Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Year of Dates

Life gets busy. We all know this.

We’ve tried to make sure we are being intentional about doing things that help foster connections with one another as a family. That our boys feel seen, known, and valued. It can be hard when there are multiple kids and multiple jobs and multiple extra activities to easily fit in time to do that sometimes. We try to be intentional about taking those moments when we can and giving them each some one-on-one time with us, but we’ve also found a beautiful thing in actually planning for and setting aside time to do so.

For the past two years for Christmas, we’ve given our boys a box of “A Year of Dates.” Part of it was an effort to cut back on the “stuff” and the culture of having a mountain of gifts. And part of it was wanting to focus on relationships and experiences together. After the first year of doing it, I wasn’t 100% sure that they loved it, but as Christmas approached all three boys separately asked me if we would get to do it again because they loved it so much and said it was their favorite gift.

In advance, we simply plan out a date for each boy for each month of the year. I make a spreadsheet on my computer (because I really am quite fond of spreadsheets). The dates bounce back and forth from time with mom and time with dad. And we even slip in 2-3 “family dates” of doing something extra special. I make a card for each month and put it in a sealed envelope. And then they each have a box of these cards. On the first of each month, they pull out that month’s card and we open them all together to reveal what each of their dates are for that month.

Some of them involve a cost. Some of them don’t. Biking date with dad. Breakfast date with mom. Bowling date with dad. Hiking date with mom. Family date to see a movie in the theater. Service/volunteering date with mom. Donut date with dad. Library date with mom. Dinner date with dad.

It is a tradition that I am determined to carry on. I already have pockets of so many wonderful memories. A chance to take a break from corralling 3 boys… really getting to observe and spend time with just 1 boy, pouring into them and understanding them better. To have a conversation, listen to him without interruption, give him some say in what we do together.

I have no doubt that we will look back and value many of our ordinary moments: bedtime routines and devotions, time around the dinner table, playing games together, etc. But I really think we will look back and value these moments of being intentional about spending time together also.

This month was a larger cost item for a family date. We took the boys to an indoor waterpark/hotel overnight. We did this a few years ago and they have repeatedly asked when we would be doing it again. So, there was great excitement when they opened up this month’s cards to reveal their “dates.”

Heath asked me not to scream so much on the big waterslides.
I told him that it was more fun if you scream.

So much concentration. Our stay included 8 hours to play in the arcade.
Who needs to play arcade games for that long?! I feel that's a bit unhealthy.
But the guys all thought it was awesome. (No, they didn't actually use up all that time)
And this is what I do while they play arcade games.

And conveniently, it was close to another great destination.
Bonus points if you can guess where this is! 

Evidence of a succesful trip.

For 2017, I had made a “Year of Dates” for Adam also. We, admittedly, do not always set aside time to get away together frequently enough. Over the years, we’ve taken a few trips together without kids. We spend many nights together after boys are in bed. But I knew we needed to take it up a step in making sure we were spending intentional time together. I did really good for half the year. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a handful of the dates happen as it was difficult to fit some of them in during extra busy months or the cost bothered my budget-conscious mind. Fortunately, I married an incredibly gracious man. And in an effort to take the pressure off of me, he made a “Year of Dates” box for me in 2018. He is typically much better than me at executing a plan, keeping things secret, and following through. I’m discovering that he made some of them to be with him…..and he’s set me up on dates for some of the others. In February, I had a date with 2 of my girlfriends. And this month, I had a date with my mom. He knows how much I value time with women.

Anyways. Just wanted to share how our family is being intentional about how we spend our time with one another and how we make it special. Hope others are finding ways that fit their family. The goal is really to make sure we are valuing one another and allowing time for those important relationships in our lives to not take a backseat to all of the other busyness.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Trusting Him when it hurts

It is with heavy hearts that we wrap up our time at our current church this week.

At the beginning of this month, Adam was notified that he was being let go from his position as the Student Ministry Pastor and would be finished at the end of the month. This was unexpected for us. There is nothing scandalous or inappropriate on our parts. Please, there is no need to wonder or assume, but I know that's where minds and conversations can go at times. 

