Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018: A Year in Review

As I reflect on the year, I love looking back at the word I chose for 2018: cultivate. This word has been far more applicable than I could have ever dreamed in the last 365 days. It has been a year of immense joy: traveling, laughing, and watching in wonder as our sweet baby grew into a little boy. It has also been a year of new challenges to face together, and big dreams to patiently dream and march towards, step by step. Some of you may stop by this corner of the web more often than others, so whether you're new here or read regularly, here's a recap of the year: complete with highlights, posts, and fun photos and videos. Here's to you, 2018.


In January, this blog marked its third birthday! It has been so much fun seeing how this space has grown and changed over the years, and I honestly couldn't do any of it without you all. Just when I think it's time to throw in the towel, another awesome reader sends me a sweet email about a post, or I get a little blogging gig that's a huge blessing. So I'm still here, sharing stories and tips and hopefully a little bit of meaningful content! In January, I set off in hopes of cultivating, wrote about the struggle to find "me time" as a working mom, and did my best to handle the emotions that come along with balancing work and motherhood. We also started work on our bedroom remodel!

Chaos: We've got doors and toilets and tiles everywhere they shouldn't be. It's uncomfortable. It's ugly. But I'm realizing that out of chaos comes order and beauty. I have a vision for our room, and I know it will be amazing in the end. It has to be a mess before it can be made beautiful and new. And isn't that so true of us all? Let's be real- I'm a hot mess about 80% of the time. I cried today while taking ornaments off the tree. I let people down. I say things I shouldn't. But in all of my mess and my chaos, I'm constantly being made new. I'm being refined and remodeled into something beautiful, someone that the Lord wants me to be. And isn't it beautiful that he loves me and you just as we are, broken tiles, misplaced doors, and all? Im so thankful that, in the midst of my chaos, He is making me new.
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February brought lots of snow days and sweet days off where we enjoyed hosting folks who filled our home with laughter. I continued my monthly recaps, and the biggest excitement of the month was throwing our little man his first birthday party. We had a "onesie" party complete with a time capsule, cook-Es, jammies, and breakfast for dinner, and it was a BLAST. I loved making his one second everyday video of his first year (and you can view it below- his whole year in six minutes!). It's crazy how big he seemed to me at the time, and how little he looks now when I look back at the photos. I can't believe he'll be two in less than two months!!


March came and we stayed home for Spring Break, instead of doing our usual adventuring all over. It was relaxing to stay in town and just rest a little. I enjoyed taking some really fun one year pics of little man (see below). I can distinctly remember him trying to crawl across the sidewalk while I was taking pictures, so I finally succeeded once I put him in the swing ha. That face when he saw a doggie though: I can't even ha! I ran my second half marathon (the first of four in 2018), and I shared my heart in a post about "What I'm Clinging To".


April is typically the slowest month for us teacher folk (no days off!), but it wasn't so bad this year. I trained for and ran my third half marathon- Rock the Parkway. I set a new personal record and wrote about my experience in "The Pacer". We also spent lots of time with our little man and I learned how to be way more intentional in resting and spending time with my boys. Work life balance is no joke people! We also took a bit of a leap of faith in April, and I'm excited to share more about the Lord has been doing in our life here soon.


In May, I finished up my 7th year of teaching, and Aaron finished his 5th! I had many of my kiddos three years in a row at school, so it was weird saying goodbye for the summer and knowing I wouldn't see them in the fall. On the blog, I shared 5 Secrets to Being a Happy Mom. Our biggest highlight came when my youngest brother, Kirk, married his gorgeous bride, Anna! Eli had a fabulous time staying up all the way until 10 pm and dancing the night away with his little walker. We also enjoyed taking Eli on his first swim of the summer, hitting up the park, and settling into the slower rhythm of summer. Eli also turned 15 months old, and I shared alllll the fun things about what he was up to in this post


In June, I ran my fourth half marathon, the Hospital Hill Half. Waiting out the mugginess and a rain delay was worth it, as I set another new PR. The next day, Aaron and I jetted off for a kid-free trip to Puerto Vallarta for our fifth Anniversary! Eli stayed home and hung out with Grandma and Grandpa, and "Mom and Dad" had a much needed, relaxing time away. We also had lots of pool time, storytime visits, ice cream, and sweet summertime moments swinging and just enjoying time off as a family. June and July were definitely my favorite months of the year- (and how could they not be with summers off and lots of traveling?). 


