Monday, February 01, 2016

Landon = 8

Landon the great turned 8 this past week.

We had a good family celebration on Monday, the day he actually turned 8. He got to choose between a home-cooked meal or a family meal out. He choose a pizza dinner at Uccello's. No offense taken by mom. I didn't mind having a night off.  Haven't tried their Signature Pizza yet?! You should! Loaded with meat - hands-down one of our faves! And then we opened cards and gifts at home and followed up with brownies and ice cream. A few of his favorites.......a handmade crocheted penguin from Grandma....a Star Wars Chess Set from Kenny and Parker.....and his very first real bow from mom and dad (ok, let's be was from dad). Thanks to family from near and far that sent cards/gifts for him to enjoy!

And then we geared up for his Star Wars themed birthday party with friends on Saturday! (cue theme music)

The kid hadn't even actually watched any Star Wars movies yet....but somehow he still knew an awful lot about the storylines and characters. He knew enough to be certain that is what he wanted his 8th birthday party to be themed on.

(Ok....before we make any other parents feel bad....we don't do big parties for our kids every year. He hasn't had a party with friends since he turned 5. And well, I L.O.V.E. planning themed kid's parties! And the internet is so helpful for ideas and inspiration. I found it incredibly fun to think of the details and to see my kiddo running around with his friends having a good time! I really tried to keep it on the cheap and not get carried away with a bunch of decorations....because, really, what 8-year old boy is going to be impressed with my efforts?! Anyways. I had fun. :)

The invitation read as follows.....(just imagine it all Star Wars scrolling script-like on a starry backdrop)

8 years ago in a galaxy not too far away, 
a special boy was born.
It was soon discovered that 
the force was strong with this one. 

All young Jedi's are invited to report 
to the Jedi training facility to celebrate
Landon's 8th birthday

And included them to need to RSVP to the Jedi Master (a.k.a. me)

We had the party at our church in the gym and youth room so that we could more adequately conduct a Jedi training.....and so our house would not be torn apart!

When the young Jedi's arrived to the party, they received a Jedi tunic and belt.

Then they picked what color they wanted their lightsaber to be made. The boys LOVED this. Obviously.
(Lots of Pinterest ideas showed pool noodles made into lightsabers....but its January and we live in Michigan. I found one idea of using pipe insulation with pex tubing inside of them and then covered in duck tape. I liked the look of this a lot better as well)

And the food!
Pit Droid Pizzas
Jar Jar Links in a Blanket
Galactic Grapes
Vader Veggies
Padawan Popcorn
Droid Parts (Chex Mix)
and Yoda Soda and Wookie Water to drink!

Tried to have menu items with minimal prep....that kids would like...that didn't require silverware....and that was somewhat healthy.

We conducted a number of Jedi training activities that focused on controlling their lightsabers, using the force, knowing how to use blasters, having to find their droids, and teamwork.
(They would have loved to just run around whacking each other with their lightsabers for 3 hours....but like I've shared before, I'm not a big fan of chaos. :) I like order and a plan.)
Here's a few pics of some of the activities:

Plus, we had cake. 
(Non-Star Wars fans....that is the name of the droid in the newest Star Wars movie.....but we also discovered that it could stand for Birthday Boy-8!)

And presents.

I think the boys all had a GREAT time!

I must job was easy. Most my role was done in the weeks leading up to the party. Adam did a lot for this party. In his words: "more than what he signed up for." :) But he was a great sport and he did a great job making all of those lightsabers and leading the Jedi training activities.  Plus, we put Kenny and Parker to work as much as we could.  Kenny had to battle each one of the boys in a lightsaber battle. And Parker, and another student we had with us, Vincent, had to keep hiding the droids that helped us put the boys into teams/partners for the different activities. 

