the tiny & small things.

we haven’t done one of these in awhile, a laundry list of the sweet bitty pieces floating by.

we had a fantastic, busy weekend with my parents here & a hotel stay at the DAX (“decorated apparel expo,” the t-shirt show we go to every year to see how the big guns print.).

to amp up the goodness, i’ll scratch out the pieces.
it makes my heart happy, this counting.  (& who couldn’t use a little happy just now?)

from the weekend:

on the showroom floor, learning daddy’s business.

a jackpot of tradeshow goodies.

i put a high price on entertaining themselves.  (do you see the heli?)

fancy dinner for the buyers & their lovelies.

quality time with my dad.

& my mom.

legos at lunch.  because, yes.

photo credit:  my handsome husband.

going out for coffee with four kids.  (my brother & his wife, jen, alongside.  probably sharing a knowing look at our crazy.  just kidding.  maybe.)

love this guy.

& this one.
he could sell you some starbucks’, yes?

outsiiiiiiiiide.  winter, we. are. through.
also, my impending nephew.  see?  woot, woot!!
i love him already.

little boys with sticks.  (five now, you know.  have to take the “little” off, but only in his earshot.)

holding hands.

there it is, our weekend in tiny & small bits.
my heart does feel happier.  thanks for letting me tell you.

but tell me, what sweet tiny & small things are floating by you?
it’ll make your heart happy, the counting.  promise.


move along, folks.

you know what’s fun?  moving on.[the female protagonist then confesses she’s leaving her husband to follow a wild whim, or that her career choice is no longer sufficing.]

i’m just talking about the christmas tree.
[can.not.wait. to box it up & ship it out.]

but, actually, i’m talking about more than the christmas tree.  new year’s eve, people!  that holy ground of change & potential, promise & renewal.

yes, i’m caught up into the “let’s grab hold & shake up the world!”  i always am.  i love the precipice of new year’s eve, casting a loving gaze down at 2014.

there’s nothing like clearing the palette, dusting off the skates, scribbling a new beginning.

i’m not a “lose the belly fat/drink 8 glasses of water every day/read to my children each night” kind of resolver, either.


those resolutions, the traditional kind, feel like a thousand-mile ladder to climb, one creaking, bitty step at a time.  & painfully at that.

no. i’m a full-blooded hedonist.

in year’s past, i’ve resolved to eat more pie & watch more cartoons, in an effort to enjoy life more fully, or dig deeper with my children.

in my mind, adding enjoyment, noticing the goodness right here, or determining to deepen connections run the distance where plain-old hike-up-the-bootstraps might not.  then the spill-over is that i live more inspired, which does wonders for ye ol’ goal list.  kind of an inverse-in-reverse.  (i think i made that up.)

or maybe i’m just lazy.

either way, i haven’t even put together my resolutions this year;  just this morning we ended a 10-day grandparents’ christmas extravaganza when my parents drove out our driveway, so i’m a little ridiculously scattered, as mirrored by every flat surface & square inch of floor in the house.

BUT.  life is shaking up in this household, & i’m barely hanging on, in a good way.

1.  we just discovered that all 3 of my big kids are sensitive to gluten.
thus begins a gluten-free adventure (some of us kicking & screaming.).  i had no idea,
& now that we’re dipping our toes in (taste buds?), i’m kinda excited.  smoothies & meatballs & rice noodle lasagna!  why not?!

2.  another shake-up:  in a few days, we’re taking the kids cross-country, in the mini-van, to visit andy’s brother & his wife in NYC!  we’ve been scrounging spare dollars all year, & we’ve raked the pile together enough to shoe-string our way, with the help of very kind souls willing to give up carpet space to four small children & their accompanying adults.  (if you have any NYC advice, i’d love a good word!)

&, i’m also joining nourishing minimalism’s 2014 decluttering challenge.  i wasn’t going to, as skimming the fat is just a regular day at the office here.  but then i got curious as to what two thousand things exiting this house could do for my peace of mind & my kids’ creativity.  so in i’m jumping.  today, i rooted through (one of the) art supplies’ drawers, & came away with 64 crayons & pencils.  (don’t mock me for counting crayons.)

so, i’ll have to get back to you on the for-real resolutions.  i know they’re in my head somewhere, i just haven’t laid eyes on them yet.

how about you?  do you make or hate resolutions?
if you do resolve, what are you resolving this year?
[i get so inspired by what you do, in your unique perspective in this great big world,
i’d love to know!  please do share the wealth in the comments or on facebook!]

i’ll see you in the new year!!
& happy, happiest end to 2013!!

a tiny & small christmas.

we piled the kids in the van before the sun was up, jammies still on, to drive the hours to andy’s parents house this christmas.  the back of the van was laden with gifts wrapped in plain paper, scrawled across with sharpies in their “to’s” & “from’s”.  there were juice boxes & poptarts (it’s christmas!), & we arrived to warmth & love, & mounds & mounds of UP snow.

