holiday cheer: christmas brunch

This holiday season we are blessed to have almost all of our family coming to town. My brother, sister-in-law, and sweet nephew arrived this week from Cairo (yes, THAT Cairo), and my brother and sister who both live in Seattle got in yesterday. Todd's brother, our sister-in-law, and niece and nephew will be in from Denver next week and we cannot wait. The only ones missing will be my brother-in-law and sister-in-law-to-be and we will miss them dearly but can't blame them for wanting to enjoy a sunny vacation this year.

Needless to say, all of the family in town means that we get to spend a ton of time with them and these two weeks are going to be family packed and the best kind of busy.


focus 2016: update

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about my focuses for the year:

Wellness, and

As the year draws to a close, I wanted to revisit those ideas and give a little update on how it's gone.

Honestly, I wasn't as intentional about any of this as I hope to be. Still, since these areas are ones I'd been wanting to devote more attention too, they fairly easily remained my focus throughout the year. You can read all of my intentions in the links above.

I'm going to share below what came easiest to me in each category.


two favorites

We are enjoying the most wonderful convergence of seasons right now. It's a fall that keeps delivering days that can only be described as splendid, perfectly fall-like without being too cold and bursting with sunshine. Being that it's November, I can already feel the excitement and warmth of the holiday season approaching.

With the holiday season beginning in just over a week, I thought it would be fun to share a pair of favorites. The first can even help you through Thanksgiving if football isn't your thing.

The Crown

This new Netflix series chronicles the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II and I. Am. Hooked. I L-O-V-E all things royals and just about anything British so this series is right up my alley plus it's so well done. The costumes and sets and scenery are stunning, as you can imagine. There's everything from tragedy and scandal to complete pomp and it's just a wonderful show. If you liked Downton Abbey, you will love this.

Queen Elizabeth was only 25 when she ascended to the throne and watching her grow into her role as queen is just fascinating to watch. She comes across as surprisingly relatable. I felt like I was getting to know her. I also love a series that makes me feel like I'm learning something and, while surely dramatically interpreted, the events depicted in the series are all based on history.

We flew through this ten episode series and the second season cannot get here soon enough.

Kids Read Truth Advent Table Cards

If you're not familiar with She Reads Truth and are interested in exploring the Bible more deeply you should definitely check it out. They offer Bible studies for women through their website, their app, and beautifully designed publications as well - there's also He Reads Truth for men.

Anyway, back to the cards. The set includes a card for each day of Advent with a verse and questions to discuss with your kids at the dinner table (or wherever works for you). There are three questions on each card, each geared to different age levels.

Our set just arrived today and even though Advent isn't here yet we decided to try out the first card. The simplest of the questions was just right for Elia and she took to the cards right away. I explained that Advent is the season when we anticipate ("What does anticipate mean, Mommy?") and prepare for Jesus' birthday and she lit right up since, you know, she loves birthdays and she loves Jesus. I am so excited to try these table cards out this Advent season as a family.

Those are my two favorites for today. I hope you enjoy and find it useful, even if it is just for finding a new series to binge watch.


halloween at hess

Today was the most beautiful Michigan fall day. The weather was gorgeous and the sun was shining and it was just perfect.

After church we took Wells for his first haircut. We had very mixed emotions about this as we had grown to love his sweet, curly little mullet. We knew that cut would mean a farewell to his baby curls and we weren't entirely ready but, alas, it was time. Please enjoy the photos below, documenting Wells' before and during experience. They show the mullet in full force and his very not mixed emotions during the haircut.



In celebration of having just completed 31 laps around the sun, I thought I'd share with you 31 things.

1. Today is my birthday.

2. I am 31.

3. The kids slept in today until 8:00! This is nothing short of a birthday miracle.

4. We've spent this weekend celebrating with great food and great company.

5. Todd's brother, Scott, and his new fiancee, Jessica were in town visiting.

6. In the name of celebration - their engagement (yay!) and my birthday - we ate our weight in delicious meals from The Sovengard, Grove, and That Early Bird.