In short, this church has been through a lot of transition over the last several years. Most notably, a new lead pastor that was hired shortly after Adam. With him being a strong visionary, he has ideas of where he wants to take this church. It has become more evident recently that there are some differences in philosophy and vision for student ministry. While we were willing to try to attempt to change some of our efforts, leadership decided it would be best to transition us out instead.

And just like that, we are done.  

To be completely honest and transparent - we are hurt. This was never just a paycheck or job to us. We were fully invested in this church and its people. This was not just Adam's position.....serving Christ here was the heartbeat of our family. We gave in ways that were not up front and showy. We served in ways that few will ever know about. We gave in ways that were beyond Adam's "position." 

To not take this personal is beyond what we are capable of at this time.  

It hurts to be forced to step out of the lives of these students. They have been through a handful of youth pastors and it was clear to us from the start that they were not trusting of yet another new person. It was finally feeling like we were making some strides and seeing walls come down and spiritual growth taking place. We fully intended to watch these 12th graders graduate from high school.....and had even pictured being there to watch this year's 6th graders graduate from high school. We wanted to offer them the stability and a consistent presence that we could see they needed. But like much of life, we cannot plan these things and know what the next moment holds. 

And it hurts having to step away from a church family and people we have come to find friendship with. When we went through the difficulty of Adam's accident 4 years ago, we were held up as our previous church family carried us and walked through that uncertain and difficult time with us. They were such a reflection of God's love and provision to us. And although this unexpected event is very different.....we have quite the opposite feel of presence and support. Many have reached out to us with "I'm sorry's" and sympathy, but there really isn't much more that they can offer to make any of this easier. And many have been silent.....and I get that as well. Its hard to know what to say. And some have gone above and been present as sounding boards, walking partners, coffee drinkers, card writers, and even sending us away with a hotel stay and generous amount of spending money while we were on a forced vacation the first Sunday after the decision had been made to let us go. But reality is, we will not be worshipping and serving alongside them anymore. And we certainly felt that as we wrapped up our last Sunday this morning and not even a mention of this being our last Sunday was made from the front. It has been decided that we are no longer a part of this local church.  

Although much of the handling of all of this has felt impersonal, unloving, and hands-off, the leadership has been gracious in allowing us to continue living in this church-owned house through the school year and to offer severance pay through that time as well.  We are increcidbly grateful for this extension of care and the ability to let our boys finish out the school year. 

As for what is next for us......we will trust God one day at a time and aim to keep our eyes and hearts fixed on Him. 

In the practical, we have no clue what is next. Adam is pursuing job options and considerations for both the period while we are still living here.....and then the period beyond that. Whether or not those two time periods and locations are connected, we're not sure. Do we stay in this general area? Do we head somewhere else? What sort of position does he have the skillsets and physical ability to do? And what would he find some purpose and fulfillment in doing?  Even though I loved being in ministry alongside my husband for the past 14 years....right now, it sounds amazing for him to have a regular-hour job that the boys and I are in no way invested in and emotinoally involved with. We aren't closed to the possibilities, but we lean heavily towards not pursuing another church vocation position right now. And it sounds pretty awesome to live in such a way that we can't rely on the "title" of Adam's job to convey what we're about.....but having to be all the more intentional about loving and living in such a way that its clear by our actions and words. 

We covet your prayers. Pray for God's guidance and direction. Pray for healing and for our hearts. The attacks of rejection, being cast out, hurt, failure, loneliness, unfairness, and criticalness are already so strong at times.  Pray for us as we guide our boys through this time. Pray for us as we find another church to attend. Pray for us to keep our eyes and hearts fixed on Him. Pray for us as discern where to go and what to do next. I've always preferred if God would speak to me in large, very obvious neon signs.....but I'm slowly learning that its more about staying close to Him and His Word and being faithful in the small things and He will guide and reveal in His timing and in His ways (which I'm well aware are always better than mine). We honestly have not even worried much about what is next or our finances. We have seen and experienced God's provision before. At this point, its just been addressing the hurt and shock and having a desire to finish our time here well.

