Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Eve & morning

Sometimes I feel like we have gotten this whole waiting for Jesus thing desperately wrong; twinkling lights, over eating, wrapping countless presents, endless sweets, busyness and usually stress. But I also missed some of those markers of the season when we lived in a distant place without much of that.  I just struggle more now with picking out fancy clothes and baking cookies in preparation for welcoming a king born to a poor young girl in a  humble manger.  I think on these things often and how to prepare our hearts during Advent and while I am certain we don't have it figured out I know that our kids look forward to our special Advent time and the fun activities and we so want their memories to be rich in times together as a family pondering God's promises and His lavish love.  I guess I have made peace with nestling our family somewhere in between the extremes, appreciating things from both the simple and the extravagant.  Christmas Eve and morning was simple and special.

We had family celebrations with both sides but for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning we just did our little family and invited some new friends over and celebrated the end of Advent. The wait is over! Jesus is born! We are still waiting for so much in this hurting world but we celebrate God fulfilling His promises on that night in Bethlehem. Our friends joined us in our nativity play that was put together that day and involved various props collected from the recesses of the costume box and the corners of the craft closet.  The girls were so creative and I loved watching them get so into it!

thanks for these images Jamie! And thanks for letting us drag you into the craziness!

a sweet Magi bearing gold

Last time Evy was Mary so Annikah was all about it this year and I loved taking these pictures of her "pondering these things in her heart." It is so sweet to see them act out elements of the birth of Jesus.

We are grateful for new friends we can celebrate with and stories we can hear about God's faithfulness to others.

We let the girls stay up LATE Christmas Eve and open presents. My favorite memory this year was the gifts Anni and Evy got and wrapped for each other- they were so excited to see each other open the gifts.

sister sweetness

it really is such a blessing to watch the kids open their gifts

The girls each opened a box that said "pull her" and had 20 one dollar bills taped together; they loved it.

J found a pair of barely used ice skates at Play it Again and Anni is sooo pumped to try them out soon.

Evy also gave J and I such a generous gift of her birthday money and she was so happy to see us open it. We were shocked but want to affirm her generous spirit and Annikah was so touched by her gifts that she started crying and I remembered why many days I want to be more like my girls.

matching robes!

Christmas morning stockings complete with bed head.

best Christmas presie face EVA!

Christmas morning this little guy opened a few hot wheels cars and this adorable Star Wars shirt. He is our son after all so he must start to embrace The Force.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 
Praying that during Advent and all year we are a family that prepares our hearts for Jesus. It is hard because life with small children is chaotic and crazy and everyday life tries to crowd out the vital with the immediate but taking even these simple days to be together and reflect and celebrate are so needed for me. May He be praised and glorified in our Christmas celebration and everyday,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

family advent-ures downtown

Our Adevnt-ures took us downtown to explore the city we love so.

The night before the girls read clues about where our next 'advent-ure' would take us and I am a complete geek because I loved watching them figure out that we were going downtown and staying at a hotel WITH A POOL (very important for the under 10 set)

The pool was adored by all except J who realized 3 minutes AFTER going in that his cell phone was in his pocket. Major fail.

The kids love our time downtown because there is a general disregard for the normal "rules."  Which if you are an Engstrom kid means there is a lot of hotel bed jumping and copious amounts of sweets-eating.

And by a lot I mean all the time.

While Abishai was napping I surprised the girls with a trip to movies to see the new Annie.

After the movie the rain cramped our plans to head to the windows so we decided to just hang out at the hotel and enjoy the cocktail reception, order deep dish pizza, and stay up WAY too late watching Christmas movies.

And how does one enjoy a cocktail reception with a toddler? Lollipops. GIANT lollipops. Don't hate.

Attempting to get a cute picture of all three is always complete tomfoolery and I love that Abishai looks like he is about to devour her doll.

movies and mama-snuggles

The next morning after eating our weight in breakfast buffet we were back on track and headed straight for the Marshall Field's windows (yes, I know there is another name but I just CAN'T).

