Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Fri-... errr... Thursday Night???

Last year was my very first Black Friday experience and I have to say, I was hooked. There's something about the energy in the air... it's almost like the same electric buzz that travels amongst the racers before a marathon. Almost. I didn't buy much last year, but I did learn a lot and knew that it needed to be added to my list of annual traditions.

So it's around 5 PM on Thanksgiving night and I am a wee bit bummed that none of my Black Friday shopping plans have panned out. My sister had been in town the year before, but sadly we were apart this year. The gal I had been planning to go with had found some good sales earlier in the week and wasn't really sure if she'd be going in the morning or not. I had not really made a back-up plan and flipped aimlessly through the ads, wondering if I should just go it alone the next morning.

About 30 minutes later I see have a missed call from my friend Crystal. She had not left a message but I'm guessing that she had called to wish me a happy Thanksgiving. Even though we were over at the home of friends, I decided on a whim to call her back. Boy am I glad I did. Our conversation went something like this:

Crystal: Hey, Kim! So I know this is kind of last minute, but do you remember that outlet mall that I told you about in Kenosha, Wisconsin?

Me: Umm... yeah, I think so.

Crystal: Well, they open at ten tonight so I'm going to go up there if you want to come.

Me: Sure! Sounds fun!

I think my prompt reply may have shocked her!

About an hour later Crystal is at my door to pick me up... last minute plans are sometimes the best kind. We drive two-and-a-half hours chatting all the way, pull into a prime parking spot at 9:58 pm, are in our first store by 10 pm, make our first purchases by 10:15 pm, and are off to the races. She was right- the outlet mall up there is awesome and full of great stores! Everything was open by midnight and we managed to pop into many of them despite the crowds. I was able to find gifts for people that I had no ideas for and the deals were incredible! By about 2:30 am we had stopped in just about every store that we had wanted to and both had arms laden with bags. After a not-so-quick stop through the McDonald's drive-thru and a stop for gas we headed south for home.

About 30 minutes out we realized that we would be rolling into town right as our Wal-Mart started their sales. Perfection! Even though we could hardly see at this point, we stopped in and grabbed a couple of things in no time. I stumbled into my house at 6:30 am just as Jake was waking up for his morning bottle. It was perfect timing.

Even though it was pretty rough for the rest of the day on Friday, I already look forward to next year. Shopping all night was such fun and truly perfect for a couple of moms who don't like to take too much time away from their kids! And since I had started my list of tips last year, here are a couple to add to it:
  • In a mall situation, if some stores open at one time and the others open a couple of hours later, go early anyway! There was no parking to be found after midnight.
  • If you choose to shop at an outdoor outlet mall in Wisconsin in November, wear a coat! Poor Crystal told me to bring one and then forgot hers! But she was a trooper and the sales were worth it! We got a good laugh at the folks in line to get into the North Face outlet. They would let someone in when someone left and the only people who could stand the cold were those already wearing a North Face jacket! I guess they must be warm!
  • Most importantly: don't think, just buy! I am already kicking myself for 2 items in particular that I passed up. It wasn't until later in the day that I really realized what a loss it was. Seriously... that's what returning is for, right?
  • Drive carefully- even in the parking lot. We were baffled by the wreckage from 2 cars that had collided in the parking lot. No sale is worth that!
  • If the deal is good, it's okay to buy a little something for yourself. I was pretty proud that I got 2 shirts for $5 each for myself and that's it! But I did see so much more that I responsibly passed up. It is the season of giving after all.
We wrestle a lot with the commercialism of Christmas in this family, but at the end of the day, I truly do love blessing those I love with something that I picked out especially for them. Something that I know that they would love, which we only do on Christmas and for birthdays. And our church is doing something really great this year, too. They have challenged us to give a love offering based on the amount we spend on Christmas, so for every dollar I doled out the other night, another dollar will end up in the offering plate next weekend. The idea overwhelmed me at first, but I realize that it will keep it all in perspective. Afterall, not everyone is as blessed as I am and 'tis the season to share those blessings with others. As my husband would say, we gotta make sure to keep "the main thing the main thing." Santa will always be welcome here, but we will make sure that Jesus comes first. He truly is the reason for the season.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey Day Recap

Last year for Thanksgiving we had a house full of guests. With help from my mom, sister, and father-in-law, we made the turkey and all of the trimmings and had a wonderful time around the table.

