Thursday, October 23, 2014

fall happenings.

fall is one of my absolute favorite times of the year.

and pretty much nothing beats fall in new england.  the brilliance of the trees and chill in the air fill my heart with coziness.  and i eagerly anticipate what autumn ushers in; the holiday season and all it's glory.

yes, i love this time of year.

some of our favorite family traditions every fall are going to pick apples, and a visit to treworgy orchards.  with nick coaching football in the fall, we have to be strategic about fitting in family time and these are two days i look forward to every year.

this year, nick was sick for our apple picking trip.  we were pretty disappointed.  we go every year with my mom and sister and brother in law.  the kids run endlessly through the trees and eat as many apples as they can get their hands on.  i spend my time picking, but mostly snapping photos...because who can resist a picture of cute kids in an apple orchard?  i know i can't.  and i have a million of them.  i decided rather than staying cooped upat home with the kids and wallow in my disappointment over our altered apple-picking-day, the girls and i would still go and let nick sleep off his flu.  wasn't the same without him, but we still had fun.  the trees were drooping with beautiful, bright red beauties and i easily filled up a bag within minutes, while still getting plenty of chances to take some pics.  the girls and i always have fun using up our apple supply to make applesauce, crisp, pies and muffins.  any chance they get to help me in the kitchen, they love, so we really enjoy our cozy fall days at home after a trip to the orchard.

already looking forward to next year!













we met my sister and brother in law and their family again at treworgy's a few weeks later.  we love going there throughout the year, but fall is our favorite.  and the girls were giddy to have their cousins join us.  we took a hayride through the grounds, which is the girls favorite part.  they giggled the whole way as we sat on bales of hay and bumped along through the fields.  my girls love feeding the animals and were excited to show jude and lucy how to fill their hands with food and let the goats nibble it right out of their little palms.  my germ conscious niece and nephew were less enthused :)  the highlight of our trip to treworgy's every year is an ice cream cone.  while the kids sat lapping their cones, us adults warmed our hands around steaming cups of hot cider.  we browsed through the pumpkins and the kids climbed on an old vintage tractor and it was time to head home to corn chowder and biscuits and more cousin play.  love watching these little ones grow up together.














my heart aches a little as i type these memories, for i know all too soon i'll realize that these days are gone.  their squeals of excitement as they chase each other through the apple trees, or their giggles as they hold hands and ride along on the tractor filled with hay... these days are exhausting but the memories are so cherished.

i never want to forget.  thank you, jesus, for these precious days.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

imperfect.

{source}

i feel as though i've had writer's block for the last several months.

this blog has been such a wonderful place for me.  a blank page to document who i am and (hopefully) how i'm growing.  a little corner of the world that is mine.  where i can freeze time just where it is each day i pause to write.  where i can journal my little family and bottle up my girl's childhood.  share a recipe or two, and some decorating projects in our home.  a collection of my most favorite things.

i've always expressed myself best through writing.  when i was little, i constantly had notebooks going all over the house; their pages filled with stories scribbled from my ever vivid imagination.  in fourth grade my teacher told me i should be an author when i grew up.  i told her if i ever was, i would dedicate my first book to her.  in my adult years, writing has been my best outlet; a way of helping me grow and process.  it's been through penned pages of my endless source of journals, and now through the clatter of computer keys, that i have felt closest to the lord.  i've poured out my heart, written out my prayers, journaled my deepest fears and greatest joys.  i've recounted beautiful and tragic moments of my life, and i've found a way to share my story.  it's nothing special; but it's the journey god's given me, and i've always felt that by sharing it, god just may use my words to tell someone else "i've been there".

sure, god uses our seasons of plenty to encourage and bless others... but i believe it's through the authentic and raw exposing of our struggles that our stories breathe life into those around us.  we all need to know we are not alone.  we don't have it all together.  and that we can be beautiful, worthy, and enough in the grace of jesus... even in all the imperfection.

