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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!

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7 on 7/7

7 Jul

Dear Jonah,

Today, you turned seven and what a good year you have had.

In the Fall, you began taking karate lessons twice a week.  You’ve earned 3 belts and have amazed us with your grace and cool-nerves while on stage and in front of an audience.  These lessons have been a true God-send, as they have not only helped with your strength and coordination, but your confidence and perseverance.  We are so very proud of the work that you have put into them!

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You’ve also grown so much in the academic world with your ease at reading long chapter books, your persistence in mastering new math concepts like multi-digit addition and subtraction.  Your handwriting (the same skill that required OT just last year) is stunning now, and your spelling and mechanics improve weekly.  Your love of learning history, science, and really, any subject makes you one easy kid to home educate. 

Easy…yes, that is the word I would use to describe your personality.  Easy going, easy to discipline, easy to talk to, easy to enjoy.  I love that so very much about you.

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You are in the stage of the never ending “how come?” questions which generally leaves me uncertain as to how to answer them.  Half of the time, the questions are totally off the wall and the other half of the time, I’m truly stumped.  And that is the thing about you, we are never quite sure just what you are thinking.  You have the quiet, introverted, self-reflective soul of your daddy.  I think it is why you and I get along so well. 

This was also the year in which we got answers (ish), or at least a final verdict about your perpetual blood issues.  You also had a very healthy year, in that you didn’t catch every single cold that came within 10 miles of you.  That was awesome.  It certainly made this year feel “normal.”  We got a lot of opportunities to just be and enjoy you and all that quiet love that you bring to our family.

As you enter into this next year, I am eager to continue living this life right along side you because you bring a joy to our family that makes getting out of bed worthwhile every single day.  This is the year in which you will receive your First Reconciliation and your First Holy Communion, the year in which you will be able to respond to the voice of the Good Shepherd to be with him in a particular way at Holy Mass in the Eucharist.  What a year it will be. 

Thank you for holding that soft spot in my heart, sweet Jonah-bear.  I love you to the moon.

Eskimoka kisses,

Momma-lou

::And, now for your annual birthday Q&A::

What is your favorite color(s)?

Red

What is your favorite sport?  Why?

Karate because I like to learn all the katas.

Who is your favorite friend?

Elijah, Matias, Elena and Graziella

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

I like to play with Magformers, my blue truck, building train tracks and Legos.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A dad and have a farm.

What is your favorite and least favorite meal?

Favorite is pizza

Least favorite is stir fry

What is your favorite dessert?

Chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream

What is your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

Favorite=history

Least Favorite=spelling

What do you like to do with Annie and James?

Play pretend games.  I also like to go to the park and ride bikes.

What do you like to do with your family?

Play board and card games.

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

Encyclopedia Brown, The Gray Fairy Tale book, Dr. Dolittle, Green Ember, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins (I just can’t choose three)

What are your favorite movies?

Curious George and Thomas

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

That He died on the cross for us so that we could have eternal life.

cleanly perspective

5 Jul

Something about the end of the school year brings about this intense need to purge, clean (and I mean gut out, scrub, and go all Martha Stewart clean), and organize every single room in the house.  And, the garage.  And, the detached workshop. 

It’s quite a project and one that I own with intense joy and determination.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that this is my type –A personality attempting to regain control over the house and the inevitable “letting go” that takes place during the school year.  So much letting go.

But, I’m telling you, something therapeutic happens in the scrubbing and the gutting.  God speaks in the quiet of my work, providing me an opportunity to process the whirlwind of a year that we just had.  With each room I purge, I feel like the view of the forest slowly returns and the fine details of the trees that were at the tip of my nose no longer seems so big and so daunting. 

I’ve determined that there is something about letting go of what is weighing you down physically that can lead to a freeing of the heaviness of life and to-do lists.  I’m living that now. 

I just finished the last room yesterday—the office—the room that was busting at the seams with my filled to the brim files of ministry work.  That work that I decided to take a year off from.  Projects are now ready to be handed over.  So much letting go.

I ended this 6 week purge by sleeping in until 9AM this morning.  Apparently gutting my house and my will is exhausting work.

[day three and four]

anniversaries

3 Jul

The thing about anniversaries is that they are even more awesome when you get to meet up with your best of friends and celebrate the fact that the three couples all got married in three consecutive weeks 13 years ago.  Yes, that is correct.  First it was our wedding, the next weekend another couple’s, and the weekend following another couple.  And, we were all pretty much in each other’s wedding in some capacity.  It was one grand celebration after another.

Since then, we’ve shared so many important moments together—from pregnancies, births, and new jobs and homes, to deaths, job losses, and uncertain plans for what God is calling us too.  These are the kind of friends that don’t require frequent in-person visits to feel like you’ve never missed a beat when you do see each other again.  

And so tonight, we celebrated 13 years of marriage and many more years of friendship—the kind of friendship that reminds us that God gave us each other as a precious gift to savor and enjoy, love and support.

