Monday, December 31, 2012

Bloggy Highlights of 2012

It's 11:00 p.m. and not my favorite, but really my only, time to write. I have to say that it's been kind of nice to be unplugged from the blogosphere these past couple of weeks.  School has also been on pause, the computers and television powered down as much as possible, and all of the electronic hibernation has created deep and wide open spaces in our minds, hearts and arms for the lives of loved ones, for peace and quiet, for swapping stories, playing games, gazing at tree lights and nibbling goodies over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.  I really don't want it all to end, this slow, savoring of life, but I feel the pulse of life quickening, like it or not.

So, here I am, stumbling (crawling would probably be more exact) into a New Year and wondering where the past year went. Do you ever find that in the midst of the daily hoopla, it's easy to forget about the good times that have passed? Sometimes I love to snuggle up with the boys and scroll through pics of them on i-photo.  Those snapshots are little reminders of how blessed we are, little nudges to be more thankful for our blessings, past and present, and more inspired to not just survive the daily rigors of life, but to LIVE each day more fully and faithfully.

Now, in order to put off folding the laundry that is cascading off of my dining room table, I have assembled a few little bloggy highlights from this past year.  Grab yourself a cup of joe and a comfy chair and maybe a blankie just in case this all puts you to sleep.

Thanks for hanging around here, all 252 of you. If there's more of you precious followers out there, then I thank you as well. Happy New Year, my friends!!

Best of All Things Bright and Beautiful (where this blog really began):

The Best of the Boys:

Best Family Adventure:

Most Read Post:

Most Popular Recipe:
(All of the recipes I share on this blog can be found in the Topics section under "Recipes.")

Favorite Health & Fitness Post: 

Favorite Homeschool Post:

Favorite Faith Post:

Favorite Parenting Post:

Favorite Funny:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Snapshots and Wishes

I have been a little bit absent from the blogging world these past few days.  And, I've noticed that I'm not the only one, as many of my fellow bloggers have put their writing on pause, as this time of year calls for the full attention of our hearts, minds and energy......honestly, it's energy focused on...
Wiping runny noses,
Answering the most important question of the moment, "When is Santa coming??"
Impossibly pushing mittens on sweaty hands and pulling boots off of frozen feet,
Baking things with way, way, way too much butter,
Reapplying ripped-off ornaments to the lopsided, needle-naked tree,
and watching the clock tick oh-so-slowly to wine o'clock.
Last week our family packed our bags and headed north to my parent's home (in an RV!....which is quite a story - one I will tell another time) to spend Christmas with my entire family. We all realize just how precious this time together is, as my sister Sara and her family have traveled all the way from Switzerland to spend the holiday with us.
In order to capture all of the craziness in living color, we asked our beautiful and brave friend, Ami, to come out and take some spontaneous family photos of our entire gang.  Her snapshots of us are nothing short of a Christmas miracle! How she managed to find perfect moments in between wild poses, nose picking, babies squirming, brothers wrestling and parents scolding, I will never know!
There are so many stories to tell, snapshots of love and laughter to share, and I can't wait to fill future posts with all of the best goodies and highlights of our time together.
But, just for today, this Christmas Eve, I want to wish all of you a 
May it be memorable,
May it be safe,
May it bring you closer to those you love,
May it bring hope and healing to your soul,
May it remind you that you are loved, and that you are the reason for HIS coming,
May it lead you to a peace that only the Lord can give.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Quotable Mr. Darby

Like many moms in this world, I was up before the rest of the family this morning, trying to conquer a few of the chores left undone from the previous day, to squeeze in a cup of coffee and a little bit of quiet time before the daily dance begins.

Those undone chores....they might become common place around here.  After last week's unspeakable tragedy at Newtown, CT, I am ever more aware of the gift of my children and am more deeply convicted in recognizing on a daily basis that spending time with my children is a gift, holding them is a gift, hearing their voice is a gift, watching them grow up is a gift.
Rare footage of Darby fully clothed, minus footwear.
Our Henry is just 5 years old, the same age as many of the beautiful children who now shine down on us from Heaven.  I've been especially smitten with him these days. The way he bounds through the house ready to rescue someone, ready to explore, ready to burst into the room just to tell me that he was running so fast outside that he almost stepped on a jackrabbit makes me long to share in his energetic mission to conquer the world. 
The boys are really into nicknames around here.  In fact, I rarely hear them call Henry by name.  He's better known as Darby. Darby is Davy Crockett reincarnated.  He's been begging for a bb gun. His collection of pretend ones have been shelved. If you want a little glimpse into Darby's world you should probably know that:
4th of July tattoos can't possibly go anywhere else but on the muscles.
Gettin' down to business, plowing right over mom's hopes and dreams of ever having grass in the yard.
Leaf jumping in what else but shorts and a muscle shirt.  The rest of us were wearing sweats.
In nearly every picture of him, Darby is sporting a muscle shirt. And, even though it's mid-December, and even though I packed away all of his summer clothes back in October, he dug them back out and wears them every day.  Never mind the frosty dold, he even wears them outside.  He's either going to grow up to be a beach dweller, or have his own survival-of-the-fittest reality show.  "No shirt, no shoes, no problem??" That's Darby. Oh, and barefoot is also his typical "modus operandi." I have been known to find his shoes out in the tree line by our house, buried in the sand pile, chewed up by the dog, shoved under car seats, and even in my flower pots.  But, never on his feet and never in a pair in the shoe basket where they belong.

