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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!

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]

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.

So this is 35

8 Mar

I slept in today…well, actually, I first woke up well before everyone else, laid in bed dreaming about all of the landscape projects I can’t wait to tackle once this Polar Vortex decides to pass and then drifted back to sleep until 8 o’clock.  I rolled out of bed with crazy bed head, morning breath, eyes that were groggy.  I was greeted by the little ones, “Oh Mommy’s awake…come quick!  Happy Birthday, Mommy!”

35, right.  It’s my birthday today.  Apparently this is what 35 looks like: A disheveled mom who is greeted by wonderful kiddos and an equally fantastic husband who all want hugs and kisses despite my morning “glow.”

I’m grateful and so I’m following last year’s tradition of re-capping my favorite things, in no particular order:

1. Our house.  I love this house and never, ever, ever want to move again.

2. Quiet time

3. My husband who is in the kitchen making my birthday cake and dinner.  (When one of my friend’s called to wish me a happy birthday this morning, she asked what fun was planned for today and I told her that Jason was making a fun meal and the evening would be spent playing board games with the kids.  Her reply, “That’s so nice that you have a husband who can find his way around the kitchen.”  I concur.  He’s the bees-knees and I’m smitten with him and so grateful God brought my family to Michigan in the 8th grade, so that I could meet this amazing guy who apparently had a “thing” from me even waaaaay back then.)  He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

4. Meijer Natural Veggie chips

5. Pace Picante Mild Salsa—paired with the abovementioned Veggie Chips and call that my “after a long day pick me up.”

6. Enjoy Life Mega Chunk Chocolate Chips—otherwise known as my “afternoon pick me up.”

::side note, why do I need so many pick me ups?::

7. Lent, which is a time to realign my heart, mind, and soul to God—and to take a chance to chill from my insane chip, salsa, and chocolate chip addictions and turn to God for my “pick me up.”

8. James’ intense “squeeze hugs.”  They are equal parts endearing and painful.

9. Jonah’s incessant singing—he makes my heart sing, too.

10. Annie’s unending questions and need to know…everything…right now.  I have no idea where she gets that from.

11. A faith that without, I have nothing.

12. The Eucharist and the ability to receive Jesus intimately into my soul so that the light of Christ, which I received at Baptism will grow brighter.

13. God’s unending love and grace for me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  What a blessing to have a Heavenly Father who doesn’t just sit around and hope I will come back, but daily “call his sheep by name” and “goes in search of his lost one.”

14. The sunshine—of course you are hiding today, on my birthday—what gives?

15. Summer—no school, no atrium, so fewer commitments.  How is it only March?

16. Holy Hour—the one hour a week where I can lay it all down at Jesus’ feet.

17. Homeschooling

18. Country Living Magazine

19. Antique stores

20. My brother and his family, because without him I would maybe be able to forget my 8th birthday during which time I was a complete spaz and had to be asked eight times, “Amanda, do you want cake with your ice cream?”  How lucky am I that my parents had a VHS recorder to capture that ridiculous moment and a brother who will never let me live it down.  Yes, he even sent me a YouTube video this morning to remind me.  He’s *that* awesome.

21. My parents who humble me time and time again with their support.

22. My husband’s family because without them, Jason wouldn’t be the awesome-ness that he is.

23. My friends.  Seriously.  For the ones who keep me grounded, those that listen to my joys, support me in my struggles, lift me up when life stinks, and who love me for all that I am and am not.

24. My spiritual director and the opportunity to have someone to help me grow in my faith in such a profound way.

25. A wonderful stylist who hates gray hair as much as I do.

26. The lady who waxes my eyebrows (way too infrequently) because sometimes you just have to.

27. The rare evening where I get out of the house by myself and sit at Bigby and read, write, or just sit and breathe.

28. Board games and card games because I am not a mom who loves to play, but board games, now that is something I can get into.  Uno just happens to be on deck for tonight.

