December 31, 2013

On 2013

I know that a cardinal rule of blogging is to never acknowledge an absence.  However, my  blogging absence says more about 2013 than any blog post could.  In general, 2013 has not been good.  It's been uncomfortable, frustrating, and at times, downright heartbreaking.  It's stretched and challenged us and has brought more tears than laughter.  Those are just the facts.

I know what you're thinking: "You have a home, jobs, three beautiful, healthy children, etc.  Why are you complaining?"  The good things in life aren't lost on me.  I know that it could be worse and that I'm relatively fortunate.  That doesn't change the fact that this year has just been a bad one.  All last January, February and March, I kept commenting on how I couldn't wait for winter to be over because I was sure winter was bringing our misfortune.  But it continued through the spring, summer and right on into the fall. December has kind of been the grand finale.

I regret not writing as much this year, because I haven't documented much of the kids' lives during this year and they've all changed so much.  Jack is 6, going on 12 and really is amazing.  Bennett is one of the most creative, compassionate 4-year-olds I know.  And Claire?  She's incredibly fiesty and so, so, smart.  We've had so many good moments with them this year and I wish I'd written about those.

The fact is that every time I sit down to write, my mind draws a blank and tears fill my eyes.  That's just how it's been.

I wish that I could write about how much we've grown and learned through the challenges of this year . . . and I think we have.  But it's hard to see that clearly when you're still in the middle of it.

I do know, that despite all of the stress and misfortune of this year, that God is good and that he loves us.  I know that even if every year for the rest of our lives is like this one, we can still consider ourselves incredibly blessed.

I'm just hoping that 2014 is our year.

September 29, 2013

Claire's first birthday

Sadly, Claire is closer to 2 years old than she is to her first birthday, and I'm just now posting photos from her party.

I didn't post much about Christmas last year, but, well . . . it wasn't great thanks to a nasty little stomach bug.  Claire's original party was postponed, and by the time we celebrated, most of the treats I had ready were stale or too old to serve.  It was still cute on the 30th when we made up for it, and let's face it . . . she didn't really know the difference. 

Here are the two photos from her REAL birthday that we celebrated at home.  She was the only one who didn't get sick, so I think she's probably the only one that really enjoyed her birthday cake.

And here are a few from her belated birthday party:


September 11, 2013

Claire, at 20 months

At 20 months, Claire . . .

. . . likes to wear shoes.  Not HER shoes.  Other people's shoes.  If you take off your shoes at my house, she will likely be wearing them in 10 - 15 minutes.

. . . will stand still for photos, only when her mouth is full of animal crackers (see above).

. . . has an ATTITUDE.  She's learned to defend herself from her brothers and has mastered saying "STOP THAT", "I DON'T WANT TO", "I DON'T WANT THAT", "LEAVE ME ALONE" and many other things with enough edge to hold her own.  It's 1 part cute and 2 parts frustrating.

. . . is smart as a whip.  Honestly.  I can't even believe what she can understand.

. . . still loves her Mama. If I'm in the room, her arms are stretched out, asking "hold, please."  Sometimes it's inconvenient, but knowing this is the last one I'll have doing that, I usually give in.  I still use my sling to carry her in.

. . . if she wants my attention, and I'm talking to someone else, she takes it upon herself to grab me by the jaw and direct my head toward her.  This will only be cute for another year or so.  After that, it gets obnoxious.

. . . will stand at the top of the stairs or at the door and kyle, "KYYYLE!"  I don't know where she got that from.

. . . will yell, "BOOOYS!  STOP THAT!" when she hears her brothers getting rough or making lots of noise.

. . . has constipation problems.  TMI?  Perhaps.  But it's a pretty big issue for her right now.

. . . Is in 2T/3T clothing, depending on the brand.  I recently retired all of her 18 - 24 month clothing.  She grew A LOT in August.

. . . loves to put necklaces or bracelets on and proclaim herself, "PRETTY!" Something with which we all can agree.

. . . still has very little hair.  It's coming in, slowly, but surely.  I just look forward to the day that I don't have to say, "No, she's a girl" every time she isn't wearing all pink.  And sometimes even when she is.

. . . has been a little grumpy for about a month.  Which is how long she's had 2 teeth trying to push their way through.  My fingers are crossed that when they finally emerge fully, her temperament will become more pleasant.

September 3, 2013

Top 10 of this summer

In no particular order . . .

