11 years... flew by

Holy moly- I can't believe I'm seeing these cinnamon roll numbers already:

This handsome fella turned 11 last week:

We celebrated early with a trip to a local fall farm where they had all kinds of strange chickens:

This giant rooster {?} baffled the kids for days! :) They couldn't figure out how that guy was riding it. {One of the best things about being a parent is knowing the answer to the riddle and not telling them :P}

They are all growing up so quickly. I am savoring these days when they're all kind of little and like farms and zoos and playgrounds. These are such good days. Hard, but good.

I loved seeing them enjoy the pig races. :)

And one of my favorite things about grandparents is that they will fork over $5 just so their grandkids can shoot apples out of a machine gun. :)

I'm happy to report that we made it all the way through our first corn maze:

I was worried about that one. ;)

I am so thankful for 11 years with this boy. He is full of life and loves so very deeply. He may not kiss his mama any more but he is sure to tell her he loves her every day. :)

They are both growing up so fast.

Little boys are turning into young men already. Oh, what a gift it is to be a mama. Somehow the years fly away before you even know it.

Happy birthday, my sweet Elijah boy. I am so thankful for you.

{This from a year ago already? How is it possible? I tell you no lie, this life will be over before we know it.}

Mamas of older ones tell me- how do you deal with the fact your kiddos are this.close to growing up? I may need to cry on your shoulder! ;)

turning 32 = food, family, fun, and needing more grace

I turned 32 on Friday! {Exclamation point because it is exciting, right? ha!}

If the last week is at all foretelling of the coming year, I'm in for a lightning round. :)

The birthday celebrations started on Thursday night with Abbie and my friend Lindsay at a new pizza place. They are great friends- encouraging and real and funny. :D Also, if it weren't for them, I'd have no record of this moment: 

You know you're getting old when you don't mind being sung to by a crowd of servers if it means you get a free canoli cream puff. :D Free food > embarrassment! Always. :) {I can't tell you how many times I've been tempted to eat the untouched leftovers of someone's plate at a restaurant. :P}

A late night post-celebation chatting session ended later than expected when my car ran out of battery and wouldn't jump. I can proudly say I've now used jumper cables, though not successfully. :) Again, thankful for friends like Abbie who will stay with you and help you try to figure out how to pop the hood... and then give you rides home when you're stranded. :)

The car incident rerouted our Friday events a little, and Rob surprised me with my favorite kind of birthday breakfast:

Seriously. When I had my own car as a senior in high school, my favorite breakfast after our college class was a Dr. Pepper and a Chick-o-stick. {which believe it or not, Rob remembered and tried to buy me first but they were old!}. There was a reason I gained an extra 5 lbs. that year. ;)

More surprises were to come though, like these Stargazer Lilies:

 And then we had lunch with my dad at Chuy's:

Dad took the kids from there so I could have the day with Rob. Good men on both sides of that deal! :) Rob kept the munchkin in the car while I shopped alone: 

I hit a few stores and found absolutely nothing {probably a good thing when you're building a house...}, and then I visited a barn sale where I found three old hymnals. :)

That night, thanks to my dad again, we had our very FIRST DATE alone in 14+ months!!! :D {cue the Hallelujah chorus!}. It was fantastic.

Rob didn't tell me where we were going, but when he looked up directions I knew it was somewhere we'd never been. :) We went to this quiet little French American restaurant and enjoyed the BEST food. I had Moroccan Chicken {stuffed with feta cheese and pesto!} and Rob had bleu cheese meatloaf:

I was in food heaven. Sooo good!

And then we hit the grocery store for a coconut cake:

This year I asked for a cake at home instead of the restaurant so we could all share. I am not sure what I was thinking bringing home kryptonite. Let's just say I will be visiting the gym a few extra hours in the next two weeks. ;)

And I really think birthdays keep getting sweeter because of things like this:

All the texts and FB messages and birthday wishes mean so much to me these days. I am so blessed and thankful for all the friends and family who love me. It makes me want to cry!  :)

I'm amazed that I have been given 32 years of this life. The last few years have gotten so much harder, but so much sweeter too. Sometimes life feels like a battle- just to keep up with it all. 

