Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Friday, January 29, 2016

Winter Campfire Birthday Party for Our New Teen

I think I just grimaced a bit when I wrote that title. How can my little boy be a teenager?!? I'm probably not more of a wreck about it because of this new baby boy coming so soon. And he better not grow up this fast!

We had originally invited some old and new friends to come over for pizza and then to see the Star Wars movie, but first we had a snowstorm, and then half his pals couldn't come on the date we'd rescheduled for. And then I blinked and it was halfway through January. I'm not sure when the idea for a campfire party entered my mind, but it ended up being so fun and SO easy to put together.

Since Caleb is past the age of cutesy decorations, I opted to keep things very simple. Balloons, a bright blue tablecloth, and some things for the party spread out on the table. At first I wasn't sure what to put the S'mores stuff in, but then I got the idea to put the candy in the iron skillet. I really liked how that looked. The tin pans were perfect for the marshmallows and graham crackers, plus they made a great caddy to bring everything outside later on.

I always keep extra sparklers on hand from the summer months. Good thing, ha!

We hung the glowsticks around the fence out back to have a little colorful illumination, but they were kind of a flop. They didn't glow very brightly, and we thought they'd died by the end of the night...until I was up at 1 am and saw these cute little lights glowing in the yard. Weird! Maybe the brightness of the campfire made them appear duller?

Roasting marshmallows and making S'mores was a big hit. If the wind had picked up, we were going to send everyone downstairs to the rec room with popcorn and a movie, so I'm glad the weather cooperated because this was much more fun. (And messy! Those huge campfire marshmallows are no joke. We all had gooey fluff dripping down our wrists and off our chins by the end!)

Little sister had lots of fun, too.

That look says it all. Fire, friends, and yummy food. Everything a thirteen year old boy needs.  =)

Afterwards, Ethan impressed them with some physics experiments he'd done back in the fall. They were mesmerized and super excited all at the same time. Doesn't that look crazy cool!?! 

I almost felt guilty about how little effort this party took to put together. Since we'd celebrated Caleb's actual birthday with family in December, I bought an ice cream cake for this party, another time -and sanity!-saver. Caleb has told us over and over again how much fun he had (and has thanked us continually...awww...), and that's the only thing that matters to me. I wanted him to feel celebrated, and in a slightly more mature way than in the past now that he's older, and he did!

If you want to read about Caleb's other fun parties, check them out below:



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Gender Reveal: How We Told Our Family

I'm still pinching myself that in just a couple of months, we will have a new baby boy. A brand new baby boy!!!

We had our big ultrasound back in November, and honestly, I was a little surprised. Kinda. I'd had three very specific dreams about having a girl baby, so I'd begun to think that maybe... but really, I didn't have any idea, and all I cared about was that he or she was growing well and healthy and strong. The year prior to this was one filled with loss and grief- sorry I can't share more right now- and to see that tiny baby wriggling about on the monitor and to see that strong little heartbeat flashing at a solid 170 beats per minute just filled me with such joy and relief. I'll never forget that feeling as long as I live. I never quite understood when people referred to things as "such a gift from God," although I'm not sure why. Maybe because in my mind, I feel like we are ultimately more responsible for the things that happen in our lives than He is, and I know in my head that simply isn't true. Now I know it in my heart as well.

This baby is the sweetest, most precious gift from the Lord. He didn't have to bless us with this child, and I would still love and trust Him if He hadn't, hard as that can be sometimes. I feel like a broken record in a way- the best way, I hope!- but I cannot stop thanking God and am completely overwhelmed with gratitude.

Prior to finding out the gender, I'd begun to wonder how all of this would affect our Isabelle. Since she is our only daughter, and only child I have not given birth to, might she feel displaced somehow? Not quite as important? Cherished? These were all thoughts that swirled around my mind in between bouts of insomnia and morning (all day/evening) sickness. Ultimately we decided that we will leave our future in God's hands. We still grieve over orphans in the world, and if He leads us toward another adoption, then we will trust and obey. Just like that old song. ;) Simple yet so profound. Plus, I like to think that it would be so special to adopt another little girl one day, for Isabelle to have that bond with her sister.

So with all this in mind, my husband and I decided to keep it a special little secret between the two of us for a few weeks. We'd often find ourselves giggling about it, or giving The Look when the other of us almost slipped and revealed something in conversation with somebody. Those weeks were very sweet for us.

Of course, we had to do a little fibbing since our children and other family members knew about the big ultrasound. Our story was that baby was so incredibly active- true!!- that we just couldn't tell and would have to wait until the next ultrasound. And as Ferris Bueller would say, They bought it. Not that we condone lying or anything...

