Look out Ichiro

Although the Mariner’s have taken the last two games from the Angels, they look like a team that is in a rebuilding mode.  They could use some help around the field in a few positions.  Here are a couple kids that just might give a few Mariner’s a run for their money out on the ball field.

In the field

Caleb and Rylee playing the infield, ready to make a play to first base.  While on defense, every ball that is put into play goes over to first base.  Each inning the every player gets to hit and advance one base for each at bat.  The last player gets a “home run” clearing the bases.  Both Rylee and Caleb had multiple opportunities to field a ground ball and throw it to first base.  They both did great!

Caleb at bat
Rylee at bat
C and R running the bases

I got to pitch again to the kids and had a great time.  My ERA is through the roof, but that is a good thing!  Rylee and Caleb both seem to be having so much fun.  I am delighted to see how both kiddos adapt so well to the organization of the team sport.  They are even making new friends.  After the game today Caleb asked me where one of the boys who was missing was.  I love it!  I also really enjoy getting to coach my kids and partner with a great organization serving our community.  The kids are having fun and Karissa and I are getting to know the other players parents.  At one point in the game, AGAIN we caught Caleb and Rylee giving each other a congratulatory hug on first base.  The big smiles on these moments as well as seen throughout the whole game make the day so much fun.

Chicken Cam

So we have not had a chicken post in a while so I thought I would give you a glimpse into the life of a chicken raised on the Strovas Farm by Farmer Rylee, Farmer Caleb, and Farmer Kyler (Audie is not up to farmin’ just yet).

First a few introductions need to be made:

Farmer Rylee

Farmer Rylee

Farmer Caleb

Farmer Caleb

Farmer Kyler

Farmer Kyler

Red Headed

Red Headed

Bubba Scratchin'

Bubba

Fluff

Fluff (the white one)

Those are the main players in this world we live in.  The three chickens listed above are by far the favorite.  However, it was quite a strange thing to hear, “Daddy, let’s kill Red Headed tonight!” from my sweet farmer Rylee.  The story goes like this. we have been talking about if we have any Roosters that we are going to either eat them or sell them, but we certainly are not keeping them.  It has been easy to tell that Red Headed is a rooster for quite some time now, but it was not until the last few days that Mr. Red Headed has been testing out his pubescent vocal chords a bit.  So tonight, we listened in a bit while said chicken gave it a go for about five or six crows.  Everyone had a good laugh about it because it just doesn’t quite have the full rooster strength in it just yet.  Karissa then says that we need to do something about that rooster and I say that we need to kill it or sell it.  Rylee gets super excited because she thinks she needs to see how we are going to kill this chicken.  Don’t worry, Red Headed is still with us (I personally would rather sell Mr. Red Headed on craigslist).  It was quite an amusing time, you can imagine.

Fluff has been Rylee’s favorite chicken since they were chicks.  Even before Karissa or I could tell Fluff from the rest of the yellow chicks Rylee could always find Fluff.  Now that Fluff has grown into her (we hope it’s a her) fully white self, Fluff quite remarkable in comparision to the rest of the flock.

Red Headed got his name from being the first rooster through puberty.

Bubba, quite the  name Caleb gave this lovely hen, is not only his favorite, but also Karissa’s.  Bubba is the one chicken that we have that will lay eggs with a bluish or greenish tinge to the shell.

So those are the main players in this daily chicken saga.  Here are a couple pictures that share a bit about their life as chickens in the coop or out of the coop in their 250sf world:

Life in the Coop

Life in the Coop

Life Outside the Coop

Life outside the Coop

Here is a quick breakdown of their day:

8:00am – Farmer Rylee, who has been begging to let the chickens out does so and gives them fresh water

The rest of the day is filled with going in and out of the coop to rest, scratch the ground and look for worms, eat, drink, poop, poop some more, get picked up by one of the little farmers, have a major escape run into the main yard because thanks to one of the little farmers forgetting to shut the gate of the pen when they were done holding chickens, scratch, eat, drink, poop, poop some more, get picked up by a curious neighbor kid, scratch, eat, drink, poop…

Every once in a while a chicken is selected by Farmer Rylee to be held, sung to, rocked to sleep, and placed in the little playhouse for a nap.  The amazing thing is the chicken actually falls asleep and rests on the ground for a real nap.  Tonight, I heard Rylee carrying a chicken singing her own song sung to the tune of “God of this City.”  The little chicken fell right asleep.  HILARIOUS!