So many times I get overwhelmed by all the work there is to do- both in my home and in my heart. I know I'm not the person I used to be 10 years ago, but I can imagine in 10 years from now I will be a different person than I am at 32. Looking back, I can see all those uncomfortable and pressing situations I've been through aren't for nothing. I see the Lord's hand in them, humbling me and showing me my sinful heart time after time. 

At this point it feels like I'm moving through quicksand though...slow and barely able to walk forward. But then I look back and see how far the Lord has brought me, and it encourages me to keep moving, to not be afraid of the pain of discipline, to not be afraid to give up more, to not be afraid to lose myself. I know I don't want to keep it in my control anyway, you know? On my own, I choose selfishly every time, but He helps me through reminding and convicting me that my life is not for my own benefit. It's for His glory. 

Putting myself on the throne of my life is making myself my god. But dying to my own wishes, giving up what I prefer, dying to my own pride {thanks to humbling situations! ugh!}- these are actually really good things. I can't keep the life and all the things that I want and do the will of the Lord too. This flesh seed must die in order to bear fruit. I know that true joy is found in the death of my will, and in doing the will of God, but it is an all-out battle.

The hardest thing I've done so far in this life is to deny myself, and I've barely scratched the surface of it. I have so, so far to go. It feels like getting older means pretty much seeing how much more you're a sinner- which would be totally depressing if it weren't for the blood of Jesus! Seriously. I would have nothing without Him.

Like the song says- I'm so thankful that His grace is greater than all my sin- "For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." {John 1:16}

Grace upon grace, upon grace.  Upon grace. Only because of Jesus. 

Such, such good news. I know I will need more of it this year. 

Thank you Lord God, for 32 years. Please help me to live for you and die to myself this year. I want to bring you glory, no matter the cost of my own life. Please help me, Jesus. I need you so desperately- I can't do this on my own. Thank you for giving me true, abundant life. Please help me to do your will.

costco finds + reviews {love it or leave it scale}

When we hit up Costco last week I had a list of things to buy that were my favorites, and if you're a Costco/Sam's member you probably can guess what happened... ;)

I waited too long, and they had less than half of the items I came for. The seasons switched on me or something, and I had to find new things to try there. {insert happy/sad/happy face}

So I figured I would review our new Costco food favorites on a scale of love it or leave it {at the store}.

10 = love it, 1 = leave it! :)

1. Snapea Crisps

These tasted a little strange for the first bite but we quickly grew to love them. The baby is very picky about food, and he loves them too! They are made of snap peas and rice and a couple of other ingredients. The only downside is I can't stop eating them! hahah!

Love it or leave it:
** 8 **

2. Kirkland Organic Animal Crackers

Oh! These have something homey-tasting in them like cinnamon, and are more like cookies than animal crackers. The baby will eat them occasionally, but I don't like to give them to him because they are way messy! :) And I'm not sure what I was thinking bringing 4 lbs. of yummy carbs into my kitchen. They are slightly evil. And so delicious.

Love it or leave it:
** 9 **

3. Crispy Veggie Chips

I try not to eat chips or bread often, so these actual vegetable chips were an exciting find. I loved them more than anyone else in our house by far. I never thought I would be so excited about dehydrated veggies. :) They are salty and take a bit to eat each one {unlike processed versions!}.

Love it or leave it:
** 10 **

4. Snappers dark chocolate sea salt caramel treats

My tastebuds keep surprising me, because I thought I would love these and I didn't love them too much. I did like that each treat took a while to eat, but they were so salty that I didn't feel like I had much of a sweet. And they kind of tear up your mouth like Captain Crunch. If you offered me one for free, I would eat it, but I wouldn't buy them again. ;)

Love it or leave it:
** 5 **

5. Kirkland Soft & Chewy Granola bars

My kids love these, and I love how convenient they are. They do have corn syrup of the non-high fructose variety, and I think they taste a little weird like maple or pancake syrup. They were a repeat purchase, so I guess we like them well enough. I prefer my homemade version but luckily the wrappers on these keep me from over-snacking. ;)

Love it or leave it:
** 7 **

6. Rosarita No Fat Refried Beans

We love these beans for our Mexican food nights. My husband loves refried beans so much he will dip them with chips, and all the kids will eat these beans.