7. The Sovengard is particularly dreamy.

8. Delicious too. Butternut squash fries with apple butter and Westside Punch were my favorites.


cozy season

It's official. I can't help myself. When the first cool breezes roll in at the end of August or beginning of September, I start thinking about pulling layers out of storage, wrapping up in a blanket, and the crunch of leaves under my feet. I start planning Halloween costumes and visits to orchards and dreaming of apple cider.

This weekend, my family gave into all of that and we spent Saturday morning at Sietsema's Orchards and my dreams of cider became a reality. A reality coupled with a warm apple cinnamon doughnut. And just like that, we are in full-on fall mode.


first day of preschool

Yesterday was Elia's first day of real school. She's in three-year-old preschool three days a week at the school she'll be in through all of elementary school. We're excited to become part of that community. I should note that she spent her summer there at their summer day camp so she is already familiar with the building, some of the teachers, and some of the students. But this is PRESCHOOL guys! It's kind of a big deal.

She was a little shy when we got there but was excited to find her locker and classroom. After that, the classroom door opened and she gave me a big hug and ran off to jump into her day.


summer summary

Just checking in after months away from the blog. Needless to say, this summer has been full, busy, and oh so fun.

Some highlights...


camp wells (wells is one!)

It's been just over a week since Wells turned one, and a week since we celebrated his first year. We invited friends and family to join us at Camp Wells - his camping themed birthday party. We hosted at my in-laws' lake house, the perfect spot to let a gaggle of kids, ages 6 and under, run wild.


girls weekend: chicago

Two of my favorite people in the world have birthdays just six days apart from each other. To my delight, they are also two of each other's favorite people so when I found out my sister was going to be in Chicago, a mere two and a half hours away on her birthday, we quickly decided that the best way to celebrate both her birthday and Elia's would be to spend a long weekend together in Chicago. Our mom was available to join too making it a perfect girls weekend.

We left early Friday morning and Elia was such a great road tripper. As soon as we could see Chicago, she was so excited and kept pointing to buildings and saying, "Is that Chicago?" So sweet.

And now...in lieu of all of the words that I could offer you, I give you all of the pictures. (And just a few words peppered in to explain.)


wells: month eleven

Our Wellsy turned eleven months a week ago - that means he only has one more month to go before he's a year. Wow!

He is so active. I swear, I keep saying that but his level of activity is just so intense and constant. It's to the point that we have to literally pin him down just to change his diaper. And that usually doesn't work out well for us.


egn: third birthday

We officially have a three year old.

I keep hearing myself say that I can't believe that Elia is three but, honestly, I can. Two was hard to believe but three, I saw coming. Honestly speaking, this year has seemed long. Not too long, exactly, but so much has happened in the last year. We've felt really tested and challenged as we navigate the growing pains of life as a family of four, all while Elia navigated becoming a sister, sharing her parents' previously undivided attention, plus all of the normal wonderfulness that comes along with toddlerhood. I've been looking forward to the promise of three, like our very own little happy new year.



I retook Wells' official ten-month picture over the weekend.

Buster Brown at least stayed in one spot for more than a microsecond this time. It might have even been a full second.

This kid is B-U-S-Y. He hardly stays still for even a diaper change any more. Except when I shove a bottle in his mouth for the duration - that always works. He also sprouted his third tooth last Wednesday. It's coming in slowly but surely. Busy boy, so much growing being done.

Have a happy Thursday, everyone!


wells: month ten

On Sunday we celebrated ten months since Wells was born.

This month he:

1. Eats like a monster. He'll gobble down anything you put in front of him as quickly as you can set it down.

2. Won't sit still for his monthly photos. (I think we'll try again another day.)


a joke from elia

Last week, Todd and the kids were having breakfast while I got ready for work. Wells was covered with at least half of his breakfast and Elia blessed or morning with this little joke tha we found legitimately funny.

Elia: Good morning, Cheerio!

Todd: Good Morning, Wellsy-O!