10.  I had a visit from my friend, Heather, at the beginning of June.  I hadn't seen her in a couple of years.  I knew that I missed her, but I really remembered why in that 24 hours that I got to spend with her.  We laughed and talked and just had a great time.  I'm grateful for her friendship.

9. Both boys learned to ride two-wheel bikes without training wheels.  In the spring, we could tell that Ben was ready.  We had started him on a balance bike, and we still kick ourselves for not doing that with Jack.  We thought there might be problems if Ben started riding before his big brother, so we worked with Jack for over a month before he finally got it.  How?  Kyle put him at the top of the hill, and just let him go down it until he learned to balance.  After that, the pedaling came easily.  About a week after Jack learned, we put Ben on one and he took off with very little assistance. 

Both boys have some bumps, scrapes and bruises, but for the most part, they've done really well.  We became very thankful and aware of how important their helmets are after jack took a scary fall back in June.  I can't even talk about it any more than that.  But if your kids don't wear bike helmets, this is me pleading with you to have them do so.

8.  Aunt Karina got Jack a set of OgoSport OgoDisks for his birthday and we almost immediately became addicted.  We bought a couple more sets so that we could all play together.  While Ben's still learning, and Claire just runs around with hers, it's become one of the first family things that we can all do together.  I know it seems silly that this is one of our top 10 of the summer, but that little glimpse into the future of all of us enjoying time together, rather than Kyle and I just wrangling kids and trying to keep them entertained was awesome.

7.  We went strawberry picking for the first time!  The kids loved it.  Well, Jack and Ben did.  Claire just ran around trying to step on them.  I made 24 jars of strawberry jam.  Well, if I'm being honest . . . strawberry syrup.  It didn't set well.  Still, it tastes great on toast.

6.  I grew a tomato.  The plant is huge, but produced nothing but one small tomato.  And then picked it when it was about an inch in diameter.  That was the end of that.  But still . . . I GREW A TOMATO!

 5.  We went camping at the end of August. It was a rough trip.  Camping with three kids is WORK.  We had difficulty finding a good camp site (the first three didn't work) and had to get set up in the dark.  I was so thankful for my inlaw's trailer, because if we had been in a tent, our trip would have been half as long.  Kyle's cousin also left his boat up there, so we got to take that out on Lake Charlevoix . . . it was one of the highlights of our trip.  All 3 kids sleeping in the same trailer, within feet of each other meant rough bedtimes, difficult naptimes and early mornings for everyone, but we survived.  The trip home was twice as long as it should have been.  Even so, I realized on that trip how important family time is.  We need to have more time away with just the five of us.  We've planned another (non-camping) trip in October.

4.  Jack turned 6.  I still have trouble wrapping my head around this.  We didn't do a big party.  I decided to end those at 5 and allow them to do a "friends" birthday party.  However, Jack chose to forgo the friends party for a Tigers' game with his dad.  We were all very happy with that decision.

3.  I hit 20,000 etsy sales in August. 

2.  My parents and sister took ALL THREE kids for a few nights in July.  Kyle and I ended up having to stay home to do some home repairs required by our home owners insurance, so that was a bummer.  But it was nice to just stay home, relax and not have to worry about bedtimes or feeding little mouths.  It was just the break that we needed, and the kids had a great time with grandma, grandpa and auntie.

1.  Jack gave his heart to Jesus this summer.  Again.  I usually resist that phrase because it's become so trite, but it's the only way to describe it.  In late July, we were talking about what it meant to have "Jesus in your heart."

Jack said,"Oh yeah, I did that during Family Camp.  I mean, I know I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart when I was four, but I understood what it meant more this time." 

My prayer for all three of my kids is, as they grow in intellect and discernment, they'll have countless moments of "I understand more" so that they can surrender their lives to Jesus continually and deepen their understanding of His grace.

June 10, 2013

Dear Bennett, Months 37 - 45

Dear Ben,

Last month, you came into our room a little before 6:00.  We said it was too early and told you to go back to bed. 

About 10 minutes later, Jack came in and said, "Where's Ben?"  We told him you were probably in the living room or kitchen.  We started to get up and Jack came in and said, "The back door is open and Ben's boots are gone."

That got us out of bed real fast.  I ran out to the back yard (in my pajamas) and started yelling your name.  I didn't see you anywhere.  My eyes were filling with tears as I started walking through the neighbor's back yards and trying to see through the woods to see if I could spot you.  Suddenly, through the trees, I heard you say, "Hey!  Mom!" as your little silhouette emerged from the brush.

