A List Maker's Life: 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Predictions Reviewed

Anne Hope
~Princess Kate will have a baby girl (or maybe a boy)

~It will rain more in 2013 

~Our family will get one more Apple product (Just to replace the one we left at good ole' Helen Devos)

~When I turn 9 I will get my own pocket knife (He got one)

~This winter I will really learn to snowboard even if I have to practice in the sand on the dunes

~Hopefully we will see the Titanic exhibit again when it is in Grand Rapids (The lucky guy was able to see it with his Grampa)

~By the end of the year I won’t be afraid of cats anymore (Still not fond of cats, but after living with Samson for a couple months he has warmed up to big dogs)

~I think I will get my own cowboy boots (Yes, giddy up!  He is certain these boots were made to be worn with EVERY outfit in EVERY type of weather.)

~We will finally replace our front door (We did and then we decided to buy a front door in another neighborhood too)

~It's gonna be another HOT summer (When it wasn’t hot enough for us in MI we headed to Florida in August)

~Tigers WILL win the World Series (So close…again)

~A former president will die (I am certain Kevin was thinking of American presidents, but it is important to note that former South African president Nelson Mandela died in December 2013)

~It's obvious...everything will fluctuate, the housing market will hardly change, and the economy will stay bad.  Those are all stupid things to make predictions about now. (Hey, grumpy prediction...do you need a happy pill?)

~We will listen to annoying one hit wonders on the radio (Perhaps it will be a one hit wonder, but after hearing Royales during a fall getaway to Mackinac Island neither of us can get the tune out of our heads)

~I will do my best to avoid any news this year (or, maybe not)

~Daniel Day Lewis will win best actor at the Oscars for his role as Lincoln (an unsurprising victory)

~Taylor Swift's dating life will continue to draw lots of attention and inspire song lyrics

~Bachelor Sean will be so entertaining that Kevin will even be sucked in to the series. (Perhaps the first season ever where I could discuss the show with Kevin and he didn't roll his eyes)

~One of our children will continue with piano.  One will continue with soccer.  (Anne Hope had a fantastic soccer season with 13 personal goals.  Gavin is still practicing piano but his teacher moved away and we are still on the hunt for a great place to continue lessons)

~Our camper will get out more in 2013 than it did last summer (Well, it wasn't too hard to meet this goal since we didn't take it out at all in 2012.  We had a great summer of camping and even found a new family favorite campground in South Haven)

~I will unnecessarily stress over Gibson’s preschool decision and he will love it no matter where he goes. (Gibson's preschool enrollment was a bit stressful as we waited for a lottery spot for 2 school of choice kiddos, but are blessed to be one of those 2 lucky families.  Gibson is loving his time at Little Hawks Discovery Preschool)

More letting go.  Transition.  Revised Focus.
The unexpected will be a whole lot more significant than the planned!  

There is so much more truth to these last four prediction than we could have ever imagined for 2013.  We didn't expect Gabe to have a major surgery in early spring.  We didn't expect to be living in our new home by Christmas.  We didn't expect to find family with dear friends who took us in during a major transition.  We didn't expect to be invited to Universal Studios Orlando for Family Forward.  There are many unexpected moments whose significant dates we we will always recount: March 13, March 22, August 25, October 2, October 23. Lessons in learning to let go, transition, and revise focus.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Hallelujah Christmas

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Unexpected Christmas

Our Christmas service this year was a blessing to our family.  Perhaps you will enjoy it as well.

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Keeping With Tradition

Nothing makes a new house feel like a home quite like family traditions.  The holidays are rich with traditions and it has helped us all feel a bit more settled to know that even though the space is different many special things stay the same.  
Every year I debate whether or not to take on the mess of decorating Christmas cookies with the kids.  Yet, the smiles it brings makes the process worth the sprinkles I am still finding across our wood floors.  Gibson could not stop giggling after the plastic shaker top shook right off the bottle and landed in his cookies under a huge pile of chocolate sprinkles.

