Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Happy "Stay-At-Home Party" For Daddy . . .

Well, Anna is our little party planner.  Any excuse for a party, and she's all over it.  hehe.  Anna had the fun idea of having a "Welcome Home" party for Daddy, since we'd been counting down the days until Ethan would be done with his internship in Alpena.  We ended up calling it a "Stay-At-Home" party because Ethan had been coming home every weekend, so we were seeing him pretty regularly.  But now . . . now.  Oh the excitement of it all.  hehe.  He gets to STAY HOME with us, and not leave at 6:30pm on Sunday evening, coming home late Friday night.  No more traveling back and forth all the time.  No more missing each other so much.  No more long stretches of time apart.  The kids are super excited, and I'm super excited!   

 It was just a small group at the "party", kept that way on purpose :).  (We weren't going to invite anyone over, but Anna finally changed our minds at the last minute.)  The mood was fun and relaxed . . . and there was plenty of excitement in the air mostly from Anna and Ben-Ben.  Well, Caleb looks pretty excited too, he just wasn't making any noise.  And everyone was super happy to see cute, little Hudson too . . . and Uncle Andrew.  My kids LOVE their cousin, Huddy, especially Anna.   

Benjamin and Anna were super interested in all of the things that Andrew was feeding to Hudson, especially since we STILL haven't fed Caleb anything. . . we're getting to it this week.  Second pic - Besides the fact that I rolled out of bed just in time for the breakfast - so ignore my look - I love the shot of Caleb chomping on my arm.  Typical.  (Also in the pic, the lovely Miss Amy.)  And I love the pic that shows the big, platter full of bacon.  Ethan loves bacon, LOVES IT!, and we wanted to make sure there was enough.  It was a fun, lounge-y kind of morning.  Perfect.  

 The whole day turned out pretty relaxed and low key.  For the first time in a long time there was not one single thing any of us had to be at or do that Saturday.  So perfect for Ethan's first weekend back with us.  We lounged.  The kids watched a movie after breakfast since it was raining out. . . and movies are so perfect for rainy days.  We went to the sand dunes after it cleared up for some fun and exercise - ran up and down them, threw rocks in the river to see who could get the biggest splash, played hide-and-seek in the woods, had mini races on the hike back to the car, met some new doggies (and their owners), and both kids went pee-pee in the woods (yes! since it wasn't in their pants . . . except Ben-Ben a little bit :).  Fun afternoon activity.  The day was rounded out with Grampa Dewey calling us on the way home from the sand dunes to say that he was almost home too, and was picking up some dinner, if we'd be there.  So, we stopped and got some sides, enjoyed a delish dinner, bathed the filthy/sandy kiddos, and popped them into bed.  Then, Ethan and I had some alone time - grocery shopping together and watching a little MadMen when we got home.    

I am so happy these nine months of Ethan being away so much are finally over.  It was a crazy nine months, as you've read in detail on here.  It would have been nice for him to have been here for more of it - or all of it - but we made it through.  Mainly because we had some amazing family and friends to help us and spend time with us in his absence.  Thank you all again!!!  I am grateful that Ethan's longest stretch away (most of September) was over with first.  Then, we had every other weekend for the rest of the fall semester.  Then, weekends and Thursdays during his 10 weeks in Iron Mountain (that started the beginning of January after his entirely too short Christmas break).  And finally, his 10 weeks in Alpena when he came home every weekend, which are now done.  Ethan has the coming week off to hang out with us, then he starts his last 10 week internship at Marquette General Hospital in town. . . only a few blocks away actually.  The kiddos and I will probably try to walk over to have lunch with him once a week . . . or more.  And Ethan just found out his schedule is from 7:30am - 4:00pm.  Perfect for the summer. . . done at 4 with plenty of sunshine and time left in the day.  So, bring on a beautiful Marquette summer that we can enjoy all together!  Now, we just need to get our own place again. . . as soon as Ethan finds out where he's getting a job.  :)      

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Friends - They Come and They Go . . .