29. Flowers, especially daffodils, daisies, and mums.

30. Almond Flour—for real.  It’s the one common grain substitute that everyone in my house can eat.

31. Forgiveness and that no matter what kind of day we have, this family of mine can always find forgiveness to extend to one another.

32. Movies, in particular chick flicks, (not disgusting) comedies, and dramas.

33. Psych—I really do not know how I lived prior to that show coming into my world.  It makes me laugh, no matter how grumpy I might be.

34. Netflix—because you introduced me to Psyche and are the key to keeping TV to a bare minimum in our house.

35. This little blog.  It makes me happy.

So, make my birthday even happier by sharing  some of the little things that make your world a happy, hopeful, bright place. 

2013 in Review

1 Jan

I’m sitting by the fire with a cup of chocolate peppermint herbal tea at my favorite coffee shop. Today is the first day of 2014 and the internet is a-buzz with New Year’s resolution and 2013 reflections. There seems to be a few resounding themes amongst all of these posts: Balance, Simplify, Save, Cherish. Yeah. I could get on with that, too.

But, I’m just not in the mood to reflect too much on what needs to change in my life. Or what I hope for this year. I’d rather just think about the good today and leave it at that.

So, instead, this sipping a warm cup of tea while sitting by a cozy fire place watching the snow whirl around has got me thinking about what a crazy year 2013 was for us. One that brought so much change that we could have never wrapped our minds around when we rang in 2013. This change has brought so much joy. Often times I found myself saying to Jason, “My heart is so full of gratitude in all that God has given to us. I feel so undeserving of these amazing blessings.” Yes. The year was that good.

Early in 2013, we decided to list our old house and sold it within a month. We had been praying for a number of years for God to show us how we could get out of our subdivision, cookie cutter house and into one with more space and in the country. In February 2013, He showed us the way. We are so grateful! After much searching, we found the perfect house for us. While it was adorned with likings of an 80 year old (read: floral, pink, blue, berber, and soooo! much! oak!), Jason and I were up to the challenge of redoing a bunch of the house to make it ours.

We still have countless projects, but those are just cosmetic things at this point. As a house, it is *perfect* for our family. And we have a few acres for the kids to run and play and let their imaginations run wild. Our hope is to get some animals (other than the 2 barn cats we have now), plant a huge garden (as opposed to sharing one with my parents at their house), plant a small orchard and Jason has all sorts of plans for an awesome tree house for the kids. This house? It was meant to be for our family and I can truly see us growing old and gray here.

We went on our annual family vacation to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina in August. It was the perfect way to end a very busy spring and summer before the madness of the school year began. This vacation has become an annual tradition that is truly one of our family’s favorite weeks of the year. Lazy days playing at the ocean—why yes, please!

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Homeschooling has continued. Jonah is now a big boy and in Kindergarten learning and doing what Kindergarten kids do. He loves to read, has finally got his writing down (thanks to lots of OT), and just loves math. Annie is well ahead academically, and really is just an easy kid to teach. Even subjects that she doesn’t love, like grammar or science, she embraces with a joyful heart. And, our spunky James has figured out how to behave while we weave our schoolwork in and out of our days. He loves passing time doing puzzles, building towers, as well as countless Montessori “works” we put on our school shelves for him. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that homeschooling has been a crazy adventure and one that leaves me very, very, very tired some days. It is not for everyone. Some days I wonder if it is for me. Time will tell, I suppose.

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We got ourselves a new ride. I’d rather not go into the embarrassing details, but I don’t exactly have the best driving record. Mailboxes, bumpers, and random basketball posts have an uncanny way of hitting my car. So, when we were given the opportunity to get a “nice” car this year, I was, well…hesitant. Does this mean everyone is going to freak out if I run into, I mean, something dents the car? Because if so, I can’t. take. the. pressure! Anyway, I put on my big girl pants and promised to ask my guardian angel to take the wheel since apparently she can do a better job than me. Fingers crossed for no accidents in 2014!

