Monday, May 15, 2017

I love weekends....

The weekends have certainly treated me right lately. Sunday night rolls around and I look back feeling so grateful and blessed. And I think I’ve needed that lately. A little pick-me-up that energizes me to jump into another week.

Last weekend was my annual Girl’s Weekend with pals that I’ve known since high school.  We are approaching our 18th high school graduation anniversary.  I know, how can that be? Did we all graduate when we were only 10?!  Yes. Yes, we did.  
We didn’t have a lot to show for our time…..eating our meals out……. shopping….nails painted….lots of chatting and laughing….…….but we relished in not needing to make food for anyone or having to stick to a schedule.  So grateful for these women.  My heart has struggled off and on throughout this last year.  Constantly feeling in a position of striving to connect and make new relationships.  I’m a highly relational person, but also still regularly struggle with symptoms of Jr. High Girl syndrome (Feeling left out and wondering if someone likes me).  So, uprooting and moving to a new community has its moments of being lonely and just not knowing who to try to connect with. So, a weekend with girls that I have history with and lots of shared memories.....Mmmm…..blissful.  And our husbands are all pretty amazing for being so good about letting us do this ever year. 



And this past weekend, we grabbed the boys out of school early and headed to Grand Rapids. First, we stopped to give Adam’s grandma a visit. She’s been in the hospital for nearly 6 weeks trying to get a blood disease managed.  Good to visit with her and Aunt Joni.  She has a lovely view out of her window, a mesmerizing programmed piano in the lobby, and an automatic sensor sink! Even with all of that fun stuff we found, we're praying that her numbers cooperate and she can get out of there very soon!!! 



Then we dropped the boys off at a friend’s house and headed to a lovely wedding that evening.  We’d known the groom since his middle school years.  He picked a lovely girl back during his high school days and they had an incredibly God-focused wedding ceremony that we were blessed to witness. These were some young adults that we count ourselves so blessed to have been able to watch grow in their faith and commitment to God. And oh…..it felt so good to see so many friends! Sometimes you don’t realize just how much you miss people until you have them right in front of you again. Felt so good to receive so many hugs and share in conversation with friends that are so dear to our hearts! Felt a bit of a hangover the next day (nope, not from alcohol). It was just such a "high" time for our spirits that I felt the letdown of missing people that next day.  Thankful to have people we care about so much.....apparently, I'm just still struggling with the concept of relocating. This small town girl has a strong affinity for community and it just takes awhile to build that back up again. And unfortunately, the only picture I took of the evening was a poor selfie in a dark car as we headed back out of town. :) Someday, maybe I'll catch up with the times and snap pictures more often. I'm just gonna chalk it up to being in the moment. :) 

Saturday was filled with soccer games. Landon and Tate are both playing this spring. We had a lot of early morning games last fall, but this season we have a lot of afternoon games.  It breaks up your day more, but the weather seems to be much more enjoyable for sitting outside.  Here, we found ourselves stranded in between games. Adam and Heath took off to catch a high schooler's LaCrosse match and we had an hour to wait in between games.  Bottle flipping Gatorade in some beautiful sunshine is incredibly enjoyable. Mostly because of the sunshine. 

And Sunday, a lovely Mother's Day was on the docket. A great morning at church. 
(And in case I've mentioned too many times in this post about missing people and the struggles of relocating.....I really do like our church. :) Yes, this relocating thing has not been easy always, but we really do feel God's hand guiding us and having us here. We are continually grateful and have no regrets of following God's leading. That doesn't mean its easy and we constantly have warm fuzzies.....but we would rather know we were obedient than to live a life of ease and comfort. Just wanted to clear that up :) )
And then for the afternoon we gathered at my aunt and uncle's house. They live in the country and have a fun hobby farm with lots of animals. Good to see family and spend time with them. 
And apparently, I was again "being in the moment" and we didn't catch any cliched Mother's Day pictures with my boys and I (or with my wonderful mother and I). When I finally thought about taking a picture we were on our way home. Heath had fallen asleep in the car and was in no condition for smiling. Tate still snapped a picture with me though. This kid might give me the most struggles and cause me to pray the most....but he is also my most loving and affectionate one. So grateful that God chose me to be a mom to these boys. 

