Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Friday, April 21, 2017

Busy Weeks


We have had a couple of busy weeks in between parties, sports and school things. Plus just regular ol' life. Tomorrow is Friday- hooray!- and it's the last day of school for us for the next week. Double hooray!

I don't write much about my older sons anymore because I feel it's important for me to respect their privacy. That said, I'm still their Mom, and I'm really proud of them, so this, I'm sharing. =)  

Last week, Ethan was inducted into the National Honor Society. Even though it was about a hundred years ago that I was inducted, the ceremony felt exactly the same and it all came rushing back to me as the four candles were lit, ha ha.
 And today I made arrangements for our very first college campus tours and information sessions. It was slightly nerve-wracking/overwhelming, but mostly good, a little exciting even. BU and Northeastern, we're coming for you! I like the idea of him being in Boston- it's such a fun place to visit but not TOO far away, ha!

 I can't tell you what a joy it has been raising this young man. He is such a gift. 
It's funny, I don't really find myself wishing he were younger because I'm so excited to watch him embark on his own adventures, and I know I'll always be a part of that. So if you're lamenting the growing up process, take heart and know there is still so very much to look forward to. 
I would also encourage you to make the most of your time. Be deliberate and intentional, and have FUN together!
Because in some ways it feels like we were just starting out here with him.
It all goes by so incredibly quickly.
 Thank goodness for the railing in the auditorium because that thing kept our little wild one quite entertained. My apologies to the individual who got the cracker thrown at them, though. Oops.

 I also had to ask a friend to take pictures of Ethan up front on stage because we had to bring Levi home. The ceremony was taking forever and a day, and there were still two full rows to get through before Ethan would be up. One of the downfalls of being near the end of the alphabet, I guess.
So yes, we didn't even get to see him or hear his friend introduce him into the society. Bill had already brought Levi home, and I stayed as long as I could, but Bill's texts were coming in fast saying that the baby was crying, screaming, getting inconsolable, come home now... you get the gist. I was disappointed, but what can you do?

On Tuesday night, Isabelle had her big fourth grade play/musical. It was an overview of the different people and settlers of New Hampshire throughout history. The kids wrote the story line themselves and it was so entertaining and clever. I was impressed!
Isabelle had a speaking part and played in the recorder trio for a couple of songs. She did such a good job!
 I wish I'd gotten a close up of her in full costume but I didn't get the chance. Once again, we had to leave early for wild one. I was relieved that all of her performances were in the first half. Phew!
 I'm going to mention here one thing I have noticed, and it bothers me. I'm not yet sure how I'm going to handle it or address it in the future, mainly because Isabelle's teachers are wonderful, wonderful people, and I know they would not intentionally do anything to harm her self-esteem. But I think this issue does need to be addressed in a kind and thoughtful manner.
Since preschool, if there is a non-caucasion role to be had, Isabelle gets assigned to it. I have noticed this with her other darker-skinned friends as well. But yet, several blonde-haired boys and girls, and other fair-skinned children, were also playing the parts of Native Americans, so there is no typecasting going on there. I want my daughter to know that she can be a pilgrim or a queen or any of the other roles being offered to play, because that's the whole nature of play- to dream and pretend and imagine.  
Another thing I'll add is this: I don't believe we should try to pretend that there are no differences among us. This is something I've given a great deal of thought to over the years as I watch Isabelle interact with the world, and the world with her. I understand the reasoning behind some of the arguments to be color-blind or to try to see everyone as the same, but it won't- and shouldn't- work. Color and individuality and uniqueness are what make this world such a beautiful and vibrant place. 

Okay, I didn't plan on writing all that, but as I said, it has been bothering me for some time now. Anyhoo.
 It was SUCH a great play but it got a little loud, and someone got a little nervous.