And I'm pretty blown away by the man I married. No, really. I married a man that walks what he talks. He has expressed and communicated so beautifully with our students about all of this - he's never pointed fingers or been critical. He's stayed positive in front of them. He's put steps and people in place to carry out things once his time is up. From the beginning of our time here and until our departure, he has been who he said he was. So thankful that my husband has integrity, steadiness, humility, and Godly character. 

Our desire is NOT to be divisive over this. We are simply wanting to share with those in our lives of where we are at right now. We want good things for this church. There are many, many wonderful people there. We want them to reach and disciple many as they seek to share the Good News of Jesus. We will not tolerate negative public comments. We may be hurting and disagree with how some of this happened and the timing of it, but ultimately..........this isn't about us. It never has been and never should be. Our aim is to be faithful to our Savior, trusting Him and pointing others to His grace and love - regardless of our circumstances. We know full well that God is working and can use everything in our lives to bring us closer to Him. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Landon turns 10!

Landon turned 10 last month. TEN! 

I have memories of being in 4th grade and being ten! 

The above picture is the day of his birthday when we opened gifts from family and such. Thanks to those that send special things for our boys! They love having things to open from you all!
And this was a fun gift from his Great-Grandma Willis! Adam had played college baseball for IWU and had given this shirt as a gift to his younger stepbrother....likely back in 2002(ish?). She saved it and sent it to Landon for his birthday.
(You'll have to excuse the super-tired puffy looking face.....This pic was taken one morning before school)

He really wanted to have a SLEEPOVER for his birthday this year. I was a little hesitant about this. We haven't really done too much of this and there are lots of warnings out there about letting your kids do sleepovers, so I wasn't sure if others would be comfortable with it. But we let him invite 4 friends (3 of which spent the night). 

They had dinner with us. They had NERF battles over in the church gym. They played video games. Adam designed an "escape room" experience for them that they really enjoyed. And they watched a movie. I think they slept. I don't know. I'm the mom and enjoyed the quiet and comfort of my bed after 10pm. Adam slept in the basement guestroom while the boys slept on the couches and floor in our basement living room. 

This is what it looks like when the birthday boy is opening a pack of Pokemon cards that he got as a gift.

Overall, they all had a good time. Landon said it was his favorite birthday party (he's been saying that every year). I loved having the extra boys in my home. (They were soooooo loud at times....but they didn't eat nearly as much as I expected). Really hope that as our boys grow that we can provide a home in which they want to invite their friends into. 

Here's what Landon is like at 10:
- He is still a voracious reader. He prefers mystery, sci-fi and humor type books. 
- He likes to play with Pokemon cards, Skylander figures, and Legos. 
- When he grows up he says he wants to be an American Ninja Warrior. If that doesn't work out, he wants to be a professional soccer player. And if that doesn't work out, he thinks he'd like to be a teacher. 
- He is super involved in school clubs and thinks he is the most actively involved 4th grader....He's currently doing Rock Club, Chess Club, Student Council, and Spell Bowl. Oh, and his favorite, Stock Market Club. Of which he was the top finisher in his school recently. And also the top elementary student in the state! Maybe we should let him handle some of our money?! 
- He kinda thinks he knows everything. We have to remind him he does not. 
- He loves people of all ages and still extremely socially motivated. Always wanting to know who we can have over or if we can make plans to go to someone else's house. 
- He started wearing a watch recently. It makes him look so mature and responsible. :) I said "look". We are having some issues of actually being responsible....things like not turning in papers from school to us, or forgetting to bring his snowboots home, or brushing his teeth after lunch (due to his braces). 
- He rolls with the punches and enjoys doing just about anything. 
- Definitely likes opportunities to be independent and is always wanting to know when he'll be old enough to......stay home alone, ride in the front seat of the car, have a phone, etc. 
- He can be such a great helper (especially when motivated).....Lately, he's been quizzing Heath on his letters and numbers. He folded a basket of laundry in record time the other day. And he even offered to make dinner for the family one night (we all might have had egg sandwiches and cereal). 

With his medal for his Stock Market Club win.

He is such a gift to our family! We love him so much and are grateful for how God has designed Him and put him in our family! 