In July, we enjoyed a free visit to the zoo, had a wonderful Fourth of July (Eli loved the fireworks), and helped out at our church Breakaway summer camp. Eli ran around and was very confused as to why he couldn't play with the big kids. We enjoyed a weekend on the lake with the pontoon and good friends, and then headed off on our family vacation to Southeastern North Carolina (read all about it here). Eli was a natural beach bum who could have shoveled sand for hours! I read a bunch of great books, and shared my top ten summer reads in this post. I also celebrated my 29th birthday, and reflected on what year 28 meant to me. I can't believe I'll be THIRTY next July- what!?! I wish July could have never ended. 


In August, Aaron and I squeezed in one more kid-free trip before we headed back to work (and reality). We enjoyed a quick, nearly-free getaway to Missouri wine country in Hermann. If you've never been before, you can read all about it here! We also took E to the Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead in Overland Park, and settled back into the reality of school. I started year eight, and Aaron started year six (tenured)! 


In September, I picked up my training for the Kansas City Half Marathon (second time around), settled into school, and enjoyed my first girls' trip away since college. We stayed up until four am chatting about life, shared tears and laughter, and made it out of an escape room (my first)! As a family, we celebrated our fifth House-iversary and I finally got around to finishing up and sharing our modern farmhouse bedroom reveal! We also took a good step forward towards a new adventure.


October came, and Aaron and I kicked off the month with a super fun styled shoot where we got to dress up as a bride and groom. I ran my fifth and final half marathon of the year. I set a new personal record of 1:44, which I was very excited for! I actually ran the 2018 KC Half Marathon 11 minutes fast than I ran the 2017 race on the same course. We enjoyed the fall fest at church, visited Eli's first pumpkin patch, and celebrated Halloween with our slightly bigger cow this year. E even did a little trick or treating, and he continued to say "trick or treat" to ask for candy for the next couple of months. On the blog, I shared "On Stories" and "My Baby You'll Be". 


In November, we celebrated Aaron's 28th birthday, and also helped lead music for a weekend trip at Clearwater Cove YoungLife Camp. Eli even made it into the skit and helped sing worship songs, puppy in hand. I waited an hour to vote in the mid-term elections, and got a fat lip during our 50th annual Thanksgiving Day family football game. On the blog, I shared a bit about finding strength in your current season.

When I think back on this weekend, I'll never forget the sound of hundreds of kids belting Reckless Love at the top of their lungs. I'll never forget the presence of the Lord as we sang Praise the King with a room full of YoungLife leaders. I'll never forget when our sweet baby helped Dawn find her camp bae while holding his puppy, or when he suddenly decided he needed to be held during club songs. I'll never forget the laughs that my hilarious friends @michellejank @thamericandream and @mcspaddzee brought to us all, or the songs our talented friend @laurenscottmusic sang that gave me chills. But more than anything, I'll never forget the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God that continues to chase me down- that I'll never deserve or earn- and I pray that our High School friends who were there this weekend won't ever forget that either. 💕
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And here it is, the last week of December- I can hardly believe it! I shared a story about Eli's first snowstorm in "In His Eyes", and squeezed in a quick 2018 Holiday Home Tour. We enjoyed some fun Christmas parties with friends, Aaron finished his Master's Degree, and we had the best Christmas with a very enthusiastic Eli. He was older and more involved this year, opening his Paw Patrol wrapped presents, squealing in glee at seeing trains, and singing and dancing with Mama to Christmas music. He wasn't so sure about Santa though- as his photo shows. This year, our Christmas Break started later than normal, but it means that we don't go back until January 7th, so I'm pumped about that! We're excited to celebrate the new year, and then Aaron and I will head off on a little kid-free getaway for a few days the first week of January.

Cheers to 2019 and all that it will bring! I pray that it finds you healthy, happy, and oh so loved. Thanks for sticking around this year and loving on us through all of the ups and downs. We hope you'll join us next year for all of our new adventures! 