 To everyone's delight Sinter Klaas found our wooden shoes, despite our new address, and filled them with goodies.
Mipsy found us too and has been having more fun than usual exploring new hiding spots after 7 years of the same options in our old house.
Making our reindeer prints is still an all time favorite December project.  This year we traced our hands and feet instead of printing them with paint.  We also included some new antlers in the team.  With 8 of us crafting we have a crew big enough to pull Santa's sleigh.  Based on the silly names of this year's reindeer can you guess who joined us?  Can you figure out whose names are mixed together for each creature?

{singing} You know... KaNickie, Gatie, Gabbin' the Chatty Reindeer, 
JusGibsin' Around, A.H.K, and Ganne Dope

My favorite way to relax after busy days of holiday preparations is unwrapping one of our Christmas books to read together.  The new book in the pile this year is The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan.  Love it!  The main character, Katie, sets off to explore the many treasures of our state with her cousin over their Christmas vacation.  He sends her home with 12 days worth of gifts from Michigan.

In addition to some of our family Christmas tradition this year we tried a couple new things that seem like they will stick in the years to come.  In our new house we have more room for a Christmas tree.  The artifical one we have been using for years found a new home in the boys' bedroom and we took advantage of a Christmas Celebration/Pick Your Fresh Tree party at a local farm.  It was a great morning with hot cocoa, animals to feed, a hay ride, and of course picking out a tree.  Something about driving home in the snow with the tree strapped to the top of our Suburban made this a tradition worth repeating, according to Kevin.

While we have celebrated advent several different ways in the years' past, this year we are enjoying Ann Voskamp's new book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.  Each night we read a small devotional and add an ornament related to the reading to a small lit tree in our dining room.

What traditions, new or tried & true, are you enjoying this December?

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Home for the Holidays

The kids woke up to news of a snowday.  The welcome first for the school year and the kick off to a long winter break.  In addition to Christmas prep, we have spent the last several weeks settling into our new home.  Today is the first time we will figure out what table is best for playing board game and which corners and chairs will make the best blanket forts.  Hopefully I will get a little time to explore the best hiding spots for wrapped gifts and how all of our favorite prepped ahead Christmas dishes fit stacked in our new freezer. There are a million ways we have been blessed this season and we are happy to be home, sweet, home.

Friday, November 8, 2013


In the past years as fall progresses I mentally recount each minute leading up to the day, in that third week of October, when my sweet newborn babe was finally released from the hospital.  It was time to move beyond the NICU walls to the home waiting for him.  There was impatience as we waited to be a family of six under the safety of our own roof for the first time.

As we approached the family drive my chest tightened. 
"Slow down, Kev.  I can not go in quite yet.  Will we know how to be a family here outside of the Room 227?"

Yet, as I walked back into our home for the first time in over a month I remember marveling at how bright the sunshine came through our windows, how warm the colors on the wall appeared, and how high the ceiling seemed above us.

This October not a single hospital flash back darted through my mind as we counted up the fall days as quickly as we could.  Anticipating. Waiting for a new home.

In the transition we have reminded ourselves often -  home is not a place where we spend our time, as much as it is any place where we have our family all together. 658. Our camper popped up on the beach.  Our van on the drive to and from school.  The Sunday morning church pew. Rooms filled with bunks in a house shared with friends. The library after school, in that third week of October, where we met to catch up on the day, finish homework, and read a pile of good books before heading off in separate directions for our Wednesday night activities.  home.

As we look forward to a new home we wrestle the emotions that come with transitions.  We wonder, wait, and hope for what is next. While admittedly, dreaming of Home. All together again.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Creating a Family Mission Statement

Hanging in our entry is a framed picture of each of our family members hand in hand.  Beneath the picture is the quote, "The M___ Family: Where each lives for the other and all live for God." I've always considered it our family mission of sorts, or a charge for the day as to how we should treat one another.

