleep at 8:30. No matter how you celebrate or don't celebrate, just make sure you get up tomorrow and fall forward to the possibility of life lived, loved given and received. Get up tomorrow certain that life is going to throw some unexpected curveballs your way in 2015 and some of them will be straight-up rotten, but equally certain that you will laugh and learn and smile and be okay. Sometimes great. Sometimes horrible. Sometimes overjoyed. Sometimes lost. Always loved.

I just know I want less hurt. Less hurt in our individual lives and less hurt in our communities and world. And I believe that this happens when we love. When we love ourselves and feel love by others and share love with others.
buy it here. I already did!

So, Fall Forward.

Thank you for being a part of my life, for reading my little words on the big internet, for commenting and sharing and coming back. I really appreciate it and I really appreciate you.

Wishing you a joyful, beautiful 2015. How are you celebrating? And what are you looking forward to?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

You knew it was coming-the Christmas recap

It took me longer than usual to get in the spirit. The warm Colorado temperatures, the lack of snow, and missing some of our tried and true MN traditions like caroling with friends, kids' Christmas piano recitals, and the church musical, left December feeling decidedly un-Christmas-like for me. Instead we hiked and the kids and Jim skied and we visited homeschool co-ops to start in January and we worked our tails off to get as much school as possible done.

Then the temperatures dropped a bit and the snow started to fall, we started to make cookies and started some new traditions with my mom and Keith and my cousin and his family. The gifts were wrapped and the excitement built. The bible verses were read, full of waiting and wondering and anticipating the beautiful gift of Jesus that had been prophesied about for ages.

The spirit of Christmas grabbed hold. And it was beautiful. It is beautiful.

I think Christmas Eve might be my favorite day of the year. Although, like picking my favorite child or my favorite season of the year, it is impossible to decide since there are so many good days. At any rate, it is a quiet family day for us, full of our own little traditions that make me so happy and help me focus on the beauty of the season, the coming of my Savior, the little baby who changed the world, the love of my family.

We play games, we read books, we wrap any last minute gifts, we hang out. This year we baked cookies. Some years we play in the snow. It is a day for relaxing and family. I put soup in the crockpot so a steaming hot and delicious smelling meal is waiting for us when we return from church. We go to church in the late afternoon and sing Silent Night, candles held tightly, just as darkness falls. After church we drive around to look at Christmas lights.
making Jim's favorite cookies


This year the three big kids sat and sang all of our favorite songs. Elliot got hot and took off his sweater and sat in church in his tres shirt. Asher stood on my lap and waved his arms to conduct the musicians, said "dance, dance, dance" every time the music stopped, and actually made it through the entire service without having to be escorted to the back by his bouncer mama or dada.

The church service was beautiful. The pastor talked about her Christmas tree as a child. How they would leave it on when they went to church on Christmas Eve and when they came home the glow of the lights would illuminate the living room. How God sent Jesus to do just that, illuminate the dark. How we are called to do just that, be light in a dark world. Then they turned the lights off and we held our candles and sang Silent Night. I looked down the row and saw my husband and three of my kids staring at their lights, singing gently so as not to blow the candles out, and tears streamed down my face at the love felt within that room and the love shown to the world by Jesus and the opportunities to love we are given each day and the love I felt for the little Asher-boy in my lap and the rest of my family as I watched them. Jim smiled at me over the tops of those four little heads because he knows I always cry in moments like that. It was just such a tender, holy, big moment. One of those moments where my heart is so filled with love that my eyes overflow with tears.
In front of the tree at church
Admittedly, light viewing was a bust this year as we weren't sure where to look in our new town and the internet wasn't much help. The kids didn't seem to notice and as it goes with all big days, something has to fall off the tracks. In case we thought things were going according to plan, I forgot the Christmas CDs in the house, the Christmas radio station wasn't playing Christmas songs which we thought was crazy talk, and we are so far out in the sticks that Pandora radio wouldn't work. So, we provided our own Christmas carols and sang loud and proud. No one got carsick and Asher was mostly entertained so yeah, us for the win!
in front of the tree at home

