As I begin a new business venture, I have found once again that a mentor is vital.  I am so thankful for the many mentors I've had over the years.

It all started with my parents.  I found endless advice in my Mom and then a generous listening ear in my Dad.  They each gave me different types of mentorship and I learned to value and use both in my own life.

In college I had an internship at my Dad's office and I learned to listen to those older and wiser but to not be afraid to contribute my own ideas.  I am so thankful that I was treated like a smart individual.  I also learned that I was often wrong and needed to ask more questions in order to learn.

Later in life I struggled to find good mentors.  I had bosses who were distant or quick to tell me how to do everything - leaving me no input and a feeling of no value as well.

More recently I have experienced a great mix of people as mentors in my life.  I learned how to build relationships intentionally at our church and I enjoyed the mentorship of Wes, Amber, and Ashley in the Children's ministry.  I considered myself shy, introverted and unable to reach out and they taught me through encouragement and grace that I could be more than that.  I learned to push myself and to let the fear go - what's the worst thing that would happen?  A smile and an interest in someone's life is never a bad plan.

Molly, me and Becky.
Wonderful times at Weaving Influence!
I also grew through my most recent job.  My boss, Becky, was humble, gracious and kind but never failed to challenge me to work hard and produce results.  Her confidence in my skills and abilities translated into my own confidence, which was seriously lacking.  What a gift that was!

And now, as I start a new business venture, one where I am my own boss and try to help and mentor others, I am finding a personal mentor is vital.  This is someone to calm my newbie fears, push me a bit and also provide structure.  Joline has been a friend and someone I admired for so long, I'm so thankful to have her in this new role.

I find myself at 36 years old, happier to give than to receive and wanting to help others more than ever.


12 year old birthday

This year the request was a small party with a nice dinner out.  She recently fell in love with Indian food so we headed to the nearest Indian restaurant in town.  Anna invited one close friend and they had a movie/sleepover night after dinner.  The night reflected the in betweenness of the age of 12.  She wanted to be with her friend but wanted everyone else there too.  She's between so many different stages, sometimes I think she's not sure how to feel.

Anna is a fun person to celebrate.  She reacts perfectly to praise and adoration and we all enjoyed being with her on her special day.  The girls always have the choice to invite their sisters or not and I was glad that Anna chose to involve them.

My homemade cakes are getting better.  This one wasn't tipping too much in any direction.  Phew.

At the restaurant.  The biggest issue was the TV playing Bollywood style videos throughout the meal.  Some of them were a bit strange and we did some seat swapping to keep the peace.

Anna's been wearing her new watch a lot.

A cute hat for a cute girl.

This hat totally fits Anna's personality.  Just awesome.

A lot of candles!


Teeth woes

So - new town means a lot of new things.  New roads to figure out, new friends to make, and new doctors to find.

I tend to put this off until we are all desperately ill and I will say that nothing has changed with this move.  Except for our teeth.  I decided to find a new dentist right away.  So even if we all come down with the flu or some other terrible illness, we'll have great teeth.  Right.

Anyways,  so I picked the closest dentist that took our insurance.  I figure they are all pretty much the same, right?  The office is schnazzy.  iPads, Xbox, PS3, snacks, etc.  I mean the kids were pretty amazed.  Plus you can watch TV while the dentist cleans your teeth.  All these things point to a quality dentist.  Or not.
How could teeth this cute have cavities?
My first clue should have been the "Cavity Wall".  This is a wall where all the kids without cavities get their picture posted.  There were 6 pictures.  That's it.  I will say the dentist has only been there around a year, but still.

So, at our appointment, we received the news that our kids have a total of 5 cavities.  All this was discovered without consulting a single X-ray.  I guess I'm old school but I feel that X-rays do have some value to a dentist.

So, you'll be happy to know that we are seeking a second opinion.  And I'm just sending him the X-rays.  Cuz that's where you see cavities.

Okay - I'm done.  Now off to find a family Dr. before we are in urgent care for something minor.


Getting Fit - Thank you Beachbody

This October I decided that I was done with feeling tired, moody and just plain wasted most every day. So I came up with a plan.
Looking pretty good post-2010 CLX.

