Category Archives: Family Traditions

Hiya!

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Well, that was an unplanned, but perhaps not completely unexpected, break from the old bloggity blog… though in my defense, my regular Instagram posts serve as mini blog updates (at least in my own mind).

Shall I catch you up on what’s been going on since last I was here?

Imagine a little TV voice-over here saying, “Previously in Michelle’s Life…”

  • I spent November being grateful for things on a daily basis. We let our small group “lessons” for the month and focused on being grateful and practicing gratitude. I am thankful every day, but it is good to give it a little extra focus.
  • We hosted Thanksgiving and had another freaking big turkey… opting to brine it in a cooler this year rather than risking another brining-bag-explosion-all-over-the-counter episode like we had last year. Gravy has become my Achilles heel – I cannot get it right – it’s either too runny or too gloopy. Alas. But I did crockpot mashed potatoes and crockpot stuffing and they were both delicious, if I do say so myself, which I do.
  • I had been completely braggy about taking Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar and then, guess what, I got sick. I got the flu, despite getting a flu shot which was apparently useless against this years’ strain, and it sucked. Super sucked. Simon also got it and that sucked as well. Jack was sick for a day – taking three naps in one day. Liam was immune to it – that kid has the heartiest immune system.
  • We hosted our neighborhood Christmas party – a fun time was had by all, copious amounts of alcohol was consumed and all the tasty tidbits were eaten.
  • Jack has declared kindergarten boring but continues to attend despite protests to the contrary. He and I both know that homeschooling isn’t really the best alternative option (not to mention completely unrealistic).
  • The boys are still taekwondo-ing (we’re making that a verb).
  • Simon had nearly two weeks off around the holidays and we had lots of family togetherness and it was quite lovely. It’s nice to know we still all like each other and even nicer to be sad to be apart again once real life returned.
  • We soaked up our normal family traditions in Lansing for Christmas (Christmas Eve with food and presents at my parents, Christmas Day with more food at my brother and sister-in-law’s house and Boxing Day breakfast with more food). Sadly, two of the extended family members got the stomach flu which encouraged us to wrap our visit up a bit earlier than planned. Thankfully no puking at the Bennett’s (which pretty much ensures there will be puking in our near future).
  • We had practically no snow in December and while it was nice to not have to clear off the driveway (or watch Simon clear it off from inside our warm house) – I felt slighted by not having a white Christmas.
  • I finished my granny square quilt after teaching myself how to crochet watching YouTube videos and following this pattern (with different colors). It’s nice to mark something off the old life list that I’ve been woefully neglecting. Though we’re very good at going to new restaurants so that’s something.
  • Book club is still going strong, though there are mixed reviews about February’s book (The Circle by Dave Eggers). I am actually looking forward to talking about it because sometimes the books we love the most we have the least to talk about… should be a good discussion.
  • We rang in the new year with all of us staying up past midnight – a first for our family. Last year I had to wake Simon up at midnight so he could kiss me and then go to bed. Midnight is about 3-4 hours past his usual bedtime. He’s an old man – he will be 40 in a couple weeks after all.
  • I continue to tell people the wrong age when they ask how old I am… I’m turning 37, but I have either said I’m 37 already or am turning 36… I suspect that Jack’s math skills will surpass mine any day now. Which seems about right since having children is all I can blame on my brain losing skills.
  • I’m so sad that Parenthood (the show) will be wrapping up for good. Though any show that makes me cry as much as that is probably something I’m better off without.
  • Our boys still share a bedroom, leaving us with a teenage mutant ninja turtle-decorated guestroom.
  • As of January 1, I am officially a business owner all by my lonesome as my business partner decided it was time to retire (can you blame her not wanting to leave the loveliness of Key West and her new spouse to come to Michigan and work? I cannot.). It’s exciting times and more exciting as we’re moving out of our office space and setting up shop in my basement. I have not once met with a client in our current space and have plenty of off-site places I can set up shop if I tire of the home office so I’m excited to see how this shakes out. The move happens a week from yesterday. The place is pretty much packed up except technology. Now to get through the six meetings I have between now and then – being busy with work is a good “problem” to have. Again, I am blessed.
  • In other crockpotting adventures, I’m trying a lasagna recipe today… hopefully it doesn’t end up being lasagna soup (which would be tasty but not the desired result).
  • I’m quite smitten with a new-to-me show, Fixer Upper, on HGTV. I love Chip and Joanna Gaines and want to move to Waco, Texas so they can find me my own fixer upper (not really because I hate humidity and heat so much).
  • Conferences are next week and I’m eager to hear how the boys are doing – since we haven’t had any phone calls from school since the last round of conferences, I’m calling it a “win.” Hope there aren’t any surprises. Unless they are good ones like, “Jack is such a pleasure 100% of the time and so compliant. Also, he really enjoys trying new foods and is a good friend to everyone.”
  • We booked two sets of travel for April – Simon and Jack are attending Hands 2 Love Hand Camp in Florida the last weekend on Spring Break and while they are there, Liam and I will be road-tripping to North Carolina to see my dear friend, Stef. And at the end of the month, Simon and I will be bidding our kids farewell for a 10-day trip to the Pacific Northwest to tour Seattle, Portland and Vancouver to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. April’s a big month for the Bennett fam!
  • My heart is hurting for some dear people who are walking tough roads… those who are struggling with life’s hard things that break your heart and make you hug your children that much tighter. I wish that bad things didn’t happen, most especially the things without reason, but these two women are beautifully sharing how God can use those things to His glory and give them purpose. Please join me in praying for both the Tippets and the Van Sprange/Conner families.

