Birthday Princess Audrey

We talked two years ago as a couple about how we wanted to downplay gifts at Christmas (making room for the real meaning of the season) and make an intentional effort to celebrate the uniqueness and blessing each child is on their birthdays.

We celebrated Audrey’s 3rd birthday (two days after my birthday and three days before our wedding anniversary…its been a busy week!) on Saturday with her sweet girl friends.  The sweetest princess pal being her older sister who prayed for her long before she was born into our family.  Such a treasure to watch these two girls love one another.

I took on my most ambitious cake-making yet with this 9 layer pink princess cake, it nearly tipped but we stuck a BBQ skewer in it and it held in okay!

The girls (and our two boys) all decorated crowns and scepters.

Audrey was pleased as punch with her cake, so worth the 5 hours of work!

By night’s end the party girl was worn out and we found her on the couch with her new pillow pet and her special blankie and her thumb…

It’s hard work being in a princess!  What a delight of a time to do girl stuff and celebrate the gift this sweet thing is to our family.  She makes us laugh and smile literally every single day.

A miracle, every time

#380 – #404 on my gratitude list this week from a heart overflowing with thankfulness…

an intense 3 hour labor 5 days before my due date

blood pressure stabilized enough to deliver at home as hoped for

laboring at the kitchen counter with precious little distractions hovering around me

two amazing midwives and the unique care they bring

a sweet 8 year old daughter rubbing my back between pushes whispering “Good job mama, you’re doing good”

a husband brave enough to help catch the baby

the miracle moment that is just as amazing every single time it happens….when a new baby is placed into your arms

hearing “its a BOY!”

seeing rolls of skin all over said boy

hearing “10 pounds 11 ounces” and gasping in shock

snuggling in bed minutes after he is born with curious siblings all over

tucking excited, tired kids into cozy beds on a cold, snowy evening

the quiet after midwives and family are gone and we are left with a new son in our arms

realizing how much such a big baby needs to eat

holding hands under the sheets and snuggling closer relishing what just took place

exhilaration

exhaustion

the smell of a newborn

instantly and forever glad we said yes to one more

quiet prayers of gratitude whispered in the dark

pondering names and knowing the ones

Phineas (first name) – a man of the Old Testament, who stood for righteousness and was “zealous for the honor of his God”

Jon (middle name) – a man of today, my father, who also stands for God’s righteousness and honor

family and friends that greatly lift the load, watch children, run errands and fill in the holes while we adjust to ‘new normal’

treasuring each moment, ever so aware that this season is short lived and I won’t get it back

8 years ago

Born 5 weeks before her March due date, Rylee Jeanne made us parents for the first time 8 years ago on Wednesday.  She is a treasure of a girl and we are completely blessed that she is the oldest of our brood.  Tonight she wrote me a note and brought it to me while I read to her little sis on the couch:

To mom.  Thank you for teaching me to reed.  I love you so so so so much.  Love Rylee.

She told me this was the ‘whole earth’….and in the middle is mama.

It’d been an extra long, extra rough day and granted, I am 9 months pregnant.  But I started to cry and was reminded afresh one of the things I love most about Rylee.  Her heart is so tender.  She loves people so well.  She may not have spelling all down or punctuation and she may throw some sassiness my way a bit often.  But she is an incredible love-giver.  And that is for certain what I most love watching play out in her little life.

Cinderella girl

This year in celebration of our 8 year old birthday girl, we headed to the PNB ballet for their exquisite performance of Cinderella.  It did not disappoint.  We shared dinner with two girl friends and their mamas along with both Grammy and Nana.  I’m pretty sure never before has Rylee anticipated anything as much as this night.  Here are a few snapshots of our fun:

Ranger Kyler’s birthday party

A few months ago I found old movies on DVD from the thrift store.  One was a bunch of old Lone Ranger episodes.  The kids were hooked.  So naturally, Kyler ended up with a Lone Ranger party this year.  I’m actually finding it a delightful challenge to pick a theme and plan a party that doesn’t blow the bank (like $250 to rent Jump Planet!) and that is plain old fashioned fun.

My sister had her baby last week so my planning had been minimal but we still pulled off a super fun day at a gorgeous local park

The kids were instructed on the Lone Ranger’s job of bringing justice to the Wild West, they were informed that a bank robber bandit was loose in the park (Daddy) and they need to find him.  So they headed out with hats and horses gallivanting  around the park.

