Category Archives: Gratitude

Flirty Forty

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The title of this blog post makes me laugh because flirty is not an adjective that I would use to describe Simon in any way – he is just not a flirt (thank goodness) but he is forty and who doesn’t love a little alliteration? I, for one, am a fan, just as I am a fan of my husband, no matter how OLD he is (I suspect, like my dad, he will forever be a child at heart).

Happy Birthday, Simon, so blessed to have known you since before your hair started to gray and your accent started to Americanize.
10672358_10152499477177955_2758441102351196946_nBut 40 is kind of a big deal so commemorate it, here are the top 40 things I appreciate about that hubby of mine…

1. He keeps the driveway clear of snow and ice (if you live in our neighborhood, you know his devotion to clearing the snow runs deep, making it appear like we have a heated driveway).

2. If he doesn’t know how to do something handy around the house, he will research it, find a YouTube video and learn how to do it; seldom do we have to call in outside help – even when it means he frustrates the heck out of himself (usually with a plumbing-related fix).

3. He is a man of his word – if he says he’s going to do it, he does it when he says he’s going to do it.

4. He is very literal (which can be foreign and sometimes maddening to his less-literal wife) but that makes him easy to understand and straightforward, no nuances or gray areas of confusion.

5. He loves entertaining as much as I do.

6. He is dedicated to coaching rugby and his team at Calvin.

7. He wears his CPAP mask even when he doesn’t always want to because it means I sleep better (and he does, too) without hearing his snoring.

8. He loves me no matter what I am doing, what I look like or what I am wearing.

9. He is unapologetic about his love for [bad] 80s and 90s rock.

10. He also loves Phil Collins.

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11. Looking at him, I can see what our kids will look like when they grown up.

12. He is open to suggestions and change – though it doesn’t come naturally – when it is something important to me, he makes the effort.

13. He opted to live here, in the snow and cold, with me rather than return to Oz.

14. He fits in well with my family – in fact, I think my brothers might like him more than me (no, I’m still their baby sister, but we could say equally).

15. He cleans.
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16. He almost always takes out the trash.

17. He has never once (since we met) worn his silk shirt or Tasmanian devil tie that he owned when I met him.

18. We share the same entertainment habits – we love live music, watching movies and playing board games.

19. When I cook the food, he does the dishes.

20. He makes Vegemite sandwiches for Jack’s lunch and leaves them for me to put in his lunchbox each morning.

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21. He asks my opinion about what he should wear to different events.

22. We have the same vision for the future of our family.

23. He happily signed up for the marriage course with me that our small group is doing all together. And he enjoys it.

24. He brings me coffee whenever he stops to get one for himself.

25. When we have a down weekend, he’ll encourage me to take a couple hours to myself and go to a coffee shop.

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26. The transition to first shift – while an adjustment to be sure – has gone much more smoothly for both of us than I thought it would.

27. He is extremely NOT judgmental, of anyone.

28. He gets super excited about trips and vacation plans.

29. He has never met a stranger.

30. He excels at small talk, which is a fine balance because it’s not my strong suit.

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31. He rarely wakes me up in the morning when he’s getting ready before the crack of dawn.

32. His favorite dessert is brownies with ice cream and chocolate sauce. While I love baking many things, knowing those simple things will make him happy is kind of nice.

33. He likes to share funny things with others.

34. He loves George as much as I do.

35. Church and having faith is important to him.

36. He values making memories and traditions with our family.

37. He makes pancakes for the boys (which Jack will rarely eat but still somehow enjoys the act of it) nearly every Saturday morning.

38. He’s supportive of my owning my own business.

39. He humors my seasonal decorating efforts.

40. He will always be older than me.

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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.

Attitude of Gratitude

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There are many phrases I’d like to cross stitch on a pillow… most are not child-friendly because it’s funny when you see something unexpected spelled out in prim and proper embroidery string Xs. But instead of being crass and embarrassing my mother, I graphic-designed a little cross stitch reminder that we can all use (well, maybe I should just speak for myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that being more thankful is a universal goal to strive for).

