Monday, December 19, 2011

This past weekend we celebrated Christmas with my extended family.  We had lots of food, lots of people and lots of noise radiating through our home!  During our present exchange, I asked my amazing daughter, Claire, to capture some of the action on our camera.  The pictures that she took weren't necessarily what I had intended, but they make me smile, nonetheless!  I decided that I had to share our Christmas through my daughter's eyes:

 Isn't it funny how the picture of her is the only one that's centered and the entire subject is captured? That's because my niece was operating the camera for that one!! :)

 Not necessarily my best angle! :)

So, she certainly had her own unique way of photographing the event!! :)  I just love that girl!

I couldn't resist sharing a couple of photos of Ethan enjoying his new Buzz Lightyear car!  He just LOVES this gift - thanks Uncle Martin and Aunt Tanya!

Have you ever seen the movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"?  Well, I bet you didn't know that Uncle Eddie is a part of my family!  We didn't know that, either, until he showed up:

Oh what a marvelous weekend it was!  Lots of laughter and love and family ... and minimal fighting!! :)  Hoping that your Christmas celebrations are amazing as well!

Monday, December 12, 2011

This past weekend was everything that I had dreamed it to be.  All of my anticipations, excitement and thoughts about the weekend were met to the fullest.  You see, this past Friday, my husband and I left our children in the incredibly capable hands of our favorite babysitter/nanny and we headed to the little town of Manhattan Beach, Minnesota.

Never heard of it?  I hadn't either.  However, this little town (and when I say little, I truly mean tiny) is the home of the Manhattan Beach Lodge, where my husband and I would spend the entire weekend celebrating our 3rd anniversary (which was this past Tuesday).

Image courtesy of

Our suite was amazing.  The view over the lake was gorgeous.  The food in their restaurant was divine (I had the prime rib ... twice!).  The lodge, itself, was cute and quaint.  Upon reading the history of the lodge, we came to learn that it has housed many varieties of people, from families on vacation to Hollywood's elite such as Bob Hope.  The history of the lodge is really very awesome - you can read about it on their website.

Image courtesy of

The lodge is beautiful.  Their restaurant is fabulous.  The entire weekend away was completely wonderful!  It is only about a half hour away from Brainerd, too, in case you want to get away and do a little shopping (which we did on Saturday - and boy oh boy was it crazy with all of the Christmas shoppers in the stores!).

We had a marvelous weekend away, but there still was nothing compared to the joy of coming home to all of our babies - their fighting and all!  Getting away is great, but coming home is truly the best!

Friday, December 9, 2011

We recently had our family pictures taken by the AMAZING Michelle Lund of Lund Studios.  The picture taking itself went well, but we were beyond thrilled when we received the pictures!  As we were looking through them, one picture in particular stood out to Monte and me:

This picture so perfectly captures every-day life in our family!  While Monte and I may be focused on the task at hand, there's usually something going on among our children that keeps them distracted and preoccupied.  

I love this photo.  I mean I love, love, LOVE it.  It so perfectly captures us just how we roll.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Each year for Christmas Monte and I buy the kids one big thing.  We then give them the money to shop for everybody else in the family (with a price limit, of course!).  This has been a wonderful way for us to teach them about giving and to turn the focus of Christmas from Santa (where it was a few years ago) to the miracle of Jesus' birth and to the greatness of giving instead of always wanting to get something.

This lesson has been nothing short of amazing.

So, last night, my three big boys (Iain, Ellis and Colin) and I headed out to do some Christmas shopping.  We decided to settle on going to Dick's Sporting Goods, as that is a place that we all enjoy and can easily find things that we love.  The boys knew who was on their list to shop for, and I was included on that list.  They knew their price limit and I told them that I would do my best to not notice anything that they were buying for me (which didn't work out in the end, but that's okay!).

As we were walking through the store, Colin suddenly stops and says, "Kami, close your eyes, I want to show them something we should get for you."  I immediately closed my eyes as he pointed out his treasured find to his older brothers.  I could hear them stifling their giggles as they responded with, "uhhh ... Colin, um .. I think we don't have enough money for that!"

