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.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Pictures are rarely what they seem....

I assure you.

This does not just happen for us.

A few too many people have told me that we always take such nice family pictures. 

Little do they realize to get this one pretty good picture.....we had to take almost 50 pictures. Most of which have already been banished from my camera's memory card. 

We were hoping to schedule a family session with our favorite photographer, but getting it squeezed in before Christmas was proving to be too difficult on our end. So, with my trusty DSLR camera set on a stand and utilizing the timer, we figured we would have to settle for a DIY family photo. 

As I looked at our calendar, I was at a loss for when we could even make that happen. I wanted to utilize good natural lighting, but it's getting dark by dinner time these days. The boys don't get home from school until 3:30. Heath naps from 2-5. Our Saturday and Sundays have been packed lately as we literally come and go from meetings/appointments/outings. Adam and I basically hi-five and give a quick kiss in the garage as we trade off for home duty. 

So, as I sat in a baby shower Saturday morning (we had already traded home duty off once that morning), I texted Adam and said, "I think I'll be home in a 1/2 an hour. Want to try to do family pictures before you have to leave?" (Ok, I actually texted that to our babysitter from the night before. Whoops.Once i realized it, I then sent it to Adam). Adam replied that Kenny, our exchange student, was still in bed and asked where the outfits were. 

Yes, I had picked out outfits already. I try really hard not to buy anything new when we take pics and just coordinate what we already have on hand. So, I had coordinating outfits that had been sitting on our bedroom floor for the past week and a half. Apparently, he had not tripped over them enough times yet to realize they were there.  I still hadn't completely decided what I was wearing, but a forced quick decision can sometimes be best.

So, as I come rushing into the house about a 1/2 an hour later, I am greeted by happy and excited children still in their comfy Saturday morning clothes while Adam was in the laundry room ironing one of the shirts (No, he wouldn't have done that on his own prompting. He had received another text from me informing him that Tate's shirt needed to be ironed. An activity we very rarely do in our house). 

I begin ripping clothes off the kids and throwing pants at them. Kenny has now gotten out of bed and probably wonders what these crazy Americans are doing. We tell him we are doing a family picture and to throw a sweater on. 

I wonder in deep vain whether or not we should even be attempting this as I had not even showered that day. I shake my can of dry shampoo and repeat to myself, "it'll be fine" as I practically empty the contents of it onto my head. 

We get into our clothes in record time and I try to make some sense of the boys' hair, thanking God that boy's hair is easier to do than girl's hair. 

We get arranged on the porch. And I try to cover Heath's bright red socks that I left on him.

I know one of our family members is going to think, "Kenny is nice and all, but we'd like a shot of you guys without him."

Well, we tried to take some. One wasn't awful. Heath looks like we have just told him that he will never get to have cookies again. Big, sad eyes. Like, I said, it's not awful, but when you know this kid's smile can light up the room - you want to try to catch some glimpse of it.

And another pose we did, Heath insisted that he sit on Kenny's lap. INSISTED. Crying, insisted. So, of course, we let him sit on Kenny's lap.

Afterwards, when we saw the pictures better, I asked Tate why he didn't ever smile. He insisted that he did smile, but he just didn't want to show his teeth because he got too crazy when he did that. He then proceeded to show me. I agreed. It was too crazy. We'll have to work on that in the future.

So, after about an 8.5 minute photo session, we all piled back inside. I hollered to the boys to go change so they didn't get their nice clothes messy. Adam hi-fived me, and he went out the door for a meeting.

Sometimes our attempt at pictures goes as awesome as this:
I just can't make myself delete this one. 
It's too accurate sometimes on how I feel about wrangling these 3 boys. 
I'm still smiling though. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Heath turned 2!

So, let's pretend like Heath didn't turn 2 a week and a half ago. 
It's all just going way too fast. 

We celebrated on a busy Sunday with just a few small festivities with our household.
Doesn't take much to make a 2-year old happy. 
Get a couple of balloons. Have a cake. Let him unwrap a few gifts. 
Put him down for a nap.
The end.

Here's what Heath is like at 2 years old:
- He's a momma's boy nearly all of the time. Even at 5 a.m.when he can't sleep. "Momma......Momma?....Momma?" Not gonna lie. I find it incredibly endearing and adorable. But I still make Adam get up and deal with him. ;)
- He likes kicking and throwing balls back and forth with someone.
- He's a good eater. Not too many things he won't eat (sometimes a little prompting is needed though).
- He skipped over playing with baby toys very much and likes playing with what his older brothers are playing with.
- He's not very verbal. In the last couple of months, he has finally started copying sounds and words that we say. Even though he doesn't have a huge vocabulary, its clear that he understands us just fine. He is great at following directions and responding to things we say.
- He does make a lot of noises and animates his toys: car noises, animal growls, weapon noises.
- He likes trucks, motorcycles, and firetrucks.
- He loves being read to. And lately, he wants a book put in his bed with him when he goes to sleep.
- He still naps every day for around 3 hours. And sleeps 12 hours at night.
- He is a very sweet boy and we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE him!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Trunk or Treat 2014

One of my favorite church events of the year:
Trunk or Treat!

Such a great opportunity to work together and engage with our community and provide a fun family event.

This year's Willis trunk theme was:
Star Wars!

We handed out mini light-saber candies:

We had a video that was playing in the back of the van:

Didn't get a good picture of our family and all of the trunk. And we never got a picture including our exchange students as they were running around and busy helping in other areas.

Overall, a great turnout. A beautiful night for it. And lots of fun.

