Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Morning Blessings

Needed some perspective on this Monday morning. A kid with a miserable, persistent ear infection is home from school this morning. I feel behind on multiple levels. Feeling discouraged about several things. Aware of other's deep pain as they face difficult situations.

So, I went to God's Word, and lo and behold, I came away encouraged. Felt the desire to share some things that I've felt incredibly blessed by lately.

- I have a friend who puts up with me. There's very few people in my life that I show the ugly to. When I have a bad attitude. When I'm whiny. When I'm frustrated. When I'm hurting. When I feel like I have dominated our hour phone conversation last week with a less-than-uplifting spirit (thankfully, our phone conversations don't always feel like that).  Distance separates us. But I'm thankful that I know I can talk with her about ANYTHING. Thanks Adriane.

- Tate and I walked to church last night. It's a mile and half walk. He wanted to hold my hand the entire way. We talked about all sorts of things: being ready for Kindergarten next year, beer cans, Adam's accident, how he is going to take walks with me until he is 34, and wherever else our minds led us. This mom's heart was soaking it up.

- We installed the new senior pastor at our church yesterday. We have been without a senior pastor for over 2 years. Excited for this new season in our church's life. Hopeful for a renewed vision and passion as we worship and grow together and as we seek to serve one another and our community.

- I recently had a Girl's Weekend with 3 friends from high school. When I step back and realize just how long I have been out of high school, I am so, so thankful to still have these connections and that we all are able to make this weekend happen once a year.

- The weather is finally starting to turn nicer around here. Lots of sun in the forecast for this week!

- Made my Grandma Jackson's pea salad the other day - a dish that her and I both love. As I chopped up each of the ingredients in it, its hard not to picture her smile and sweet disposition. And how she used to make it for family gatherings because she knew I liked it (or at least that's why I thought she made it). :) I also got to see her and briefly visit with her a week ago. Time is not usually kind to our aging bodies, but I am thankful for so many sweet memories of her.

Hoping as you read this that you are able to take a moment to identify the things in your life that are recent gifts from God.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Man, these boys are growing up.  Please take a moment from your usual broadcasting to let this proud mother talk about her handsome little men as they pass various childhood milestones.

BAM! Heath has graduated out of his crib!
Happened very suddenly with no real closure or preparation for this mother.  But maybe, just maybe, my husband knew what was best. We were moving some furniture around in the house as we are working on finishing up some space in the basement.  Anyways. I thought Adam was putting the twin-size spare bed in Heath’s room IN ADDITION to his crib being there.  We had talked about that being the plan.  I walk upstairs and see that Adam has disassembled the crib. Some sort of audible, but unintelligible, sound comes out of my mouth. Adam just shrugged and said there wasn’t really room for both and that Heath was ready to graduate to a big boy bed. 
Welp. There we are.

I knew he was ready as well.  We had talked about it with him a lot recently and one of his grandmas had already picked out a cute comforter set for him with puppies on it. It’s been easy, breezy.  We had a rail up for the first few nights, but I’ve already taken that down. 

BAM! Tate has lost his first 2 teeth in the past week!

On Friday, he came home from school saying that one of his teacher’s had pulled out his tooth that day. I thought, “OH DEAR! WHERE IS YOUR TOOTH????!!! I MUST HAVE YOUR TOOTH! I CANNOT HAVE MY MIDDLE CHILD LOOKING AT HIS BABY BOOK AND FEELING LIKE THE NEGLECTED MIDDLE CHILD OF WHOM I DIDN’T SAVE HIS FIRST LOST TOOTH!” Fortunately, he was wearing a little necklace with a tooth holder on it that contained the little gem.  Whew.  And then on Monday, he came home again saying that his teacher pulled out his other tooth. WHAT?! I didn’t think it was that loose! Rumor is this teacher is married to a dentist and has a knack for some twist-and-pull method that she is very proud of.
Its quite amazing that I find my child even cuter when he is missing two front teeth.  He thinks he’s pretty big stuff also.

BAM! Landon has won his first art contest!

Maybe that isn’t a child milestone necessarily, but I had to write something about him, right? The boys’ school had an ArtPrize competition this past month. Kids got to vote on their favorites. Landon’s entry had the most votes out of all of the 1st graders!  So, not the BIG winner, but we have to start somewhere.  I worked with both of the boys on their entries. That was a bit painful. I refrained from painting anything FOR them, but I may have painted over things a couple of times giving them another chance to do an area. I entered something I had painted in high school. I thought the subject matter would be entertaining to share with an elementary/middle school audience.  Landon informed me that some of the kids in his class found it “inappropriate.”  Uh oh. I didn't intend to be controversial. 