We are grateful for good friends in our lives, but recently we've had to say good-bye to a few of them.  No fun.  (And yes, I include some family as good friends too. . . you know, the whole "blood is thicker than water" thing.)  Above are pictures of the kids with their friends Logan and Jay.  Their family moved to Utah this past week and we are going to miss them all so much!  We already do.  Benjamin has asked numerous times if he can play with, have a picnic with, or go to the park with Logan many times. . . and it hasn't even been a week.  Those two played so well together, and it was fun for Ben-Ben to have some "boy" time, since Anna was at school during many of the get togethers.  We had our final "play date" last Monday and it ended up lasting the whole day . . . which we were all happy about.  :) 
Here are a few pictures of Anna with one of her good friends, Kate.  They are such sweeties together.  And I love that they do the "girl" thing together.  Sometimes it's hard for our fancy Anna, being the only girl with two younger brothers.  Little brothers just don't understand sometimes.  So, yay for girl play dates.  Anyway, Kate isn't moving, but we might be. . . . since we don't know for sure where Ethan will be getting a job.  When Anna asks us about potentially moving, leaving Kate is one of the things that make her sad to think about it.   
Caleb is such a smiley, happy, interactive baby.  He's only had a few moments of "stranger fear," and usually warms up to people pretty quickly.  He just smiles his big, adorable, cheeky smile at everyone and wins them over immediately.  :)  His "friends" mostly consist of his family, but he's starting to venture out in to the big, wild world.  I love the picture of Grampa Dewey and Caleb catching up after a long day, and of course I love the big gummy smile in the second one.  :)  I couldn't resist a smooch. 

Finally, cousin Rorie Pie.  Meghan and Rorie moved a few weeks ago, and it's been so sad.  Anna and Ben-Ben miss their cousin, friend, and playmate so much.  I think they are just finally starting to understand what "moving away" means. . . or at least they don't ask where Rorie is quite as often.  When it was just Anna and Rorie, they did the sweet, girl thing.  But, man, add Benjamin to the mix and both the younger ones changed - and not for the better.  Then, Anna mostly acted as the mediator between the two little ones . . . because they needed a lot of mediating.  They all loved each other sooooo much, and would always be super excited to see each other.  But, within a few minutes Rorie or Benjamin would be upset, or crying, or not sharing, or taking toys, or hitting.  It. Was. Crazy.  I'm pretty sure neither of them were ever like this with other kids, just each other.  Cousin love, I guess.  We really had to limit "Rorie exposure" for the first while we lived here.  hehe.  But, it got better, even though they still had their moments.  By the time they left, Rorie and Ben-Ben were mostly playing well together . . . all three of them.  And when we let them, they would be all over baby Caleb J. too. Luckily, we'll be seeing them two more times this summer, so we got to save our "real" good-byes until later.  Then, the Kenison family will be off on their new adventure in San Diego with the Navy.  We are grateful for the year we had to live close to them - right around the corner.  And although the kids are little (I don't have any memories from when I was 2/3 . . . and hardly any from when I was 5), I hope they can at least look back at pictures and perhaps have faint memories or their time together this year.      

Monday, May 16, 2011

Life's Little Happenings . . .

APRIL 30, 2011.  Happy Anniversary!  SEVEN YEARS, BABY! 
Anna and Benjamin really wanted to make our anniversary extra special this year . . .  after my mom explained what an anniversary is.  They're such sweeties.  Anna wanted to plan a whole, big party . . . but there just wasn't time for that in the day.  Plus, seven years . . . she can plan one for our 25th.  :)  They made us signs and prepared some special pretend food for us.  It kind of hurt their feelings that we would go do something special - ALONE - together later that day.  Why wouldn't we want to celebrate the whole day with them!?  hehe. 

We kept it low key this year, but our date was so fun.  I really wanted to DO something.  So, we had Chuck and Melissa babysit all three bambinos (thank you!!!) for a few hours on the afternoon of our anniversary, and we went to play some tennis.  Loved it.  Ethan beat me - big time - but it was nice to play again since I couldn't last summer.  Love Ethan's game face in the picture above.  hehe. 
We followed it up with one of our favorites - Border Grill.  Mmmm. 
AND, we both got new rings.  Nothing fancy, but I L-O-V-E the ring Ethan got for me.  I've gotten so many compliments on it (and it's just a cheap-ish ring from Target! :)  The picture doesn't do it justice.  I love the diamond ring Ethan picked out for me when we got engaged, but currently it's a bit tight, and I like having other, more non-traditional options to wear too.  Ethan got a new ring too.  He's on to his 7th - one for every year we've been married.  Hehe.  (Some have lasted years, some months, and the original was lost in less than a week while we were snorkeling in the Atlantic Ocean.  So, needless to say, we don't spend much on Ethan's rings.  He hasn't been able to find his last one for a few months.  This was a $10 ring from ShopKo, but it does it's job.  hehe.)  So, not really important, or that exciting, but I loved picking out new rings for each other on our anniversary!  
I love Ethan.  He's my best friend.  My favorite person.  My love.  And it feels awesome to know he feels the same way about me.  I'll keep the mushy stuff short, since I've gushed about Eth many times before.  :) 