Guests that come through are able to vote on their favorite trunk. We took a satisfying 2nd place. We just can't quite compete with the family that has gotten first place the last few years. They did "Frozen" this year and handmade their costumes and have been working months in advance. C'mon....I didn't even want to attempt to make a simple Princess Leia costume so I just bought a white graduation gown at a thrift store for $2. Those Downing's are in a league of their own. But it's super fun to see what everybody comes up with every year! Hmmmm....should we do a trunk again next year? If so, what should our theme be? Or maybe, we'll take a year off and help out in some other aspect of the event. We'll see......

Friday, October 17, 2014

What a Day, Glorious Day That Will Be

Said a final earthly goodbye a few weeks ago when I kissed my grandpa on the head and was fairly certain it would be the last conversation I had with him in this life.

Just a week after that, he breathed his last and left this earth.

Death hurts. It doesn't feel right. And it certainly doesn't feel good.

And it shouldn't.

It should leave us longing for something more. It should leave us searching for what life is really about. It should lead us to realize that until Jesus returns, things on this earth will not be right. There will be pain. There will be sicknesses. There will be injustices. There will be evil. There will be death.

And it should hopefully lead us to our knees realizing our need for our Savior. And longing for the day when He will make all things right and we will see Him face to face.

"There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come;
No more clouds in the sky,
No more tears to dim the eye. 
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore.
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see.
And I look upon His face,
The one who save me by His grace.
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the promised land;
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There'll be no sorrow there,
no more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, No pain,
No more parting over there. 
And forever I will be with the One who died for me.
What a day, glorious day that will be

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see.
And I look upon His face,
The one who save me by His grace.
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the promised land;
What a day, glorious day that will be."

Grandma requested that the grandchildren sing that hymn at Grandpa's service. 

Try to get through that song in one piece while grandma, his wife of 67 years, sits in the front crying.

We fully believe the words. And I know she does too.
But it still leaves those left behind hurting.

Robert Jackson
August 13, 1927 - October 7, 2014
Robert Jackson passed away late Tuesday afternoon, October 7, 2014 at his home. He quietly slipped from his tired body to his heavenly home.
Bob was born August 13, 1927, to Herbert and Anna (Taylor) Jackson at home on a farm in Wells County, IN. He grew up on a farm during the depression. He left high school early to serve in the U.S. Navy in WWII. With the service and war behind him, he married Phyllis Werling on July 4, 1947. Together they set out to farm and raise a family. For 67 years, they met life's trials with a smile. They shared everything-including identical birthdays!
Bob was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ all of his adult life. He and Phyllis set a shining example as a loving couple for all to see.
Bob is survived by five children: Barbara (Sam) Strahm of Walkerton, Sharon (Doug) Miller of Fort Wayne, Bob (Linda) of Goshen, Dennis (Francine) of Mill Creek, and David (Janet) of Silver Lake, IN; 19 grandchildren; and 28 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, and a sister.
Bob retired from farming and the Kosciosko County Highway Department. Bob was a farmer at heart, but his best "crop" was his children. After retirement, he worked with other farmers in the spring and fall. In his spare time, he enjoyed model railroading and antique tractors. He used and played with Allis Chalmers machinery for 75 years, orange was his favorite color! He enjoyed many good times with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, whom he prayed for daily. He will be missed by all and we look forward to a reunion in heaven.

Here's a couple of my favorite pictures that I have of Grandpa:

I'm the little girl in green on Grandpa's lap.
On our wedding day, August 2003.
Holding Heath.
And even though we will not see him again this side of Heaven, there are still many little things in life that will remind me of my Grandpa. Like a handful of candy corn mixed with peanuts.

Thankful to be the granddaughter of a man who lived his life faithfully for the Lord. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A Night in the Woods

Even though our life felt like it had stopped a year ago because of Adam's injury, 
it has not even slightly paused since we celebrated the 1-year anniversary last week. 

Which is why its taken me almost a week to put together some sort of blog post about it.
I haven't even had the chance to attempt thinking about it until now.

A beautiful night for a walk through the woods. 
Really, I'm not sure that the weather could have been any more perfect.

We tried to list and count up the people that we saw that had come out. 
Just shy of 50 people from various aspects of our life.  
It was a great group and we were elated to have their presence.

During that day, I was telling myself not to be discouraged about local friends and family that were telling us that they couldn't make it. Obviously, I know life is busy. I understand that. There was still a very big part of me though that felt weak and needed to know that we had a human support system around us.  It seemed silly, but I needed to know that we still had people that cared about us and viewed Adam's recovery as big of a deal as we did.  It just meant so much to us to have everyone come out that was able to.  

Here's the main group. There was another few groups that had arrived later.
The path wasn't easy. It was winding. Narrow in spots. Rocks and tree roots jutted up out of the ground.  And you had to be aware of oncoming mountain bikers enjoying a ride.
And it was especially tough if you were carrying a 25lb. toddler. :)

Having never been on the trail before, I was grateful to have a chance to take it in. 
It wasn't necessarily a sentimental time. There was no speech or presentation.
I was trying to keep track of kids and so were others.

But it was a special time for us.
If we had just sat on the couch that night and reminisced about where a year had gotten us,
this moment would have been forever lost and not valued for what it was.

We are grateful to God. 
So grateful.
We don't hesitate for a moment to praise God for Adam's recovery.
Yes, he is a driven man. 
Yes, he was able to be at a good rehab facility.
But this was God.

We are thankful for the change in our hearts that has taken place.
To be more desperately in need of Him.
To be more aware of His presence.
To feel His comfort and peace - like no one else can offer.
To see ourselves for what we are - weak, broken vessels.
Any good, any strength, any capabilities, any overcoming - 
that's because of Him.

Here's to hoping we never, ever forget that.