Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Just some Thanksgiving highlights...

We are thankful for...
We counted down to Thanksgiving throughout the month of November by writing our blessings on leaves and turkeys.  I had grand plans for putting these on the wall in our dining room, like we did with our leaves last year, but truth be told...they never made it out of the basket.  I even cut out "We are thankful for..." with the"..." included to put as fun header over it.  Yep, the letters stayed in the basket, too.  Ah well.  I'm savin' em for next year!

I ABSOLUTELY did love the list, though, once it was completed and having this fun part of our dinner-time conversation throughout the month.  We had some super sweet moments like Lou being thankful that "God made me", Cbug being thankful for Heaven and KJ being thankful for "Our awesome God".  And also some super random moments like Lou being thankful for "pink", Cbug being thankful for "chickens" and KJ being thankful for "teeth".  After we finished the month, both this year and last year, I went back and wrote the "thankfuls" from the leaves/turkeys into a journal.  I think someday the kids will love reading back over these.  I already do.

Just a little morning jog
On Thanksgiving morning, RRL and I got up super early to go run a half marathon.  I was so thankful that I changed my methods to employ a 8minutes/2minutes run and walk routine.  It made it a much better experience than my long-runs leading up to this point.  At 18 weeks pregnant, I was pretty proud of our 2:14 time, even with those walk breaks.  It was an awesome run along the river, perfect weather and not very many people...PLUS we got these awesome turkey trophies.  Thrilling!

Fun at Grammy's house
I was just a teensy bit sore after running (read, I didn't move much without moaning), thanks to a round ligament along the right side of my abdomen that I didn't even know existed until this pregnancy.  But we all still really enjoyed our time at Grammy's house.  Fun times helping in the kitchen, snuggling and story time, playing cars, celebrating Aunt B's birthday, putting up her Christmas tree, spending the night, enjoying cereal for lunch the next day and just enjoying being with some of the people we are most thankful for!

In fact we were so busy just relaxing and enjoying being together that I did not take many pictures.  I love that we spent the day, and really the whole month, just being reminded of how very VERY blessed we are. 
I hope that spirit of Thanksgiving is one we carry with us all year long.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's a...

We had our sonogram this morning, at 9:45.  I only tell you that to let you have the opportunity to be proud of me for waiting all the way until 6:45 this evening to find out the gender of our precious angel (and to hopefully have you forgive me for waiting ALL.STINKIN'.DAY to reveal this news to you).

Our dear friend, Mel, offered to throw us a gender reveal party tonight.  I LOVED the idea.  I loved that it was something special and unique just for this #4 (heaven knows there will be very little of his/her VERY own that this angel will enjoy).  AND this way some of our friends and our family could participate in discovering the news.  Even my parents, who were far away, got to participate via Skype.  They wouldn't have been able to do that in the sonogram room.  It felt like they were there...would have rather hugged their necks, but loved sharing it with them none-the-less.

SO....NO ONE knew.  The information was sealed in an envelope, delivered to a party store and the workers (apparently quite confused by the whole idea) filled a box full of appropriate colored balloons.  SO.MUCH.FUN...but it nearly killed me. 

Until we FINALLY GOT to open the box

And (attempt to) release the Balloons
(they were not very cooperative and only came out one at a time)

revealing that we will have...

A BOY!!!!!

A beautiful, healthy, precious gift of a BOY!!!  I'm so in love with him already.

and these guys are pretty excited, too

When we first found out about this little one, months ago, I felt overwhelming pressure to find the perfect name.  I wanted it to carry meaning that really represented this "marker" for our family, the amazing way this sweet baby came to be part of our family.  I did lots of "research" about baby names and meanings but pretty well came up empty handed.  So I just began to pray that we would "know".  UNTIL one day RRL and I sat down at a lunch date and both said the same name.  It was done.  THEN I found out what it meant, combined with the middle name we liked and knew it was perfect.
His first name is Christopher
meaning "One who bears Christ"
and his middle name is Teague
meaning "poet or poetic"
To us, his name is packed full of meaning.  To us it means:
The one who revealed Christ in and to our family in a creative way.  The one who marks a time when Christ revealed  HIMSELF to us in a way so poetic it nearly sings to us.  One who carries a legacy of Christ that we will always talk about and pray that generations to come will honor and cherish.

If that weren't enough...he shares the name of someone we love deeply.  Someone we love like family.  A mentor and friend.  Someone we hope this little one looks to as a hero, just like we always have.  That said, the highlight of the night was the fact that some of the very first times our son's name was spoken was in prayer by Chris.  Wow!