Christmas 2017

We're going to take a stroll back through memory lane and re-visit Christmas so that I have it archived on the blog. 

We loved being able to host several gatherings this year! 
Adam's mom and stepdad visited the weekend before Christmas. We enjoyed doing a lot of our traditional foods and just getting to spend some extended time with them. 

Jaime and Ben weren't able to travel from D.C. this year, so we had to settle for another Skype Christmas celebration with them. Technology is nice for still being able to share time together across the miles.
All fancied up for church.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was actually pretty quiet for us and we just enjoyed being with our little family unit. We got a beautiful snowfall on Christmas Eve and enjoyed hiking outside together on nearby trails. And Christmas Day was pretty quiet just at home with us also. Adam's dad and stepmom flew in that evening and spent the night with us on their way to Grand Rapids.

We also enjoyed travelling to Michigan for time with some of the Willis family. Unfortuately, we didn't take pictures. While in Grand Rapids, we also had the chance to see friends which was fun!

We then hosted my side of the family the weekend after Christmas. 
Mom telling the Christmas story with her famous flannelgraph while dad reads the Christmas story. 

The Annual Strahm Hot Wheels Grand Prix. Yes, if you've never read my blog before, this is a real thing.
The matriarch of the family awarding this year's winner of the travelling trophy.
The whole crew of us.
And then Adam's dad and stepmom stopped back through again on their way to fly out of Chicago. They spent New Year's Eve with us (for the 2nd year in a row)! We all made it to midnight to celebrate (well, unless you count Poppy falling asleep on the couch as we watched the Lego Ninjago movie).

We had a great time with family! Lots of fond memories of spending time together celebrating a special time of remembering the significance of Christ coming to earth as our Savior in the form of a baby. 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

A Package on my Doorstep

Every once in a while, I entertain the idea of actually sharing more than a smattering of pictures and little tidbits of what we have been up to.  Believe it or not, there are lots of things going on in my head. These thoughts of sharing are usually very easily dismissed for the sake of other things that I could be doing. But here I find myself under the glow of the Christmas tree ready to pound out a lesson I’ve learned in hopes that it might encourage someone else.
Recently, I was challenged to do the right thing.

It wasn’t in a large effort of feeding the hungry or clothing the needy.
It wasn’t in a wide-influencing action in some monumental effort that the masses would see.
It came in the form of a Kohl’s delivery box on my porch.

I recently made an online purchase during the busy hustle-and-bustle Black Friday shopping. A week or so later when my order was delivered, an item was included that was not part of my order. This item was in itself much more expensive than everything else I ordered put together.

It was a King-Sized Flannel Sheet Set retailing $119.99. (Yes, I’m well aware that prices are marked up and you should never pay full price for anything at Kohl’s.) It was not included on my packing slip or billing statement. It was simply put in the wrong box and delivered to our doorstep.

As I contemplated on how to handle this, multiple battles raged in front of me and in my mind.
“Ohhhh…..those are so awesome, mom! I want them on my bed!” (the boys have yet to understand that bedding comes in different sizes). “They won’t fit on your bed guys….but they could go on our bed or the guestbed which are queens….because flannel sheets always shrink a little.”
“Well, they are the ones that messed up. Their loss, my gain.”
“I could easily sell a new set of bedsheets on an online garage sale site for $20”
“I could return them saying that they were a gift and I could still get store credit to spend on something else for us or…..even on items I could donate for others.”  
“This is a huge nationwide company. They will never notice this mistake. No one will lose their job over the loss of this item. This actual item cannot be returned to the rightful person that ordered it. No one even knows that it arrived at our house by mistake.”

Oh, I had lots of justifications for how I could handle this.  
But in the pit of my stomach, or more accurately – by the prompting of the Holy Spirit in my life,  I knew the right thing to do would be to take time out of my schedule and return them to the store just for the sake of doing what was right.  This item was not mine.