Annie is preparing to receive first Holy Communion and First Reconciliation this Spring. This, people? Is awesome. I’ve been blessed to be able to co-coordinate the cgs program at our parish and also lead the sacramental prep kids each week. For all of my Catholic friends out there, I promise you, there is no better way to catechize our children in the faith. This methodology is outstanding. I feel so blessed to be able to utilize it both at the parish and in our home.

Photo courtesy of cgsusa.org

Jason left his employer and actually returned to his former employer, though this time as a Program Manager. As a wife, I’m so happy for him. While his previous job at Sparrow was wonderful, he simply wasn’t content. It wasn’t the right fit for him. He is a software development computer nerd at heart and he loves the opportunity to work in a smaller, very creative workplace. He is just a few weeks into his new position, and so far, so good.

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Our dear friends are a repeated blessing to us. As we grow older, what our friendships look like and mean to us have changed and have taken on new meaning. We are blessed with a few very close friends and countless other friends. This year has been an interesting year of “true colors” showing forth with friends—some have come forth in surprisingly wonderful ways and others have taken a step back as God leads them in different directions than us. What I do know, is that I’m grateful for the friends who can celebrate our success with true, unselfish joy, and lift us up when life seems awfully heavy. With these friends, there is no jealousy, competition, or selfishness. Nope, only true love. We feel so very blessed to have these friends.

Our family continues to be one of greatest blessings. My parents took us in for almost 2 months this summer while our new house was in re-do mode. They gave up countless hours to help us both physically and mentally. I remember after one long day (that was preceded by weeks of long days), I lost my mind and cried and cried to my mom. “What the heck did we do getting a house that needs so much work?” In the end, she comforted me, told me all would be well, and that I just needed a good night of sleep. She was right. All is well.

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Our faith. Without my Catholic faith, I truly do not have an identity. It defines all that Jason and I do and believe in our life. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn and grow and evangelize each and every day. I pray that our actions show our Catholic Christian joy!

My heart really does overflow with joy. I’m grateful for all that 2013 brought into our lives—more than the passing things of this world like cars and houses, or the transient relationships that come and go, but for the true love and devotion that is reflected in the people who mean the most to me and the love and mercy which is so freely poured out to me from our Heavenly Father.

Cheers!

recharge

21 Nov

As a (homeschooling) mother, every last decision about my children rests in my (and my husbands, but a lot more on me) lap.  My mind feels like a computer screen with 1,452 tabs open at all times.  Mommas, I know you can relate.  Jason always jokes when it is getting close to bed time:  “Time to start closing down those tabs otherwise you will never sleep.” 

Here’s a little glimpse of what is racing around in my mind 24/7:

Passing on our faith to the kids—most important job we have.

Being a “better” parent—that litany is too long for this post—but, suffice is to say, I’m grateful for God’s mercy to begin anew each day. 

Curriculum—every. single. subject!  Enough said.

Food—we adhere to a whole foods, organic (as much as possible), mainly grain and dairy-free diet.  This?  Is *not* out of choice, but necessity.  This, also?  Is a hell of a lot of work.  I am currently researching the best gut cleanses to help some issues going on with some of us.  So much conflicting research!

Healthcare, or Crapcare—whichever your prefer—having a kiddo with lots of health issues, we’ve been around the block a few dozen times.  In most cases, there are a lot of “experts” who really don’t know a darn thing.  If I got paid for every, “I just don’t know why….” we have heard from an “expert,” we’d be rich.  So, we tend to take a non-traditional approach to healthcare using nutrition supplements and chiropractic and kinesiology care to get at the root cause of issues instead of putting a band aid over the problem.   This is not perfect, but it is the best we’ve found.  This?  Can be costly and time consuming.