This year was a little different. Again my father-in-law was in town, but our other 2009 guests all had other places to be. Knowing that we don't live near family, a sweet couple from our church invited us to gather around the table with their family. Their three boys are all around our age and would be home for the holiday.

What I will say is that the definition of family should not be "someone related to you by blood relation." We sat around that table and laughed, shared what we were thankful for, and ate an equally delicious spread to last year with folks we have only known for a year and a half. Sure it was lacking my mom's famous baked corn and some of the traditional dishes that I grew up with, but it was not lacking in family. After dinner we played games in the family room, the boys all went outside and played their annual game of football, and I perused black Friday ads and searched for holiday movies on TV with the girls. In terms of what Thanksgiving should be, a holiday where you truly focus on your relationships and count your blessings, this year was just like any other. It was perfect.

As for Jake? He was perfect, too. After a few bites of turkey, corn, and a roll (man that kid loves bread!) he showed signs of needing a nap. Mommy was thankful for a baby boy who decided to take a nap about a fourth of the way through dinner so that she could really enjoy the company and not worry about her tornado of a son breaking something... which he almost did about three times. But I digress. Oh, and the kid really loves pumpkin pie!

A big thanks to the Vanderlaan family for being such a big part of our family. We love you all so much.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

#1... at last!

Between the turkey coma and all-nighter I pulled for Black Friday, I am just now getting around to the final day of posting what I am thankful for. When putting this list together, I knew that my faith would be first on the list. In the past couple of years, I have grown so much in this area and continually learn what it means to be a follower of Christ. I grew up going to church, so I have always had a good foundation, but since marrying Josh and going to Crossroads I have learned what it means to have faith in action and live by the guidelines set out in the Bible. Biblical knowledge was something that was lacking in my younger years, so I have traded in a lot of my "fluffy" chick-lit type reads to get into the word and meatier reads. I still have a long way to go, but I have seen example after example of God's sovereign power in those who serve Him faithfully.

When I was in Florida this past week (which I survived by the way without Jake... barely), my sister and I stayed up late each night and had some wonderful talks. I told her that I was sure that some of my friends probably see me as a "religious nut" these days since I can't help but share my faith and challenge others to evaluate their walks to see how they could grow and become stronger in Christ. What I told her, however, is that after experiencing some incredible moments over this past year, I can't help but to share, because I know there is more. And not just more for my friends, but more for me, too. Because never once in these times that I am proclaiming the Good News do I think that I am better than them or know more than they do. I am the first to admit that I have a looooong way to go, but am amazed everyday by how far I've come. And I have witnessed miraculous things in this town as more and more people have come to Christ. I have seen with my own eyes as alcoholics and drug addicts turn away from their demons and find new life in Christ, men are released from prison and turn to Jesus over their old way of life, and a man who was paralyzed from the waist down after a snowmobile accident starts to move his legs. A boy in our town was struck by lightning earlier this year and after months of the whole town praying, he not only survived, but just returned to school. Amazing, miraculous things and it's all from God above. How can I resist not sharing?

With this being said, I am setting a goal for myself in the new year to write more frequent Christian-based posts, not just to give my readers a little bit of meat, but also to challenge myself to step it up a notch. I know it will be difficult for me as I am not great at sticking with things (hence all of the books on my nightstand that I am halfway through), but I know that God expects more out of me and I am going to honor Him and obey. I can't wait to see what He does in my life in the years to come. I have so much to be thankful for!

Oh, and as for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, both were awesome and I promise to post about it soon. But as for now, I need to go get the boy up from his nap (Jake... not Josh!) and get bundled up so we can get our Christmas tree! It's officially the most wonderful time of the year!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three More...