Finished off the evening with a walk with a friend. The two of us talk almost as fast as we walk. And we walk pretty fast.  Appreciate how she goes deep right away though. Good for the body and the soul. 

And our fridge is currently plastered in graduation open house invitations, wedding save-the-dates, bridal showers, and birthday party invitations. We're gonna be hopping these next couple of months.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Meet Oliver

We brought a sweet little kitten home a week ago.
We aren't shy about it......we are cat people.  We know not everybody shares those same sentiments.

After Clyde passed away in the fall, we knew we would eventually want another cat.  But we wanted to wait until we finished the messy project of finishing off our basement.

Welp, the basement is done. And so we quickly said "YES!" to the first posting of available kittens that came across our Facebook newsfeed.

There was a considerable amount of deliberation between the 5 of us about which kitten in the litter we wanted. They were all very cute.  Adam, the resident cat expert in our family, guided us toward the sweet little orange one. He seemed to liked to be held. He wasn't as hyper as a few of the others.

We are really happy with our choice! He's sweet, playful, easy to purr, docile with the boys handling him, slightly timid, but also pretty adventurous.  We have had a really fun week with him. The first few days, Heath just kept saying throughout the day, "I really like our new kitty."  And as soon as the older two boys would get home from school, they would want to play with him.  He's still a kitten so he plays for an hour....and then sleeps for an hour.  

And it only took us about a week to pick out a name for him. 
I received many excellent suggestions on Facebook. And the boys had their own ideas also. 
Puff, Patrick,  Milo, Simba, Ginger, Pumpkin, Clyde Jr., Oscar, Butterscotch, Cali, Tigger, Foofoo, Harley, Joey, Rizzo, Cat, Freddy, Morris, Charlie, Otis, Sebastian, Henry, Tweety, Freckles, Howard, and my personal favorite suggestion:
Angel-baby-poofkin-smoochin-love-bug-honey-dumplin. 


But we went with Oliver.



Throwback to another 4-year old handling our orange kitty.



And Daisy. Well, she has made significant strides in how she relates to him.
It was all snarls, hisses, and low gutteral growls from her for awhile. 
She could not even stand to be in the same room as him.
Oliver is not the least bit bothered by it though. 
He is determined to win her over and play with her.

This was Day 6 of Oliver in the house.
The fact that Daisy let him this close and was rather complacent about it was worth taking a picture.
And I kept snapping since I knew Oliver wouldn't stay put.



But hey, look what happened on Day 8!
I'm pretty sure Adam lured Daisy onto his lap and put her into a deep sleep.
And then grabbed the kitten.
But still. Huge improvements!

I'm currently researching how I can freeze him and get him to stay at this cute and adorable stage FOREVER. (Not Adam...the kitten)(Although, Adam is pretty cute and adorable also)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Quick Trip to Chi Town

We took the boys on a quick trip to Chi-town this past week (OK, actually Schaumburg). As soon as school was out on Thursday, we took off and skipped school on Friday (well, we thought they had the day off....but apparently I misunderstood how recess/snow make-up days work in this school corporation....and by the time I understood, I had already booked. Oh well. They are doing fine in school.)
Thursday evening we enjoyed staying in a hotel. The boys have only done this a few times and still find it incredibly exciting. Comfy beds with lots of pillows. Cable TV. Free toothbrushes at the front desk since we ALWAYS manage to forget theirs. Riding on an elevator. They are such simple and happy little creatures. 

We enjoyed going out to eat and swimming in the evening (Hotel pool was out of service, but we got free passes to a close fitness center that had a MUCH bigger pool.) 