8:30pm – stand outside the coop because it is getting dark and the farmer’s have not yet turned ont the heat lamp for them, if the farmers don’t get the idea, they start to make some concerned noises until someone clues in on what is going on.

9:00pm – one by one all of the chickens head into the coop for the night.  They all snuggle right up against each other on the floor or on their roosting poles.

9:15ish – one of the farmers tucks them in at night by taking an official head count and closing up the coop.

They are a lot of fun and have changed quite a bit since they were baby chicks only about 7 weeks ago!

Happy Birthday Audrey!

It’s really hard to wrap my mind around the fact that our baby is one this week.  Every single time I drive by the exit on 405 where I thought we might have to pull over and she would be born in the car, I remember the intensity of those moments and it feels like it just happened.  And nearly every time we pass that exit, Rylee says “There’s the midwife office Caleb, that’s where Audrey was born!”.

This little girl was so highly anticipated, its tough to put words to it.  From before she was born Rylee was praying for a sister.  Before I was even pregnant at all, Rylee was praying for a sister.  When we told her a new baby was coming, she was absolutely sure it would be a girl.  We carefully explained that only God knew and either way would be great.  She emphatically told us, “No, I already know it’s a girl.”  We asked her how.  She said, “God told me in my dream Mama.”

How could we argue with that?  We waited and waited.  Lo and behold, she was right.  She asked and God answered.  His gift to all of us was Audrey Rose.  Given to us during a more than tumultuous season of our life, she has been a ray of sunshine since the day she was born.  Her smile and giggle delight each of us every single day.  I am amazed at how God used the timing of her entering our family for good.  She has brought out a different side of each of our other children.  She has drawn them out of themselves.  The way they love her amazes me and I can’t imagine life without her.

I am so glad we said yes to the question ‘Is there room for one more?’.  That ‘one more’ is such a sweet treasure.

Here are pics from her birthday party today, it was great fun.  Audrey slept through the first hour but enjoyed the rest of it quite nicely.

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A birthday party parade-complete with instruments!
A birthday party parade-complete with instruments!

Another beautiful day

How could it not be beautiful when it started with donuts, followed by demolishing our hazardous back deck, coaching Rylee and Caleb’s first t-ball game, celebrating Stephanie’s graduation from nursing school, set up and played in the summer pool and ended with a roaring fire in our fire pit.  Of course, the fact that it was another glorious day in the Pacific Northwest did not hurt anything.

Our back deck was on it’s last legs.  Between the rotting wood and the insects that were eating their way through some of the posts, the deck was more hazard than benefit.  So, we decided it was time to do something about it.  Step one…take it down.  The kids were up early, as usual, and after some donuts, we decided that we could begin our demo at 9am.  Hopefully that was kosher with the neighbors.  Everyone pitched in and it was pretty much gone by noon.  Demo’ing  a deck is actually a lot of fun, hard work, but fun.  I probably should have prefunked with a little ibuprofen…

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After lunch, the kiddos grabbed a quick nap before shuffling out the door to their first t-ball game.  We had only one practice before this so we did not really know what to expect.  According to the YMCA rulebook, each kid at bat gets 3-4 coach pitch balls and then hits off the tee if they are not able to make contact with the coaches pitches.  We played three innings with each kid from each team getting one at-bat during the inning.  As the coach, I was definitely feeling the pressure to make sure each kid got a hit from my pitches instead of having to hit from the tee.  As it turned out all the kids did great.  Only one kiddo needed the tee each time.  Rylee and Caleb had a great time.  Caleb was totally into the game both on defense and up to bat.  Rylee was not as into it, but would tell you she really enjoyed it.  Karissa and I were unsure how Caleb was going to do in this organized team sport, since he did not make it past one practice with soccer.  He was amazing!  He had a smile on his face the whole time, got a couple really good hits, and even fielded some balls.  At one point in the game, Rylee had hit a ball and made her way to first (there are not outs in this league) and Caleb was up to bat.  He swung and hit a great shot past the short stop.  As he ran to first base, Rylee was not paying much attention and was there on first base still when Caleb arrived.  Rylee and Caleb gave each other a big hug before one of the parents encouraged her on to second base.  Priceless.