And the best part about be woken by Abishai at 6am is it means you are at the windows by 8am and have them entirely to yourselves!! On the walk there may have been a bit of complaining by our oldest, "my leg feels like it is broken mama!!" seriously.

But once we were there: wonder.

After the windows we headed to the walnut room via the escalators for some tree viewing

Abishai loved the tree despite this photo. What he does not love is doing anything we want him to do EVER. We have a toddler folks.

Next stop hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a walk to the Christkindlemarket.

which was surprisingly quite in the morning....

What no one wants a bratwurst at 9am? What is wrong with people?

So while we missed out on getting our sugary almonds we did get our run of the joint and enjoyed the Nativity without having to elbow our way to see it (which does seem to destroy some of the Christmas spirit)

After a dreary and gray December this day of beautiful sunshine and family time was just amazing.

The only family picture we managed to get was on my iphone and Abishai is clearly over it but we had a great day enjoying our favorite city and celebrating Advent. Only one more sleep til Christmas Eve!! Hope you adventurers are grand,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Celebrating our Evy Imani turning 5

When you have over 25 kiddos running amok to celebrate with some serious Frozen swagger you have got to just Let. It. Go.

And you would be correct in assuming this was the worst idea for a picture ever "everyone get together."  Seriously, what was I thinking? And yes, they are singing "Let it Go" which if I hear anyone utter from their lips today I would like to make it clear that I am not responsible for my actions.

But seriously Evy skipped from the church building after we loaded the last crumpled and dirty table cloth in the van and proclaimed "Mama, that was the BEST birthday ever!" That makes it all worth it.

Swapna was an amazing help and I could not have done the party without her- from chocolate snowflake making to hair stylist she did so much!

Some of the snacks all ideas stolen from Pinterest most executed with less than shiny results.

And in my usual last minute-ness and lack of any responsibility I did not buy enough plates! Seriously. Lucky for me one of my gifts is surrounding myself with much more competent people that can help a sister out! It was a team effort. Especially because there were glue guns and crafts involved as well. I like to live dangerously people.

Catherine is amazing at face painting! She should totally charge for this (well, right AFTER this party  she should start:)

And just because 25+ kids running around is not enough noise there was Frozen Karaoke.

and I upon review of these images I might need to wipe down the microphone :)

cousins!!! yeah!!

and so many sweet friends

ok, and a few mug shots...

we played "frozen snowball" which coincidentally has the same rules as hot potato

Then there was a Frozen song lyric epic (mostly because of the near trampling & elated screaming that ensued) Scavenger hunt!

clearly the older girls who were "in charge" took their reading of the clue role VERY seriously

there were highs and lows and drama y'all.

prayers of gratefulness for Evy's presence in our life & prayers of blessing for all our friends and family gathered

cake time! And do I make this face all the time? Upon review of the images the answer would be an astounding YES! I think the level of noise was making my eye twitch. I'm kidding. A little.

Apparently most of these children had not eaten in days. Well, maybe it was the lure if the sugar since the sandwiches and carrots remained virtually untouched.

Abishai thought the cake was fabulous and we love Bibi for being the baby wrangler!

the few. the brave. the dads.

goodie bags (did I mention Annikah was a rockstar helper?)

The bibi hook-up with tickets to see Frozen on Ice in January!!

We asked for no gifts and explained that Evy had an idea to help a woman in Africa where we used to live so we had a donation jar and she collected over 50$!!!  We will send it along to the microloan program we used to help with in Tanzania. I'm so proud of her that she wanted to use her birthday as an opportunity to give and bless others!  She also got a few sweet gifts and some money to put towards saving for an American Girl Doll.

After the party when I surveyed the blue jello on the floor and scraps of felt everywhere I felt exhausted but in that same moment I was also so blessed.  Friends stayed and helped clean up and my girls ran around and played and loudly protested "mama why do we have to leave so early?" Umm, you mean as the last ones and after you have been here playing for 3 hours?   I was remembering that a few months ago everything here felt new and scary and difficult but God has made a way and He has a place here for our family.  There were a whole crew of amazing folks gathered to celebrate our little girl. We are blessed.