The last time I really committed to change myself in this way was back in 2010 and my primary reason was to try and combat my SAD symptoms.  I started a Beachbody workout program (Chalene Xtreme) with Matt.  It did wonders and I was able to see my body change in huge ways but life got crazy and I lost my motivation.

When we decided to move back to Colorado, all chances of getting back on track with exercise ended for me.  I was emotionally struggling and using all my energy to deal with the changing and stressful situations I was surrounded by.

Fast forward 6 months.  Here we are, settled in Colorado.  The kids are happy.  Matt is SO happy in his job.  I am volunteering at the school and teaching English part time.  I'm starting to think of my future and how to connect with other people.  I truly want to give to others as much as I can.  But, I have still been struggling with energy and moodiness.  I gained about 10+ pounds in the move and I just feel tired all the time.

That was, I did.  Until 3 weeks ago.

3 weeks ago I started something new.

And now I feel SO much better.  I have energy.  I have more joy.  I don't feel like taking a nap every afternoon. I lost 5 pounds.

And even more huge for me is that my cravings are gone.

I have waited these 3 weeks to say anything to be sure but I can honestly say that I feel different.

Thank you to Beachbody, Shakeology and the T25 workout program.  Structure, accountability, diet help and a plan are key for me to make any life changes.


Getting a room settled

Well, of course, the kids are asking for their rooms to be setup.  So - Mom to the rescue.

I consider it a blessing to them that I love to arrange (and rearrange) furniture and it matters to me that their room reflects who they are.

I think a clean room encourages play and creativity more than a pile of clothes, a pile of toys and a continually stinky, unmake bed.

So - since Katherine's room was leaning towards the latter room I described, today was set aside to fix it up.

She has the biggest room of all 3 girls and after only having tiny rooms all these years, this was a bit challenging for me.

With this arrangement she has her bed and other furniture on one end.  I also hung up a blue painting that Matt painted several years back.  She will be so excited that her Daddy's picture is hanging in her room.  I also hung up a cute painting that was in my room when I was little.  I can't wait to show my Mom when she's here tomorrow!  The hardest part of her room was finding a cute way to arrange all her "stuff".  Some of it is cute and decorative and some of it is just scraps of paper.  Hopefully she'll appreciate it! (I know she will.  The look on the kids' faces is half the reason I do this!)

This is the other side of Katherine's room.  We didn't bring desks with us to this house and she was pretty heartbroken.  So - we found a way to make her storage cubes into a desk.  This looked like a war zone before I tackled it today.  Now she has some cute fairy pictures and a picture she made at school.  It's a drawing of herself and says "I like me!".  I thought that was perfect.  In addition she has some spaces for toys, decorations and all her "office supplies".  And it just looks so darn cute.

Making way some new bright whites

Yep - she has at last lost a tooth.  She went through all of Kindergarten, just waiting.

Then the summer.  Still nothing.

Now, at last, one is missing and apparently about 5 are loose.  We expect her teeth just start falling out two at a time!  We'll see.


Help! My 6th grader wants to wear makeup.

I am hereby taking it on myself to give a little advice on the subject of young girls and makeup.

And I'm pretty sure it's not going to be what you expect.

First, a little background.  I was not allowed to wear makeup until I was 15.  Granted, I was a sophomore in high school by then.  I had been the one to sneak lipstick on a regular basis in junior high and even got caught at church wearing, wait for it, previously confiscated bright orange lipstick.  Did I think she wouldn't notice??  I still cringe remembering getting caught in the church lobby by my parents.

So, this year, our dear 11 year old begged and begged for makeup.  She already had quite a supply of lip glosses, Chapstick, sparkle powder, etc.  But, the claim was that it was old, run down and not of the right caliber for a blossoming young woman.  Okay - I added the blossoming young woman part, but the presentation of the case for makeup was pretty close to that.  At least the way I heard it.

So, as any conservative, raised the right way, kind of mother would do, I said NO.

No way.

No how.

I don't think so.

I got tears, screams, glares, the whole nine yards.

And I did falter a bit (not in front of her of course).