I grabbed you and scooped you up and hugged you as I told you how worried we were and how you were to NEVER leave the house without telling us again.

You just looked at me and said, "What?  I just really wanted to catch that cat.  Wouldn't it be fun to have a cat?"  I shudder to think about what might have happened if that cat had run into the street or down to the lake.  And once I had regained composure, we had a very serious talk about why that was NOT okay.

That moment last month wasn't the last time you wandered off.  It's happened a few more times, and every time it scares me.  We're working on that.  I honestly believe that 95% of the time it's not disobedience . . . it's just curiosity.  Nonethless, I'm looking into door alarms.

You, my sweet boy, are our little free spirit.  You just follow your heart wherever it might take you.  While this makes parenting a lot more challenging, I also love this about you.  Sometimes, I'm even a little envious.  I love it that you have few inhibitions.

I told someone recently that you're my "complicated" child.  Not in a bad way . . . just in a, well, complicated way.  Managing your brother at this age was always very straightforward . . . A + B = C.  With you, A + B = C, but only on in the morning.  Sometimes, after naptime, A+B/2 = C.  And Sometimes, A and B aren't even available.  I don't know if that makes sense, but it's the best way to describe you.  It takes more work for us to figure you out . . . but when we do?  It's so, so worth it.

When you do something that  you know you shouldn't have, you say something like, "I still love you when you get mad at me.  Do you still love me if I spilled juice on your bed?"  It's hard to be upset when you start with that.  You're the best 3-year-old I know and I love you no matter what!



April 10, 2013


You know that moment where you're sitting in the living room with your head in your hands, listing to your child throw a tantrum in his bedroom, wondering if you did the right thing by taking away his bedtime snack and story?  I had one of those moments this week.

And a few minutes later, Ben walked out of his room and said, "I'm sorry, Mom.  I know what I did was wrong.  I'll do better tomorrow."


March 25, 2013

Baby Cows

I don't really care what the thermometer says.  The calender doesn't really matter, either.  Spring is here.

How do I know?  Baby cows.  There are baby cows in one of the fields that we pass every day on the way to school.  We watch for them with anticipation every spring and last week, I just about jumped out of my seat when I saw the first one.  And then there were two the next day.

We first noticed the baby cows (yes, I know they're called calves, but we've always called them the baby cows so that's what I'll stick with) two years ago during Jack's first year of preschool.  We often see the mothers nursing their babies near the fence on the way to school and, well, I'll just say it . . . it's magical.  The car gets silent for a few seconds and then there's a collective "awwwww" every morning.

The last two weeks have been particularly stressful.  I needed to see those baby cows last week.

There may be snow in the field, but the baby cows are there, too.  Spring is here.

March 18, 2013

Dear Claire, months . . . er, 11 - 15ish

Dear Claire,

Oh darling third child . . . I love you so much.  It's been a long time since I've written a letter and I don't even know how to sum up the last four months.  Had I written monthly, every single letter would have been very different.  You've transformed from an easy going, smiles-all-the-time child to a scowling, has-her-own-opinions-and-her-own-timeline child.   You're not difficult.  Sometimes I think you are, until I remember that I'm just comparing you to how you were four months ago, and not to truly difficult children.  You've just developed an attitude.  I think it will serve you well in the future, but right now it just makes things more challenging.  You scowl at every new person you meet, simply because people laugh at you every time you do it.  Along with your attitude has come this high pitched shriek that I have nightmares about.  It's your way of being heard in a noisy house with two very active brothers,  I know.  Nonetheless, your dad and I cringe every time we see you winding up!

One thing that hasn't changed is that you still LOVE me.  You prefer me to anyone.  Even when one of your grandmas is around, you eventually make your way back to me.  I love it when we see each other for the first time when I get home from work, or when you wake up.  Today was probably my favorite.  Your dad got you up from your nap and you heard my voice in hall.  "Moooom!" you screamed.  You can mimic your brothers' way of calling me so well.  You scream "Moooooooom!" from your crib each morning and after every nap.  I don't even know that you think of it as my name as you do a way to get someone's attention.

Today, though, I heard you scream it from your room as Dad was changing your diaper.  I peeked my head around the corner into your room and then pulled back real quick.  You gasped and then gave this low, continuous chuckle that made both your Dad and I laugh.  I feel the same way about you.

