A List of Loves

True, Valentine's Day, or Love Day, as referred to in this house of mine, was over two weeks ago and since then there has been a birthday and such.  Regardless I am going to post about some things, people and otherwise that I currently love, have loved or want to love.  Writer's prerogative here people.  Or something like that. 
 
I love birthdays.  Day, week, heck, month long parties of delectable food and cake.  Birthday cake for the win.  Everyday.
 
I love that my people know this about me and don't question it any longer.  Once Thing 1's birthday has been celebrated I began my countdown.  I'm just a big kid when it comes to this. 
 
I love words. 
 
I love when the six of us share our hearts on paper.  And I love watching everyone's reaction as they read what was written about them.
 
I love mail.  Snail mail.  Cards.  Letters.  Packages.  I store all the cards and presies addressed to me around my birthday and open them all after cake and ice cream.  There really is no other way if you ask me. 
 
I love Face time.  My parents were able to sing happy birthday to me in real time, and watch me blow out my candles.  Technology may have it's downside but for this I do love it. 
 
I love that Husband Jared knows what I love.  Exploring new places.  Eating new food.  Feeling adventurous in our own city. And he likes to do those things with me. 
 
I love being around the table.  Mine.  Other people's.  No matter.
 
I love the conversations that take place when least expected.  Late night, early morning, in the car, through text. 
 
I love learning.  About other people.  Other cultures.  Religions.  Places.  Politics. 
 
I love that when I listen to too much talk radio he knows.  He quietly listens and nods his head until my rant is over and then we move on. 
 
I love that they all know I need my coffee FIRST in the morning.
 
I love that they know I am not a night owl.  As in I don't like to drive at night and I probably, might not, remember what we talked about if it was after 6pm.  Ok, maybe later if planned.  But maybe not. 
 
I love that when he comes downstairs in the winter time he starts a fire for me.  Meaning he turns the switch on, but hey it's the thought that counts, right? 
 
I love that my Things watch my face during sad parts of movies, waiting for my tears to fall, sometimes they hand me the tissues before I even start.
 
I love all our inside jokes and memories we share. 
 
I love hearing stories told by my Things.  So uniquely different in their recollection. 
 
I love coffee.  Oh, wait, I think I already mentioned that. 
 
I love that my girl Things help me with shoe choices when I can't decide which ones to wear.
 
I love that my boy Thing is sweet and tender but will still take me out on the pitch. 
 
I love new books and the smell of old books.  Weird, I know. 
 
I love watching him think.

I love when the Things are all together.   
 
I love being a wife.
 
I love being a mama. 
 
I love the six of us.
 
I love because I was first loved. 

Here and There

Farewell January.  I have come to the realization that all along I mis-categorize the month that begins every year.  There are great expectations and high hopes and now in almost my thirty seventh year I feel as though January is for resting.  Restoring.  Taking a few deep breaths and if necessary catching up on everything from sleep to reading to cleaning and family time.  Sure, the Christmas season is filled with family but this year for us the season was full of busy.  Concerts and chores, traditions to be kept, traveling and performing.  So January has become the month to catch our breath.  Now of course there was the annual dreaming and goal setting and reflecting.  Only this time it was slower and the month consumed me.  But in a good way.  Are you feeling me? Well I felt January and it did not let me down.

Here we are facing February and it's claim to the coldest, harshest, worst winter month.  That's it's rap and I won't dispute the reputation.   For one, I am writing this post at my desk that faces two windows and the snow is flying.  Literally.  Sideways.  It started this morning noisy, icy shards knocking on the windows and now there is a quietness to it all.  I'm sure there is a life metaphor in there somewhere.  February is off to a lovely start though.  The weather aside, my baby girl celebrated her eighteenth year.  Valentine's day is just around the corner.  Followed by my birthday and then just like that the month is over.  And we are that much closer to Spring.  And all the Minnesotans said Amen. 

I was planning on a list of a post but I've since decided to save that for my birthday post.  Writing in numbered succession all that I have learned the past year is eye opening for me.  And  often as I am mid sentence the lesson learned will take shape without me even being privy to the aha moment.  Go figure.  Which now has caused me to reflect on a topic in the midst of studying, learning, meditating on and journaling about.  The current sermon series at our church is themed around the tongue being a weapon for both good and evil.  (my own words)  Our first week back, (after Christmas break), I walked away with thinking of my tongue as a fire starting tool, exciting pyromania whenever I opened my mouth.  A negative connotation at the very least.  One of my favorite Bible passages is a verse in which our words are compared to honey.  As there is also scripture in which the tongue is compared to a sword.  Truth lies in both perceptions.  The tongue is a tool that can be implemented for both the sweet and the unsavory, depending on the motivation with which one wields the weapon.