So, I brought it to Matt.  He's the Dad and should have some input here.  I'm pretty sure it was my Dad that said no makeup or earrings until I was in high school.  So, I thought getting some reinforcements on my side would really help strengthen my case.  Plus, he probably had an even better argument in my defense.  He is a philosopher/thinker/debater/generally smart guy.

He surprised me.  His argument was, well, let her wear some. Not a ton, but some. So, I took her to Walgreens and steered her towards the ever reasonably priced Wet N' Wild brand.  (Hello, makeup is expensive!)  I also made careful suggestions towards lighter colors and shades.  She ended up with a very sparkly light pink eyeshadow pencil, white eye shadow and 4 different shades of lip gloss.

Lesson learned:  By taking the fight out of it, I was able to have a great mother/daughter experience of picking out makeup in the appropriate tones, helping my daughter feel beautiful and just have fun looking at makeup.

Note: she does still have "dress up makeup" to wear just at home.  This was the case in the picture below.  The girls had a "fashion show" and this time they got a hold of the camera.  She's growing in a beautiful young woman, I just want to keep her close (and acting her age) as long as I can without actually pushing her away.

Now, this isn't the right choice for everyone.  But, if it really becomes a huge issue, consider how major you want it to be.  Teaching her to wear makeup correctly and to enhance her natural features is more important than her exact age or grade in school.


A new home, settling into our Colorado life.

Oh I know.  But, I've been moving.  Okay - so it's been nearly a month since we left beautiful Illinois and headed to also beautiful Colorado and I'm sure you are wondering how things all turned out.

Was God faithful?

Were WE faithful?

I'm happy to say that God was truly faithful.  I continue to struggle with trusting him with major life-altering details, but he worked in spite of me.

We were able to get into our house with all our furniture, boxes, etc 2 days before school started.  While it was crazy, things did go smoothly. The girls were able to start school while I worked to get records, birth certificates, shot histories and the like in on time.

Things have calmed down now, nearly 4 weeks later. The girls really love their schools.  Claire and Katherine are at an elementary school and Annabelle is into middle school.

Anna's first day of 6th grade.
Claire & Katherine - ready for 4th and 1st grade!

The hardest part has been adjusting to the Colorado mentality.  I can't hardly describe it.  People seem the same as anywhere else but in small ways it just has a different feel.  I don't want to criticize (but, I'm so good at it!) because I'm still settling and going through my emotional change-is-good roller coaster.  So I won't.  It's enough to say that we are learning to get out and enjoy life and nature with hikes, a new trampoline, a visit to ProspectEats - a fun gathering of food trucks at a local park, and visits to Estes Park.

Bubble Time at the park.

Thanks for everyone's support and encouragement.  I'll be back soon with some pictures of the house and my feeble attempts at decoration.


Bring me to my knees

I did pretty much ask for it.

I didn't want to take my life for granted.  I wanted God to be present and for Him to write the story each and every day.  I didn't realize that I would have to be brought to my knees with an invisible force in order for Him to get in and get working.

The last several weeks have been truly hard.  And truly filled with blessings.

We put our house on the market in faith.  I saw a situation that I could not carefully plan out ahead of time, but that I would have to rely on God to coordinate.  I am a total planner, details are essential to my peace of mind.  But, in this case, I could do nothing but wait.  I could do some reasearch and think about what I *might* do but no actual planning can happen when we don't know if or when our house will sell.

So, Matt began his job in Colorado. We continued showing our house about 3 times a day.  Then the showings stopped.  My Mom came to town.  I worried and experienced that face-to-the-ground sensation daily.  God is in control.  He has a better plan than I can even imagine.  He doesn't need to follow our "rules."  I wish it had been more comfortable to rest there.  I was so ashamed of myself and how hard it was to rely on Him 100%.

That weekend, the one of zero showings after our price drop, that was when Matt & I both felt we were just totally drained.  The uncertainty was too much to bear.  That weekend, God showed up to do things his way.

Katherine's sunday school teacher that week was a summer volunteer - only serves a few times over the whole summer.  She heard Katherine talking about moving to Colorado and stopped me after class.  She mentioned that she is an interior designer and wanted to use her gifts as a ministry to me.  To me?  Seriously?  She had never seen my house.  For all she knew, it could already be a gorgeous mansion (not joking, you should come to our area!).  But, God knew.  He knew that my living room has never quite come together.