As part of the Family Forward retreat we attended in August, Mom It Forward released a series of ebooks about Becoming a Super Family.  The entire idea of the series is right up my alley, and an appropriate extension to the research I've done about creating family traditions and teaching family values.  Before leaving for Family Forward, I read through all of the books and set up a plan to work through one book a month as a family during the new school year. Inspired by the introductory book, The Road Map, we could not wait to kick off our super family study, and did so during our last camping trip of the summer.  We lit a giant campfire, roasted our marshmallow treats, and spent time brainstorming a family mission statement.  The suggested prompt question we used: What Does Your Family Value.  Kevin and I listened and recorded as our kids came up with this amazing list.  It was heart warming to hear what really matters to our little ones Eventually we will work to put these ideas into a family mission statement, but at this point an eye catching list which we can display in our home will encourage us as we write a summary of these values and use the list to determine some family goals.

Do you have a family mission statement? What does your family value?
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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Birthday Pleasures

He woke up much earlier than necessary this morning and hustled in to our room. Hopping up into our bed he snuggled in and giggled, and giggled.  Finally verbalizing his inner delight, "Today is my birthday.  Now I'm 3..."


We planned out our day with the intention of including something special Gabe chose for all of us to do.  He was pretty certain Crazy Bounce would be the perfect way to celebrate...

...and Cupcakes!

He wasn't quite as confident about Crazy Bounce once we checked in, changed everyone into their bouncing socks, and hit the giant slides. Yet, he patiently watched the kids play before warming up enough to join them on a slide or two.  It was less than an hour into his special event when he announced, and his sweet siblings immediately changed back to shoes to accommodate, he would rather go to "Bad Guys and Fries..."

...then Cupcakes!

While opening his presents he kindly smiled and hugged the giver of each of his specially chosen new toys. He spent the most time appreciating the coloring book given by his favorite sister and explaining the scenes and characters on each page while his captive audience listened.

After dinner we lit three candles and counted down to the birthday song.  He started in loud & strong with our off key sing along.  "Wait! That's silly. I don't sing on this day." He clapped for us as we finished and gave his candles a strong blow.

The highlight of his day, baked by his brothers and carefully self-decorated with pink frosting, loads of sprinkles, and an abundance of fingerprints...

...the Cupcakes!
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Teach Them What to Carry

Today we take our new shoes out of the boxes and tie them on for the adventure.
Came more quickly than we wished.

Take these shoes, 
Make them fit

Commitments we have accepted in the last year have changed our family dynamics, changed the amount of time we have together, and changed the time we have to devote to activities and projects we most enjoy. These commitments, while they seem important, sometimes leave us feeling as if we were wasting precious time click clacking down the dead end streets.

With the dawn of a new school year just creeping up to the horizon my heart and mind are awake with thoughts of all to come.  Dreams and goals for my three school bound babes. Dreams for my time alone with "the babe."  Dreams of making a difference.

Take these hands, 
Teach them what to carry 
I pray

This time of year always feels like a fresh start,
more than the New Year
this is a new year for scheduling and prioritizing.

Teach me Father to fill my days saying "Yes" to the things most important:
to my husband, to our family
to Your Kingdom.

It is time.

May I pick up
and hold tight,
to love, kindness, and Light.

Take this heart
And make it break

Yahweh by U2

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer 2013

geo caching~glow in the dark bubbles~ring toss~candle transfer art~
pick berries~sandy pines~universal studio
 farmers market~exploding stick line~bonfire~nature center~state park sunset~
swim in a pool~foam dough ~tiger game~meijer garden
 picnic in a park~movie in a theatre~pentwater~st.joe~south haven
orange leaf~summer reading club~great wolf lodge
 park in jenison~shell creations~splash pad~zipline for toys~
zoo~vbs~festival~day camp~make sea glass~ao.wa.kiya~captain sundae

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Building & Recognizing Super Families

In reviewing several aspects of the Family Forward retreat here in the last week, I thought it would be most important to end our recap with a bit about the main goal of the conference - 
Building Super Families!

A the sessions, hosted by National Geographic Kids, engaged our whole family in a communication and team work activity to identify our family’s strengths and the characteristics that make us a Super Hero Family!  

After a summer of amazing activity, over-indulging our senses, and spending a lot of time together I was truthfully a bit frustrated with our family's lack of super delightful powers.