i've always been a perfectionist.  to the core.  in my work, my home, my appearance... it's a draining thing, really.  i don't recommend it to anyone.  truth be told, motherhood has kind of wrecked me; but in a very good and humbling way.  i spend way more days in yoga pants than i do in nice clothes.  and it's a good day if i get to run a chi through my bangs, forget about washing and blowdrying my hair.  my house--well--let's just say my kids are slowly destroying everything, my couches are dotted with water stains from leaky sippy cups and don't even get me started on trying to organize their craft supply... or any of their toys, for that matter.  and wanting everyone to think i'm a top notch mom?  well, i'm humbled continuously because of my girls amazing abilities to throw the most epic tantrums of all time.  other moms relate?  yeah.  why i care about what the staring strangers in public places think about my mothering ability is beyond me, but i still struggle with that one.  i told you.  motherhood is a complete perfectionism wrecker.  for that, i am thankful (most of the time).

somewhere in my teenaged years, i got the message that there was a pedestal i was on, and i needed to do everything i could to stay there.  i began decades of a works based relationship with jesus, where i was the good girl, made all the "right" decisions on the big stuff... went to a christian college, got my masters degree from a world renowned seminary and fell in love with a wonderful man and did everything the "right" way.  after i graduated from seminary, i started a full time ministry job as a counselor at a church in dallas and me and that wonderful man started talking about marriage and making sure that was the next step that god wanted us to take.  i got myself so wound up trying to make sure my life choices were pleasing to god, that because of that and other reasons i ended up ridden with anxiety.  like, major anxiety.

one morning, i sat on my bed with the bible open in my lap praying for god to show me something in his word that would calm my striving heart.  immediately, he directed me to ephesians chapter 3... one of my favorite verses was always ephesians 3:20 "now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us..." but this time god was whispering to me to read the earlier verses...a prayer the apostle paul had written to the ephesians:

"i pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  and i pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of christ; and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of god."
ephesians 3:16-19

that morning, god's unconditional love brought me to my knees.  my perfectionism (also read: pride) had completely broken me.  for the past several years since, i've been on a journey of admitting my flaws, accepting my shortcomings and allowing god to love me regardless of my "performance".  

this november will mark three years since i lost my dad and encountered one of the toughest spiritual battles of my life.  so much of what i always knew about god, and had experienced in my intimate walk with him was broken in the traumatic way i lost my dad.  i'm not always sure about how to get that same relationship back... or if i ever will.  and that girl who wants to do everything right and perfect has been resurfacing a lot over the past few years.  accepting the fact that i can struggle, that i can be angry with god, that i can allow myself to grieve and be broken has been a very hard thing for me.  give thanks and praise god for being the one who gives and takes away?  absolutely.  but i have to daily tell myself that it's okay to not have that attitude all the time.  it's impossible, actually.  and that's where jesus comes in.  he is there to fill in the cracked places in my soul.  to hold me when i'm hurting.  to love me when i'm angry.  to gently whisper his promises to me when i want to hold onto everything in my life and not trust him with anything for fear of another loss.  

as our women's pastor at church so gently reminded me as i sat across from her sobbing a couple of months ago: there is nothing i can do that would make god love me any more or any less.  i can come just as i am; broken and hurt and scared... and trust him to do what he does best.  LOVE.

i'm not at all where i wish i was in my healing process, or where i want to be in my walk with god.  it's still difficult at times for me to open my bible.  my mind often races too much to pray as fervently and consistently as i used to.  and i think i could still cry almost every sunday at church during worship.   but god's word tells me that my brokenness is beautiful to him.  it's better than any striving, than any prideful perfectionism, and i'm learning to find the beauty in that myself.