I figured that I wouldn't have time to post on Sunday with my travel plans, but I ended up staying so busy yesterday, too, that I am now two days behind! So today you get three things I'm thankful for...

4 - My job. I have to admit that I complain about my job sometimes. Everyone does, right? But at the end of the day I am so very lucky to have a great, steady job that I can do from home... especially in this economy. A huge part of that is probably due to my boss to be honest, as she is a mother of three and very family oriented. And Marriott as an overall company is family-based and really does all it can to help make their employees' quality of life better. I know I won't do it forever, but for now it allows our family to give extra money away to those in need, buy fun stuff for Jake (and occassionally for us), do home improvement projects, and travel when we find the time. We will enjoy the dual income while it lasts, but do all that we can to really live off of one.

3 - My girlfriends. Growing up I moved around a lot, but always seemed to have a best girlfriend no matter where I went. Many of them I am still in touch with, grab random lunches and dinners with when we're in the same place at the same time, and a few I try to see at least once a year. When I moved to Small Town, USA I met so many people, but it did not take long to find a few great gals that have become my family. And the first thing I did when I got off the plane on my current business trip to Miami? Got together with my old "Bachelor" gals for a good ol' fashioned gab-fest (although I have to admit that I really miss the quarterly trips to Disney with this bunch). There is nothing like a girlfriend to tell you that you look cute when you feel lousy, pick you up when you're feeling blue, laugh with til your tummy hurts, or confide in when you need a true friend. And the best part is that there is always room for more!

2 - How could I go seven days without mentioning this guy? Oh Jake, you melt my heart. That's all I have to say about that.

Only one more to go and then it's TURKEY TIME... or National Pie Day as I like to call it. That is truly the most important part of the meal if you ask me!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Five to go...

It kind of goes hand-in-hand with yesterday's post, but today I am thankful for my home sweet home. We literally had one day to find a house when we moved up here, so after weeks of scouring the Internet, we visited about ten in one day. This one was on our "yeah, right" dreamhouse list, but we took a look anyway and fell in love. Our timing was perfect as the previous owners had just closed on a smaller house across town and were in a bit of a bind, so with our first offer, it was ours! We closed in record time, moved in, and have made it our own through many, many wonderful projects and changes. After bringing our son home to this house, I can't imagine ever wanting to live anywhere else. In fact, I have told Josh that if we ever have to relocate we will have to find a way to put it on the back of a truck! So it looks like we'll be staying put for awhile. We bought a home that was much bigger than we need in the hopes that we'll fill it up in the coming years.

On another note, I am posting a picture of myself for little Jake to look at over the next couple of days. Tomorrow I am boarding a plane and heading to Florida for business, sans Jacob and Josh. Let me just say that it's less than 12 hours before my flight and I am still in denial that I have to go. So Jake, if you miss me, here is a picture of me and you to remind you of that mommy-lady that you love so much. I know that your daddy will take great care of you, but please do not grow or learn anything new until I get home on Wednesday. I love you so much!

I hope you're all having a great weekend! If I can't post tomorrow due to my travels, I will make sure to post two things on Monday.

Friday, November 19, 2010

6 More Things I'm Thankful For...

After a year and a half in the Midwest (after five years in South Florida) , today I am thankful for Small Town, USA.

The people are friendlier, the community is closer, and just about everyone reaches out a hand to help someone in need. In terms of places that I want my son (and future children) to grow up, we have found our paradise. From Main Street to the county fair, Paint the Town, the Christmas Walk, and all of the other fun year-round festivals, it is family-friendly fun all the time. I am so thankful that ministry brought us here where we have met some of the most wonderful people on earth (and I truly mean that to those of you from around here who read this) and have been able to put down some roots. Never in my life did I think that my first child would be born in Northwest Illinois, but I could not be happier about it! I will forever be a small town girl at heart.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

7 Things I Am Thankful For...

One of my oldest friends, Maury, did this over on her blog and I thought it was a great idea. She started by saying:

I'll be doing a post a day until Thanksgiving about something I am very grateful for. Why don't we make this fun and you do it, too.