When we sensed that the time was right, I knew I wanted to tell Isabelle in a special way. She told everyone under the sun how she longed for a baby sister, and I wanted to be as sensitive to that as possible. Of course I knew that she would love and adore a baby brother just as much, but it was all a little different from her point of view. God was so good to us by way of arranging the boys to be gifted hockey tickets for Friday night, which meant that I could take full advantage of Mommy-Daughter time. I took her out for dinner at a small Italian restaurant in town and told her what a wonderful big sister she will be...and then I told her that I actually had some important news, and it was okay if she felt disappointed at first, and that we were going to go shopping for something special for her and brother. She had guessed before I'd even finished my speech, smart cookie, and I'd been rambling on and on by that point because I was nervous and wanted to say just the right things (much like I'm rambling here, ha). Then I told her that nobody else except Daddy knew the secret, and she loved that!

I mentioned some ideas about how to tell the boys the next day, and Isabelle opted for the cake route. So after shopping and staying out waaaaay later than her bedtime, we whipped up a packaged golden cake when we got home. I panicked when I couldn't find the food coloring gels, as we'd already packed up half the house by that point, but I found a couple of old ones in the back of an upper cabinet. And there was blue! Phew.

I wondered how Isabelle would handle the big secret on Saturday, especially when she kept asking if the boys could have cake for breakfast. Ha Ha But she made it till later that evening, and then I gave each one a knife with the instructions to gently slice (yeah, right) into the cake to find out if we were having a boy or a girl. All three looked at me like, HUH? What in the world? Clearly my adolescent sons don't spend as much time scouring Pinterest as I do. But they quickly figured it out when spots of blue cake began to appear, and they were super excited. It was really quite sweet.

 So much for my Pinterest-worthy photo of the gender reveal cake! Our boys ripped into that poor cake with utter abandon, and the moment was absolutely priceless. I'll never forget it, nice photo or not. ;)

All six of us held onto our secret for the next several days, and then right before Thanksgiving, we visited with each of our parents to tell them. I had put one of the outfits Isabelle and I bought, along with the cutest pair of argyle socks- yes, I have a serious thing for baby boys and argyle!- into a gift bag and handed the bag to our Moms. My mother-in-law was so cute. She started squealing and jumping up and down, saying how excited she was to have a new grandson after all these years.

The one thing I had wanted to do so badly was to get a picture taken of Isabelle holding onto a pale blue balloon standing next to me, or maybe up ahead of me. I can totally picture it in my mind, and it was going to look fabulous. ;) Sadly, the weather this fall/early winter was completely uncooperative, and my morning sickness came back with a vengeance for a few straight weeks, and the picture never happened. Maybe we can try again in a few weeks.

We entertained the idea of not telling anybody outside of the family, but that just feels like way too much pressure. Plus, I just love talking about him, so I knew I could never pull that one off. We are going to keep his name a secret, but really that's no big feat, considering that we rarely even settle on a name before labor begins, ha!

And just so I remember all these details, he has started to move and respond to my touch. He'll either kick or push back at my hand a few times, and rubbing my belly seems to make him very happy and calm. Mostly he is a night owl to the extreme, something I'm praying will ease up juuuuust a bit, but even when I'm exhausted and lying there wide awake with him, I don't even care about sleeping. The reassurance of his wriggly little and not-so-little movements is so much more important. I can't help but lay there in the dark with the most grateful heart and the biggest smile on my face. Oh how I love this baby.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

One Month House Anniversary

Today marks one month of living in our new home! I thought that was worthy of a little celebration, which included everyone's favorites...Whoopie Pies.  =)

Somehow, though, the cookie pies came out flat as pancakes. Just pitiful looking! I have no idea, but I didn't let it rain on my parade. And wouldn't you know, the last sheet of them came out looking great, so three people had lovely looking Whoopie Pies, ha. When I was assembling them, one accidentally fell in my mouth, and it didn't matter that it was sad and flat, it tasted so good!

You know I dislike posts without any pictures, so here's an old one (because I can't be bothered to upload from my phone right now). I'll link to the recipe HERE also- flat or not, they are yummy!

Tonight at dinner we prayed that God would bless this house as well as the people who live here and who will come to visit. We want this to be a place of encouragement, integrity, and FUN. Christians were never called to live a life void of fun. We have more reasons to celebrate than anybody else!

Friday, January 8, 2016


I've always enjoyed doing laundry. Bubbles, clean scents, warm clothes, and in the warm months, hanging things out on the line in the fresh air and sunshine. Ahh. The putting away of said that's another story.