With all of those milestones being shared, all I have left to say is that I wish it would all just SLOW DOWN a bit! Or a lot. That would be fine also. They are only these ages once. Trying to soak it all up! 

Saturday, March 07, 2015


Cleaning out my camera memory card and I'm realizing I forgot to share our Valentine's Day celebration.

Adam and I were soon getting away for a week of together-ness, so we didn't feel the need to steal away for a Valentine's date and fight the busy restaurant scene. We decided instead to have a fun night at home with our boys. The boys were excited about having a fancy dinner and using candles - I LOVE THAT! We may have a house full of boys, but they like to do special things. Its not all about bodily noises, getting dirty, and weapons around here......Although, maybe they just like the idea of having fire at the table.......?

We all got gussied up in some nice clothes. Tate even discovered that he really likes wearing ties. It could be because mom gushed over him a lot. He wanted to wear a tie the next day to church also.

My kitchen assistant (a.k.a. Adam) and I worked in the kitchen that afternoon to make dinner. He's quite helpful. We made a fancy chicken, roasted potatoes in the shape of hearts, and sauteed green beans and mushrooms.

And a Strawberry pie for dessert. 

For after dinner activities, we printed the words of John 3:16 on little paper red hearts. I then hid them around the living room and the boys had to find them and then put them in the correct order. We played multiple rounds of this. We did this last year also and they remembered it and requested that we do it again. It was a great way for Kenny, our exchange student, to learn this verse also.  He decided to accept Christ into his life just the weekend before!  So exciting to be a part of helping him to grow in his faith and his understanding of the Bible.

We ended the night with a round the board game, Ticket to Ride. Its fun that the boys are able to start playing some "older" kid games.

A great night at home celebrating love!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Leaving the kids behind....

Kids are great. 

We are especially fond of our own kids. Three beautiful blessings that we adore and consider a great blessing to be their parents. They are endearing, funny, sweet and at incredibly fun stages of life.

But, you know what else is great?

Taking a vacation without them.

There were numerous times where I thought about how much fun Landon, Tate and Heath would have had with different components of our flight and cruise. The boys have never flown before.  I can just imagine how their little faces would light up with wonder and excitement, and possibly a bit of fear, as they took off in an airplane. There were lots of activities on the cruise for kids. The boys would have had a blast! And we would have had so much fun experiencing all of that with them.

But, man, there were way more times where I thought how grateful I was to be able to go without them.  To just be with Adam.  To remember who I am as a wife and friend to my husband, instead of the demands of being a mother.

We saw lots of families with their kids. I never once found myself wishing we had brought the boys though.

The parents usually looked tired.  So did the kids.  There were loooooong lines to wait in at times. Lots of stairs to climb and a great distance to get to the other side of the boat.  Fancy dining. Windy and cooler weather a couple of the days.  And naptimes and bedtimes would be difficult in small quarters.

There’s definitely something great about family vacations. They are worth the planning, stress, long car trips, and shortened sleep.  I still remember some family vacations and the excitement of going somewhere and exploring new areas with the family. We hope to make memories like that with our boys also.

But we also know its good for us to take a vacation without them.

Not only is it good for us, but it’s good for them as well.

We show them that our relationship to one another is important and needs to have time invested in it.  That we are not just “mom and dad” to them…..but also “husband and wife” to one another.  
Plus, when all of their grandparents live further away and they do not get to see them on a regular basis, we love that they get to make special memories with them.  We’ll remember our trip. But they’ll remember Grandma and Grandpa coming and taking care of them. And how Grandma likes to feed them cookies. :) 

Leaving the kids behind can be hard.  Its hard not to be plagued with fear of the “what ifs” while you are away.   My mind is a “worst case scenario” expert. But anxiety and fear are not supposed to be a part of our lives if we trust God.  And so I leave them in His more-than-capable hands.

I always find on the way home from trips away from my kids that I become enamored with every single child I come into contact with. Their little faces are so cute. Their voices so sweet.  Their fits and tantrums are even pleasant to encounter. I can hardly wait to get home to my boys. 

I come home a better mom.  Ready to jump back into investing in them and teaching them.  More able to be attentive to them and patient.  Soaking up every moment that I get to be back with them.