After the game, we loaded up the car and quickly went to Steph’s graduation open house.  We are all quite proud of her, you can read about it here.

We also set up the pool in the front yard for the first pool day of the year.  Sorry about the fuzzy pictures, but our sweet Kyler had grabbed the camera at some point during the day and took about 15 pictures.  He must have gotten his cute little fingers on the lens.

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A great day full of hard work and fun.  Now that we have demo’d the back deck, we actually have to do something about it.  We are currently looking into a small landing with perimeter stairs going down to the yard landing on a patio made from pavers.  If you have any creative ideas let us know!

10 years today

I really don’t feel old enough to be celebrating a 10 year wedding anniversary today.  I surely look old enough, but my husband still looks like a college student.  Ten years ago today my high school sweetheart and I said “I do”.  It was the perfect sunny May day, with nearly 450 guests, two receptions and lots of dancing.

I recently found my old journal from high school and these are the words (verbatim) I penned in spring of 1995:

My head was turned in the direction of a certain Chris Strovas.  We were friends so I called him 2 weeks before the April 1 Loyalty Tolo Dance and asked him to go with me.  He said yes.  After the dance we went over to Holley’s house and we watched movies for a while.  We fell asleep and then all the sudden it was 6 AM so Chris went home.  When he left I walked him out to the car (I was staying the night at Holley’s).  He kissed me (REALLY kissed me) and it was quite nice!  I walked back in the house in a daze…

I still remember barely being able to walk up the stairs after he drove away.  Though that kiss was not my first, or second or…you get the idea. But it was unlike any other.  And our relationship continued in that manner because a few months later I wrote these words as a smitten 16 year old girl:

He treated me different that any guy I’d ever known.  He held me in the highest respect.  Chris made me feel like I was his most precious, valuable princess.  He always could make me smile and feel so special.  Each moment we’ve spent together is so precious.  A few weeks ago he took me out to Denny’s.  He was nervous acting, twiddling with sugar packets.  He told me he’d thought a lot about it and he realized he loved me.  Hearing those words come off the lips I adored was something I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear.  He is the first guy who has truly held my heart in his hands.

There is so, so much more to the story.  We didn’t get married for 4 years after that.  But we finally did.  It was easy then to whisper sweet words to each other, to kiss on the front porch, to write letter after letter proclaiming our love for each other.  It was easy to forgive.  Easier to make time for one another.  Life was pretty simple and pretty perfect really.  We have weathered many hard seasons since then.  Ones that involved us and ones that didn’t but broke our hearts anyway.   We have traveled and been on countless adventures together.  Four years into our marriage we welcomed our first baby and we were forever changed in a moment.  We had never before been so afraid as we were during those first days of Rylee’s life and we had never cared so much for anyone else.

Falling in love, marrying Christopher and spending the last 10 years together has been God’s gift to me.  I remember feeling like it was too much, too good, too lofty for me to even dream of as I pined away for him during our college years.  So it was only natural that the vows I wrote to recite on our wedding day began like this:

“Christopher, I stand in awe of the incredible gift God has given me in you…”

I am blessed beyond measure to be married to a man who loves Jesus, who cherishes me, who adores our children and who is willing to work (hard) to provide for us.  I am looking forward to many more years with the dreamy, patient and devoted boy that won my heart before I could even drive a car.

To Nashville and back!

Many pages of my journals over the past 8 years hold tears as well as more than a few prayers that  include my little sister.  One of them from 6 years ago just after Rylee was born read “Somehow, someday I want her to be someone my kids can look up to.”

