Sunday, May 13, 2018

A letter to all the moms out there....

I hosted today at church on stage today for Mother's Day.  I had really been praying and thinking about what to say to all the moms out there.  I thought....what would I want my kids to say to me on Mother's Day??....and then I wrote it down.  Trust me...the kids think and feel all these things, they just aren't the best at communicating it, myself included!  

So...on Mother's Day, here is a little encouragement from one worn and tired mamma to another!  

For me, I always envision Mother’s Day to be this grand day where my kids pamper me from sun up to sun down.  They shower me with gifts and tell me each and every single thing they love about me and thank me for the hours and hours I spend cooking and cleaning and driving them all over the place….and then Mother’s Day comes and some how that just never ends up quite like I envisioned.  So this morning I thought I would write each mom out there a letter because I want you to know how important and loved you are! 

Dear Mom,

You. Are. Amazing.  I wanted to share some of the things that I have noticed about you that I am not so good at always telling you.  First of all, you are beautiful.  The way you pull your hair back into a messy pony tail and toss any piece of clean (or dirty) laundry on is when I think you are the most beautiful.  Your eyes watch my every move and I love when you stare in awe at me at person I am becoming.  I watch your eyes fill with tears of joy when I do something that makes you so proud and I watch your eyes fill with tears of pain when you are hurting or sad.  Even though you may not always think it, you are the most beautiful person to me.  The next thing I want to tell you is that you are “noticed.”  Every single thing you do for me I notice.  I sometimes don’t tell you that…actually, I rarely tell you that.  I notice each sock you pick up after me, each toy you almost step on and put away for me, each hour you work, each dish you wash, each place you drive me….I notice it all.  You give up yourself more than you should to do something for me.  You are the most selfless person I know and I love you for that!  Thank you for everything you do for me that might go unnoticed.  And finally, one more thing I want to tell you is that you are loved.  You are the person I can count on to know what I need to do before I even know I need to do it.  You are the person that I call when I don’t know who else to call.  You sit at my long baseball games and choir concerts and are always there to be my biggest cheerleader.  Mom, you make me laugh (and sometimes cry) and you make my world a much better place because you love me.  I may not always say “I love you” or tell you how great you are, but today…I want you to know that Mom, I love you and I am so thankful God chose you to be my mom!

Love, your pretty amazing kid! 

And....I wrote a prayer for you all too....

Father God, 

We thank you today for all the women here with us today and for those who couldn’t make it.  God, you created each one of us to be unique with our own gifts and talents.  Thank you for creating moms to be patient and giving.  God, I pray today for each woman and mom her to be filled with your strength and your Spirit.  Give them understanding and grace as they can sometimes feel tired and worn.  We pray for single moms, who must lean on you for the father of their children. We thank you that you’re arms surround children who may never know their earthly father. We also pray for mothers who never had the honor of bearing children, but whose nurturing extends to the many who may be poor and needy or a strong woman in the lives of someone who may be hurting or alone.  God, today as we honor the moms and women in our lives, we thank you for their love and support and ask that they continue to grow closer to you and that they would know just how much you love them!  Amen. 

I love you all, even if I don't know you.  You are loved and noticed and appreciated and you are beautiful!  

Happy Mother's Day!!  

Monday, January 22, 2018

One Year.

I know it has been a while since I blogged.  Life has been different.  Life has been challenging.  Life has been hard.  Life has been better.  Life has been worse.  This year has caused more growth than I would have ever thought.

Almost a year ago, Dan took a new job with a new company.  This job would take him away from our happy little life for the first time...Ever.  Occasionally Dan would maybe have to go here or there for a day or two, but that was like once every couple of years.  This new job rocked our world.

If you know me at all, you know I don't like change.  I like routine.  I like things to be organized and in their place.  I like stability.  I like my husband home.  I need him home.  He is part of who makes me, me.  When he is not here, I don't feel complete.  I know this is sappy, but it's the truth.  I depend on him.  I need him.  The kids need him.

