Caution: 5th Birthday Party Ahead

15 Dec

This little man?  Recently had a pretty rad birthday party, if I do say so myself. 

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James literally counted down to his birthday for about two months.  He was just so excited to be turning five because in our house that means you get to have your first birthday party where friends come on over to celebrate. It’s a pretty big deal. 

And so, for the first time ever, I hopped on Pintrest and gathered up ideas to pull off a super fun, all boy, 5th birthday party under the theme “trucks” per James’ request.

(For anyone who knows me…Pinterest and I?  Yeah….no.  That site makes me twitchy, hyper, and completely over stimulated.  I am no crafty Martha.  This is an indication of how much I love James and wanted to make his birthday a special and memorable day.  I would be perfectly OK never going back on that site.  The end.)

As one would expect, Pinterest did not fail in getting the creative juices flowing.   In the end?  This party was a complete success, and I may have found my inner-Martha Stewart—maybe).

Guests, 22 friends ranging in age from 3-11, with the few older ones serving as amazing little helpers, were greeted in our mudroom and asked to put on their uniforms and report for duty.

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The dining room and kitchen were transformed:

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We cleared out our living room of our regular furniture and set up stations. 

“Building Zone” aka Lego kits, building blocks, and various car construction kits.  There were activities for all ages of kiddos:

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“Painting Zone”  aka the Tattoo zone—because all construction workers need to get tatted up, am I right?

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“Hammering Zone” aka Pin the Nail on the Hammer (don’t look too closely at that hammer…remember, I’m not crafty!)

“Construction Zone” aka a pretty sweet construction kit (complements of Home Depot) that required a whole lotta pounding, gluing and patience from Jason and my dad and a few other dads who jumped in to help.

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“Wrecking Ball Zone” aka the truck Piñata.

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And, most importantly, the “Refuel Zone” where kids snacked until they were stuffed.  (I had so much fun with this…pictured below are a few of my favorite selections)

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We ended the afternoon with cupcakes and gifts.

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James’ love tank was over flowing after such a fun-filled afternoon.  He hugged each of his guests tightly and thanked them all for coming, for sharing in his special day and for bringing gifts that were so very him.  These family and friends that we have been blessed with, who know our kids so well and love them fiercely, I am so grateful for them and for the chance to share these special days with them.  I am confident that this day will be remembered for many years to come.

And because a birthday post wouldn’t be complete without our yearly interview, I bring you James, age 5 with all of his deep thoughts as he enters another year of being our spunky, spirited, and intensely loving little boy:

What is your favorite color(s)?

Well, I have a lot:  black, red, yellow, and orange.

What is your favorite sport?  Why?

Well, I haven’t done a lot of sports, but I want to learn how to do tennis.

Who is your favorite friend?

Owen, Colin, Seth, Evan and all my friends.

What do you like to do during your “free time?”

I like to build Legos and color when I’m inside and when I’m outside, I like to ride my bike and play in our play house.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A construction worker who get to drive the thing that bangs down houses.

What is your favorite and least favorite meal?

Favorite is pizza or burrito bowls

Least favorite is stir fry

What is your favorite dessert?

Ice cream and cupcakes.

What is your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

Favorite=handwriting and Explode the Code and coloring

Least Favorite=any time I have to cut out stuff

What do you like to do with Annie and Jonah?

I like playing with Jonah’s Lego sets and with Annie, I like it when she reads to me.

What do you like to do with your family?

Go on vacation and go to Cat Chat concerts.

What are your three favorite books that you read this year?

Freight Train, The Little Engine that Could, and the Beatrix Potter set and Winnie the Pooh and Homer Price and Ginger Pye and …. (he could have listed for hours!  The boy loves books!)

What are your favorite movies?

Chugginton and Thomas.

What is the most important thing that you know about God?

He is so great.  He died for us.

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Happy Birthday, sweet boy.  Here’s to another year of loving fiercely, living wildly (because you are a bit of a wild child), and growing into the little boy that God is calling you to be.  I love you so very much, buddy!

tough conversations

7 Nov

A few days ago, James snuggled into my lap and fell asleep.  I truly cannot remember the last time that happened.  He cuddled and slept for over an hour.  It was awesome and sweet and amazing confirmation that I really, really miss having wee little ones to snuggle and to cuddle.

Apparently the kids do, too, because every. single. day. they make a point to tell me or Jason or God during our petitions that they wish that I could have another baby.

“Momma, I wish you could have another baby in your belly, only I want it to live so we can meet it now.  I don’t want it to die like the other ones did in your belly.  I don’t want to have to wait until we get to Heaven some day to meet it; I want to be with it here on Earth right now,” Jonah lovingly told me during our morning time.

