Wednesday, November 30

find your gift

Morning friends:) Do I need to specify that 'it's Emily' now that Richard and I are going back and forth a bit on here? haha Right now I'm sitting in my 'dungeon office' (as I've dubbed it) wrapped in a blanket at my desk. My fingers feel pretty numb as I'm clicking away, but there's a little space heater on the floor pointed at my feet, and I have a little plate of warm apple pie here with me too, so I'm doin alright:)
Well since it's the first day of December (how?!), my mind is moving pretty fast over my mental list of the things I need/want to get done this month. I'm never too hard on myself anymore when I don't get more than one or two(if I'm lucky) things accomplished on that overwhelmingly long list, but instead I try to feel glad that I at least gave it a shot. That's the most important thing right? Because little by little, a little becomes a lot:) I'm just really excited about a fresh new calendar, a clean slate, new chances, new routines, etc. But back to December, and yes Christmas!

I mentioned on IG a few days ago that since the holidays started especially, we've been putting extra effort into daily acts of gratitude with the kids, and also paying it forward and giving back as much as possible. We've talked about different ways we can do service and charity work as a family for our friends and in our community, and to help the kids catch the spirit of giving for Christmas instead of receiving, especially after how much we've been carried by so many for so long. We've talked about possible ways that we can use our own unique talents and resources to give and share and bring help and happiness to others. 
As for actual gift giving, we've decided to simplify as much as possible this year. I've already sat down with the older kids and helped them plan out an idea of what things they could maybe make by hand to give to each other, and Richard and I have talked about what type of gifts might be more meaningful or special than others. Even with starting early on preparing, Thanksgiving day was much harder than I expected, so it feels good to be slowly moving towards Christmas, spreading things out and taking our time to work through every new layer of the holidays. 

I also decided for the blog, that once again I won't be sharing any item collages with affiliate links or 'his and her gift guides' throughout the month, but instead I would like to reach out to a few of my favorite shops and see if I can get you guys discount codes (or possibly even giveaways?) for some of my all-time favorite, tried and true, most loved and used things that I own and would absolutely recommend for yourselves or as gifts. The first on that list that I'm really excited about is Daniel Wellington. 
I bought my first watch from them a couple years ago, and have loved and supported them as a company ever since! In these photos I'm wearing the womens Classic Durham in gold, and Richard is wearing the mens Classic Black Reading in silver. All of their watches are simple, classic, and timeless (no pun intended), and would make such a wonderful gift for anyone at the top of your Christmas list this year. Right now for the holidays they're offering discounts on bundles such as a watch and a strap or a watch and a cuff, they're also offering free shipping, free gift wrapping, and free returns! On top of the bundle discount you can use the code: FRECKLEDFOX which will save you another 15% off your purchase:)

Thanks so much for reading, and I'd love to hear if you're getting a jump on your Christmas shopping too, or any favorite holiday traditions that you have in your family?

Happy Holidays my people,

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.  -David Viscott
A big thank you to Daniel Wellington for sponsoring this post, and to my readers for supporting the brand partnerships that make this blog possible. 

Monday, November 28


Alright... another load of laundry done. Another day coming to a close. It's Richard again...  It's been another busy few days, but it turns out that I happened to be the lucky one who found the extra tiny bit of time to put some thoughts down.  While I'd love to read the first chapter in the next book of the series I started this month, there's a hum in my brain that suggests I'd rather chat out loud in case some of you are awake and listening. With all the subjects running around in my head, I hope this flows in some way, or we might have more 'whiplash' that Emily spoke of, though probably a slightly different meaning to the word this time. I'll try and keep from letting the flames in the hearth distract me...they're just so peaceful. (I swear we've mentioned our fireplace more than any other single item in the last month. Sorry!  We just really like the calm that seems to come from sitting in front of the fire.)