You do not disappoint.

i’ve been turning over this advent season, this christmas with four kids still-little, round & round to get a better view.  we’ve never done such a simple advent — no toys or games, not hoards of sugary treats.  a few crafts, a bit of doing-for-others, some yummy treats, a handful of christmas movies, a whole bunch of christmas stories.

we’ve never done such a simple christmas — a thrift store tree put up again, ornaments made from paper & glue, christmas cards not yet mailed but without anxiety, gifts in smaller number but with more thought.

You do not disappoint.

& now we are here.  the whole reason we’ve been scrambling or pacing, ordering or making, baking or buying.

& if we let You, You will not disappoint us.

may we all make the room to slow enough to see,
to pause & savor,
to capture not only with our cameras
but also with our hearts
the Wonder that is ours
on this holy night.

merry, merriest of christmases to you,
a big hug,
& lots of love
from tiny and small.

merry making.

the twinkle lights are up.  we’ve cracked out the hot cocoa.  the ornaments have been rearranged seventeen thousand times.  a day.  the basket of christmas books is nestled under the tree.  i even picked my all-time favorite christmas song on the entire planet for this season, an important step in holiday happiness, believe me (thank you, pandora, for introducing us.  i owe you.):

ahh, christmas, i love thee.after real thanksgiving came christmas decorating, & after that came britzgiving, that holy holiday named by my sister-in-law elizabeth, celebrated the sunday after thanksgiving when as many of andy’s five siblings & families come to our house as possible.  in recent years, the menu has evolved to pasole, a dynamic mexican soup andy’s mom taught us to make.

i assume everyone celebrates this holiday.

unfortunately, as is my apparent thanksgiving curse this year, i have no great pictures of us eating soup, or pie, or the cousins running around & around & a-freaking-round.
nope.  all i have to offer you is this guy.
andy’s parents stayed on a couple days, after the rest found their way home.
then came the snow.  halle-happy-lujah.andy’s mom, maria.  a real trooper about playing in the snow with the grandkids.what you can’t see in this picture is the snowball, just up over the top of the frame, that hit me squarely in the camera 1/32nd after i snapped this.he was mildly repentant.

the next task, after play & shoveling & snowballs, was to trim spruce branches for christmas & advent wreaths.  which sounds so noble & pinteresting.
& isn’t.

see, we’ve had a wreath maker in our garage, & at the last house, & in storage, & in a basement, unused, for ten years.  TEN YEARS.  we even tried to sell it in more than one garage sale.  that didn’t happen, we still had it, & it was getting stupid.  you know how those projects go?  those blasted someday, hang-over-your-head ideas. . . .
today was your day, baby, you patient wreath maker, you.
not so much helping as building a fort, but whatevs.  she was outside.then while andy set up shop in the living room, with a big barrel of spruce branches, kieran & i (& sometimes leif) made homemade hot cocoa.  & the house rule applies to cocoa, too:  if you help cook (or bake or make), you get to sample.

i think kieran was in it for the mini chocolate chips.

i know i was.

the wreathmaking commenced. . .

wouldn’t it be sweet if she were wearing that shirt on purpose?  because that’s not even possible.

she may not have been into the branch cutting, but she rocked the wreathing.

as did gramaria.  (grandma + maria.  pretty creative, huh?)

she even fashioned one to hang above kieran’s bed.  if that’s not merry making, well.  peace on earth, or at least here in the dining room for five glorious minutes.
(if you look carefully, squint your eyes a little bit, you can see ye ol’ wreath maker in the background.  so glad we still own you, little guy.  you’re a keeper.  thanks for being patient while we sorted ourselves out.)

so, now we have no grandparent leftovers, & we’re back to our humble selves.IMG_8244
our simple selves who finally got our colors straightened out.
happy merry making, everyone.

ready or not. . .

did anyone else misplace november?  i’m like an old lady trying to find my purse, “it must be around here somewhere, sonny. . . .”