2.  He's got a sweet tooth.
This dietary tendency has made me a little obsessive compulsive about oral hygiene.  I try to keep the sweets to a minimum around here, but he's been known to sneak into the pantry and cram his mouth full of chocolate chips, thinking no one will ever know.  I'm the one who gave him those genes, so my sixth sense never fails to alert me when Baby Jr. is getting his chocolate fix.

3.  He loves to sing.  
Most of us just wish that he knew more than one line of every song, because he sings that same line over and over again, with all his heart, as if it's the first time we've ever heard it.  Right now, he's into CCR's Have You Ever Seen the Rain? One line, all the time, with lots of swagger:   "I wanna know-ow-ow, have you everrrrr seen da rain, comin' down on a suh-ny day??"
Waiting for someone to come along to hike the ball to.

4.  He's unapologetically ornery.  
Just last week, he put a big green spatula from my kitchen down Charlie's sleeper before we put him down for bed.  The poor baby slept so fitfully his eyes were purple and puffy the next morning.  When I went to change Charlie's diaper, I found the spatula stuck to his chest.  Darby has some major pay-backs heading his way.
5.  He's the most quotable kid in the family.  
Here's just a few of his recent gems:

* "It's so awesome outside today I think I'm gonna go out naked and play." (I look at him, scowling.)  "Fine, Mom, I'll wear some shorts, but I want you to know that wearing clothes puts me in a really bad mood!" (Stomps off. Greets the December cold in a pair of shorts.)

* ((Big sigh first.)) Mommy! I have a surprise for you.  You know how you always think our toilet is disgusting? Well, guess what! It was plugged up, so I squirted a bunch of this in it (holds up an empty bottle of toilet cleaner) so that it will flush!  And, now it's blue, which makes it less disgusting."
* One day I was helping Henry learn about the difference between a square and a rectangle.  We used a Geoboard to help him with this concept.  I asked him to fill the board with different sizes of squares, to which he replied, "Okay, mom, but after that, I'm only making sombreros." What can I say, the kid is a multicultural genius.

* Just yesterday, Steve gave the boys each $10 to add to their small sum of cash, and told them that we'll be going shopping on Wednesday for family gifts.  I overheard Henry tell George,
"Sorry kid, I can't buy you anything this year.  I'm spendin' all of my money on my new buddy, Drew."  Thankfully, Even George thought this was hilarious!

I forgot to mention that he loves to run (makes my heart skip!).  He doesn't ever walk anywhere, unless he's mad, then stomping is really the only way he travels.  During the older brother's football season, he always had room to run somewhere. One afternoon he asked me to time him while he ran around the track.  The expressions I captured of him on the home stretch are the essence of Henry ~ intense yet goofy, ornery yet sweet, and he's one of a kind, that's for sure.

A Baby Changes Everything

The events of last week have left many of us in tears
clinging to our children,
asking a million questions,
falling on our knees wondering, 
"Where God is in such a cruel suffering?"

With shaken faith we ask, "How can this be? How can our God who loves us allow such an evil tragedy to happen?" Wrestling with this question isn't easy for any of us.  On the way home from bible study yesterday, in the silence, I prayed intensely for the mothers who said good-bye to their precious babies last week, and I was moved interiorly with the thought that Mary, too, watched her son die a horrific death at the hands of cruel injustice.  And, not only Mary, but God the Father as well.  

God watched his son, his flesh, his blood die an unimaginable death.  I had forgotten.  I had removed this truth from my emotions, from my reasoning.  He watched his baby son come into the world in crude conditions, be viciously hunted down by Herod's soldiers, be mocked, scrutinized, beaten and scorned by the masses.  God doesn't just understand our wounds and our pain, He LIVES through them with us.  And, it is within this great mystery of redemptive suffering and redeeming love that we hold fast to our faith and remember why Christ came into the world, a baby, flesh and blood - He came to change everything.  Everything.  For you, for me, for our children for all eternity.

I am looking to our Savior, the infant King, asking Him to bring His peace into our hearts, into our homes and into our world now more than ever.  I believe that he hears and will answer all of our prayers.

A Baby Changes Everything...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Honor of the Families in Connecticut

The house is quiet tonight.

I can't remember the last time I sat on the couch, quiet, breathing, pausing with eyes shut just for a moment.  Aware of all of the Christmas glow that surrounds me - a lovely lit tree, candles flicker in the Advent wreath, the lights in the kitchen, shine dimly over crafts and crumbs.

It is late, and I am alone. The boys had a chance to go swimming with some friends, so as a spontaneous surprise, we let them go, daddy graciously took them.  They were wild with delight.  I can only image how quickly they will collapse into happy slumber once they arrive home. While I wait, I will write.

