Monday, July 28, 2014

my Layla.

It happened with Maleah too.  As school approaches, I get all this hype in me.  Did I make everyday count?  Was this the best summer ever?  Our days are numbered.  I hope I was everything I had to be.  Did I make home the best place to be the last five years?

Layla will be going off to Kindergarten in a few short weeks.  While I have found that I actually love the school years, the growing up, and the excitement that comes with it, it is still just strange.  I will always be the mom who cries sadness on the first day of school and cries happiness on the last day of school.  Call me crazy, but I love and adore having my kids home with me.

I have worked so hard at intentionally creating home to be a space that is a retreat for our family.  I want home to be safe, quiet yet fun, and the best place on this earth.  We have said no to a lot of things, creating time and margin in our life.  We don't want to do crazy busy.  We haven't done it perfectly, but by golly we have tried.

While I know I have done this for five years with Layla, I suddenly feel the pressure this summer.  It went so fast.  It was so good.  But it flew by.

Then, last night she gave me all the affirmation I needed.  Without cue or prompting, this was our conversation...

Layla: What are we doing tomorrow, Mom?
Me: Nothing at all.
Layla: Yay!  I love nothing at all, because home is perfect.  Perfectly relaxing.
Me: I love to her you say that, Layla.  Mommy loves being home too.
Layla, as I am right outside her bedroom headed downstairs: Home sweet home.

Major Catch Up!

Just when you think you might have a boring couple weeks, a whole lot to life happens.  Woofta!  I am going to do my best to get up to speed here, but in no particular order, as I don't even remember how this all happened...

Most importantly, I have been spending lots of time with my Grandma Hayes.  Upon a couple turn of events, we were all suddenly told to come say our goodbyes.  Beings that she is 91, we are so thankful for her long, healthy (her lost hospitalization was giving birth to her daughter 50-something years ago!), wonderful, fulfilling life.  And yet, impending death stirs up a whole lot of emotions.

It was a blessed time, as my sisters and their families came, cousins visited, we sang one evening to Grandma, and time together is just plain ol' good.  But, watching and waiting for death can be agonizing.  Things get better, then worse, then better, then worse.  Thursday night I visited and she told me, "I waited and waited to go to heaven this morning, but He never came for me."  She is so ready for glory.  We know God's timing is perfect, but the waiting is hard.

In between sitting with Grandma, we've been cleaning out her apartment.  We came across journals and journals documenting years and years.  Some days it's just the weather, or "It was a nice day."  Other days, she tells what they did, how Grandpa was with his Parkinson's, or the price of gas.  As I have been sitting beside my Grandma, I've been reading her journals to her.  "Read them out loud," she tells me.  We have laughed and laughed.  One thing I have found, and through it have been remembering, is that us grandkids spent a lot of time at their house.  One day they painted the club house.  That was for us.  Another day they brought us girls to piano lessons.  That was for us.  Another day she was worried because Alisa wasn't feeling well.  That was for us.  She was an amazing grandma, and I'm so thankful for the opportunity the last couple weeks to tell her that.  She just smiles and says, "Well that's real nice of you to say."

Death changes your perspective, for the better.  The drama of everyday life suddenly seems so trivial.  There is freedom in that.  We are still waiting with her, and cheering her on towards her eternal home.

After Erica and Alisa went home, I needed a reprieve myself.  Weimer's and us packed up and headed North.  What generous in-laws to allow us the space and give us our own time to relax and have fun!  I am so, so grateful!

Just chillin'.

They tubed, and tubed, and tubed, and tubed.

To say Charlie loves being at the cabin is an understatement.
He is a happy boy up there.

Tubing, again.
It was such a relaxing time, and a good chance to unwind and regroup with no distractions.

Next up: our 10k.  A couple weeks ago, Dallas and I ran a 10k.  I know it seems trivial to lots, but to us this was a major feat.  It was 90% humidity, raining, and felt like a tropical rain forest.  But, we survived.  I thought it wasn't so bad.  Dallas might give you a different story.

The night before the race, we loaded up on birthday cake and pizza celebrating the Wessels summer kids!  Our kids are so blessed with an abundance of cousins.  Celebrations and birthdays are quite the get together.  We feel fortunate that our children have so many friends to share the fun times with!

Lastly, we had small group family night last night.  In the summer we have gotten our families together once a month.  What a treat!  We eat together, play an intense game of kick ball, enjoy ice cream sundaes, make s'mores over a campfire, and blow up fireworks.  Things have been hectic and draining lately, but an evening with these people is so life giving.

These two were born a day apart.  Oh, the memories.

I love this photo of Dallas and I.  On top of a hill, God's beautiful creation behind us, and the gorgeous sun set with the vast array of color.  My strong and steady with his arm around me.  While life is so uncertain and wavering, there are a few things that are not.  Thank you, Lord.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy birthday, Maleah!

We celebrated another fantastic year with the little girl who made me a mommy.

Looking back, I chuckle.  I always dreamt of having children.  There was never any doubt in my mind that if God allowed us children, being a mom would be my full time job and this was my heart's desire.  Then, we had Maleah.  She was perfect and we fell in love.  But, it was hard.  I cried for days after she was born.  It was an ugly time, and something I couldn't pinpoint my feelings on.  I loved my baby, but for this I wasn't prepared.  Then, she became a toddler who gave her cousin scars because of her fierce personality.  And, I cried for days.  It was hard and I wasn't prepared.  Now, I cry because I am so proud.  It is still really hard, but seven years later I am able to look back and thank God for the guidance, and Maleah for the grace, in figuring out how to be a mom.