& here we are, december, advent, christmas.  ready or mom & dad came before thanksgiving to hang out for a few days, & my mom, bless her cool grandma heart,  brought, amongst her grandma goodies, homemade sugar cookie dough to roll out with my kiddos.  which is awesome, because i never get to this fun tradition.IMG_8062 i completely forgot to bring my camera to thanksgiving, which we celebrated at my uncle jim’s in the cities, followed by pie at andy’s brother’s just down the road.  but, sans camera, you can imagine aunt joanne’s tender stuffing, my mom’s over-the-top oreo cheesecake, thalia & kieran snuggled up with aunt carolyn looking at her photos from russia, how loud the kids were running around screaming, with guns & capes & cousins.

you know, thanksgiving.

friday morning, because we forgot to do it beforehand (surprise?  um, no.), we did our third annual charlie brown thanksgiving with the kids.  this time they (instead of me) snoopied the plates & toast & pretzels & popcorn.  we had to bunt for the jellybeans with gummy candy from trader joe’s.  i don’t think anyone minded.IMG_8072IMG_8074& with an impromptu non-black friday trip to pick up more christmas lights, we pulled out the tree.  our $15 thrift store tree, which i’ve come to love, in all its crooked-limbed glory. IMG_8090 IMG_8093 IMG_8098javin took the job of repairman, to headless “baby’s first christmas” ornaments.
all told, kieran only dropped two glass ornaments, one of which was a super cute baby blue shoe, ten years old.
crash.  followed by, “sorry, mom!  sorry!”  i expected to be broken up about it, such a precious treasure that i’ve carefully wrapped each post-christmas in tissue paper.
but i wasn’t.  it’s just a thing.
maybe hearts are a’changing.
i like that.
our tree tends to get a few homemade ornaments on it.  none of which are my fault.  also, don’t notice that we totally bought the wrong color candles for advent.  i was so proud of us for being on the ball.  yeah, not so much.  you’d think i didn’t grow up in a lutheran church, my entire childhood.  but use them we will;  oh, yeah, baby.
all manner of decorating was employed, & this was the first year i wouldn’t have had to lift a finger.  but i did;  it’s christmas.  you have to hang an ornament or two.  it’s bad karma if you don’t.  just kidding;  i don’t believe in karma.  but i do believe in hanging ornaments.IMG_8104 all manner of dismounting was employed, years past, i’m a stressed-out mess about christmas, thinking of christmas presents all through the year, obsessing about which picture we’ll use for a christmas card, planning andy’s ear off with my ever-changing stream of ideas.

but i feel different this year.

not so particular about who gets what.  not frantic about the christmas card.  not so big on making christmas perfect for my kids.

because, really, christmas was perfect before i ever got a hold of it.IMG_8118the kids were still at it this morning, kieran perched on a stool stringing tops onto glass bulbs, in plain pajama pants.  unlike years before of micromanaging, i’m good with that.

it’s about’s to a restful, non-frantic advent season.

the dizzying detail.

  when i was a little girl, i would write lists before our family trips, something like this:

things to take to grandma’s 
1.  cabbage patch doll.
2.  doll clothes.
3.  book.
4.  walkman.  (yep.)
5.  word find.  (see?  i’ve always been a word dork.)
6.  pink camera.
7.  film.

i liked getting all the details together.

what i’m noticing now, at near-37, is that God is a big detail Guy.  He wraps up small (insignificant?  heck, no.) bits & strews them along the path of my every day.  i’m noticing them more & more, & today was a particularly spectacular show of detail:  a slow day at home with the kids & andy,. warm weather.  hot breakfast.  tea shared outside on a makeshift picnic table.  reading to the kids.  reading bob goff (if you haven’t, you ought to.  go now, friend.).  tinfoil dinners.  calling my parents.  little baby toes through the open doorway at naptime.

i know, none of those seem that impressive.  we’re nowhere near disneyland.  or even leaving the house for that matter.  but the ordinary details of my life, taken with eyes wide open & drunk in slowly?  you may as well set me on fire.  i just can’t stand how good my life is, infused with the goodness God plans for me.

which begs the question:  how do i stay here, in the clearing, sun shining warm on my bald head?  what pulls me down off the mountain, clutters up my eyesight, distorts this beautiful inheritance of hope that i know to be mine?

a few things i’m beginning to notice:

