Family Alive

Brian, Kristine, Analise, and Josiah Toone

Catching up December 2012

11th December 2012

It has been a while since we posted here … it’s been busy in the Toone Times … Josiah is in first grade now and has been taking karate for the past few months. This past Thursday he passed his belt testing, and tonight was the belt ceremony. I got videos of both events below (the belt testing is split up into two parts) –



Also, Analise was in the Lakeside Christmas performance, see the video of her choir singing below –

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As Mother’s Day draws near…

8th May 2012

Let’s face it… if you’re a mother like I am, then you are anticipating Mother’s Day this weekend. And without a doubt, we deserve to be recognized and appreciated. But with 7 Mother’s Days behind me, I realized a few things this week that I’ve learned, and I share them now in the hopes that you won’t be disappointed with this special day.

First off, if your husband is anything like most men,realize that your husband can’t read your mind.  Unless you’ve dropped some blatant reminders, he may not even realize that Mother’s Day is this weekend. So don’t just sit back and *hope* he has an amazing day planned.  He needs your help.  Figure out what would make you the happiest – within reason for him & the family budget – and gently tell him.  Of course I’d love a weekend away, flowers & chocolate, a manicure/pedicure, a massage, and a maid to clean the house top to bottom, but that’s unrealistic. (Even any one of those seems too extravagant & expensive to me, right now!) But personally, starting the day with a few extra minutes of sleep & not having to worry about feeding anyone all day would be a blessing to me. Help a husband out and let him know.  Or if you have something in mind that you’d like… send him a link! He surely wants to bless you for all you do, but if he’s like most of the men I know, he’s swamped with a busy life of his own.  He’ll love you even more for not letting him forget 🙂

Second, settle your heart before God that He is well pleased with your service to your family.  Sure the affirmation and praise of our family feels good. I promise I long to hear it as much as you do! But it is fleeting.  And ultimately, our hearts will be most satisfied when we are at rest in the service we are giving to Him.  He is glorified in every sacrificial moment we give as moms!  He sees every sock you match, every dish you wash, every gentle word you speak to your children, every diaper you change.  And He is most pleased when we make the hard choice to do these things joyfully. Even if they’re not all joyful actions (and believe me, not all mine are!), He alone knows the depths of our hearts and He alone can give you joy as a mother that will last beyond the chocolate & flowers. When you find quiet confidence in this, you will have gained the most priceless and lasting Mother’s Day gift possible.

Lastly, it may be one special day on a calendar, but we can celebrate our calling as moms every day.  Last year, my Mother’s Day was spent at a bike race (the 3rd in 3 days). I tweeted this (thanks Timehop!):

“Yay! A portapotty!” What my kids expect on day 3 of a bike race wknd. Such troopers! How else would I want to spend Mother’s Day? #luckymom

And I remember thinking, I could have a bad attitude that this day isn’t about me. But the choice was mine, and so I chose to celebrate it as God gave it to me. It’s a good thing my heart was settled and at rest, because we ended the day in the emergency room after a bike crash, and believe me… Mother’s Day was forgotten by all. So I know that I’ll be rejoicing with any Mother’s Day that’s not spent at the hospital!

But moms… I am praying for you!  YOU are amazing. Let God be your rest & your reward this weekend as you celebrate serving Him through the gifts He’s given you.

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Coffee house adventure

8th March 2012

We haven’t posted here in a while so I’m not sure who still reads this blog – but Analise, Josiah, and I had a great adventure this past Sunday while Kristine was running her half-marathon in Florida. We walked through the woods to Lakeside where Analise was helping host a Sunday evening coffee house with the rest of the GA’s. These are the pics that me and Josiah took (mostly Josiah – he was quite the photographer)

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Sleepover fun

11th March 2011

Analise and Josiah had two friends from church (Lech and Eva) spend the night tonight. What fun adventures we had! We walked over through the woods to pick up Analise from school. The “river” formed by the run-off from the heavy rain a couple days ago was a big hit. Also, the beautiful spring flowers were blooming. And to top it all off, we got a surprise bunny rabbit to “bunnysit” for the weekend. Check out the photos and videos below – (if you are reading this on Facebook, then click here to view the video on our blog: http://www.toonesalive.com/blog/family/?p=2612)



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Measuring the passage of time

20th February 2011

Today is the third Sunday in February, which, according to our family calendar, is the first bike race of the season. It’s actually a training race, but everyone treats it like a real race. And every year, it takes me back to being at this race in previous years with my kids. I can measure the passage of time by the memories.

