Advent

Let’s take a quick trip back to December…
During advent we read The Advent Book with the boys and one night I was inspired to start my own advent meditations on Instagram for the rest of the season. I so enjoyed creating these little tidbits of the Christmas story and even though Christmas has passed, we can always use a little reminder, right? Merry Christmas!

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Best of the last six months of Instagram

I looked back to see when the last time was that I did an Instagram update and my-oh-my, six months have passed. So I went back and picked some of my favorite pics to share here. Again, gold star to anyone who makes it to the end.
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Poor George. After seeing him (at times) relentlessly licking his paw for enough time to make me concerned, we took him to the vet to find out his nailbed was infected and that he would need surgery… when I picked him up, the surgery report called it a toe amputation. Amp.U.Tation. My dog is more high maintenance than your dog. Does he not look pathetic?


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This sweet face… disguises quite the little imp.


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And this moment of calm: a rarity.


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Driving the neighbors boat… the one boating trip this summer that did not conclude with a bloody Jack (more on that later).


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This kid’s ability to sleep through anything amazes me. As does his ability to wake up at 6 EVERY morning.


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My little weirdos.


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Showing off some killer dance moves.


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My first pallet project.


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Post-dental visit donut trip.


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Amusing ourselves while waiting for Simon.


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Mah baby got a grown up haircut in preparation for kindergarten. I still miss his mop of hair but I also love the new cut.


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Playing at the school playground prior to school starting.


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My boys. The very best part of my days.


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First day of school.


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First set of stitches – our last boating venture of summer ended before it began when Jack fell getting onto the boat and hit his head on the fiberglass, splitting his forehead right open. At the hospital he got some lovely medicine that made him not care one little bit about the pain or stitches – so much so that after they were done stitching him up, he said, “When do I get my stitches?” And after showing him a picture of his own gaping forehead, he said, “Oh, that looks like it hurts.” He was a trooper.


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The granny square quilt before it began.


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ArtPrize 2014 winner. Beautiful.


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We had so much fun this summer at Gretchen and Bob’s pool.


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Medals from their first taekwondo competition. So proud of those boys!


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A stretch of craftiness… a chalk-painted cupboard door turned into Thanksgiving artwork.


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A board, chipboard letters, fabric and a damaged clearance wreath turn into a little Christmas joy.


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Applying craftiness I learned at MOPs to a Christmas wreath.


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Life is better with fro-yo.


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Our newest ornament…


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Scenes of Christmas decor – my favorite time of the year!


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Precious moments between Jack and Grandpa.


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Girl’s night out with some of my favorite friends! 18 years of friendship!


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The Dunkin’ Donuts by our house finally opened so we had to check it out with some neighbors… our mistake was asking them to pose for a photo AFTER feeding them sugar.


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My sweet dad as a punkish kid. (both above and below)image


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Finally checked out Grove to celebrate Christmas with my beau… the company and the food are some of the best around!


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Annual family Christmas photo… the one time a year my boys don’t argue with me (much) over clothing choices.


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The Brothers Bennett.


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NYE 2014… everyone was up until midnight! Though clearly some of us were delirious with the reality of it.

Thanks for playing along and reading this far! GOLD star to the finisher(s)!

Books I Read in 2014

I was much better at reading in 2014 than in the years since having kids – thanks to Laid-Back Book Club and thanks to getting more sleep in general because the kids finally almost always sleep through the night. My crocheting habit has interfered with that slightly, but there is only so much time in a day. Here’s a rundown on what I read last year:

  1. Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter
  2. April’s Fool – Blanche Marriott
  3. Picturing Perfect – Melissa Brown
  4. Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
  5. Mirror Image – Sandra Brown
  6. Mint Juleps and Justice AND Out of Focus – Nancy Naigle
  7. Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
  8. Hidden – Catherine McKenzie
  9. The Misremembered Man – Christina McKenna
  10. Satisfied – Jeff Manion
  11. Gilded – Christina Farley
  12. Driven to Distraction – Edward Hallowell
  13. The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty
  14. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
  15. The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer
  16. Wild – Cheryl Strayed
  17. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
  18. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  19. The Rules of Inheritance:  A Memoir – Claire Bidwell Smith
  20. Looking for Alaska – John Green
  21. And Life Comes Back – Tricia Lott Williford
  22. If I Stay AND Where She Went – Gail Forman
  23. The Hardest Peace – Kara Tippets
  24. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
  25. Eternal Night – Carina Adly Mackenzie

My favorites: Wild, Eleanor & Park, If I Stay, The Hardest Peace, Me Before You

The worst: Hidden, April’s Fool

Here’s what’s on the to-read “pile:”

  1. All the books on the calendar for Laid-Back Book Club in 2015
  2. Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
  3. Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty
  4. Paper Towns – John Green
  5. Far From the Madding Crowd – Tom Hardy
  6. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
  7. This Is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Tropper
  8. Things We Set On Fire – Deborah Reed
  9. Still Alice – Lisa Genova
  10. The Girl You Left Behind – JoJo Moyes

 
What are you reading or looking forward to reading?