Love it or leave it:
** 8 **

7. Pre-cooked Organic Super Grain Trio {freekah, farro, kamut}

I have found convenience foods like these to be so helpful in keeping a healthy diet. I am the only one who eats these most of the time, though I will heat up one for Rob in a pinch. I only eat a cup or two of grains every now and then so making a big batch in advance doesn't work well for me right now. These packages are awesome, though they require a microwave {which we don't have anymore}. If you're buying for one person, these 90-second grains are worth the cost.

Love it or leave it:
** 8 **

8. Tasty Bite Madras Lentils

I mentioned these before, and we do love them still. I don't eat them myself {legumes and I don't get along}, but Rob eats one of these instead of sandwiches for a somewhat healthier lunch. I'll put them over chips, rice, or even pinto beans and he's a happy camper. He loves them!!

Love it or leave it:
** 8 **

 9. Pink Atlantic Wild Alaskan Salmon

I know I tend to like stranger foods altogether, but I love this straight up with a little salt. It's a splurge  to buy the wild version, but the wild version actually has less calories and way more protein! And it tastes better to me. It's a once a week food for me too, so I can get a variety of vitamins and proteins.

Love it or leave it:
** 9 **

10. Organic Butternut Squash

I love this squash! But- it goes bad rather quickly, so I've had to throw it out twice.  I am not fast enough to eat it all, and I waited too long to cook it both times I've bought it. :(

Love it or leave it:
** 4 **

Those are my current buys, but I would love to hear what you think! :)

Is there anything new I need to try next time I'm at Costco?  :D

Mixed sweet +salty = mixed emotions for you too? :P lol!

What do you think? Are healthier convenience foods worth the cost to you?

I'll never forget, a double win, and a not-so-friendly visitor

Last week was a doozy. 

It started out pretty awesome with a run to the big D/Costco:

And we double-won with a Freebird's date:

My partner-in-crime loves to help me eat these days:

But the baby got sick the next day, and by Monday I wasn't feeling quite normal either... but school had to go on:

And then on Monday night, the dreaded and not-often-seen stomach bug hit our house big time. Thankfully, it had been years since we had a round of it, but it got nearly everyone this time:

I didn't leave my bed for 36 hours. Rob took care of all of us as we took turns losing our lunch, and Abbie risked her life week to bring us activated charcoal, grape juice, and flowers! What a good friend!! And I can't say how lucky I am to have a husband who will stop everything to care for us.

The kids recovered fairly quickly, and I felt much better the day after, but the effects kept lingering.

Good thing Noah wanted to make breakfast for us on Saturday morning.

It was the first time I gave Noah and Bella full reign in the kitchen to make breakfast for us on their own:

I was um...nervous...when I spotted the marshmallow bacon rolls. But the biggest surprise of all? 

Eggs- with candy corn mixed in. 

Starburst candy corn eggs.

After the week of vomiting. 

I tried, I really did. I took a bite. I sure love those munchkins {bless their little hearts}, but I couldn't handle it. Oh. My. Goodness. The memory alone still haunts my belly. I may never be able to forget it. Or eat scrambled eggs ever again.

You know one thing is for sure- life around our house is never dull these days. :)

Has that awful stomach bug hit your house this year?

Have your kids ever surprised you with their creative cooking? ;)

Favorite Halloween candy? 
Mine used to be candy corn. For real.

our new "house"

I've been waiting so long to tell you about our move! Life has been crazy busy, but thankfully the last two nights Zane slept through the night and I feel so much better today! :P

We've moved about 30 minutes from our old house to right beside Rob's work. He's been commuting so much less now that we've moved, which makes his job so much easier. I think it's been a great change for us all.

The Lord has been very gracious to us and has provided for us at every turn with this whole house business. I don't know what He has up His sleeve for our lives, but we try not to look too far ahead, and just trust Him for every little step. I would have never expected this kind of move to happen, but we're overjoyed and so thankful for the blessing and provision! It's so awesome. :D

Right now we're living in a temporary house as this is what our future "home" looked like this summer:

We've been blessed to be given an opportunity to build a house in my favorite country neighborhood. :) We are SO excited to-Lord-willing- build a house that works for our big family, and have lots of room for the kids to play outside!

I can't wait to share all the building process with you as we go through it! :) We've never built a custom house before, and we're trying to do it on a squeaky tight budget, so I'm sure it will be quite an adventure! :) I'm hoping to have lots of good deals/DIY projects to show you in the next year! :)

Have you ever built a house before? Any tips for us?? I'd love to hear!!