Be good, people. I’ll be back soon… I promise.

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Merry Christmas!

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This might be my favorite Christmas card we’ve done and I’m not going to try and top it next year, don’t worry – I know a good thing when I see it. One of the people I work with does these kinds of illustrations and I asked her to do one for us that encompassed our year and our family and she hit it out of the park – I could not have been happier with the final product. Thanks, Mary, you are amazing!
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May your homes be filled with love and laughter this Christmas, and your hearts be filled with child-like wonder as your consider the true gift of Christmas. Blessings and love to you all!

The most wonderful time of the year

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It is December. I feel equal parts prepared and unprepared. I have been purchasing gifts on Amazon on a daily basis and stuffing the boxes that come a few days later into one of our front closets… furiously shouting at the children to look away whenever I open the accordion doors keeping all the treasures at bay. I need to assess where I am sometime soon, for all my advanced shopping, I am fearful I going to end up scrambling the week before Christmas because I have forgotten someone important (not you, Simon, you are taken care of… also, stay OUT of the front closet).

We decorated the house for Christmas over the weekend, putting up more Christmas lights than we ever have before thanks to the many handy indoor and outdoor plugs that are everywhere around the “new” house. Yesterday afternoon I wrapped the bannister going downstairs in garland and lights and when Simon got home he said, “I see Christmas threw up on the stairway.” What a scrooge.

I think I am a closet Christmas-aholic, I just never lived up to my potential in previous years but the “new” house as brought it out in me – I nearly gave in an got an Elf on the Shelf for the boys, but I held back because we already have an advent calendar (Star Wars Lego from last year), an advent book and Christmas books that we read daily but I was almost won over by the cute postures and posts I saw on Instagram. I’m not trying to be an overachiever, but cashing in on a little Christmas wonder is a beautiful thing.

I have so many happy memories of the season from my childhood and I hope my kids will as well. I hope they remember fondly playing with their Little People Nativity, their small tree all their own on their dresser, the glee of opening the advent calendar each morning and reading the real story of Christmas from our Advent book each evening.

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Jesus’ birth brings us the ultimate reason for the season and we need to remember not to forget that in the hustle and bustle. It also gives us the opportunity to celebrate the wonder and joy beyond the religious in our every day lives. Nothing beats the warm glow of Christmas lights in a quiet, still house. A glass of egg nog or a mug of hot cocoa shared with friends. Annual gatherings of friends, neighbors, co-workers and family that just don’t happen the rest of the year. Making Christmas goodies and treats to be shared with the important people in our lives. All because a tiny baby was born one holy night, giving us the greatest gift on earth… faith and salvation.

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If you like the artwork above, you can purchase your own here.

A camping we will go… for real this time

It was on my list of things to do before I turned 35 and with just two weeks to go, I got it in. We went camping; like for real, in a tent and not in someone’s backyard. We had been talking about it with our small group since last year and with one family moving out of town, we knew we needed to get it in before they left (much to their non-camping chagrin).

I grew up camping – yes, I consider sleeping in a pop-up camper camping, despite what my sleep on the cold, hard ground under the stars husband has to say about that – and I loved it. Some of my favorite childhood memories are from camping, not at all tarnished by the bad aspects, including the time we were riding bikes across the road (me sitting on my dad’s crossbar) and my foot went in the wheel of my dad’s bike and we flipped over in the road and my mom had to drag us out of traffic. My dad couldn’t sit for a week but we still got to get ice cream after I stopped crying, so bonus! Happy memories. I had always dreamed my kids would get to make the same memories – minus the near death experiences – but I also knew my ability to be able to deal with them camping wouldn’t start until they weren’t so into actively trying to harm themselves in normal settings (a.k.a., post-toddlerhood) and Jack being Jack, we had to wait a little longer to ensure we wouldn’t sneak out of the tent in the middle of the night and go swimming. But from here on out, I think we can say we are a camping family. After one weekend, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to going again and trying to figure out when that can happen.