I'm so proud, because when I pick up Maleah from church, library, or school, I am told what a gem she is.  I'm proud because she lets everybody else go first, gives all her candy and money away, and loves to hosts guests.  I am proud because she is a hard worker.  But, I am most proud because while she excels in school and is so generous, she doesn't talk about it or frankly even care.  It's just a part of who she is.

Is my girl perfect?  Oh goodness, no.  There are plenty of things her little seven year old self is working on.  But, she is becoming quite the fine little lady.

At seven years old, she is starting to love volleyball, biking, and rollerblading.  She got an American Girl doll this year, and that was quite a rite of passage.  She is becoming more independent and introverted, but still enjoys to be with her people.  She is more serious, but loves a good time.  She is very tall and very strong.

Being a mom is different than I thought it would be.  It's better.  While every year I feel a little grief come over me as they are one more year closer to leaving the nest, more than ever I am loving this season.  My seven year old and I have great conversations, are able to do things together, and seeing her become who she is replaces the sadness with an overwhelming amount of joy.

I am so incredibly grateful God gave us Maleah Faith and has navigated seven years as we figure out how to parent this precious child.  Though hard, unknown territories are always ahead with the first born, what a joy it has been.  I say year seven is the sweetest yet!

Happy birthday, my girl!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

the baby pool.

Ruby got a baby pool for her birthday.  We blew it up the other day, and good thing we had a super fun afternoon splashing around, because by the next morning it was deflated to nothing.  I have yet to find a good, inflatable pool.  Sigh.

These four thought they were in hog heaven.  Something so simple, and they thought it was so marvelous.  I love that.

That right there is what they call a snot bubble.  Hilarious!
Totally didn't mean to snap a photo of it, but there it is!  Ha!

I *love* Charlie's face in this photo.

I was the cherry keeper.  They ate an entire container of these beauties.
Sweet summertime.
Fun in the sun!  We are loving it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Our day with Lauren.

Our close family friends, the Weimer's, are celebrating their Lauren's 16th birthday this week.  Instead of one big sha-bang, Erin had the brilliant idea of 16 days of fun/surprises/celebrations for Lauren.  Yesterday, I had the privilege of hosting the birthday day.

The kids and I put our heads together and tried to be really intentional.  We love our Lauren, and we wanted her to feel really special.  We were all so excited, and the day did not disappoint.  It was fantastic.

After picking up our special guest, we headed to Panera.  Then, I gave her the option of five different crafts.  She is a super artsy girl who loves crafting.  I, am a wannabe.  I promised I would try.  :)  After picking out our project, we headed to Hobby Lobby to shop for supplies.  Next, we went to get Lauren her gift, a locket with charms inside of it.  She picked a paint pallet, cross, piece of luggage, cross, and flower.  All these things fit Lauren to a T.  We stopped at the junk store in town where she found an awesome deal for her new bedroom, then headed home to start our work.

With mod podge opened, wooden letters laid over paper, our scrap paper picked out, tunes on, and ambitious spirits, we started...and we came to a screeching halt about that quick.  We were rolling in laughter, frustrated beyond frustrated, and giggling over how ridiculous our "practice" looked.  After hours of working through it, we made a pretty awesome project.

Her parents and brothers came out for smoked meat and her favorite cake, and the day was complete.

Charlie and Lauren having their snack; a favorite dip of Lauren's.

Girls, girls, girls!  They adore Lauren.  I think she's pretty great too.

Ready to craft!  The girls painted canvases for their bedroom, and Lauren and I did mod podge over wooden letters.  I did the word "eat" for our kitchen, and Lauren did "crowned with joy" for her bedroom.

About to throw the stuff out the window!  But alas, the finished project is super cool.

Erin was so thoughtful to think of Maleah.  Our birthday girls!
We have had really great, monumental moments with the Weimer's.  And, we've seen them really struggle.  We feel so blessed to have real deal friends who let you in on it all.  My heart leaped with joy that I got to be a par at of Lauren's big week.  Seeing her so happy was the best gift of all.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Camp MusicMania

Awhile back, I was asked to teach at Camp MusicMania at UNI this summer.  I felt really honored, but really reluctant as I didn't feel qualified.  With lots of thought, I hesitantly, yet boldly, said "yes!"  I'm so glad I did.

As the camp approached, I got really nervous.  I filled in for another teacher half time with kids 4-9 grades (who wasn't done with her school year yet), and taught Creative Time for K-3 grades.  Creative Time was my deal, meaning I had to come up with my own activities or use that time however I wanted.  I was wondering why in the world I agreed to this!

But, the first morning of camp, all the energy had me flying high.  230 kids excited and eager to sing, dance, and learn was awesome.

After a glitch the first day with scheduling rooms, and in that, having to manage about 75 little kids in a teeny room, all went wonderfully.  And, much to my surprise, my favorite was the big kids!  I've learned a lot about my preferences and strengths this past year.  Who woulda known.

Maleah and Layla were able to attend as campers, and had a great time.  It was long for Layla, and reassured me that half time Kindergarten is superb.  Her favorite was art, and Maleah loved all the music.  Charlie and Ruby did awesome between grandmas and babysitters.  I was really anxious about being gone so much that week, but everyday Charlie wasn't ready for me to be back so soon. Thanks, buddy.

What I learned most is that my heart is at home.  While teaching for one week was so fun and something I hope to do again, I was tired.  And when I'm tired, my family gets the least of me.  I was done everyday by 2:30, but still getting supper on the table, doing everyday housework, and giving the kids' the attention they deserve of their mom was hard.  All good things, but even too many good things are bad.  I probably suffered the most, between exhaustion and guilt.  The kids all seemed to soar right along as if all was right in their world.  :)

I am so thankful for the experience at camp.  The program was wonderful!  The campers were delightful.  And I learned a lot that I'm excited to implement into the next year at TC.

After dragging my feet, I am so glad I said, "yes!"