So Colin told me I could open my eyes and he insisted on showing me what he had chosen out for me:
Images courtesy of

Yes, it's definitely true that my sweet, five-year-old Colin thought I would really enjoy a bright yellow sports bra and some tiny running shorts!  What an amazing heart he has that he finds something he thinks is cool and has no qualms about wanting to buy it for me ... even when my baby pudge will stick out and look something awful while wearing it! :)

I, too, had to stifle my giggles when I replied by saying, "oh honey, it is really a nice gift, but I think the big boys are right ... you don't have enough money to buy it!"

Oh the things that boy says!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I won't lie, normally the Christmas season has my head spinning.  I almost always am feeling overwhelmed about everything: Did we get all the presents we needed to?  When do we need to leave to make it on time to this celebration?  Do all of our kids have dress clothes that fit them?  Which Christmas Eve service are we going to at church?  Do I have all of the food that I need?  The list of things rolling through my head seems to go on and on and on (which, for the record, is VERY unusual for me, as I am one who's mind generally doesn't run on and on and on).

This year, though, something is different.

We don't have any less celebrations to attend (as we are hosting gatherings with my family, with a couple of Kelley's sisters and having our own celebration with our kids), we don't have any less presents to buy, we don't have any less children to properly clothe and we don't have any less food to prepare.

What's the deal?!  Why am I not freaking out about this yet?!

This year I promised myself to start each day with some time talking to God.  Granted, it's not been as successful as I had hoped, as my first thought when I wake up in the morning is not typically "Good Morning, Lord!" .... rather, it's more like "mmmmm hmmmph."  However, I have taken the time to quiet my spirit and talk to God throughout the day.  I am remembering to thank Him for the blessings we have and to focus my attention on the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Everything else seems to have just fallen into place, quite perfectly, I might add!

It's amazing how life works out when your priorities are where they should be.  My prayer is that this doesn't just last through the Christmas season, but that Christ will remain my focus all year long.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

There once was a woman who fell in love with a man.

They spent time getting to know one another.

They spent hours on the phone, late into the night.

This man found himself also having fallen in love with that woman.

They spent time together, figuring out how to operate as a family with four kids in tow.

She loved him.  He loved her.  She loved his kids.  They, too, loved her.

He proposed.  She said yes.

They were married three years ago today.

And those three years have been the best three years of her life, and she's looking forward to many more to come!

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Monte!  I love you more and more every single day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I can't lie, it's been awhile since I've participated in this fun little blog party/blog hop (whatever you really want to call it!) on the correct day, but today is the day that I make up for that!  YES!  So, if you'd like to join in on the fun, visit Mama M's Blog and get your question party on! :)

1. What is your favorite Christmas decoration in your house?
I would have to say it's a tie.  I love this crazy snowman that we always hang on the hook by our door.  It's cute as pie (is pie even cute?!) and a little bit mismatched and odd, too!  One of it's legs hangs longer than the other, and it rarely ever hangs exactly straight.  I think that's what I like so much about it!

The other one that I really love is not really a decoration by us, but it is the assortment of Christmas cards that we hang on our kitchen cabinets (note that I didn't say "cupboards", honey?!).  I love receiving Christmas cards from people and seeing how much their families have changed and grown through the year!  My kitchen is rather jolly once we've got those cards hanging up (we only have three of them up right now, but it already feels pretty jolly!)!

2. Do you finish your Christmas shopping early or are you a last minute type?
I'm not as organized as I would like to be.  Ideally, I would LOVE to start Christmas shopping in the summer or into early fall, but I truly usually leave it all for December.  It's so hard when the things people like change so regularly!!

Maybe next year I'll be more organized.  :)  Probably not, though!

3. When do you turn on your heat?
I live in Minnesota where the weather is never predictable!  Last week it was in the 50's!  So, there is no set time.  I think we turn it on once our house starts getting really cold!  However, I am known as a "freeze baby" ... I'm always cold, so I'm highly encouraged to put on more layers and move around a bit more to keep warm!!! :)

4. Do you ever wish your blog was private?
I used to think that it would be nice to be able to vent things on my blog, but my perspective on that has changed.  I would never want to have written record of an issue that I had with another person!  I'm pretty quick to forgive (which is a total gift from God, by the way!) and don't like to rehash something that I've already gotten over, and I think that reading vent-ish posts on my own blog will cause rehashing.

So, all that to say: no, I don't wish my blog was private!  :)

5. Do you put your deodorant on before of after you put on your shirt?
I used to think this was a total "duh" answer ... then I married Monte and I'm just mystified by the weird things he does!  YES, I always always always put my deodorant on after I put my shirt on.  In my mind it's just common sense - I don't have deodorant marks on my shirt and don't have to change my outfit (which, for the record, requires a LOT of time and thought!).  