She came the next day and spent many hours with me. My Mom watched the kids so I could focus on the house.  My new friend transformed my house.  It is beautiful.


We got a call for a showing on Monday while we were redecorating. We hurried up and finished just in time. Then after that showing, another showing by the same people.  As I drove my Mom to the airport, I prayed.  I prayed for God's will.  I prayed for my faith to grow.

A few days later, they made an offer.  Someone else also made an offer.  We find ourselves under contract and with a closing date that lines up perfectly with school.

Now, as we work out final details, find a house in Colorado and decide about schooling - I keep coming back to God's faithfulness.  I have no need to worry - no need to try and figure out all the details.  He's already worked it out.  I'm going to rest there.


Trust, Faith and Moving

Well, the update is...  there is no update.

Okay - there sortof is, the house is on the market.  We are coming up on 2 weeks.  We've had 15 showings and no takers.  Seriously?  And my house is looking pretty darn fine.

We are looking at homes in Colorado but really can't do much until our house sells.

So, we wait.

The main thing I'm noticing is, I don't like waiting. This is a major strain for me.  I have no idea why it is so hard, except that I love to plan.  I love to plan out my days, weeks, months. At this point, I can't plan much.  I don't know our moving date, I don't know which town we will move to, and I really can't see how it will all work out.

I find myself filled with fear.  I was greatly encouraged by a blog post from Elizabeth Curry.  While she was blogging about fear related to parenting an adopted child, the feelings I'm having are very similar.  And the solution is to trust God.  Not to just trust him a little, but to trust him FULLY.  I believe the true faith-filled response would be to have no worry and to continue on knowing that he will guide your steps and make your paths straight.

Wow - is that hard.

And I fail at it nearly every day - even though I can think of numerous examples in my own life where God has been present.  Plus, I can find an infinite numbers of examples in other's lives where God was present.

I hear my mother's voice, "What's the worst thing that can happen?"  Um, we could be homeless?  Not really.  We could lose a lot of money?  Happened before, never looked back.  We could struggle with relying on God?  Yep.  And we need that struggle to rely on him more fully than before.

Amen to that!

On another note:  Why is my realtor calling my house a "Pottery Barn Gem?"

You decide.


Letting things go - specifically our piano

We have moved a lot.

8 times in all.  And I purge a lot.  So, we don't have a lot of things that have stuck with us.

But, this one has.

It's a beautiful piano.  Built in 1910 and made to last.  The style is completely us - clean lines, no frills.  I picked out this piano from a shop in Fort Collins, Colorado right before we moved into our new, large-enough-for-a-piano house.  I greeted it with visions of kids someday, kids who would first bang and then actually play the keys.

When we moved out to Chicago, the piano stayed behind.  A friend agreed to keep it for us at their house.  I still think they were pretty surprised when, 3.5 years later, we asked to take it back and we moved it to Chicago.

I was so thankful to have it - it is huge, heavy and loud but you could just as easily say it's grandiose, substantial and vociferous.  This year our 9 yr old, Claire, decided to start lessons.  It's been amazing to hear her play daily.  

But, as we prepare to move back to Colorado, we decided to not bring it with us.

This has been hard for me and for Claire. But we must say farewell.  On to new adventures without the weight of a 100 yr old piano.

 On a separate note, the cats' puffer balls have all been found.


So long to the old pine....

We had this huge white pine right in front of our house.  It was not only unpleasant to look at, it also made a huge mess on the roof, ground and cars.  It was impossible to grow anything around it and I was always afraid one of the trunks would break off and land on our family room.  So, we saved up for a few years and then finally had it removed.


Pulling it down.



How do you say goodbye?

I am trying to figure out how to process the events of the last few weeks.  In some ways they were planned out long in advance and in other ways they seemed to appear suddenly.  Matt accepted a job in Colorado so we find ourselves putting our house on the market, finishing out summer camps quickly and planning to move there in just a few short months.

