Happy Birthday!

This weekend we celebrated Jake's 29th birthday!

Since my Father's Day picture debacle posted here, I made sure to get some good shots of my man and our kids together.

We were waiting and waiting to have Jake's birthday treat.  He isn't much of a cake guy so we made him Reese's Peanut Butter bars instead.  We couldn't wait any longer so we had them for a before-lunch snack...and yes, I won the "Cool Mom Award" from my kids for that!  :)

Apparently, instant gratification was the theme of Jake's birthday this year because I gave him his gift when it arrived earlier in the week!  I was so proud of myself because I was very sneaky, ordering him a t-shirt from Mendmark that he had seen and wanted a couple of weeks before.  I deleted the receipt from my purchase, and even cleared our Internet's history so he'd never know what I got him.  Just call me Lois Lane.  :)

Each of the kids made their very own card for Jake.  This is the part that is so sweet.  Here is Laina's:

The inside read, "Dear Daddy, I love our morning time together and I love when you hold me.  Love, Laina."  I know that's exactly what she would have said had she known the words to say it.  :)

I didn't get an outside photo of Hayden's but hers was Tinkerbell.  The inside is the best anyway:

Do you see all of the "H"s around the paper?  That's her first letter she's recognizing and she was so proud to write them all by herself all over her Daddy's card.

Maurah's card:

Again, Maurah recognizes "M" and writes this letter whenever she can.  She was so happy her Dad noticed that she wrote it all by herself!

Last but absolutely not least is Cole's:

He was so sweet how he kept going on and on about how much he loves his Dad.  And then, to top it off, he wrote the "Love, Cole" in "cursive"! Did you notice that?!?  What a guy.

And what a guy THIS guy is.  I am thinking this is my new absolute favorite picture ever.  All the people I love so much, loving a gorgeous day with each other.  Life doesn't get any better than this!

Happy 29th, Jake!  We love you so much!


I'm so thankful for times like these because it makes me feel like I still have a baby in Laina.  She is growing so quickly and I just want to hold onto this time, this age, this stage with her.  It is slipping away way too fast!  But seeing her fall asleep on her little couch, she's a sweet little baby still...and that makes this mom very happy.


Maurah and I scored two "big girl" bikes at a garage sale this last week.  They have been begging for big bikes since they spent a week in Michigan riding their cousins'.  They are pleased as punch to have them...can you tell? (And yes, helmets are on the way.  :) )

Hooray for big girls!!


I love when the kids get so involved in their imagining that they are in their own worlds for a while.  The other day, I let them get out a bunch of my kitchen things and they played for about 2 1/2 hours before moving on to something else. 
They set up a bunch of cups for Cole's surprise party.  Cole walked into the kitchen while the girls hid and yelled "Surprise!" when he walked back into the living room.

They played "cooking school" where they stirred about every piece of plastic food they could get their hands on, giving directions about the "wecipe" along the way.

Doesn't this look so tasty?

Even the youngest got in on it!

If I knew the fun that a few plastic cups and pie pans could provide, I'd have brought them out a long time ago!

Father's Day

Father's Day was very special this year because we got to have Jake's dad visiting us in our new home of Wisconsin for the first time!  It was so great to have both his mom and dad here for a nice overnight visit Saturday and Sunday.

They came Saturday morning and we visited for a while and then got to show them around town and headed over to a new restaurant we haven't tried yet for lunch.  The food was delicious!  I wish I had had my camera with me because Jake's dad ordered nachos as an appetizer and it was stacked about a foot high on this huge plate!  We just laughed when the waitress brought it out and placed it right in front of him! 

We gave Jake his gifts on Sunday morning and I'm so disappointed in myself because this is the only picture I have of him with the kids all day.  And it's only one kid.  For the whole day.  Ugh.

We said goodbye to Mom and Dad Manne after church and then we headed out to lunch to celebrate Jake.  I can't even tell you how much I love this man and the father he is to our kids.  In a lot of ways, he's much tougher on them than I am but I can't even describe how good that is for them.  And I see it in the way they cherish every bit of time they get with him.  Because he's so awesome, they do get a lot of time with him...way more than most kids get with their dad.  I'm so thankful for that!

I really doubt that he ever saw himself as being a dad of four at the age of 28...but God definitely knew what He was doing!  Jake loves these kids so deeply and I love him more and more as I watch him parent them.  From teaching Cole basketball, to helping the girls with their "big girl" bikes, and snuggling with Laina when she's sad or tired...my heart melts in it all.

I realize how blessed I am to have a husband who wants to be here for our kids.  One who wants the absolute best for them and strives to be his absolute best for them.  He rocks our world and our family is so much stronger because of him.