Well, life has changed.  Dan is not here all the time anymore.  Sometimes he leaves for a week or two.  This new "norm" has rocked me, and not in a good way.  For the better part of this past year I struggled with bitterness and anger.  Anger toward him for leaving us.  Bitterness that he gets to travel the United States and stay in hotels and go out to eat all the time while I stay home and work full time while being a mom and dad to all the kids.  Let's just say, I didn't handle the change very well.  There were many mornings he would leave and I wouldn't even want to say good-bye to him.  There were nights he would call and I would be so mad I wouldn't want to talk to him.  I was lonely.  I was sad.  While he was excelling in his new position, I was trying to hold it together.

I wanted to be happy for him and I really truly was, but my heart had to catch up to my brain.  I spent this last year going through an emotional rollercoaster.  I pulled away from relationships with people. I spent a lot of nights crying.  I never spoke ill of Dan to our kids, but  I rarely praised Dan for how hard he was working and for supporting our family.

I remember talking to a dear friend of mine who's husband travels as well and she said this to me, " Dan doesn't want to be away from you anymore than you want him to be away.  He doesn't want to be staying at a hotel, he wants to be home with you."  It took me a while to actually believe that.  While Dan was away, he would rather choose to be home.  While he is having dinner with customers, he would rather be eating dinner with us.  While he is flying here and there, he'd rather be flying on a vacation with us.

This past Saturday was a game changer for me.  I spent the last year praying, growing, listening, and reflecting and Saturday forever changed me.  I drove my husband to the airport to board a plane for Australia.  Freaking Australia.  I did not have one ounce of bitterness or anger.  I was actually happy for him!  More importantly, I was SO proud of him.  I drove away after giving him a hug and a kiss with a van full of our kids and I couldn't help but smile.  Dan has worked hard for this.  He was chosen out of a lot of techy nerd dudes to be the one and only guy to fly to Australia to handle a heated techy escalation for a customer.  I am positive he was chosen because of exactly who God made him to be.

We will miss him.  The kids will cry for him.  They will get sick of me.  It won't be easy and we will be counting down the days until he comes back to us...but never in my life have I been more confident that God has gone WAY before us and has created this very moment just for us!

I didn't know if we would be able to pull through this.  I didn't think I could ever be happy for Dan to leave us week after week.  Good thing God is in total control and I am not.  He sure has a crazy sense of humor and is challenging me daily to rest in Him and His protection....daily.  

That is all.  Love you, Dan.  We are all so proud of you and so grateful for your techy nerdiness.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Staying organized during school....this is how I do it.

School starts tomorrow morning at 7:40 sharp.  All 7 kids will be in school full time.  Let me repeat that.  All. SEVEN. KIDS. WILL. BE. IN. SCHOOL. FUUUUULLLL TIIIMMMEE!

Oh what will I do with myself?  My life has definitely shifted from diaper changes and nap time.  While I miss that stage dearly, I am also loving the new stage I am in.  To be honest, I have NO idea how I got through the past 14 years and I don't remember most of it...but here I am.  My oldest started high school last week and my baby is starting Kindergarten tomorrow.  Unless something horrible happens tomorrow morning, I can pretty much say that there will probably be no tears.  

Don't get me wrong, I have shed many many tears on the first day of school over the years.  I will greatly miss my children during the day.  I will think about them a ton and even stop at the school or drive by at recess to see them or to say "hi."  I like to think I try to remain active with them at school and their activities and try to be around them as much as I can.  

However, I am ready for school to start.  The routine.  The learning.  The listening to stories from their day.  The morning devotions in the car together.  Hearing my kids "fight" for bathroom space in the morning... I am ready for it all.  (Well, maybe not the memory and the homework, but ready or not, here it comes!)  

Dan and I have always had a bed time routine that has worked.  The kids go to bed promptly at 8:00 p.m.  They have never been allowed to get out of their bed a billion times or fight us on bedtime.  That is one thing I think we did right.  (maybe).  Now that we have older kids, they seem to be throwing a wrench in our solid bedtime routine.  I guess freshman don't go to bed at 8:00 p.m.  The older girls are allowed to stay up until whatever time they want, but they need to be in their rooms...and leaving us alone!!  

Dan's new job has almost broken us a few times.  He isn't home a lot which is leaving quite the burden on yours truly.  I wouldn't say I have handled it "well" but I am trying to make some changes to help with the new job dynamic.  If you know me, you know I LOVE to be organized.  Any sort of disorganization makes my head spin and I can't think clearly.  I thought I would share some of my tips that help my head stay sane!  