"my deepest awareness of myself is that i am deeply loved by jesus christ and i have done nothing to earn it or deserve it."
-brennan manning

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

first day of school.

i know, i know.  i realize it's the end of september, so i'm a little late on the "back to school" post.  but, better late than never, right?

my baby started school.


i was pretty much an emotional basketcase the week before i dressed my little girl up and watched her bravely walk into her classroom, without a care in the world.  i cried every day.  i'm not even kidding.  it just hurt.  watching my babies grow up before my very eyes and knowing that i'll never get these seasons back just pains my heart.  most days.  somedays these years seem so hard.  but then i start thinking about my season as a stay at home mama to bella being over next year and my heart breaks into a million pieces.

as any mama can understand, i still picture my sweet girl as the crazy haired, chubby cheeked little girl that used to fall asleep on my chest and cuddle with me all day long.  those days seem like a lifetime ago, and yet sometimes i feel like i blinked and here we are.


now, that tiny little bundle with hair as wild as her spirit has grown into a beautiful four year old pre-k student with a heart bigger than the state she was born in (texas... so, that's pretty big...).  armed with her doc mcstuffins backback and frozen lunchbox, she couldn't wait to start her very first day of school.  our girl is ALL ABOUT friends, and she comes home excitedly chattering away each and every day about getting to spend three days a week with her friends.  every day she informs us if it's someone's birthday in her class, and then we spend part of our before dinner prayer with bella praying for the student who had a birthday and asking that jesus will help he/she turn four or five, or whatever age they're turning.  she loves learning and has been keeping a notebook here at home that she's been filling with artwork and using to practice her new letters she's learning.  it's adorable.


and the very best part?  her daddy works at her new school.  and she thinks that is just about the coolest thing in the whole wide world (and so do i).  as i was putting her in the car for her very first day, she excitedly said "mama!  i can't wait to tell all my new friends that my daddy works at our school!  they will be SO excited!" we really are so very grateful.


just watching her excitement has eased my mama heart just a little.  because as much as i may want to, i can't keep her little forever.  she is blossoming and flourishing before my very eyes.  and isn't that what this parenthood thing is all about?


letting go has never been my strong suit.  and jesus is kindly and ever so patiently teaching me what it means to let go of my children.  every.single.day.  they are not mine; they are his.  which i am really so thankful for... what a blessing it is to trust that he will fill in all of the gaps that my humanness leaves.  he will make up for all that i lack.

which is a whole lot.


this whole first day of school thing has been a big step for this mama.  in the letting-go-journey.  in the sitting-back and-watching-jesus-shape-my-baby-journey.  in getting to observe her from a different angle and i'm swelling with pride.  my bella girl is pretty special.  and i am so thankful to the lord for choosing me to be her mama.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

what's for dinner tonight {cheeseburger soup}.

{source}
i used to be the girl that never would go to a restaurant and order a burger.  ever.  i just never cared that much about red meat nor did i crave it.

until i met nick.

soon into our dating, somehow i was telling him how i had been anemic and he promptly declared "you need to eat more red meat", and all of a sudden late night dates for cheeseburgers became our "thing".  and ever since then, i love a good burger.  yes, i'm now that girl.  and i fully embrace it.

in fact, one of our favorite local pizza joints has a to die for big mac pizza on their menu.  it is one of my favorite things and we actually just ate it the other night: ground beef, lettuce, cheese, pickles and the sweet, tangy "big mac" sauce... i know what you're thinking: pickles on a pizza?!  you have no idea.  where was this pizza when i was pregnant??

it's been chilly here this week and that only means one thing: the beginning of fall/cold weather/comfort food cooking... and that means lots of soup and chowders.  i've made cheeseburger soup a few times, but our trip to our pizza joint and feasting on their big mac speciality just made me want to take it up a notch... and so i did.

i added pickles.

i used this recipe as my base, and then tweaked it a bit.  the end result?  absolute deliciousness in a bowl.  with cheese.  and pickles.

need i say more?

