Saturday, January 19, 2019

Top 10 of 2018

As I sat down to gather pictures for my annual "Top 10ish" post, I intended to grab about 10 pictures. Ten-ish. I ended up with 48. This is what usually happens, but this year I just couldn't narrow it down any more. I couldn't get rid of over 30 pictures to just give you 10.

With that in mind, we're doing something a little different this year. We're changing it up. Instead of giving you the Top 10ish PHOTOS of 2018, I present to you:

The Top 10ish ADVENTURES of 2018. 

This year, we did so much with others and alongside others. As our kids grow and mature, this becomes not easier, but more doable. 

SO many of our favorite adventures of 2018 include people that don't live within our four walls. But EVERY adventure includes all five of us. 

This has been the year of understanding our well-oiled machine is constantly changing and growing, and how do we adapt ourselves to all those moving parts? How do we set ourselves up for success, so we (and our kids) can kill it every single time?

Adventuring with friends and family might look like 5 sun kissed kids on a boat, or it might look like homemade pizza night with popcorn and a movie, or maybe a campfire out back after the kids go to bed.

Whatever it looks like, I want to continue growing together with those around me.


Watching our three kids learn how to uniquely love each other has been the most unexpected adventure of the year. I've been taking notes and learning from the little redheaded one. The blondie has a lot to teach me, too. Oh, and the Ukrainian. His love for others usually stops me dead in my tracks.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows. We'll forever be working out the kinks as we understand more about ourselves and others. But seeing these three show love in the hardest moments makes my mommy heart so proud.


At this very moment, our baby is just a few months shy of his second birthday. We've officially left the baby stage behind. All the baby gear has been sold or given away.

One part of babyhood that I really enjoyed was wrapping/carrying my babies. I've got one ring sling still hanging in the closet, maybe for a rainy day when I have a sick kid that needs snuggling. Soon that will be gone, too. 

Oh...and that other thing. That thing that has rails and is white and has teethmarks etched on the know that thing. That thing that all three of my babies have slept in for the past 7 years. What's that called? 

Oh, right. The crib. Soon, very soon, that will be gone too. I'm already preparing myself for that goodbye.

I might sound sad, and maybe I am a little bit. I'm a sentimental person. But really, I'm happy to be done with the 'having babies' stage and I'm really excited to be in the 'raising kids' stage. 

There are so many good things ahead. 


See? There are good things ahead. I'm seeing them already. This little lady was doodling away in her notebook as I prepped dinner one day. "Mom! COME HERE!!! I think I just drawed my name!!".

Sure enough.

It's a funny thing, having an oldest child with special needs. Everything we've ever tried to teach Carter (consciously) has been taught, taught, tested, planned, taught, drilled, taught, tested, re-planned, drilled, drilled, and drilled some more. Then, maybe - just maybe, he's been able to develop that specific skill. But this is a whole new world - because Macy just grabs on to new things and absorbs ideas and concepts and skills so quickly.

But then I stumble upon this picture from the spring and it reminds me of that one time, with very little prep or planning, we went on our first family bike ride. We fully expected Carter to HATE every second.

Looks like he enjoyed himself! What do we know?!

Yes, even Carter can learn new things and try something different without falling apart.

(Read more about our first bike ride HERE)

Macy is also willing to try new things with very little hesitation, as we learned at the Milwaukee Zoo this year. She made a new friend (Coach, the pony) and surprised us all as she saddled up with very little fear in her eyes.

Confident, bold kids - they just go all in.


Twenty-eighteen may only have 4 months of warmth, but it was definitely the year of the beach. All three kids love the sand in their toes and the sun on their backs. We've got our old favorite beaches that we went back to week after week, but we also had fun trying new places.

I'd say we mastered our process for loading up the van (toys! towels! dry clothes/diaper!) and prepping dinner (burgers! chicken! jalapeƱo poppers! popsicles! chips & salsa or guac! plenty of drinks and napkins!) and sending out an all-call to whoever was available to join us. We'd beach it up until bedtime, and pull into the driveway just as eyes were getting heavy.

Summer perfection.


Life with Carter is one giant adventure that begins the moment he opens his eyes each morning until the moment he drifts off to sleep. Carter does not have an off button - he is always on, every second of the day. I'm learning that this is good for me - because I have no room to drift. I need to be on top of my game every moment.

I've heard special needs moms say that they are always on 'high alert', and that special needs moms have the same amount of stress as those in active combat.

Sometimes it feels that way, but I'm learning it shouldn't. It doesn't have to. When I'm my best, Carter follows suit. I don't need to be on high alert when I'm engaged and feeling him.

The theme of Carter's year was probably growth. Physically, he is growing stronger and taller. 

But he's also grown in his ability to verbalize his thoughts and feelings, like when he tells us "Scares me".  Or share things like "I want Bananas AND strawberries snack" instead of just saying "want bananas". 

We've seen tons of growth in his independence - this guy can get his own milk (grab cup from cupboard, take off top, get milk, unscrew cap, pour into cup, wipe up the overflow, put away milk...look at all those steps!), he can be mostly independent in the bathroom (mom still needs to pop in to be sure he's on task!), he can help with household chores (and actually be helpful), when we say "go get dressed" he can go to his closet and grab clothes (mickey mouse jammie pants are a fave!) and put them on. 

Even now as I sit and write this out, I'm realizing this guy can do so much more than he could last year. 