Yes, it’s that time of year, with Thanksgiving looming for us in the States, that we turn to being thankful. Posting thankfulness updates on Facebook. Making thankfulness crafts/trees to do with our kids. Planning huge family gatherings focused on stuffing ourselves with turkey and taking turns sharing the things we are most thankful for with each other. And I love it, I love that autumn brings with it a new focus on gratitude, or perhaps a renewed focus. But I hope to let my own gratitude show year-round. Yes, I will make my lists for November and I will decorate trees with leaves of thanks with my family but after the fourth Thursday in November, I will continue to give things for my many blessings (and even the hardships). Don’t let gratitude be a seasonal phase, let it saturate your spirit and carry you through the whole year.

I think that finding the silver lining and appreciating the little things alongside the big things in life are part of the key to happiness. Gratitude doesn’t ensure that all will go your way or that you won’t have bad days (or weeks or even months) but it does give you some measure of defense against the bad in the world. It takes guts to have gratitude in the face things that could bring you down. Count your blessings. Name them every day. Appreciate what you have. Be thankful.

Grateful

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So, my exciting news from my last post… it is not that I am pregnant as Keri commented (though it would be outright hilarious if it was – and by hilarious, I mean, bring me to tears and leave me wondering what in the world I’m going to do, hilarious – our boys more than make up for it being just the two of them*). But it is sort of adding to our family, since it will mean we will be transitioning back to a “normal” family of four with parents who are both home in the evenings (for the most part because I plan on making up for lost time with some evenings out). Simon is moving to first shift on August 4 and we could not be more thrilled! The official announcement came on Tuesday, though we have known it was coming for a short time now. When we first found out about the possibility, the news came at a time when we had absolutely no hope for a change in his schedule and I can admit now that I was completely disheartened by it all, as was Simon. I was trying to mentally prepare myself for both boys being in school this fall and Simon being gone every night – leaving the bulk of the parenting on my shoulders and Simon unhappy with his hours and not getting to see the kids as much as we all would like.

For the past 4.5 years I had said, I just hoped that Simon could move to first shift by the time Jack started school, that my working all day and taking care of the kids all evening was not going to be my ideal life – I certainly didn’t go into having kids thinking I would be a single parent (but then, not many people do). Simon will be starting the new job just a month before Jack starts kindergarten – I cannot help but see the irony in that and see God’s providence. Perhaps I should have prayed more specifically for him to move to first shift before Jack turned 3 or something – I left a lot of time in there for getting that prayer answered.

When Simon originally started at his job, the assurance was made that it would be two years at most that he would be on second shift; two years was doable… I saw the passing of each month as being 1/24th of the way to it being done. But when we passed the two-year mark with no changes and no movement… well, that was kind of a bummer. But still, it worked out that we only had to do daycare for the kids two days a week and then split the other days between the two of us. Simon got to spend way more daytime hours with the kids than the average working parent and we spent way less on childcare than the average two-parents-working-full-time family. And in the long-term, we’d get a huge discount on a stellar college education for our kids, an education that I’m beyond grateful for myself… it would be worth it, we could do this.

Back in the beginning, Jack was just turning one and Liam was three-and-a-half – that fact blows my mind. Neither one of them remembers a time when Simon was home every evening… when they had two parents together for more than vacations or weekends. I think we did the best we could with the situation but I have to imagine its going to be so much better to be together MORE. That our parenting will improve because we can divide and conquer, and back each other up rather than taking the route of least resistance and making the best of it. And with Jack starting school, this fall, I was so sad to think of how little Simon would get to see our boys in comparison to what it could be. It makes me think of all the parents out there who are away from their kids for work, missions, armed services, what have you – it’s a tough road to have to travel for whatever reason and especially when you’d rather be on another path. So above all, I am excited for what this means for our boys and for us. I’m even excited to have to cook real meals again – though I’m sure my kids are not pumped that mom will no longer be serving as a short-order cook at dinner time.