You have to understand I have a history of taking things that did not belong to me. I actually struggled with this A LOT during my pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Never from retailers or stores. Probably worse….I would take or keep items from the homes of friends. Nail polish. Lotions. Jewelry. Little items….but still I knew what I was doing. It was not innocent and it was somewhat addictive for quite a few years. I wanted what was not mine….and I occasionally took it.  I came to terms with making some of this right even just a couple of years ago when I discovered a ring that I had taken from someone. I knew exactly whose jewelry box I had taken it from.  It had probably been in my possession for almost 20 years. But as a result of trying to keep in step with living for Jesus….I was feeling a sense of conviction that I needed to admit what I had done to this person, return it, and apologize.  So I tracked down her address and did so. It was embarrassing. But also rather freeing being able to sense the Spirit working in my heart and pushing and enabling me to do something that silenced the justifications I had in my mind for not doing anything.  

And you have to understand that this was not my first run-in with receiving something that was not mine from a large retailer at the time of holiday shopping.  I shoplifted (accidentally!) an item about 10 years ago. It was one of those large plastic storage bins for storing wrapping paper. It was the day after Christmas when everything was marked down. I had bought a few other items, but I had this container underneath my cart.  It was a very busy shopping day and it was snowing quite hard. I was halfway sludging through the parking lot to my car when I realized that I had not paid for the container. I immediately whipped my cart around to go back in. As I did so, the wind and snow that had been at my back, now pelted me hard in the face – so hard that I could hardly even open my eyes. I whipped my cart back around again. I was not going to battle the weather for this. I would have to stand in a long customer service return line. They would likely look at me like I was crazy. And after all, it was their job to notice that I had a large item underneath my cart. I quickly and fairly easily determined that I was NOT going to make this right. Even though I knew it was wrong. We still store our wrapping paper in that container. And make comments about how I stole it. (No, I do not feel convicted about needing to return it and somehow pay for it at this point in time) (But it does serve as a constant reminder to me about my embracing dishonesty for the sake of convenience.)

And so, here I found myself again with an item that was not mine. This time, it was not an item that I had actually even wanted…..but nonetheless, it was quite easy to justify that I could still easily gain from it by selling it or trying to return it for credit.

But these days, my desire is to walk in step with the Spirit of God…..and when I know He is pushing me to do something….I aim to listen and, well……actually do it.

So, a few mornings later when I had little bit of time, I made my way to the store. I still battled thoughts of thinking how nice it would be to have a little more money to spend by returning it for store credit. But I knew it would not be honest of me to do. At one point on the drive, I even audibly repeated to myself, “I will do the right thing.….I will do the right thing……I will do the right thing……I will do the right thing.”  I was still clearly in the process of convincing myself that I was actually going to do the right thing. I imagined how the sales associate would gush over my honesty and would award me with a giftcard….or at least balloons that might drop from the ceiling recognizing and rewarding me for my efforts. I continued to talk myself through this reminding myself that I was doing the right thing…..for the sake of doing the right thing. Dear goodness, I should not still need incentive and affirmation for doing the right thing!

I stood in the customer service line. Upon my turn at the desk, I briefly explained that I must have accidentally received this item in a shipment and I was just bringing it back. The sales associate curtly said, “Thanks. Is there anything else I can do for you today?” I smiled and said, “Nope.”
And that was that.

My point in all of this…….
Doing the right thing is not always easy. Its often much easier and more convenient to not do the right thing. I don’t share this to receive high fives for being honest in this small way. And I somewhat dread putting some of my past struggles out there. And I even battle whether this is worth typing out…..I know lots of people who are dealing with actual hard stuff these days. This was not a trial of difficulty.

But here’s the thing…..I find myself strengthened by this somewhat trivial little happening.  Through this experience and several other recent things, I see God working in my life in the form of progress, or we can even get real Christian terminology fancy and say that I recognize the sanctification process happening in my heart and life. He’s allowing opportunities for me to work some of the selfish junk out. He’s allowing me to know Him and hear Him….and then respond. And that in itself feels good to know that I am growing and being worked on by the One who loves me the most. Painful, at times. But still good.  I mess up and get tripped up over things that I shouldn’t, but until I take my last breath, I hope and pray that He keeps working on me and allowing me opportunities to hear Him and respond in trust and faith.  My heart’s desire is to glorify God and share the love of Jesus in all that I do.