Sister extraordinaire, Macy loves to serve. It seems like she's constantly thinking of new ways to serve, and if there's not a need right now, she will create one. This is something we're working on :)

For me, 2018 was the year of allowing Macy to embrace her quirks. She's got a few of them and I don't ever want to squelch them or make her feel like the things she likes are wrong or weird.

Be weird, little one. Just go all in.


Little man used 2018 to ditch baby life and he dove in head first to big boy life. It looks good on him, I think. Blonde hair, blue eyes, face just like his daddy.

And although he LOOKS like his daddy, his favorite person is mommy. Sometimes I feel over-touched by 9am and I wonder why the baby of the family is so dang mom-crazy. If I'm in the room, he's next to me. If I'm making dinner, he's either on the counter, in a chair, or on my hip. And if he's not helping me make dinner, he's standing on the floor crying.

We've realized that he wants to be where the music is, and the music usually follows me. He's great at bringing the noise - it's up to us to adjust and turn that noise into music.

I'm learning :)

I think if Silas could share his biggest adventures from 2018, they'd be:
1) Using a kitchen appliance (food processor, juicer, and blender are all great options).
2) Eating a snack (basically anything that anyone else has will do).
3) Grabbing things I shouldn't have (someones phone, remote control, electric meat thermometer) and waiting for mom to see me, and then running away as fast as I can as soon as she notices.

Tender little guy, with so many big feels. Someday he'll change the world.


What an adventure this has been. Food was my number one source of comfort for as long as I can remember. We've all shifted our thinking and we now see food as nourishment. What I eat should help my body, NOT hurt my body.

Guess what? It still tastes amazing. But it definitely takes more planning and prep work on my part. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and a lot of time planning how I'll spend my time in the kitchen.

This lifestyle change was not an easy one, and it's changed and evolved over time. But I've discovered that feeding my family nutritious food is a passion of mine and I've enjoyed this journey so much.


While this has been an overarching theme for 2018, I'd say this one event is a great visual of what it looks like to enjoy discomfort. In the fall, Jake completed his first 5k. He finished 5th in his age group, and beat his personal best by over 2 minutes.

A large group of family and friends came to cheer him on and show their support, and we all enjoyed this super fun, super exciting day.

But what nobody else saw was the sacrifice of time and energy to get to this point.

Jake spent almost every-other night running for months. In the cold, he'd run. In the rain, he'd run. In the heat, he'd run. In the humidity, he'd run. I don't think he particularly enjoyed the act of running. He'd be sore and winded and dripping with sweat each time he'd walk in the door. It definitely didn't look like he was having fun.

Oh, and me! I sacrificed too! Because often when he was out running, I was home prepping dinner or giving baths or putting kids in bed.

He didn't get here by accident. But I believe crossing the finish line with his family and friends screaming for him might have made it all worth it. And then ringing the personal record bell, well, I think that put him over the top.

Jake started running as a way to connect with Carter, because Carter loves to run.

Below might be the best photo of 2018.

On the left - Jake and I in Ukraine, fall of 2011. Jake was the heaviest he'd ever been (as best we can remember).

And on the right - Jake and Carter ringing the personal record bell, over 150 pounds lighter.

This didn't happen on accident. Such an uncomfortable year.


I'm not going to say much about this adventure, because I've said so many words about it already. This is an adventure I never saw coming, but I can't imagine not experiencing.

To read this four-part series, start HERE.


This year, Jake and I finally understood the value of going away together without our three little treasures. But we don't want to just go away, we want to grow-away. We're not interested in just vegging out or checking out. We want to invest in each other and in our marriage.

Sometimes grow-aways are uncomfortable. Actually, the BEST grow-aways are uncomfortable.

Sometimes we go away for a whole weekend! Other times it's just a dinner date. This year we've got a week-long grow-away planned! But this is important for us AND our kids.

((So there are 11 adventures. Remember, I did say ten-ISH.))

Last but not least....


In order for us to get out of the house without kids, someone needs to be here watching our kids! We've got so many people who love us in this way. Many people ask us if we realize how lucky we are.

YES! Yes we do.

And it's not just family who watch our kids so we can go on dates or weekends away. It's so much more. These people love our kids so well, they use their vacation days to spend extra time with them. They understand what our kids like and join them in it.

They get on the floor and play the same game over and over again, even though their knees creak and they question whether they'll be able to get back up. They unload dishwashers, put away laundry, bring over hot meals, and send fun mail to the kids.

All the stuff they do for us is nice. SO nice. But the best part about all of this is our kids are surrounded by so much love. Our kids are so loved by so many people, and I believe they feel it.

These kids have grandparents coming out of their ears, and I can't think of a better way to spend a childhood.

That was our year, in a (large and wordy) nutshell.

Twenty-eighteen. The year of discomfort, growth, and community. The year of doing things that I didn't really feeeeeel like doing, but then looking back and thinking "I'm SO GLAD I did that!!".

Here's to 2019 - I see so many good things ahead. I'm going all in.

1 comment:

  1. What a transformation you and Jake have been through since 2011! You two look amazing!

    At first I read #10 as Grow Away - as in Grow Apart. And I thought, "No! Wait!" But then I read what you wrote. :) My husband and I are trying to put date nights into our schedules. Even though our kids are grown, life happens and you really have to plan to work on your marriage. It is so worth it though!

    Congratulations on a successful 2019!


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