With a smile on my face, I can tell you she is.  My littlest sister has overcome great challenges and some unusually, exceptionally hard times.  But this past weekend, our family had the privilege of watching her walk across the stage as she wore the trademark cap and gown and received her college diploma.  There is something even more sweet about this accomplishment for someone who worked this hard, waited this long and wanted it this much.

The night before graduation, those graduating in nursing from Belmont University take part in a special pinning ceremony.  They receive a nurses pin and can choose someone significant in their life to pin them.  Stephanie chose our grandmother Jeanne and our mother Pat, both of whom happen to be nurses themselves.  Below is Stephanie getting her pin.  It is perhaps one of my favorite photos of her of all time.  Can you see the grin on her face?  Her whole body is smiling!

close up of pinning

During pinning, I followed a super busy Audrey around as she drew all sorts of attention in her sweet little outfit (thanks Kristin!).  No matter where I put her, she found her way to the center aisle or to the stairs.  What’s not to love about those little feet?

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After the pinning we headed to Steph’s apartment for an open house/goodbye/graduation party.  It was really fun to meet her Nashville friends and especially the Dean of Nursing who has been incredible to Stephanie these past two years.

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My cousin Reed may not describe himself as a ‘baby person’ and he may indeed describe me as ‘prolific’ with all my four children.  Either way he has quite the fan in Audrey.  She was happy as a clam to snuggle in next to him on the couch and chill for a while.   They make quite the pair and are in many ways the antithesis of each other.

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Friends of my sister babysat Audrey and Isaac while we attended graduation.  Rylee totally ‘got’ the importance of it all.  It was precious having her there with us.  After all the grads entered, Steph turned and looked at us.  Can you find her?

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That night we ate at Monell’s.  I can easily say I’ve never had a dinner like that in my life.  Family style, southern food.  Consumed in amounts I can’t admit to here.  It was a lovely place with flowers everywhere and a pond where the kids were happy to have some fresh air.

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Congratulations Steph, you’ve heard it a million times this week, but we’re proud of you and we are SO glad you are home!

Just Heard Thursday

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It’s Thursday again and we have been collecting some of the funny things we heard our kids say this week.  We would also love to read about what your kids are saying too.  We just get such a kick out of posts like these.  Here is some of what made us smile this week:

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Caleb – “Mommy, how come I did not get to go with you when Audrey was born?”

Mama – “Well, you were a little too young.”

Caleb – Sigh.  “Next time can I PLEAASE come?”

Mama – “Sure.”

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Caleb – “Mommy, when I was watching that movie (Homeward Bound), I almost cried.”

(As he is telling this to his mama, he begins to actually cry about how sad/happy the movie was)

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Songs that Kyler makes up at bedtime…seriously people, he is the cutest kid at bedtime.

“I like my Dad…my awesome Dad…he my favorite guy…I like my Dad…”

“My mom is cool…I love my Mom…My mom is cool…I love my Mom…”

(all songs come with a similar beat and bobbing of the head)

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Caleb – “My legs tell me to get out of bed because they want to play because they are not tired!”

Rylee – “My legs say stay in bed, we are sooo tired.”

Daddy – “Kyler, what do your legs say when they are in bed?”

Kyler – “My legs say go sleep with Mama.  Snuggle.”

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Rylee – Daddy, guess what?

Daddy – “What?”

Rylee – “I am going to lose my tooth tonight!”

Daddy – (thinking this was just one more stall tactic before getting into bed)  “Great honey, now keep working on it and who knows, maybe it will come out tonight.”

20 minutes later after Audrey is already asleep in her room

Rylee – “See Daddy?” (as she quietly comes out of her dark room with a bloody mouth and something in her hand)

Daddy – “Well, I guess you were right.  Nice work, you lost your second tooth!”

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Mama – “Kyler, did you try to have a popsicle last night?”

Kyler – “Yes.  I try but not get it open.  I try knife, I try tools, but I could not get it open.  Hrmmph…(followed by the classic Kyler furrowed brow look).”  Definitive proof that it WAS Kyler! As if we didn’t know:)

Furrow

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What have your kids been saying lately?  Leave some quotes in the comments below, or post them on your own blog (you can even use our logo and link back here).

Happy Thursday!