Monday, December 15, 2014

in the waiting

Each night we gather together and light the candles and try to come away from rush and hurry and focus on this season of waiting.  This time when we are reminded of the miracle of Jesus' simple birth in an obscure part of the world that was foretold from long ago. This birth that ushered in God's promise that a savior would be born and through Him everyone in the world can be with God.  It changes everything about how we live this life looking forward to the life to come.  This season of Advent.

But in this waiting we are still selfish, sinful, messy people.  I was reminded of this during the past week.  Three days in a row we would gather and the girls would start bickering, "Mama, I want to light the candles!" "It is MY turn to open the door!" "She did it yesterday!" "I want the bigger cookie!" And Abishai would attempt to light his hair on fire while smearing his cookie face all over the couch.  Honestly, I just felt defeated.  I wondered if any of this really matters. I wanted to give up. I wanted to scream "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH WORK I DO TO GET THIS ALL READY FOR YOU UNGRATEFUL KIDS?" The first day I think I did threaten them with taking away Advent time because they were not acting right.  And yes, the irony of taking away scripture reading as punishment is not lost on me.  I was desperate friends. And tired.  By the third night of pettiness I was just sad.  And tired. I felt like a failure.  I just want all the memories to be magical and perfect but that is not real life. Real life is messy.

And then just like a gentle nudge from the Spirit I remembered THIS is what the waiting means.  During our apathy, our pain, our suffering, our bitterness, our unforgiveness, our doubt, our selfishness, our pettiness God enters our world and fulfills His promise.  His love and grace is not merited.  We do not deserve to unwrap this Christmas story but yet Jesus came.  He came and comes not because we come perfectly but because HE is faithful.  My kid's momentary ugly behavior mirror my ugly heart and I was so grateful for the reminder that we are called to come and wait.  Not because we have it together but precisely because we do not. We are waiting to mark Jesus' birth and anticipating His second coming when He will usher in the New heaven and earth and sin will be no more.  That is worth the waiting.

This truth allows us to be forgiving and patient with ourselves and others.  We prayed together as a family and discussed how we can wait well together considering others before our selves.  Today we are baking cookies for teachers and making a meal for a family we don't know other than they are going through real pain and sickness.  Because we all need to practice this "value others before ourselves" because like so many things Jesus spoke of it does not come easily.  A few nights ago when it came time to open the chocolates during family Advent time the girls asked if anyone else would like "their" chocolate and freely and joyfully gave them up.  And I was so grateful. Not because there will not be a sibling smackdown tomorrow but because we are in this waiting thing together and we are committed to each to learn to wait well and forgive often.God so often teaches me through my children and I am so grateful.  Family time is hard fought but worth it. Always.
Happy waiting friends,

Sunday, December 14, 2014

cheering our little girl on

This girl.  She is beginning to be more young lady than little girl some days.  There are moments each week I just stop and stare at her because I cannot believe the years are going so quickly.  I just want to remember this perfect smile with gaps and big girl teeth betraying her baby girl status while her giggles confirm she still is all little.  This little girl who wants to wear her "funky shoes" but could care less about brushing her hair.  She is our oldest; our Annikah, and we are loving this age.

When her dance teacher invited parents to the last dance class of the session on Friday I'm not sure she realized we would roll in with friends and neighbors, Bibi, and our whole crew.  But that is how we do.  Cheering the girls on for their hard work and concerned less with their synchronized moves and more with the smiles across their faces when they realize everyone is rooting for them because; truly, we all need more people on our sidelines.

So we came and we cheered for all the girls and we thanked her teacher and we ate cookies and we told Annikah she rocked it and we are proud of her about 125 times.  Because she did and I want her to always hear that again and again.  I am apologetically her hugest, most obnoxious, emotional Mama fan for all time.

And thanks to Swapna we have this video clip:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saint Nicholas Day..more Advent Adventures!