[day three]

seasons

2 Jul

Like the changing of seasons throughout the year, so, too, do we all experience different “seasons” in our life.  Am I right?  For example, in college, I had a “season” in which I was a vegan hippie who traveled to South America, studied in the rainforest, and hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.  That  was quite a season.  As an adult, I had a fantastic “season” of teaching both elementary-aged children and middle school teens.   Then babies came along and I entered into the “season” of motherhood.  I am now in the “season” of homeschooling my little people. 

Seasons—they come and go—sometimes when you least expect them to.  I’m living that right now. 

For the past 11 years, I have been involved in ministry for our faith community in the school, parish and diocesan settings.  My “seasons” included full time, part time and volunteer positions.  All of have been exhilarating, challenging, joy-filled and at points, down right exhausting.  One thing is for certain:  they have all been so. dang. good.

But like all good things, at some point they need to come to an end.  And, so, after hours and hours of prayers and a handful of novenas, I can peaceful say, my “season” of working in ministry is ending (for now).  It’s time to place my “ministry hat” on the shelf for a bit.  Maybe a year (I hope).  Maybe longer.  I’m just not sure.

::gulp::

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but to type those words and have the needed conversations to let people know that I am stepping down from ministry for the time being has been tough.  Perhaps this is because the current ministry that I’ve been heavily involved in is near and dear to my heart because of the gift that it has been to my family. 

But it is time…the “seasons” are changing. 

I’ve been feeling this tug for the last nine months—that God was calling me to step down and instead focus my attention on just being a wife and (homeschooling) mother. 

Just a wife. 

Just a mother. 

Just a teacher to my kids. 

That’s no small calling

And, to be honest, that is a more difficult calling for me than to wear many hats and keep many balls from dropping from the many commitments I had outside of the home.  It is a calling that I’d rather not respond to (hence the nine months of discernment).  I have never been just a mom or just wife.  A full time teacher in private schools and a wife?  yes.  A mom and a Creighton Practitioner?  yes.  A wife, a homeschooling mom, and a director of CGS?  yes.  Just a wife and a homeschooling mom?  Now that is a new one.

But, alas, a calling is a calling and to not respond, I’ve found, does no good at all because God, well, He doesn’t exactly change His plans because I just don’t want to put on my big girl pants and do what He is asking of me.  And, so, He continues to place it so strongly on my heart to focus my energies in the home and in educating the kiddos.  He repeatedly showers me with underserved grace and direction, opening the door to new and enlightening ways to educate our kids.  And, the only way that I am going to be able to follow through with the vision of homeschooling and the family culture that God has so clearly placed in my heart and mind is to be present.  To be home.   To be just a wife and a homeschooling mom who finally has the time and energy to cultivate this vision so that it can actually come to fruition.

It is time.  This is that season.

[day two]

Half way to 18. What?

25 May

Dear Analise,

A few weeks back, I was chatting with Auntie Mi-Mi about your birthday and she reminded me that nine is half way to 18.  And at 18—you’re an adult.  And, you can move out, go to college, get married, become a nun…go and do whatever it is that God calls you too.  If the last 9 years goes as fast as these nine years has, well, that reality completely and utterly leaves me stress paralyzed.  I want the pause button in a serious way. 

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As I look over pictures from the last year, I am a bit speechless.  You have grown at least 3 or 4 inches—this was proven when you recently put on a pair of shorts from last summer and they fit like tight, short work out shorts instead of the bermudas they were intended to be.  We all got a good laugh out of that. 

And, just as your body continues to grow, so does your confidence in being  you.  One of the many things that I love about you is your complete and utter, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me” attitude.  You are you.  No explanations.  You aren’t afraid to express your opinions, your likes, and your dislikes.  You laugh at your own jokes, loudly crack up at others, and have developed a witty sense of humor (sounds a little like you dad, am I right?).  You never try to be like anyone else.  You are just you—perfectly made, authentically you. 

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And with all of that you-ness, well, that means there is a lot of me-ness going on because you and I?  We are a lot alike.  And that sometimes is a lot of personality in one room.  If all is well, there is a lot of awesomeness going on.  When I’m stressed or crabby, we tend to feed off of each other’s moods and that can just be down right painful.  Let’s just say we have had a lot of opportunities this year to say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”  For that kind of unconditional love, I am grateful because truly, you are my earthly reminder that our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally and there is no sin that He will not forgive.  I’m so grateful that you love me even when I totally stink at this mom gig.  Thank you, dear daughter.

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This year, you have begun taking horseback riding lessons and that has been such a source of joy for you.  You are an animal lover and I had no doubt that you would fall in love with anything that allowed you to call a sport something that involves animals.  You have also enjoyed earning badges and being part of a wonderful group of Catholic friends at your American Heritage Girls group.  You are also so excited about your Performing Arts camp this summer.  That’s one quality I’m glad you got from me.  You continue to rock out your piano lessons, and more than anything, it is a lovely opportunity for you to learn from your daddy.  We all know the gift that he has with music and it warms my heart to see you two sitting at the piano together. 

