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One place you should visit: the most darling PNW beach town

Last week was our Spring Break. The first half of the week was spent at home; the second half was enjoyed at the most charming town on the Washington Coast called Seabrook.

We spent last year’s spring break in this cute town (read about that trip here). The town was modeled after my favorite place of all – Seaside, Florida, which we visited last year on our road trip (read about that here). The community is darling and idyllic with walking paths and sweeping Pacific Ocean views and community parks, shops and cafes.

This year, we stayed in a big coastal home in town that we shared with our good friends and four of their five kids.

When we were booking our house, Rae and I were super picky about the inside being cute :) We succeeded in picking a very nicely appointed home that was conveniently located and was more than big enough for our two families (the house is called Down the Hatch, if you’re looking for a rental).

We made ourselves right at home and so enjoyed a few days of quality catch-up time with our friends.

Also, how cute is this bathroom?

We’ve had such a wet and rainy spring so far … but we had a gorgeous sunny day on Friday, which we fully embraced with time at the pool, a stop at the ice cream shop and early evening beach-time. And yes, while sunny, do keep in mind that it was only 59* out! Our PNW children are so crazy with their shorts and swim suits and all the adults were layered in sweaters and jackets.

The other days were rainy, rainy, rainy, but we didn’t let that stop us. We swam (thank goodness for an indoor pool), played lots of Settlers of Catan, Stratego and Hand + Foot, watched a few movies and ate a lot of food.

And, of course, I couldn’t help myself from taking photos of the gorgeous homes as we walked to and from the pool or the coffee shop.

We packed up yesterday to return to reality, but before we drove home, we lingered at the pizza place.

It was so fun traveling with Rae – she takes pictures of kids and life (like the ones above) and I take pictures of empty spaces with pretty, inspiring decor. We’re a good pair.

You can (and should!) follow Rae on instagram here and her blog here. And I’m on instagram here.

Another thing you should do: visit Seabrook.

Sorry for being so bossy. I’ll stop telling you what to do now.

Overall, it was a very successful spring break. We’re refreshed and ready to finish out the school year!

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5 games I actually enjoy playing with the kids

I’m so sorry; that title sounds terrible.

I like my kids. And I like playing with them. But when it comes to playing board games together as a family, there are some that are just brutal.

Take Monopoly, for example. Or Sorry. I played both games for hours with my sister and cousins when we were kids. But as an adult? No, thank you.

Our kids ask every once in a while, “can we have family game night?!” and I want so much to say yes. Really I do.

So I’m always on the lookout to find games that we all enjoy. Here are five of our family’s favorites:

headbandz

headbandz
First, you wear these silly plastic headbands, so that makes everyone smile. Second, it feels like a fun way to teach kids how to be descriptive and ask pointed questions and I like a game that sneaks in learning. While probably best for younger kids, my older two will still totally jump in on a game if we’re playing.

product description:

Play Hedbanz, the quick question game of “What am I?” Ask “yes” or “no” questions to figure out if the cartoon on your head is an animal, food or man-made object. Be the first player to guess what you are and win!

apples to apples

applestoapples
The boys found this game at the house we stayed in for spring break and we stayed up way too late on night one laughing at our answers. I’m pretty sure we were playing with the adult set, there, but the kid set is great, too.

product description: 

Apples to Apples Junior brings all the fun and hilarity of Apples to Apples to the younger crowd. Players aged 9 years and older will have a blast making crazy comparisons while expanding their vocabulary and thinking skills at the same time. The 576 unique cards ensure maximum inventiveness, so each round is filled with surprising comparisons from a wide range of people, places, things, and events. Fast-moving and refreshing, Apples to Apples Junior is easy to learn, easy to play, and great for hours and hours of entertainment!

zingo

zingo
Zingo is a well-loved game in our family, especially when the kids were younger. Audrey and Mason will still play (in fact, I heard the card clicker clicking yesterday!). It says ages 4 and up, but I think you could start earlier than four with this matching game.

product description: 

Zingo! brings fast-paced excitement and learning to the classic game of Bingo. Slide the Zinger to reveal picture tiles, make a match and fill your card to win. Images with printed words and two levels of play make this the perfect game to grow with.

suspend

suspend
We bought this for one of the boys as a guessing gift for christmas. (Guessing gifts: mystery packages we wrap up for our kids starting on December 15th. You get three yes or no guesses on the first night and then one each consecutive night until you guess correctly or it’s Christmas Eve. It’s a very fun tradition passed on to us from my aunt and uncle.) The night he guessed it, we played over and over and squealed every time the tower collapsed. Plus, because it’s about balance, it feels a bit educational.