Thanks, Jake.  I love you so much!

an interview with Cole

What is your favorite food? 

What is your favorite drink? 

What is your favorite movie?

What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy?
Go to storage with him

What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy?
Snuggle and read books like we just did

What is your favorite thing to do with the girlies?
Play dollhouse with them

What are you scared of?
Bad dreams

What is your favorite color?
Orange and brown oh!  And blue!

Who are your best friends?
Will, Leto, A.J., Sophie and Genevieve

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A police officer.  I bet Will will want to be a police officer too!
Because police officers capture bad guys!

What is your favorite song?
The Springtime Song

What is your favorite book?
The Grouchy Ladybug

What do you like to do when you are by yourself?
Eat ice cream

What flavor of ice cream is your favorite? 

Are you excited to be in Kindergarten this fall?
Why are you excited?
Because...ugh!  I forgot!

What makes you happy?
When you and I and me and Dad go explore.

What's your favorite joke?
Why did the chicken cross the road? (He-he-he).  Because he wanted to go to school!  Oh and I've got another joke!  Why did the horse hit the wall?  Because he was a giant horse!  Hahahaha!  Oh and I've got another one!  Why did the olive pass the car?  Because he got hurt!  Okay, I'm tired of talking.  My battery died.

And I'll leave you all with that five-year old great sense of humor!


With all of my hopes and dreams of summer goals, there's one in particular that I am working on for myself.  Really, it's for my whole family's benefit, but it's something that needs to happen in me.  I recently read a blog (and darn if I can't remember where) that was encouraging for moms, wives and really could be applicable to any person on this planet.  The question they asked was funny to me at first:

Are you a thermometer or a thermostat in your home?

I didn't understand the concept until they explained what each of these tools does.  (And again, I'm kicking myself that I can't find the blog post - if anyone knows what I'm talking about, please share it because I'm sure their words were much more eloquent than mine will be!)

A thermometer reads a temperature and a thermostat controls the temperature. 

As a wife, mom, human being, I have a choice each day that will affect those around me.  I can just read the temperature of the situations I'm in and not be very helpful or I can do whatever I can to help set the temperature.

Right now, I see this with my kids.  There are days that I wake up, ready to face the day, excited for what's in store, I've got a plan A in my hand and plan B in my back pocket if the first plan fails.  I am prepared for whatever comes my way.  I choose to not let tantrums, arguing and toy stealing affect my attitude.  I am efficient in the housework and diligent in using my time to play and love on the kids.

There are also days where I wake up and can barely get my sleepy eyes opened enough to walk down the stairs.  I am grumpy and I let this trickle down to the kids and even Jake.  I'm not naturally a morning person to begin with, but these days are just plain laden with frustration.  Kids are fighting, then I'm fighting and the whole house is unhappy.  Once this kind of a day begins, it's hard to get it back on track.

This kind of a day would be one where I am a thermometer.  I am just reading what's happening in the house and have no power in getting our out-of-control "fever" back to normal because I'm not even in a good place myself.

The first day I mentioned would be one where I'm a thermostat.  I'm setting the tone in our house and doing a huge part to control areas I can to make it a more pleasant environment for all of us (through my own self-control).  I find it hard to always be a thermostat because some days, I really don't look forward to what's in store.  I focus on the mounds of laundry and dishes, the rut of each day and don't look for the opportunities to make the day before me a great one.

So, this is my summer goal...to have more days of being a thermostat than a thermometer.  To wake each day with a better perspective (and if I don't wake with it, to get it turned around in my time with God in the morning!).  To have a plan to love my kids well, encourage my kids well and keep myself centered on what's most important rather than leading with how I'm feeling at any particular moment.

I'm not sure if this is the most trackable goal but I suppose it's going to be obvious when we get "in the groove".  Through much prayer, I'm working as hard as I can in this area...and not just in my own little home but in all of my relationships!  Teens can do it in their schools, with their parents...parents can do it with their kids, in their jobs...spouses can do it with each other...what a blessing we would be if we learned this little (and very difficult) principle!

If anyone has any good ideas in setting a positive temperature, let me know!  I always need all the help I can get.  :)

Summertime...and the livin' is easy

I am loving summer so far. 

Today is what I would call our first day of real summer vacation.  We have no plans to go anywhere or do anything and I can't tell you how great that feels!