Elia: He's not Wellsy-O, he's sucio!

Okay, I realize this is going to take a little explanation. I speak Spanish with the kids and sucio means dirty in Spanish. Get it? He's not Wellsy-O, he's dirty. 

You have to admit that's pretty clever, a sweet little bilingual joke. Cue pride swelling in Mom's heart.


four things for spring

The weather here hit sixty-plus degrees here yesterday. All of a sudden, I am feeling very comfortable saying that spring has finally arrived to West Michigan. Welcome spring! Please, please, make yourself feel right at home.

In celebration of spring's arrival, I'm sharing four things for spring today.

1. Jones Design Co. Spring Essentials Print

Do you follow the Jones Design Company blog? It's beautiful. Emily Lex is the creator of the site and showcases her beautiful home, lots of fun do-it-yourself decor ideas, tutorials and workshops, monthly printables such as this beautiful print (available as a free download here), and a wonderful variety of beautiful moments and wisdoms. She also sells art prints, her own and others', through her marketplace, Maker + Ink. I love the lightness of it all!


big church

Elia has been asking to come to "big church" with us before heading to nursery on Sunday mornings since the fall. We drop Wells off in nursery and then head to the service together until Elia decides it's no longer interesting and heads towards nursery for the remainder of the service. This morning started off the same but today she stayed long enough to see all of the kids go up to the front of church for the children's message. And she wanted to join. Why not?

With her teddy bear in her arms and pacifier in her mouth, she made her way up to the front. Thankfully, we were sitting much closer to the front of church than we usually do. I followed behind, finding a spot along the side aisle where she could see me and easily come back if she decided the children's message scene wasn't for her.

She got there and didn't quite know what to do. She spent about a minute standing up and staring at the pastor as she spoke but then, she turned around and found herself a seat amongst the bigger kids, all by herself. She sat listening for a few minutes, getting a feel for the landscape. She made eye contact with me and I gave her a big reassuring smile and a thumbs up. You're doing so well!, I thought.


wells: month nine

What a month it has been for Wells! Of course, if you read my last post, you already know that he is hitting milestones left and right: crawling, teeth, pulling up on things, saying "mama" and "dada" and making all sorts of other sweet vocalizations. He's changing so fast and it's so fun to watch.

Wells is nine months as of this week. When I think of the nine-month mark, it always feels to me like the start of the approach to his first birthday. Eight months still seems closer to the middle of a year than the end but now, at nine months, he only has so much baby time left.

This was the first photo I took of him today.

That pretty much some up life these days - this kid is on the move!


milestone madness

Wells has had a really big couple of weeks and we're quite excited about it around here.

In the last ten days, he has not only cut his first tooth but also his second.


springtime vibes

The past few days have been gorgeous around these parts, I'm talking 50+ degrees on Friday, blue skies all weekend, and sun shining brightly. We are so used to long, grey, winters here in West Michigan and it is so energizing and refreshing to have a string of sunny days to break up the gloom many of us feel by February.

We spent more time outside in the last three days than we have in months, enjoying a walk around Reed's Lake, sunny Saturday errands, and a trip to the playground on Sunday. It. Was. Awesome. 


vday outtakes

I wanted the kids to pose for a Valentine's picture, nothing fancy just a shot of them showing off their sibling love. This is what we came up with:

Not bad. They're both looking in my general direction. Of course that was one of about fifty shots, and frankly, the others are so funny. We joke that Elia loves Wells in theory but not always in practice. That shines through in a few of these. Enjoy the Neckers kids, unedited.


galentine's fun

We had a lovely weekend celebrating love with our family and friends. On Saturday, Elia and I hosted a little "galentine's" play date. A group of my mom friends and their kids came over in the morning and we drank mimosas, made some Valentine crafts, and enjoyed more than our share of sweet treats (thank you to Jennie, Maddie, Sarah, Parker, and Anya for bringing the delicious and adorable cookies and cupcakes!).