I don’t feel guilty for taking a vacation without the kids because I know its good for me. Its good for Adam and I. And it’s good for them. 

Plus, you never get "welcome home" signs from them if you never leave them.

Anniversary Getaway

Adam and I finally made our 10-year anniversary trip happen.  It was only a year and a half late. But it came at the perfect time.  (We had booked one back in 2013, but Adam’s accident caused us to have to cancel it).

Reality is we’ve been going non-stop. Circumstances and timing were just not making a trip easy to get on the calendar. 

But a lot had been building up. We're tired and discouraged. And we needed a break. Together.

So, we got on a jet plane and went south. Then we got on a big boat and headed further south. 

The snow faded away to sand and sun. 

We enjoyed a week of no demands upon us. No responsibility. Lots of relaxing and unwinding. 

Here's a quick, little snapshot of a few details: 
Sunday - Flew from Chicago to Houston, Texas. Had made reservations through for a hotel to stay at for the night. We knew we weren't staying at the Ritz, but this was honestly the worst hotel experience I've ever had. It was late and we were tired and it would have been difficult to change hotels. So we stuck it out. (And it didn't get much better) But hey, we were on vacation and on an adventure together. More memories are made when things don't go as planned, right?! 

Monday - Shuttled to Galveston, Texas where we boarded our cruise ship. It was a massive ship. Holds 3,690 guests and another 1,300+ crew members. Over 1,000 feet long, with 15 floors. Unseasonably chilly in Texas when we took off that afternoon. 

Tuesday - Day at Sea. Lots of activities to do onboard. Warmed up and we enjoyed being outside. 

Wednesday - Arrived in Progreso, Mexico. Not the most picturesque port, but it felt rustic and authentic. We enjoyed massages on the beach ($35 for BOTH of us to have an hour massage) and then jumped on a tour bus for a trip to the Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins. Beautiful day. 

Thursday - Arrived in Cozumel, Mexico. Shopped around at touristy places. Then took a taxi to Paradise Beach where we spent the rest of our time. Toasty warm in the sun, resulting in these pasty Michiganders getting a bit of a sunburn despite our use of sunscreen. 

Friday - Day at Sea. Extremely windy and choppy waters. The temperatures were quite cool as we forged back north through the Gulf of Mexico. 

Saturday - Back in Galveston, TX. Shuttled back to Houston where we jumped on a flight back to Chicago. Home in Michigan by 10:30pm. 

Things we really enjoyed about being on a Cruise:
- FOOD! So much of it. My fave was the Mexican late night buffet one night. Multiple fresh salsa options. So good. 
- We especially liked eating in the dining room every night. Great service. Fun dishes to try. We were usually seated next to others and enjoyed our conversations with them. 
- Even though the ship was carrying a lot of people, it wasn't that hard to find a quiet spot to relax if you wanted to. 
- Loved having a schedule of activities to choose from. We didn't participate in most of them, but we did learn how to make animals from towels, enter giveaways and contests, participate in trivia, and take in some shows. 
- The staff seemed to sincerely enjoy their jobs and desired to serve us. 
- Got up early and took in a sunrise. That's pretty spectacular to see when you are in the middle of the ocean. 
- It was really nice to be "unplugged" from phone/internet. 

Things we didn't love so much:
- Its hard to get that many people on/off the ship. We waited in lines for almost 3 hours to board the ship. Not a great way to start the cruise. Others said they had never had to wait that long before. There were also some lines usually as we got on/off the boat at ports 
- Lines usually weren't bad for food, but a few lunchtimes in the buffet seemed to have us waiting a little bit to get through and then find a place to sit.
- Again, that's just a lot of people. We never even got in the pools onboard. 2 pools for 3,600+ people. 
- There's lot of options for activities.....but there's lots of opportunity for excessive drinking, gambling, and scantilly-clad women. Not activities we try to engage in. 

Overall, we had a good time together. We might take a cruise again someday, but we didn't catch "cruise fever" like some do where they are already booking another cruise before they even step off the boat. It was mostly just lovely to have a break, get away together, relax, and have people do stuff for you. :) 

Here's some pictures from our trip:
Leaving the Frozen Tundra
I can handle lunch with an ocean view.
Dressed up for "Formal" night.
Pictures never, ever do a sunrise justice.
Every evening a new towel animal was placed in our room with the next day's schedule.
What's not to enjoy about having control of the remote?

Relaxing on a ginormous hammock under the stars.

Massages on the beach in Progreso.
Climbing on ancient ruins.
Swimming in a cenote at the ruins site.