Morning lunch making was a hot mess last year.  Crying kids, missing lunch bags, no bread, forgotten water bottles.  Not this year.  Not gonna happen.  We found fridge bins at the container store and prepped them with grab and go snacks for lunches.  There is a sandwich bin, a cheese bins, a fruit bin, veggie bin, and dip bin.  This isn't all their options, but it will certainly help when we all hit the snooze button a few too many times and we need to escape the house quick!  Normally I would suggest making the lunches the night before, but we don't have room to store 7 lunch boxes plus food in the fridge.  The kids are responsible for making their own lunches all the way down to the littlest.  Usually an older girl will step in to help the littles, but within a few weeks I am confident Griffs will have making his own lunch down!  

We bought the kids new lunch bags this year.  Apparently metal lunch boxes with your name and a picture of you on it isn't in style anymore ;)  We found these bags at Sam's club.  Super good quality with a water bottle, 2 containers and an ice pack included.  We filled the water bottles  up so they are ready to go in the morning.  I just ran to target and bought little Crystal Light packs that they kids can take with them every so ofter as a treat as well.  

Last year the side of our refrigerator was packed with memory sheets, spelling sheets, lunch menus and forms.  No more!  We have a white board that give each child a clip.  The teachers are so kind to give us a spelling packet and a memory packet to keep at home.  The kids know when they have spelling and memory and now they can grab it off their clip, study it, and put it back.  I find that if I create a space for my kids to learn how to stay organized, they flourish, less tears are shed on not knowing where something is, and if they need to find something they know where to look.  

 We also created snack buckets for each of the kids.  We packaged up a bunch of pre-made snacks for the kids.  (buying in bulk size bags/boxes and packaging yourself is much cheaper although more tedious).  The kids are allowed to pick out one snack a day for each day of school and put it in their bucket.  They can't take duplicates for the week.  (otherwise those pringles would be gone in 2 days). Each day, they can head to their snack bucket and grab a snack.  The larger bins of snacks are put away until the following week when they fill their snack bucket again.

 Getting all of this organized was a family affair.  We had kids peeling carrots, slicing cheese, cutting summer sausage, bagging broccoli and making ranch dip cups.  Our plan is to make this a Sunday night event...yes, we will call it an event!  I know this may not work for everyone, but it will help my brain be a little less frazzled in the morning, I hope!

...and just for is our cat, Fatsy, wanting to say hello!  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What could have been...

Last night could have gone one of two ways.  It could have ended real bad.

Here's my story.

First of all, I will be honest.  Like maybe too honest.  I am not handling Dan's new job very well.  I hate hate hate that he is gone and away from me and our family.  I am not transitioning well at all.  I am having to depend on people to drive my kids around.  I am having to ask for help.  My mom and friends are having to bring me meals.  I cry on a daily basis.  I am trying my best to hold it together...some days are better than others.  We are trying to figure it out.  We are relying on God to lead us.

Last week was rough on me.  I had a pretty big fight with God on my 3rd trip to one day.  I thought I had cleared some things up with him.  Then on my way home I got a speeding ticket.  Then the next day, Sadie's glasses that she just got less than one week ago got broken at school.  I will admit I wasn't at my "best" last week.  This week had to be just had to be.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I am in the process of decluttering our house.  We have way too much stuff and my brain just can't handle it anymore.  I decided to work on our dining room and craft room last week and am still in the middle of gathering rummage and organizing.  Last night I was cleaning my dining room and getting some things organized on a dresser I had just moved in there.  I decided that lighting a candle would give me some "mood" lighting and who doesn't like a good Bath and Body candle, right?!?!  I finished arranging the dresser and placed a  twine wrapped "W" near the candle.  I knew it probably wasn't the best idea, but it wasn't going to stay there....I was going to come back to it.