Blogging is such a random, irregular side gig. Maybe it's a hobby.  Maybe it's not even that.  Truth be told, sometimes I don't know why I do it, other than to have a virtual scrapbook that my family can follow.  Or, maybe it's a little comforting crutch that I can run to when I'm feeling bad about how I'm doing as a mom.  I can scroll through pictures of my kids smiling, content, learning, growing, sharing, giving, excelling and then exhale.  Okay. We're doing okay.  Oh, the things we (I) fret over.....

I can only assume that my approach to blogging is much the same as most busy moms - we upload pictures while brushing our teeth or paying a bill.  The script is written late at night or early in the morning, because there's no time during the day - and if we sneak in a daytime post, it's usually full of typos or run on sentences that make little sense, or worst of all the twinges of guilt creep in because the dishes are piled up, boxing boys need an intervention, or someone is looking at you, just waiting to be read to - again - for the 5th time that day.  Guilt kicks in.  Guilt wins.  Guilt reminds us that blogs will never be as important as reading to your kids.

So, here I am, it's night, it's quiet.  I'm going to blog.  I dug out my tattered green spiral notebook that is filed with grocery lists, reminders, math equations, phone numbers, book titles and even a few scribbles on topics I'd like to blog about.  But, for tonight, those topics are best left beneath the weight of coffee drips and finger paint prints, the only topic my heart can consider right now is one of compassion for the families of Connecticut who are enduring an unimaginably deep and heavy suffering.

We can share our compassion with those families by praying for them.  But, we HONOR them by pausing from our duties, saying "no" once in a while to things that keep us away from home and by acknowledging those things which we are often so preoccupied with that we miss opportunities to be with and to love our children.

Read them an extra story tonight.  
Sit and watch them play.
Listen to their stories as if it's the first time you've heard it.
Let them eat dessert, even if they never touch a veggie.
Teach them a song.
Play a game together.
Hug them a hundred times.
Tell them they're special.
Give up the goodies and give them yourself.
Take a walk together.
Look them in the eyes when they walk in the room ~ tell them you're happy to see them.
Let them help you make dinner.
Stare at their freckles, brush their hair, tickle their toes.
Never, ever take for granted the sound of them calling your name.
Praise God for every moment you get to hold them and say to them, " I love you."


Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday: 7 Things I Miss About Football

The fall this year for our family really was all about football.  With three boys giving 110% to the sport they love and our Kansas State Wildcats delivering a phenomenal season, for three months, football was the highlight of our weekends.  I have to admit, that despite all of the running around to practices and games I'm a little sad it's all over.  
Here are 7 Things I miss about it:
1.  Being together as a family.  Game day always meant getting excited on the 45 minute drive to the game, going over plays, talking about past games, listening to crazy music and laughing together.  At the games the little ones ran around and played while Steve and I cheered from the sidelines.  Going out for pizza or hamburgers after the games to watch K-State play was the perfect way to top of the day, win or lose.
2.  Brightly Colored Socks.  About two games into the season, I finally decided that it was too difficult to try and find my sons on the field behind a camera lens.  I was thrilled when they agreed to wear bright socks to make it easier for me to see them.  It really helped - and, I think they secretly liked it!
3.  Focus.  Getting 4 boys to focus in our homeschool classroom is no small feat.  Seeing them focused on the football field reassured me that it can be done.  I just have to figure out a way to make Latin and poetry as fun as tackling and touchdowns. (Not gonna happen?? Oh, okay, thanks for crushing my dreams.)
4.  Brothers practicing out in the yard, and playing together at the games.  Though there are never a shortage of friends to play with at the games, I really love that the boys are always looking out for each other and wanting to be together.  They took every free moment between school lessons, chores and meals to run outside and practice their passes and plays.  If not for any other reason, I love football for the ways it brings my sons together.
5.  Action. Big tackles.  Mighty touchdowns.  I'm not going to lie.  I love it when the boys get in on big plays, and this year their stats were full.  I also cannot deny that I love hearing other parents cheer for my kids, or overhearing people on the sidelines say things like, "Whose kid is that? He's awesome!"  Cut me some slack here, people, I feed, clothe and educate these boys, so I think that basking in a little youth football glory isn't going to hurt anyone. {{Smiling}}
6.  Beautiful misty mornings of fall.  Despite one very cold, rainy, windy morning, every game day was sunny and beautiful, which made the games even more enjoyable, more fun, and ever more sweet for me, as each minute that I get to escape the confines of our beloved Girdie is a blessing.
7.  Getting out of the house and away from the laundry.  Out of sight, out of mind, right?? Seven Saturday mornings of no laundry, no picking up, sweeping crunchy floors, scrubbing the scary potty chamber, sucking up Legos with the vacuum and making messes in the kitchen to feed the army.  A little break from the testosterhome, makes this girl really, really happy.

After the holiday break, we'll be moving full speed ahead into basketball and wrestling season. Many highlights will be sure to come your way. I can't wait!!