Sweet Kyler

Near the end of Mother’s Day, we thought it would be great to get all the kids tucked into bed and then watch a movie.  The plan – I would head to the local Red Box with Kyler and Karissa would get Audrey down (Rylee and Caleb were already tucked in for the night having made the choice to forgo naps).  I got to the Red Box with Kyler and was about to rent Benjamin Button, when I thought I should give Karissa a call because there was one other movie that I thought she might prefer – next thing I know Kyler is happy as can be having pulled “Bride Wars” out of the Red Box and heading back to the van.

We return home and find out that Audrey is still up, apparently choosing to forgo sleep.  We get Kyler into bed and then start the movie.  We figured she would fall asleep in our arms sooner than later.  As it turned out she was a little ball of energy for the entire movie.  Talking away, playing with Maggie, and snuggling with mama and daddy.  She was even more entertaining than the movie.  Near the end of the movie I was able to get Audrey tucked in and finally had all four babes in bed…so we thought.

I come down the hall to hear Karissa say: “Where’s Kyler?” with a fairly concerned tone.  I immediately rush to his room, open the door, and see our sweet boys both in bed sleeping away.  I look to Karissa to try to figure out what put her on alert and follow her to the kitchen where I saw this scene:

Exhibit A

Popsicles

Two unopened and melted popsicles found on the kitchen floor in front of the freezer.

Exhibit B

Knife
A binkie left behind at the scene and a knife taken from a drawer in the kitchen that was left open.  Presumably, the knife was used to unsuccessfully open the aforementioned popsicles.

Apparently while we were watching the movie, trying to hear it over the sound of Audrey laughing and squealing Kyler had quietly snuck out of bed, down the hall, into the kitchen to find something to eat.  Like any two year old, he went straight for the grape popsicles.  Unfortunately for him, his sweet little hands were not able to get either of the popsicles out of the package.  So he got a knife out of the drawer and after a CSI worthy investigation we’ve concluded that he unsuccessfully tried to cut open the popsicles.  How do we know it was him, you ask?  Note the binky on the table.  As Kyler is the only kiddo in the house who is into binkies, the evidence mounts up against him.

My (less than) perfect Mother’s Day

If you don’t know me very well, you may read this post and be tempted to believe I am a whiny, complaining, unsatisfied, ungrateful mother.  If you do know me well, you will know that though I am very imperfect and quite truly am all those things at times, they do not define the essence of me.

Christopher has been taking side jobs on Sunday’s filling in at churches, preaching, and it’s been a great provision for us.  He works so hard to provide for our family and does a darn good job at it.   Just last week he crawled under a house with sewage leaking everywhere because that’s what his job looks like sometimes.  He is our champion.  Let that be very clear.  So I knew he would work this morning and he had graciously canceled church at our house tonight so we could spend time together as a family.  We got up this morning and I quickly grabbed my chance at showering.  I had rationed my favorite makeup (by not wearing any for quite a while) to have one more days worth of it today.  I got dressed, too excited to wear my bright orange skirt I snagged at a garage sale yesterday for 50 cents, and picked out matching orange shirts for the boys and a darling dress for Rylee.

The day started off sweetly enough with the kids showing me their tiny little wood wheelbarrows that they had made with their daddy.  They each held a little pot for me to plant a flower in.

I went to the kitchen to say hello to everyone and was quickly greeted with “Mom, can you make me some breakfast?  I want sausage and eggs and pancakes.  What, why can’t I have sausage, I don’t want toast.  I want pancakes.  Can I have some water?  Mom, I don’t want to wear the dress you picked out.”  Now I fully understand today, to them, is just another day.  Their bellies are still hungry.  They are just waking up.  They have opinions about clothes.  But foolishly perhaps, some part of me wanted them to understand that just for today, I secretly wanted to be treated like the queen of this house.  I wanted them to shower me with love just because and not to have to ask for sweetness or kisses.  I wanted Rylee to appease me and wear a cute dress.  And the boys to wear matching orange polos.