under the stockings lovingly made by Jim's aunt

Choochie Face and his gift, lovingly wrapped by Elliot
We got home to kielbasa soup (for the record, eeewwww) that the rest of the family asked for and I love them so I say yes to soup requests involved processed meat product approximately twice per year. That's true love, folks. We ate and got PJed up and I put Asher to bed. The rest of us snuggled up under cozy blankets with popcorn bowls resting on our laps to watch The Nutcracker Ballet, just like we do every year. We all have our favorite dances and we love the music and Elliot said he could watch it about seven times a year without getting bored. But we watch it just this once because that is what makes it special.
Snuggled in to watch The Nutcracker ballet
We got the rest of the kids to bed after cookies and carrots were left out for Mr. Claus and his helpful little reindeer, made all the more important because of the visit from Santa we had earlier in the week.
Ready for Santa
Jim and I made Christmas morning coffee cake and egg bake, then played the part of the elves and got the house ready for Christmas festivities the next morning before heading to bed ourselves, knowing it would be an early morning for our excited children.
Displaying IMG_20141224_225009813.jpg
Ready for kids on Christmas morn
Christmas morning dawned bright and early. Scratch that. . . dark and early. We raced out to the living room to see what was in stockings and to open the gift that Santa brought. Audrey got cowgirl boots and two tickets to Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella in February. Isaac and Elliot got Nuggets t-shirts and tickets to see the Nuggets play the Timberwolves in January. We discovered we are a house divided because Isaac's rooting for the Wolves and Elliot for the Nuggets. Should be fun! Asher got a little table just his size for the school room so he can read his books and play with his little boys just like a big kid. All the kids were very pleased.
checking out their stockings

happy with all those hair binders

So happy sitting at his own little table
We had breakfast and then headed back for more gifts. Jim and I give each child three gifts. Something to wear, something to read, and something to play. Then each child gets one more gift from the siblings. Four gifts, plus one from Santa, for each kid keeps the house from getting crazy with toys, helps us focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas, and has the added bonus of allowing us to afford groceries for our family. Details, details, right?
Teamwork to bring me my big gift

he's unwrapping his own gift!!!

Broncos/Vikings fan

A happy Anne of Green Gables reader

whispering Christmas secrets 
fierce skier ready to hit the slopes

brothers. love.

happy mama. happy baby

Lego building

Heroes of Olympus
The kids loved the books they received and Audrey, upon opening her Anne of Green Gables series said, "Oh, aren't new books so beautiful?" Isaac and Elliot promptly zoned out with their Heroes of Olympus and Droon books, respectively. Legos were built. Teeth were eventually brushed. At least I think we all got around to that. Pjs were eventually swapped for clothes. We've played many fantastic games of Ticket to Ride together and Audrey is looking forward to cashing in her gift certificate to the pottery paint shop in town. The gifts weren't extravagant by any means, but we try to get things they love. Hopefully we succeeded. The smiles indicate we did.

My mom came over for a nice lunch and the snow started to fall. It was just lovely. Isaac, Audrey, and Elliot drove home with my mom to spend the night and help her shop on the 26th since she was waiting to score some sweet deals as we are celebrating with my grandparents and my brother and his family later this week. That's when we'll have the family-filled, noisy, grand Christmas celebration. We're happy to have that one to look forward to, but there is just something wonderful about our simple, quiet (you know, for six people) Christmas Eve and Christmas at home.

How did you celebrate? What was your favorite gift? 
P.S. Bonus points if you made it all the way to the end of this loooong and picture-filled post. Looks like you're ready to tackle Gone with the Wind now.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

One Word

It is 5:14 here in the mountains. I just got Asher back to sleep and I'm sitting in the silence of the house, typing by the light of the Christmas tree. It is delightful. I am working on a post about Christmas Eve and Christmas because, boy oh boy, did we do Christmas Eve and Christmas right. I love the little traditions we have within our little family of six. I love the ease and fun of it. I also love looking forward to the noise and chaos of our family celebrations coming up later this week when our house is bursting with visitors from three different states. Card games and family meals, gifts and laughter, time at the slopes and, most importantly and best of all, time together after being apart for too long.
Yes, good stuff.