All this to say I've been contemplating, digging deeper.  Then this last week was titled "grumbling and complaining".  Ahem.  My gut was telling me to duck and run.  Husband Jared held my hand and I stayed, thankfully.    Here's where the risk surfaces.  I didn't consider myself a complainer much.  Not that I never thought I complained, because I did, I mean I do.  The whole act seems engrained in our human nature dating all the way back to the Israelites.  And we know what happened to all but two of them.  No Promised Land.  They were given milk and honey, manna, water, quail and yet they wandered in the wilderness for forty years unable to see the forest through the trees.  Pardon the pun.  I know the story.  God would give them what they asked for and not two minutes later they would be grumbling and asking for more.  For different.  For this or that.  Some voiced their complaints audibly, maybe others in their hearts.  I learned Sunday that the Greek definition of the word "disputing" as stated in Philippians 2:14, means to complain in your mind and heart.  Ouch. 

Here's where I'm at with  this.  I voice my complaints, my disdain, what have you but there is plenty that never leaves my mind or heart.  The intellectual "moaning and groaning"  that I have seemed to think doesn't matter or count as sinful.  I won't compare myself to the Israelites but really I am no different.  Right?  The biggest obstacle I see here brings me to the risk.  While I know that complaining, grumbling whether to others or myself, is sin, I tend to believe that we need to air those icky thoughts as well.  I mean along with the good and positive.  Maybe it's in the reworking, how we present them, the heart behind those words and the audience with which we are dealing with.  Bring them before the Lord first and foremost?   Our closest circle of people?  A spouse?  A blank page?  I suppose too that the grumbling and complaining differs from authenticity.

 Work with me here.  I am a flawed human trying to flesh this out, a masterpiece in progress.  When asked if everything is alright or how I'm doing I am prone to the "all is well" response.  Rote if you will, but simple, to the point and devoid of the opportunity for questions or inquiries.  But there is nothing real about that knee jerk reaction.  I don't need to hide behind falsities but I also must beware of lacking joy in all circumstances.  Not the pretty pink puffy happy emotion but the guttural joy that comes from knowing that the Lord is in charge.  I may be left here on earth to be working like it depends on me but I must remember to pray like it depends on Him.  Thank you Mark Batterson for that nugget of wisdom.  Applicable to my disputing heart and the besetting sin that lies within.  In order to risk being genuine with all areas of my life I must be willing to be human.  To accept grace.  To voice the fear that hides underneath the intellectual moaning and groaning battling for space in my heart and mind.  Am I making any sense here?  Most likely not.  And that's ok.  My journal is scribbled with these mixed up thoughts. 

So I sat through a few sermons regarding our tongue.  The way it could be used for wrong doing.  In addition to hearing all the good it can accomplish.  I felt convicted about griping whether done publicly or privately.  I also feel convicted about authentic living.  Sharing my story, and baring my true self.  Is there a discrepancy here?  I think not.  Complaining and grumbling is much different than sharing emotions, feelings, circumstances.  Much different than entering into life with others.  There is a manner, a method, if you will, that a poet frames his words.  Maybe we, I mean I, should aim to be more poet than griper.  Weaving my heart through carefully chosen words.  Not ones that masque my true self or given circumstances in which I find myself.  But words that reflect my soul.  The joy that lies within and the desire to leave behind the grumbling, disputing and complaining in order to be the honey in place of the fire starter.  

To The Eldest Thing

This morning when I woke I felt keenly aware of the significance of this day.  My eldest daughter is turning eighteen.  Eighteen years ago I was in a hospital room waiting for her arrival; Profoundly unaware of just how much my world was about to change.  Her entrance into our lives set me on a trajectory that could only have been orchestrated by our Father in heaven and for that I am beyond grateful.  With that, here are a few words for the birthday girl, or should I say, woman.  

You my sweet girl are my sunshine.  And this last year I have watched you bloom as you've pressed into the Word, leaned not on your own understanding but His and trusted in ways I am not sure that I would have.  Boldly you have stepped out in faith even when you didn't want to.  That has been nothing short of pure joy to witness.  

It is a strange place to be as a parent, bittersweet has never rang more true for me.  I remember fondly the days of you being a little.  Your curly hair bouncing as you ran circles around me.  Those big hazel eyes boring holes into my heart as you asked for another book, one more song or just a little more time.  Days when your stubbornness got the better of both of us.  The time your door was taken off it's hinges because "privacy is a privilege".  Watching you make new friends and try to make sense of changes.  Leading your team as goal keeper or striker on the pitch and being able to walk away knowing it was just a game.  Listening to you giggle with friends late into the night, make movies with your babysitters and siblings.  And always sharing the truth and matter of fact-ness with  anyone who doubted.  Now,  I am able to watch you revealing your heart to your peers, offering your story to the world and preparing to step into all that He has created you to be.  Forging friendships and developing your belief system and values as you enter adulthood.  This is pure joy and a gift I do not ever want to take for granted.  I am grateful to be your Mama.  
Always have been and always will be.  

