holiday cheer: christmas playlist

As you look forward to Christmas, I hope that it's a joyful season for you and your family. If you need help getting into the holiday spirit, I guarantee that these songs will help.

1. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Sufjan Stevens
2. Patapan/O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Mindy Gledhill
3. Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson
4. Christmas Song by Dave Matthews Band
5. Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors
6. Silent Night by Priscilla Ahn
7. Auld Lang Syne by Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis
8. This Holiday by Brooke Annibale
9. Angels We Have Heard on High by Sixpence None The Richer
10. Another December by Holley Maher

These songs will be a great backdrop to any upcoming gathering you might be hosting and I've put them together in this handy Spotify playlist for you in order to make it really easy for you to enjoy them. I hope you enjoy!

P.S. If this playlist doesn't help, listen to Do You Hear What I Hear? by Whitney Houston. That song is a quintessential favorite and if it doesn't get you into the Christmas spirit, you're destined to be a Scrooge all season. Just sayin'.


holiday cheer: stocking stuffers

Everyone, it is Christmas week! Can you believe it? I have had so much fun shopping for the kids this year. Elia is at a great age where she is starting to understand the true story of Christmas and that this is a very special season. We went to visit Santa a few weeks ago and before that visit I asked her what she was going to ask Santa to bring her. She told me, "Angels and... Baby Jesuses." Sweet girl, that just warmed my heart.

Throughout the season, we will continue to share the good news that Baby Jesus has already come and that he wouldn't have fit in her stocking anyway. A few years ago, we went back and forth about whether or not we would be a family who "does" Santa and in the end decided we would. Opening stockings is one of my favorite traditions and I just love shopping for them. The best part is that you can fit great, inexpensive gifts for kids in their stockings.

If you're still looking for a few suggestions for your kids, here's a peek at what our kids are getting in their stockings this year. Thankfully, they're still too little to read the blog so no surprises ruined here! Many of these stocking stuffers are available on Amazon so if take advantage of your Prime account they can still get here before Christmas Eve.


wells: month six

This week was Wells' half birthday.

He's getting so big and I just want to hold on to his baby-ness as long as possible. At night, when I go in to check on him before I go to bed, instead of quickly tiptoeing in and making sure not to disturb him, I've been picking him up and holding him tight for just a few seconds, just trying to soak him in while he's still a baby.


holiday photo outfits

Last week we had our family photos taken for our annual Christmas card. Our photos will be back to us soon but in the meantime, I wanted to share our photo outfits with you.

Over the years we've played with different styles, some more formal and some less. These days, we're feeling pretty casual, as necessitated by life with two young kids. I also love the idea of coordinating all the time but alas, when Elia picks her own outfits and Wells spits up on his and Todd and I throw on whatever is clean and readily available, coordination is not our strongest game. Family pictures gives us a chance to step out of that and do something a little more thoughtful.

This year, I wanted to go with more looks with more traditional colors that weren't a huge departure from our everyday style but still a little special. Our looks are pictured below and you can see them in the sidebar photo as well - a special sneak peek.

holiday photo outfits

My best tips for picking photo shoot outfits are:


one in diapers

Big things are happening here, people. Really big things. Well, I might be overstating that. One big thing is happening here. Our number one girl is....

(drum roll please)

Potty trained!

Yup. We think it's a really big deal.

We started dabbling in potty training early on and then thought about really pursuing it a few times about a year ago but it was intense and hard and she was leaving puddles all over the house and she just seemed too little so we decided to put potty training on hold. And then Wells was born and we had enough going on plus diapers are just easier.


pray for paris

I generally stay away from politics and current events on the blog and in general, but I've been thinking a lot about Paris since the news broke last night. We are all shaken, outraged, heartbroken by the attacks. The fear that must have gripped the people who were wounded or killed is hard to imagine. I think of the people who were going about their evening, looking forward to a dinner out, enjoying time with family or friends, and it feels unbelievable that their nights, their lives could have ended that way. 