Why?  Just because it’s fun to be a cute bunch once in a while.  Not that I don’t enjoy looking at their sweet faces no matter what they’re wearing, because I do.  And not that I mind wearing my pajamas all day many days, because I do that too.  But I like dressing up every once in a blue moon.  For fun.  Not to impress or look a part.  Just because I like it.  So Caleb launched into 15 reason why he could not wear the orange shirt and picked out a brown, too big, stained tee shirt.  Kyler was happy to please and got ready just fine.  Then everyone complained about the toast, “Honey?  I didn’t want honey.  I wanted jam.  Jam?  Gross there is jam on my toast, I wanted butter.  Can you take the jam off?  What?  WHY NOT?”.  About then I was tempted to throw all the toast to the chickens.  But Christopher was already gone and I knew they did need to eat.

“Mom, you have a sad face.  What’s wrong?   Are you mad?  Are you sad?”  Rylee asked.  I tried to explain myself but could not.  I went to dress Audrey in whatever I wanted to and succeeded except that she threw a royal fit and kicked her bare feet into her own poopy diaper.  Lovely.

I returned to Rylee still in her jammies to hear her repeat the same phrase about not liking dresses.  I gave up and said wear whatever you want.  So she did.  Then I asked if I could at least do her hair.  I said “Just today can I put your hair in ponytails?  I love it like that, it’s so cute.”  She begrudingly said yes.  I started to do her hair and she started spitting nails at me.  She started screaming.  I gently brushed her tangled hair.  I carefully put it up, she pulled away and yelled at me for pulling it.  Then I did pull it and that was the end of the world.  I told her to go to the car and she started SCREAMING her head off.  Which for a 6 year old girl, who is usually delightful, totally undid me.  She marched out to the driveway and SCREAMED.  So loud and long that no less than 3 of our neighbors came out of their houses to see what in the world was wrong.  Certainly someone had been severely injured.  I took a deep breath and tried not to cry.

“Happy Mother’s Day to me” I muttered in the driveway.  I told the neighbors all was okay, one stayed outside and came over to try and talk with my kids and help them get it together.  She bribed Caleb to change his shirt with promise of air soft pellets later today, he had his shirt changed so fast and came around the car to hug me.  I run inside, while there, Kyler chucks a toy in Audrey’s face.  Rylee is still screaming in the car.  I start to cry.  My very sweet neighbor Shelly hugs me.  I can’t believe how ridiculous this all is.  And it’s only 9:30 in the morning.

I really didn’t even feel like I had grand expectations about the day.  It IS just another day after all.  But I think given the expenditure of energy, sleep, love and hard work on my part-every other day-it just seemed like I should get a break.  And instead I got insanity and mean words and complaining and tears.

Now, in reading this I know for a fact at least one of you is thinking “You are the crazy one who chose to have four children, close in age so you have no right to complain about anything”.  The same kind of person who when learning I was pregnant with baby #3 said “Is this a good thing?”.  Or the one who said after my baby fell down three stairs and scratched his head badly “You know, when you have this many kids you just can’t care for them all, these things happen.”  Or the one who said, in front of my children, “You have too many children!”.  Or another knowing that Audrey was my fourth baby “I have the number of someone who does vasectomies if you’d like it”.

I am merely sharing my less than perfect day because it helps.  It’s nice to be able to write about the not-so-perfect days.  It helps me to get the words out and to be able to see the humor and the blessing staring back at me from the computer screen.  For the record, yes we have chosen to say yes to the blessing of children.  Yes a baby is ALWAYS a good thing.  Yes I can care for and love all my children well because God is my source of strength and patience and love not myself.   But no, every day is not a dream and no, I would not trade it for anything.  I am not the same person as I would be if I were not a mother.  I have learned to give, to share, to live and to love beyond what I thought humanly possible thanks to the little people in this home.

The benefits far outweigh the bummers.  The blessings and joy of having children far outweigh the sacrifices they have required.  I’ll stop now, this is another post altogether.  I’m off to enjoy an hour to myself compliments of the very handsome man that (14 years ago this month) I used to dream about having babies with.  The days of kissing on my parents front porch and talking on the phone till 3 AM may be over but these days are even better than I dreamed of.  Different.  But better indeed.