My dearest husband, however, he always puts his deodorant on BEFORE he puts his shirt on ... and he often has deodorant marks on his shirts!!!  He doesn't care, though, because they're his "under shirts" and he's always got something on over them.

It still mystifies me! :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hospitality is totally my thing; I love having people in my home for big gatherings and huge meals.  Naturally, when the Thanksgiving and Christmas season comes around, I am quick to jump at the opportunity of having many of these gatherings in my home or to help coordinate these gatherings in my extended family's homes.  This is my absolute favorite time of year!  It's a time for family to get together to enjoy meals, to play games, to have conversation, to relax, to be stressed out and to fight.

Wait ... what?!  To be stressed out?  To fight?

Unfortunately this has been known to be the case in the past.  Having people I so dearly love under one roof for an extended period of time has been known to cause stress and fighting.  Considering the fact that the holiday season is the very last place that I want to be fighting, my family came up with some ideas, and knowing how difficult it can be to make it through celebrating holidays with such a variety of personalities, I decided it is necessary for me to share two of them!

1.  Know your limits and make them known.

This is something that my extended family started last year.  While we love each other dearly, we are a group that tends to push each other's buttons a LOT (I'm talking heaping spoonfuls of A LOT here!).  Can I let you in on a secret?  I am one of those people who can only handle so much button pushing before I blow my top - and when it happens, it's extreme (I'm talking "Punch-my-older-brother-Tory-in-his-face" kind of extreme).  Knowing this about myself, and knowing how easily my buttons are pushed by my siblings, we came up with a code word that everybody would shout out when things were getting too tense.

Initially, I thought this was a really weird idea, but it truly has made our gatherings and celebrations MUCH less stressful because using that code word is an easy way to say "You're pushing my limits, please stop now!" without making a tense or awkward situation.

Much better than, oh I don't know ... punching Tory in his face (don't worry, I apologized and we made amends and everything is better [considering this happened two years ago], but I still feel bad about it!)!

So .. knowing your limits, it's a really good idea!

2.  Don't over-extend or over-commit yourself.

This is something that I'm known to be guilty of doing.  I am often known as a "Yes-(wo)man", someone who wants to say "YES!" to everything anybody asks of me.  This has always (not "sometimes" and not "often", but truly always) caused a lot of stress in my life.  I love to attend gatherings and prepare desserts for dinners and host fancy parties - but I'm not able to do everything that I would like to do (especially during the holidays) and need to be able to know when to say 'No'!  

With five kids in our home, it's not uncommon for me to have to schedule something a month or farther in advance - our schedule is already pretty crazy!  Add on top of that all the different activities and parties going on during the holidays and you could lose your mind trying to get to everything.  My rule of thumb for holiday gatherings and even things so simple as attending my MOPS meeting or going to a playdate, is to not book more than two events in one week.  I know my limits and I know when the responsibility of managing a household and managing my social life need to be re-prioritized.  Planning only two events during the week leaves me the flexibility to add things at my will.  When I have more than two things on my schedule, I find that I wear myself thin and end up cancelling commitments because I am too worn out to attend.

I love flexibility in my schedule, but in order to maintain that flexibility I need to have some structure, and not over-extending or over-committing myself provides that!

Do you want some more suggestions and ideas to help you maintain that happy demeanor and joyful spirit during the holidays?  Visit this post on BlogHer and get some of those awesome ideas rolling!

That's not all!  BlogHer is hosting a $250 giveaway that you can enter here!  I think we all could use some extra cash during the Christmas season, so hurry over and enter the sweepstakes!

Hopefully these tips will help you out as you are going through this season of celebration!

Monday, November 28, 2011

We had food ...

Lots of food ...

Couldn't capture all of the guests in one photo ...

But why not keep trying?! :)

My amazing husband and wonderful brother-in-law working on clean up!

Chris and Archit are "cleaning up" too! :)

My crazy beautiful niece!

My crazy beautiful baby!

My crazy beautiful daughter, niece and baby! :)

The day was wonderful, the food was amazing, my house was full ... as were our tummies!  Since then, I have been enjoying leftovers - and all that remains of our 20lb turkey is just a couple of drumsticks! :)

How was your Thanksgiving?!