We came to live in Chicago when Anna was 2 and Claire was just 4 months old.  We uprooted from suburban life and settled ourselves into a busy, crazy city.  We sometimes lived on ramen noodles and canned carrots, but we were just so happy.  Happy to be on our own, away from our home state for the first time and excited for whatever the future held.  Matt was just starting his graduate degree in Philosophy and all doors seemed open wide.

Fast forward several years to the surprise pregnancy that would become Katherine.  This took us a bit off guard and we decided to head back "home" to Colorado and try to sort out our new life as a family of 5.  It became obvious pretty quickly that Matt wouldn't be able to finish his degree and establish his new consulting business.  So, we found ourselves back in Chicagoland - this time we settled in our favorite, close to Chicago suburb.

Our home in Evanston was beautiful and the neighborhood was almost too perfect to believe.  Our littlest one learned to walk just a few months after we moved in and we felt it was a perfect place to be. A couple of years later things changed dramatically and we ended up deciding to buy our first home since Anna was a baby.

When we arrived in Glenview back in 2011, we hoped and prayed for good neighbors and a quick adjustment.  Wow, were we surprised!  This home has felt the most "home" to me so far, the neighbors have been truly family and being so close to our church we have put down deep roots there - helping out weekly and hosting several different groups at our home.

We will be leaving close friends - friends who would drop everything to help out, friends whom our kids play with every single day.  Friends who have shared hurts and their hearts with us.  While we leave with anticipation of being close enough to see our family more than once a year, we also leave knowing it will be harder to keep in touch with those here.

During this time of transition we are thankful for:
1.  God's clear direction
2.  Our kid's resilience and adaptability
3.  Encouragement
4.  Each other
5.  Family


Those pesky analytics

So, today I decided to look at my Google Analytics.

Turns out that when you stop writing on your blog, you get less page views!  Say what?!

Yeah, I get it.

But, what to do when I just don't feel like writing.  I need a theme, a purpose, something to write about!

I'll keep searching. I think just writing about my kids gets old, writing about my day to day life is mega boring and writing about work is just not interesting to me!

There is something intriguing about having an audience, a support system as it were.


A candy birthday

I'm not a big party planner but, I do enjoy making each birthday a special day. This year Claire had her party before her actual birthday, so she will have another very small celebration this week.

I decided to turn the living room into Claire's Sweet Shop.  Everyone got a bag and helped themselves to an assortment of candy.  They also were free to eat candy during the party.  Only 3 people had cake. Claire had several friends from school and then our dearest, ever present friend Allie from our old neighborhood.  She holds a special place in each girl's heart and is invited to nearly every party we have.  And she honestly has fun and plays along despite the 6 year age difference with Claire.

Claire shines brightly on her birthday.  She is a bit shy at first but then happily enjoys the attention while still making sure everyone else is having a good time.  She is happy to do most anything on her special day and she was happy from morning until night.  She is sweet, loving and loves candy!


A long journey comes to a close

Every post needs a picture, right?

We moved to Chicago nearly 9 years ago for Matt to start Graduate school.  Just getting to that point was a long journey.  First he had to finish his undergraduate degree which he had given up many years prior.

Those years included a master degree, a 3rd child, a move to Colorado and then a move back to Chicago, daily trips to the coffee shop to write before starting his real job, several weekends away to write, 2 (or was it 3) week long "boot camps" and a complete restart on the dissertation after 2 years of writing.  Now we are nearing the end.  Graduation is in May and the dissertation defense is next month.

We can't wait to see what God has in store for us next.

For those of you who asked what Matt's dissertation was about:

"The focus of this dissertation is a theory, typically offered in a religious context, that certain propositions can be held (and in some cases ought or even must be held) by faith without regard for evidence."

I love how God turned a scary thing like philosophy (which many Christians never recover from) to work for His glory.


Oh how I love routines.

Winter is here in Chicago.  A strange winter, but here anyways.

We have had many many days of sunshine and freezing cold the last few weeks.  Before that was rain for days and then before that there was snow.  I think the city is not sure what season it is.  And I'm certain the birds are confused.

But, I have settled into a very comforting routine.