Elia loved having her little friends over to play and she especially enjoyed sneaking doughnut holes while I wasn't looking.


wells: month eight

What a month Wells' eighth month has been! It flew by so incredibly fast, partially due to the fact that we weren't at home for most of it making our daily rush just that much crazier.

He has been working towards crawling but isn't quite there yet.


we're home!

When I posted about our kitchen renovation, I didn't mention that we weren't staying in our home while it was underway. This was an amazing relief and we are so grateful that Todd's parents have a nearby lake house that is only used seasonally so they were willing to share it with us so we didn't have to live in a construction zone. We moved there a few days after Christmas and finally moved back home today.

It is so good to be back.

As you can see below, the kitchen is not finished yet but it's getting close. We are without a stove, dishwasher, garbage disposal, cabinet doors and drawers, the walls and trim are desperate for a paint job, our fridge is in the living room, and the rest of the house is a dusty cluttered mess. Despite that, we are ready to get back to normal after nearly a month away from home, for our sake and the kids'.


a day off

Wow - I really started 2016 off with a bang in terms of number of blog posts. After that initial flurry, I took all of last week off, largely because we were back into our routine and that routine can feel busy, busy, busy.

Today I got a break from the busy as our offices were closed in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Let me tell you, this was such a welcome time out.

(For suggestions of meaningful ways to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, click here.)

I took my time this morning, getting ready, organizing some things around the house, and spent a little time reflecting on some ideas I've been toying with lately over lunch. It has been so long since I've had a genuinely free day and it was so lovely to be able to have the space to think some things through without my lunch break ending or a child waking up.


a holiday recap

With my mind on all of the possibilities of a new year, I never took the time to reflect on our holiday season on the blog. We ran into a lot of snags the week of Christmas to the point that it was starting to feel comical but despite that we still had a lovely holiday season.

We enjoyed Wells' first Christmas and we think he did too.


winter walk

Today we went on a snowshoeing hiking adventure. Due to warmer than average conditions, our planned snowshoeing and sledding adventure turned into a lovely winter hike. No one seemed to mind.


reading list + book club reboot?

I fancy myself a reader but the truth is, I don't take as much time to read as I used to. I have a dear friend who read hundreds of books every year, she's amazing and I aspire to join her in the hundreds club one day but until then, I'm hoping to fit in at least 10-15 books this year.

I'm currently reading China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, a very light read, which is the follow up to Crazy Rich Asians, an equally light and playful read that I finished a few weeks ago.

After I finish that up, here are some ideas for my next read:

I'd love to hear if you've read any of these books or if you have any can't-miss suggestions. I especially adore historical fiction but also have a soft spot for contemporary fiction such as anything by Liane Moriarty.

A group of girls and I once started up a book club, it lasted for a few months but just became an excuse to get together, which is great too. It waned with time but I keep thinking that it would be fun
to start up again, maybe a virtual edition since everyone is so busy these days? If anyone has tried that, I'd love to hear thoughts on how it's worked for you and if you'd be interested in joining.

Happy reading, please share what books you're looking forward to reading this year in the comments.


kitchen renovation

If you follow me on my private Instagram account, you may have seen this picture:

That's right, we are in the midst of a major kitchen renovation (squeal!) and I am so excited to see the end result.

When we moved in, our kitchen looked like this:

Cute enough but it had some real quirks. Most notably, the peninsula made it impossible to open our refrigerator door fully. That's right, I haven't opened my fridge door the whole way in four years.


wells: month seven

Wells is now seven months old, wow. We were away from home on his seven month birthday so I didn't get a chance to take his official monthly photo but I still snapped a few pictures to commemorate the day.

My baby boy is growing up so quickly. He hasn't hit any major milestones in the last month but he is becoming more agile and he's hinting at crawling soon. What an adventure it will be when we have two mobile children at home!


focus 2016: enough

Over the past few days I've covered my focuses of family, faith, and wellness for 2016. Today, we'll dive into my final focus: enough.

This one is fairly straightforward. Simply, I am enough, I do enough, I have enough.