It’s going to be a transition period because you can cement a lot of habits in 4.5 years’ time. Not all habits are bad, but you get used to “your” way of doing things and adding another person to the mix makes things tricky, or at least makes you feel the rub of the rough edges. I enjoy my quiet evenings once the kids are finally in bed, I’m sure there will be a little mourning in their loss. But whatever – bring it on. We are ready to figure it out because one thing I will not complain about is getting the thing I have prayed for, that our community has prayed for, for 4.5 years.

I know it’s not going to fix everything and make life perfect because life is always messy and never perfect, no matter how it is formatted. We fool only ourselves if we think that perfection and utter happiness is achievable if only we keep persevering and make it over the next hurdle. But we can be thankful that this chapter is nearly over, while it may not end up being our hardest, I can safely say it won’t be our favorite and that we eagerly anticipate the next one to see what it brings. And we are thankful that Simon has a job that he enjoys and that helps provide for our family… it has given us more blessings than hardships, to be certain.


*Funny side story: The other day we picked George up from his grooming appointment at the vet’s office and while I was paying and making his next appointment, Jack climbed in the holding pen that is built into the counter at their office – handily there so you can confine your small dog while you are paying (though I have never seen anyone using them for this) – Liam took the opportunity to firmly latch the door, leaving Jack trapped inside. Thankfully this did not cause a fight or screaming, but instead turned into a fun game of Jack trying to get out and Liam quickly shutting him back in. I have learned it’s better to let these things happen rather than try and control them and stop them from their ill-advised activities. I paid, George was returned to us and we were on our way. On our way to the car, a woman who had been waiting to pick her golden retriever up from doggie daycare, held the door for us and then said, “I have to say, it was fascinating watching your boys. I have two daughters and they never would have crawled into the cage, mostly because it wasn’t the right color pink. Boys are just a whole different kind of thing.”

Yes, yes they are.

Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

ememby_todayisgoingtobeawesomeI needed this reminder today… each day is a new day and full of new possibility. Admittedly the possibilities are maybe not always positive (I’m a glass half-full girl myself, but also a realist) but starting the day with a little pep always improves your chances for positivity. Amiright? Make it happen.

Here are a few things I’ve been loving lately that are making my days awesome despite any c-r-a-p that might happen:

  • the sound of all the night bugs and frogs we hear around our house now that it has warmed up – their joint symphony is near deafening if you are sitting on the deck after the sun sets
  • watching how seriously Liam takes taekwondo (Jack is still a work in progress on that front but as the youngest kid in the class and the only one not in school, it’s not surprising; according to him his track record for good vs. bad in class has gone 50/50, 75/25, 10/90 and 80/20)
  • while I have not watched Dancing with the Stars this season, I did see Maks and Meryl’s final two dances and they were pretty impressive, like I 100% believe they are a couple from watching them together and I want them to have many, many babies and live happily ever after
  • peanut butter, banana, oatmeal smoothies
  • The Voice and texting dates to rehash everything that is going on during the shows
  • chatting and catching up with some of my favorite people
  • the prospect of Pitch Perfect 2
  • a long holiday weekend – we’re watching a friend’s dog and I am thrilled because it fulfills my lifelong dream of having TWO dogs… sadly, this is not Simon’s lifelong dream but I’ll win him over yet (unless it all goes horribly wrong in which case, probably not)
  • Coldplay’s new CD
  • coffee (always)
  • reading with the boys – I just went to the Scholastic Warehouse sale and loaded us up with new summer reading options, including a Jesus Calling Bible Storybook
  • watching our old videos on YouTube with Jack – he asks to rewatch all his favorites of he and “baby” Liam talking, dancing and singing
    check the videos out here.

What is making your days awesome?