Friday, January 30, 2009

Pure happiness.

Little Crew. That first picture is pure happiness. He has been such a content baby this week as he's discovering his toes and becoming so aware of his surroundings. I think he likes it here. =) His giggles and smiles and squeals and all those little baby wrinkles just melt us and make us all happy to have him in our lives. He gets smothered with kisses- and doesn't seem to mind them at all. (See more of Crew in his colored hats by clicking this link.)
Today breakfast went smooth and everyone was ready to leave the house on time. Despite the snow that was falling and the fact that Chip was flying to Florida today. I think happiness peaks on Friday around here. =)
So, Chip is gone for a few days, and I am actually taking it all in stride. I've got Wall-e in the dvd player and all 5 kids in jammies and ready for bed as soon as the movie is done. Then, my plan is to have them all stay in their jammies- at least for a couple of days. It'll save me the trouble of extra laundry, and knowing my kids the way I do, it will likely earn me points toward " Best Mommy of the Year" award. Which is why I let them eat Easy Mac, apple slices and Trix rainbow yogurt for dinner. Yep. I'm realizing that happiness for kids is sometimes so easy. I'm the one that makes it hard by cooking chicken and vegetables for dinner. =)
Here's to happiness and extended stays in pajamas. Feel free to join us and relax all weekend too!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Three out of Five.

I had to post a few more pictures just so that all the kids know they are loved and not neglected or left out of photo sessions around here. =) Crew is getting the majority of the photo time around here, but he's also growing like a little weed too. A happy little weed- so it's just too easy to grab the camera and take pics!
This morning, after yesterday's happiness post, I had two kids who wanted nothing to do with being happy when they awoke at 7 am. It was as if life was testing all of us- for no apparant reason at all. Does that ever happen to you? You just can't put your finger on what is bringing everyone down. That's what was going on at my house.
I even let the kids "order" their breakfast and made it to theie specific requests. They even had a bite of cupcake as I was frosting them for Bella to bring to school for her 'half-birthday' today. How can all of that not bring happiness? And yet it wasn't working for a couple of them. Thankfully, we were still batting fairly well with three-fifths of the children all smiles and happy. It just goes to show you that happiness is really, truly a choice. One that is hard to choose when you'd rather be snuggled all warm in your bed, I guess. But a choice nonetheless.
I still have photos of happy kids to post though. Ava and her fruit snacks. Bella and her little grin. Brock and his guitar, which he practices so diligently and is really learning and loving so much these days.
I'm hoping that we turn the tables by dinner tonight and have all 5 kids happy at once. It sounds like some incredible odds, but I think we can go 5 for 5!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Come on, get happy...

I came across this anonymous quote and it's been on my mind for a couple of days now. It says:
"Happiness doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It simply means you've decided to look beyond the imperfections."
I've talked here about happiness and contentment in previous posts, but find that they are topics that can't really be overdone. There is always something to strive for when it comes to finding that place inside yourself and outside of yourself where you can be happy and/or content. I have been thinking about how our nation, in general, is having to change its perspective on wealth, money and happiness with the troubling economy and outlook we face. I think for too long, too many people were chasing "happiness" as it's defined by others- rather than what actually makes them happy.
Too many times people buy into advertising or neighbors setting the 'standard' for happiness. Or they buy into the idea that success/money will make you happy and they end up working longer hours or more jobs or taking work home with them. None of it actually leads to happiness for 99.9% of the people trying to juggle more things in their life. It just leads to frustrations in marriages, in the workplace, stress or feelings of failure as a parent/friend/spouse and so on. The fact is that happiness can't be defined by people outside of ourselves. We have to determine that on our own and it looks different for each one of us! The advertisers for products/services would like you to believe that we all want the same thing- a bigger burger, a high-tech phone, the lastest model car, the fastest weight-loss plan, the shiniest hair and all the other things you see on tv and billboards and in the magazines.
The truth is that the best way to find happiness is to be quiet and really tune out the world from time to time. Ask yourself what is it that makes you happy? Is it really a big car? Or could it be something simpler than that? There's more to life than stuff and the sooner we all learn that, the happier and, I suggest, more "free" we are to find that happiness. It comes in all shapes and sizes and sometimes I think the more "imperfect" or simple or scaled-back we can keep things in our lives, the greater the chance we have at being happy.
Now I don't claim to have the world's happiest life. Not by a long shot. But I do like to think that I am on the path for finding it and at times along the way there is happiness in abundance in my life. I think there is great satisfaction too, in knowing that happiness is something we can have even when things aren't so rosy in life. To me, happiness is more about a sense of fulfillment and not living with worry, than it is about having everything you want or having everything fall perfectly into place.
I'm not sure why I felt the need to put this all in writing, but I hope it makes us stop and think. Life really is so short that I feel like some people spend all their time searching for happiness and then missing it when it shows up- only because they have grand ideas of how they want it to look. I'm learning that happiness can and often is the most simply, no-cost things in life. Like dancing with your kids- even when there's no music playing. Or recalling a memory that you never want to forget. It can be riding the cart out to your car at the grocery store, feeling thankful that you have the ability to move on your own and feel the air on your face. It's noticing when someone needs a pick-me-up and being the one to call them and say, "I'm so glad we're friends".
Happiness really is simple.
I'm making a point to notice it in my day-to-day life more often.
I hope you'll join me on this simple quest.
It can make such a difference in life.
I hope it does too!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More pictures and words.