Friday morning we headed to IKEA. The boys were not very impressed. But it was my happy place. Had to explain to them multiple times that family members sometimes endure things because it makes other family members happy. Not sure if they understood the lesson....maybe we need to practice it more often. :) We picked up several things to finish out some of our space in the basement....Rugs. Cabinets and wall shelves to go on both sides of the fireplace. A few other little things. Oh, and cinnamon rolls. 

Then we picked up a few things at Trader Joe's grocery store......Let's be honest, Adam wanted some sesame sticks. I was fine not stopping there. He sent me in and instructed me to get no less than 8 bags of them. I felt a little selfish taking that many. I only got 6. I think he has forgiven me. 

Then we headed to the Legoland Discovery Center (a Christmas gift from Moppy and Poppy). Legos are a pretty big item in our lives. I don't think a day passes where someone isn't playing with them (or in my case, that I'm not accidentally stepping on one). So.....basically, the boys had a great time. I'll let the pictures do some of the talking.....

Some major Chicago attractions.

And at night.

Standing in front of the Willis Tower. Its named after us, right?

A Hippo pic...for my brother Phil (we'll see if he reads the blog....)

The beauty of organization in the Master Builder section.

Beloved R2-D2.

Darth Vader got a little cozy with me.

Why so serious?

They rode this again and again and again.
And again.


I rode this once. This was the most pleasant I probably looked on it.
I cannot handle spinny things in my old age!




I didn't take pictures in a few of the different areas. But we had a fun time. 
The total "vacation" was only about 30 hours, but they said it was one of the best vacations. Ever.
Such easy to please guys.

We are entertaining the idea of Disney in a year or two. I'm afraid it would blow their minds!
(Although, I don't know....I've never been there.....I'm thinking they will have to endure standing in line with me to meet a few princesses though!)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hairs cut

Someone asked me recently how we have managed to live off of 1 income for so long. 
(And 1 pretty modest income. You can look up what youth pastors make....people aren't in it for the money. :) ) 
(well, mostly 1 income since I have worked part-time for most of that....although, on average only 5-10 hrs/wk)

But anyways. There's obviously multiple factors that go into my answer.

But one of them is that we have found ways to do things ourselves. 

Case in point: Haircuts

I have been cutting Adam's hair since we got married. 
We registered for a haircutting kit and lo and behold, someone gave it to us!

Well, let's do some basic math.
Let's go off the very base rate of Adam getting a cheap-o haircut for $10 
(we'll even say that includes the tip to keep our math super simple) 
Let's say he likes to get his hair cut once a month.
Let's say we've been married for 13.5 years.

$10/month x 12 months = $120/year
$120/yr x 13.5yrs = $1,620 saved over the course of our marriage

Throw in 3 boys.
The math is getting more complicated....but you get the idea.

Even if you figure we can get all 4 of the guys in the house a haircut for $10/each and if we can manage to stretch that haircut out to 6 weeks (which we usually don't).....we're still looking at a yearly savings of just under $350.

Maybe $350/year isn't much to you.....but its pretty significant for us.
And totally worth it for me to keep cutting their hair.....as long as they'll let me.

BEFORE
Happy, but scraggly. (minus Adam)

 AFTER
Clean cut and handsome.

Now if only I could trust them to cut my hair the 2 times a year I get it cut. :) 

Becoming Ballers

Now that we live in Indiana and are Hoosiers, I felt the need to introduce the boys to the game of basketball. They had very little experience with it to this point. Watching them dribble was.....painful.

I signed them up for an Upwards Basketball program at a nearby church. The Upwards program strives to teach not only the athletic portion of the game, but also focuses on the spiritual, social, and mental sides also. There are devotional times at each practice and game where they share a Bible verse and important virtue/character. And the coaches recognize different awards at each game (effort, offense, defense, sportsmanship, Christ-likeness). All kids get equal playing time and they don't start keeping score until the oldest age bracket (3rd/4th grade).

