Tag Archives: laughter

Stacy Leigh Lisi

I know I say this whole song and dance every time, but, Stacy is my mom’s college roommate Cindy’s (lovingly known as Cinne Binne) daughter.  So we have -actually- been friends since the womb.  And she just got married, to a great guy, Andrew Lisi.  So now her name rhymes. :)

Stacy is one of those friends that you can go a whole year without seeing (or even talking to  because of both of your phone phobias), but pick up right where you left off when you see each other again.  Like no time or distance ever separated you.

I have so many fun memories with Stacy it is hard to even count.  When we were 3 & 4 years old we decided it would be a good idea to paint my Grandpa Al’s work van.  It was dark brown so obviously we thought it would be best to use white shoe polish.  And once I even convinced her to get IN the van with me and I pulled the gear shift down and we started rolling down the driveway.

Also that year we made a guest appearance in my dad’s and her mom’s musical show at the retirement home.  We cried and pouted because we wanted the dress up clothes the other one was wearing while singing Ain’t We Sweet, though we were being anything but sweet.

At age 9 & 10 we started going downstate together.  Downstate was one of the coolest Daddy/Daughter activities in the Birkeneder family.  When you turned 10 you got to go with Dad and Grandpa (and any other poor male soul of our relatives that wanted to go once us girls started going) to the Illinois High School Boys’ Basketball Tournaments in Campaign (later Peoria).  Being the eldest in our families, Stacy and I were the first girls to go on this all male weekend.  I think we forever changed “downstate”.  Instead of watching the games, we bought nachos, then ice cream, then hot dogs, then Pepsi, then cotton candy, then threw up all over the taxi.  We would drag Dad & Grandpa Al to the nearby mall to take pictures in the overpriced photo booth while sporting our huge gaudy basketball earrings. We spent all our money from the winning pools (don’t tell our moms or anyone else for that matter that we were underage gamblers) buying stickers from the sticker machine at Pizza Hut (smartly thinking we would sell them for profit when we got home).  And then we fought with each other and cried when one would win a pool and the other wouldn’t. One year we fell madly (seriously, it was obsessive) in love with one of the high school players- Alfredo Jimenez from Maine West.  We even stalked out where he would be after the game to get his autograph while we hysterically sobbed.

When we were 10 & 11 we started spending some of our summers at Camp Timberlee in Wisconsin.  We carefully shopped for matching outfits for every day of the week, including our denim ruffle shorts and side ponytails.  We would always room together and never leave each other sides and make sure everyone in the cabin knew WE were best friends so they wouldn’t infringe upon us.  In the middle of the night we would crawl into our bunks together and worry that we were blind because we couldn’t see anything, and nervously search for a flashlight just to make sure.

When we were in our teens we shared a profound love for all things Hanson and JTT .  We convinced ourselves we were marrying one of them and lovingly agreed upon who got which one (Stacy: Zac and Me: Taylor…Jonathan Taylor Thomas dropped out of the running when Hanson came along).  We decided the best way possible to make this dream a reality would be to form an all girl band ourselves.  So we reigned in our sisters and we became: Purple Daizee.  We co-wrote many one hit wonders and videotaped ourselves singing/dancing to them in the basement so we could send our videos to the Hanson brothers.  Making them fall in love with us, of course.

Stacy and I laugh about all these episodes and more whenever we get together. But there’s a distinct, life altering memory I have with Stacy that I don’t even know if she recalls.

My freshman year in college was rough. We had just moved to Texas and even more life shattering than that to me was that Michael and I broke up.  I started a new life in Texas, a double life.  I was good at playing the part of “good Jenni” when I needed to, but with my new friends I partied.  Hard.  And I got myself stuck in a web of alcohol, drugs, and sex.

At the end of the summer, right before I was going to start my sophomore year, Stacy came to visit.  She was getting ready to start her freshman year at University of Illinois.  While Stacy was there I tried to hide my “bad Jenni” side, though I’m sure she knew.  She met all my friends and was incredibly gracious to them all.  She was relevant, but unchanging and never wavered from who she was in Christ.  She was real.  When I was with Stacy that week, I felt my old self start to emerge…my real self that I had shoved away that year. I remember feeling God awake my soul again.

Stacy’s flight left early one morning before I was awake, but she left me a note on my pillow.  I remember finding it and getting up to read it before it was even light out.  In it she thanked me for spending time with her, told me she was thankful for our friendship, and that she was praying for me and all that God would do through me that year.  I broke down and cried.  I laid on the floor and just cried and cried.