Today was ... normal. Sort-of. I'm learning all kinds of new things about parenting. Crash courses have been offered here and there over the last decade or two of my life. But now is obviously different. Actually, now would be a good time to explain that a little:

A few years ago, I had a wonderful opportunity to help a friends' family. Their father had been diagnosed with cancer. For the third time. Yes, I said third. For a few months, I was able to help in a simple sense while attending school. I would take this friend's father, who I'll simply call 'Dad', to treatments when my schedule would permit, and help in other ways. Did I mention he had 9 children? The oldest was older than I am, but the range included many at home, all the way down to a 3-year-old. Anyway, 'other ways' that I helped typically meant cleaning up around the house, helping get younger children to various activities, playing (a lot!), and sometimes making food. I'm sure they liked Mom's cooking a lot better than mine though, as my claim to fame is either hot cocoa or grilled ham and cheese (not usually at the same time :P). My standard weekend became family time, and it was wonderful to have something more meaningful than TV to do on the weekends.

This was the way things went for a time. Things changed though after a few busy months passed. 'Dad' wasn't doing well, and I moved in eventually to help more consistently. For a year I lived and breathed family life in many aspects, and learned a lot. Cancer is hard. But it also means a lot of opportunities for growing.  And the kids all handled things in different ways. It was a very special time for me, and while it only lasted a year before I returned to school, it was one of the more meaningful times of my life.

Anyway, I tell you this to say... that I'm not exactly 'new' to family life. This example of 'Dad's' illness and passing is probably the most 'special', but it's one of many experiences that helped me glimpse inside the walls that people call Home. Now I'm a part of one.

So back to what I said before.  Today was... 'normal'. We were on vacation last week, which meant everyone together, all day, for the whole week. Honest comment here: I consider myself an energetic person. I've always prided myself in my ability to keep up with kids!  But 5?  For a full week? Holy cow! I'm out numbered!

Growing up, we were 3 boys for my first 11 years. My Mother and Father took us camping for a week every summer. Through my college years I really started to grasp how much effort that trip was for my parents, but now?!  I'm downright SCARED of the exhaustion that will hit after we have a fun trip like that!  Self-awareness is an awesome thing, but I need those Platinum Energizer Bunny Batteries. Anyone know where the 'Toys-R-Us' for adults is??  Haha

Back to today though. Kids were up before us. We did breakfast without any major issues. High five to us! The kids wanted to play outside afterward, so everyone searched for socks and coats, and went to play. With the temperatures outside that didn't last long so we went to run a few errands. Four and a half HOURS later, we pulled in the driveway again. Woah. We went for milk! :P  After a brief bit of craziness, Ellie asked to help with dinner. Child of the year award, coming up! We ate, packed up again, and went and watched the local fireworks with some dear friends. There were, of course, sweets included in the visit. I couldn't help but laugh as the 7 of us (mostly the smallest 5 mouths) ate through 70% of the food for the party! (Sorry friends!  The next party will have to be on us!) Bouncing, literally, with sugar, we came home and had a quick wind down before bed.

Which brings us to now.

Now, the part I want to talk about. Today was different. I know I said 'normal', and in most ways it was a normal day for this week. Craziness, baths, laundry, messes, cleaning up messes, food, errands, shopping, phone calls, scolding, praising, fighting, crying, making up. But today was also different. Today was the first time I've heard Lydia say that she missed Martin.

Let me see if I can describe this correctly. Ellie and Sophie frequently express their feelings. While they both do it differently, they both have a good grasp on what they're feeling and when. Johnny is a little harder to read because he doesn't slow down to process as well as his older sisters do. He's kinda like the son from 'The Incredibles' where everything is fast and loud and now!  It's play time until he drops. Or gets hungry. But either way, he's usually very focused on what's next. All the same, he does have moments where he expresses that he misses Daddy, and we (sometimes as a family/with Emily and myself, and sometimes more individually because of the circumstance) get to process that with him too.

Lydia on the other hand is ... well... our little smiling chipmunk. She's a bubble of joy that never bursts. The ray of sunlight that always evades the clouds. The evergreen, the jolly elf, the light on the front porch.

And as I said, today was different. Today while we sat in the car at one stop, Lydia was getting less attention than the others. I can reach two from the front seat when we're parked, and Sophie and Ellie were singing along to the radio and talking to each other in the back. While I tickled the closest 2, through the laughter I heard a sad little voice peep "Daddy?", and I realized Lydia was crying. I assumed that when I asked "Lydia, what's wrong??" that she'd respond with the typical "I'm hungry."  Instead, she said, eyes intently focused on mine, "Daddy, I miss Daddy-Martin."