Resolutions 2015

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It’s a snow day, or rather an ice day, and now that I’ve had a conference call and wrapped up a couple projects… and fallen twice while salting the driveway as long as we’re counting… time to do a little blogging.

Sidebar: The crockpot lasagna I mentioned yesterday was a success, I used this recipe from William Sonoma but beefed up the tomato sauce (I used the plain canned stuff) with onions, carrots, garlic and Italian seasonings. It was delicious and now we have leftovers for at least three more meals – leftover lasagna is my favorite. Simon was a wee bit skeptical but he enjoyed it as well!

Back to the image above…
I try to start each year thinking of what is ahead for the next twelve months. Sometimes that means I set specific goals/resolutions and sometimes I don’t (mostly, I have not but a little focus never killed anyone so I’m trying to be better).

This year I opted to go with ideas or themes, if you will, and I wanted to take a little time for my own benefit to talk about what those mean for me. I’d love to hear if you have words you focus on for a year, resolutions you set or if you just plain hate the whole idea.

live well | practice thankfulness | just do it
be intentional | enjoy the mundane

Live well
What does it mean to live well? That’s different for everyone, right? For me it’s doing the things I enjoy like making memories and traditions with my family, spending time with those dearest to me, going to concerts and filling my house with people and laughter. It also means being more conscious of food choices, being more active (something I’ve definitely let slip in the last 12-18 months) and procrastinating less. And from a faith perspective, spending more time with the Word, listening to what God is telling me and doing more for others when I feel called to action.

Practice thankfulness
Our November small group studies looked at what it means and is to be thankful; highlighting that it goes beyond the “attitude of gratitude.” Thankfulness can be so much more when it is a practice. Brene Brown speaks to this when discussing her research on people who are joyful and she found that the people who were most joyful were the ones who practiced gratitude. Sitting around the dinner table and sharing what you are thankful for that day, writing lists in a gratitude journal or sending thank you notes to people – not just for tangible things they have given you but for the positive influence/impact they have had in your life. So I’m going to work on actually practicing being thankful. [If you’d like your own gratitude journal, designed by me, please let me know… I have a few available for $12 and I’d be happy to mail you one… they are 15 pages (front and back so 30 pages total), spiral bound with quotes on thankfulness throughout. Some pages shown below.]
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Gratitude_journal_contents_Page_21 Gratitude_journal_contents_Page_13

Just do it
More than just a branding statement from Nike. Pretty much stop procrastinating about things. If I want to do something that’s good for me and works for our life, then I should just do it. Stop hemming and hawing, wondering if it’s a good idea. Just do it. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today. My procrastination is one of my biggest pet peeves about myself. I don’t always procrastinate, but when it’s about little things, things that don’t “matter” then I put them off. I’m also a big starter of projects/hobbies that I don’t end up finishing. My actually completing my granny square afghan was a big deal for me and I finished it because I made myself and I knew others knew I was working on it so I think accountability might be key to this one… I need to know others have an eye on me or know I am working on something. If you keep me accountable, let me know what I can do in exchange for you. Even in adulthood, it takes a village.

Be intentional
This is sort of goes with, or is an element of, both living well and practicing thankfulness, having more intention with the things I do. Not just doing something for the sake of doing something – we have plenty of that in our lives. But making memories, putting happiness in someone else’s life, spreading love and joy, choosing the positive over the negative – those things all take intention and they all make life that little bit better. And I’m all for all of that.

Enjoy the mundane
I have Kara Tippets echoing in my head very often and her blog Mundane Faithfulness amazes me with both its honesty and its devotion to God in the midst of very difficult circumstances. It’s easy to praise God during the high points of life and to turn to God in the difficult times but what do we do in the in-between, the every day moments? In the midst of life’s mundane, are we still stopping to enjoy those moments around the dinner table (even when the kids are complaining about the food in front of them) or riding in the car fielding endless questions? I try to and I’m going to keep trying. There is still a ton that is not enjoyable, don’t get me wrong – I don’t have on Pollyanna glasses and think life is amazing all of the time – no one likes getting oil changes or brushing their teeth or stepping on Legos. But darn it, I’m going to enjoy this in-between time of life to shore up a little for the next big high or low, to enjoy Simon working first shift, our family being healthy and no big changes on the horizon.

So those are the things I’m focusing on this year. What about you? Do you want to share?

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.