It's easy to feel like you you aren't enough - not productive enough, not fun enough, not thin enough, not (whatever it is) enough. Living that way, like you are never enough, is exhausting.

I know in my heart that not enough is a lie, but in this world of edited everything, it is easy to feel like everyone else has it figured out - their hair always looks great, their outfits are on point, their kids look adorable in their coordinated outfits as they play together happily, their marriage looks easy breezy, and they seem to always be out doing so many fun things. We all fall victim to the comparison game at some point. We tell ourselves that we should do more, accomplish more, that our to-do list should have more things checked off at the end of the day. We try to keep up.

This year, I want to let go of keeping up because I am enough, I do enough.


focus 2016: wellness

This year I am focusing on: family, faith, wellness, and enough. I've shared how I plan to approach family and faith intentionally in 2016 so that bring us to wellness.

For me, wellness means feeling good and treating myself well. Here's how:

1. Moving my body.
After having two babies in the last two and a half years, my body has changed significantly with my weight and shape fluctuating during my pregnancies, nursing, and postpartum recovery. I've found that since becoming pregnant for the first time, I feel more confident in my own skin. Having carried and delivered two babies makes me feel like my body is capable of amazing things and the bumps and extra bits don't bother me like they would have before babies. 

That said, my body does not feel like my body once did. It is aging along with me. I don't have the same kind of time and energy to devote to yoga or running that I did before motherhood, when all of my free time was my own, when free time existed. And I miss that. I miss feeling as strong as I once did.


focus 2016: faith

In 2016, I've decided to pick four areas to focus on: family, faith, wellness, and enough. Yesterday, I shared how I plan to be intentional with my family and today I want to talk about faith.

My faith isn't something that I talk about a lot but it's one of the things that's been most important to me throughout my life. There are times when I'm more and less intentional with my relationship with God but it's foundational and I want to be purposeful about that relationship this year in a way that I haven't been recently.

I have always had a hard time with discernment. What is God trying to tell me? How is He trying to work in my life? How do I know if it's God telling me something or if I just hope that it is? This past fall I started feeling little tugs, little moments when I felt God's presence or saw little reminders of His will. Over and over this was happening, just very small things in the midst of the bustle of returning to work, managing two kids, and trying to keep my sanity. This was the first time where I really felt that all of these small things were definitely God trying to remind me that He is there and that He needs to be at the core of everything I do. 

At the same time, we have been teaching Elia about God, Jesus, and the Bible and teaching her to pray. Praying aloud has always been uncomfortable for me but as we've been teaching her to pray, I've become more comfortable and consistent with my prayers. It's humbling to see what God can teach us through our children.

This year, I'm really looking forward to continuing this journey of spiritual growth and am planning to use the following resources to help me:


focus 2016: family

In 2016, I've decided to pick four areas to focus on: family, faith, wellness, and enough. Today, I want to talk about how I'll be focusing on family this year.

I hope and believe that this will be the simplest thing for me to prioritize this year. Already my family is the most important thing to me, the most prominent thing in my life. With such young children, it has to be. This year, I want to be more intentional about how our family spends its time and interacts and hope to do that in the following ways:


happy new year!

Happy New Year! We had a great time ringing in 2016 with friends and celebrating Todd's birthday last night. For those who don't know, my husband is a NYE baby, doubling our reason to celebrate every December 31. (Happy birthday, Love!)

With the new year comes the anticipation and excitement of the chance to start fresh. I'm not big on resolutions but since turning 30 in October, I have found myself in a reflective mindset, thinking about things I can work on, areas where I can grow. Based on those reflections, I've decided to define intentional focuses for the coming year and specific ways by which to approach them throughout the year.

My focuses for 2016 are:


In the coming week, I'll share what I mean by each focus and how I plan to prioritize them throughout the year, including some concrete actions I'll be taking in the coming weeks.

Until then, I'd love to hear what your focus or resolutions for 2016 will be, please feel free to share in the comments below. Here's to a wonderful 2016!