Jan 6, 2017


Oh, these kiddos.

They are SO funny and say such great things.  Here is a sampling of recent quotes and conversations from our household:

After many conversations related to turning left, turning right or going straight.
Sam: Mama, do I have a straight hand?  

Seemingly out of nowhere, but maybe related to Snapchat or some dolls we have with removable / interchangeable heads.
Sam: Can we try new faces?  Sam can be Eli, Eli can be daddy and daddy be mama!  We can move our heads. (Pause.) Oh no!  Our heads are stuck!  
And later, overheard mumbling to himself.
Sam: We can't try new faces.  Our faces are stuck.  

Watching / listening to migrating birds.
Sam: Birds!  Have fun at South! 

Eli's standard apology script - adapted from the script we gave him and later adopted by Sam.  I first wrote this down months ago and we are still trying to work on correcting this.  
Eli: I'm sorry, ___name of offended___.  Thank you for ___offense___.  (For example:) I'm sorry Sam.  Thank you for hitting you.  

Me: Do you think Maggie could poop in the potty?
Eli: No.  She's too little.  Maybe she would go down [the drain] and we can't have a baby anymore. 

Talking to our Amazon Echo.
Sam: Alexa! Do you have a mama and daddy?

And another day, talking to Alexa.
Sam: Alexa, I hurt my ankle! Alexa, look! 

As we were talking about the difference between dairy cattle and beef cattle and noting that grandpa's cattle don't usually make milk.
Sam: They have apple juice, though!  
And when I argued otherwise, he was insistent.  
I was so confused until I realized he meant that he gets to drink apple juice at grandpa's house.  

Falling off the curb and onto the street.
His cousin: Sam! Are you okay? 
Sam (sounding really happy, surprised, relieved): A car didn't get me!

To me with my hair in a ponytail, which doesn't happen often.
Sam: Oh no! Where is your hair?!

More "kid talk."

Jan 3, 2017


We've made it to 2017!  I always love a new year and a new start.  I've chosen a word to lead me through the year and have set some related goals and intentions for the year.

I am also going to continue sharing my monthly goals here because I find that sharing my successes and failures really motivates me.  I don't like to admit defeat (or laziness).

Here's a look back at my December goals:

1. Decide on a word to be my One Little Word for 2017.  Done!  My word for the year is NURTURE.  I wrote my first post on my 2017 word here.

2. Restart core-training exercises.  
Progress.  I started the month strong with almost daily exercises and ended pretty poorly, but haven't completely stopped.  The big thing that I notice when I'm going strong is that I have much improved posture and am much more aware when I sit or stand hunched over.

3. Organize the basement desk area.  Done.  The desktop is cleaned off, which was my main goal.  I didn't clean out all of the drawers, but I went through a couple of them.  I got rid of some stuff as I went and made the desktop usable.  I don't have a lot of space in the house that feels like it is truly "mine."  I think I'm going to claim this desk space and strive to use it on a regular basis.  

4. Walk a minimum of 300,000 steps.  Yep!  Woot.  As expected, it was a bit of a challenge with sick kids, my own bout of flu, cold weather and lazy holiday days.  But, I got it done and I'm proud of myself for doing so.

5. Advent success.  Done.  I defined success as completing my advent devotional, making sure our Elf on the Shelf found a new home each night and spending lots of time reading and talking about the holiday with the kids.

Also: In one of my "currently" posts in November, I mentioned that I was trying to use our cloth diapers more consistently.  My goal was to make it to the end of the month without spending money on disposable diapers.  Happily, I made it through both November and December without buying any.

And now onto this year!  My January goals are as follows:

1. Finish four books.  This would get me off to a great start for my reading goal for the year.

2. Walk a minimum of 300,000 steps.  Again.  

3.  Do a major toy / kid stuff purge and sort.  I did this last April and it was wonderful.  I felt the benefits for many months.  I don't really think that there's that much to purge (although I may be surprised), but I think we could definitely benefit from sorting and storing some things away for a few months.

Also, Maggie is on the verge of crawling.  It is becoming something of a necessity to move all of the "little pieces" into areas where neither she nor the boys can reach them.  I think I will use the upper shelf in Sam's closet to store all the toys with tiny pieces and tell the boys they can only play with them with adult supervision and only at the table or in the basement.

4.  Finalize a "January through March Family Bucket List" and make progress on crossing things off the list.  This is something we've done in the past, but haven't done consistently.  I started a document with some ideas, but need to talk through them with Brian and see what he has to add.

The photo above is from a year ago.  It's amazing to me how the boys look both "so little" and also just like themselves.  

Dec 22, 2016


My One Little Word for 2017 is NURTURE.  

This is my fifth year doing the One Little Word project and my fourth year following along with Ali Edwards' workshop of the same name.  My previous words (in order): tomorrow, build, voice and simplify.  