God had been working in my heart that whole year, but He used Stacy in a major way to bring His prodigal daughter back.  She was the vessel that saved me from a life of destruction and despair.  I firmly believe God used Stacy to redirect my life.  She was loyal, faithful, loving, and gracious.  She didn’t judge me or correct me, she just loved me and prayed for me.  I will never forget what she did for me that summer.

And actually, if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have gotten back together with Michael that year, married him that next summer, had 3 beautiful boys years later.  So Stace, you’re the reason my family exists. :)

I have a love/hate relationship with the journey we are all on in life.  I love the mystery of God and the excitement of seeking Him and joy in knowing Him.  Obviously life has some rough places, a lot of mine have been self inflicting, but I’m thankful for a God who redeems.  He is faithful, loving, and gracious and waits for me.  Thank you Stacy Leigh Lisi for being such a beautiful living example of Christ.

2011 in review (and behind the scenes)

Behind the scenes:

I asked Michael to help the boys write their current likes and dislikes for our Christmas card this year.  We laughed and laughed at their final picks.  I love each of their unique personalities! :)

Note Trevor’s “don’t like” number 9…haha, oh Trevor.

Trevor’s List:

Elliott’s List:


Final product:

Merry Christmas! :)


I have worn a lot of black nail polish this year. This dawned on me while staring at my severely neglected toes.  I have a six-year-old navigating life as a full time student, a four-year-old constantly flexing his strong will, and one-year-old that eats Glade scented plug-ins.  Who has time for primping toenails?


Living with our bundle of boys may limit my free time, but there remains an abundance of joy.  One of my favorite events of the day is when Michael and I sit on the ground and just laugh with our boys.  Even if just for a moment, we climb down off the hamster wheel of the daily grind and enjoy each other’s presence.  We have experienced birth and death this year, and more than ever we realize that life is fleeting. We are finding that whatever life brings, God draws us closer to Him and closer to each other.  Life can be black, but God steadily chips away at the darkness in us, and we discover our joy is in Him, not in life’s circumstances.


“In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” John 16:33


This Christmas I am thankful for a God who came 2,000 years ago to meet us right where we were, and continues to meet us right where we are today.  It is in Him alone that our Hope and our Joy are found!


Merry Christmas and Happy 2012!


And in case you were wondering…




Fountain diet coke

Black nail polish


Banana cake


Doesn’t like

Diet coke in a can

Wearing a coat in the car

Fruity drinks or candy

Talking on the phone




Egg nog (whiskey optional)

Donut dates with the boys

Old Simpsons episodes


Doesn’t like

Gum chomping

Ice in drinks

Red turn arrows


Follow us at www.zielkehut.com and www.beautifythehut.blogspot.com



I found a few of these “kid questions” posted on pinterest, so I tried them out with my boys.  What should have taken a few minutes, took weeks.  They acted like each question was the hardest thing they had ever been asked, and we were only able to do one or two at a time before giving up. :)

Disclaimer:  I go to the gym _maybe_3 nights a week, and usually at their bedtime.  I don’t _like_ to workout at all…

What is something Mommy always says to you?

Trevor: I love you

Elliott: you have to eat your food

 What makes Mommy happy?
Trevor: when you got the baby
Elliott: when we give you a present
3. What makes Mommy sad?
Trevor:  when you’re not with us

Elliott: when you are sick

4. How does Mommy make you laugh?
Trevor: You don’t make me laugh.
Elliott: when you take a picture

5. What was Mommy like as a child?
Trevor: I don’t know I never saw you.
Elliott: real
6. How old is Mommy?
Trevor: 27

Elliott: 4

7. How tall is Mommy?
Trevor: 27 inches
Elliott: (stretches his arms wide)

8. What is Mommy’s favorite thing to do?
Trevor: go to workout
Elliott: play with simon

9. What does Mommy do when you’re not around?
Trevor: Bring Brooke, Ashely, and Elliott to school and when its rest time put them to rest.

Elliott: go on your computer
10. If Mommy becomes famous, what will it be for?
Trevor: Singing.