Today was Saint Nicholas Day and we started our celebration first thing in the morning. The girls had put their shoes out last night and this morning (after Mama remembered last minute and made a sign and quickly filled their shoes) they discovered gold coins and $5 that they must use to bless someone else in a way inspired by the real Saint Nicholas of Patara and his love and devotion to Jesus. We read this book and then learned some about the historical figure of Saint Nicholas.  Although we don't do "Santa" we do like to embrace the story of Saint Nicholas and how he gave to others without expecting anything in return.  The girls already have some ideas and I'm excited to see how they bless others with their money.

In the afternoon the girls and I headed to the library for a Saint Nicholas story time and both girls got selected to help retell some of the stories.

Evy was an angel and Anni was a creature that brought switches to parents of naughty children...I die!

It was a great time and we learned a lot more about the history behind the legend and how the modern versions of Saint Nicholas are celebrated around the world.

After our Advent time we surprised the kids with a quick trip to the oldest house in Westmont; built after the Chicago Fire to house the man who started making bricks here to rebuild the city. It was a Victorian Christmas celebration night and the girls learned a bit about the Victorian age and Abishai pretty much tried to tear the place apart.

On further reflection taking a toddler to a house museum might not have been our brightest idea but we still loved checking it out (although we did not stay long because antiques are not toys y'all!)

Hope your Advent celebrations are full of blessing and joy,

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

the first day of Advent

Advents begins...

We lit the first candle, we ate raspberry thumbprints and licked icing off our fingers, the kids wore new jammies, and we opened the first door and read the scripture that gives us hope that we are waiting to mark the event that changes the world forever.

The girls were giddy all day because they knew we would start our Advent activities today and that made the preparations totally worth it! And Abishai is also now convinced of the merits of Advent after one taste of cookie.

This month is a reminder to slow down and remember why were are eagerly waiting for Christmas.
Happy Advent friends,

Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Thanks

We headed to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for thanksgiving and spent time with Jason's parents and sister and her fam (we missed Annie's fam..sniff).  As always, we squeezed lots of chaos with hardly any real agenda into our few days together.  And Jason's mom always does the food up right!!  It was a great time to give thanks for our family and all God has and is doing. I tried to capture some memories of our time together...

snuggle time with Babu

some sort of football watching

new toys..(Abishai is obsessed with saying "ball")

and old ones

Bibi out did herself in the kitchen as usual (I think she needs to sleep for at least 3 days)

Prayers before we dig in

kids at the fancy table means a lot of silliness

dessert spread

ok, ok...he did NEED a haircut

after all that eating there may have been naps

my favorite activity this year was a thankful game where we each wrote down things we are thankful for and took turns reading them and trying to guess who wrote each one. So much goodness.

Auntie Jorie is always is demand and I don't think she minds

after we had lounged around and attempted a walk that lasted exactly one block because it was freeeeeezing we decided to break out Engstrom-opoly. It is a real thing y'all.

Can I get an Amen that Movember is finally over? hehe

so fun listening to the family stories...

and watching a new generation hear all the family history and memories...

and as I clicked my shutter I thought how blessed I am to have married into this amazing family.

and how awesome it is my kids get to be a part of this

Yep, I just kept smiling and thinking about what a legacy this all is...

It was a good night.

And because our girls are shameless and unrelenting in their requests (read they BEGGED) for Bibi's Swedish pancakes she acquiesced our last morning there.

We may be a bizarre bunch (we ll at least in this picture..and Joel..I die with the brilliance) but I'm grateful we have each other. Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with friends and family and food and hearts bursting with thankfulness.

Abishai gets a haircut and a Mama first for me

People, let's be real. I am not a baby person. I have been overly honest about this and the baby stage is rough for me.  And when people tell me to enjoy every moment while I am holding a flailing little boy who smells like poop I sometimes mostly want to punch them. True story.  But something about this little boy being the last little baby to come from us is making me all teary eyed as he passes milestones.  I feel myself gushing about the baby-ness that is slowing slipping away. I!! So can you humor me by thinking these photos are as adorable as I do (or at least pretend :)?

Our baby boy had his first haircut this past weekend in Iowa with the lovely Crystal.  Abishai is our first little baby who was not completely bald until the age of 2 so this was a mama first for me too.  Seriously, I had to tape bows to the girl's bald shiny heads! Because I just loved his little sweet baby hair I resisted for many months succumbing to the mounting pressure from namely my husband and other concerned family members who mentioned he might have hair long enough to braid soon. His first haircut also meant his first lolipop experience which; while being a questionable parental decision, made for a tear free haircut. And have I mentioned Crystal is awesome!!!

Go little man!! But please stop growing so fast, 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Stitch Fix & some really awkward selfies

photo 2
So after my fabulous sister in law tried Stitch Fix and really liked it I started thinking about giving it a go.  I know my yoga pant wearing self most days seems a little out of touch with fashion but I actually really like it!! In my former life I would actually dress based NOT on what will hide baby slime stains the best. But these days I mostly make do with the fashion houses of Le Target and Le Kohls (when I have a coupon).  And don't even get me started on trying on jeans with 3 kids with you ..."Mama you have a big butt!" said at full volume from inside the dressing room while Abishai crawls under the door to peep on the person next door.  Seriously, shopping is just not happening for me for a few years.  I also am celebrating a bit because I have been working hard and finally lost a few pounds that had been soooo hard to get rid of (I still have work to do but am feeling happy with progress and in general happier in my own skin) So with some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket I decided to try it and I gotta say I'm impressed!! You fill out a fashion profile and a personal stylist selects 5 items for you- you only pay 20$ initially and that amount is applied to whatever you keep and you can specify some pricing and items (no jewelry, under $50, etc) .  Each item also comes with a styling guide to give you ideas of how to wear it. The items are more expensive then what I normally buy but the fun of trying new things and the convenience of not dragging the kids out was totally worth it. I am still deciding what to keep but I actually really like everything in my Fix which is shocking!!!  Even jeans people!!!!! They fit and are long is an early Christmas miracle (I almost didn't even try them on bc I am so convinced finding jeans is an epic battle that requires hours). OK so here is my first Fix stuff and please ignore my complete inability to make a normal face, the baby slime on the mirror, and the fact that I have not washed my hair in 2 days.  I only am posting after Annie encouraged me that I do not look completely crazy (thanks girl) and plus my little photo bomber is cute right?
a dress but I will always wear with leggings I think
up close pattern...totally me right?
long and super comfy sweater
photo 1
sweater photo bomb evy
up close pattern & the normal state of Evy
jeans and sweater
skinny jeans that FIT & another sheds a bit but might be cute with colored jeans?
earrings..totally me but I'm not sure worth the money.

So, what do you think (besides that fact that I am a complete tool)? Some things I would never have picked out but I like them. Still pondering what to keep but I gotta say Stitch Fix was a success. I will probably only do it a couple times a year but it was a fun experience that I would recommend to anyone wanting to branch out and anyone who can't seem to get out :)

insert shameless plus for me to get free stuff: So if you want to try it out please, oh pretty please use my link to sign up- that way I get a credit and you get a fun box of fashion arriving on your doorstep soon (and then you can post awkward selfies and your friends will sign up and the free clothes & awkward selfies will continue :) .  Please tell me what you like or don't...just no comments of my complete inability to take a normal selfie. Seriously, why do I look constipated?!?!
Happy Styling,


Friday, November 21, 2014

why I was hiding in the bathtub & a fabulous night to celebrate being women

Jason has been gone in California for work all week and yesterday by 7:20am I was sitting in the bathtub with my coffee and a book hiding from the children. Sad but true.  I just needed 3 minutes of sanity where no one was pulling on my leg or wiping something on me or having a catastrophe.  I remember a distant time in my life when 7:20 was roughly the time my alarm went off.  Now my son had already been awake and whining for almost 2 hours.  Oh,the depths of the tired. And now I sit with a sink full of dirty dishes and a washing machine full of dirty clothes that I intended to remedy before Jason arrives home this evening and the water is shut off.  So clearly in light of such a first world problem my only option is to sit here and tell you all about it. Becuase I am an overshare-er. It is what I do.

