We held a little get together at our house over the weekend…a simple ‘come and go’ where everyone brought a plate of cookies to share. I joke that is was all a big ploy for me to get cookies delivered to my house. It worked.

12.15party-01My 6 year old daughter was helping me decorate. She commented, “Mom, this looks like someone’s birthday party.” I smiled and reminded her that we were in fact celebrating the birth of Jesus. Her eyes got big and she grinned so wide.12.15party-03Instead of using dessert plates for the cookies, we used snack trays. They worked perfectly…no cookies sliding off plates. They were also handy for filling up before guests headed home.12.15party-0412.15party-07The balloons, cups, napkins, snack trays and pink fringe garland were from Shop Sweet Lulu. Everything else was hodge podge stuff I had on hand. For centerpieces, the girls and I hot glued trees and deer to trays. We cut greenery from the yard and $5 trees from Lowes to put in canisters.12.15party-05I tried putting more deer on the doilies, but they wouldn’t stay standing up. To get them to stand, I hot glued them to the bottoms of little fruit crates.12.15party-08Hot chocolate. Apple cider. Chris served lattes. From here on out, I’ll be keeping our marshmallows in that jug. It worked so well for kids to pour into their hot chocolate without it dumping tons. It is not vintage…I got it at a local grocery store (Reasors) and kept it after we drank the milk.12.15party-0912.15party-1112.15party-1212.15party-1412.15party-15To label a few items, I used pink twist ties and scrap paper. The scrap paper is actually the bottoms of sample cards I used in a DIY post for Mpix:)12.15party-16Of course I loved all my guests, but this little guy might be on the top of my list. He came in a bowtie. Oh sweet nephew I need you to come over more often!

My 9 year old is always ‘throwing the deuces’ for pictures. I guess it is a thing among the young crowd.12.15party-18And then they tried to teach their cousin the pose too…12.15party-19It was good day. Before everyone arrived, I gathered my crew and we talked about what a huge gift it is to be able to gather people in our home. We talked about how it isn’t the food or the decorations or the size of our house or even how clean it is that people will really remember when they leave. What most people remember when they leave a home is how that home made them feel. We certainly don’t do it all perfectly, but I hope even in our messy attempts at hospitality we are moving towards making others leave happier than when they came. Its a goal I’ll keep working towards.

flourishBalloons, cups, napkins, snack trays, pink garland, tassel garland ~ Shop Sweet Lulu

Peg people nativity –Β  Once Upon A Peg

Hand drawn wooden nativity – Minnie and the Monster

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  • Julie - That Memory Lane milk is super yummy. If you haven’t tried the mocha or the chocolate kind its so good. Just trade that bottle you have for one of those and then use it for marshmallows! I have those little trees too. I can’t wait to put mine to use!

  • Ashley - What a FABULOUS idea!!! I love every bit of this!

  • Byron - A wonderful time was had indeed. Many thanks for the invite.

  • Loan - Love everything about your little party!! You have such an eye for all the lovely details!!

  • Jenny B. - OH, I love it! I am guessing the party was a huge hit. πŸ˜€ Love the marshmallows in a jar. I have glass canisters on my counter that I really like, but I never know what to put in them. We don’t need flour and sugar on a daily basis. I’ve already filled one with granola bars. I think I’ll fill another with marshmallows, and include a scoop. Ooh, I could put the hot cocoa packets in another one! Thanks for the inspiration. πŸ˜€

  • Bevy @treasuredupandpondered - Simply beautiful!!!!!!!!

    I love the marshmallows in the jar idea!

  • Emily - I have ALWAYS wanted to host this sort of thing and now that we’re settled, I feel like we can. Not this year, because “settled” means “in our forever house”, not “unpacked” πŸ˜‰ But next year and the next and the next. Being able to host loved ones if such a gift and I can’t wait! We had a test run this morning – some friends for some gingerbread houses – and it went so well that I am chomping at the bit for more!

    I think instead of “open house” I will call these parties “Come and Go…” and always add on some kind of “but bring ____!” and we can set up a swap. I love it. Thank you, as always, for being inspiring.

    PS: I was making my list of people for whom I want to send New Year’s poundcake and cookies boxes to and your name popped into my head when I was thinking of the teachers and other people who have just been so amazing in our lives. Your willingness to share and inspire has helped me so much with my own children, who are ever-so-slightly younger than your two youngest, and I will be forever grateful. If it’s not too stalkery, and you’re not burned out on goodies (although the poundcake freezes well), send me an email with an address you feel comfortable sending out, and I’ll put a box of gratitude in the mail to you in the New Year. If not, I understand, and know that you are in my thoughts this season. Have a lovely, merry, happiest of Christmases. <3

  • amanda - This looks so fun. And oh so cute!!!