This journey of life looks different for everyone. He calls to each of us and works in our hearts and lives in different ways every day. Sometimes it is subtle and private. Sometimes it is sudden and big. Sometimes we may fight it. Sometimes it hurts and we can't make sense of it. And sometimes, it shows up on our doorstep in an unforeseen and unwanted package.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The last 3 months...

Strap on your seatbelts.
We are about to fly through 3 months.
There will be pictures and short blurbs. 
Likely out of order at times. 

2nd and 4th grade. First day of school.
This is probably the most handsome day of school.
Otherwise they don't do their hair unless I make them or do it for them.

This is his 2nd year of preschool. Next year it'll be kindergarten!

Tate was studying monarch caterpillars/butterflies for awhile. He really wanted to find one - mostly because the teacher offered some sort of point incentive for a prize (or something). So, we headed out one Friday night to a park. And him and I went looking for milkweed. Less than 5 minutes into our search and we found a good sized monarch caterpillar chilling on some milkweed. We looked another 40 minutes and didn't find another. And we also looked for the next several weeks and never found another.
Can I just say that I do not recollect really ever watching the process of a monarch butterfly before?
I really intended to do a blog post about it.....but here it is amongst a variety of other things. 
And yes, this creature is getting more press time than my 3 darling boys.
We got him on a Friday night and he was a raveonous eater all weekend! Did you know that they poop a lot also?!?! It was Labor Day weekend, so we had an extra day. By the time Tuesday morning hit to take him into school, he had attached himself to the top of our container, but was just hanging there. I didn't want to disturb him, so we didn't take him in that day. At Tuesday at dinnertime, I noticed the caterpillar was moving and jiving. Within a matter of a minute, he had shed his striped exterior and was just a hanging there in a green chrysalis. We took him in the next day for the classroom to keep an eye on him. They stay in their chrysalis for about 10-14 days.
Well, it comes time for this guy to start thinking about coming out and a weekend hits.
I offer to bring him home that way in case he emerged on Friday night and then he didn't have to sit in this small container for the rest of the weekend as a butterfly. Look at that chrysalis! It had gold flecks around the top! And the green was amazing. It was already starting to get a little transparent at this point.
And this was how we left it on Saturday morning before we headed out of town for a wedding.
He emerged at some point during the day. A little bummed that we missed it. 
The teacher really wanted us to try to bring him back if he hatched (Chickens hatch.....I'm not really sure what butterflies do) so the kids could release him.
But I felt kinda bad just keeping him trapped up. At this point, he had been a butterfly for well over 24 hours.
And he was beautiful and perfect. Oh my goodness. So crazy to think about what happened in that chrysalis in 2 weeks. And how he was all folded up in it and emerged with these decorative and gorgeous wings!
So, we let him go on a pleasant Sunday evening. He immediately flew away and up into a high part of a tree.

Point of all of this: Wow. Wow. Wow. God is awesome. I cannot watch this process of life without being pointed toward an intelligent and inspiring creator.

Kenny came for a short visit one weekend. Heath was pretty happy about that. And so were the rest of us.

I battled a pretty pesky elbow injury since the beginning of August. It has turned a corner this past month, but it still feels a little compromised and weak when I do certain things. I hurt it while putting a solid stain on our back porch. A little too much vigor for a little too long. From what I self-diagnosed, it was probably some sort of tendinitis injury, but it was pretty bad for awhile. Hurt to brush my teeth. To do my hair. To write. Forget about actually playing tennis, volleyball, or doing any weight bearing exercises on it. My online sources said it could be a bother for up to 6 months. 

This is a friend's wall hanging. She actually kinda acquired when she came to visit us about 10 years ago. I just heard the story recently though. Anyways. Moving here has allowed me to reconnect with her. And its been a real blessing. She included me in an effort of gathering various women in her life together for a monthly gathering. We talk about things that matter. We eat. We get to know each other. In this season of life of being newer to a community and of also our vocational setting in a church, I am always intitiating relationships and connections with was nice to have it inititated with me and be included. Recreating my own version of this wall-hanging is on my to-do list.