Loved the sweet little notes and presents from my little ones this year.  Ben got me squirt guns, Anna got me some stick on jewels for crafts, and Ethan got me a pretty note-pad to make lists on (perfect! :).  The kids  were trying to be so thoughtful, and picked out the presents themselves, and wanted to make "my day" so special.  Precious.
I love being a momma.  I love my three babies.  I feel so blessed and so grateful when I think of the sweet spirits Heavenly Father sent to Ethan and I.  It's not always easy, and sometimes I get overwhelmed, or don't stay as patient as I should.  But, I keep trying.  I keep trying to do my best.  I try to do fun, positive things with them everyday.  I love the little moments in motherhood - the snuggles on the couch, the songs, the precious conversations, the holding of sleeping babies, etc.  Love it.  Love them.


Caleb and I surprised Ethan in Alpena last week.  We thought we should check out the area, since he's loved it so much at his current clinical placement.  (And they've loved him. :)  It was SO FUN surprising Eth, and it was fun to have alone time with Caber Bottoms. . . and have some extra time with Ethan. We got there Monday afternoon and left Wednesday after Ethan's lunch break.  So, two days of fun in Alpena. . .

Ethan drove us around, giving us the grand tour of Alpena.  Second picture shows Caleb and Ethan snuggling at the Motel Tuesday morning.
Caleb and I went to the Shipwreck Maritime Museum one day while Ethan was at the Clinic.  It was really cool (and free! :), but Caleb slept through most of it.  They had a replica of a ship built inside the museum that you could tour, and it felt like you were out on a stormy night - lights, rocking, the sounds of thundering and waves.  The Thunder Bay Museum is the only National Maritime Sanctuary located on a lake and not the ocean.   The area of Lake Huron right by Alpena is known as Shipwreck Alley, and it was really cool learning about all the wrecks.  So, if you're ever in the area. . . hehe.
And finally, Caleb J. was such a good little traveler.  I was a little nervous about going so far with him by myself (no one in the back to entertain Caleb J. if he got fussy), but I seriously could not have asked for a better, happier baby on this trip.  Cabsie was a HUGE hit at the clinic Ethan works at, and smiled and charmed the pants off everyone.  He became instant buddies with Ethan's Clinical Instructor, Wynne (who had us over for dinner while we were there, so sweet).  It was too cute.  Everyone gave him the nickname, "Cheeks" which is pretty appropriate for Caleb.  hehe.  Thunder Bay Therapy and Sports Medicine seemed like a great, friendly PT clinic.  Ethan has loved his time there, and we were glad to see it and meet everyone.  AND, Caleb even got a little physical therapy in with his daddy while he was there.  hehe.

These are the matching jammies the kiddos got in their Easter baskets this year.  Love seeing Caber's and Ben-Ben matching.  (And Anna loves being unique. :)  Couldn't resist a little picture time before bed.  Love them.   

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mamacita, How Can I Ever Thank Her Enough. . .

My mom is full of love.  Giving to everyone she meets.  Generous with her time.  A true example of charity.  I could write a whole book about the small and big things she's done for people.      

My mom is one talented woman.  So creative - whether it be sewing, crafting, planning singing time for the children at church, home improvements, etc.  When she tries something new, she succeeds.

My mom is a delicious cook and baker.  And she'll take the time to make it from scratch . . . and doesn't even care how many dishes she is dirtying in the process.  :)  She can even "throw a meal together" from seemingly nothing, and it's still turns out delish!

My mom can get out the toughest stains.  Seriously, try her.  Actually, don't.  She's kind of got a lot going on right now.  hehe.

My mom is amazing with children.  All children.  She bakes with them, stays patient with them, plays silly games with them, does messy projects with them.  She loves their sweet spirits.  My kids are so, so lucky to have her for a Grandma! 

My mom is thrifty.  She loves a good deal.  She knows the difference between wants and needs.  She doesn't get caught up in materialistic things of the world.

My mom is fun, energetic and young at heart.  People, myself included, love the spunk and happiness she shares.  And, she is hilarious!  Spending time with her, it is rare that I don't bust up laughing at least once.  :) 

My mom is thoughtful and smart.  She loves to read and learn about new things.  When asked for advice, she'll help you see all sides of an issue, and stay unbiased in the process.  

My mom is spiritual and faithful.  She gives God the glory for all good things in her life.  She lives her religion daily. 

My mom is all of these things and so much more.  I wish I was more like her, in so many ways.  And I try.  When I think of her life, and all she's been through and experienced, and the kindness and strength and faith she has shown. . . I feel so inspired by her.   

I wonder how I got so lucky to have a mom like her?  Would my life have turned out the same without her love and support?