Some of you may remember when I posted a link to Oprah's website where she was giving a special code for people to order and print photobooks from I spent a couple of evenings loading pictures and playing around with the design and text of a book. Snapfish was overwhelmed with orders, so the ship date was late, but still, for a free $29.99 photobook, I felt it was worth the wait.
And it was.
We got our book in the mail a couple of weeks ago and I was very surprised at the quality of the book as well as the photos printed inside. Some of the pictures were giving me messages about print quality when I uploaded them, but I went ahead and used them anyway. I figured it was a free, one-time thing so it didn't really matter all that much anyway. But what I got in the mail was a really wonderful hard-cover book that makes all my kids happy. Especially Wyndham. She LOVES seeing her picture and name in print. She gets so excited and seems truly surprised to see not only herself, but all the people she loves and lives with in this book.
I just had to pass on my book review to those of you who are sort of thinking about doing some scrapbooking or photo/memory preserving. This book, like I said, costs about $30.00 and you simply upload and place photos and text in pages that already have layout designs. It takes a bit of time to sort your photos and choose what you want your book to be about, but other than that, the process is really easy and I think it is so worth the time/money involved.
I think these would make wonderful gifts for Valentine's day. Skip the chocolate and flowers and give a book that will last a long time and have such meaning too! Or books for each of your kids featuring them and their favorite things in life right now. They would be great for grandparents or featuring your high school senior or a wedding or a new baby or a recent trip. Seriously. I could make a hundred of these books- and I'd love them all.
I'm so pleased with the quality of the book, the glossy pages and the photos. I would definitely recommend Snapfish for their photobooks. One more can make scrap pages at (which, I always export into my picture folders on my computer and save as jpegs) and then upload them and make them into finished books. Those would be really fun. No cutting or gluing required. I hope this inspires some of you to create and have fun with your photos and memories. You know me...I'm a 100% sold on taking lots of pictures, and turning them into treasured books just seems like a smart thing to do with them. Have fun with your photos! [ Snapfish also has other book sizes/price ranges and other fun items too. And no, I'm not getting paid to promote them. =) ]

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's just pictures and words.