Today, even though you're probably tired of hearing about him, I am so very thankful for my husband.
There is nobody that I know that works harder, challenges me more, or inspires me to be a better person other than him. As a pastor he provides council to many hurt and broken people, but does not take it home with him. Instead, he somehow finds a way to tuck all that away so that he can be at his best when he's here. If it were up to him, we would go bankrupt from giving all of our money and possessions away, but his wife won't let him! :) And of course, my love for him grows everyday watching him be a dad to our little Jakie.

I realize that I could fill my 7 days with just about every person in my family... I have great parents and in-laws, great sisters, and an awesome extended network of grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I know that they are truly blessings in my life and I do want to acknowledge them even if they all don't get their own posts. I'd like to take the next 6 days instead to really dig deep and find the blessings that are outside of this special group of people, so please know that you are counted among the best of what I am thankful for. With that being said, however, chances are that my little Jakie will probably get a post of his own... I can't resist.

So with 7 days until Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What do you get...

... when you have a squirmy baby during diaper changes???
a MAJOR baby diaper wedgie!

I didn't even know that was possible. One day he may kill me for this, but it was far too funny not to share.

On another note, sorry for the lack of posts lately... not only have things been crazy busy (as they usually are) but I have also been feeling a bit uninspired. In fact, I've hardly even taken pictures this month! And since I work from home and spend most of my day staring at a computer screen, I have zero motivation before or after work hours to continue to do so. Especially now that my son is doing such uber-cute new things everyday. For those of you who are wondering, yes, he can walk behind his dinosaur toy pictured here... watch out world, it won't be long before this kid is walking! *sigh* If it were up to me, he would crawl forever as I am a huge fan of the crawl. But I'm learning everyday that no matter how hard I try, I just cannot make him stop growing. I remember hearing all the time before I had kids, "oh they just grow up so fast!" and it just seemed like a cliche thing to say. But man, once you have a kid, you really know what they mean! Jake has been with us now for eight months already and I can hardly believe it! But at the same time, I can hardly remember life without him.

Hopefully I'll be out of my blogging funk soon for all of my faithful readers, and seeing as the holidays are coming up, I'm sure there will be plenty to post about. Jake's Pawpaw arrives tonight and will be with us thru Thanksgiving, then before I know it, his Uncle Michael, Auntie Mindy and cousin Adam will be here to celebrate Christmas with us! I think I will have plenty of material in the coming weeks.

Thanks for stopping in, even though I haven't had much to say lately! Next time I'll make sure to include a picture of the kiddo's face... although who can resist that little pinchable tush!?!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The other day I decided to give the dogs a bone, so I looked under the kitchen sink

When I pulled the bone out of the packaging I was a bit confused to find that the filling was gone and the outer shell was only partially in tact

Upon further investigation I found that something had nibbled its way into the bag

Which then made me take a closer look to realize that the mess under my kitchen sink is this little creature's new home.

I wish I could say that the story ends here, but it doesn't. I wish I could say that I did not jump about six feet in the air and scream like a little girl when I saw the culprit scurry behind the bag of dog food, but I can't. I wish I could say that I courageously and responsibly took care of the problem, but I didn't. I wish I could say that the dogs will get fed regardless of the sighting, but I cannot commit to that. What I can tell you is that I am going to love my husband even more than I already do once our unwelcome guest is gone. Ahhhh, the perks of marriage!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Under the Weather

Even though the little man is not feeling good...

You certainly wouldn't know it! He is still all smiles for us!

I think he'll be back to his old self in no time!
Now if only Josh could fight off whatever Jake shared with him we'll be all set!

Friday, November 5, 2010

October in (mostly) Pictures

If you're wondering why I was pretty much MIA for most of October, it was because I feel like I blinked and it was gone! We ran non-stop all month at full speed and I don't think November is going to be much different. October might just be my favorite time of year here in the Midwest though with our crisp sunny days and vibrant leaves. And now that we have Jake we certainly take much more advantage of some fall fun. So without further ado... here is our month in review...