But really this week was pretty great. The girls and I stayed up too late and they helped a ton with Abishai.  We filled our days with play dates, time with our neighbors, and fun activities so the time would not drag until our Papa returned.  I enjoyed some of the reflection time I had and ..shocker..I know even though I don't usually chose time alone I actually benefit from it.  So overall it was a good week.  And then there were the moments I felt exhausted and like I cannot manage my own schedule let alone these three little people that demand to eat 3 meals a day. Seriously, by the time I clean the aftermath of one meal they are asking for more food.  And the snacks required. Don't even get me started on the tyranny of snacking. Some days this week I felt brave and awesome and some days felt like I was barely hanging on until the glorious time of day known as post bedtime (there is still the lurking danger of a little girl tip-toeing down to ask for water, tattle on her sister, or tell me about what she just read in her book) but mostly it is quiet and peaceful and I can just BE.

And while the quiet is great and needed so is the hum and buzz of community that reminds you that you are not alone.  Last night though my house was full of the sounds of women laughing, children running, and the smells of mehendhi and biriyani.  My friend Swapna taught us how to cook chicken curry and vegetable biriyani and can I just say if I was born an Indian woman I would have gotten kicked out of the culture by now.  There are at least 25 ingredients and so much work but oh, the smell and the taste!!! Another friend came with her daughter and did mehendhi for us all as well. I love this art form. It just reminds me of the beauty of being a woman and it is so relational and intimate because you are sharing space and being together.

Before we feasted I prayed and thanked God for the reminders that we are not only mothers but also women and as I said it I was reminding myself too.  Because some days I get lost in the to-do's and the whole keeping them alive thing and I forget the journey is best when shared and savored.  I'm so grateful for these friends and the chance to do life together here in this place that is feeling more like home everyday.

Great women and a great night.  We all need a tribe and for sure mine will always eat Indian food. And there are leftovers people so feel free to pop in,  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

another birthday

Evy had been asking about following Jesus for months. We can see all these massive and small things burrowing in and making their way to the surface often in tears at family meetings or seemingly endless questions about scripture and life and God's role in it all.
She carefully listened to the words of songs and would ask questions like "Mama, what does it mean Jesus is our king?" "mama, what does it mean that his apetc-tions are great for me? (how great your affections are for me)" "mama, what does it mean "his Holy name?" "mama, what does it mean "his love never runs out on me?" "mama, what does it mean "His grace is enough"?
These questions. Weighty questions.  Answers I believe and sense one moment and struggle to embrace the next.  But questions I am grateful she is asking me; her mother. Imperfect and thankful for grace in everyday.  The journey of watching my kids trust Jesus is nothing but blessing. And from here on out the questions get deeper and more complex but we have One we can trust to show us the Way.
"Mama, i want to follow Jesus too!!"
 Some will say she is too young but Jesus scolded those who came with knowledge but no heart conviction, no humility.  Evy came as a little child and God does not despise small beginnings. We talked through her many questions and we prayed for her and us.

I grabbed my camera and captured a few images of this new birthday in our little girl's life. She is following after Jesus and we pray He shows her more and more of what that means in the years ahead. Grace to you on the journey,

Monday, November 17, 2014

A very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday party for Abishai & Charlie

We celebrated Abishai and Charlie's 1st birthdays with a combined party at our place on Saturday.  Abishai is already 1 and Charlie is almost 1 and it just seemed perfect to combine the celebration. Plus, Annie and I ain't stupid and it also meant half the work for each of us. Have I mentioned I'm so happy they are closer to us now?? Like SOOO happy. These cousins get to grow up together and we sorta think that is an amazing blessing. Prepare yourself for WAY too many pictures of the cuteness.