cheeseburger soup

* 1 lb. ground beef
* 1 onion, chopped
* 2 carrots, chopped
* 2 stalks celery, chopped
* 1 t. dried basil
* 1 t. dried parsley
* 4 T. butter
* 3 c. chicken stock
* 2 medium potatoes, chopped
* 1/4 c. flour
* 1/4 c. dill pickles, diced
* a generous splash of pickle juice (sorry; didn't really measure...suit your taste!)
* 1 t. salt
* 1/2 t. pepper
* 2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
* 1 1/2 c. milk
* 1/4 c. sour cream

- in a large stockpot, melt 1 T. butter over medium heat.  add onion, carrots, celery and ground beef.  cook until beef is brown.
- add chicken stock, basil, parsley and potatoes and bring to a boil.  cook until potatoes are fork tender.
- melt remaining 3 T. of butter, whisk in flour and milk until smooth.  slowly add milk mixture to the stockpot, stirring constantly.  bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.
- add in pickles, juice and salt and pepper.  stir in cheese until melted.
- stir in sour cream and heat through; DO NOT BOIL.
- serve with crusty bread and be happy.  it's delicious.

enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

farewell, summer.

it's a chilly day mid-september and i'm snuggled cozy on my couch under a pile of blankets.  the girls are sleeping, and i've just turned on the heat in my house for the first time.

summer is officially over.

i know, i know.  it's been over for a while now.  temperatures have dropped, short sleeves have been packed away, pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps and it's all-things-apple.  we've been back in the swing of school for a few weeks now, but i was pretty stubborn letting our beautiful little summer slip through my fingers.  it was just so lovely.  this year was the first time in all the years nick has been a teacher that he actually took his summer off... or most of it, anyway.  after a couple weeks of teaching summer school and some occasional work with a landscape company he's worked with before, it was such a gift to have this summer free from work, commitments, stressors or crazy schedules pulling us here, there and in every direction.  we packed a ton in and just enjoyed each other.  it was really, really great for our little family of four.

here are a few (okay, a million) of photos documenting some of my favorite moments:


very first day of summer vacation with my babes



liver life walk in portland in memory of my dad

blessed with the support and love of so many dear friends and family
seeing this sign still took my breath away... miss him every day

outdoor fun

backyard sprinkler
in a field of peas at treworgy's orchards
a pond & wildflowers
playing in the rain: one of our favorite things to do

strawberry picking

the girls first trip!
family fun
they ate more than they picked...

days at the lake...

the fourth of july weekend on portage lake
s'mores!
parks pond with meme's home church
cute cousins
portage lake with the rollins
sisters at dusk
moosehead lake late august

off to see our georgia family!



lots of outdoor work on our house...

windowboxes
hanging baskets
lots of flowers planted
two fruit trees in the backyard: one peach, one apple

a trip to york beach

beach day
fearless girl
us
best ice cream on earth

bella's first swim lessons



 cousin time!

emmy and baby cana: waaaaay better than a doll! ;)
what a crew!

our new hampshire adventure

emmy's first trip to the emergency room after a fall at the hotel pool...
santa's village!
family sleigh ride
sisters
feeding santa's reindeer
storyland!
pumpkin coach
teatime with cinderella
my favorites

disney junior live!



family visits!

singing with aunt jayne
breakfast with papa
playing with nonnie
taking the texas fam to one of our favorites

bathroom remodel

papa to the rescue!!  he came up from texas to help nick give our bathroom a major overhaul
first bath in their new tub
finished!
 vacation bible school



local fun

at the folk festival
rolling in the grass at the festival...
atop cadillac mountain
ice cream cones at giffords

i apologize for the picture overload, but this summer was filled with so many precious moments that i want etched in my mind forever.  as the beauty of summer fades into the crispness of fall, i am so thankful for all of these blessings.  memories i will cherish for years to come.  photos that will make up the girls childhoods.  people that are so dear to us.  snapshots stitched and woven together that make up a beautiful life.  and i'm so grateful that it is mine.

thank you, jesus.  until next summer... there are more memories to make and moments to hold dear in all of the months in between.