This morning I got to enjoy listening to the kids play "camping".  I zipped two sleeping bags together so they could all fit in them together.  I wish I had my camera because it was quite a sight!  I loved hearing them start giving each other "roles"...you know, who's the mom, the dad, etc.  So Hayden ended up being the dad, Maurah was the mom and then I heard Cole say, "Alright, fine!  But DON'T call me daughter because I am a son, NOT a daughter...got it?"  To which the girls replied, "Okay, okay!"  It cracked me up.  While Hayden is happy as can be to be the dad, Cole would rather die than play a girl's part.  Isn't it so funny how quickly that changes from age 3 to 5? 

All of the sudden then, they all got busy building puzzles.  Two of my favorite things ever for kids to do:  ride bikes and build puzzles.  So they get the puzzle all over the floor and I listen to Cole teaching the girls to build the outside of the puzzle first.  "See how this piece has a line on it?  And this one doesn't?  You want the pieces with the lines first, hun."  I love listening to them when they work together!  Is there anything better than some love and teamwork between your kids?!?

We are all working toward having a good week this week so that on Friday (Jake's day off) we can go to the Madison Zoo for our first time.  I really hope we have a good week because my favorite thing ever to do with the kids is go to the zoo!  I really don't want to miss out on this trip!  I'm sure I'll have tons of photos to post too.  :)

I leave you with this photo of Hayden walking out of her class at Adventure Camp last week.  She saw me with my camera and immediately struck a pose...what a diva! :)

Our First Last Day

Yesterday was Cole's last day of preschool!  We celebrated with an end-of-year ice cream party in his class.  It was fun to see Cole interact with kids who are still new to him.  Surprisingly, he was pretty different than he was in his school in Michigan.  I'm not sure why...maybe just the dynamic of this class?  Either way, I don't think I'll ever tire of getting a peek into my boy's "other" world...that secret one that I have no idea about except from the bits and pieces I gather from my conversations with him or when I get to go and visit now and then.  It's so fun to see him in a different element and I can't wait to have that experience with the girls too!  (Although, the time really doesn't need to fly by any faster!)

Cole was excited to give his teachers a bouquet of flowers with a handmade card for each and a Starbucks gift card inside for a yummy treat.  Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of him with his teachers because I forgot to bring my camera...grrr. 

We are excited to be on summer vacation and are kicking it off with tons of visits from friends and family, VBS and a whole lot of other fun things that I'm sure you'll see on here!  I've never been a huge fan of summer since I graduated high school because there wasn't much of a change for me.  But now that I'm dreading September when I send my little man to school all day, I'm loving the chance I get to have all of my kids with me all day long.  Sure, there will be challenges.  But not having to rush them all out the door to keep on a schedule that doesn't fit our normal family routine?  I'm so excited for that!  And just knowing these are my last few months where I get the most time with Cole compared to anyone else?  That's something I'm treasuring too.

Dear Cole,

You have grown so much this past year!  I'm so proud of you, not only for finishing preschool, but for all of the changes you've endured this year.  In less than one year, you have lived in four different houses (with another move happening again in July!).  You have attended three different churches, two different schools, had four different teachers and many different friends and faces to get used to.  You were such a brave boy when we made this last move to Wisconsin and you told me very boldly that you wanted to start school even though you knew it wouldn't be very long and that you'd be putting yourself in a position where you didn't know anybody.  That first day when I walked you in, I was so proud of you for giving me a kiss and letting go of my hand, walking in with Mrs. Schrader, a teacher you had never met and a classroom you had never been.  I get teary writing this, thinking of all of the changes you've had this year and you have handled them so well.  You have shown me that you definitely are not my baby anymore and that you are comfortable with yourself and with meeting new people.  I'm so thankful for these two things and pray that they will always be a part of your personality...that your love for yourself in God will grow and that you will love people and want to get to know them.  As hard as it is to let you grow up, I know that you are already spreading your wings and doing such a great job at flying on your own in some areas.  I can't wait to see what kind of a young man you become!

I love you. 
Love always,


We are about to kick off a big celebration for summer vacation around here.  Seriously...not having to eat lunch at 10:30 every day and wrangle my crew of children into the 90 degree weather just to load them into the even hotter van and fight them over who gets to buckle them in with burning seat belts is NOT going to make this mom cry one bit.  It's time for a HUGE celebration!  :)

With all of our celebrating, we're going to mix in a few different things...particularly in the form of summer goals.

This is the first year that I'm doing summer goals with the kids.  I've seen a few different articles on this in all of my Google-ing and thought it might be something good for our family to implement this year.  Sooo...without further adieu, here they are!

Our Summer Goals
Megan's Goals:  1.) Blog at least once a week 2.) Do at least 2 real photo shoots in Wisconsin 3.) raise money for Ethiopia??
Cole's Goal:  Learn to tie shoes
Maurah's Goal:  Learn ABC's
Hayden's Goal:  Learn ABC's 

So those are it!  Once we reach our goal, we get to treat ourselves...Cole's will probably be in the form of a new game or book, Maurah's and Hayden's will most likely be the Tangled dress-up clothes or doll, and me?  I'll be treating myself to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory!  Mmm...