My heart longs for the same thing, Jonah.  You have no idea how many hours I’ve spent before the Blessed Sacrament talking to God about this very thing.

Annie’s used-to-be daily declaration of “Mommy, do you have any idea how much I wish I had a little sister?”  is slowly becoming less frequent. 

I think she is starting to accept God might just have other plans.  “I don’t understand why so many of our friend’s families have so many babies, but we only have the three of us.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  You and daddy would love to have more babies.  Why won’t God give you more?”

I know, sweet Annie.  God’s will is holy, perfect, and completely beyond my understanding. 

“Momma, I wish you could have more babies.  I know then I wouldn’t be the baby, but that would be OK, because I love babies.”

Yes, James, you are almost five and you are still our baby even if you are willing to give up the title. 

You guys, seriously, daily conversations like this with the kids are just hard.  I remember talking to my spiritual director about this a few years ago when we got the news that more biological children was probably not in the cards for us.  At that time, it was just Annie asking when God was going to send us another baby.  Father suggested gently telling her that God had other plans.

In theory, that sounds reasonable.  Except kids, well, they just don’t always except reality.  I’ve told them countless times that momma’s body, it just doesn’t do this pregnancy thing well.  But, the kids, well, they hold on to the hope. 

I think I do, too, sometimes.

starting over, starting again. starting.

6 Oct

After discerning it, deciding and moving forward, I could not be more grateful that I submitted to God’s will and have moved on from ministry in the parish-setting.

We started our atrium sessions a few weeks back.  The biggest difference this year?  We are back to doing it in our home. Me and my kiddos, my mom and nieces and nephews.  Small.  Simple.  Perfect.

By the grace of God, in just two months, we rebuilt a lovely and simple atrium.

I believe whole-heartedly that we should serve our parish and the larger faith community by giving our time in ministry.  I’ve poured every ounce (sometimes to a fault) of myself into ministry for well over a decade.

And, I’m continuing to do that now—just in a different capacity.

Now?  My way of serving the Church is by building up the domestic church.  By being here as a wife and mother—both physically and mentally.  And, I’m reminded daily, that is no short order.

It’s my vocation and I’m honoring that.  And God is pouring out His grace and mercy.

And, so as the year begins to find it’s rhythm, we are adjusting—peacefully—to our new-old surroundings.  So many things about this are just perfect.

progress

20 Sep

We are four weeks into our sixth year of homeschooling. 

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This summer I planned and researched more than I ever have.  I listened to every podcast and watched every webinar that I could get my hands on related to classical education.  I took a course from Dr. Christopher Perrin on the topic of restful learning in the classical tradition.

My mind was stretched (Josef Pieper, the Suma Theologica, heck even Clark and Jain’s Liberal Arts Tradition all hurt my brain in serious ways).  But, my heart found its resting place, and my hopes for a thoughtful, purposeful year slowly came together. 

One month down and we are certainly not there with everything.  No, this road to giving my kids a classical education requires going backwards so that we can go forwards.  It’s a slow process.  It’s left me chewing on so many new and beautiful ideas.

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And, I’m not going to lie.  I’ve had epic hissy fits as I try (and fail) to balance the roll up your sleeves and get the work done with the thoughtful, careful, rigor that comes from leading the kids to wonder and to God’s truth, goodness, and beauty in all areas of learning.  I’ve cried.  I’ve sworn.  A lot.  I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate.  I’ve texted Jason on more than one occasion and told him that I was going to be sending the kids on the yellow bus come morning. 

Friends, this is hard work.  This is tiring work. 

Sometimes it feels impossible because in essence, I’m trying to give something that I was not given.  The classical tradition is not a model of education that was ever spoken about in my undergraduate or graduate studies in education. I was not trained this way.  I did not teach this way.  My goals in education were not what they are today.

The classical tradition is certainly not where I came from, but it is where I am going with my kids.

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So, as we add in layers of Shakespeare, literary analysis, Latin, memory work, good Classical literature, opportunities and experiences to help our kids grow in piety, music and gymnasium (in the classical sense of the words), and redefine the goal of mathematics and the sciences, we are learning and growing and being challenged.  And, we are getting there.

I may have a few (dozen) more hissy fits.  I may eat more chocolate than I should.  I may swear and grow weary.  But we are walking the road to truth, goodness, and beauty, and that is worth every ounce that I can give to this endeavor of home educating my kids. 

breaking

8 Sep

First it was the A/C unit that decided to kick it on a 90 degree day.

Then Jason’s car got hit by a hitch that came loose while I was driving it down the highway.  That was scary.  A few thousand dollars later, it is now up and running.  (sort of…just wait…the rest of the story is yet to come).