The session began with our family reading a series of short articles about special creatures in the animal kingdom and relating their super powers to characteristics found in each of us.  We quickly recognized the lion cub's playfulness as one of Gabe's super powers.  Kevin is a lot like a cheetah who gets up early to provide food for his family and moves quickly on his feet as he works.  Gavin enjoys music as a language, just like a dolphin.  We continued the list comparing our family to individual animal families and encouraging each other with the connections we made...although, I'm still not quite sure if comparing me to the Queen Bee was a compliment ;).

Long after the session was over I found myself focusing on the super powers my kids were demonstration, which I was afraid might have been taken over by the kryptonite that is summer vacation.

Super Patience
The drive time alone was a test of patience for our young children.  The theme parks also demanded patience as we waited in lines.  As engaging as all of the sessions were for families, it still takes patience to listen attentively when the world of characters and roller coasters are just outside the door.  For some of our family members just waiting for the pool to re-open after the daily afternoon thunderstorms was a test of patience.  Their display of patience in all of these situations was exceptional.

 Super Imagination
It was a delight to watch the kids demonstrate their super imagination power as they played in Curious George's ball factory, created toy props out of duct tape, made up stories about each of their special Kukui beads, and entertained themselves on the car ride to and from Orlando.

Super Gratitude
During each of our activities one of our kids would share a random, "Thank You!" "Pinch me!" "Are we really doing this?"  "Is this really for us?"  "We are so lucky to try this."  "I can't believe we are able to be here." It does a momma's heart good to hear the kids express their thankfulness in whatever words fit their experiences.

Super Endurance
Despite the long days, late nights, and a few games that put us WAY outside of our comfort zone, everyone stuck with it with smiles.  

As we move into a new school year, new routines, and new challenges I will continue to remind myself how important it is to recognize and encourage the super powers it takes for my small heroes to shine! 

Your kids are super too!  I know it!  
What super powers have you recently appreciated in them?

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

To Drive? or To Fly?

...when planning a vacation it is always a question!

If arriving at your destination as quickly as possible is your only goal, than booking a flight no matter the cost, is the most effective option. However, if you have the time to enjoy the journey there are many positive reasons to rent a car and road trip it!

Here are the top reasons our family brainstormed for renting a Hertz car and driving the 19 hours to Florida for Family Forward:

10. Less Stress & Quease
No panic about remembering tickets, arriving 2 hours early, and working our family of six through security check points. It is also worth it to me to avoid arriving at our destination with a queasy stomach, tension headache, and plugged up ears (some may argue those are all side affects of a long car ride with kids too).

9. Enjoying Historical Sights and Scenery Along the Way 
We made it a goal to find pit stops at national parks, visitor centers, and local attractions that we would not be able to see in Michigan.

8. Noise
It didn't matter how noisy the conversation got or how loud we wanted to blast the radio for our sing alongs.  Our iPods were loaded with everyone's favorites and the satellite radio in the rental car ensured we never lacked fun music!

7. Set the Pace Based on our Needs
When traveling by car the timing for meals, stretches, snacks, and bathroom breaks  is all in our control

6. Temperature Control
With separate controls for heat, fans, and air conditioners in each row of the vehicle we were all comfortable where we were sitting.  All of us enjoyed feeling the wind in our hair with the moon roof open.

5. No Luggage Limits
When packing for our trip we didn't have to limit the weight of our suitcases.  As long as everything fit in all the nooks and crannies of the car we were able to take it along.  The kids had more space to bring extras such as toys and activities that would have been left behind if we flew.

4. Luggage is guaranteed to arrive with us at our destination

3. Family Bonding
There is lots of time for interesting conversations and imaginative stories when everyone is in the car together

2. Freedom
Flexibility to leave the resort property: to hit the store for forgotten items, to pick a restaurant not geared toured tourists, and to visit other area attractions.

1. Memories by the Miles - the good, the bad, and the messy

With a family of 6 the cost of renting a car that comfortably fits our four car seats and a whole lot of luggage is close to the cost of round trip airline tickets.  In this case our experience with driving was enjoyable and something we are very likely to repeat!