Shopping in Cozumel.
After a few hours in the sun, Adam needed a break.

That's a big boat.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Landon turns 7!

Landon's 7th birthday has come! 

Man, he was so excited about having a birthday party! And all of the presents he would get! And who he was going to invite! He's been talking about it for.....months. 

And this girl loves to plan and throw parties! Its so much fun! Plus, its hard to say no to this kid! And its a great way to connect with other families by inviting his classmates. But......

....we broke it to him that he doesn't get a big birthday party every year. He took it quite well. Although, it took multiple conversations for it to really sink in. 

We love to celebrate and love on our kids, but Adam and I both eventually got on the same page about not wanting them to feel that they were entitled to having a big shin-dig every year. I took longer getting to that point than Adam did. Plus, the greed talk was pretty heavy around here lately. 

So, we just had a gathering with our little family. His birthday fell on a Sunday this year. Not an ideal day for a birthday celebration when your dad is a pastor. Adam had been at a men's retreat all weekend. He got back into town around noon on Sunday. And then we had to be back at church for the evening service. So, the celebration had to be split up into chunks. 

Right after church we headed to Chuck E. Cheese's for lunch.....Landon got to choose. Oy. That place is crazy. And smells kinda funny. :) 

But the birthday boy and his entourage of brothers had a great time. 

We got home and opened up cards and presents. Several had arrived in the mail the past few days from faraway loved ones. Then everybody (except mom, of course) laid down to take an afternoon nap. 

Then we headed to church. 

Afterwards, we rushed home and had a quick dinner and ate some birthday cake. And then it was bedtime. 

Landon and I also spent some time thinking of ways that we could still celebrate him with his friends without throwing a party. We made treats for Landon's children's church friends. Plus, we spent the past week making rubberbrand bracelets for his 26 classmates at school. He even wanted his principal and teacher to have one. 

Probably won't go down as one Landon's most memorable or favorite birthday celebrations. But I know he still feels loved. 

This kid is fun to celebrate! 

Here's what Landon is like these days:
- He easily gets excited about ideas, events, people.....just about anything.
- He likes Legos, Star Wars, Superheroes, army men, drawing, playing checkers and other games. 
- He's excited to go to overnight camp this summer! 
- He is such a sweet boy! He likes writing me cute notes and hiding them around the house. He isn't shy about grabbing my hand and holding it when we are out somewhere. 
- He loves playing soccer and shooting his bow. 
- He's a social bug. Loves to have people over. Loves to go to other's houses. He doesn't often seem intimidated by new experiences or people. 
- He's one of the smaller boys in his class. Quite a few of the girls are even taller than him. 
- His favorite class in school is gym and recess. Although he is doing quite well at all of his subjects.
- He is a good big brother.....most of the time. :)  Although, it is obvious that he sometimes does not like the extra responsibility and expectations we put upon him. 

We are so blessed to have him as our kiddo. Thankful for each day we get to parent him!  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Re-visiting New Year's Eve

Happy New Year's!

Ok, I'm a little behind, but at least it is still January. 
Wanted to make a blog entry so that next December 31st when I'm planning a party, I can look back at this as a reference for what we did.

For the second year in a row, we invited over 3 other families with kiddos and celebrated the New Year!  
We like reasonable bedtimes in our house, but our boys vividly remember that ONE time that we let them stay up until midnight last year and they've been talking about it all year. So, since I do not want to deprive them of fond childhood, I really do have fun planning parties, we invited those same families over again this year. 

Rather than letting everybody just run wild through the house for the 4-5 hours before midnight, my organized/planner self likes to come up with activities to do at every 1/2 hour increment. I write the activity on a strip of paper, put it in the balloon, blow the balloon up, write the time that it corresponds with on the balloon and then hang it up for the kids to pop when its time.

I try to keep the activities simple and no-cost or low-cost.

The kids seem to enjoy it and it keeps everyone engaged and the time moves along pretty quickly. 
(We don't keep the youngest ones up. Heath went to bed at about 9pm. And we had a pack-n-play set up for another little one.)

Here's the timeline of what we did this year:

7:30 - Glitter Dough - Found a simple recipe to make glitter playdough. I supervised the kids mixing it and kneading it. And then we played with it for awhile.

8:00 - Kid Interviews - Last year, we interviewed each kid there and asked them simple questions like how old they were, their favorite food, their favorite memory from the past year, what they hope to do this next year, etc. We call them in one at a time and then record them. Adam works his magic on it and edits it a bit and we watch it later in the night.

