Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Year in Pictures {2011}

My friend, Jo-Lynne, posted her year in pictures , so I thought I'd totally steal her idea. It took a while, but it was fun to look back on what turned out to be an absolutely wonderful year.


2011 started kind of slowly for me. It seems I did a lot of cooking in January.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

And then there was Blissdom . . . where I roomed with this great gal .

And met this super-fun gal, Robin , for the first time (hopefully not the last)!


Can you say snowmageddon ?? Oh my word what a lot of snow we had!

Thunder was in her glory.

Also in February, this one became a teenager, and we celebrated by eating at Grand Luxe Cafe and going to see "Wicked" in the big city.


March brought not one, but TWO spring breaks for me this year.

The first was spent in New York City with these three lovelies. We had a blast covering pretty much every inch of Manhattan . That was also the first time I had ever tried sushi--and I liked it!

My second spring break was with the rest of the fam (and Caroline's friend, Emma) later in the month when we headed to one of my favorite places ever--Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

Sadly, the weather didn't exactly cooperate , but we had a great time anyway.

I met this sweet blog friend , Glenda, who has since become a "real life" friend.

Finally, Kate turned 19 in March. (Which suddenly makes me realize that she will soon be 20, which is impossible because there is NO WAY I could have a 20-year-old!)


More birthdays in April. Caroline turned 17 , and I turned . . . yeah.

And then there was this big event :

We celebrated in style with a bunch of Kate's friends . . . at 5:00 a.m.


I wrote a 31 Days series in May titled "31 Days Closer to Your Kids." Not just challenging, but the whole month was really fun for me. I loved blogging alongside Sandy , Melanie , and others.


I celebrated 26 years of wedded bliss to this guy.

And I shared one of my favorite risotto recipes with you. Mmmmmmm.


Ahhhhh. Now July was something special. It was the month we had waited all year for because it was the month that B got a sabbatical .

Not only did we he fish, we laughed a lot. There's just so much to laugh about in the Northwoods!

Most of all, though, we read, relaxed, and rested .

To say that July was our favorite month would be an understatement.


This year "back to school" took on a whole new meaning for me as I literally went back to school , taking a teaching position for the first time in five years. I must have been scrambling because I don't have a single good picture to share from August.


One of our highlights was being a tourist in our own city. One gorgeous September Saturday we just decided to make a memory by taking the Chicago Architectural River Cruise , something we had never done in all our years here. What a great day! I'm sure it won't be the last time we take that tour.


My sister, Jodi, came for a visit in October and we spent a day in our hometown with our Aunt Alice.

That fun day sparked my "Where I'm From" post.


Teaching kept me very busy this fall, but in November I took on yet another blogging challenge : I wrote about one thing for which I was thankful every day until Thanksgiving. That was so much fun that I hope I remember to do it again next year (no guarantees on that one).

I might have also taken a certain active dog around our favorite park.


Again, teaching took its toll on my blog as I finished up the semester by grading 40 research papers. Ah well, all was not lost. I still wrote one of my favorite posts of the year and enjoyed time with family right here at my house.

Can you tell we're sisters?

My neice, Paige, along with my sister, Jennifer, and her husband, Tom. We love hanging out with them . . . and their daughter, Kira, who had not arrived yet.

What will 2012 bring? We never know. But we do know that with Christ by our side all will be well.

And all will be well.

Happy New Year to you and yours.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Top 10 Favorite Posts of 2011

I'm tired of apologizing, and I'm pretty sure you're tired of hearing it, but as I looked back on the year, it seems like pretty much every-other post this year has featured some form of me apologizing for not keeping up with my blog.

I never claimed to be a professional.

And besides, as I looked back, I realized that my 2011 was filled with twists and turns. And time off. And new jobs.

So I'm not going to apologize any more. I'm just going to list my ten favorite blog posts of 2011. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

1. The Great Big Buffalo Plaid Debate - Remember this one? From, oh, last week? Let's just say they're still in the closet.