People have fought for causes for centuries and people will continue to fight for what they believe in for centuries to come. I believe that people fight for causes because they believe that it will make the world a better place but when your actions in support of that cause harm innocent people, when they disregard humanity, what are you fighting for? For whom are you fighting? You have ceased to fight for your cause and begun to fight for power, to instill fear, for domination, for yourself. Your cause is lost in the terror and that cannot stand. 

In the end I have to believe that love will win. That good will rise. Pray for Paris. Pray for the places where fear has reigned and will again. Pray that love will become the definitive answer, the rule of the earth.

Image via Instagram @hudsonandruthie.


summoned by name

On Sunday, we celebrated Wells' baptism. We formally welcomed him into the body of Christ amongst family members and in front of our congregation.

It was a special morning as we committed to raising Wells in the Christian faith and our family and church family committed to supporting us in doing so.

Elia even joined us in church for his baptism, which was an adventure that went more smoothly than I expected. What a joy it was to share in his baptism as a family.


wells: month five

Since last month Wells has continued to charm us with his relatively easygoing personality.

He's been trying new foods: sweet potatoes, green beans, apple sauce, mango, prunes, strawberries and even a touch of peanut butter that one time.

spooky fun

I decided a while back that I wanted to make a big deal out of holidays for my kids. It's fun to do and holiday themes are a nice way to pepper the day to day with something to get excited about. Elia couldn't have been more excited about Halloween and Wells just thought it had something to do with playing peekaBOO all day long so he was pleased.

Our parents came over to go to a trunk or treat with us then hang out while we passed out candy to trick-or-treaters. Elia was so pumped about her party and practiced trick-or-treating for a week ahead of it. She kept asking when the trick-or-treaters were going to come to her house. Soon enough, Guapa, soon enough.


this is thirty

A week has past since I celebrated my thirtieth birthday. It was a wonderful day. Waking up to receive a cake delivery from the man you love and your favorite girl is a great way to start a birthday. Presents in bed with both kids and cake for breakfast were the next treat of the morning.

It was my day off and my mother-in-law offered to take the kids so I had several hours free to do with as I pleased, a true luxury. It only seemed right to spend some time with my mom on my birthday because now that I'm a mother, I understand how special and significant birthdays really are, especially to the mother. We met for lunch at The Kitchen, a Wolfgang Puck concept that recently opened downtown. The food was delicious and I was so glad to have spent that time in such good company.


get a sister

I have Fridays off and last week Friday, Todd and I had made plans to meet for lunch and take the kids to visit ArtPrize. Wells had his four month checkup that day so we moseyed downtown afterwards and since we were running late, decided to just meet Todd at his office for lunch. He had lunch waiting for us in a conference room and to my complete surprise, my sister was waiting there, a bouquet of confetti-filled balloons in hand, when I opened the door.

My sweet sister flew in, all the way from Seattle, to help me celebrate my upcoming thirtieth. (Still upcoming...I'm squarely in my twenties, I swear.) The arrival of my sister was gift enough but she also made arrangements for a delicious dinner at Reserve with our parents and brought sweet and thoughtful birthday gifts.


adventure room: chairish mix 'n chic style challenge

If you like vintage items you have to check out Chairish. It's a marketplace for vintage items - everything from furniture to home goods, even jewelry. Members can buy and sell items through the site and it's a great source for finding unique pieces that make a room your own.

I was recently asked by Chairish to participate in their Mix 'n Chic Style Challenge by creating a style board with some of their shabby chic items. I love the idea of mixing pieces from different design niches: shabby chic with modern, vintage with new, high end with bargain finds. A healthy mixture of styles can take your vision for a space from good to great.


wells: month four

Today Wells is four months old. Handsome as ever and growing by the day. 

He went to the doctor yesterday and was deemed big and strong.

Being big and strong at four months old means you get the green light to start trying solid foods so we kicked it off with sweet potato yesterday afternoon.

That was very exciting! We tried again today and he seemed equally pleased.

His four month birthday was made even more exciting with a surprise visit from Tia Emily, all the way from Seattle! (A surprise that deserves its own post. Stay tuned.)

We're having so much fun and are so excited to watch our boy keep changing and growing. We love you, Wellsy!


finds: halloween picks for tots

Happy October, Everyone!