This was the first time that little Lydia had said anything like this. I have approached the subject several times with each of the kids, but never with Lydia. She talks about Martin when we look at photographs, but in a happy tone. This time was a sad face, with pink cheeks, and even a few tears.

With the older kids, we talk through it. We'll discover what brought the memory on, or how they feel, or if they'd like to do something to help with the feelings their having, like let a balloon go for Daddy.  I'm sure every child is different, and I certainly don't have a doctorate in child psychology, but we talk and process what we can, and with questions, the kids get to describe what they're feeling and how they would like to respond to those feeling.

With Lydia, I felt stuck. For a second anyway.

While I looked back at her, I said the only thing that came to mind: "I'm sorry honey," and paused. She nodded, and I asked, "Can I give you a big hug when we get home?"  She smiled a little and said yes.

What really got to me was the next few seconds...

She told me she would like a hug. This made me smile. When I smiled, she smiled some too. I made a happier face at her, and she gave me her big classic Lydia smile.  If it weren't for the wet cheeks, no one would have been able to tell that, moments before, she had been so sad. I turned to Evie and tickled her neck, and squeezed John's thigh making him squirm with laughter too. Then I looked back to see Lydia crying again. When our eyes met, she gave a big smile again. This time as I looked back to the others, my attention stayed on her, and I watched out of the corner of my eye as her face fell again, and tears started to flow as if she hadn't smiled at all. When my eyes returned to hers with my full attention, it brought another smile, but then her face again fell as I looked away. She seemed in limbo, stuck between happy and sad.

This was a truly humbling moment for me.

I haven't been a parent the way I am now for very long, so many things are new.  My hat is off to parents around the world. You are ALL amazing! Day in and day out, while incredibly rewarding, is hard! And for me, this little moment with Lydia was HARD!  I looked into her eyes, and wanted to fix it. I wanted to reason, like we do with Ellie. I wanted to share emotions, like we do with Soph. I wanted to listen to what Johnny had to say, and wait until HE decided to change the subject.

In that moment, I was a brand new parent. No idea what to do with emotions of this size in a child this young. Maybe there WAS nothing I could do. But I didn't have the answer, and I really wanted to have the answer!  Emily wasn't around to help. MY parents weren't there for me to ask them. I was all on my own, Lydia needed me, and I KNEW there was nothing that I could do that would really help her. I was bumbling through a moment with no possible chance to quote-unquote 'save the day'. I just watched little Lydia's face light up, and fade, and light up, and fade.

Having had a few hours now to think about this, things are ok. Little Lydia returned to her happy place, and is now sound asleep. The house is quiet. Stomachs are full. Life is good. In perspective, I'm surprised that these moments of feeling 'lost' as a parent aren't happening to me every hour!  I'm very blessed to have grown up with good parents who never stopped trying. Blessed to know a land of freedom. Blessed to have very rarely been hungry, or truly cold, or have lost my health beyond a nasty cold. I've been blessed with neighbors and friends and loved ones that have taught me many things. Today, I gained another drop of respect for parents. Vacations are HARD WORK!! Children, while 90% of the time (or sometimes less) are wonderful, are also hard work!  I thought the Spartan race was about being tough, that marathons were about endurance. I'd love to see a Navy Seal be tossed into a home with children for a few days, and see how he fares (NOT that I don't have great respect for the armed forces, just a comedic comparison). Grit and toughness are about diapers, and sleepless nights, and bad dreams, and boo-boos. THIS is what life's about, and this is what really matters.

Tonight I head to bed with admiration for families of all sizes, and the parents who lead them. And I head to bed with goals.
1. I want to be even more patient.
2. I want to play harder.
3. I want more sore muscles.
4. I want more sore backs.
5. I want more clean socks.
6. I want more smiling faces.
7. I want to give more hugs.
8. I want to eat more chocolate chips.
9. I want to do more chores.
10. I want to eat more vegetables.
11. I want to make more memories
12. I want to be a better parent, person, husband, friend.

Tonight, I shoot for better. And while today wasn't perfect, and *I* couldn't stem Lydia's tears completely, tomorrow, I want to make sure she smiles more because she knows what a special family she had, has, and will continue to have.