That's what's coming up, probably tomorrow, but for today, I want to think ahead to New Year's and New Year's resolutions in particular. I am not a huge resolution maker. I think of small changes I'd like to make and then forget about them a few weeks or, if I'm lucky, months later. I think it was last year that I resolved to wear earrings every day. I started strong, but fell off the wagon. I don't think I'm alone in that, whether the resolution involves earrings, time spent at the gym, money saving plans, changes in parenting style, time spent staring at screens, or investing more time in hobbies.

This year I'm going to try something a little different. Well, it's different for me. I've heard of other people doing it and decided to be more serious about it this year. I'll give you the details and you can decide if you'd like to join me.

This year instead of a long list of goals, which all too often amounts to a wish list forgotten by March, (did someone say February?) I'll be choosing one word. ** One word to focus on throughout the year, to hopefully bring accountability and change and growth to the areas of my life that need it the most. Some people have chosen love or faith or intentional or organization or give, the list goes on and on, and used that one word to shape their lives, the mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial aspects of it.

I've spent much of December thinking about my word and thinking about the pieces of my life that need the most attention. As personal history has indicated, I don't think a long list about keeping the house clean and exercising more and eating better, etc. is the way to go. So, I'm going with One Word. And I wondered if you might want to join me.

Lately I've been following along with Katie as she focused on the word Peace for 2014. Each Sunday she checks in on her blog, posts a picture or quotation, and writes about how peace worked in her life, how she made her life more peaceful.

I will be stealing her idea, with her permission of course, since imitation is the highest form of flattery. Each Sunday I will check in here and then once a month she and I will link up to give others a chance to tell us how they see their one word working in their lives or how they are doing on their resolutions. For those who don't have blogs, but still want to play along for accountability, you can comment on the blog or on my facebook page to keep the conversation going that way. Fun? I hope so. Helpful? It will be for me and I hope it'll help you, too.

There is nothing magical about January 1. Nothing sacred in the flipping of the calendar to a new year. We can make changes within ourselves any time of the year. We can be a better version of ourselves in our choices each day and each hour and each minute. Yes, during the hard times, it is a minute by minute basis for me. With that said, there is something unique about January 1. There is something lovely about a brand new planner, full of possibility, dreams, and adventures just waiting to be had.

So, if you'd like, think about your word. I'll be back on January 1 to share my word and hopefully some of you will share yours so we can start this new adventure together.

Merry Christmas. Happy 2015. 

** In the interest of full disclosure, I have not read the book. I might read it, but probably won't. If you know me in the actual real-life world or have been reading the blog for a while, it might not surprise you to find out that I'm mostly winging it. :)

Monday, December 22, 2014

The random beauty of Christmas memories

On Sunday we drove into Denver after church to spend the day with my mom and Keith. We had brunch, made and decorated sugar cookies, celebrated their December birthdays, and visited the Denver Botanic Gardens for the stunning and magical light display. It was a really terrific day and I am thrilled to live about 50 minutes from my mom to share more of the day to day parts of life together.
Making nana's famous sugar cookies

learning the technique of rolling the dough

zombie face to match his zombie cookie

time to frost the cookies

Audrey and I share our masterpieces

Celebrating Nana and Babu's December birthdays
walking through Denver Botanic Gardens

Special memories made with mom/nana

I just love this one-everyone doing their thing.

We left the Gardens at about 7 for the drive back to Evergreen. It was 45 degrees when we left the city and started the gorgeous drive up the mountain to our little town. By the time we hit Evergreen it was 31 degrees and snowing and we were, once again, so thrilled with our decision to live in this little mountain town we are growing to love so much.

Here's the thing about a 45 minute drive with our children. The three oldest kids can handle hours upon hours in the car with nary a peep. On the other hand, if Asher is in the car for over five minutes, or sometimes five seconds, he wants entertainment. And by entertainment he means music. And by music he means his mama singing. If I am singing, he is quiet. If it stop, even just to take a prolonged breath or grab a sip of water to wet my whistle, I hear the persistent chirp of, "mama, mama, mama" until I resume singing. The radio, CD, book on tape doesn't cut it. He wants human voice.