I realize that many of you have no idea what scrapbooking is all about. I understand many of you think you have to be creative or skilled to try it too. Today, I added some of my thoughts to a photo from the previous post and created this page at . It's so simple. It's so fast and easy and yet, I think, the results can be really dramatic and poignant.
Simple words and photos are all one needs to document life, feelings, thoughts, momemts and emotions in "scrapbook form". Really, you can use words OR photos and evoke/create pages too. I think it's something that some people find intimidating, and yet when it comes down to it, there's really nothing required other than putting a little bit of heart/thought into your photos and words.
I challenge you to try it sometime. Maybe even today. Grab a photo. Or a notebook and jot down all the things that come to mind when you look at your photo or when you recall a memory. Then start saving your pictures/pages at a gallery- like the one I'm a part of at SIStv here. Or print your pictures and put them in a blank journal and add your thoughts with a nice pen in ink. Years from now you might want to thank me for this little challenge. But don't worry about that. I am happy to just be the person to jumpstart your challenge of documenting bits of your life. I have a feeling someone else in your life will thank you for taking this challenge too!
Happy {challening!} Monday to you all. =)
P.S.The journaling on the photo here reads:
There are moments in life where the very thing we hold in our hands is the only thing that really matters. These little moments can get lost so easily unless we stop and take them in and soak them up as they happen.Life is fleeting.Thankfully I've learned that lesson. I know not to take a minute in this life for granted. I am getting better at capturing them on film too. We can't turn back time, but we can always savor the here and now. I wouldn't trade this moment in time for all the money in the world. Moments matter.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

One year ago...

A year ago I couldn't sleep, so I got up, got dressed and went grocery shopping at 4:30am. I was stressed about Wyndham being so sick and not bouncing back after her seizures. I was feeling worn out and run down and to top it off I had a strange feeling that I might possibly be pregnant.
So I bought a pregnancy test and took it as soon as I got home from the store. My suspicions were confirmed early on that morn of January 25th.
What I couldn't have known though, was how much love he would add to our life and home. I couldn't have dreamed up bigger eyes or a cuter smile or a more perfect nose. I had no idea his skin would be so soft, his hair so silky, or his laughter could make my heart almost burst. A year ago I wondered just how life would be for our family as we would have to make room for new baby. Now I know. It almost makes me want to have three more.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The power of you.

I have to share with you a little snippet that I witnessed at the end of my travels on the airplane as we exited at the Milwaukee airport. It's just too good not to share.
Here's what happened.
Our flight on Midwest Airlines went really smooth- we arrived from Nashville and were given the okay to gather our belongings and prepare to exit the plane. About half of the passengers on board got their bags and stood in the aisle while we waited for the Jet Bridge to be put in place for us to make our way inside the terminal. Well, I'm not certain who is to blame, but for some reason the Jet Bridge couldn't be placed next to the plane. There were at least 10 attempts made to line it up with the airplane door, but each time they didn't get close enough for a proper exit.
Let me tell you that the flight attendant had the door open and the temperature was about 4 degrees. It was almost 10 pm and I am guessing most of us on the aircraft were tired and cold. Crew was growing more and more restless, along with all of the other passengers. To add to the fact that not only were we being delayed on the plane, but each time the Jet Bridge backed up to try to line up with the airplane door, there was that annoying beeping that occurs when vehicles drive in reverse. It was really loud too! So, after as many as 10 failed attempts, the flight attendant got on her speaker phone and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, it appears the Jet Bridge is experiencing some techinal difficulties, this evening. It will likely be another couple of minutes until you can exit the plane. Thank you for your patience".
We all waited for another 10 attempts at getting the bridge in place...I could sense the patience of many wearing thin at this point. Crew was getting more annoyed at waking to the loud sound of the beep and he really didn't want the pacifier I was holding in his mouth at this point either. I was feeling most sorry for both the Jet Bridge driver (as we could all watch him out the windows) and for the flight attendant too (who looked like she wanted to pass out some more signature chocolate chip cookies to all of us just to pass the time and to take our minds off of what was happening at the doorway). It seemed like it was taking forever as we continued to wait.
Seriously, they tried to back up the bridge at least 20 times. The flight attendant (Heather) turned to the passengers that were lined up just behind here close to the exit, she smiled, bowed her head and said,
"Dear God,
Just once could you help everything to go smoothly for me at this job.
The passengers laughed with her as she looked back at all of us and grinned.
Soon we were all taking the stairs down the side of the plane and stepping onto a snowy, icy landing- sans Jet Bridge.
The pilots even stepped out of the cabin to bid us all a good evening and they too, thanked us for our patience.
I couldn't help but think how our actions so quickly set the tone for any given circumstance. Clearly this flight attendant could have gotten miffed at having toapologize for something out of her control. She easily could have stood there rolling her eyes and breathing heavily- annoyed as the rest of us. Instead, her bit of humor, at just the right moment, lightened the mood and made us all feel more at ease with the whole situation.
I vowed then and there to try to act more like her at all the trying times that life sends our way throughout our days and weeks. We really DO have the power to turn a potentially upsetting situation into one that is laughable. We really DO have the choice of how to respond to circumstances throughout the day. Whether or not those circumstances are in or out of our control doesn't matter. How we choose to respond can make or break the moment. No matter how big or small it is.
I hope this little story is a good reminder for you and me to take with us as we go about doing life. The little moments matter. The way we live in those moments matters too. I think it would have been a good idea to hand out extra cookies at the door of the plane that night too. That would have made the moment even sweeter. =)
Have you doubted the 'power of you' lately? Have you questioned your purpose at times- especially when life seems to spin circles around you? I hope I've encouraged you to tap into the good in you. We all have it. We all can use it. I love seeing it in real life. If you've seen it played out recently, please share your story in the comments here. I think it would be fun to read of other examples that some of you have witnessed/been a part of lately (good or bad). Yes...there is power in you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just as one would expect...