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For your birthday this year, we had the lame-ist of days with James still down with influenza and daddy and I barely functioning.  We managed to pull together a birthday meal and ice cream pie, that only you and Jonah ate.  You have taken a rain check on your party and we will celebrate in a few weeks with the extended family. 

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As you are now officially in your last year of single digits, my prayer is that you continue your walk with the Lord, falling deeper and deeper in love with Him as you seek answers to the questions that are forever toiling around in your mind.   And, I continue to offer prayers that you know deeply how wonderfully and perfectly you were made and just how much God loves you and so does the rest of your family.

I love you sweet girl and am forever grateful for the gift that you are to me, our family and those around you.

All my love,

Momma-lou

::And, now for your annual birthday Q&A::

 What is your favorite color(s)?

Pink

What is your favorite sport?  Why?

Horse back riding lesson because I love horses, riding them and learning all kinds of cool things about them.

Who is your favorite friend?

I have too many to choose just one.

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

Play with Samantha and Lily (American Girl doll and horse), play board games and pretend we are going on many different adventures with Jonah and James.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A veterinarian because I love animals.

What is your favorite and least favorite meal?

Favorite is Beef and Noodle OR pizza

Least favorite is stir fry

What is your favorite dessert?

Ice cream pie

What is your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

Favorite=history and writing

Least Favorite=I don’t have one.  I really like all of the subjects.

What do you like to do with Jonah and James?

Play games and pretend all sorts of things.  I also like to go outside, play at the park and read to them.

What do you like to do with your family?

Read good books, play games, go to the park and ride our bikes.

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

The Eleanor Estes, Edward Eagers, and Boxcar children series.

What are your favorite movies?

Frozen and Tangled

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

That He died on the cross to save us from our sins and then rose from the dead and opened the gates of Heaven so that we can be with him in Heaven.

chocolate, family, medicinal swearing and other life lessons learned by 36

16 Mar

1. Enjoy Life Chocolate chips will always save the day.

2. Email is from the devil and apparently I am really good at unintentionally offending people through it. I now panic every time I have to hit the send button after composing an email.

3. James gives the best hugs.

4.  It is a major problem in America when it costs just a few hundred dollars for a woman to have an abortion, but over $20,000 to adopt a baby. That reality will likely keep our family from growing through adoption.

5. Some things are worth investing in—such as a good undergarments and shoes.

6. My adult version of “down time” consists of falling asleep with a book next to me that never had a chance of being opened.

7. My heart still aches at the thought of not having more babies.

8. God is patient. Very, very, very patient. I am grateful for this truth.

9. Stress paralyzed is a real thing. Just ask my husband. He may have a few stories of me sitting in the car hiding from everyone.

10. Dogs really are man’s best friend. Our puppy is pretty awesome.

11. Homeschooling is a full time gig. I was insane to think that a job in ministry could co-exist with the demands of homeschooling.

12. Ear plugs were invented by a wife who has a husband who snores. I’m sure of this.

13. Having faithful friends and family to lift me up in prayer during the trials that are inevitable in life is one of the surest signs that God cares deeply about me.

14. Annie’s zeal for learning drives me to be a better homeschooling mom every single day.

15. The Lord has been calling me for years to have better balance in my life. I am finally responding to this invitation. And, my o my, is it a freeing experience.

16. I could do without fall, winter, and spring. Shorts and flip flops is what it’s all about.

17. Classical education is a God-send. I’m so grateful that the Lord opened my eyes to this form of education. It is literally changing our family’s life.

18. Carmel apple tea with a spoonful of honey is from the Lord. He told me it was so.

19. Some things just aren’t meant to be figured out—like Jonah’s immunodeficiency or why my hair is so gray at 36 or why chin hair is really necessary on a woman.

20. A good stylist is imperative.

21. Jason’s guitar playing skills are some of my favorite things about him.

22. I like skinny jeans and tall boots. There, I admit it.

23. The Lord desires holiness from me and by golly, He provides so many opportunities to grow every day.

24. I have a minor obsession with Facebook. I didn’t even try to give it up for Lent.

25. A journey towards something is also a journey away from something. I’m living this.

26. Jonah sleeps like a pretzel. That’s about as athletic as we get around here.

27. Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic are God’s gift to women in modest and fashionable clothes.

28. It’s a fantastic gift when you can call your family your friends.

29. I’m pretty sure that my body is comprised of Meijer veggie chips and Pace mild salsa.

30. My holy hour every week is my absolute favorite time.

31. Quality time spent talking to my husband is my next favorite thing.

32. If I could spend the day reading book after book with my kids, my life would be pretty awesome. Good thing my kids agree. My life is awesome.

33. “This too shall pass…” has become my mantra for both the good and the bad.

34. Thus, soak up the good and take up medicinal swearing during the bad—or, I mean spend that time on your knees, begging the Lord to sustain you. He always does (even through the swearing).

35.  The older I get, the more introverted and socially awkward I become. 

36. I’m so grateful that 35 is in the books. It was a year of intense purgation. With a joy-filled heart, I am ready for this next chapter of our lives.