  • Courtney - You’ve made me happier and I haven’t even been in your home! It’s so neat to me how you capture all of that love in your photography. You’re quite an inspiration.

  • Klara - “making others leave happier than when they came”, yeap, that`s a good goal, I`ll try to embrace it as my own

  • susie - Now I can use my milk container! LOL- been wondering why I saved it! Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!! Christmas greetings from Wyoming.

  • kaydee - What a sweet party idea! But where are those little letter balloons from?!

  • Ashley - So sweet! We had a huge group from church for our community group lunch on Sunday. Normally another family has it and they have a much bigger home but it worked! It was such a blessing and it is so good to remeber the goal! People notice! We sang the Doxology before we ate and with those 30 voices filling my whole downstairs I said our home has never felt more glorious!

    I thought of you tonight as we celebrated our first “Christmas Adam”! I think the kids are finally asleep so I’m going to go attempt to join them. I’m almost 8months pregnant with baby number 4 so we’ll see how the couch goes! We so enjoyed it and my kids love the idea! Thanks for sharing so much of your life/ideas!! Merry Christmas!!

  • julie - you take such stunning photos.

  • kimberly oyler - ummm can christ make me a latte?? i used to throw up the deuces in jr high. it was not a good look for me.

  • kimberly oyler - by “christ” you know i meant “chris” right? although i don’t think i’d hate it if Christ himself made me a latte. πŸ˜‰

My third little guy. He is surprising. Unpredictable. Passionate. Tender. And goodness he melts me.

12.15run-0112.15run-02We ran the Color Run together in 2014. He enjoyed it, but really wished it was just straight running…no fluff, just run, which is so like him.Β  He has been wanting to do a traditional 5K this year and our calendar just didn’t sync up, until this weekend. When we walked outside and it was literally freezing, I was kicking myself for not making this run happen sooner. He, on the other hand, was pumped about the weather.

He’s been running a mile every week to train for the 5k. Honestly, he probably didn’t need to train but I wanted to see how serious he was about running. His brothers bailed on training. He kept with it. Consistently putting in his mile each week. This weekend his race finally arrived.

He ran pretty much the whole thing and was already talking about the next 5K before we even crossed the finish line.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

The running bug has bit him hard, so it looks like I’ll be logging more miles too. As long as he wants me to and as long as I can keep up – I’ll run by his side.

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  • Southern Gal - Those photos of you and him just melt my heart. I’m glad he has a mom who will be his running buddy!

  • Heather - My 7 year old daughter just ran her first 5K last week, training over the week like your guy. She comes from a long line of runners (not on my side!) Fortunately, her dad coaches cross country which allowed me to cheer on the sidelines. I’m in good shape, but she was flying and ended up winning her age division. I think we’ve been bitten by the running bug too and are already looking for the next race, including a color run.

  • Julia - Both my girls were into sports (soccer) at a young age, and in 7th grade did a year of cross-country at school “just to keep in shape”. Well, they both ended up dropping soccer and have run ever since. My oldest is now a freshman in college and is prepping to do her 3rd half-marathon, and my youngest (a 10th grader) can’t wait for track and field to get started in February. When the running bug hits – just go with it! What a great sport!

  • Allison - Love running with the kids! Check out this amazing kids running club that I am a part of. You can start your own team if there is not one by you.
    http://www.minimermaidrunningclub.com and http://www.youngtritonsrunningclub.com

    Focuses on not just running but building self esteem and character in our kids.
    Happy Running!

  • Kimberly Dial - This is so awesome. Who knows, you may have an Olympian on your hands!

My driver’s license was expired.

I kept putting off renewing it because the idea of going to the tag agency with five kids sounded horrible. It is also a rare day that my hair is fixed and I am ‘license picture ready.’ Spending time on the weekend to go also did not sound fun. I just kept delaying.

Over the weekend, Chris encouraged me to just go take care of it. Saturday morning I grudgingly got in the car and drove to the tag agency. I was so grumpy about it. As I complained in my head about the hassle of getting a new license, I began to think about how it felt 20 years ago to get my first license. I couldn’t get to the driver’s testing place fast enough or get that license in my hands quick enough. As soon as it was issued, I posed for a picture with my first license. The magnitude and meaning of that little piece of plastic was not lost on me.

Then I got older.

What was once overwhelmingly exciting became a hassle.

I forgot the magnitude and the meaning. It was just an ordinary, mundane thing in my wallet.

As I approached the tag agency last weekend, it all hit me again. I can drive!