2. Christmas Card Prayers - For some, Christmas can be a sad time of year.

3. Confirmation - This may very well be my favorite post of the year.

4. Where I'm From - This meme was going around this year, and after a trip to my hometown this fall I decided to try it for myself. I'm glad I did.

5. Sublime Sabbatical - Did I mention that we took a sabbatical this summer? *winkwink*

6. How NOT to parent your almost-not-a-teenager - Not my most shining parenting moment of the year, that's for sure, but a very funny post came out of the situation.

7. Too Busy? - I was convicted this year that being "too busy" is a relative term and one I'm trying to eliminate from my vocabulary.

8. 31 Days Closer to Your Kids: Laugh - I had so much fun with this "31 Days" series, and I think this is my favorite post of them all.

9. Just one of the many reasons I love him - Reminiscing sweet times with my sweet girls and their sweet dad.

10. How Your Daughter Dresses Matters - Another of my very favorite posts of the year, and the top traffic-getter of the year.

And just because I can't ever seem to follow the rules, and because I love my family so much, and because I loved taking part in Lisa-Jo 's "Five Minute Fridays," I need to add a number 11.

11. "I am loved" - because I am.

So which was your favorite? Why? Feel free to add your own favorite post from your blog in the comments so we can all read it.

Linking to Amanda's Weekly Bloggy Reading ! Head over there to read more great posts.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Tea Will Be Waiting

I ll be there in five minutes.

I stared at the phone in one hand, the carpet-cleaning tool in the other, and just laughed. I was a mess. I had not showered, my hair was greasy, and I was working up a sweat with the carpet cleaner. An appraiser had just left my house, and dinner guests would be arriving in a few hours.

But an interruption this was not. This was an impromptu visit from one of my favorite people in the world. I shifted gears and prepared the tea.

I could not have been happier for the diversion.

That s kind of what God has been doing in my life lately forcing me to shift gears, change direction, and look to what s really important in my life.

I read an article recently by a mega-mom-blogger who said we should not let our guard down for one second during the holiday season. We need to keep blogging, keep building our communities, keep those advertisers happy, even during the holiday season. Because statistics matter!

I ll be honest, I felt a little rebellious after I read that article because I have broken all the rules this year. I have taken a sabbatical . I have not posted regularly . I have neglected our little community over here for other things God has called me to .

And I have not checked my stats in weeks.

Because right now? in my world? the only statistics that matter are the number of hugs and kisses and I love you mom s I get.

Now, I love my readers, but the people I really want to keep coming back are the kids who come in my front door, kick off their shoes, plop down on my couch and exclaim, This is my favorite couch in the whole world!

Or my aunt who called me in the middle of a Monday afternoon just because she was in my neighborhood.

I have something to tell you. Even though I pretty much stopped writing this fall because God wanted me to do something else, my statistics didn t suffer. As far as I know.

But most importantly, my status did not change in the eyes of the people who matter.

I have no idea if I will write much this week. My family arrives on Thursday, and to be honest, I have more important things to attend to.

So call me a rebel (or a grossly unsuccessful blogger), but THAT is where my priorities lie.

And if you re ever in my neighborhood, give me a call. The tea will be waiting.

So tell me, your thoughts about all this. Do you write through the holidays? Do you freak out about statistics? I d love to know.

Linking this post to Emily's Tuesday's Unwrapped at "Chatting at the Sky." Because she's lovely.


Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm over at the MODsquad blog today!

"Have they descended on you yet?
Kids home for Christmas break? (Mine are, and it s a wonderful chaos.)
Friends you ve invited in for a party? (I had 30 high school kids descend on me last Saturday.)
Out-of-town family? (Mine arrive on Thursday, and I can t wait!)
It s the time of year that is extremely people-intensive, which can be a good thing, but for an introvert like me it can also be a little tiring. . . ."
Read the rest of this post at MODsquad .
(And go tackle that "To Do" list--that's what I'll be doing today!)


Sunday, December 18, 2011

December Random

Sitting in Starbucks.