Here's what Landon is like at 8:
- He is a voracious little reader. I'm having trouble having books on hand for him. 
- Doing great at school! Leading his class in reading and math. Still loves recess and gym best though.
- Loves meeting new people and being with friends....but also shows some signs of a homebody at times. "Mom, when I'm in high school....I don't want to play sports because then I will be gone too much." (Still not sure how I'm supposed to respond to that.)
- We watched a school play recently. Afterwards, I asked the boys if they would ever like to be in a play. Landon quickly responded and said, "No." Then he thought about it and said, "Maybe if they did The Wizard of Oz....I would want to be the trees that throw apples at the people." 
- Is starting to have an opinion about his hair. Doesn't want to have it short. But he also has no desire to tame it when it is longer and CRAZY. 
- Likes penguins, Star Wars, Legos, and soccer. 
- Is always wondering when he will be old enough to...[fill in the blank]. (Have a pocketknife....ride in the car without a booster seat....get an iPod....go hunting...see Star Wars movies.....ride around the court on his bicycle by himself....have his own room....)
- Is showing that he doesn't always want to hold my hand in public anymore. I'm dealing with it OK. I don't force him. But the other night, he still grabbed for both of my hands when we were praying at church. 

He is loved immensely and we feel so, so blessed to have him as ours! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Teenage International Boys

We have two high school international students living with us this school year. We had one last year. He wanted to return and we were asked if we would host him again. And then we were later asked if we would host a 2nd student. 

Sure. Why not? :) 
(Yes, I'm well aware that we are borderline C-R-A-Z-Y at times)

Some days, I have to bite my tongue and remind myself why we agreed to do this. 
There's more laundry. More food to buy/make. A LOT more driving people around. A very maxed out mini-van (If we all go somewhere, I'm often all the way in the back in between 2 of our boys). A sense of privacy lost. A room that smells like teenage boys. Accommodations needing to be made. Needing to be mindful of what I'm wearing around the house. Other people having a look at how you live. Two very different personalities sharing a room. And why won't they use the top sheet on their beds?!!?! :) 

Basically, a lot of surface inconveniences. 

But when I am reminded that we have the chance to have these boys into our homes. A chance to learn about them and their cultures. A chance to share our lives with them. A chance to bring them to church with us. A chance to share our faith in Jesus with them. A chance to extend love to them. 

Ok. Ok. It's all completely worth it. 

In Sunday morning's worship service, we sang "It is Well With My Soul".......and I looked over and saw Kenny singing. Really singing. 

First off, the song usually makes me emotional anyways. But to think about this young man whose life is forever changed by what God did through his life while he was living with us. A young man who has had some big and heavy stuff happen in his life up to this point. And a young man whose future is unknown by him and us, but known fully by a God he has come to follow. I find my heart thinking maternal thoughts towards him and wanting him to be able to sing this song through all of life's ups and downs that he will encounter. 

It's all been worth it. Completely worth it. 

Plus, I rarely have to change the cat litter these days. And they help with dishes sometimes. 

And they shovel snow. :) 

24 sandwiches. Just for our household.
Products like this line a shelf in our house now.
A South Korean thanksgiving meal (pic from November).
Thankful that we were willing to have them join our family. 
Sometimes our willingness to extend ourselves is all that God needs. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Pics off of my phone....Monday morning edition

Life has been full these days. But such a good full. 

Here's a few photos of daily life from my phone that fill my heart with happiness.
Landon can be such a GREAT big brother at times.
Other times....not so much.
Tate was the Student of the Month back in November.
A very rare selfie. I don't think I know how to take them correctly.
Out enjoying a beautiful walk on snow-covered trails.
This was a fit after his Lego truck came apart.
Monday mornings are really hard when it comes to coping with life's trials and disappointments.
Landon is a voracious reader these days.
My mom found a few books on her shelves that had these inscriptions inside of them and gave them to Landon for Christmas.
I probably found it more special than what he did.
But he's read them all already.
Heath had his 1st dentist appointment. He thought the water sprayer and sucker were quite funny.
Thankful for special little memories like these captured through the lens of my Otterbox-covered little machine.  

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Christmas 2015

Man, I gotta get back on the blogging train.

Here's a re-cap of some our family Christmas festivities! 

In early December, we drove to Indiana for an extended Jackson family gathering. No pics, but good to enjoy some time with that side of the family. 

The weekend before Christmas, the Strahm's settled in upon us. This is the first time we've hosted Christmas for my side of the family. We loved being able to have quite a few of them stay with us before and/or after the day of celebrating together. We feel so blessed and thankful to have a home that can fit so many of us! 
The whole crew.
Gma and Gpa with grandkids.
'Rents and their kids.
Sang a few Christmas songs and listened to the telling of the Christmas story.
3rd Annual Grand Prix
The Matriarch of the family handing the travelling trophy to Katie, this year's winner.