Kudos to Annie's friend and Pinterest for all the stolen and fun ideas for decor.

Pictures from each month of the boy's lives.

there was quite a crowd for present opening time

Love this of my Dad and Mom and Abishai.

Auntie Jorie killed us all with some fabulous knit hats for the Iowa and Illinois mini-fans

But clearly Abishai was not feeling his

opening all your gifts with lots of "helpers" may be a bit traumatic. But yes; that would be a FIRST WORLD PROBLEM.  I may love this picture too much.

I would like to offer evidence that some families can take a normal family picture:

And then there is us:

screaming and pulling his sister's hair and sign in front of her face and what weird finger in pocket thing am I doing? I think I was trying to do the hand-on-the-hip to look thiner but panicked.  There is no hope for me people.
Oh wait!! This is a bit better:

Prayers of blessing and thanks for the boys. Yep, I might have  cried.

cake time! (and please ignore Jason's Movember ridiculousness)

I can't decide which was funnier: watching the boys dig in (Charlie pretty much rocked it with some full face planting action while Abishai preferred the small bites!!) or watching all the adults and kids laughing at the boys.

Dig in!

"how are you feeling about all this?"

a smirk & a sneeze

"Umm, excuse me, are you gonna eat that?"

I just can't stop posting these pictures.....babies in matching sweaters eating cupcakes is too much for me.

the cutest cousins

The Mamas about to handle the clean up and yes, I think Abishai was entering a sugar coma.

The party was a little crazy and by 'a little crazy' I mean complete chaos but in the absolute best kind of way.  The kind that leaves you exhausted with tears in your eyes and a full heart. As we were cleaning red frosting out of the carpeting that night Jason and I shared how blessed we feel so many family could be there to celebrate our boys and their lives. God is good y'all!
Happy already and almost 1st birthday to the sweetest little boys we know! We could not imagine our families without you,

bring it on 35!!!

I turned 35 on Friday!

I have more wrinkles and a few more pounds than I did years ago but I am also more confident in who God has made me to be and I'm able to embrace more of the joy and abundance in my life.  Although time for some truth telling; as my always border line inappropriate friend (which is just one of her many fabulous traits) reminded me, I am half way to 70.  So yep I'm getting older but still yeah for birthdays! I make no apologies for LOVING birthdays!!

I love celebrating and it felt so special that my neighbor and friend Swapna and her family helped my girls plan a big morning of surprises, gifts, cakes, and amazing homemade cards.  They worked on it all week and Annikah was so excited to finally surprise me (I think Evy was mostly in for the cake). I started tearing up because it was one of the nicest birthday mornings in a long while. Surrounded by new friends and my awesome family I felt so blessed. 

The cards the kids made were so sweet!

I also challenged friends and family to the #bdaylattelove challenge and loved seeing all the posts throughout the day and weekend of friends taking the challenge to buy a fancy coffee for a friend and deliever the coffee and tell your friend why she/he is awesome and how you are grateful for their presence in your life. We all need more coffee and encouragement in our lives right?
 Here are just some of the friends and families that celebrated by encouraging others!!!

Thanks everyone! It was so fun for me to see everyone accept the challenge!

J's parents arrived in the afternoon of my birthday to be here for Charlie and Abishai's 1st birthday party and they offered to give us a date night out.  So what is better than Mexican food with my boo? Oh I know!! Deciding last minute to also see Dumb and Dumber To (our first movie out in over a year).  We ate too much.  We talked about life and change and us.  We laughed at his stache and a really dumb movie and old memories.   We reflected on this past year and everything God has done.  And I was grateful the fake leather on my shirt covered the snot that Abishai covered me in before we walked out the door.  This is my life and I would not want it any other way.

 It was a great day for a birthday! Bring it on 35, 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Wizard of Oz Swagger & cheesecake that will make you slap yo' mama

This Halloween was freezing y'all! Seriously windy and cold and it even snowed first thing in the morning..soooo not my favorite.  But cheesy home made family Halloween costumes ARE our fav so we toughed it out and by toughed it out I mean we took pictures and then lasted a total of 5 houses and less than 10 minutes.
Think this from all children involved (and ahem, I might have seen Jason shed a tear too).....