It is an unbelievable privilege to not only drive, but to own a car and have the means to pay for insurance, gas, car seats. By world standards, I am in the minority. Of course, there are plenty of reasons many people do not drive by choice and for practical reasons. The point is not driving, but how easily the things that I was once was astounded by can become mundane. When I lose perspective of just how incredible the little and ordinary things in life truly are, excitement is often replaced by hassle.

I don’t want to live that way…I want to live in the excitement of seeing the beauty in the mundane.

I walked out of the tag agency and snapped a photo of me with my new driver’s license…because HELLO, I can drive!

12.15license-01

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  • Haley - Great perspective! My boyfriend didn’t get his license until he was 22 because of lack of people to teach him. While he took his test, it was so fun sitting in the waiting room watching the excitement of the kids coming out and proudly telling their parents they passed. It’s kind of like we shouldn’t just have childlike faith, but we should also have childlike excitement because all of the opportunities we get are pretty freaking awesome.

  • Heather - A couple of years ago, I went to vote and the volunteer said I could not because my license had expired. I just hadn’t noticed in the midst of the business of life and let’s be honest, I’m not going to remember a date 10 years from now. So I went to the DMV to take care of it. Well it happened about 2 weeks shy of being 6 months expired! When it’s more than 6 months, people have to retake the written and driving test!!! So I am sitting there with pimply, anxious teenagers thinking, “Please don’t make me take the test again.” Fortunately, I was just in time and was able to get away with a vision screening and a new photo. I was so thankful I could drive (legally) again!

  • Jessica - I love your perspective (and I feel your DMV pain). It reminds me of a snow storm we had years ago and how when we finally made it to the store, we were dancing in the aisles: electricity! food! four walls other than the house! PS – Great hair!

  • Jessie D - You look super cute in that pic :)

  • amber - Well. I needed to hear that! I am in the same boat with my license. And how funny that I would find conviction here over that. Lol! But. The once exciting things that have become mundane has become a real struggle for me this past year. I was just thinking that over. So refreshing to know we’re not alone & that if we keep fighting to see the bigger picture, that mundane stuff really becomes beautiful again.

  • Jenny B. - Congratulations! πŸ˜‰ You know something weird? In recent years, I have heard multiple parents lament how their teenagers are not interested in getting their licenses. They put it off until they’re seniors, and are basically forced to do it. What?? I am not sure what to make of it. I’m interested to see if this shift continues, and what my own kids will think when they are old enough to drive. My 6-year-old has plans to live at home forever, and says he’ll only need to drive to “the inventing store” once so he can buy stuff to invent machines that will do everything for him. After that, he’s just going to stay home. Anyway… :)

  • Kristina - I’m in the same boat! My license expires in like 2 weeks… I keep putting it off. One skill that I do appreciate often though is my ability to confidently drive a stick shift. So many times I’m crossing town and I think to myself, 10 years ago I would’ve been stalling at every intersection ;P

  • ranee - Love this! :)

  • Kelly - And I love your shirt! Been on the hunt for “the plaid shirt for me” (including looking at thrift/consignment stores at the big boys shirts after you mentioned borrowing your sons.) Haven’t found “just the thing” yet though. :) Kelly

  • Karen B - I learned this lesson recently in a little bit different way. I’ve been driving for 40 years. But recently we moved to Japan for a 2 year assignment with my husband’s company. Not only did we not have a car (at first) but you had to have special lessons and tests to be able to get a license in Japan. And, it’s NOT EASY!!! Took me two times before I passed the test. Now that I finally have my license, I’ve driven once. Where we live is a subway, bicycle, walking lifestyle. It’s also really scary to drive here. I did make it to the grocery store the other day and will be taking baby steps as i progress further. The things we take for granted in the U.S. are so very many!

  • AshleyAnn - Kelly – my shirt in this pic is from Old Navy

  • Alisa - It really is a gift.
    Although we all take things for granted, it is just what we do while we go through our days.

    I’m a single mumma or 3 kiddos. I have a brain disease that is slowly stealing my vision.
    I also have a range of other symptoms that mean I am not able to drive.

    Parenting 3 children. Getting them to school, activities, doing family things. Running errands. Every little things takes planning and effort.

    My children don’t know any different, but gosh they still complain.
    I am used to it. But some days I want to stomp my feet and just moan. Especially in winter and I have to walk 20 minutes to my littlest guys school, to then turn around and walk back with him again.

    Not that I want to make this a woe is me comment.. Because I am actually very grateful and blessed to be here and I don’t feel sorry for myself.
    But just a YES.. celebrate that license… Because I would so love the gift of taking that picture.
    It would make my life a whole lot simpler. :)

    Happy holidays from little old me from New Zealand