There is still a bit more than a week to go before we hit January 1, but this word is already finding its way deep into my heart and head.

In a lot of ways it is a continuation of what I worked on this year - simplifying until I was left with only the good and the necessary.  I want to hold onto that good stuff and NURTURE it.  I am standing here on a firm foundation.  Now, I want to do what I can to encourage it to grow.  I don't want more.  I want stronger, deeper and richer.  I want to really lean into the good and make it my focus.  

I want to NURTURE my marriage, my kids, our little family and myself.  

I want to NURTURE the important relationships in my life.  This, of course, includes Brian and the kids, but also my sister and sisters-in-law, parents, parents-in-law and a few  close friends.  

I want to NURTURE my relationship with God. 

I want to NURTURE the idea of "life, simplified" as I came to know it in 2016.

I want to NURTURE our house and the idea of home.  

And, I have plans related to all of this.  Plans that are still in the making and that will likely change a thousand times between now and December 2017, but that are also written down and doable.

I'm not going to share each of my action plans.  But to give you an idea of what they generally look like, I am posting my list as it currently stands related to nurturing the kids:

I will:
pray for them on a regular basis, use the calendar and plan with Brian for devoted one-on-one time with each of them, work to be more present during floor time, get back to seasonal "to do lists" to encourage fun and make sure that we don't miss out on opportunities for family activities, read, read, read (good books!), demonstrate and teach our family values and beliefs.

- - - -

Everything I've written so far about my word is pretty heavily tied to 2016.  And I don't think that's a bad thing.  I think it means that I made real life-worthy progress in 2016.  But there was one big thing that I missed this year.

I missed entrepreneurial endeavors.  There is something in my nature that just wants to create things and sell them.  A strong something.  I think I've spent more time this year telling myself "no" to these ideas than to any other thing.  

It seemed fitting to say no.  I mean, this year was supposed to be about simplifying and it seems pretty unlikely that any business endeavor I might take up would be simple.  Also, giving anything a real go felt largely impossible in the midst of welcoming baby number three into our fold.  

But those ideas are there and I can't help myself from looking forward a few years and wondering how I will spend my time when the kids are all in school.  And money is part of it, too.  We are doing okay on one income, but it would be nice to feel a little less pinched.  It would be good to feel like we could sometimes let loose just a little.  

So, in 2017, I want to NURTURE these entrepreneurial thoughts.  I don't want to repeatedly tell myself "no" or tell myself to be patient.  While there is no clear cut plan ahead of me, I have thoughts and ideas that I want to explore and encourage and allow to grow.

- - - -

And that's what I've got for now - a word and a host of plans that I am excited about bringing into my life.  I think that's a pretty great place to start the new year.


Dec 16, 2016


This post contains affiliate links.

Currently, I am:

happy to say that I placed a couple books from my list on hold at my library.  Ghost World and Notes From a Blue Bike should be ready for me later this week.  Not surprisingly, I also added a third book - After I Do - to my holds list that is not on my reading list.  What can I say, I'm not good at feeling constrained.

using my Instant Pot.  We ordered one via Amazon on Black Friday and then it sat on the shelf for a couple weeks because figuring out how to use it felt somehow overwhelming.  But, earlier this week I took the time to read through some of the "how to" instructions.  On Tuesday, I made French Dip and I'm planning to use it to make chili later today.

wondering if we will catch a break from sickness anytime soon.  November included colds for all three kids followed by a pneumonia diagnosis for Eli and double ear infection for Maggie.  Then, E took a turn with the ear infection.  Sam and I each went through 24 hour flu bouts last week.  Eli's started this Monday and he has been better and worse off and on since then.  Geesh.  I'm ready to move on and have some healthy weeks.

thankful (yet again) for The Read Aloud Handbook and Honey For A Child's Heart.  These two books are my go-to sources for finding new-to-us books to introduce to the kids.

amazed at Maggie's recent changes.  In just the last week, she has started rolling all over the place, signing "more" and "all done," and drinking from a straw.  The changes that occur between birth and one year are just plain crazy.

wishing I didn't have to work this weekend.  I often look forward to my work weekends as a bit of respite from child care.  But this weekend, I wish I could just not go.

Dec 14, 2016


This post contains affiliate links.

I read 25 books this year.

It was an (almost) even split of fiction and nonfiction - 13 fiction and 12 nonfiction.   I originally wrote that I usually have a much higher fiction to nonfiction ratio, but then I was looking back at a book related post from a few years ago and it seems that the 50/50 split is actually pretty typical for my recent years.

It was definitely a very sporadic year of reading .  I went through phases of finishing three or four books in just a week or two as well as months where I very slowly read one book or didn't even have one going at all.