So, tonight we celebrated.  We celebrated with balloons.  We celebrated with prayer.  We celebrated with some of our favorite people.  We celebrated this sweet baby that we cannot wait to meet!
Oh, little one, I cannot wait to tell you how much you were loved from your very earliest days.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gifts for Everyone: Cyber Monday update

It is cyber Monday.  For me that means a few things:
1- my hotmail address (the one I give out when I do online shopping, etc) is overrun with "deals"
2- Many of my facebok friends have an opinion.  Some love it.  Some are sickened by it.  Some simply don't have time to deal with it.
3- I reminds me that I still have a list of Christmas presents to shop for.

Hopefully this post helps with all of those things (regardless of the facebook opinion category you fall into).  I started a list last month of gifts for the person who has everything and wanted to expand it for some more ideas that other sent my way.  Go check out post #1 and add these to the list:

An update:
Bread for a Hungry World.  I already posted this organization in the previous post and there are lots of gift opportunities there (by giving to others), but I think this idea would be awesome.  Include the whole extended family and BUILD A HOUSE.  According to Bread for a Hungry World's Director, a donation of just $1500 can build an ENTIRE HOUSE for a family in Honduras.  100% goes to building the house, no admin fees.  How cool would that be this Christmas? 

Give the gift of Comfort:
PUNJAMMIES™ are made by women in India rescued from forced prostitution seeking to rebuild their lives. Proceeds from the sales of PUNJAMMIES™ provide fair-trade wages, savings accounts, and holistic recovery care.  I think these PJs are BEAUTIFUL.  What a great gift idea.  Be sure to read the story behind the women who make these fun pajamas!

Stocking Stuffers:
All of the pictures below are items that cost less than $5.  AND the proceeds benefit the mission of Eternal Threads, which is "dedicated to improving the lives of women and children most at risk of extreme poverty, trafficking and other forms of exploitation by providing sustainable livelihoods through income generating projects."

The Practical:
PROJECT 7.  I love this one because they some things I might already buy for stocking stuffers or holiday travel...and you can find these products at a lot of Walmart stores.  SUPER!  Buy gum, mint, bottled water and help support the mission of Project 7:
For every purchase of a Project 7 product, some good is done in seven areas of need – Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless, Quench the Thirsty, Teach them Well and Save the Earth. Non-profit organizations supporting any of these seven areas of need can submit applications to Project 7.
The splurge (for a cause):
The scarves are pricier, but absolutely beautiful.  I love that this is a local (for me) cause and that it was started by a Community group that I have volunteered with.
The Worn for Peace mission is to provide refugee women living in the United States a supplemental source of income, empowering them to rise above poverty. Each circle scarf is hand-knit by women who have survived the afflictions of their war-torn and poverty-stricken homelands.

So, get out there and do some Cyber Monday shopping for those that seem to "have everything" and while you are at it, make a huge difference this Christmas.


Monday, November 21, 2011

You were always meant to be

"Was this baby EXPECTED?" (or insert... a suprise, planned, on purpose)

That is the overwhelming question that I get nearly everytime I share with someone that this tiny bundle will be our fourth. I struggle with how to answer the question, especially to a complete stranger.  I am past feeling like the question is insensitive, I realize that it comes with the best of intentions.  It is not even that I wish they wouldn't ask.  The rush inside of me when I hear those words has more to do with not knowing how to answer.

How do I tell someone, anyone really, all that led up to this baby becoming part of our family.  How do I sum-up the story?  An amazingly beautiful story to us, the parents, but not one that others want to hear every detail of.  How could I do justice to the miraculous timing of this baby? How do I quickly share how it is possible that we were shocked by the news yet not surprised at all?  How do I say that yes, I understand that no birth control=possibility of a baby.  And in the same breath explain that I sold all of my baby-gear months ago feeling that our family was complete for the time.   How do I tell the story of feeling prepared by the Lord?  Prepared in a real and tangible way like nothing I've experienced before.  Prepared for children, specifically.  But how little I knew about what that preparation would mean and how hard RRL and I struggled through conversations about our faith in this area of having (or not having) more children.  I simply prayed (without telling a soul) that if more children were supposed to be part of our family, that they would "just show up."  Wouldn't that prayer sound CRAZY to anyone else- especially since I didn't even know what it would mean?  Would it mean adoption, would it mean simply sharing ABOUT children with other parents, would it mean another pregnancy?  Certainly I did not know it would mean sharing our home with three (additional) small children just for five months.  How do I sum up the year that lead up to that "OH WOW, its positive" home pregnancy test?  A year of deep spiritual, emotional and physical bonding for RRL and I.  A year we saw how the Lord could use that physical bonding to help us SURVIVE (and even enjoy) this 10th year of our marriage.  The year that was the very very hardest, yet very very best of them all.  A year with more unexpected circumstances than either of us could have imagined.  The year we dug deep to make (and keep) a huge financial commitment yet were challenged with difficult financial circumstances.  The year we went from three children to six to four.  The year we learned to trust, to obey, to walk forward.  The year we grew.  And THEN explain that this baby was just the icing on the cake.  Not a cake we planned ANY detail of, but one of the sweetest we've ever tasted.