That someone is currently upstairs screaming his head off and refusing to go to sleep. The one thing we could count on was for him to drift off to sleep peacefully, before waking up seven hundred times each night. But this week he started fighting going to bed, and it has been BRUTAL. We've both been up a handful of times to try and settle him, but as soon as we leave the room, BAM. Scream city. I bet you're jealous, aren't you? :/

Our mornings have been filled with sunshine and birdsong, and that is making this girl one happy camper. It was an incredibly long winter. After the big kids are off to school, it's just Levi and me, and we sing and dance and play and read books. Our mornings are pretty laid back, which I love. 
 Now that he's mobile, he is quite the house-wrecker, ha ha.
 Our busy boy :)



His little foot in this picture kills me
 And seeing him in little soccer shorties pajamas... can't even handle it!
That pile of clothes on the right are good finds for next fall and winter, so naturally, I started going through his newborn and teeny tiny baby clothes to give away or sell. Big mistake. I was a wreck. I'm ready, but I'm not ready, ya know? One gearing up for college and another who just turned one - my Mama heart just can't take it!!!

I got to meet up with a friend this week and we walked all over town with our little guys. They were so good, and we had the best time, but I didn't get even one picture! It's like it didn't even happen if there's no photo to document it, right? ha ha
This one is actually from the night before his big birthday, but I think it shows that twinkle in his eye and that mischievous grin of his. He has been SO funny lately. He's taken to bobbing back and forth when you're holding him, like dancing, and he KNOWS it gets such a reaction, so then he does it even more. It is just about the cutest thing I have ever seen. He still smooches me all day long, but he has started leaning his forehead in to the boys when they're holding him, so their foreheads are touching, and he just stays like that. It's so cute! He's usually babbling a mile a minute too, and his voice is the sweetest. I can't wait to hear him really say words.

**updated**

Well, now it's Friday morning. We never recovered from last night's screaming, and I ended up in bed by 8:15, fighting off a migraine and chills, while Bill rocked and walked Levi for a long while. I did sleep for a few hours so I feel better, thankfully. But it was another looooong night. And we had been doing so much better earlier this week! Argh.

It's pouring rain out, so I'm thinking we're going to have a nice, peaceful day inside. I am so close to getting the last of the doors painted, but I haven't touched them since before Levi's party and I want them finished already. Perhaps today is the day. I'll have to share some After pics of our dining room and family room, too- it has made such a difference and I like the space so much better now. 

Hope you have a really great weekend!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Weekend 2017...and Levi's Last First

I think I've mentioned this before, but I was incredibly happy that we still had one last "first" to celebrate with Levi, even after his first birthday: Easter.
It was such a wonderful weekend! The weather was spectacularly beautiful, for one. I don't remember very many Easter weekends spent in shorts, or wearing a dress to church without having to layer on a sweater or jacket, but it was just gorgeous all weekend long!

I saw an image somewhere a year or so ago of a baby in bunny ears, sitting facing the rising or setting sun, and it was the cutest thing I'd ever seen. So of course I've had it in my mind to try and recreate it with my own cute bunny. Well, not so much. I am having the hardest time with my settings lately, and there is so much blur. Drives me insane! But also, Levi is on the go and rarely sits still, so I know that has something to do with it as well.
Either way, here is my sweet little bunny baby.

Yeah, those ears lasted all of .4 seconds :)

There is so much I love about this particular image, I can't even.
Wisps, sunlit ear, rolls, his little man "hunch"- in love with every single detail.


Saturday night was almost as bad a night as we've ever had. Yes, I do feel like I say that a lot. But bad is bad, I guess. I think I got maybe two hours of sleep? And I had forgotten to take out all the basket stuff from my closet and there was NO way I was sneaking around in there in the dark in the morning. I was thinking up clever bunny excuses for why the baskets were all empty on the table at one point. But it all worked out, like it always does.
These were probably the leanest baskets I've ever had, but everything is so expensive lately, and if you've been reading for long, you know our money trees got whacked last month, ha ha.

Oops, two more...a little blurry but his face is so sweet.
 And this one captures his curious look- note the hand in mid Easter grass retrieval :)
FYI, there were nearly three China casualties and a few taper candle mishaps during the making of this little photo session. This boy is quick!

On Friday, I got everyone out of school early and we got some shakes and ice cream cones and played at the park. It was the most beautiful day!