I am so predictable, right? I leave this blog for more than a week and the first thing I post is a picture of carrot cake cupcakes- just as one would expect. =)
The cupcakes were delicious- compliments of Ashley Wren's husband, Sean. One has to love a guy who not only lets his wife go away and leave him with 3 kids all weekend, but sends a couple of dozen cupcakes along with her for her friends on top of it. {Thanks, Sean!}
Guess what happens when you bring a baby to Nashville?! Yep. He finds a way to get a guitar into his little hands. The cabin we stayed at just happened to have a little guitar telephone,which just happened to be the perfect size for Crew to hold. He was happy to pose with not only the guitar, but also his new fox t-shirt {Thanks, Corrine!} and knitted cap too {Thanks, Diane!}. I regret not taking more photos of some of the fun and getting pictures of me and all my friends {miss you all already!}, but part of that just couldn't be helped. We all just wanted to catch up and laugh and relax without having to capture it all on camera. Then, when we had a bit more time to relax, the lighting inside was so dark the pictures came out terrible anyway. So, these are just a few of the ones I could salvage. I'm hoping some of my camera-expert friends did a better job at capturing the weekend so I can relive the memories through their photos. None-the-less, there was a lot of laughter and fun to be had- regardless of photos for proof.
Crew and I arrived back home yesterday at 1 am. It felt so good to be home and I think Crew knew right away that he was back where he belongs. =) He slept well the rest of the night and was all smiles for the kids when they hugged him and welcomed him home in the morning. I'm not sure if they missed me or him more. We both got hundreds of hugs and kisses to make up for our absence. Like I said, it felt good to be home.
The day went on to include a nap for Crew while our nation made history as the inauguration of Barack Obama took place at the Capitol. What a day, huh?! I loved that it was a time to put away "sides" and just come together and look forward to the future. With hope. I am already praying for President Obama as he faces all sorts of choices and major decisions and trust that he will be a man of character and good judgement. Forget about the left or the right, I just pray that he can help bring much needed change and inspire people at home and abroad to make the most of their own lives/circumstances in order that we might all be better as a result.
I snapped a picture of Chip playing Monopoly with the kids yesterday as proof that they all survived and in fact, thrived, while I was away from home. I was without internet connection and even had sparse cellphone service for much of my trip, but I managed to get by as well. It's amazing how quickly we can adapt to our environments when we're forced to do so. I even debated blogging again as it didn't seem to affect my life that I didn't blog for so long.
But here I am. I'm back and getting into the swing of 'normal life' again. It feels good. Just as I'd expect it to. I hope you all didn't miss me too much {Mom!}. =)

Friday, January 16, 2009

We made it.

Just a short note {for my mom =)} to let you know that Crew was a great little flyer on our flights to Nashville. He slept almost the whole time on both flights. Now we plan to kick back and relax and just have as much fun as we can until Monday. Wish us luck.
More importantly, wish Chip luck with the other four kids at home. He'll likely need it more than we will. =)

Monday, January 12, 2009

It might get quiet around here.