The festivities began at Anni's school party and costume parade earlier in the day...

and the halloween fun continued with friends and neighbors

Nirdesh's first time celebrating this bizarre American holiday

Bibi, Joy, and Chris joined us and got in on the Wizard of Oz theme. Seriously, I am so dorky cuz I live for this stuff.

Thankfully Joy saved the day by remembering there was an INDOOR (can I get an Amen!) party at the park district complete with friends, games, food, a parade, and a magic show. We are all about it!
And seriously is Abishai not the most adorable lollipop guild member you have ever seen? I am considering doing his hair like this everyday!

Anni was picked as a volunteer to "ride" a magic carpet and pretty much thought it was awesome!

After all the chaos we celebrated Joy's birthday and the awesome friend she is to our family with presies and pumpkin pecan cheesecake! Anyone who knows me knows I am not a bake (must be all the rule following required..ahh! I shutter!!). Like seriously I bake ONE thing. That is IT!!
The only exception to this rule is the one time a year I make this recipe and it is worth it y'all!

I can no longer find the recipe online so I will share the goodness here. Obviously completely stolen from a blog a few years ago but since it is no longer searchable I feel it is my duty to share this goodness with the world. And it is sooo much better when made with spices from Zanzibar!

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake (that has no calories and is best enjoyed when eaten with good friends or family!)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c sugar
6 table spoons butter, melted.

3 packages cream cheese
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 can pumpkin 15 oz
1/4 c heavy whipping cream
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
5 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c chopped pecans

Place a greased 9 in. spring foam pan on a double thickness of heavy duty foil (about 18in squae). Securely wrap foil around pan. IN a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar, stir in butter. Press onto bottom and 1 in up the sides of prepared pan.  

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugars until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin, cream, cinnamon, and cloves until blended. Add egg; beat on low speed just until combined.  Pour over crust. Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 in of hot water to larger pan. 

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. For topping, in a small bowl, combine butter and brown sugar.  Stir in pecans. Carefully sprinkle over hot cheesecake. 

Bake 30 minutes longer or until center is just set.  Remove springform pan from water bath.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy!!!

So, how was your Halloween? And more importantly who is coming over for a piece of cheesecake!?!?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

ah, the fall & family time

Fall. We really cannot get enough of you this year.
Maybe it is also because we live 10 minutes from this place and no matter where we are you can't hide the SASSY of Miss Evy Imani....

Maybe it is because playing in the leaves is somehow magical and healing.

Maybe it is because while the kids are too young for a long hike a quick run through the woods is the best sort of family time I can imagine.....

Maybe the warm weather has made us forget what is coming...

Maybe it is because of the cooperation and appreciation that comes when you take time to be together without an agenda.......

Maybe it is because listening to tiny converse clad feet take little steps on the path is one of the best sounds I can think of...

Maybe the smell of the fall and the smell of this dude's little head compete for the best eva...

maybe it is becuase we get to experience it all with these little people.....
Even on the chaotic days (and there are many of those) this is the life I would choose over and over again. Asking God for the grace and grateful heart to always remember that.
Enjoying the last days of fall,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

a night for birthday bling

Our next door neighbors quickly became friends we see everyday. They moved here from Southern India last year and the kids play together almost everyday and quickly became like siblings (bickering and all).  We were invited to celebrate their little girl turning 2 and I finally got to wear my sari from Varanasi which I completely forgot how to actually wear correctly but luckily there were many ladies to help me get my fancy on.

Happy Birthday Vinnu!

Their family in India "attended" the party too thanks to Skype (they got up at 5am their time to see everything!)

beautiful Mama and the birthday girl

My blinged out self and my boo. I might have been barely able to walk but I still managed to eat 3 plates of the amazing food!!We are grateful for our friends and to have been included in their community celebration.