Six years ago, I sat on the side of the road with a newly-crawling 7-month old (see the photo of a photo… from my kitchen). This year, I have two independent kids, 4 1/2 and 6 1/2. They climbed on the playground, played frisbee, built fairy houses, slid down the slides, cheered right alongside me.

They only called me to help them across the monkey bars (and Analise is SO CLOSE to being able to do it by herself. Amazing.) and get them started on the swing (and both of them can pump their legs to keep themselves going). So I sat and reminisced, cheered for the race, wrote a blog on my phone (which got lost. Twice. They were both much more eloquent than this), appreciated my amazing growing kids.

No diaper bags, no tantrums, no whining, no changing diapers in the backseat of the car, no mad dashes to the bathroom, no keeping kids from dashing into the road.

Reasonable, fun capable kids, who were really a pleasure to be with. Love them. Thank you, Lord. It’s going to be a great season.

PS. Brian and his teammate rode across the line 1-2, hand-in-hand, more than a minute ahead of the rest of the group. On par with my technology-cursed day, I missed the awesome photo moment. Ug. But yay Brian and Pat! It is going to be a great season!

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Where I’m at… and a Vanilla Pumpkin Muffin recipe

1st February 2011

Man, if only you could hear all the blog posts I have written in my head!  This blog would be full of honest thoughts, real struggles, and gracious inspiration.  But alas… I’ve not moved any of these thoughts from my head to the keyboard.  I do want to start somewhere, though, and this rainy February evening is a perfect place.

I can’t believe it’s 2011.  And February already!  Crazy!  And I can’t believe I have a 6 1/2 year old and a 4 1/2 year old.  Honestly, every time I see Analise after being away from her for a bit, my breath is taken away by how amazing it is that she’s so tall, bouncy and beautiful.  Singing, dancing, full of lots of smart thoughts, amazing at math, learning really great penmanship, SOOOOooo creative (which means endless paper clippings, lots of tape, and all kinds of craftiness). It amazes me how much she can understand of things, far more than I give her credit for.  She learns so quickly.  And Josiah… my little guy who is not little at all.  He’s sprouting up and his ankles and wrists are showing so I’ve got to put some of his too-small clothes away.  He plays so well with his cars, airplanes and trains.  He’s got such a great imagination.  He’s an AMAZING cyclist, legs spinning so fast on his tiny bike, barreling down the hills, through the woods.  And he’s so full of love.  Ah… just yesterday I leaned across him to buckle the seatbelt (in his new booster seat), and he wrapped me in a big hug.  And as siblings… they are just amazing.  I love it.  My mom-heart is about bursting lately.  Thank you, Lord, for so much love and friendship between these two.

So I’m busy, as we all are.  But I’m really prioritizing.  God first, which means I’m really pouring myself into two awesome discipleship Bible studies with some AMAZING women.  So thankful for them! Digging into God’s Word, and so thankful for how full it is of life and truth and grace.  Memorizing scripture, right now in James, and it’s feels so good to have the Word hidden in  my heart.  Trying hard to quiet my heart more often and draw into prayer.  It’s such a balm to the soul.  And though I feel like I’m so busy, THIS amazing post has brought me to my knees and helped me realize nothing I am doing on this earth is more important than prayer. I’m reading One Thousand Gifts (by the author of that post), and it’s drawing me to a heart of gratitude.  So much to be thankful for!  All joy flows from our gratitude… (more great thoughts in this short post).  Joy could be a good word to describe my heart lately. *peaceful sigh*