October might the most universally loved month of the year. The crisp air and promise of cozy sweaters and those pumpkin lattes that everyone is talking about just get people in a good mood.

Of course, in addition to all of the other fall fun, October always brings to mind Halloween so I thought we'd kick off the month with a roundup of some of my favorite Halloween finds for kids.


Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin holds a special place in my heart - we read it hundreds of times last fall without getting tired of it. We always love Llama Llama and Little Blue Truck books and the Baby Lit series is awesome. We own Peek-A-Who? and I'm sure this Halloween version is just as fun.

For Girls:

That cat dress is so sweet and it has the cutest little cat tail on the back side. I wish it came in toddler sizes for Elia. Thankfully, the Boo pajamas do and she especially loves that the little stars glow in the dark. And that monster sweater, that puffy little monster is so charming!

For Boys:

Both pairs of pajamas are darling and could be worn by boys or girls. Wells will be rocking his Peek-A-Booo bodysuit this month for his first Halloween.

What are your favorite picks for Halloween? 


artprize 7 top picks (so far)

Over the last few years, I've started to think of this time of year as "ArtPrize season". It's technically fall but still really warm and by the time ArtPrize ends, it will officially feel like fall in GR. For those of you who aren't local, ArtPrize is an art competition that has taken Grand Rapids by storm since its inception in 2009. All of downtown fills with art and people comes out in droves to see it and vote for their favorite pieces. It's awesome. I love seeing our city come alive and there is nothing that engages people like ArtPrize has. Everyone has an opinion on the pieces that they see and even stronger opinions on the piece that are most popular.

I look forward to ArtPrize season every year. Todd and I have been meeting up for "ArtPrize-ing" on our lunch hours and we took the kids down on Saturday morning and then again after naps on Saturday afternoon.

I thought I'd share some of my favorite pieces so far and I would love to hear what is resonating with you too - there is plenty more time left to see more pieces and I love recommendations! Please share your favorites and what you think of mine in the comments section. I've also pointed out some pieces that will be appealing to kids. (P.S. If you are ArtPrize-ing with kids, check out the GR Kids Gigantic Family ArtPrize Guide, it's a great resource!)

Click through the venue names to see a full list of the works on display there.

Obviously, I think this is a must-see venue. The exhibition plays with the theme Nature/Nurture and some of the pieces are quite challenging. 

My favorites at GRAM this year are:

- Rattles and Cherries by Shannon Plumb
Videos aren't usually my thing but this one struck me as soon as I heard about it. The artist is shown trying to perform a bit of a burlesque number and then is pulled away by her crying child who needs to be comforted by nursing. Her struggle between balance her sense of self with her role as a mother just resonates with me, especially as I continue to get back into the swing of things since returning to work after Wells was born

Good For Kids:

- As Above by Judith Braun
This is pretty cool. The artist created this black and white image by apply graphite to the Museum walls with her fingertips. Take your kids home and see if they can make their own version of this with fingerpaint!

- Karma Dahlia II by Krista Schoening
A total crowd pleaser, this giant dahlia can be seen from inside the Museum or through the windows on Ottawa Ave.

- Kinds Regards by Armando Ramos
These are the big cat heads, super fun and whimsical.

- Blue Ribbon by Scott Hoyle
If your kids like farm animals, they'll appreciate this series of photographs of prize winning  animals raised by kids participating in 4-H programs. 

- Anishinaabensag Biimskowebshkigewag (Native Kids Ride Bikes) by Dylan Miner
A collection of bicycles created in collaboration with urban Native youth.

- Arranging Family by Carlee Fernandez
A huge christening cup appears near a photograph of the same cup with a family of four inside of it. Take a look at the cup and guess how many of your family members could fit in it with you!

I always enjoy Kendall's ArtPrize exhibition. They feature contemporary work, often on a large-scale which I'm always drawn to. 

This year, my favorites are:

- Last Supper by Julie Green
From afar, this looks like delftware but up close you'll see that the images on the plate are actually paintings of prisoners' last meals. It's so interesting to see what people have requested and humanizes these death row inmates as well. Very thought provoking.