product description: 

A family game of tricky hangs and steady hands! Try this hanging balance game and you’ll be hooked! Suspend comes with 24 notched, rubber-tipped wire pieces to hang from a tabletop stand. Sound easy? Try adding another piece! Each time a bar is added, the balance shifts, the difficulty changes and the incredible midair sculpture transforms. Can you add all your game pieces without making it fall? This tricky game for 1-4 players is a test of steady nerves and steady hands.

monopoly deal

monopoly-deal
This is a great alternative to the real monopoly game and much faster. It takes a round or two to get the hang of it, but after that, you’ll play hand after hand.

product description: 

Get a handy way to play the classic property-trading game! Be the first collect 3 full property sets of different colors, and you’ll win the monopoly deal card game. You’ll pick up cards when it’s your turn and play action cards to charge players rent, steal their cards or demand money for your birthday. Build up property sets, gather piles of money and keep wheeling and dealing until you’re the monopoly deal winner!


Does your family have any favorites? Please share!

 

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Wishing You A Merry Christmas

Wishing you a Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

front-of-card

I always find it hard to know just what to say on a christmas card. Do we share our highs? Our lows? Of course I want our photo to be our best with smiling faces and coordinating outfits. But I also want honesty and that doesn’t always look like smiling faces and coordinating outfits :).

As I was praying through what message to share, this verse popped out:

back-of-card

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine … to him be the glory for ever and ever! Amen!” Ephesians 3:20-21

We are thankful for the ways God continues to grow us, work in our hearts, bless us, give us the faith to trust in Him through each life circumstance. It is our family’s deepest desire that we give glory to God in all circumstances, that we remain faithful and grateful and full of kindness, generosity and joy.

We pray for you this Christmas season that you will find Hope in Jesus no matter where life has you … because he is able to do immeasurably more than all we can imagine.

Blessings to you from all of us!

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Tips on choosing outfits for your family photos

Every year, like many of you, we have family photos taken.

And every year, like many of you, I obsess over what to dress my family in for said photos.

standingonsteps

Okay, maybe obsess is too strong a word, but I do think about it for a while.

Choosing clothes that coordinate and allow personalities to show and don’t require purchasing entirely new wardrobes is a process. Fun for some, stressful for others. It falls into the fun camp for me and so I thought I’d throw out a few tips for choosing outfits for your family photos.

start with a consistent color palette

You don’t need everyone to match, but it always looks most aesthetically pleasing when colors coordinate. Choose one color and vary the tones (as we did this year with monochromatic grays), or several colors that work well together (like jewel tones or classic red and green).

Keep your setting in mind when picking outfits

Choosing outfits based on location seems pretty obvious, but it can also be a source of inspiration.

Last year, we had photos taken at a Christmas tree farm and so I added accessories like scarves and hats and cookies and hot cocoa in cute cups as props (see a photo here). This year, we were at a more formal location and I love the gray and white of the steps, so it inspired a slightly fancier outfit selection. Let your location help you decide on a color/style direction.

choose clothes that are not completely out of the norm, but maybe a little special

My boys wear athletic shorts and sweatshirts everyday so stepping it up to jeans is a big move. My nephew, on the other hand, is a fashionable thing and doesn’t think twice when he’s asked to wear a suit and tie. How formal/informal you go depends on your family, personalities and how much bribing you’re willing to do to get your kids to wear what you’ve picked out. I’m all about dressing nicely for pictures, but I also don’t want to completely lose the kids’ personalities.

On the morning of our photos, our No.3 would having nothing to do with the sweater I bought for him. It was a fight I fought for a minute and then (wisely) Ryan reminded me to let it go. If he’s wearing something completely uncomfortable, he won’t be himself in the pictures. That’s not what I want. So we compromised and pulled a sweatshirt from his closet that still worked with our colors and made him happy.

shop your closets and fill in the gaps with an item or two

Sure, buying a whole new family wardrobe sounds fun, but if you are limited by budget, try shopping your closets first and then fill in with a few purchases.

I like to start by choosing my outfit first (because I’m vain and want to wear something I feel good in), and think of husband/kid options that will coordinate, taking into account what we already have in our closets and drawers. If you don’t have much budget, try adding a new accessory like a cute hat or pair of tights (like Audrey’s polkadotty ones).

And most of all, smile and be yourself – which also means letting your kids be themselves (said the mom who does a whole lot of bossing and hold still and smile normal, please! every single time).

Happy picture taking!