So God first, my amazing husband second, our kids third.  They are such a joy right now.  I have loved being a mother, but the early years were exhausting, crumb-covered, and blurred by baths, sleepless nights, tantrums, diapers and messes.  We’re past all that, and I am just really, really loving it, loving every minute of it, making a point of enjoying the crazy moments when they’re leaping off the couch like they’re not supposed to, making some messy, heavily-taped creative project (after which I will surely find myself out of tape at an inopportune time!), or even breaking up disagreements and trying to find peaceful, loving resolutions.  God is so in every single moment, and I’m so thankful.

And so because I’m choosing all these other things first, very honestly, my house is cluttered, and lived in/loved in, with endless to-do projects.  I wish it wasn’t, but such is life.  And no apologies, because I’m so happy with where God has me.  Some women can find balance in prioritizing God, their marriages, their family, and keeping life and house in order.  They have my full respect, and most of the time, I wish that were me.  But it’s not, and so instead of being frustrated with myself, I’ll tackle the most important things, and fit the rest in without wearying myself.  And if you happen to come over tomorrow, you might still find a sparkling Christmas tree lighting your way through our window.  Yes, it is February, and yes, it’s on my to-do list (um, hopefully before the Super Bowl party on Sunday! Go Packers! Or maybe I’ll just throw on couple strands of green and gold lights…).  But while it’s here, we’re still enjoying it, especially Brian, who has sat by it and read something like 8 books (Harry Potter series and the 1st Lord of the Rings book) since it’s been up! He’s really trying to convince me it needs to stay up until he finishes the whole LOTR series, but I’m not on board with that. Yet.

If you’re still with me, I’ll reward you with my absolute favorite, easiest new muffin recipe.  Made it twice last week, and if I had another cake mix, I’d have another batch ready in 10 minutes for a pre-bedtime snack.

Vanilla Pumpkin Muffins (from Bake at 350)

1 15-oz can of pumpkin

1 french vanilla cake mix

2 egg whites (made it with one egg instead, tastes the same)

sparkling sugar (not a necessity, but it really makes them lovely!)

Click on over and scroll down to the 2nd recipe, and then you’ll get to see her lovely picture.  These taste like cupcakes.  My picky-eater gobbled these up, and asked for them in her lunch.  Enjoy!

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And this is Advent…

28th November 2010

Today starts my favorite time of the year.  Advent… the waiting, the anticipating, the looking forward to the coming King.  I so appreciate growing up in the Lutheran church that celebrated the Sundays of Advent, and now celebrating it daily in the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas with our family is one of my favorite traditions.

I always have high hopes… to be organized and ready when this first Sunday of Advent arrives, to see my family quietly soaking up the Word in the candlelight, to not let this daily tradition get lost in the busyness of the Christmas rush, to let this be a jumpstart for our family devotional time.

And of course, this first Sunday of Advent begins like most, with me scrambling through the boxes in the basement looking for the Advent box. Surely I’ve kept the Advent wreath/candles/devotional in one WELL-MARKED box that’s easy to access, haven’t I?  Every year after Christmas I promise I will… No luck tonight in finding it.

And the “real” Advent in the Toone home begins. Instead of our Advent wreath with 5 candles, I light candles around our Willow Tree nativity scene.  We gather on the couch and talk about hope (the theme for the first Sunday of Advent).  Brian reads 1 Peter 1:3-5 about our blessed hope, some of my favorite verses, and I hope that my 6- and 4-year old will have a lightbulb moment and understand how hoping in Christ is so much greater than hoping in the world.    Analise wiggles and coughs, Josiah plays with sunglasses and can’t sit still next to Brian, and of course, at some point I speak sharply about all the annoying wiggles.  *sigh… grace, grace… * We share what we hope for, and after I share that I hope we’ll all love Jesus more this Christmas, both kids hope for something  from Santa. *another sigh* No sacred quiet meditations and deep spiritual awakenings tonight.  But this is Advent in real life, in my crazy wonderful family.