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It’s pretty easy to say that when you go with awesome company with built-in playmates for your kids (we had 15 kids between five families) and an ideal setting for camping with all your normal free activities (beach, playground, dirt for digging and ponds to go frogging in), plus some abnormal ones like a petting zoo and skate park and some paid ones (archery, riflery and horseback riding).

Jack 100% approved of the paid activity of candy purchasing at the Barn Store.

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We might have been newbies to camping with our family, but Simon and I are old souls when it comes to the experience and we had good friends who loaned us most everything we brought, including an awesome bunk bed-cot set up for the boys, which was the best thing! I think it helped us enjoy the experience to have all the things we needed to make life a little more convenient in a new situation. I highly recommend hitting up your camping friends when you attempt to go camping for the first time – it comes in handy when you want to test it out before going all in. But now I think we’ll be going all in… anyone have some good leads on camping equipment? And, mom, I now have a Christmas list for our family.

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Hopefully this is the start of a lovely family tradition, one we do again with these friends (and any other friends who want to join us) as it is the friends that helped make it fun for everyone. Without all the playmates, I’m sure I would have heard the dreaded, “I’m bored” at least a hundred times and without all the grown-ups, I’m sure one of us parents would have lost our minds on our children, instead we could just walk away and know another adult could take the reins. Community is a beautiful thing (so is all food prepared and eaten outdoors).

This post is all over the place and not at all organized, but I wanted to capture the weekend before too much times passes. Despite my eldest son coming out of the tent to throw up (because someone always has to puke; he was fine, just too much junk food and watching another kid play a video game in the tent; and bonus points to him for NOT doing it in the tent) and despite one family getting rained out in the middle of the night, I would do the weekend over in a heartbeat. This is life: making memories, making the best of every moment and creating situations where the experience so much greater than the sum of all the parts.

Of course, despite my thinking they would revel in the outdoors living, no-holds barred approach to cleanliness, both children asked for long baths on the way home, so they are still city boys at heart.

I loved this sweet moment between my boys and we’ll pretend it happened almost completely organically and that I didn’t tell Jack to go sit by his brother and “please, just don’t hit him.”

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The most wonderful time of the year

Since Thanksgiving we have been busy, busy, busy – it seems everyone wanted to get Christmas gatherings planned before the true crush of Christmas which strangely leaves me with nothing “official” for next week, a week when I would normally be super busy. This might actually mean I will get my holiday baking and goodie making done and presents wrapped prior to the night before we leave for Lansing. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a couple things planned, but no parties (except a small group get together I have misguidedly called “Adult Themed Small Group Christmas Party” on the calendar in my phone – no idea why I would call it that; we are just having a sit down meal without kids, nothing risque about it, as my title would suggest). I love this season because I am a social creature, I like spending time with people.

Despite loving the season, I still I feel the busy-ness of this time of year, it leaves my head spinning and me wondering what I am missing. I remembered that at this time last year, we were getting ready to move our office and preparing for our upcoming trip to Australia. How did I manage to stay sane last year? (Answer: the grace of God, plain and simple.) I asked my co-worker if I was crazed last year and she said, “Actually, I remember commenting to my husband about how laid back you were about everything.” Phew… I am definitely the “good in a crisis” girl. Though, being good in times of stress doesn’t mean there isn’t some debris left in my wake, but that debris is mostly contained to my own home – literally and figuratively (sorry, Simon). [It also means that we don’t normally put up a Christmas tree because then I have to add “take down Christmas tree” to my list of to-dos for January, which is the time I normally use for crashing and slothdom (because even a party-loving girl needs some downtime). But this year, we did it, we put up a tree and I realized how much I loved doing it growing up and I’m glad we can give that memory to our kids and I do promise to put up a tree from now on. Scout’s honor.]

In the midst of the busy-ness, we are taking time to drive home the reason for the season, to make sure that our kids are celebrating Jesus’ birth more than they are asking for presents from us (and everyone else, including, Santa – it’s an ongoing “battle”). On Kim’s wonderful suggestion, we purchased The Advent Book last year and my boys LOVE reading it every day (Liam opens the odd-numbered doors and Jack opens the evens). In the season where we can focus so much on “take, take, take” I want my kids to remember it’s as much (if not more) about giving as it is receiving. They get the message of receiving pound into their little brains everywhere they look, our job is to counter that message with the one that points to the manager and the giving of gifts to others. We can celebrate the season by honoring both the spirit of generosity and the discipline of graceful receiving. We are recipients of gifts that we did not earn but that are given because we are loved so much by the giver of those gifts – whether they come in swaddling clothes or pretty wrapping paper.

I love Christmas because it is a season of get-togethers and togetherness – of family and friends, and traditions new and old. And I love that, to me, as a Christian, it celebrates my Savior’s birth, giving reason and meaning to this life here on earth and I give gifts to others to honor that celebration and love.

Source: dayspring.com via Michelle on Pinterest