I was also a part of a women's Bible study that did Priscilla Shirer's "Armor of God" study. Some of the work throughout the week was intense and required a lot of time, but it was such a challenging and encouraging study to go through. And even better when you are working through it alongside others. She is a new "go to" for when I want to listen to an online message while working out.

I got my hands on a bunch of free apples! And then a friend and I spent a good portion of a Saturday processing her apples and mine. I believe we canned 68 quarts that day. A long day, but much better with a friend.

We had 4 weddings to attend back-to-back-to-back-to-back. All 4 very different. And that's the fun of weddings. They reflect the bride and groom. A nice time of being forced to shower and get dressed up on an otherwise lazy appearance day of the week.

Landon played soccer again this past fall. He did well. He still declares this to be his favorite sport.
Tate really wanted to try football. I wasn't ready for him to do full-on tackle yet. I found a flag football league that he was barely still able to do based on age. He did really well. I mean, a lot of football at this age looks more like corralling squirrels, but Tate was one of the quicker boys on his team and scored a number of touchdowns. He thinks he wants to do the real deal football next year.....

We were Lego Ninjago for Halloween (costumes courtesy of Aunt Jaime and Uncle Ben.)

Student ministry is in full swing. This was a recent Sunday morning.
Carries with it a large range of emotions and descriptions. Exciting. Challenging. Purposeful. Discouraging. Frustrating. Invigorating. Joyous.

Other areas of mention that don't have a picture to include with them:
We celebrated a 14th wedding anniversary at the end of August.

Adam got a new-to-us truck. Chevy Avalanche. Burnt orange. I still haven't driven it. But he's happy to have a truck again. And I'm happy that he's happy. And that we could pay for it in full.

We marked the 4th anniversary since Adam's spinal cord injury.

I got to lead Bingo for the month of October at a local retirement home. I may have discovered a potential vocational calling.

Adam shot a deer up in Michigan during a hunting outing with friends.

We find ourselves helping with a college ministry at our church.

I'm a table leader for the MOPS/MomsNext ministry at our church.

I've been watching a baby on Mondays. Its been fun to carry a little girl around the house.

We continue to look at houses in the area. In the past 9 months, we've thrown offers at 4-5 houses and looked at lots more. We aren't desperate and are not willing to duke it out with competing offers though. The location and convenience of our current house (the church owns it) is pretty great and has really grown on me. I just miss the days of having more space and being more able to easily host, gather, and accomodate others. Patience. Contentment. I'm still working on those.

Landon and Tate have started piano lessons. They are doing pretty well with it. The teacher is really patient and good with handling boys that are squirrely at lessons after school.

And I'm sure I'm missing something that was noteworthy. But alas, this must come to a close. Really. I'm really going to try to do better at keeping up with this documenting of our lives. For the sake of my children (since I'm not good at printing pictures or scrapbooking or keeping photo albums or journaling.....)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Heath turned 5!

Heath turned 5! 
(And it's not even a month later! I feel like I deserve a high five for this!)
(Let's ignore the fact that I have not blogged about anything else that has happened in the last nearly 3 months.....)

Posing with his birthday haul! He was so excited about the cards and gifts he received from family!
He took in special treats to preschool that we had made. 
And dad even came into his class for some special time.
He chose to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. 
And he wanted a Boston Cream Pie for his cake (his dad's favorite also).
And can I just say having Adam's birthday on the 30th, Halloween on the 31st, and then Heath's Birthday on Nov.2.......Well, that was just a lot of sugar, treats, and partying.

Heath had his first friend birthday party. 

Initially, he just named 4 friends that he wanted to invite. 
And then after invites were given out and the party was days away (and after I had initially encouraged him to invite a few others and he insisted he didn't want to), he then said he wanted all of his preschool and church friends invited. 
Too bad, so sad, kiddo! Momma had the door open for that. You didn't walk thru that one!
We had a fun and low-key party at our house though. 
Ocean-animal themed. Games, food, craft....You know how I like to throw themed parties.