At the start of the month, Jake and I hit the road to head to Georgetown, Kentucky to visit the Vans. On the way we made a pit stop (with perfect timing... Jake was really antsy to get out of his car seat by this point) and spent about an hour with my friend Lara and her family. Lara and I went to high school together and have stayed in touch throughout the years. I felt like nothing had changed after so much time even though we both are married with kiddos now! Now that I know that she's right on the way, I see many more pit stops and visits on future trips!

We finally made it to our destination and guess who was there to surprise us??? Baby Adam! And his mommy of course as well as my mommy! :)

Auntie Angie was over the moon to have both of the boys at her house!

Kevin and Kyle were so good with the little ones. Kevin carried them around pretty much wherever they went and Kyle spent a lot of time playing on the floor with them. They even told their friends that they couldn't come out and play because their cousins were in town.

The two definitely made up for lost time and we felt like they were almost always up to something

They wreaked havoc on the Van household

But they looked so cute doing it! We had them race a couple of times, but since I don't have a copy of the video, you'd have to check out my sister's post about the trip here

We just couldn't get enough of the two of them together!

The best part of our trip was a visit to Bi-Water Farms, a local pumpkin patch

This place had everything! First we measured to see how tall we were in October 2010

Then we checked out the playground(s)... there were several for adults and kids!

Then we did a little trike racing! I would love to show all of these pictures, but I fear that someone might hunt me down for a couple in particular

Jake got plenty of attention from his aunties

And from Gramma, too, of course!

She was so excited to have all four of her grandbabies in one place at the same time... this was a first for our family!

And here is the whole gang sans Josh Van who was nice enough to be the photographer! All of the Elder ladies and their boys!

Next we hopped back in the car and headed north to Ohio. On the way we stopped in Cincinnati to see another Laura... this one is a friend from college! We hadn't seen each other since my wedding and a lot has changed since then! The picture isn't the greatest since we snapped it with a Blackberry, but it gets the job done. For now this is the only picture I have from my Ohio leg of the trip because I am still waiting on the others from my cousins. Hmmm... maybe I should send a reminder! Another point to note was that I got some sort of flu virus while on my trip and I think Jake had a touch of it, too. Three days later Laura informed me that she had caught our bug, but let us know that it was worth it to see us. What a great friend!

Once we were back safely in Illinois, we spent a lot of time outdoors. Jake thought it was hilarious when Josh would throw leaves in the air

We didn't go in the corn maze this year, but we did skirt the perimeter to get our annual family pictures with the corn... so far we have no good ones of all three of us in the corn. Oh well... maybe next year

We had to check out the local pumpkin patch here in town, too! Although it was tiny in comparison, Jake was quite festive in his little orange and black outfit. Josh found a great apple orchard while we were away that we wanted to visit, but the month got away from us. It's another thing on our to-do list for next fall.

Thankfully he is finally starting to smile for the camera! It makes the pictures so much cuter!

And that brings us to the end of the month. We went over to the Tucker's house to help eat hand out candy on Halloween. Brody was a little monkey and Jake dressed up as a spider!

This is the closest we could get to a smile... he was not thrilled with the idea of wearing a hat!

We also carved pumpkins again this year, but this time we used a pattern for the first time ever. I think it turned out great! Sure, I still think it's "cheating" but the end result is so much better!

I wish I had video of him crawling in this costume... it was too funny!

So that about wraps it up. In Jake news, he started crawling just before our trip to Kentucky and hasn't slowed down since. He also cut his first tooth while we were there and got a second one last week! But my favorite thing? His incessant rambling of Mamamamamama... granted, I think Mama is his word of choice for just about everything, but I'll take it!

Now that October has come and gone the countdown for the holidays begins! Yahooooo! Looks like you'll be seeing more of Adam and his parents on the blog soon! I hope you're enjoying the last bit (or first bit for you Floridians) of your autumn season as much as we are. Now bring on the snow!