Saturday morning was low-key and kind of slow, which was a nice change of pace. I even ended up home alone for an hour or so, and I won't lie, it was really (really!) nice. :)
I may have had to run into town for a half yard of fabric for Isabelle's dress, oops. Nothing like saving it till the last minute, but it did go together well.
Saturday afternoon was time for making messes. Ugh.Truth be told, coloring eggs is one of my least favorite things to do. But everyone wanted to, so what's a Mom to do?
My parents came over and I let them loose. This one got so unbearably fussy. I think he caught on to the fact that while I gave him a brush and some water, clearly he was missing out on the good stuff.

 Mid squawk - he gets so, so loud when he gets going. Sometimes I wonder what the neighbors think is going on!

They look pretty at least. And I remembered to put them in the fridge before morning, so there's that.
The colors did come out really well. Isabelle wanted to add stickers, and of course they get all lumpy and never stick right. I tried something new with foil and glitter this year, too, but it was a total fail. The whole thing! So we stuck with the basics.

One of the twig crosses that Ethan made me several years ago and some decorations from Levi's baby shower, which I knew would work well for future Easters. I still haven't shared the "After" pictures of all our painting- the color is so calming and pretty, and looks good with everything.

Easter lilies remind me of my grandmothers. My Dad delivered an Easter lily to their house every year growing up, and I'm not sure I realized how special that was until fairly recently.

And here they come. Happy Easter morning! He is risen!


 These two. All the heart eyes.

This year, Isabelle and I went on a special date to choose her fabric and pattern. Normally I just pick it all out myself. She is growing up so fast! I look at this picture and my heart swells because I feel like she was JUST my baby girl and now she is becoming a beautiful young lady.

Poor Bill was really sick on Easter Sunday and didn't come with us to church or to visit family afterwards, either. That was no fun. :(  When you feel yourself coming down with something but also aren't able to get quality sleep, well, it's all kind of miserable. It won't last forever, though.

I think this just might be my new favorite photo!

 Or this one!

Levi got restless, and because his nose is still a bit runny, I wasn't going to bring him to the nursery. Not like he'd let me leave him there anyway, but... Ethan held him and he nearly fell asleep he was so comfortable. Then he got a second wind and thoroughly entertained himself by feeding Ethan crackers...that had already been in his own mouth. YUCK! But Ethan let him do it. Such a good big brother. Levi would reach right up and shove a fistful into his mouth, ha ha.

One more of my two littlest loves. I don't know why, but Isabelle just looks way too grown up in all these pictures. I didn't notice so much during the day, but I see it now.

We had lunch with my parents and then we headed over to my in-laws to visit with them. Such a great day!

While baskets and pretty dresses and adorable bunny baby photos, and even nice weather, are all wonderful things, they are not what matters most at Easter time. Jesus matters most, and the sacrifice He made for ME and for YOU. I used to think that I had to be perfect, or at least strive to be perfect, in order for God to love me, but the truth is, all He ever wanted was for me to love Him. That's it. That's IT. He just wants us to love Him because He loves us so much. It's the simplest yet most profound thought I'll ever know.

I hope you had a beautiful and meaningful Easter weekend as well. :)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Favorites





 We're halfway through April AND it's Good Friday! How is time going by so fast this year?!
Sharing some favorites today with Erika, Narci and Andrea. :)

Spending time with our kids one-on-one is my favorite!
I love cultivating more meaningful relationships with my kids as they get older. Yes, the teenage years can be hard, but they also can be absolutely amazing.
Our eight grader, Caleb, gets up early on Friday mornings to attend his school's newly formed FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), which gives us about half an hour to kill in between other school drop-offs, so it's just him and me (and Levi!). We have fallen into a fun little routine where he pumps gas for me and then we get an iced coffee or something while chatting all the way back to school. IT isn't always easy, especially if Levi is still sleeping- which usually means he didn't sleep during the night- but it's always worth it.

Birthday parties are my favorite!
Our little guy turned one whole year old last week, and it was a party all week long! We threw him a Wild One Jungle Party over the weekend and I just love how everything came together.
If you want to read about it, the post is here.