And since there was only a few extra kids in the house besides our own, I even let them have some free-play time! This has never happened before at a birthday party at the house. :) 

Here's what Heath is like at the age of 5:
- He likes turtles and frogs.
- He is making great progress with learning to recognize his letters.
- He has also been enjoying sharing the early math skills with us that he has learned.
- He goes to preschool 3 mornings a week. His favorite parts are lunch and gym time.
- His voice is still cute and distinct. Not as robotic as it used to be, but still quite endearing.
- He likes to help bake things in the kitchen.
- He loves trying to keep up with his older brothers.
- His chores around the house include tidying up the shoe area, putting the clean silverware away, setting the table, feeding the cats, and he even proved pretty helpful in raking leaves last week.
- He still likes holding hands and snuggling. 
- He is a hot little body and only likes to sleep in shorts.....even now that its getting cooler. 
- He still benefits from laying down for a nap a couple of times a week.
- He is incredibly endearing and sweet and we are so, so thankful that we get to have him in our family! 

And stay tuned.....I intend to do another blog post soon to catch up on the past 3 months of activity all at once. And maybe then, I will even make more of an effort to stay up-to-date on this chronicle of our lives........

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

2017 Willis Family Summer Bucket List

Even though school started a few weeks ago, I don't consider summer to be over until after Labor Day. Maybe its my years of living as a Michigander that rubbed off on me.

After taking last summer off from a bucket list since we primarily focused on moving, swimming in our pool every last second we could, saying goodbye, and making new friends.....well, we decided to re-institute the Willis Family Summer Bucket List this summer.

Good goal lists shouldn't be so attainable that everything happens, right? Then we'd be setting the bar too low. So, there are a few we didn't get to. There's always next year.

So, without further ado, here's our summer bucket list and our results:

The 2017 Willis Family Summer Bucket List

Go to a South Bend Cubs Game
The rest of the family went also, but they were not wearing Cubs attire, so they were not invited into the picture.

Have a Sleepover
Not much to explain. We had a friend spend the night. Haven't really done that before. 

Decorate Sidewalks at a Park and put encouraging messages on them
Didn't get this one done. Sounds lovely. But just didn't happen......yet.

Pay for the car behind us in the Drive-Thru
Went through the McD's drive thru. The car behind us gave us a nice honk of appreciation. The boys ask to do it all the time now.

Stay up until Midnight
Not really sure why they like to do this so much. But we did it.

Go to the Indy Children’s Museum
Almost tried to frantically get this in last weekend, but decided not to. I'm not a bucket list Nazi.

Visit 10 Different Parks
Yep, 10 of them.

Walk/Ride the Riverwalk 10 times (not in a row)

I think we only walked this once. The rest were on our bikes.

Bike a 12+ Mile Trip
We actually fit a couple of these in.

Paint Rocks
I'll let you try to figure out whose is whose. There's some trends these days of painting rocks and planting them around for others to find. We just decorated our landscape and fire ring with them though.

Watch a Movie Outdoors
We watched Lego Batman in our backyard with over 50 other people. 

Try Something NEW
I was thinking we'd try a new ethnic food or something, but we decided to cross this off the list when all 3 of the boys went tubing for the first time behind a boat. 

Go to SkyZone
Trampoline Park. The boys thought it was fun. I thought it was pricey (and of course, we went while they were running a promotion so as to not pay full price).
Go on a Boat Ride
We've all been on boats before, but only once this summer. Adam gave some wakeboard instruction a few times to a young boy in our church and they invited us all to enjoy the boat with them one afternoon.

Volunteer @ Food Pantry
Didn't squeeze this in yet. Our church has a food pantry. Volunteering with young kids can be hard as I've found in the past as well. Its hard to know how to provide opportunities for kids. And I didn't inquire about it until August. 

Have the Neighbors over
Maybe not a big deal to most people, but we've lived here a year and had yet to be able to make any sort of significant contact with neighbors. We've baked cookies and delivered them without much of a response or desire to interact with us. And for this list, we specifically were targeting our next door neighbors who seem to be the only other house with kids on the street. With a very last-minute-knock-on-the-door invitation to come over for pizza, they agreed! The wife was gone, but the dad with four kids was super eager to not have to feed them dinner himself. We'll take it. And hopefully build on it.

And that concludes the 2017 Willis Family Summer Bucket List Re-cap.