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Our 2018 Holiday Home Tour

As I sit here with my feet up, watching Home Alone while basking in the warmth of our fireplace and the glimmer of the gold star on our mantle, I can't help but be amazed at how quickly December has gone. Christmas is all but here and I have barely written at all this month. But that could be because I've been cherishing the sound of my son's astonished squeals at the "choo choos" at Crown Center, or the stunned look in his eyes when I plug in the tree and he can't quite believe how beautiful it is. Like I shared earlier this month, Christmas is different in the eyes of the child. But I'll be honest, I feel some of that child-like joy again this time of the year. Gifts, lights, family, snow: there's just something about it. One of my favorite things to do is have people over to share in the sweet moments that always seem to show up this time of year. Since there's just no way our cozy home can fit all of you in it at once, I've sharing my annual holiday home tour. Come on in and stay awhile! 

Putting a small fake tree out on the covered porch this year was a bit of a risk. We had a huge snow right after Thanksgiving, but I shook it off and the tree seems to be hanging in there just fine once it melted!

I love having our Christmas tree right in the front room. With our vaulted ceilings, you really can see all sides of the tree from every level. The star and the lights twinkle out the front window at night, and I love leaving the blinds open so I can see it glittering in the darkness as I leave or return home after a long day. I've also learned to appreciate wrapping presents in coordinating paper that all matches, which I'm pretty sure makes me both boring and kind of old. But hey, it looks nice and I love it!

I can't believe this little munchkin is so big now!! Time truly flies.

I'm still in love with this gorgeous wreath that Aaron got me for Christmas a few years back. I love adding subtle pops of red and green to our farmhouse front room.

In the dining room, I've decided to keep it simple. I just add a few pops of cranberry red to my usual centerpiece, offset it with rustic pine cones, and place some white candles to balance the burlap texture. And I always love hanging up my homemade ornament garland! Now that E is older, we're also having a little fun with the Santa Plate and Mug. 

Cozy is the name of the game in our basement. I didn't have my magnolia wreath from Hobby Lobby last year, but now I love how it brings in the pop of green on the white accent wall behind our mantle. I also added a new little stocking for our little man, which is fun! I think styling the mantle is one of my favorite things each year. This is actually the first year I didn't purchase a SINGLE thing for our decor! I always hit the "after Christmas sales", so it was fun seeing what all I bought on December 26th last year (and it was nice not paying anything more to decorate!

I'm such a huge fan of these Buffalo Check pillows by Cuddleduds. They're super comfy and match our stockings and the rest of our basement decor so perfectly. It's definitely one of our favorite hang out spots.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour around our home this year! It's simple, not showy, but I love it just the same. I hope that you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy 2019! I'm excited to share more with you soon about all that we've been up to this year!


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Through His Eyes

No matter how fast my hands move, they still can't quite buckle up his boots as quickly as he'd like. After all, I'm taking precious seconds away from his opportunity to go outside- his favorite word and quite possibly one of his very favorite places in his entire small world. To him, a snowfall is not an inconvenience, it's an incredible mystery, one that he has yet to explore in his short time on this Earth. I scramble into my own coat, quickly grabbing the camera, feeling a bit giddy myself even though the bags under my eyes and the new gray hairs I keep finding clearly tell me that I'm not getting any younger. But there's a sort of magic when I see the world through his eyes.

To him, the cold is not enough to keep his little legs from powering through his first powdery inches of bliss. The wet snow that shakes off his freshy mitten-less hand is not enough to bring tears to his soft blue eyes. And the fact that his teeth begin to chatter ever so slightly is not enough to keep him from glancing up at me, cheeks glowing a pale pink, as he whispers, "Fun." Because it's new, and marvelous, and unbelievably fascinating to him.

Through his eyes, the world's a better place. He knows no stress, has no long to-do list beckoning him away from what he'd really like to do. Everything is new, and exciting, and full of wonder. He's not worried about what others think, not worried about deadlines, likes, or putting up a good front. He is who he is, a 21 month old who's slightly obsessed with barely reheated pizza, real or pretend tractors, and partially deflated restaurant balloons. And one whose joy completely captivates me and gives my heart permission to delight like a kid again- because somewhere in my world of freezer meals, dryer sheets, and online bill payments, I've lost some of that.

Through his eyes, everything is an adventure. Christmas is magical, the everyday is awesome, the mundane is surprising. When I pause to see the world as he does, I feel it again. Something as simple as plugging in the lights on our tree each night, or pushing the button on a musical ornament as he raises his arms to dance with me makes his eyes (and mine) light up every single time. Because it's new, and it's special, and he hasn't lost his joy. And I hope he never does, because he brings it to the rest of us.