Traditions are my favorite!
When our older boys were small, they attended a small Christian school, and every Good Friday was a half day so when I picked them up, we did something fun together. When we were homeschooling, and now that they go to a different school, we still kept our little Good Friday tradition going...and we will today, too!
Also, when I was a little girl, my Mom brought me fabric shopping and she made my Easter dress every year. That's a tradition I'm more than happy to carry on with my Isabelle. :) We picked out the cloth on Monday but with Levi teething so hard this week, I haven't had a chance to make her dress...better get going! This one is from two years ago, and it was one of my favorites of all all time! Aqua is her color! Now someone hold me as I look at how little my guys were and think about how big they are now. Time, you thief.

Spring weather is my favorite!
And all the people said Hallelujah!!!
Spring has finally sprung here in New England and we couldn't be more excited about it. This winter was so cold and so snowy and simply would not end. As of yesterday, there was one teensy patch of snow left in a dark corner by the pool fence BUT I've got a few peonies and crocuses popping up, and there are loads of buds forming on my rose bushes! Now to enjoy it all before the swarms of flies and mosquitoes hit town, the ticks are already here... #itsalwayssomething  ha ha

Easter weekend is my favorite!
Easter became much more real and alive to me as a college student, when I was living abroad in Spain, and I experienced all the processions and traditions of Holy Week -La Semana Santa. I wish we had something like that here in the US, or maybe there is (?) but certainly not here in the Northeast. I will never forget the solemnity of the Holy Thursday evening procession as men in chains passed through the streets and no one, not even the children, didn't utter a single word. It was amazing, and really emotional and meaningful, and God used it to speak to my heart about His loving sacrifice for us.
My pictures of my year in Spain are all packed away, but I'll just share this one:


My Easter Lily has just opened up and when I walk past the dining room I catch its wonderful fragrance. The scent reminds me of both my grandmothers because growing up, my Dad and I always brought them each an Easter Lily either on Palm Sunday or sometime during the week. I miss them both so much but I am thankful for God's promises and plan to see them again one day!

I hope you and yours have a lovely Easter weekend!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Levi's Wild One Jungle Party

I had fun designing his party invitations, but it got more complicated and time-consuming than I'd have thought. I like designing so maybe I should look into Photoshop Elements or something like that for the future.
Anyhoo, here is the final product.


This was the main backdrop for pictures, especially ones with Levi in his high chair eating his mini birthday cake.
I thought it looked so cheery and festive...even despite the cold and dreary days leading up to the big day.
I posted pictures of his actual birthday in a separate post HERE. and some of my favorite birthday photos are in his birthday letter post HERE.

 Putting on the finishing touches the morning of the party!

Levi's King of the Jungle birthday cake - I LOVE how this turned out! AND it was one of the easiest cakes I have ever made!
His mane was made up of twelve cupcakes, so I had twelve left to decorate...perfect!
I didn't realize at the time, because I've never done mostly cupcakes at a party, but I really enjoyed how easy it was for everyone to simply grab their own and go - no need for slicing cake!

I didn't get a picture of the whole table with all the food set up. Boo.
The lion cake looked so good with everything else!
This side table is actually a sofa table which has taken up residence in our dining room since we moved here last year. I knew it would hold some of the party treats but certainly not the main cake. At first it looked a little boring, so I added some height by using turned-over sundae dishes to hold some cupcakes and a pretty bowl underneath Levi's little smash cake. Problem solved!



 My Mom gave me her old Pyrex custard cups several years ago because I make individual custards in them, but one got broken and they have sat pretty much unused in the back of a cabinet...UNTIL I thought of them for his smash cake. Perfect size! The custard cups I have now are much "heftier" and smaller, so they wouldn't have worked nearly as well.
I sliced off the top of two and kept the dome on the top layer. I thought it was absolutely adorable. Better than a basic cupcake but not as wasteful (or sugar-inducing!) as a bigger cake would've been.