I think brooke-circa-2008 would be pretty disappointed in this version of me.  At that point, I was reading 80-90 books a year.   This may not have been a great year, but 25 feels respectable considering how rarely I feel like I have time to do my own thing.  

My three favorites from the year:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

Runners up:

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

I've learned that I really dislike writing about books - my opinions on them, plot summaries, general themes - really anything.  I'm not sure what this says about me or about what I'm actually taking from the books, but it is what it is.  So, my list of favorites above is all you're going to get from me.
- - - - -

I decided to set a 2017 book reading goal for myself, which is something I haven't done for a few years.  Doing so is in alignment with my (not yet revealed) One Little Word choice for next year and also just feels good.  It is something that I can do for myself in a time of life when it feels like there aren't many of those opportunities.  Also, I do well with goals.  In many facets of my life, they are my driving force.

My magic book number for 2017 is 40.  It's a number that, again, just feels good.  Not too big, not too small.

As an addendum to the goal, I would love to read the majority of these books in book form.  Not via the Kindle app on my phone.  I don't hate reading on my phone, but it is not my preferred way to read.  It often happens, though, because it is the easiest way to get books as no trip to the library is required.  Also, I think it's important for the kids to know about my love for reading and when they just see me looking at my phone they have no way to know how I'm spending my time.

I would totally want to rebel if I had a set-in-stone list of 40 books to read.  But, I have been intrigued with the idea of having a list of books to work from - books that I can choose or not choose, but to at least investigate further and to pick from when nothing new is calling my attention.

To be clear, I pretty much always have a "books to read" list going, but it is usually only five or ten books long and it is revised often.

So, I made a list for my new goal that is a bit different.  It's a "full" list of forty books that I intend to work from, through the year.  Not in order and not with any sort of strictness, but I think it's a strong list and I don't think it would be unreasonable to guess that the majority of my 2017 reading will be pulled from this list.  I am confident this list (both the having of it and the invested time of making it) will help me to complete this goal.

Here she goes:

1 - The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
2 - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
3 - Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner
4 - Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
5 - The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
6 - Fran Lebowitz Reader by Fran Lebowitz
7 - Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
8 - The Underground Railroad by Colsen Whitehead
9 - Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
10 - The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer
11 - The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
12 - The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
13 - Children of Eden by Joey Graceffa
14 - The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
15 - Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
16 - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
17 - Nurture by Lisa Bevere
18 - Deeper by Debbie Alsdorf
19 - French Milk by Lucy Knisley
20 - Displacement by Lucy Knisley
21 - Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider
22 - What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
23 - Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider
24 - Irena's Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo
25 - Quiet by Susan Cain
26 - How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
27 - Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale
28 - Moonglow by Michael Chabon
29 - Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens
30 - The MounStorytain  by Lori Lansens
31 - The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
32 - Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda Shilpi Somaya Gowda
33 - Self Help by Lorrie Moore
34 - Like Life by Lorrie Moore
35 - Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
36 - Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall
37 - The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
38 - Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
39 - Faithful by Alice Hoffman
40 - Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

A handful of these will be rereads.  One is a book that I started reading - chapter by chapter with breaks in between - this year.  I intend to finally finish it in 2017.

The only glaring "flaw" I see in the list is that it is heavily fiction based.  I prefer to find nonfiction books more organically than looking through lists of best sellers or recommended reading, so the list is a bit short on nonfiction books.

Otherwise, I am excited to get started reading with renewed energy and enthusiasm.  ...but first, I need to call the library and pay my fine for a book that Eli ripped up, so I can start checking out books again.  

Dec 5, 2016


It's Christmas season!  We have a pretty decent stack of holiday books.  I pulled them all out of the storage room the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  They found a new home in the bin where we usually keep library books.  It's been a good week of reading - new books and new subject matter are fun - and I'm looking forward to more of it throughout the month.

- - - - -

This week is Brian's last week of coaching basketball.  He coaches middle school so it's only a six week season.  I am thankful that he doesn't coach high school sports with longer seasons.  From my point of view, it means long days alone with kids, which sometimes feel interminable.  (Single parents, you have my utmost respect.)  From his point of view, it means days when he sometimes only sees the kids for an hour or in the morning and doesn't get home until after they are in bed.

Also, I'm proud of myself for asking for help, this year - something I haven't done in the past.  We went to watch one game and are going to watch another tonight.  For both of these occasions, we brought/are bringing a niece with us to play the role of friend and helper.  Also, on several of the other nights my nieces and/or sister-in-law visited us in the evenings to help break up our time and help me get everyone in bed.  

- - - - -

I invited one of my sisters-in-law to do One Little Word with me in 2017.  Even though we will have different words, I think it will provide an opportunity for us to connect with each other in a new way and also offer some accountability to each other to keep working toward our goals and within our intentions.

- - - - -

We are going to make it through the holiday season on budget.