I hope I’ll be able to find my Advent wreath.  I hope we might have some lightbulb moments this Advent as we remember this Christmas is NOT about us.  I hope that our family will be drawn to this quiet time looking towards our great and glorious Hope. I hope that we’ll put this family time first in the busyness, but I’ll also cloth myself in grace.  And I hope this Advent will turn our family hearts more towards Christ, not just this season, but every day.

***Today one of my favorite, favorite blogs, A Holy Experience, has posted a free Jesse Tree Advent devotional if you subscribe to her daily email (which is AMAZING!!).  A Jesse Tree (please forgive my basic explanation – she does it much better!) is a tree branch with ornaments that all symbolize Christ.  We read the devotional tonight, perfect for young and old alike, and I’m looking forward to getting our Jesse Tree started tomorrow.  The devotional booklet is BEAUTIFUL, and it would make the perfect way to celebrate Advent in your home.  It includes printed ornaments that can be cut out and hung each day.  Hope you’ll choose to enjoy it with us!

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Another Cahaba Lake Adventure

28th November 2010

When we bought our house in 2005 with awesome help and guidance from Patsy Martens, we didn’t realize what a true gem we had found. Walking distance to school, to church, to a dog park, to a grocery store, to a lake with a hiking trail. This is just so unheard of in Birmingham where everything is spread out and the car culture is so deeply ingrained. Today’s adventure was brought to you by a hike, walk, bike, and run through the woods, past the school, past the church, past the fire station, and to the Cahaba Lake hiking trail. See the photos and videos below. Hover over each photo to see a caption.

Dancing on a rock

Riding around the lake on the trails

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A favorite tradition… Operation Christmas Child

22nd November 2010

One of my favorite holiday traditions nearly catches me off-guard every year, because it comes up before Thanksgiving. But we’ve packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child every year since Analise was 6 months old.

The shopping trip is always a learning experience, with constant reminders that we’re thinking of another child, not picking out our own gifts. But each year, it gets easier and more fun as the kids get older and start understanding more.

This year, my sweeties carried their boxes in proudly, and we also brought 16 more boxes that my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group packed, as well. Our drop-off location, one of several in town, had collected 20,000. I was brought to tears imagining the joy and the Great Hope those many boxes will bring to children all over the world. And to think… that’s just a fraction that Samaritan’s Purse will distribute! AMAZING! Be glorified, Lord!

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Joy in the Journey

18th November 2010

I’ve had these thoughts rolling around in my brain for a month or so now… just hardly been on the computer (my phone instead… not conducive to a blog post!).  But the kids are happily – and peacefully! – playing in the tub, and I was just overwhelmed with the moment and thought to come here so I might remember it later.

It’s taken 6 years of mothering, but I think I’m finally to a real place of joy in the journey.  Maybe it’s because we’re getting good sleep, we’re not potty training, the tantrums are scarce, and maybe its that my kids are enjoyable little people instead of a lot of work. Maybe it’s because they’re in school and I have a bit more time to myself. Or maybe it’s that I’ve grown a bit.  But either way, I’m so thankful for where we’re at.  I have always, always loved my kids with an overwhelming love, but it was sometimes (more often than I want to admit!) a battle to find the joy in the mundane and the exhausting task of being needed.  For whatever reason, we’re there.  Been here fora  few months, and I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude.

Analise is a lovely young lady, Josiah is a fun-loving sweet little boy, and thank-you-dear-Lord-for-hearing-my-prayers they even consider themselves friends.  They play together far more often peacefully than not.  Our travels recently have been so fun, full of questions and answers, observations and laughter.  I’m trying hard to imprint the soft little boy hand that still willingly reaches for me onto my heart, and burn Analise’s soft sleeping little girl face into my memory (especially when her bottom bunk is divided by a curtain and Josiah’s on the other end).

Thank you, Lord.  Such gracious gifts.

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