So, I sing. And I often have a lovely little chorus joining me. They know that singing is better than the noisy alternative.

We drove home from Denver last night and Asher requested music. We took turns choosing Christmas songs and belted them out, sometimes in tune, sometimes operatic, sometimes giggly, always fun. Well, except for when we started to sing "Let It Go," which is akin to Elliot's cryptonite. He picked a different song and all was well.

We realized we know very few words to Frosty the Snowman, but we really excel at thumpety thump thump-ing. We bring it for that part. We all enjoy a nice falsetto voice while Jim brings the bass. We love a big finish, including jazz hands. We were reminded that laughter is lovely accompaniment to any song.

Asher conducted us from his carseat, twirling his arms and bobbing his head. Happy. Quiet. Joyful. Loved and loving.

It is my favorite memory of the season so far. And really, nothing happened. But everything happened. I just love how life does that.

Happy, Gentle, Beautiful, Memory-making Christmas to you. What's your favorite memory so far?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

She is my daughter

Last night we were sitting around the dinner table discussing books in general and chapter books shared before bedtime, in particular. Each of the big kids reads one chapter from a book with a grown up before bedtime. Currently Isaac and I are reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Audrey and I are reading Anne of Windy Poplars, and Elliot and I are reading Trumpet of the Swan. It is one of my favorite parts of each day, even when I have to try really hard to keep my eyes open by the time I get to Isaac's book. Although I don't know if that will be such a problem with Isaac's current book. Jim, Isaac, and I are riveted and we're only a few chapters in. That Harry Potter is so good!

Audrey has a long list of things she'd like to read with me, including, but not limited to, finishing the Anne of Green Gables series, starting The Chronicles of Narnia books, and starting Harry Potter. She looked down at her plate and said, "I don't know how I'll decide. There are so many good books to read." I nodded my head in appreciation of her true words and Jim said, "Welcome to your mama's world." I said, "Oh, Audrey. I know just what you mean. The world is full of so many great books waiting to be read and instead I have to do the dishes. It's just impossible." She smiled and we organized book reading strategies for the family. It was just the best.

Here's how it'll go. She and I will finish up the entire Anne series while Elliot reads Trumpet of the Swan, then Charlotte's Web, with a Ramona book thrown in there if he finishes early. Then Audrey, Elliot, and I will read The Chronicles of Narnia together. Drat. I just remembered we wanted to read The Little House on the Prairie books soon, too. Now you see what Audrey was talking about, don't you? So many books. So little time.
Yep. That's my daughter. The apple didn't fall far from the tree. We're cut from the same cloth. Even though she loves crafts and going to Michael's gives me hives. Even though she loves planning elaborate parties with themes and color schemes and my idea of a party involves, "Hey, could you pass the queso and top off this margarita? Gracias."

She's my daughter. A little piece of me out in the world. We speak with our hands and wear our emotions on our sleeves. We love getting lost in books. We can't help but sing loud and proud to show tunes. We bake and she makes sure I follow the directions. We are the girls in a family of boys and although I know there are days she wishes she weren't so very outnumbered, I relish the special quality our relationship has and will continue to have throughout the years.

She's my daughter. I love her. So very much.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Oh Hey, Friday-Colorado edition

I'm linking up with The Farmer's Wife and September Farm to bring you this week's edition of "Oh Hey, Friday." 

Which is appropriate, since Friday really did sneak up on me. I just looked at the calendar and realized that next week is a two day school week for us and then it's Christmas break. I cannot figure out how that happened, but I'm going to go with it. Happily, in fact.

Today I'm going to tell you five reasons I love living in Colorado. We've been here for a little over one month now. We're in this limbo where nothing really feels like home. I know Minnesota isn't home anymore, but Colorado doesn't quite feel like it either. Sometimes I write about loneliness or missing Minnesota, well, the people in Minnesota, and all of that is true. But what's also true is that I love it here. As weird as it sounds, I have never felt so at home in a place. I've also never felt so out of sorts.