  • less stuff = cleaner space.  excuse me while i beat my dead horse, but i can’t not say this, my own personal chant:   less stuff, clearer head.  less stuff, clearer head.  less to organize, less to pick up, less to yell at the kids about. . . .
  • which segues nicely into this bit:  a clean space is a clean space in my head.  what i own serves me better if it’s not chaos at all hours of the day.  with four children at home for their schooling, creating & reading & jumping & casting wooden wand spells (no actual spells are cast, never fear.), with one of them being a toddler & a boy (double whammy, anyone?  anyone?  just at my house?  okay then. . . .), believe you me when i tell you:  WE INVENTED CHAOS.  but my heart sits lighter when we restore order at least once a day, usually before bed, & with the kids help.  (i’ve waved the white flag on mama-does-it-all.  heck-to-the-no.)
  • music perks up the soul.  i tried it today, after reading sally clarkson, one wise old mama.  maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but music sets me a little closer to heaven, as long as it’s something uplifting.  i don’t even mean classical, or instrumental.  just not tunes that berate God or humanity.  & let the kids pick some every so often, too.  it’ll make them especially nice, because you’re in control & you say when youtube or pandora gets shut down for the afternoon.
    not sure where to go?  here, let me help you with that:  a little gregory (& if he’s not instantly one of your new favorites, i’ll refund your money.):
  • look deep into the eyes of your little folks.  & if you don’t have little folks around you anymore,  look deep into the eyes of those you have.  you’ll see a whole world wanting you there, inviting you in, offering you a new spin on the same old day you’re living.  those eyes just may make your day.

you can see that at near-37, i still enjoy a good list, minus the cabbage patch dolls.

but what i’m curious about is this:  how do you keep your head above water? how do you stop & notice the God-spots?  what’s setting you on fire these days? (hopefully not your children. . . .)  i’d love a little tiny and small sharing in the comments or on facebook;  you folk inspire me, ya know.

p.s. — i apologize wholeheartedly if my linky links aren’t spot-on.  what i lack in technical ability i make up for in charm.  🙂


this is the writing that wouldn’t take place, because, really, when?  & then i got God-   smacked into an amazing Truth on this sally clarkson post.  like sally said, life wasn’t meant to be balanced, & if i lean a little toward art today, tonight i can catch up on dishes.  right???

this weekend we took the kids to see the nature valley pro bike races that run right through our wee town.  we do this every year as celebration for andy’s birthday.  it’s a pretty big deal.  last year the mexican olympic team was in the race, & ESPN covers it.  big deal for small menomonie.  we’ve never had the kids participate, but this year, mid-afternoon, the kids donned helmets, tags & their bikes & did their own “race”.

6.20.13 052

my girl looked so small in that hoard of kids.  & kieran?  minuscule.  although he was the only 4-year-old without trainers.  kind of awesome.
& there was no actual racing, but the kids did get medals they were pretty jazzed about.

6.20.13 053

6.20.13 043then came sunday, which was andy’s birthday, father’s day, his last sunday of pinch-hitting at our old church as their worship leader, & the kids’ program from a full & happy week of VBS.  (thalia is there, front & center with her pally lili, & javin was down the row, around the bend, & behind the cross.  literally)

6.20.13 071

my handsome husband leading the way.  wahoo!

so then, to make an adventure for the kids on father’s day (because that’s what we do with little kids, yes?) andy took them out on our river in our neighbor’s paddleboat.  (this is my backyard.  (hallelujah.))

6.20.13 095

6.20.13 100(random photo of me & leif.)

i decided we’d fit, too, if leif didn’t wiggle too much.  if you look uber-close, you can see leif’s hand reaching up out of the backpack to say hello to you all.

6.20.13 146

more of my backyard. . . .

then a birthday chocolate for andy. . .because the kind lad told me to take a break on the cake & i took him up on it.

6.20.13 149

& THEN, because God is crazy, we (meaning the kids & their pals) wound up catching a whole boatload of crawfish in a stream at a park on tuesday, & then my dear friend beth, who is master of saying “yes” to her kids’ ideas, thus making great memories, informed me she’d watched a youtube video on cleaning & cooking crawfish.  what?!  & so i could do it, too.  what?!  (let’s just let it be known that i had absolutely no intention of bringing those suckers home, let alone cooking & eating them.  what?!  & when we were done, i was so glad we did.  yay, God;  thank you, beth.)

they kinda grossed me out.  but with a little salt to clean them in water, some rinsing, & then into the pot, i was good!

6.20.13 174 6.20.13 180

no-longer-with-us crawfish.  thank you for your sacrifice, kind sir.  my kids’ memory banks will thank you later.

6.20.13 184

thalia cleaning & peeling those little tough red shells.  she was a trooper, & totally non-plussed by the strangeness of it all.

6.20.13 189this was javin’s artistic representation of the cooked crawfish militantly venging their own deaths.  aren’t they a lovely, yet dead, shade of red?

& the taste?  yep.  just like a mild white fish.  only smaller.  mmmmmm. . . .

now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. . . .      -ephesians 3:20

pretty sure had you told me i’d cram in so many festive events in 4-days time i would have said you were smoking something.  but, thankfully, God’s mind is not my mind.  & what He dreams up for those He loves is so much brighter & shinier than any small plan i might cling to.

really, i had no idea.