So, bittersweet is this season.  More sweet than bitter for sure.  (Big Head Todd lyrics there)  I pray that this year of eighteen is full to overflowing with continual refilling from the Holy Spirit.  I pray that as you learn more of how Christ sees you that you become more; That your purpose and gifting is made clear to you.  I pray that you always know that you are loved, that you know you can always come home and that you will make mistakes.  We all do.  And that is why there is grace.  I pray that not only will our relationship deepen as mother and daughter but will continue as friend and confidant as you navigate adulthood.  I pray for your future.  For your heart.  For your soul.  I love you Thing One and you will always be my sunshine.  


Wrapping Up California

The eve of Thing 1's birthday has arrived and with it I feel an aching need to tidy things up here on the blog and prepare for February.  I have a few random photos and thoughts I'd like to share from our California trip.  You are free to exit this page now if you're not interested.  If you are, or if your family, by all means keep reading.  

My "little" brother and his lovely wife, Corynn.

We visited Stone Brewery on one of our days in California and spent the afternoon taking in the gorgeous scenery, enjoying their craft brew and even taking a tour of the brewery.  Lest I forget, we also dined, under the pergola, on some fine food.  It was an adult afternoon so their littles were home with my bigs having way too much fun! We joined them for dinner at home, s'mores and games around the table.  It was a good day. 

Stuck - Hansons

One of about ten attempts to take a decent selfie of the two of us, 
I love my brother.

My two cousins, who are newly of age had never before been on a brewery tour.  Husband Jared insisted we tour together and I do think the boys enjoyed their educational field trip.  

Can you even stand this?  I can't.  Thing 4 entertained those girlies with his piano playing and his funny faces.  Those smiles are priceless.  

Thing 1 and this girlie had bubble time.  If only I would have captured her squeals.  Every single time that Thing 1 would put the wand to her mouth Olivia would start clapping and laughing.  A good belly laugh.  

Then we moved onto S'mores.  Or just graham crackers for Olivia.  
I jumped at any opportunity to snuggle with her. 

Gianna was mesmerized by the fire, and maybe the marshmallows! 

Thing 3 and Aunt Tree might had some fun too! 

There are so many pictures to share and even more memories, these were highlights, and with that I'd like to say thank you to these two for making the trip possible. I'm not sure how they feel about this picture but it was taken while we were all gathered around the fire pit, making s'mores and laughing and I do believe it says so much about them both.  By the way, totally digging the headband Nani!  

Poppi and Nani.  

One more post from 2014 regarding a few traditions and such and then on with 2015.  
Wowsa!  Stay tuned.  


New Year's Day 2015

New Year's Day is definitely deserving of it's own post.  For one, it is my Mom's birthday and the fact that we were all there to celebrate together was a gift for us all.  Secondly, it's the beginning of a new year.  Enough said.  

2015 began with a slow, lazy morning.  Nani sat with her coffee and read, Husband Jared and I piddled around the kitchen preparing breakfast, the parade was on and then proper football, Things and littles slowly woke.  One by one they found Nani and wished her a happy birthday and Gianna proceeded to bring her presents for her to open, or rather for Gianna to open for her.  Either way, Nani did not mind.  Shortly after presents and coffee cake, per family tradition, the Strands arrived for biscuits and gravy and more fun with the cousins.  The kiddos picked kumquats in the backyard, played games, explored the ice puddles and even went box sledding down the mini hill.  Could you ask for anything more? I think not.  It was a morning full of memories and so much sweetness my heart could have burst.

Nani and Gianna

Notice Nani's surprised face as Gianna opened her present for her!  Priceless.

.
Emme and Colin picking fruit

Duck-duck - goose, we explained to the family the phenomenon of living in MN where the game is called, duck, duck, grey duck.  I think?  

Tight rope walking, or maybe just follow the leader!

Gracie was very excited!  

Emme preparing to sled and Colin waiting his turn in the background.

The fun did not end there, more extended family and friends were arrving in the afternoon to celebrate the birthday girl and watch American football.  The Things set up holey board and corn hole once again, there were props for silly photos and lots of  family fun and food of course.  Thing 3 made special espresso cupcakes for Nani and we sang happy birthday and ended our last night together packing and feasting on In N Out.  All of us not wanting to mention the inevitable trip to the airport the next afternoon.  I'd say we rang in the New Year in the very best way, together!  

Nani with Margaret and Karen, friends since high school.

Husband Jared and I attempting to use the photo props and then a cutie photo bomber snuck up on us!

This one of my Uncle Joe may be my favorite, I don't think I have too many photos of him and the fact that he is holding a mustache makes it even better. 