Overall, I was EXTREMELY impressed with the coaches, the church staff, and the referees we interacted with. (And yes, I just sent an email to the director telling him all of that). They really see it as a ministry and are so good at what they are doing.

Our boys improved quite a bit. I'll admit they were some of the weaker skilled ones on their teams. They were both on the younger side of their division (1st/2nd grades were together and 3rd/4th grades). But they both improved SOOOO much by the end of the season. Tate even scored 4 baskets in their last game. I'm not even sure if he touched the ball in the first game as he spent most of his offensive time just running around, completely oblivious to who had the ball and where, just trying to juke the kid that was guarding him.




Some of the phrases you may have heard me shouting from the spectator spot:

"Where's your man? Find your man!!!!"

"You're on offense now!!! Stop guarding your man!"

"Get your hands out of your pockets!"

"Put your water bottle down!" (lest he have it up to his mouth the ENTIRE time he was on the bench....not drinking...just chewing on it). 

"Where's the ball? Find the ball!"

"Don't back away from the ball!"

"SHOOT! SHOOT!" 

"He's on your team! Don't take the ball from him!"


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Landon turned 9!

Landon is 9! 

On his actual birthday, he had to do the normal kid stuff....like go to school. But he handed out a little treat. He chose what was for dinner.....a pizza buffet. And then opened gifts and cards from family that had been mailed. 

On Sunday, we threw him a Nerf themed party using the gym at our church. 11 boys being trained in target shooting, agility courses, and evasion tactics. And then of course, they got to shoot at each other. And because it was an odd number, I had to get in on the action to make the teams even. I was a much easier target though since I am bigger than them. I still have a tender spot on my forehead where I got hit at close range. We had bought bulk knock-off Nerf darts online for a great price, but the tips were a little harder than actual Nerf darts. The darts definitely flew faster and hit harder. 


And we enjoyed simple snacks like Nerf Juice, Popcorn Ammo, Cheezy Bullets, Targets (orange slices), Carrot Darts, and cupcakes (sorry, I couldn't think of a clever themed name for them). 

Minimal decorations. We already had an arsenal of Nerf guns and most boys brought their own as well. No cost for using our church's gym. We provided all of the boys with protective eyewear glasses and a utility belt to hold their darts that they could take home with them. The total for both items ended up costing only around $1.50 per kid. 

Only minimal marital conflict as we finalized the games and order of events the night before, once again being reminded of how differently the two of us operate and plan. 

But Landon declared it was his best birthday party yet. We've thrown some pretty fun ones, so I'll consider this one a success. 



Here's what Landon is like at 9 years old:
- He LOVES to read. Mostly mystery, sci-fi, and adventure...with a little bit of humor. I have to tell him to put books down sometimes. He has one under his pillow, takes one in the car, and generally never has one far from him. 
- He is still pretty passionate about soccer and can't wait for this spring. This winter we also introduced him to basketball and martial arts. I have also mildly been trying to teach him some piano. 
- Still is very social and loves people of all ages. Its been interesting to watch him be the new kid at school though and how he has processed that. He was very selective on who he wanted to invite to his birthday party....which was a major shift from past years when I had to limit him to how many he could invite. He said he gets along with all of the boys in his class....but he just doesn't really hang out with some of them. He doesn't seem at all bothered by it. And part of it is probably just age and kids starting to have actual friend groups, where in younger ages you are friends with everybody. 
-  He has taken an interest in stamp collecting (since he read a book that had something about it). He has a nice pile of them thanks to his Grandma Strahm and he also now has an album to start putting them in. 
- He's been referred and recommended to begin orthodontia work. Apparently his upper palette is too small and it doesn't look like there is room for some of his adult teeth to grow in. He's excited about it.....I don't think he understands the restrictive eating part or the pain part yet. 
- But that's Landon. Very easily excitable. Making him for a very fun kid. He is generally very optimistic and eager.
- He's one of the smaller boys in his class. 
- His favorite things in school are.....gym, recess, library, and computers. 
- Sometimes he is a GREAT big brother. And other times, I am appalled.
 