The day starts with a 6AM alarm.  This is rough.  I am not a morning person.  But, I know that the kids will be up at 7 and I desperately need to be awake before then.  So, I get up, nudge Matt and we head out to the family room to workout.  We are doing Chalean Extreme again this winter thanks to the recommendation last year from the amazing Joline Atkins (Beachbody Coach Extraordinaire).  We also are alternating in a couple days of GymBox which streams right through our TV.

After a 30 minute workout, Matt heads to the shower while I clean up the dishes from the night before and get the kid's lunches made.  Homemade breakfasts are a rarity at the moment and Anna thinks this is outrageous.  Every morning she comes to the kitchen with her hopes high that the noises of dishes are actually pancakes being made, but alas, they are generally not. I could digress into the long term consequences of choosing certain things for your firstborn but, I will just say - feed them sugary cereal and I think they won't want it when they are older.  I fed mine only healthy foods and now she only wants sugary junk food for breakfast.

In order for Claire to get from her 7AM wakeup to a 7:30 departure to school, she has been sleeping in her clothes.  Every night she picks out her outfit for the next day and puts it on.  I'm thankful for less laundry but not sure if this is an okay thing to do...  Our culture says - pajamas to bed and fresh clothes in the morning.  Of course it also says, baths every day and our kids certainly aren't following that "rule".

Ah yes - back to my routine.  The girls head out to walk to school with Dad, I head to the shower and Katherine snuggles up with her blankie on the couch.  Around 8:30, I head with Katherine to the bus stop and chit chat a bit with the neighbors (we live on the best block).  I'm back home by 8:45 and ready to tidy things up a bit, perhaps make some coffee and settle into work on Katherine's bed.  Yep, the bottom bunk is mine for the morning.  Wondering why?  The girls bunk beds are situated right next to their large double window and the sun streams in all morning long.  It is pure bliss to sit in the direct sunlight.  Plus, our older windows don't filter away the heat and it is just so warm - like a beach.  The kitty has also taken to snuggling up with me and my laptop.  Ah, peace, warmth and I can even hear the birds.  Cue the sappy music.

I'm making it through winter.  I'm not super happy or super sad. And I'll take that as a blessing.

P.S. - I couldn't make it one day, hour or minute without my husband, Matt.  And yes, his "friend" managed to fit in our car for the drive home.

Redefining White Elephant Gift Exchanges.


Break the silence already! How was Christmas?

What is it about writing that scares me silly?  I just can't start to write something without stressing out.  Will it be funny?  Will I be witty?  Will anyone even read it and do I care?

So - since Facebook is just a tad bit limiting, I feel I should do a Christmas summary here.

For those of you who stay at home for Christmas, you have no idea what our holidays are like.  For those of you who visit at least 4 different homes to celebrate Christmas, you are close to understanding.

We do this mainly because we just love our family. We feel both blessed and cursed that they all live so close together.  While it means that we can see everyone, it means that we need to see everyone!  We try to spend as much time as possible while still having a bit of time just to ourselves.  This year we spent 4 days driving (2 each way) and then 9 days in Colorado.  This time was split somewhat between Denver and Colorado Springs.  

It was a lovely visit.  The snow was beautiful and the family was so gracious.  We also enjoyed getting to see all the toddlers and babies that have shown up in the family over the last 2 years.  Now that our kids are past those years we feel we can really enjoy seeing our siblings with their little ones.  I can only imagine how the Grandparents handled having kids ages 2 to 11 to entertain and plan for!  And the noise...  I think we'll be bringing earplugs for all next year.

The kids traveled amazingly well on the road and we are prepping for a big, super fun, fight off the SAD, trip coming up in February!  Stay tuned...

Now - the pictures!

Making cookies at home.

Christmas at home!

Each night in Denver a different girl was in charge of setting the table.  This was a highlight of the trip for them and they loved it!

Crazy tacos in Denver.  (with Claire's table setting.)

Anna's table setting.

Making the noodles...

Chatting with Dad.

Let's make cake pops!

Christmas morning.

Stocking time!

Katherine's table setting.

Awesome.  Christmas in the Springs.

Grandma makes beautiful things.

Katherine's favorite face!  And her favorite present.

Our family rocks.  And cousins are a gift from God.