Also, academic challenges are going on with this same kiddo, things that are still too tender for me to type out for the whole world to read (because I have that big of a following, right? Ha!).  But, it has led us here, there, and nowhere trying to get him help only to be told over and over that our insurance won’t cover those services.  This week, more of these issues surfaced and gosh, I’m frustrated and sad for him—and me, because I just don’t think I can research one more thing.  But, of course I will, because obviously.  (If you could offer prayers for discernment for Jason and I, we’d appreciate it!)

Church ministry—this should come this low on the list because I *should* have my priorities ordered correctly.  It’s 50/50.  I’m doing my best to give my time and talent where I can, but also step back and say, “Enough.”

My friends and family and others I’m called to serve—I have a perpetual “should do” list running through my mind—meals to make, letters to write, phone calls to make.  Often, these things just don’t happen.  And, I kind of hate that.

Today is just one of those days.  After a cup of tea and a few handfuls of chocolate (no, I do not eat my feelings), I’ve decided next week we are taking a break from school.  I need to recharge and just…take! a! break! (and by that I may or may not mean drink lots of tea and eat lots of chocolate).  We’ll see.

A little of this and a lot of that

26 Jul

Disclosure:  Be prepared to read the most jumbled and random grumble.  I’m sorry.  Apparently I process grief by thinking about too many things at once until my brain feels like it is going to explode.  I thought maybe if I got this out on the screen, my brain would calm down. 

I’m supposed to be painting trim in our basement.  The room that will be our school room is torn up…walls and doors were added this week and everything is a mess and I have to paint trim.  I hate painting trim.  I don’t want to do this.  But, school starts in about a month, and I can’t exactly start school in a room with no flooring, and no books or supplies.  This room…has got to get done.

And there is atrium.  Oh my gosh, if my husband had his way, I’d quit now (or at least next year for sure) and just do it at home.  The work—oh my gosh, there is a mountain of things to get done before the school year gets done and I can’t wrap my head around how it is going to get done.  The amount of work it takes is crazy—mainly because we are still in the materials making stage and there are a hell of a lot of materials that need to be made.  And lucky me—I’m the idiot who asked to open the first and subsequent phases of the atrium, which means I’m the idiot who is loosing my mind over materials and schedules and lesson plans, etc.  I need to figure out how to do this differently.  But, I can’t seem to do that after three years.  Maybe it is a sign? 

Budgets.  Barf.  As with any new (to us) house…a million things pop up and they all cost money.  I’m sick of money.  It’s stupid.

Curriculum.  Thank God that after a ridiculous amount of hours, I got everything ordered for this coming year.  Now to get comfy with the new stuff. 

Co-op.  I’m teaching a class this year and that will be grand.  I just need to find time to write out lesson plans for the semester.  Perhaps at 2AM when I can’t sleep because my mind is whirling from too many to dos.

Disciplining with love and logic.  It takes a lot of brain power, which I am lacking.

I’m so distracted this week.  Because this…

“Luke David Holland entered this world out of love on January 31st. He was a perfect sinless baby. Celebrate his entrance into heaven on this day as he leaves this world loved, leaving behind two gracious parents and many tears.”

My friends lost their 6 month old this past week.  It is awful.  My heart is aching for them.  They are an awesomely strong, faithful couple.  God is asking so much of them right now and I pray that their prayer warriors are helping to hold this cross that they are carrying because dang, it is a *heavy* cross.

Ugh. 

And so I feel annoyed with myself for having a complete cry fest on the phone this morning with Jason because most of this stuff in my life doesn’t really matter.  All of my “life” issues seem stupid and insignificant compared to what Jessica and Brian are going through. 

I’m broken hearted and feeling helpless for them.  The human in me wants Luke back with his parents and brother.  But I know that God has a plan in this far greater than I will ever understand.   

So really, I’m feeling like I wish “life” would go away so that I could squeeze and hug the living day lights out of my kids and husband right now because really that is what matters more than any of these t0 dos. 

And even more, I’m wishing Jessica and Brian could do the same to baby Luke because, yes.

Life…it is so…life.

This sure isn’t Heaven.