Crew and I will be flying to Nashville to meet up and spend some time with most of these friends and others later this week. I am SO excited. Except for the flying with a baby, I plan to just have fun.
So, if this blog seems a little neglected, you'll know the reason why. Packing and preparing and then a bit of traveling and relaxing. It's just the thing I need right now. Down time, and laughter and creative souls and inspiration and friendship. I'm just sorry you all can't join us. =)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Belated Christmas memories...

After 17 hours of driving these are some of the memories we captured and experienced at Chip's parents' home in northern Minnesota. There was lots of snow for snowmobiling, single digit temperatures, a magnificent Christmas tree that stood tall and didn't fall once throughout our stay {I thought you'd like that note, Grandma Karen!}, a warm hearth which sits nice and close to the big screen tv so we all stayed warm and etertained.
You see that Crew was Mr. Personality during our family photos. [click any of the pictures to enlarge] I think what he was trying to say is he would rather have been tasting grandma's eggnog pie instead of posing for the camera.
I love them- imperfections and all.

Friday, January 09, 2009

When there are no answers...

I've gone round and round in my head whether or not to post today, but my heart is telling me yes, so here it is. I learned earlier this week of a tragic story and loss of a young husband and new father from a friend of mine. After following some links online and reading more about the Pearson family, my heart has been heavy and my mind unable to shake the questions and hurt they must be feeling at this very time. [News link here. Donate to memorial fund here.]
After having a c-section and delivering a healthy, little girl, Drew left his wife and newborn daughter at the hospital to go home and get refreshed himself. Tragically, he was killed on that drive home and even as I type this post, his family is having his funeral service.
I get goosebumps when I think of the timing of all of this. The baby was born on December 28th, 2008. I'm sure the family was savoring this Christmas, while anticipating what the New Year held for them and wondering and imagining just how different next Christmas would be. I assure you, they never imagined it would play out this way.
I've been in those shoes. I empathize so much with this young family. Drew happened to be a PGA member and golf club manager- just as my husband, Chip, is. I know full-well, the excitement of having your first child, and at the same time all the challenges that a newborn brings. This new baby, Peyton Mackenzie, shares Teagan's middle name. I so deeply sympathize with this young wife and mother, Emily, who will forever face the Christmas/New Year/daughter's birthday bearing the burden of grief and sorrow that will be intertwined with the celebrations of the season. There are no answers to offer as to the why this had to happen, or how it could have been prevented. There are bound to be tears shed for days, weeks, months and beyond by Emily and all of Drew's family.
If you feel led, please pray for the Pearson family today and as they come to mind. I know that God can give comfort in abundance and even in the suffering of His own Son, He shares in the suffering of our hearts and lives. As I pondered whether to not to share the details of this family's life- knowing them only through internet connections- I couldn't help but feel that one of the reasons I have walked through tragedy and trials is so that I can comfort others in their own sorrows and hurts in life. My morning reading had this quote and verses, which just seemed too fitting and confirmed my desire to share with you today and that is,
"In the future Christ can use your wounds to help heal others." The verses to go along with the daily reading were 2 Cor. 1:3-5, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."
So many of you have shared your own stories of pain and hurt with me the past few years. Some of you have written of how my family's suffering has helped put things in your life into perspective. Others have read and wondered how it is that we can go on after such painful loss. I have this to say, it's not been easy, but God has been faithful to me, to my family, every step of the way. Without the Hope of Heaven and the strength to forgive, I know I wouldn't be writing such posts. God HAS healed our hearts and given us comfort in abundance. My prayer is that Emily and her family will not question why- but instead they will find that knowing God is enough. The questions and pain will linger- maybe the rest of their lives- but one day, those who trust in God and His saving grace will have their sorrows turn to Joy and there will be reason to rejoice and thank God for His higher ways.
If you find your own heart hurting today, my prayer is the same for you too. May you find peace in knowing that the God of the universe cares about the things on your heart and mind. And whether they bring you sorrows or joy, He can use all things to bring glory to Him. I thank God daily, that even though I haven't had all my questions answered He is enough for me.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Look out, world. =)

He's on the move.
{Photo edited at}

Also, several of you asked about the Christmas card/pictures I posted here of my family. I designed that at I recommend both sites for beginners to the advanced graphic/digital artists for free and fun photo editing and designing. Have fun with your photos and memories!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