We consider ourselves so very blessed and are grateful to have him in our family. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fa La La La La.....and Happy New Year!

Realizing I haven't finished up posting about our Christmas festivities. Thankfully, I have a few pictures to remind me since its almost a month later.

We enjoyed a lovely Christmas Eve service at church. Later that evening, we opened up the traditional PJ's and ornaments from Adam's mom. 
Heath - a turtle. Tate - a chicken. Landon - a penguin.

Sigh. I have bunny ears in so many pictures.
On Christmas morning, we opened gifts at home with just our little family. Then we headed to church for a short and simple service. With not having any family gatherings over the Christmas weekend, we were extra grateful to have a church that had so many opportunities to gather together and worship and remember what the season is really about.

Then we came home and set up Skype Christmas with Adam's mom and stepdad....and Adam's sister and husband.  His techy expertise allowed us to cast it onto our TV and split screen it. This is the first Christmas that we did not get together with them in person. We had shipped gifts to one another and opened them over an internet connection.
South Dakota, Washington DC, Indiana.....a lot of distance. 
Amazing what technology can allow us to do these days. 
We were thankful that we could do that, but it was definitely a little sad signing off and realizing that was it for our Christmas with them when we usually spend at least a day or two together. 

On the day after Christmas, we headed to Grand Rapids for a quick gathering with the Willis extended family.  No pictures, but a nice time. And then we brought back from GR one of our international students from last year for the week to stay with us. 

Heath gladly gave up his room for an overnight guest and bunked in his brothers' room (a dream come true for him).  And then Adam's dad and stepmom resided in it for a couple of nights right after that.  We enjoyed having them stay for a couple of nights, but look forward to when we can offer better accommodations for guests (guestroom in the basement is in progress!).  They were here for New Year's Eve and everybody except Heath, managed to stay up til midnight. He made it to 11:20 and then asked if he could be put to bed.  We played games, made homemade ice cream in our ice cream ball, watched a movie, and clinked some bubbly apple cider in plastic glasses at midnight.



Overall, our holidays in our new home were nice.  Definitely a different feel than in the past with not getting to see some family and not doing any major hosting - both of which we missed and were a bit sad about. But it was a very low-key and low-stress time.....which was enjoyed. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Strahm Christmas

One Christmas gathering down.
Got together with my (Becca's) side of the family last weekend.

And yes, we had the 4th Annual Strahm Grand Prix.
Doesn't everybody race Hot Wheels cars at Christmas time?

My gearhead brother, Dan, invented this event. And with the help of my I-like-to-build-things-husband, the two of them keep the event running strong. Its basically a good way for us to have an event that engages everybody together. We've streamlined gifts quite a bit (Kids draw a name of a cousin.....and we still let Grandma buy for the grandkids (within moderation)), so its good to have something (besides eating) that we all do together. This year's race was a single elimination bracket that moved along quickly. Starting slots were done in a fair fashion by drawing names from a hat.


Brother vs. Brother
And the winner is HEATH!!!! The matriarch presented the travelling trophy.
We now have it proudly displayed on our mantle.
And as you can see, the Willis' showed up ready to race! We were the top 3 cars!
Landon was the only one who didn't make it out of the first round. This was the first year our family took the trophy.
We might have a slight advantage in that we own the track.

And my mom and dad told the Christmas story using flannelgraph once again!
Pretty sure I get a picture of these two sleeping EVERY year.
And no, this was not during the telling of the Christmas story.



Trying to get arranged for a family photo. Obviously, Katie likes the camera.

The whole bunch of us.
Gma and Gpa with the grandkids.
Siblings.

A fun and festive day that we all enjoyed!