When I was little, I think of many happy memories thanks to my mom - parks, picnics, wonderful holidays made extra special by my mom, fresh baked cookies after school, reading books at bedtime, songs, teaching us hard work, movie nights, homemade dresses for me and my cabbage patch kid, bike rides, summer trips up to Marquette, and so much more.

When I was a teenager, I knew I could talk to my mom about anything (even if I'd just done some lame teenage-ish thing), and she would try to understand.  I know that not all of my friends felt the same way about their own mothers, and understand now how luck I was/am.  My mom always tried to remind me what's truly important in life, and to see the big picture - which is easy to loose track of during the teenage years.  

When I was thinking of going on a mission - something I never, ever considered doing until I was almost 20 - my mom was completely supportive.  Just that I had the desire to serve, then going away for a year and a half - my mom was excited, supportive, joyful, proud (in a humble way :).  She told me it felt like I was fulfilling one of her dreams that she had not had the opportunity to do.  So sweet. 

When I decided to marry Ethan, my mom was so excited and just saw all the good and positive in him.  (And she pretty much planned, and pulled off a beautiful ring ceremony/reception all on her own . . . in only two months time! :)  She is so supportive of us as a couple, and finds ways to show Ethan that she loves having him as part of the family too. 

When I was finishing school at NMU, and had Anna with four semesters to go, my mom babysat for us when Ethan and my schedule overlapped.  EVEN the semester I student taught . . . which was about 20 hours a week of babysitting for four months!  What a blessing!  Would I have finished school without her help at that time?  

When I found out Ethan got accepted into Physical Therapy school, right away we knew his last year would consist of a whole lot of clinical placements, moving around, etc.  And right away, my parents offered to have the kids and I stay with them that third year (which we are currently living through right now :).  Immediately and selflessly, they offered to help us when Ethan would need to be away.  And my mom has been amazing!  It's been so much more help and support than I realized we'd need - from the complicated pregnancy, to the complicated birth, to the complicated start to Caleb's life.  I seriously, seriously could not have done it without her, which I've mentioned many times before.  I am so grateful for the close relationship we have; for the unconditional love they show me and my family!  How can I ever repay her (and my dad) for this year?!  I sometimes feel guilty about everything my mom has done for us. . . we're always in her space this year. . . plus Anna and Benjamin always look for her and want to be with her . . . plus she's lost out on some sleep since we've moved in (not always because of our family. . . but still, rough year!), which is very important to her.  hehe.  Plus, plus, plus.  BUT listen to this - a few months ago she shared her testimony at church about eternal families, and specifically mentioned how blessed she felt to have us living with them this year.  She got choked up explaining she felt like it was such a blessing that she had another chance to help raise and influence kids, her grandkids, even for a short time.  Soooo, I'm feeling guilty about all she's done for us, and she's getting emotional because she feels so blessed to have us with her!  My mom is so full of LOVE!  How could I have made it through this year without my sweet, sweet momma?!   

You know, I feel like this journal entry is just not capturing everything I feel, and love, and admire about my mom.  But, what more can I say?  I love her.  I am grateful for her.  Things haven't always been perfect between us, but if we've had arguments we're quickly over them, and back to our close, comfortable relationship.  I mean, good grief, we've been stuffed in to one house for the past 8 months and we still get along!  :)  I love talking with her.  I love spending time with her.  I love seeing her be a Grammy to my sweeties.  I love her. 

Mom - thank you.  You are amazing and I am blessed to be your daughter.      

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why I Love To Blog! PLUS, A Little L-O-V-E For The Midwest . . .

Well, well, well. I've never done this before, and I have some mixed feelings about it, but here we go.  Lately, I've received some really sweet comments, e-mails, and "real-live" verbal conversations about the ol' blog-a-roo.  It really brightens my day. . . even when the person is practically a complete stranger.  :)  I wanted to write a little thank you to everyone who reads this blog. . . even if you've never met me, never commented, never whatever.  I appreciate it, and some of those comments . . . e-mails . . . conversations have really meant a lot.  Seriously. 

Like I've said before, I blog for me.  I'd keep on blogging even if I never received any feedback at all.  I view this as my journal, and I prefer to call it that since I've pretty much stopped writing in my paper journal.  And I am a more consistent journal writer now that I blog. My kids already love looking back at all the pictures, and I think someday they might like to read what I had to say too.  Maybe?  I try to write the good and the bad, but mostly the good.  I try to write about the big events, and the little, sweet conversations and moments.  I try to write about exciting things and things that are hard for me.  I try to write, not just the family happenings, but what I'm feeling.  Hopes, dreams, goals, frustrations, thoughts, happinesses.  

