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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!

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.

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.

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]

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.