Through his eyes, I'm mommy. His place of comfort and strength, the one he can run to without fear of rejection or judgment. The one who will give in to his sweet requests for "trick or treat" even though it's December, or who will pull him into her arms even when he's covered in snot, food, or some other lovely mess that becomes the norm to every "boy mom" out there. And I'll take every snotty snuggle I can get, because being his mama makes me strong, gives me purpose, and changes everything. He sees me as far stronger than I am, and as a result, I am pushed to be better.

As I lay him gently in his crib each night and slowly zip him into his Sleepsack, pausing to look at his sweet smile for just a few moments longer, I can barely stand how much I love him. I may be teaching him about the world, but sometimes it seems like he's teaching me so much more. Like he's reminding me what it's like to see the world as a place that's far more forgiving, far less stressful, and far more joyful- to see it through his eyes, even when all I can see are my own frustrations and failures.

That is my hope and prayer for you this winter- that you would cherish sweet moments, and pause to remember what it was like to see life through the eyes of a child. That you would see through those eyes once more, and that it would bleed into a season of joy and celebration as the worries of the world fade away. And that perhaps you would find time in these moments of wonder to reflect on how another sees you through his eyes: completely forgiven, completely loved, and completely cherished. Because, oh friends, you are.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Travel the US in Style with These Hacks

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If there's anything I've learned in the last six year of our adventures around the world, it's that this Earth is a HUGE place, chock full of endless incredible travel opportunities. From hail storms in Tuscan vineyards to water taxi rides in Venice, there is so much to see and do everywhere you go. But it's not necessary to go abroad to make incredible travel memories. Our own little US of A offers some truly incredible destinations that can satisfy the needs and dreams of any travel junkie, right here in the States! Whether it’s the East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Deep South, or New England, our nation has plenty of diverse landscapes to choose from. 
Every year people travel to the US and all around the US in search of fresh adventures and new experiences. Although there are always the typical and most popular American destinations, it's so important to make sure you enjoy everything that that the nation has to offer when it comes to traveling. To truly travel the US in style, keep these travel hacks in mind for your journey!

Explore Some of the Best Cities

There are some pretty amazing cities in the US, and no matter which state you visit there is bound to be a city that you fall in love with. There are a lot of things that play a role in choosing the perfect place to visit, but it’s clear that cities like Miami, New York, and San Francisco are pretty much the pinnacle when it comes to big, popular cities. Big cities offer the thrills of lights, delicious food, and fun entertainment activities, and although they are often pretty touristy, they're definitely worth seeing at least once!

Check Out the Road Less Traveled

Although big cities like NYC are fun, it's also important to get balance, and this means checking out the road less traveled sometimes too. There are a lot of places you can visit in the States that offers you a more open, less crowded experience. There are a lot of hidden gems out there, including places like Durango, Colorado; a drive from Oregon to California, and the wonderful character of New Orleans. Some of my very favorite travel memories are hours of road tripping all around the country, hopping out of the car and taking state sign photos together when we reached a state border. Make sure you check out some of these lesser-explored areas, even if they aren't the "big name" cities.

Have an Open Mind

One of the best ways to enjoy traveling our county in style is to have an open mind. Don't shy away from certain activities or cities just because you think they may not be in your typical comfort zone- you may be pleasantly surprised! While traveling, you'll definitely be exposed to a lot of diversity, as well as people and cultures from all walks of life. After all, the United States is a huge country! This is good, and you never know what unexpected adventure may await you in a place where you never expected it! Don't get too caught up in the plans or expectations and just enjoy yourself wherever you may be.

Stay in the Best Places

Of course, staying in the best place while definitely help you make the most of your travels. While it's very fun to explore places off the beaten path and take a chance on activities that are new to you, you do want to make sure that you feel safe and cozy wherever you choose to lay your head for the night. Do some research on what type of hotel is best for you. Do you want to have an extended stay at a hotel in San Diego, California, or would you rather bop from place to place and check in to multiple different hotels? Each type of trip is great, but just make sure you think about the pros and cons of each option, and definitely choose a place that you know is in a good area of the city or town.

From the rolling hills of the Midwest to the coastal oceans and everything in between, the United States has so much to offer, and you need to explore and make the most of it while you can. Traveling is an incredibly eye-opening, fun chance to make some incredible memories. I have never regretted a single trip that we went on, and the adventures we've found ourselves in are truly priceless. The US is just waiting to be explored, so get out there and make it yours!