Next, we celebrated with Adam's mom, Kevin, sister, and her cat-loving husband at our house. Lots of special meals and traditions. Christmas Eve ornaments and PJ's. Stockings. Brunch foods. And usually, some overall feelings of being spoiled. 
So much joy!
Christmas brunch. Yummm.
Lego Party with Aunt Jaime.
Always fun to look at things on Grandma's iPad.
The bunch of us.

Then, the Willis brood came for the day to our house. I was explaining to Parker where everybody was from.....California, Kansas, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida,'s pretty impressive how far so many of the family members travel to be together. Aunt Leigh was snapping pictures and I never pulled my camera out of its bag. But there were a lot of us. And a lot of presents.

Then we celebrated with Adam's dad. 
Poppy and Heath talkin' trains.
The captivating world of Moppy and sharks.
As you can see, as the events progress, my picture taking digresses. I need to work on that.

Not gonna lie. I LOVE being able to have people into our home. So thankful that we have been given such a great home to hold gatherings. 
But also not gonna takes awhile for me to recover from hosting so much. I might have wandered around the house in a bathrobe for a day after everything was over. I even lost my voice for a few days in between it all. And I've been fighting some bug for a week or so now. Plus, I do get a little cranky at some points beforehand and say/yell things like, "I JUST ORGANIZED THE TOY CLOSET.....NO, YOU MAY NOT PLAY WITH ANY OF YOUR TOYS!" "STOP DRINKING THE MILK! I DO NOT WANT TO GO TO THE STORE AGAIN!". But my husband is super helpful and sends me on walks when I get too edgy. Plus, he does almost all of the dishes, sets up the tables/chairs, takes out the trash, etc.  He's a good partner. And I think he likes me. ;) 

Thankful to have some very special times during this Christmas season. Sharing special moments with loved ones. And aiming to remember why we even do all of this. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Heath turns 3!

Heath turned 3!
(Over a week ago)

I typically let the boys start choosing what we have for their birthday dinner at this age, but when Heath was asked on multiple occasions he insisted we have Ice Cream. Just Ice Cream. 
Then he specified that he wanted COLD Ice Cream. 
Maybe next year he'll be more cooperative on the matter.
(And yes, we still had some ice cream)

My parents came into town for a couple of days and were able to be there for the celebratory festivities.

He enjoyed opening cards and gifts from family.
These days he is into diggers, trucks, trains, and puppies.

Here's some other things about Heath at the age of 3:
- He talks in a really robotic voice at times.
- He is mostly potty-trained. Still struggling to get #2 where it should go (i.e. the toilet and NOT his pants). He's even dry at naptimes and most nights.
- Still naps for 2 1/2 hours every afternoon. Sleeps 12 hours at night.
- He is a momma's boy. He is sad and pouts when I leave him behind sometimes. And will often tell me that he missed me when I am away and will ask if I'm going to be there tomorrow.
- He can get really shy and anti-social.
- We are experiencing temper tantrums and fits on occasion.
- He is tall for his age, but about average weight.
- He knows he's the baby and he milks it at times. And his mom may let him. (In my defense, he's my BABY!)
- He can count to 10, but still can't get most of his colors straight. 
- He is adorable, endearing, and we LOVE him beyond words! 

Another year gone by for Adam

Another year has been celebrated for Adam!
We had a little family celebration to ring in the 36th year since his birth.

My Willis men
Willis men + our Asian men
And I'm not rubbing it in.....but this is the only deer Adam has got so far this year!
If something doesn't change soon, we are going to have to learn to eat beef again! Oh dear/deer!
This guy is pretty stellar! Love being able to celebrate him! So, so thankful to have him!

Friday, October 23, 2015

I painted a table and chairs once....

Once upon a time, I painted a table and chairs.

And let it be known, that I intend for this to be the only time that I ever do this.
(I would maybe paint a table again, but way! Too many spindles and legs!)

I wanted this to be a paint job that could withstand a lot of use. So I used a heavy duty primer. A heavy duty paint. And did multiple coats of poly over the top.

Here's some pictures to show the progression:


This was our previous table. I squeezed in between Landon and Tate on the bench. 


This is how we have it set up for everyday use, but we could easily put more chairs (or our bench) around it to accommodate more food partakers.