Contemplating the past few busy days.

Realizing that I have not posted on this blog in a week and a half. (That must be some kind of record.)

Wondering if anybody is still out there.

Anticipating what s ahead.

Thinking a list would be helpful right now.

So here we go:

1. I finished my first semester teaching in five years, and I could not be happier with the outcome. Not only did God show me clearly that I was exactly where He wanted me to be, but I also felt good about the job I did. I felt like a rookie again, getting my feet wet in the teaching arena, but for the most part it all came back to me pretty quickly. And I honestly felt like this was one of my most successful semesters ever, probably because I stopped being self-conscious and just started looking into the eyes of my students to see what s in there. And believe me, I learned a lot about my students this semester.

2. Christmas is a week away. I m feeling ready. Sort of. But whether I m ready or not, my family arrives on Thursday and I CANNOT WAIT!! We don t hold to many traditions, per se, but the one we do hold is that we will all be together at some point over the Christmas holiday. I have a couple of fun things planned for all of us, but, as one of my sisters told me the other day, We just love hanging out in your kitchen, talking, and being together. That s what it s all about for us.

3. Kids are home, which means lots of chaos, fun, and activity. A group came over on Friday night for an impromptu dinner. About 30 high school kids came by last night for a progressive dinner. Saturday morning, B and I were sitting next to the Christmas tree, IN OUR PAJAMAS, I might add, when there was a knock on our front door. Two of Caroline s friends stood there all smiling and bright-eyed, ready to go shopping. AT 8:15!!! Needless to say, they had to wake her up. But it s so much fun to have these kids hanging out, adding to the chaos and fun that is our life right now. We know it won t last forever, so we re enjoying every moment.

4. Speaking of friends, last weekend we had a group of Kate s friends from college over for dinner about 11 in all. I did a Christmas dinner for them, complete with ham and Christmas jello. (One boy looked at the jello and said, What s this? Doesn t anybody make jello anymore?) B told me later than one of the girls sank into our comfy couch after dinner and said, This is my favorite couch in the whole world. Now THAT makes this mama really happy.

5. I really feel like I should clear something up from my last post because people have actually said to me, What do you have against buffalo plaid? I don t necessarily have a beef with buffalo plaid. I like buffalo plaid . . . when it s used properly. L.L. Bean does not have to boycott my blog. It s just the pajama pants I had a little trouble with. That is all.

Now we begin getting ready for my family. But you know what? If the basement doesn t get cleaned, if the silver doesn t get polished, if the tree doesn t get the cranberries put on it, Christmas will still come.

Here s the cool thing about it all. Even if we don t get our act together. Even if we don t write that book we ve been meaning to write. Even if we don t head overseas to rescue orphans . . . Christ will still come.

And grace will cover it all.

And THAT makes this mama so happy.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Great Big Buffalo Plaid Debate

Oh this blog. So random. It moves from the sublime to the ridiculous in a matter of 24 hours.

But I am quite serious about this, and I need your help. What are your thoughts on buffalo plaid?

Because in our house there's a debate raging, and it ain't pretty. See, there's a certain not-so-young man who owns a certain pair of pajama pants that may have been given to him by a certain mother in a year that I'm fairly certain was, oh, 20 years ago or so. These pajama pants are so thick that I am also certain that this certain not-so-young man could survive a night in 85 degrees below zero weather IN AN IGLOO and come out the next morning still toasty warm.

The buffalo plaid. It is good for so many things.

Like bedding.

Or luggage.

Or shirts.

Especially shirts.

(Excuse me. That was entirely uncalled for.)

But pajama pants? Notsomuch.

Whenever he wears them I end up having the Lumberjack song floating through my head all night long:

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay.
I sleep all night and I work all day.

And to be honest, I resent that.

But Mr. Lumberjack thinks the buffalo plaid is perfectly acceptable evening attire. I suppose he's comparing what he wears to bed to what I wear to bed and, yes, on some nights, even the lumberjack pants win.