 I want an answer that tells the asker, that tells my own family, that even someday tells my child (really all 4 of my children) the TRUTH.
And this is the Truth:

Sweet baby of mine-
I do not know yet whether you are a girl or a boy.  I do not yet call you by name.  I have no idea who you will grow up to be.  I don't know yet what you will look like (though a quick glance at your brothers and sister gives me a pretty good idea). But this I were ALWAYS meant to be.

You were known long ago.  Long before I even met your Daddy and long before we began dreaming of children of our own. Each and every hair on your head is known, and was known long before you began to be knit together inside of me.You were ALWAYS meant to be.

You were created for a purpose, a purpose designed JUST for you long ago.  Its a special purpose that only you can fulfill.  And I cannot wait to see you become what you were ALWAYS meant to be.

You were GIVEN to our family.  You'll be a special and unique individual, no one else in this world will be like you. But you'll also get to be part of our little team.  A team that we pray can combine each of our gifts and talents and together accomplish the purposes the Lord sets before us.  We are bonded deeply by our intense love for each other.  You are a very special piece of this team. And you were ALWAYS meant to be.

I want you to know, precious one, that even though your Daddy and I have only known about you for a few short months, we already cannot imagine our lives without you.  Although we did not orchestrate the details of your existence, we KNOW and love the ONE who did.  We could not be more thrilled that he chose YOU for US.  We already love every single tiny ounce of you, though we don't yet know much about you. We could not be more amazed at the ways HE chooses to bless us.  YOU are one of those blessings, one of our greatest blessings. 

AND YOU were always Always ALWAYS meant to be!
I love you,

So, yeah. How do you sum THAT up when someone asks the seemingly innocent, well purposed question? How can I explain that not a single detail of ANY of it (including this baby) was known or planned by me, yet because of God's great love for us I'm not surprised a bit by the way He orchestrated it? Yes, this baby was planned. Yes, he or she was very expected. Nope, not a surprise at all. And definitely, MOST definitely this baby was ON PURPOSE.
Jeremiah 1:4-5
4 A message came to me from the Lord. He said, 5 "Before I formed you in your mother's body I chose you. Before you were born I set you apart to serve me..."


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Family Get-Away

I will be honest, the idea for this little "trip" was born out of a bit of a pity-party.  It started as something of a consolation prize.  RRL and I have been planning for YEARS to take a big trip for our 10th anniversary.  We planned and dreamed and saved pretty much from the time we were married...and were ready to GO next summer.  With one little tiny change to those plans...CTL, our sweet number 4, due just a couple of months before we were to depart.  The trip was not one really conducive to taking a newborn and not one that could be moved to another time of year...but it is one that can wait until another year.  I'll admit, we were a little sad about pushing that dream out a little further.  Not that we wished for it INSTEAD of our baby boy, just that it was a of many we willingly make for our children.

SO, instead of pouting, we decided to celebrate what was keeping us home...our FAMILY.  And we used some of our saved money to take a little mini-vacation (in town) with our three favorite blonds.  It ended up being absolutely perfect!  By the end it DEFINITELY felt more like a VACATION full of much-needed family togetherness than any sort of "consolation prize".  It really was a highlight of the whole year for all five of us, one we really needed.  And once again, it was a celebration of the fact that His plans far exceed all of our plans and dreams.

We went at a perfect time of year (before the holiday craziness) and were able to go during the week so there were very few people at a normally very crowded hotel. Thanks to the indoor waterpark, the hotel activities for children and bringing much of our own food with us, we barely had to leave the hotel at ALL. And as a result truly enjoyed nearly 3 days of uninterrupted family time.
We did not do a fantastic job capturing all the fun in photos...mostly because we were too busy enjoying it. But here are some highlights...