 Because we have weirdo carb and sugar junkie cats, I had to hide the cakes in the sun room with the door closed. The one time I was actually thankful for clouds because I was afraid it would have gotten too hot in there, especially with the skylights.
The straws were leftovers from Levi's baby shower, and I used the same card stock as his birthday banner to make little toppers. This was much easier to do than I thought, and it added a cute little extra touch.

You gotta have zebra cakes and brownies for a wild jungle party!
 We served snacks- nuts, cheese and crackers, pretzels and veggies with dip, and some sweets since it was the middle of the afternoon.
 I was glad to have found these jungle animals at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago because when I looked for another package a couple days before the party, they were nowhere to be found. I think they were under two dollars.
I went to Michael's in search of some bigger animals - I remember when the boys were small they sold tubes of different types of critters for around six dollars, but all they have now are individual animals starting at eight bucks. Um, no thank you.

I nearly forgot to get a picture of the birthday boy and his cake! Some people had already arrived and poor baby was a little nervous. This is the best I got.
 This picture must be a "before" because I thought the corner with the balloons looked a little bare...
 Nothing some jungle vines can't fix!
 It's basic jute with some construction paper leaves taped on. It was THE easiest thing by far but I think it had the biggest statement. I just loved those vines!
Originally I was going to make vines with brown paper, but they got so heavy and bulky, and it was super difficult to get them to stay up and in place, so Plan B was a lifesaver and I loved it so much more.



The Watering Hole
We served juices, iced tea and lemonade

Still looking a little nervous  ;)
And truth be told, I'd been in tears not long before this photo was taken - I thought since I never get my hair cut on the day of an event, I would do that for this day.
Only my regular stylist wasn't there (she works weekends, but I didn't know it was either Saturdays OR Sundays) and I went with someone different.
That was a very big mistake. It's probably a good four inches shorter than what I was going for, now that I've had it fixed. Ugh. But who cares about my hair when you can stare into those gorgeous baby blues!?!
 I knew he was feeling better when he started giving me kisses!

We had lots of family and several friends who were able to join us for Levi's party. Here we are about to sing to him, and he doesn't look terribly sure about the whole thing.
 Well okay, maybe cake isn't so bad after all. ha ha
 We were really surprised that he didn't dig right into it! He was quite gentleman-like.

 He looks so tiny here. And that's our oldest son on the right. My bookends.

 Warming up a bit more...


 I wasn't thrilled with how the confetti dots looked on his cake, but I do love the way they look all over his tray. So cute!


His little buddies. Oh the cuteness!
 We played for a bit and chatted with everyone, and then it was time for presents.
I hadn't planned on opening them with everyone here, but it just worked out that way and everyone seemed happy about it.
He wasn't too sure about his birthday crown! He kept looking up as hard as he could to try to see it, ha ha!
 Resigned to keep it on for now.
That face!!!

We played and chatted some more after gifts, but I knew Levi had had enough when he started snuggling into my neck. My sweet boy.

The next morning, Sunday, we awoke to sunshine and warmer temperatures, and it was glorious!
I wanted to take a few more pictures in better daylight. Plus it gave me an excuse not to start taking the decorations down just yet.

 See what I mean about the vines adding so much?
Simple usually wins out. :)

 Sunday was sort of a divide and conquer kind of day with baseball practice and far away soccer matches. When Levi woke up from his (too short) nap, I decided to do something I've always kind of thought was ridiculous.
I set up a real cake smash for him.
And I'm so glad I did! All his reservedness flew out the window and he literally went wild. It was awesome. So happy to see my little guy happy.







 Overall I'm pleased that I got some good shots, but it kind of bugs me that the gold balloons didn't blur into the background like I would have expected. Maybe I was too close, or Levi was too close to them? Oh well. I'm just glad I have these cute photos. :)

And because I love to give a shout out to fellow artisans and small business owners, here is a brief supply list:
Gold foil letters and number from HERE
Wild One shirt from HERE
Inspiration for birthday crown from HERE **I think her crowns are THE cutest but I suffer from the "I can make that myself" syndrome...I wish I had just bought one of hers!**
Lion cake inspiration found on my Pinterest page  HERE -I don't think I would have thought up the idea for this. There are some talented people out there!

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