The A/C unit decided it wasn’t really fixed and quit again.

My beloved washing machine decided to start going all wonky and needed the bearing to be replaced.  At least it doesn’t sounds like a jet engine going off while trying to wash the dirty laundry anymore.

The radon system stopped working.  This may or may not have something to do with my awesome riding lawn mower skills.  Apparently if you back your mower into the PVC pipe on the outside of the house that vents the dangerous gas out, you will crack the pipe and the system will go into crazy alarm mood and need to be fixed.  Consider yourself warned.  You’re welcome.

The A/C decided to die on the same morning (again) that our 3-month old dishwasher decided to spring a leak.  This leak just happens to be in the unfinished  part of the basement where we store all sorts of things—papers, electronics, luggage, etc.  The rest of the day was spent sweating it out in a musty smelling basement.  At least we were not inhaling radon while dealing with the mess.

Jason was leaving his Holy Hour time on Sunday night to find that his car battery was dead.  Totally dead.  Thankfully he was able to jump it to get home.  Today, a new battery will be installed, assuming we can get it jumped again.  Otherwise, we’ll be calling the tow company, again.

This car incident was coupled with the 4th time the A/C unit failed in just a short while.  So, after the 4th visit from our now good friends at K&B Mechanical, it looks like we are either getting some new parts in the inside of the unit or an entirely new unit.  The parts are still under warranty. The hours of labor it is going to take to finally fix is are not. So, there is that. 

Of course, all of this decided to happen during the same time that I decided to begin a fast (which included no chocolate—serious business, folks!).  So, I had no crutches.  Do you have any idea how good chocolate sounds when you are hot, stressed, and hanging out on the side of the highway waiting for a tow truck to come?  You don’t have any experience with that?  Well, let me tell you, really darn good.

It’s been hot, messy and costly around these parts lately.  And, I just opened up a new bag of chocolate.  The fast is over.  We’ll see about the rest.

(day 2)

new beginnings

7 Sep

Peace.

Joy.

Peace and joy.

This year, the beginning of the year, it feel so very different.  I feel like it is a little gift, a loving grace, from God for being obedient to His call to step down from ministry to be with my family.

I’m so dang grateful because this “yes” has granted me a spiritual, physical, and mental health that is allowing me to not just be here physically to my family, but to be here with them—as in my mind and heart are here.  There is so much more peaceful, restful, joyful space open in my brain to love the heck out of my kids and husband. 

No longer is the to-do list knocking me over the head, leaving me with a massive headache and an unsettled soul.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt the anxiousness of being “behind.”  I’m not perpetually distracted anymore. No, we are just living.  Being.  Enjoying.  And praising God for the gift of balance.

This is what it feels like to have my priorities straight.

I wouldn’t give this up for anything. 

(day 1–going to try this again. We’ll see)

an observation

9 Jul

Why, o why, is it so much easier to do what makes me feel awful at the end of the day than it is to do what I may not initially want to do, but know is right?

For example, chocolate chips.  They taste so dang good … and so I eat them.  A lot of them.  And then have a massive stomach ache later.  Moderation—not always my thing.

Or, helping the little people brush their teeth.  It is so much easier to  do everything else than it is to pick up that darn toothbrush and take the 2 minutes to brush their teeth.  Because, seriously, there is facebook to check.

And, what about making dinner.  That one kills me just about every day.  I try so stinkin’ hard to have dinner on the table at a reasonable hour.  For me, the only way that can happen is if I make a plan first thing in the morning and stick with it.  If that means throwing something in the crockpot right away, than I must do it in the morning.  Or even at lunchtime.  But, I can’t do it at 4pm (even cranking the crockpot on high, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best—yes, I’ve tried it too many times and am speaking from experience—it just doesn’t work).

But somewhere all of the things that encourage my procrastination, my morning walk, and making breakfast and cleaning it up….and so on, I loose my will to get to that crockpot dinner prep. 

And, alas, the day slips away from me and we are stuck eating eggs for dinner…again.  Or pasta.  This week it has been an alternation between the two.

In so many areas of my life I am incredibly self-disciplined…what we eat, how we school, the order I need in my house, etc  But man, my time management skills are TERRIBLE.  Just terrible. 

I need to be better disciplined.

Because what ends up happening more often than not is that I will run around like a crazy person, throw together dinner only to have my kids offer to help and then back away and say, “Do you just want me to go and play” when they see the crazy mom eyes popping out of my head and the steam coming from my ears, as I yell, “Get out of the kitchen.  We are going to be late for x,y, or z.  I need to finish this NOW!”

Ugh.

Doing the right thing at the right time…in all areas of my life.  It is just hard.

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