The night went on.  I made dinner for the kids.  I ran kids here and there.  I switched laundry around and put the kids to bed.  Normally at night after the younger kids go to bed I sometimes go for a run while the older ones stay up and do their homework.  Last night I did something that I have NEVER done.  I decided to stay home, sit on the front porch, and read a book.  Getting me to sit still is basically impossible.  I can't tell you the last time I finished reading a book.  I had started a book when we were in Alabama and I have been slowly reading it page by page while waiting for kids to get done with practices.  I was really close to finishing it and my mind needed to escape reality for a little bit.  I made my way to the porch and sat and read.  The week before I decided I would read a few pages each night in bed to take my mind off of Dan not being helped my head rest.  I can tell you that the fact that I went outside to read was not anywhere near my "normal."

I read until it was dark and I couldn't see the pages anymore.  I kept checking my fitness watch and was feeling so bad that I didn't go for a run and meet my fitness goal.  I only had 2 chapters left when it got too dark out so I headed in and sat in a chair in my kitchen.  Again....I have NEVER sat there and read.  I normally would have made my way right upstairs to my bed.  I sat and read.  I finished the book and felt good about actually finishing it!

We have a button in our house that if you press it all the lights in the entire house shut off.  Normally, I would press that button after I get upstairs and into my room.  Last night, after finishing the book, I hit the button downstairs and made my way upstairs in the dark. strange for me.

As I made my way to the stairs, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something flicker.  THE CANDLE.  I had forgotten to blow out the candle.  I made my way into the dark to see that the twine wrapped "W" had fallen on the candle and it had just started to burn.  The felt flowers that were on the "W" had already been burned off and the twine had just caught fire.  I picked it up, blew the fire out and watched the smoke instantly go everywhere.  I had to turn the fans on in the kitchen so the alarms wouldn't go off.

I sat there in disbelief.  Each and every moment of my night was way out of my "normal" routine.  It felt really weird but also really good.  I had to take a moment to realize what had happened.

I was able to slow down.  I wasn't so focused on what had to be done or what I should be doing, but I was taking time to just "be."  Every second last night I totally believe was orchestrated by God.  He protected me and my family from something that could have been much worse.

What if I would have left and gone for a run?

What if I would have read my book in the bed like every other night?

What if I would have turned the lights off when I got upstairs and missed the flickering candle?

It was just what I need from God as a reminder that He is in every moment in my life.  Even the days and hours when I feel like I can't press on another minute without Dan.  The days when I feel like I am a bad mom and I am drowning in work and life and laundry and chasing....God is in it with me and He cares more about me than I could ever imagine.  He is enough for me and is ready to help carry me when I don't feel like I can make it another step.  He loves me that much.

I won't be lighting anymore candles when Dan is gone, I can tell you that.

What could have been, wasn't.  I am resting in that tonight.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Fox 6 Real Milwaukee Mother's Day DIY bouquet ideas (that won't break the bank!)

A couple weeks ago, the producer of Real Milwaukee contacted me with some super adorable DIY Mother's Day bouquets.  One look and I was instantly excited about how I could make these my own.  I have said this before, I can pretty much copy any idea and tweak it to my style.  I rarely can come up with an original idea, but give me Pinterest and some supplies and I can make it happen.  All of these ideas came from THIS LINK.  I wish I could take credit, but really, I am just a good copier.

The first craft I copied made was the Dove Chocolate paper flower bouquet.  I mean, seriously, what mom wouldn't love something like that don't die and taste good?  I used my Cricut machine to cut out flowers with a thick scrapbook paper.  If you don't have a Cricut...what is wrong with you....ok, just kidding, you could google a flower template and a ton pop up.  I found THESE templates when I typed in "free flower template" in the search bar. The flower size I used was a 4 inch flower.   I think it would be fun to play around with different flower shapes too!  I bought pre-painted wood sticks (from the floral department at Hobby Lobby) to save me a step from painting wooden dowels.  After hot glueing the stem onto the back of the flower I used glue dots to attach the dove chocolates to the flower petals.  I found this cute little wood box at Michaels 50% off and used some floral foam from the dollar store to stick the stems into.  I used some leftover Easter grass to cover the foam and called it a day!  I also made another one, which I will be showing on Real Milwaukee, that is a smaller version in a vegetable can.  So cute and so easy!  HERE is the link to the tutorial I used to create this fun candy bouquet!