It seems to be the same story every year: when I start shopping, I think I've saved way  more than we need and will be able to finish shopping with money left in the account.  By the time I'm done shopping (and buying holiday-related things like the Christmas tree and our holiday card), we're scraping the bottom of the barrel.

But I don't feel bad about using the money, because that's what it is for.  We are pretty (maybe very) conservative with buying stuff for ourselves and our kids through most of the year.  But, we save money in our Christmas fund with the intention of spoiling ourselves and our family and friends over the holidays.

- - - - -

I introduced the kids to a bit of  punk-flavored music via Hoops and Yoyo.  It makes me happy.  And, I'm happy to have a new CD playing in the van after months and months of listening to the same thing.

- - - - -

I've been using Walmart Grocery Pick Up for the past several weeks.  It is fabulous.  Like really, really fabulous.  I've used it for small grocery trips (their minimum order is $30) and for a few big trips.  So far, I've been ordering and setting up the pick-up through their online portal and then using the app to check-in when I'm headed to the store.  They have designated pick up parking spaces and bring the groceries out to you when you arrive.

I placed an order last night and scheduled the pick up for 8-9am, this morning.  I dropped off one of my nieces at school at 7:45, "checked in" via the app, drove to the store, had the groceries loaded into the car, stopped by home to drop the groceries off and put the cold stuff in the fridge, drove another niece to school and was home by 8:30.  In my book, this is just-all around super.

If you haven't tried it yet, I recommend!  And this referral link will get you $10 off your first order.  It also gives me $10 off my next order.

- - - - -

That's (a bit of) what's going on around here.  I'm off to check on the craziness going on in the next room.  Happy Monday!

Nov 30, 2016


December!  A new month and one that will be filled with a lot of excitement and anticipation at our house.  On November first, I learned that Sam thought the next day would be December.  He was pretty disappointed when he learned otherwise.  But now it is here and I am so looking forward to the magic of the season and seeing it all anew through the perspective of a toddler and a preschooler who are starting to "get it," but still have a lot of questions and misunderstandings.

Onto the goals:

A look back at November:

1.  Decide on financial goals for 2017.  Done.  Our two big (and clear cut) goals are specific amounts saved for retirement and for Christmas 2017.  We would also like to pay cash (or have money set aside) for new phones for both of us, a patio for the backyard and a new car for Brian.

Retirement and Christmas savings will be priority and I have no doubt that they will happen.  I'm confident we can also pay for new phones and a patio.  The car savings might be a stretch, but I think it's possible.  In the meantime, I'm crossing my fingers that the car holds on for a long while yet.

Edit for clarification: We already have the majority of they money we need to pay for a new car saved.  We would just like to add a few thousand more to that total.

2. Walk a minimum of 300,000 steps.  Eesh.  Well, this is a fail.  Sick kids for the majority of the month, colder weather and a long holiday weekend with very few steps combined to kill this goal.  I am frustrated with myself for not being more proactive earlier in the month to make sure I met my goal.  Because, honestly, I knew that cold weather and a long holiday weekend were coming.

Still, I ended the month with 285,500.  I'm proud of myself for the strong effort I put in over the last several days to get pretty darn close to reaching the goal despite a poor showing over the course of the month.

3. Get the majority of my Christmas shopping done.  Yep.  All but done.  Thank you very much, internet.  Because without you I wouldn't have even started.      

4. Fill an Operation Christmas Box or two.  Fail.  The due date came and went and we did not fill our boxes.  We will try again next year.

December goals:

1. Decide on a word to be my One Little Word for 2017.  I have a few contestants - and even a front runner - in mind.  I would like to spend some time thinking and praying about this over the course of the month and then to come to a final decision.

2. Restart core-training exercises.  I have postpartum diastasis recti (abdominal separation).  Last summer, I was in a good habit of doing core-training exercises to strengthen my core muscles and decrease the gap.  It seemed like it was working.  Then I fell out of the habit when the school year began.  Time to get back to it.

3. Organize the basement desk area.  We moved our desk downstairs more than a year ago.  Since then, it has become a sort of depository for things that don't have a home.  The desktop is piled with a mess of random stuff that needs to be sorted through, purged and organized.  My goal is to have a clean desktop and organized desk drawers before our Christmas Eve party.

4. Walk a minimum of 300,000 steps.  It's cold outside, it wouldn't be surprising if the kids caught another round of infections and there is another long holiday coming at the end of the month.  Actually reaching this goal means that I need to step it up at the beginning of the month and on any days when I have the opportunity to walk a lot.  And that is my intention.

5. Advent success.  I am defining success as completing my advent devotional, making sure our Elf on the Shelf finds a new home each night and spending lots of time reading and talking about the holiday with the kids.

And that's it, folks.

I feel like these goals will leave me in a great place for the start of the new year while still fitting nicely into my "simplify" theme for this year.