In our last house, the washer and dryer were located in the coldest, darkest part of the basement. Had we stayed for another year or more, we had big plans to move them over to the lighter side. But we moved, and in this house, the laundry area is tucked inside the breezeway/informal entry, right beside the kitchen. I'm so in love. It's just a large closet more than an actual room, but after having trudged down two flights of stairs to the dungeon for three years, this just makes my heart go pitter patter.

We still have a few boxes left to be unpacked, but for the most part, I know what I wanted on the shelves above the washer and dryer. And I didn't want everything to be totally utilitarian, either. Practical? Yes. But pleasing to the eyes as well. Oh! And I didn't want to purchase anything new (although we will need a hook-rack-thing for the things with handles).

My one rule for this tidying up project: no more than two items must be moved in order to get to something else. I tend to over-pack the shelves and it gets so annoying having to move thirty other things out of the way in order to get to the flashlight in the back.

Not sure why this looks so dark, but it makes for a much more dramatic BEFORE picture  =)

Using up baskets and boxes I already had...and adding some touches of whimsy as well. My homemade laundry detergent is in the ceramic jar in the basket, and I cut dryer sheets in half and store them in the smaller jar on the left.

I never would've thought of storing scissors and pens, etc on the laundry shelves, but it just works. And it frees up counter space, too! Sometimes you just gotta think outside the box I guess.

These two prints were wedding gifts that hung in our old kitchen, but they didn't quite fit in with this new kitchen. I LOVE my kitchen....can't wait to share pics! I adore them on the wall here. They make me smile every single time I see them.

Here is an older post I wrote with some of my best Laundry Tips if you'd like to read it.

I just's FRIDAY! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Like many, I'm not big into resolutions for a new year. Changes and improvements can be made at any time; there can always be that fresh start in your heart, regardless of the date on the calendar. But I do like to ponder and reflect on certain areas in my life as we approach the new year, and this year, I'd like to commit to praying for my children more. Simple out-the-door prayers are fantastic, and I try to do those often; but what I'm referring to are those fervent, meaty, soul-searching prayers that shape the lives- and hearts- of my children.

There are so many things that we simply cannot control when it comes to parenting, but this is one single thing that can have the most impact, and yet I overlook it. I admit that I have not put praying for my children at the top of my priority list. For me, if I'm being completely honest, I think it stems from a lack of dependency on the Lord and from regarding prayer as the "next best choice." Prayer is not meant to be a passive activity- God tells us over and over that prayer is our number one defense against the enemy; our number one resource for peace, healing, and contentment; and the most intimate, beautiful path to knowing Him. It is the single most powerful thing we can do.

And yet, I still regard prayer as a last resort often times. It doesn't feel like I'm doing enough. And isn't that the lie? The false sense of security I have when I let myself think that I've got it under control or that I can find a solution to whatever problem I'm facing at the moment.

The truth is, God uses prayer to open hearts and minds, and how I long for this to be my truth!

Monday, January 4, 2016


Well here we are, Monday morning after a nice, long Christmas break. It's been great, but it also feels like it's time to get back to a new normal. Especially new for us, as we're still transitioning from homeschool to part-time and full-time traditional school. Oh, and finish moving in. And then have a baby. (!!!!!)

This was the very first house we looked at when we decided to put our home on the market last summer. We liked the house right away but were concerned with "the bedroom situation," meaning that we're down one, and the sizes of these rooms are smaller, so completely impossible to share two of them. After touring what seemed like a thousand other houses and never finding one that felt like home the way this one did, we moved forward. Being geniuses helps, too, because we came up with some great solutions for the sleeping arrangements. Ha Ha

We've been here three weeks now and it already feels so good. We never had any intention of staying in our last home more than 3-5 years, but we plan on staying here for the long haul. It does make a difference in how we view certain, well, design challenges. We've got time to do whatever we want, no big rush this time around.

Here is our living room so far. There are some changes we'd like to make because the room feels both too country and traditional (is that even possible?) for our tastes, but this is how it looks now and I do like it. The seating arrangement has also posed some challenges, but until we alter the huge fireplace/mantel and put the TV on the wall overhead, this is the only way it works. We're okay with that for now. =)

 (obviously haven't quite finished with the poor shelves...)

I nearly broke my neck parading around the snowy backyard for those snippets of greenery, so I think they look especially lovely!  ;)

Anytime I want a glimpse of what I know this home can look like, I come out here and soak it all in. The owners added this sunroom last fall and I looove it. This is what I want the whole house to look and feel like!

If you follow me on instragram, then you know we went bedroom furniture shopping because my mammoth dresser didn't fit on any wall...and I was tired of having to hoist myself up onto that high bed, ha! I shared a quick pic there, but I really like how the new furniture looks and fits, so I'll write up a post about that soon. Have a super Monday!
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