At this point in the night, we had a brief intermission as one family had 2 of their kids all of a sudden be hit with a stomach bug! Ack! Lots of "oh dear's!", grabbing plastic bags to put soiled clothes in, gathering buckets for the ride home, finding coats, and trying to disinfect ensued. Stomach bugs are never fun! Sad our friends had to leave, but I think we have all laughed about the scene now. And I do not believe anybody else came down with it afterwards. :) 

8:30 - Celebrations from around the World - We talked about a few different traditions from around the world on New Year's. And then we celebrated a couple of them. 
    Spain - They bead 12 grapes onto a skewer to represent the 12 months of the year and to hope for good luck. And then we ate them. :) 
    Many countries like China and Taiwan shoot off fireworks for New Year's. We put some exploding Pop Rocks into our mouths to represent the fireworks. 

9:00 - Grand Prix - Adam had just finished building a race track for my family's annual Grand Prix competition. Had to be tested out. The kids raced Hot Wheels car down the track. 

9:30 - Make Magnets - Using those round decorate glass beads and a variety of old magazines, we cut out little pictures and then glued them behind the glass beads. Then I used a hot glue gun to put a magnet on them. My boys have been begging me to do this. 

10:00 - Make confetti balloons - Gather a bunch of paper dots and use a funnel to put them into a balloon. Then blow the balloon up and stow it away for midnight. 

10:15 - Hot Cococa & Snack time - Not much to say about that.

10:30 - Outburst Jr. - Adults and kids split up onto teams for a heated competition. 

11:00 - Popcorn and video - We watched last year's kid interviews and then this year's kid interviews. They love watching themselves on the TV.

11:30 - Change into PJ's and pray - After kids changed into PJs, we sat around the family room and shared things we could pray for one another about. We had each head of the household pray for the family to their right. Had to be brief for the antsy, tired kids - but it was definitely special and a time to tie our faith into what we were doing. 

12:00 - Watch the ball drop on TV! Make noise! Pop our confetti balloons! And kiss our honeys! 

Overall, it was such a fun night! 
Thankful for good friends to celebrate with. And thankful for the blessing of another year! 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Wonderful Christmas Celebrations!

A flurry of Christmas celebrations and programs have finally commenced.
It truly is a wonderful time of the year!
A Savior was sent for all!

I probably could have done separate blogposts for each one of the events, but if you waited on me to do that, it might be July before they all got posted.  So, we get to just take in one big smattering post about a whole bunch of 'em.

Here's some pics from some of the festivities:

Church Children's Christmas Program
Landon was a shepherd and Tate was a star.

Youth Christmas Party
They were to dress with Christmas accessories.

Loved the emotion in this picture. Especially the overexcited elf on the right.

Curtis Christmas Party
The multiplicitious (probably not a real word, but it means there's quite a few of us) Curtis crew got together for their traditional pizza buffet and salad bar. Above is a snapshot of our family at the festivities.

Christmas with Adam's mom
Lots of traditions with Adam's mom usually. Pigs in a blanket for breakfast. Stuffing stockings. Ornament and PJ gifts the night before Christmas. She spoiled us by providing several yummy meals throughout the few days she was in town. 
These two lovebirds were sleepy.
If you fall asleep in my presence, I will likely take a picture of you.
This was our "Christmas morning"......which wasn't really Christmas morning.
Might have been a bit overwhelming for Kenny's first big Christmas celebration.
Too adorable not to include.
We have many battles in our future.
The wonder of the snowglobe.
Toasty beverages and yummy dessert in front of the fire.
One final snuggle with Gma and Gpa Vig before they have to leave.

Christmas with Adam's dad
Sadly, I didn't have any pictures.
Just close your eyes and imagine the festivities.
Plus, we usually have some yum mexican food for our gathering.

Willis Party
at the Willis House
These cute newlyweds know how to smile for a picture.
This lovely Loveland, CO couple can do a pretty good job also.
(Adam's dad)
These couples borrowed our kids for a picture.
Technology has worked its way into every family gathering.
Strahm Family Gathering
The 2nd Annual Strahm Grand Prix was won by Dan.
The matriarch of the family (a.k.a. mom) presented the trophy.
(Yes, we race Hot Wheels car down a track and yes, there is a trophy)
The Strahm clan.
EVERYONE is looking at the camera!

Thankful to have so many loved ones to gather and celebrate with.