When I saw this idea I could hardly contain myself.  I happen to have this tea pot from a Tea Party birthday party I had years ago and dusted it off and boom....adorable.  I seriously went to Piggly Wiggly, bought a $9.99 bouquet of flowers that were already put together, poured some water in the tea pot, cut off most of the stems and put it in the pot!  This is just a fun and creative way to display flowers instead of a vase.  I can't wait to go to Goodwill and hunt for more teapots to use for some Mother's Day gifts!  HERE is the link for the tutorial I used to create the flower pot vase. 


Now, I'll be honest, I am not a huge fake flower fan.  I think if used correctly, though, they can totally work.  I think this totally works!  I purchased some sunflowers from Hobby Lobby a little over a week ago for something else and then when I saw this idea, I knew exactly what to do with them!  I headed to Goodwill and scored this purse for $4.99.  In keeping with my honesty, I had a friend do the floral arranging for me.  That really isn't in my crafting skill set.  I think she did an amazing job and I can't wait to use this as a decoration piece for an upcoming Farmer's Market event I am having.  This can be hung on a door or set on the ground!  Doesn't it just make you feel like Spring time might eventually come?  HERE is the link for the tutorial I used to create this.  
I have done melted crayon art before and I think it is just one of the best things to do.  It is so easy and just so cool!  My oldest daughter actually made this entire piece for me.  We used a rectangle canvas that we found for super cheap at Michael's along with some jumbo flowers.  She melted the crayons and hot glued the flowers on.  I am not even kidding.  It was that easy.  The canvases we bought came in a 6 pack and she used all the canvases making crayon art!  HERE its the tutorial I had my daughter use!


 This next bouquet I love because we personalized it.  We decided to make this for my mom from our kids.  She is always doing sweet things with our kids and I wanted the kids to tell her some of the things they love about her.  I found these pre-made rosettes at Michael's and used a 40% off coupon to buy them.  Next we hot glued paper straws to the back of the rosette.  Next, we drew a leaf on a piece of paper and used that as our template to cut out leaves of cardstock.  My 4 oldest girls talked about what they loved about their "Oma" and wrote it on the leaves.  We hot glued the leaves on and stuck the flowers into a piece of floral foam we shoved inside the bucket.  I found this little bucket in the dollar section at Target.  Once again, I used leftover Easter grass to cover the foam!  THIS is the tutorial I used, but you will see that I tweaked it a bit!


I'll be honest again with you, this isn't the most easy craft!  I am so happy with the outcome, but I did have to enlist the help of my husband to make this!  We followed THIS tutorial and pretty much copied it step by step.  I am positive we used a different type of glue than they used but ours held just as well.  I ended up taking a paper towel and getting it wet and then put that it a ziploc bag.  I shoved that inside to moss to help keep the flowers watered.  I am excited to fill this with all different types of flowers this summer!  As a mom, I get tons of dandelion bunches from my kids...this would look adorable with a hand full of dandelions in it!


And lastly, these cupcake bouquets are super popular right now.  My mom decorates cakes and has been making a bunch of these for bridal showers.  I found this pot at Michael's and then purchased a styrofoam ball that I could shove perfectly into the pot.  Half of the ball fit and the other half stuck out to make a round mound which is exactly what you need.  Then, I called my mom and asked her to makes me some cupcakes!  For real.  I don't have time to bake and decorate cupcakes!   The ones in this picture are actually mini cupcakes.  I will be demoing with regular size cupcakes on air.  We froze the cupcakes so they would be easier to work with.  Then I inserted a tooth pick into the bottom of the cupcake and pushed the other end of the tooth pick into the styrofoam ball.  There will be some gaps where you can see the styrofoam ball, so I just used empty cupcake liners to fill in the spots.  Can't you just imagine giving this to a mom or a friend on Mother's Day?  Seriously such a fun and unique idea! 

I think this might be one of my favorite segments yet.  All of these bouquets were really easy and super inexpensive to create.  I know as a mom, receiving a gift like this that takes just a little time and effort means more to me than anything store bought.  Happy crafting and more importantly....Happy early Mother's Day to all the moms out there!  

Monday, April 24, 2017

An electronic free trip to paradise!