- Phoenix by Alison Stigora
Burned wood is arranged to create an installation that lines an entire hallway at the Federal Building.

Good for Kids:

- Murmur Study by Christopher Barker
A row of receipt printers line the ceiling and are continuously printing live Twitter and Facebook status updates. Read along as they print.

- You Imagine What You Desire by Nathan Coley
This large marquee message is outside the building. I've only seen it during the day but I bet it looks stunning at night.

Good For Kids:

- #WhatLiftsYou by Kelsey Montague
These is the giant wings that everyone has been posing with. They're beautiful and fanciful and interactive, a perfect combination for ArtPrize.

Every year, SiTE:LAB picks an interesting venue and artists install site-specific works to great effect. This year is no exception and probably my favorite they've ever done. They took several houses and other building in a neighborhood and each has been transformed. They'll use the same space for ArtPrize next year and then turn the houses over to Habitat for Humanity for rehabbing, which is so cool. It's off the beaten path but absolutely worth visiting. 

I love this site so much that it's hard to pick favorites but if I had to, here are my top pieces, in no particular order.

- Rumsey Street Office of the Archivist by Mark Rumsey
- Stripes for St. Joseph by Nick Kline
- Women Disembodied by Jessica Bonenfant Coogan
- How to Feed a Wolf by Lora Robertson

Good for Kids: 

- Higher Ground by Kate Gilmore
This pink house is painted entirely red on the inside and women in white swing through the windows. It's very visually engaging and was Elia's favorite by far.

This whole site is dedicated to fiber arts and it's beautiful. All of it is good but these two large-scale installations are my favorite.

- Linear Motion by Amie Adelman
- Keeping Up Appearances by Ashley Blalock

Good for Kids:

- Constructing on Deconstructing by Borja + Toscani
Piñatas fill an entire half of this empty office building. The best part? At certain times, the artist asks visitors to break hanging piñatas as part of the piece. Try to get there for a breaking session, it really enhances the experience.

This is another venue that does a great job year in and year out featuring very contemporary art. 

- Relic by Tamara Kostianovsky
This looks kind of gross form a distance. It's large-scale replicas of dead birds and meat. Ick. But up close, you guys! It's made from old articles of clothing from the artist's friends and family and very impressive. I loved this - don't let the butcher style turn you off.

Good for Kids:

- The Great Race by Michael Peoples
Rubber duckies running up a wall. Whimsy all the way. 

- Symphony of Gestures by Sara Dittrich and Benjamin Buchanan
This is  performance piece and I just loved it! A string quartet plays from precarious positions throughout the performance area which is impressive enough but they also composed the music they play. Check their performance schedule and try to make it there for one.

Whew! That's a lot and only a snippet of everything ArtPrize has to offer.

What have you seen so far? What can't we miss?


a walk in the woods

When I was a kid my parents used to take us to a nature preserve at a nearby college. We would walk the paths through the woods, finding our way to bridges and ponds, looking for animals along the way. I remember loving our visits to the preserve as a kid.

Elia's First Hike at the Nature Preserve - Almost 2 Years Ago
Wells' First Hike at the Nature Preserve
Every so often, Todd and I visit the nature preserve and we took a hike there on Sunday. Almost two years ago, we took Elia there on her first hike. We've been back since and Sunday's hike marker our first time there as a family of four. Only a few steps into the hike, Elia asked if she could get out of her Kelty and walk. We obliged and off she went. 

As she ran through the woods, she squealed with delight as she found the same bridges that I walked as a kid, noticing chipmunks scurrying about and asking if she could swim in the algae-filled ponds. I loved watching her explore. She sees things that I don't notice and asks questions that make me think about things in new ways.

She loves to do new things and we make it a point to expose her to new things and take her on different outings. Most of them aren't particularly notable - a trip to the grocery store, paddleboarding at the lake, long walks, trips to the zoo and museums - normal kid things. Every time we go somewhere, we talk about new things and she see new things and gets to ask new questions and at her age, her world expands with every new experience. 

Though their adventures seem modest now, I hope we are teaching our children to explore, to be curious, and to find joy in discovery. I can't wait to watch both of our kids run around those woods together.