The lessons I'm learning so far in 2013 revolve around expectations of relationships and, well, not to have them.  Actually, no . . . I wouldn't actually say that I'm learning this in 2013.  I would say that I'm realizing this, after 34 years of experience.  Don't place expectations on relationships, because they'll likely be unmet and you'll often walk away disappointed.

The exception to this rule is, of course, my relationship with your Dad.  My expectations of what our marriage would be like have far surpassed anything I had hoped before I met him.  I hope you'll feel the same way about your husband someday.

I know that the paragraph before last makes me sound bitter or jaded, but it isn't meant to.  I guess I'm just more aware.  Whether it's friends or family, often things just don't turn out the way you think they will.  Friendships that you are sure will be close forever drift apart, simply because of circumstances or geography.  The expectations you have of how relationships with family will play out aren't always met.  There are also acquaintances that you never really expect much of that become some of your best friends.  Had someone told me this 15 years ago, I would have scoffed, thinking that I had control over these things.  But there are some things in life that just happen.

I tell you this because I sometimes wonder what our relationship will be like 20 or 30 years from now.  Will you call me?  Will you see me as a nag?  Will you hold a grudge toward me about something that I said when you were 6, that you just can't let go of?  Will we be friends?  Will you admire me?  Will you talk to me about your classes or relationships?  It's so hard to imagine that you, for whom I make every decision now, will someday be completely independent from me.

Will we get together for lunch?  Will we live close to each other?  Will you ask for my advice?  Will you ask me not to give so much advice?  I will try not to be overbearing or worry about this too much.  But if you're reading this right now and you're 30, give me a call, will you?


March 16, 2013

Jack's 5th birthday party

Jack turned 5 last June.

That's right . . . almost a year ago.  I'm a little behind.  Admittedly, these photos aren't the greatest . . . most were taken on my phone at the last minute as guests were arriving.

He wanted a super hero birthday . . . he was so into super heroes.  Any super hero.  He still is.

All of the kids made their own capes . . . we had a kit for each child that came with a satin cape, their initial, an initial backer and lots of felt stickies to decorate with.  Once they were done decorating, we didn't really see much of the kids until it was time to open gifts.  They ran in circles playing "super hero" and were thoroughly entertained!


We also had pre-assembled capes for Claire and Hayleigh, neither of whom were mobile at that point!  So sweet.


We did everything in a super hero theme, though over the course of planning, it morphed intro a comic book theme, kind of.  Jack didn't care, so I didn't either. 

February 22, 2013

Just perfect

We had the perfect afternoon and evening.

No . . . really.  Sometimes I write things like that and people assume I'm being sarcastic.

This afternoon really was perfect.

Kyle's on call this weekend at camp, so when Jack got home from school, he had to go over to camp to check on our groups staying in the lodges.  On a whim, I said, "Hey!  Do you guys want to go with him and go sledding?!"  I'd seen pictures on facebook all day of friends sledding with their kids.  Stupid peer pressure.

As soon as the words left my mouth, I wished I could take them back.  4 - 7 is the hardest time of day.  The kids are hungry, tired and cranky . . . as are we.  I knew that any sort of outing involving layers of clothing, traveling and braving the elements was a recipe for disaster.

But I said it, and there was no going back.

I scrounged to find the boys' old snow play clothes for Claire and Kyle got the boys bundled up.  Claire fussed all the way to camp and I was picturing myself having to sit with her in the car while Kyle broke up fights between the boys over who got to sit in the front on the sled.  I commented to Kyle that I must have been insane to suggest sledding with all three.

I was wrong.  It was the perfect afternoon. Sure there was some whining and one meltdown, but we had SO much fun.  Snowball fights, climbing the hill, sledding down.  There was plenty of snow, but it didn't really feel that cold.  We laughed.  We played.  It was really good.  Claire just laughed at her brothers (with the exception of one face-first dive into the snow).

Today was what I needed.  Over the last few weeks, we've started to sell and give away a lot of our baby equipment.  This has been so difficult for me.  I know that we're done having kids, and I'm happy for that, but there's still this sadness over that stage of life being over.


This afternoon, I felt a huge peace about our family being complete and enjoying the phases we go through . . . and even the completion of those phases.

After sledding, we stopped at the Cedar Center for hot chocolate and then picked up soup from the Beach Bar for dinner.  We all sang and laughed on our way home and at one point I asked Kyle, "Can you believe this is OUR family?!" 

We're so blessed.