Well, it happened.  We booked out of town again to Orange Beach, Alabama.  This time it was a bit more planned than our last vacation (you can read about how we left for a vacation in under 2 hours HERE).  I don't want to be that person that brags about how awesome their vacation was and how beautiful that weather was and how amazing their kids are...but I might just have to do that a little bit.    So last year we had planned to go back to Alabama on Easter Sunday just like we had done the year before.  We kept talking about it, even started saving in our vacation jar.  However, something kept us from ever booking a condo.  Mainly, we didn't have the money...but something felt "off."  We never ended booking our condo which was a huge blessing to us.  I ended up getting a really bad Diverticulitis infection on Easter Sunday (the day we should have been leaving) and I was miserable that entire week.  There was no way we would have been able to go and we would have lost out on our condo God was way ahead of us in that one for sure!  
Back in December we started looking at VRBO for a condo on Orange Beach to rent.  We couldn't leave until after I was done working on Easter Sunday which would put us in Alabama after the drive on Monday...which my friends, was the start of their "off season."  You know what that means??  No spring break crowds and MUCH cheaper prices.  Yahoo!  We rented a condo that sleeps 10 people right on the ocean for the price of a hotel joke.  It. Was. The. Best!  I have shared the link with so many people...and the place was perfection.  
 We left around 12:15 on Easter Sunday and made the drive to paradise.  We told our kids from early on that we were doing a no electronic vacation.  Our kids don't have phones, but we do have one with an iPod and a few iPads that they all can share.  We decided to go tech free and it turned out to be the best decision for the trip!
Abbie and Sadie decided to make each of the kids "state bags."  For every state we drove through when we crossed the state line, they would give out a state bag filled with goodies to help the kids make it through each state.  The even spent their own money on buying things for the bags!  I can't tell you how awesome the drive was both there and back for us.  No fighting occurred.  Rounds of go fish were played.  They giggled.  They read books to each other.  They played games and we sang Ben Rector songs together.  No one fought over an iPad.  No one constantly begged us to see our phones or watch a movie.  It was simply simple.  We looked for licenses plates with a map one of the kids printed out.  We ate junk food to keep us awake.  We even pulled over at a rest stop to try and sleep...but who were we kidding?  That lasted about 30 minutes before we pulled right back out of that rest stop!  
 We pulled in early in the morning and made a mad dash for the ocean.  Get. My. Feet. In. The. Sand!
We played.  We swam.  We jumped waves.  We went ghost crabbing.  We saw dolphins.  We ate more junk food.  

 We went to the souvenir shops and ate custard.  We played mini golf and saw the Blue Angels.

We read books by the pool (well, I did) and the kids put layer after of sunscreen on. 

 I knew I wanted to take pictures of them at the beach but we really didn't plan outfits or anything.  I told them to put something nice on and this is what I got.  Remember the years of matching outfits and matching swimsutis for us?  Yeah, those are gone.  However, I am loving these mismatched outfit times just as much!

 We tried to recreate our jumping picture from 2 years ago.  Although we didn't master the perfect shot, we sure had a lot of fun trying!  Jump after jump.  No eyes even were rolled during the process!

 It truly was a vacation of a lifetime.  I highly recommend Orange beach.  White soft sand filled with sea shells and sun!

 And just like that....our kids have grown up.  I am experiencing a whole new set of emotions as Molly is getting ready to graduate from grade school.  Everyone tells you the time flies by when your kids are little and you are in snot and diaper land....and then in a blink of an eye, they aren't your babies anymore.  So here they are.....Our crazy wild kids that I am blessed to have call me "mom." (Not in age order!)



And then there is this guy.  Love of my life.  Dad of the year.  

 We spent 5 nights in paradise.  We slept with our balcony door opened every night and listened to the waves crash.  My heart was full.  My head was rested.  My kids were happy.  We had no practices to drive to.  We had no work to worry about.  We spent time together.  We made some of the best memories together.  I am so thankful that we did this.

I have lots more pics to share and details on our trip which I will share later....but for now....I gotta run kids to soccer and ballet....back to life, back to reality!  

I belong by the ocean....until we see each other again!  Don't be surprised if we move to Alabama one day.  It has my heart!