One last day of partying-

Wyndham turned 8 today and she was happy as can be. The kids all enjoyed their last day of Christmas break before school starts back tomorrow by helping Wyndham open her presents and blow out her candles. We kept it fairly simple and went to church, out for lunch and then kicked back all afternoon. As you can see in these pictures, Wyndham was very happy to be the center of attention and she was so proud to blow her candles out too. She even picked out her cupcake decorations and was "helping" me with the frosting of them.
This day is actually a bittersweet one for me, to be honest with you. I tucked Wyndham in bed last night and told her it was her last day being 7. She has been signing birthday and cake and she knew it was going to be her special day today. But even as her happiness was so infectious and I marveled at how much she has grown and changed and overcome, my mind still went to the place I try so hard to avoid so often. That is the place in my heart and mind where I wonder about all of the hopes and dreams and things she may never experience because of her injuries sustained in our tragic incident. It hurts for me to look at her knowing so much was taken from her, and although she is doing so well at this point, there is just that knot in my throat that hits me full-on when we mark big occasions like today.
I wonder if she will ever get to tell me with her voice all the thoughts that must run through her head each day; I wonder how she really feels inside. I asked her what kind of cake she wanted- chocolate or white and she just smiled at me. She finally pointed to white, but I wondered if it was because of the sprinkles on the package that she wanted most of all. I know it sounds like a little thing, but I'm really feeling the hurt tonight after recognizing what it is.
Sometimes I forget that we have any ongoing "issues" as a result of our tragedy. We live each day with so much "normal" and ordinary that it doesn't seem to affect us all that much anymore. But my mind went there today- to the wondering of how things might have been or how they might continue to be in the future.
Don't get me wrong. You can see from the photos that there was a lot of love and happiness in our home and lives today. We are blessed more than many to have love and happiness in our lives each day. But there is still a sense of something not-quite-right in my heart. Special days make me miss Teagan too. Wyndham is now twice as old as Teagan ever got to be. It's been a long struggle to get her (Wyndham) here too. I was thinking how Wyndham has had hundreds of shots, 2 medical helicopter rides in her life, 3 ambulance rides and more hours of therapy than I can count. Yes, she's been through so much and she has come so far. She's nothing short of amazing and I thank God for the way He has healed her even when we weren't sure of her prognosis. We still don't know what her future holds- I don't know how many birthdays any of my kids will celebrate, and I try not to take any of them for granted. As hard as it is, I know that choosing to celebrate and be happy in life even after all we've been through is the best gift I can give to my family and everyone around me. Today I am reminded that it's not an easy path, but there is reward in the effort for choosing to rise above. And in the long run, choosing vanilla cake over chocolate is really not a bad choice either. Even if it was picked only for the colored sprinkles that were pictured on the box.
Happy birthday, my dear little Wyndham. I love you with all my heart!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Our little Crew man.

If you haven't been around a baby in awhile- or ever- you have no idea how fast they change and grow. Seriously! I chose some pictures to share with you of Crew the past couple of days. His world is getting bigger now that he's discovered his hands...which then go right into his mouth...and he's holding his head up much better so he can look around and take in everything. The kids tell him over and over, "Awwww, you're so cute!", and I think his big eyes and grin are going to get him out of trouble with his siblings more often than not too.
He's now 3 1/2 months old and he already has "opinions" on things. He doesn't really like his hat (even though I do...thanks Marc and Keri!) and he hates wet pants. He's not so sure about tummy-time, but he loves attention, being held, and he is happiest when he first wakes up in the morning. Which makes it all the harder for the rest of us to want to get up and going. We just want to gush over how cute he is and he just eats it up!
So, here's my cute story of the day...
Ava was playing in the living room and I was holding Crew and had just wrapped a blanket around him. He was looking all cozy and snuggly. Ava came over to me and asked to hold him. As I handed him to her (I hold him while she puts her hands around him and squeezes...) she said to me, "He looks like baby God".
I thought it was the sweetest thing. She was referencing baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes as we've just come off of Christmas and the manger scene. I just thought it was funny how she used the term, 'baby God'. =)
There's just something so wonderful about seeing the world through the eyes of babies/children, isn't there?!