Doesn’t he look bad? (grin)

It was a great day for this little man and although he got a bee sting and his eye is now mostly swollen shut, I’d say it was just about perfect.  We’re getting the hang of this birthday thing…two years ago we decided that we wanted birthday’s to be a bigger deal and to take the focus of Christmas off the gifts and focus on the Gift and on blessing others.  We also talked about how having a large family we needed to be intentional about celebrating the uniqueness of each person in our family.  While we don’t have it figured out, it’s sure fun learning!

Introducing cousin Ruby

is that not the sweetest face in the world?

Audrey can’t get enough of her new cousin, she held her three times tonight upon meeting her for the first time!

There is so much hope wrapped up in the tiny package of a newborn.  In the midst of many losses this year, knowing that this little babe was on the way was such a reminder of good things mixed in with life’s pain.  The miracle of new life is just that, it is beyond explanation.  Holding my new niece has been the highlight of this week!  For more pictures you can visit my sister’s blog here.

A great father…

…lives here.

He works hard.
He maintains balance.
He holds to his priorities.
He puts family before fun.
He lets family BE the fun.
He is responsible.
He wrestles and tickles for hours.
He gives the best bedtime snuggles.
He is self-sacrificing.
He has integrity.
He loves well the mother of his children.
He has the best smile.
He is flexible and spontaneous.
He is strong.
He perseveres.
He is teachable.
He is quick to forgive.
He loves Jesus.

He is the hero in this place…..not just to all our  littles, but to me too.

Sir Caleb’s birthday bash!

Before I could write this birthday post, I had to write yesterday’s post so that the full awesomeness of the birthday could be understood.  I don’t want to forget this part of the journey.  It was Caleb’s third birthday, at a train museum with a bunch of kids, that I began to realize that I really didn’t understand what was going on in his little brain.  The noise, all the people, the attention, the pressure….everything completely overwhelmed him.  He didn’t have any fun, it was so sad.  I won’t post the pictures I have that prove it.  From that point, with a lot of help and support, we began to figure out how to do things so that he could enjoy them.  His next two birthdays were small, simple family events.

This past year he’s taken leaps and bounds and as soon as we started the birthday party brainstorming (this was the first party we let him invite just who he wanted to and actually plan with us!) – I really felt like he could handle a big, boisterous party.

Handle it he did.  Enjoy it he did.  Experience it by the minute in sheer delight he did.

And we watched in wonder.  Only those who’ve known him for years could fully understand the changes and appreciate what a monumental, life victory kind of day this was for our sweet six year old.

We made a last minute change of plans due to weather and met up at an elementary school so we could eat lunch at my parents house.  The phone call the night before went something like this:

Me:  “Mom, I was just calling to see if you think we should move the party since it’s raining and cold?”

Mom (not stopping to think):  “Might be a good idea.  You could have it here, we could use the woods at the school and then eat at our house.”

Me:  “Um, Mom, don’t you remember there are 18 children between the ages of 2 and 8 coming?”  And don’t you remember that you just remodeled your kitchen and that you have cream colored carpets?

Mom (cheerful and certain):  “Sure, it’s no problem, it will be just fine.”

Sort of in disbelief but very grateful at the offer, I said yes.  I almost called back and said we’d have it here.  But the reality of 32 people in our little rambler was enough to keep me from it.

First the kids decorated little burlap satchels that our kids had sewn for them.  They would hold their (chocolate) gold coins from the forest hunt.

Then everyone lined up to get instruction for the Sherwood forest adventure.  Chris had hidden dozens of gold coins in the forest and we also hid a bunch of canned food.  I explained that Robin Hood always wanted to help the poor and that in the spirit of Robin Hood, we would hunt for food then donate it all to the food bank after the party.  I also told any that might not know that when Robin needed help from the members of his band he would blow three horns on his bugle.  So everyone got handed a bugle (my friends may not forgive me for the OBNOXIOUS noise they make!) and they were off.

After the mad frenzy search for coins and food, we all took turns shooting with Caleb’s new bow and arrows that he graciously shared with everyone.  Check out that handsome archer!

After everyone had had a hand at the bow and their fill of gold in their purse, we headed for Nana and Papa’s.  The kids pulled the red wagon full of food and walked the few blocks home in a darling parade.   Then there was food and feasting!

We shared many sweet glances throughout the day, that said more than words could have.  All the hard work, late nights sewing, etc was worth it.  Way beyond the party work, I think we both felt like life in general was worth it.  And for all that life has been these last couple months, we really needed a day like that.  All of us.

For a few more fun photos, especially of my nephew Isaac at the party, check out my sisters’ blog!