Which, at face value, makes absolutely no sense.

I have never felt so at home in a place. I feel like I was meant to live here. My body and soul have longed for these mountains, these hikes, these runs that take my breath away for both their beauty and their lack of oxygen that everyone assures me I'll get used to. I fit here. It's a town with a community feel to it. There is a booming homeschool community. The style of clothes, the lifestyle, the personality of the town fit me. With time, I see myself settling in and feeling right at home here. It has all of the fixings of home, I just need to give it a little time to find our way and "our tribe."

I've never felt so out of sorts. We haven't found a church or joined sports teams or lessons yet. The homeschool group we're joining starts at the end of January. We live at the top of a mountain with no kids in the immediate vicinity. Running isn't as easy as slipping clothes on and running out the door before Jim goes to work because of the lovely mountain we live on and the cougars and bears that were here first. We don't have friends here. . . yet.

But, we love it. And here are five major reasons:

Oh hey. Colorado Rocks!
1: The hiking

We live mere minutes from many fantastic hiking spots. And I mean LOTS! And hiking is one of my favorite things in the world. We are going to fill a jar with the names of local hikes and pull one out every time we want a hiking adventure. Which will be often!

2: The skiing

We live 50 minutes to an hour and a half from some of the best skiing in the world. Or so I've been told. All of the pictures and videos I've seen are stupendous. Jim and the big three have been skiing five times in our short time here and will hit the slopes many more times over the winter. I will go when I have someone to watch Asher who doesn't mind hearing a very happy and persistent 15-month-old ask for mama and milk 1,306 times in one day when you are not mama and you cannot provide milk. My mom is first up for the job when we go over Christmas break. I am so excited to see how much the kids have learned and to NOT tear my ACL. Yep, it's on my mind. My cousin's words of advice in 2012 were, "If you fall, just fall." Well, I fell exactly once the entire day and I tore my ACL. Not cool. I guess I fall wrong and I am taking pointers on proper falling technique. Call me.

Winter Park

3: The sun/the weather

Minnesota is pretty sunny, as far as winter goes. If you don't believe me, just ask Michigan. Colorado takes it to a whole new level. Your sunglasses must always be on your person. You need sunscreen year round. It is a thing of beauty.

And don't even get me started on the weather. Ok. I'm started. It's 60 one day and you're hiking outside in shorts and a t-shirt and dining outside and then the next day it snows four inches. And then the sun comes back out. We are out of Denver a bit so it's a little cooler here, but the weather is just the cat's meow.

4: The library

Libraries matter to me and our library has it going on. They have a plethora of unique opportunities to foster people of all ages digging into books and to get to know people, two of my favorite things. They have book club for 8-11 year olds, teens, and adults. Lego Club, monthly family movies, periodic puppet shows, story times for kids of all ages many times throughout the week, and an attentive staff. The library is our home away from home and we feel fortunate to have a great spot right down the hill from us.

5: The people

So far we have found the people here to be welcoming, kind, laid-back, and quick to help. How's that for a nice combination? The people that flock to CO come here for the things I've mentioned above. OK. Not the library. I'm kind of weird about that. But, being outdoors is huge for people who live here, so I automatically have something in common with lots of people here, whether they love to run, hike, ski, snowshoe, or whatever. 
This is a gift basket that our neighbor brought over. She and her husband then proceeded to shovel our driveway. It was just the nicest welcome I could have asked for and is indicative of the kindness I've felt here. 

**Colorado also gets bonus points for proximity to my mom and her husband. I haven't lived in the same state as my mom since 1996, so it is a major treat for our family and such a joy to see them interact with my kids much more often.

I'm not home just yet. I mean, I'm here. At home. I just need to give it the time to feel like home. It takes time to build relationships and remember which light switch turns on which light. It takes time to find a church home and have friends who get that do actually have the ability to text, but you don't actually ever know where your phone is. 

So, I'm giving it time. I'm remembering the reasons we moved here. I'm remembering the things we love about being here. That's pretty darn easy to do!

Tell me about your hometown. What do you love about it? What makes it home?