Elliott: (stares blankly)

11. What is Mommy really good at?
Trevor: doing stuff at work out
Elliott: being funny

12. What is Mommy not very good at?
Trevor: cooking.
Elliott: playing games on the computer

13. What does Mommy do for her job?
Trevor: go to workout
Elliott: go on the computer

14. What is Mommy’s favorite food?
Trevor: soup
Elliott: salad

15. What makes you proud of Mommy?
Trevor: when you decorate
Elliott: cleaning up

16. If Mommy were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Trevor: that girl that clicks the squares and when she touches them they turn into letters and people spin the wheel (vanna white)

Elliott: Phineas

17. What do you and Mommy do together?
Trevor: go to restaurants
Elliott: watch shows together

18. How are you and Mommy the same?
Trevor: we both help simon

Elliott: our hair

19. How are you and Mommy different?
Trevor: you have freckles on your cheeks and I do not

Elliott: our shirts

20. How do you know Mommy loves you?
Trevor: because you always hug us and kiss us when you get home from workout
Elliott: to the moon and back, infinity! (our saying )

21. Where is Mommy’s favorite place to go?
Trevor: the workout place
Elliott: pizza hut

What makes you happy?

ELLIOTT: not cleaning up the basement.

TREVOR: when we’re going to see Dakota, Nana Nu, Miranda, Grandma Julie, and Grandpa Bob
2. What makes you sad?
ELLIOTT: yes (when he has to) cleaning up the basement.
TREVOR: when you leave us. Like that day you were at texas for month. (it was a week…)

3. What makes you laugh?
ELLIOTT: jokes.
TREVOR: some funny things

4. What is your favorite thing to do?
ELLIOTT: eat fruit loops.
TREVOR: go to buy some toys at Toys R Us

5. What are you really good at?
ELLIOTT: cleaning up the basement (????? He isn’t!)


6. What are you not very good at?
ELLIOTT: cleaning

TREVOR: jump rope
7. What is your favorite food and drink?
ELLIOTT: sprite and fruit loops
TREVOR:  a kiddy cocktail and I like every food

8. What’s your favorite color?
ELLIOTT: purple
TREVOR: blue, yellow, and pink.  Oh and silver.

9. Where is your favorite place to go?
TREVOR: to Texas

10. Who are your best friends?
ELLIOTT: Brendan and Brayden.
TREVOR: Dakota and Brayden and Brendan. Oh and Griffin and Landon.
11. What are your favorite movies or TV shows?
ELLIOTT: Garfield and Johnny Test
TREVOR: Garfield and World of Quest.

12. What are your favorite books?
ELLIOTT: That Phineas and Ferb one at that store.
TREVOR: Ready Freddy

13. If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?



Found this one day attached to one of my cabinets.  I love having child that can read- it adds even more fun to the day!  “Mom, that says Emergency Exit…DON’T GO THAT WAY MOM!”  “New. Markdowns. Everyday.  Mom, that says New Markdowns Everyday.”  I will never miss a sign again now that I have another set of eyes watching out for me. :)  Oh, and I’ll know of a Restaurant in my living room that serves Salad, Potatoes, Pizza, and Side One is Beans and Potato Salad.

I love listening to them talk.  Here are some of my favorites lately that keep my day always exciting:

“When there’s no one to itch my back, I just itch it on a tree or something.”

“I have two friends inside my head that I talk to all the time.  I don’t know their names though.” (Then the next child in response to that) “…yeah, I talk to the tooth fairy.”

“Mom, she’s soooo pretty.  I just want to kiss her face.”

Uh Oh.


A first grading we will go

Trevor had a folder he took two and from Kindergarten every day this year that carried all his work and correspondence to/from his teacher.  We started with a shiny bright folder.

This is what he brought home his last day.


I had a little laugh when I saw this.  But as I continued to work through the pile of school paraphernalia, I came across this:

And my heart had a little tug on it.  Remember this post?  My initial thought was, uh oh.  But then as I kept staring at the title of the folder, a flood of memories of this past year came rushing over me.  I thought of how God has strengthened Trevor to be bold and independent and truly flourish in school.  I remembered one time when I was helping in his classroom, I watched Trevor as a quick, confident, funny little boy interacting with his teacher and peers and I thought, “Wow, this is my son!”  I was in awe of how God has really blossomed him and carried him through his first year of school.  Sure, Michael and I encourage him at home, but who he was when I was watching him in class that day was all God.

It wasn’t until I looked at this yellow pocket folder until I put that all together.  A reminder from God that He alone carries Trevor, He is with Trevor, and He already knows what is ahead for Trevor.

So to first grade we go.

Crazy hair

We love having the boys’ hair long (and I love the Justin Beiber references even though Michael does NOT), but man do they get bed head!  We have to wash their hair in the mornings for this reason.  But it is a small price to pay. :)

Here is what happens when you put your winter hat on and your hair isn’t completely dry yet: