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 Orbitz.com 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 memories....plus, 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!