But the song. The song ! Well, the song AND the pants. They plague me.

I've tried hinting. I've tried cajoling. I've even tried getting the girls on my side. But nothing works.

Then this week, Mr. Lumberjack sent me an email with this headline from GQ magazine.

(Apparently lumberjacks read Gentlemen's Quarterly--who knew?!)

Well, that settles it. If the buffalo plaid is good enough for GQ, it's good enough for me. I suddenly know what to get my husband for Christmas.

So tell me, what do YOU think of the buffalo plaid? Is this the next great fashion statement? Or should we send it packing to the Great Northwoods?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Card Prayers

One lost a mother. One lost a son. One lost a husband.

Too many to count have lost jobs.

This morning I sent out Christmas cards, thankful to finally get them out of my house and into the hands of people who have not heard from me in a couple of years.

But as I was addressing the cards this past weekend, I was struck by how many people on my list have gone through really hard things recently. Loss. Disappointment. Great hardship.

My heart aches for all the grief that s out there, because I know that grief seems especially close at this time of year. Even long-held grief rears its ugly head and reminds you of the empty place at the dinner table or the days spent in the hospital at just this time of year.

Grief is especially active right now.

As I stuffed envelopes I found myself praying for my friends, especially those who have suffered this past year, losing loved ones and jobs.

And I wondered, yet for the thousandth time, why me?

Why am I blessed with healthy children? Why do I have a happy marriage? Why are we able to stay in our home and dodge the economic bullets that seem to have ravaged so many people these days?

I ll admit, it is the question on my mind so often why me? Why us? Why, Lord?

It s not that we re smarter, wiser, more astute than others. It s certainly not that we re kinder, more generous, or more loving (if you think that, you obviously weren't at our Christmas card photo shoot). Our being spared, for now, has nothing to do with us or the way we live or the way we act at all.

We can t bring blessing upon ourselves.

Old Testament prophets knew that blessings come from the hand of God . Job knew it too , and trusted it completely. As far as I know, Lot did not blame God when he lost everything , including his wife.

So if this blessed life that I have been given is not at all from my own hand, I must simply accept it with a heart filled with gratitude.

This year my prayer has been that in every Christmas light (even the ones that keep going out in front of my house!), in every glistening ornament, in every flickering candle flame I would see God for who He is the giver of every good gift.

And if you are grieving this year, I am praying that you will be able to see Him too.

Linking this post to Emily's Tuesdays Unwrapped . Head over there to read more.

Photo credit #1 , #2 .


Friday, December 2, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Tired

Well hello, Friday. I'm happy to see you again, my friend. Shhhh. Don't tell the others, but you're my favorite.

It has been a while since I've taken part in Lisa-Jo's "Five Minute Friday" party, but I thought I'd take a few minutes to write today.

A friend's Facebook post this week has made me think so often about the days when my girls were babies, sleeping so sweetly in their crib after a long, long day. I wrote about it earlier this week , and then today's prompt from Lisa-Jo made me think of it again.

I hate that I have so many regrets about the mom I was when my girls were younger, but there it is. I do. Have regrets. Don't we all?

I guess I'm just processing some of those this week.


I have never been so tired as I was in those days. The days I remember well with a mixture of joy and shame.

Did my weariness lead me to be that crabby mom, that tired mom who justified her temper because of her exhaustion?

That tired mom who counted down the minutes, seconds, until bedtime and who took so little pity on her young ones in that moment.

That mom who, after a couple of hours of peace, would sneak into her daughter s room, brush the hair from her face, and just stare at the wonder of God s handiwork.

Was it exhaustion that finally compelled me to pick up my sleeping baby, bring her close, nuzzle her neck, and breathe deeply the scent of my offspring?

And was it bone-weariness that caused me to hold her, heart breaking, love swelling, until the tears fell?

One exhausted mom. Shame-filled, hope-filled, prayer-filled.

One sleeping baby. Resting, dreaming, forgiving.


Head on over to Lisa-Jo's for more Five Minute Friday posts.