Are you planning any upcoming adventures?  What is your preferred mode of travel?
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Disclosure: Hertz Rental provided the Buick Enclave for our family for the purpose of traveling to and from the social media event we were attending.  They have no specific requirements for us regarding posts on their behalf. However, our service and experience was exceptional.  Their online reservation system is incredibly easy to use.  We will look forward to using Hertz in the future when we travel for business or pleasure.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Top Attractions for Young Children at #UniversalOrlando Islands of Adventure

Everything in Seuss Landing is delightful for young children.  The whimsical Caro-Seuss-El plays a unique musical score and with so many creative creatures it is tempting to ride over and over to try them all.

We twisted our way through Nick and Sally's adventure with The Cat in the Hat, more than once, noticing different story specific details on each ride.

The sky trolley that took us through the story of the Sneeches was a pleasant ride.  The kids especially liked how the trolley traveled through Circus McGurkus (where we later had to eat our lunch!).

Our favorite ride on this island was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  While dodging the water fountains on this spinning ride the narrator gives riders a rhyme to follow along with in hopes of staying dry.  Loved it!

Despite the crazy heat at the time of day we tried to enjoy Toon Lagoon the kids loved playing on Popeye's ship S.S. Olive Oil, called Me Ship, The Olive.

Pteranadon Flyers was another family favorite. Two by two we soared far above Camp Jurassic where it was exciting to play I Spy from the sky. This ride had just enough twists, dips, and turns for the kids to feel like they were on "a real roller coaster."

Kevin and Gavin LOVED the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride with a T-Rex sized surprise at the end, but this one might not qualify as toddler friendly ;)

One of Gibson's highlights at Island of Adventure was seeing all of his favorite superheros swoop in on their ATVs for the Marvel Superhero Parade!  When he is just a bit taller I am certain Gibson will be the one of our children begging for a chance to ride The Incredible Hulk Coaster!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top 5 Attractions for Young Children

There are many attractions at Universal Orlando to thrill a family.  There may be a misconception that the characters and attractions are exclusively geared toward older children and adults. We discovered that to be false, there is no shortage of great rides to enjoy as a family from 36 inches tall to 56+. In addition to the few listed here our family also loved watching Shrek 4-D, Twister (although we might have a bed full of little ones during the next thunderstorm), Animal Actors, Woody Woodpecker's Mini Coaster, Crustyland, a magic show, and the AMAZING night time Cinematic Spectacular!

Without too much more gushing, here are the Top 5 rides as agreed upon by my favorite 5:

Fievel's Play Land
Misting fans greet parents as they settle in to watch their children explore this giant play land.  Our kids rode Fievel's water slide over and over and over...

E.T. Adventure
This was another ride our kids asked to repeat x3 (at least!).  The vehicle for this adventure is an old fashioned bicycle that flies through several familiar scenes from E.T. and ends with an "It's a Small World" vibe as E.T. is reunited with his family.

The Ball Factory
Our family had a ball in the factory!  The kids could seriously have spent an entire day with Curious George in his splash pad play land created with sets taken right from the stories.  We were brainstorming how we could bring a ball factory back to Holland.  It would be a blast for birthday parties or a family night out.

Superstar Parade
This well designed parade included something for everyone.  The music and dancing were so entertaining and the colorful floats and costumes are so attractive.  (It didn't hurt that we had VIP seats for viewing)

Minion Mayhem
Everyone from our family enjoyed this 4-D attraction.  Kevin and the boys sat in stationary seating where they watched the screen as a 3-D movie and loved it.  Anne Hope and I took a risk and sat in the seats that move taking us on an inside, outside, upside down adventure.

In Springfield, home of the Simpsons, which just opened last week! the oldest 3 loved Kang and Kodo's Twirl and Hurl ride.  The ride spins with a video game vibe and the kids most enjoyed being able to control how high or low their vehicle traveled.  (Oops, I guess I couldn't resist listing 6)!

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