I'll keep this blog updated on our goals!  And share a comment!  Do you have any summer goals?  Have you ever done this with your kids before?  If so, share some tips!


How many days do you feel like you're not enough?

This is a struggle that I really thought I had come to terms with.  One that I had beaten down and gotten over.  The thorn in my flesh that I had plucked out and thrown away for good.

And then yesterday happened.  All of the sudden, everything that I've been pursuing was pulled down, put on the ground, and stomped on while all I heard was, "you're not ______ enough."  Go ahead and fill in the blank.

Creative enough.

Thin enough.

Patient enough.

Spiritual enough.

Kind enough.

Selfless enough.

Humble enough.

Smart enough.

Bold enough.

Focused enough.

The list goes on.  Last night I just sat in this very chair I'm in right now and rambled off to Jake how I'm failing in every single area of my life.  That I'll never measure up.  That there's no way all of the things I hope to be will ever happen because they are all such different things.  That I don't have the capacity to be what I long to be.  And why?

Why do I believe all of these things that I know are lies?  Why do I lower my standard and say that I am not capable of being the kind of woman, wife, mom, photographer, believer that I want to be?  Why?!?

I'm doing a study with Jake and, in it, the author said something that I have been running through my mind this entire week.  He says,

The gospel, if it is really believed, removes neediness - the need to be constantly respected, appreciated, and well regarded; the need to have everything in your life go well; the need to have power over others.  All of these great, deep needs continue to control you only because the concept of the glorious God delighting in you with all his being is just that - a concept and nothing more.  Our hearts don't believe it so they operate in default mode.  Paul is saying (in Titus 2) that if you want to really change, you must let the gospel teach you - that is to train, discipline, coach you - over a period of time.  You must let the gospel argue with you.  You must let the gospel sink down deeply into your heart, until it changes your motivation and views and attitudes.
-Tim Keller, Gospel in Life
That's just it for me - I'm believing in a concept but not really understanding how deep the Father's love is for me.  I don't wake up every day, thankful for the cross, recognizing how incredible and profound two beams nailed together really are.

This morning I read a few chapters in Romans and chapter 8 really spoke to me regarding this idea again:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 I am trying so desperately hard to believe this with all of me.  To believe it so much that it dictates my every move throughout the day.  That I let this truth sink deeply in my heart and change me.

I am prone to disbelief because I don't truly believe.  I am prone to falling into lies because I don't fully recognize the truth.  It's one thing to recognize how incredible God is...that, I have no problem doing.  It's a whole other thing to recognize how incredible God's love is for me.  It's so mind-blowing, it's hard to swallow.

The truth is, on my own, I'm not enough.  But what's so awesome is that I'm not on my own.  I have the living, breathing Spirit of God within me.  So I don't have to get over this on my own.  I don't have to depend on myself to beat down and get over this temptation.  It's not my job alone to pluck this thorn out of my flesh and toss it away.

I have Someone with me who tells me that I am more than a conqueror when I find my hope and strength in Him.  

I have Someone who tells me I am more than enough...I was enough for Him to die for me and, not only that, but enough for Him to rise again so I can one day be with Him forever. 

I'm choosing today to marinate my heart in the gospel.  I'm choosing to allow it to change me and this weak, weak faith I have.  I will say that I am enough and stop comparing myself to others.  Because I have a Savior who thinks I measure up just fine.  He's been wanting to tell me this for a long time and I just never listened.  I'm praying that changes today.

Bring It On!

If this is a glimpse of what summer will bring, I can't wait.

 Okay, I have to preface these next photos.  My nephew, Leto, is one of the coolest guys I know.  One of the things that makes him so incredibly cool is his never-ending knowledge of superheroes.  What makes him even cooler is his ability to do incredible superhero moves.  And what makes him the coolest is that he showed off those moves to me while I had my camera in hand.  That boy knows how to win his aunt's heart!

Yeah, these last few might be more of a monkey dance...it made us all laugh though!

Okay, summer, I've decided I'm ready.  You're not usually my favorite time of year but watching the smiles on these kids makes my heart melt.  So bring on the popsicles, the Kool-Aid mustaches, the kiddie pools and the sunscreen.  If these photos are any indication, this summer is going to be SO much fun!

A New Spark

June also brought with it a somewhat new adventure for Maurah.  She joined MainStage Academy of Dance in the winter and showcased her work t...