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sending him into the world

mom-and-ethan

This is my baby. He’s almost 12 years old, is kind and witty, loves reading and digging, playing with friends and will probably invent some crazy contraption when he grows up because he’s always coming up with ingenious ideas.  He wants to be a teacher or a chef or a professional lego builder. He likes to play soccer. He follows Jesus.

And he starts middle school tomorrow.

ethan

He feels good about it.

I can’t decide how I feel.

On the one hand, I know he’s ready. He really is a great kid with a good sense of who he is and what he’s about. He has a nice group of friends who support each other and will help each other navigate the big halls of middle school.

On the other hand, he’s my baby! And middle school can be so cruel! And how is it possible that he is old enough to be in a time of life that I remember like it was yesterday?!

I’m so proud of our son. I know he’ll do great. I’ll try to hold it together when I send him off, and then I’ll come back home and sit on the couch and cry. Being a mama is the best, and also really heart-wrenching.

Lord, please watch over my baby. He’s yours, even more than he is mine and I trust you with him. Amen.

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a day trip to mt rainier

Exploring Mt Rainier / jones design company

Ryan and I took the boys on a day trip to Mount Rainier this weekend.

You know how it is when you live somewhere and take certain places for granted and skip out on doing the ‘touristy’ things because you aren’t a tourist? This was one of those things.

But Ryan has summitted the mountain twice (he’s kinda amazing) and we were Audrey-less for the day (because let’s all admit that hiking with a 5 year old girl is not the easiest) so it was the perfect chance to do something fun and outdoorsy with the boys.

mt-rainier-collage-1

The south entrance to Mt. Rainier is about two hours from our house – a beautiful drive through little towns that are in the middle of nowhere and I always wonder what draws residents to choose to live there. You get to the Mt. Rainier National Park entrance which is about 2500 feet above sea level and can stop off at lots of different turn-offs along the way up.

We stopped for lunch and hiked down to the Nisqually River bed, which is remarkably low as a result of our way below normal snow levels this winter.  The river water is all murky looking because it is from a glacier and is filled with tiny particles of bedrock (read the actual description here if you’re interested) and is super chilly even on a summer day. The top of the mountain peeked out through the clouds every once in a while and is seriously breathtaking up close.

mt-rainier-collage-2

After lunch, we ventured on to Paradise – an area at about 5000 feet above sea level with a visitors center, picnic areas and hiking trails. This is the point where the real hikers take off from, but also great for just day trips. If you hit it right, Paradise is filled with wildflowers. We were a little late for those, but it was still so pretty.

Like I said, Ryan has done the big hike twice before and it was so fun to hear more about the specifics of his trips: the gear he used (40 lbs worth), how long it took (4 hours on the snowfield, sleep until midnight, hike to the top and summit at 7am, then hike all the way back down), what the top looks like (a crater you walk across to sign a book. On a very clear day, you can see all the way to Seattle). Needless to say, we were all super impressed with him.

We hiked the trails up for a bit until we were all winded. This hiking mountains thing is not for the faint of heart.

mt-rainier-collage-3

One of my favorite parts was seeing so many different people speaking so many different languages. I forget what an amazing thing this 14,410 ft mountain is. It truly attracts visitors from around the world.

Once we made it down, we stopped in this teeny, tiny town for ice cream, sat for a moment on a chair lift-turned-swing then made our way back home.

I’m so glad we took the day to explore this part of our home state. It makes me excited to find the next ‘touristy’ thing to do with the kids!

Have you done anything fun around your home this summer? Please share!

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Oh, how she’s grown.

Just the other morning, Audrey crawled up onto my lap as I was at my desk doing a little work. She sat there, as she has since she was a baby, only this time, I could barely see over her head.

audrey-mommy-at-desk

My baby is no longer a baby.

This little lady has been my sidekick from the beginning. That’s what happens, I suppose, when you’re born number 4 in a busy family. All three of my boys are perfectly content playing on their own; not so much Audrey. She craves relationship. On her days home from school, she is rarely far from my side – splitting her time between singing and dancing on the cleared-off coffee table, or chatting my ear off. She’s a 5 year old ball of joy, imagination, emotion, grace and stubbornness.

Time flies. This parenting thing is just cruising by and I can hardly believe how quickly my baby has gone from teensy romper-wearer to princess-jammie girl.

Many of you have been reading from the beginning – when my Audrey girl was brand new. Can you believe how big she’s gotten?! Thank you for sticking around and being so kind to me all these years. I just love doing this blog/business and without you it would be nothing! xoxo

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