Goodnight all, and thanks for listening/reading,
- Richard


Friday, November 25

Happy Thanksgiving friends ♡♡♡

Happy Thanksgiving friends♡ I've truly felt so glad for all you sweet people with every new family photo in my feed today, but honestly it was a really rough one over here. I don't want to be a downer so I'll spare details, but missing Martin just hurt too much today. We'd decided on pizza for dinner, when some sweet neighbors offered for us to join in their family gathering and meal. We were so humbled at their generosity and kindness, and though today was a different holiday in almost every way, seeing these little ones laugh and play and lick whipped cream off their fingers made it so special anyways.  Today I am so grateful for my five little crazies that help me stay upright and moving every day.  I'm thankful for friends with such big hearts. I'm thankful for our warm hearth.  I'm so incredibly thankful for all of you who truly love and support me and want happiness for my family.  I'm thankful for my Heavenly Father and his tenderness.  I'm so so thankful for my dear angel husband in heaven, for the precious time we had together here, and for teaching me so much about strength and everlasting love. And lastly I'm so thankful for my angel husband here, for coming when we needed him most, for his unending patience and incredibly understanding heart, for helping my little family smile every day, and for his friendship and unconditional love for us.  Today I felt so broken, and at the same time, so very blessed.  Yes it is so possible:) Love you all♡♡♡ || #thanksgiving #justkeepswimming #faithoverfear #familiesareforever #luckiest
A photo posted by Emily Meyers (@thefreckledfox) on

Wednesday, November 23

family traditions

Growing up in the country, one of my favorite pastimes was riding my bike on the wrap-around porch, going down ramps, learning how to stand on my seat and go over homemade jumps, etc. That love of bike rides continued through high school and into my marriage to Marty. Once we started having babies though, I had to hang up my bike (literally), and it was clear that with 2,3 and then 4 kids under 4, riding bikes together was a thing of the past. Fast forward to this year with 5 young children, and enter the Madsen Cycle.
The kids and I, along with my sister had the great pleasure of meeting Jared and Lisa Madsen earlier this year. Hearing their story, and getting a tour of their incredible shop where they put together and packaged every Madsen cargo bike was inspiring, and also felt like I was visiting old friends. I've never seen another bike like this on the market before, and I was just awed by their vision and the amount of thought and passion they've poured into their business.

I drove home that day with this big black beauty strapped in the back of the pick-up, and immediately unpacked it and loaded up all the kiddies for our first bike ride altogether.

It felt wonderful.

I was a new widow, trying to keep a handle on my overwhelming grief by pouring everything I had into my five small children, and here I was carting them down our street with their tiny helmets on and their giggles in my ears. In a sappy metaphor kind of way, I felt that first day the physical weight of carrying all my children by myself, but I knew that as I rode more and more that I would get stronger:)
We started a nightly family bike ride tradition with our big Madsen (dubbed 'Maddy' by Ellie) that we still carry on today! Every night that we can swing it I strap on the little helmets after dinner and we head out into the sunset, nowadays with the two older girls on their own bikes. I even started inviting visitors to join in with us on an extra old bike of mine. It's the longest standing family tradition at this new house actually!

If I can answer a few questions I've already had about our bike: It's much sturdier and smooth to ride than I would have thought, it has two removable cushioned benches and four strong seatbelts in the back, and it does have a front wheel lock and two keys for theft prevention! It can carry 600lbs of riders and cargo, I never get super sore even after a long ride, I decided to get the front rack for holding extra cargo which I love, and we also have the weather/rain cover for the back which has been used a lot on sunny and windy days here. There are tons of cute colors, it's definitely worth the price-tag with just the family bonding alone, but especially if you work in savings with gas and health benefits:)
Bottom line, it's been such a blessing in bringing our family closer together and creating memories, and I wish everyone had the chance to own one:)
Now that I've sung the praises of our bike, I'm so excited to be sharing some amazing deals going on at Madsen headquarters on Black Friday!
You can get $225 off of any color Madsen + 20% off all accessories,
or you can get $425 off of a fully loaded Madsen bike! This includes soft top, front rack, dutch upgrade, shiny brass bell, water bottle, steel front lights and rear light.
Visit their website on Black Friday for the best price of the year, and also to view more testimonials and customer photos, to ask questions, etc.

Have you heard of/do you own one of these already? What is one of your favorite standing traditions with your family? Thanks so much for visiting today, and I hope you guys have a fantastic Thanksgiving tomorrow,