I'm pretty sure our kids would have been thrilled to just stay in the room and play in their "wolf den" complete with bunk beds and their own TV.  They thought this little area of their own was SO  cool.

But we did venture out, there was fun to be had...
like an elevator to ride!
And the kids club to play in, complete with BINGO! , a computer just for kids and Lou's personal favorite...a place for her to "read" stories to her "class"!
The kids' club actually provided activities throughout the hotel, like coloring pictures

  making oragmi wolves

And STORYTIME in our pajamas each night!
One of the best parts of storytime was that Lou finally found an over-sized character that she wasn't afraid of!  We think it was the bow that convinced her.

A highlight of our little get-away was the evening that Lt D and his fiance joined us for dinner and storytime.  SUCH a treat since they were visiting from far away.

Most of our days, though, were spent in the WATER!

The boys, especially, LOVED the waterpark and played and played for hours.
KJ was absolutely fearless.  The "lazy river" was anything but lazy when trying to chase him through it and he would run head first into the waves in the wave pool as if daring them to knock him over. I hardly have any pictures of him in the water because he was always goin' and doin'.  He did not stop. 
Cbug definitely enjoyed all the water and the slides, but was stuck somewhere between wanting to be cautious, perfectly content to just float around on his back AND trying to keep up with big brother, so wanting to be BIG.

Lou, as the only princess in the whole waterpark who insisted on wearing a bow, was perfectly happy in 1 foot or less of water at.all.times.  Occasionally, she would work up the nerve to reach her hand out and touch one of the fountains (that came up to her belly), but quite preferred to play her imaginary games of princess and frog in shallow water.  She loved it, though, and could have cared less if anyone at all played with her and really preferred that no one splash in her presence.  Oh, what a princess.

These pictures on the slide very much capture their three personalities in the waterpark.  You can barely see KJ because he believed the bigger the splash the better.  Cbug is really enjoying it, but in a more cautious way.  And Lou, the one time her Daddy and I PUT her on the kiddie slide, pouted all the way down.

We played and played as long as we could but we would know it was time to dry off and head upstairs when Lou's lips started turning purple.

 What better way to end such a sweet time together, than to enjoy SWEETS for lunch on our last afternoon.

We loved every bit of this fun vacation together and the memories are sweet indeed!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

REWIND: Adding to the case

I blogged a year ago about the boys' school providing significant evidence to enhance my case that my children are adorable.  I didn't really need the proof then, but I was happy to receive it none-the-less.

Apparently, the case is not closed, more proof has been received and signed into evidence.
I'm happy to say it only further enhances the existing ruling.

Here's further "proof" that they are, indeed, positively adorable.

How can you argue with that?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Tradition and a Favorite Picture

Starting early on Halloween morning, I got text messages from my family about their lunch or dinner plans.  For years, it has sort of been the running family joke about our Halloween tradition of eating soup and grilled cheese for dinner. The tradition dates back as long as I can remember.  The joke dates back to my freshman year of college when my slightly (read: very) homesick self attempted to "hold to tradition" by making soup and grilled cheese in my dorm room (using only a toaster and microwave) while back home, hundreds of miles away, the rest of my family went out to eat.
This year, once again, I made sure that at least FIVE of us STUCK to that tradition.
And hundreds of miles away:
one brother introduced his new fiance to the tradtion, too
one brother and his wife ate Mexican
and my parents went out to eat.
Ah well.
But good job, Lt D!  I knew I could count on you!!
Grilled Cheese on sour dough bread and Chicken noodle soup in the crockpot per this recipe:

Now for a new favorite picture.
A certain picture of the trio with Santa was my favorite, but it has been replaced.  The Santa picture was my favorite because of the way it captured so well the little personalities of my three favorite children.

This new picture is beloved for the SAME reason.
A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

Our Knight in shining armour, Princess Aurora, and the very scary Dragon (who would remind us that he was only PRETENDING to be scary.)
Compliant KJ, cooperating to get the job done.  Ready to go get candy and being old enough to know how to play "the game."
Crazy Cbug, caught somewhere between making a mean dragon face and just being READY to get in the van and GO.  Not interested at all in faking anything just to appease his mother.
And then there's Lou.  Always expressive, always in love with the camera, always caught between her two crazy brothers.

Yep, that is our crew. And I love every detail of this picture because I love every ounce of these three stinkers.