If a picture ever had the ability to sum up a family this one does without a doubt.  No need for more words here. 

Framma with the Things.

Grandpa Sam and Grandma Sharon and Things.  
Apparently we are capable of taking a few normal photographs as well.  

New Year's Eve

On to the last of the adventures from Cal and in typical fashion, photos and short blurbs about our activities, the people in said photos, etc.  New Year's Eve we met the Strand family at Grandpa Royce and Grandma Lavonne's.  Royce and Lavonne instantly adopted us all when Ron and Mema were married many years ago.  They have been prayer warriors on our behalf and huge supporters of our family from day one.  It had been a few years since we've been able to spend time with them and as always they lovingly welcomed us and our last minute visit.  We caught up, hugged kiddos, ate lunch and Lavonne's famous chocolate cake.  Our time with them was so sweet. 
 
Thing 2 and Gracie reading and making up stories.

 The Things with Royce and Lavonne.

The Strand kiddos with Royce and Lavonne.
 
After being fueled by lunch we were all in need of some sunshine so we ran over to the park and played and ran and wrestled and jumped off the swings.  Then they did it all again.  The littles pulling their big cousins all over that playground. 

Thing 1 and Colin building in the sand.

Thing 2 and Gracie, love those smiles.
 
Thing 3 and Emme, no jumping off the swing here. 

The biggest kid of them all, Uncle Aaron.  Those lines in the sand you see were drawn by him.  Immediately after drawing said lines he challenged Thing 4 to a jumping contest.  Or maybe the other way around.  Whatever it was, we were all entertained. 

Thing 4 being launched by Uncle Aaron, I see a pattern here. 
 
We couldn't bare to say goodbye just yet to the Strands, so we invited them for biscuits and gravy New Years day.   This way we only had to say "see you tomorrow".  From there it was home to prep for family Bunco night at Poppi and Nani's house.  Poppi and Thing 4 made their famous white chocolate pretzel bark, we ate snacks gathered in the kitchen and then decided on dinner, sushi of course, we set the tables for the big game, instructions were given to the kiddos and the fun began, and it didn't stop until midnight.  Yes, we all made it to watch the ball drop, give our kisses, be the first ones to wish Nani a happy birthday and pop the poppers!  Yeah us!
 

Poppi and Thing 4 with the finished product.
 
Family photo, pre Bunco, notice how nice we are being to each other, let's just say that didn't last once the first dice were rolled.  We're all a tad competitive.  There may have been trash talking and loud whoops and hollers.  Maybe.
 
Preparing for the evening ahead.
 
These two won "most losses" for the Bunco night!  Losers, winners, whatever you call them they sure are cute!
 
 Poppi and Gianna trying desperately to hang on until midnight.  This little girl was the good luck charm for the night, helping out at each table and bringing wins wherever she went.
 
The other side of the room waiting for the New Year and Nani's birthday to begin.
 
Yay, Happy New Year!  Those blurs you see are the remnants from one of about a hundred poppers that were exploded in the living room that night.  We are nothing if not crazy fun, oh and dedicated to capturing just the right photograph, confetti flying, girls jumping.  You know the one!  Just imagine it here. 
 
At approximately 12:02 am we were all snuggled in bed and fast asleep, pleased with ourselves for staying awake into the wee hours of the morning.  Ha! 
 

Beach Days

This might be another post strictly for family and the preservation of our memories.  We had two beach days while in California.  The first was a field trip to Oceanside, a beach the Things had never visited before.  We walked the dock, saw a paddle boarder, watched the fishermen pull up a sand shark, saw a blanket of beautiful flowers floating in the sea and met a rather forward pelican.  

Mr. Pelican

The pier

Sand shark being reeled in.

The Things were laughing at me because this was about as close as I would get to featured pelican, the sign said he wasn't nice.  For the record, it felt as though I was a lot closer than it appears.

For nostalgia's sake I made Husband Jared drive slowly past this house that was featured in the movie Top Gun.  

Poppi, Nani and the Things, aren't they cute?

The Hanson Six.

We walked the blocks around the beach, had some interesting fodder for people watching and then decided this was not our scene and we drove over to San Clemente.  Fishermen's Wharf was calling the Things' names and it was the perfect place to watch the sunset and hear the waves crash.  We were seated for dinner and then a few of the Things and Poppi went to chase the sunset.  

San Clemente Pier.

Love, love, love this shot.

Poppi and Thing 2, just look at those smiles and the light.

Going, going, gone.  

They ran back to our table just in time for food.  We laughed and talked and watched the stars appear and then we walked around and had ice cream of course.  Two beaches, blue skies, a scripted sunset, tasty seafood, walking and shopping and for the finale, ice cream.  
The perfect ending to an already amazing day.