A close second to my purpose in blogging would be to keep family and close friends informed on our lives. . . you know, if they're interested.  hehe. I started this blog all the way back in 2007, because my friend - Haley M. - kept telling me I should. . . and I admired her blog.  Back then, I viewed it as an easy way to keep my extended family, many of whom live far away, up to date on the happenings of my little family.  It still does serve that purpose, but over time the bigger purpose became my own personal journal . . . that I happen to let anyone in the world read.  hehe.  (I just recently realized there was a "stats" tab that lets you see how many people visit your blog, when, from where in the world, etc.  Interesting!) 

Just a clarification:  I've never considered myself an especially talented writer. . . or even interesting, clever, funny, or insightful.  But I try.  And I enjoy it.  Also, although I know the rules of grammar - I am an English Major after all - I try to write in my own "voice" when I blog.  Even if that means run on sentences, or incomplete sentences, or words that don't technically exist.  You get the idea.

Blogging can be so personal, and so impersonal at the same time.  It can seem so self centered, and so giving at the same time.  It can be funny, and serious, and sometimes sad.  It can teach you new things in a fun way. . . like just wait 'til I show you a picture of a cute onesie project my mom and I have been creating - all thanks to a blog.  :)  Although I don't think blogging should take the place of actual phone calls or real conversations, I do wish all my close friends and family blogged, because it's a really easy way to keep informed (because part of my purpose in this thank you is to encourage some of my peeps to start their own blog :). 

So yeah, I'm a fan of the "blogging world" and love to check it out when I have a spare second.  So, if you don't blog already - start!  And for the rest of you - 
Why do you like to blog?       

Back to my main point:  Thank you!  I really, sincerely appreciate your positive feedback.  Yippee!  :)

Scenes from Marquette:

Now on to the second part of this nice, long journal entry.

Ethan and I have been talking a lot about where we would like to live when he graduates this August.  It is a blessing and a curse that Physical Therapists are in high demand in pretty much any area of the country.  It's really up to us. And the starting salary seems to be pretty consistent no matter where we're looking.  (Weird, huh?)  I grew up in the mid-west, mostly Indiana then Michigan when I was 15, and L-O-V-E-D it.  I love the down to earth vibe of the Midwest. And call me crazy (Chuck! my f-i-l :), but I think the Midwest is beautiful. . . even Indiana.  hehe.  I love the green and experiencing all four seasons.  I love the beauty of farmland.  I love the wide open spaces and the thick woods.  I love Midwest thunderstorms.  I love the beauty of Lake Superior, and all the Great Lakes (Great Times!  hehe :).  I love the thick pine tree forests. I love the rocky shores.  I love canoeing the Wabash, hiking in hilly Southern Indiana, cliff jumping into Lake Superior, bonfires on the beach, playing hide-and-seek in corn fields, the smell of pines, the Michigan sand dunes, and the list could go on. 

I see the beauty in other places I've lived or visited too - the majestic mountains of Idaho and Utah, the palm trees and perfect weather of Southern California, visiting the luscious South, the dry desert of the Southwest, the peaceful beaches of the Caribbean, etc, etc, etc.  (Some of these places are a little too brown and grey for me though. . . did I already mention how much I love the GREEN here?)  So yeah, my heart will always be with the Midwest, no matter where I am living.  And much of that has to do with family.  Oh, I love my family.  However, I think it'd be super fun to live else where and try somewhere new.  Ethan and I both find it very appealing to live in a place that neither of us has lived before.  Ethan moved to Marquette from Colorado when he was eight, so he mostly grew up in the Midwest too.  He's also lived in a few other Western states, New Zealand, Australia, and has visited many, many other places.  As a family, we've only lived in Michigan - the Upper Peninsula, and our two year stint down sate.  We would love to try something new. . . New England, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado?     

So, why don't we just pick a spot and go for it, you ask?  Because I'm pretty sure Ethan will try to get a job here in Marquette.  Why?  Because sweet, little Anna has prayed EVERY DAY this past year, "Please help daddy find a job in Marquette."  Man, kids can be so influential.  hehe. Yes, I know she'll adjust and be happy where ever we live, but being close to her big, extended family means so much to her right now. . . and Benjamin too. . . and probably Caleb too if he could tell us.  And we have a lot of family in the Marquette area right now (even though my in-laws have been saying for years that they're going to move :).  I loved growing up near my big, extended family, and have so many great memories of regular family get togethers as a child.  We love living close to our family here in Marquette, and feel like it's such a blessing to live by them - that they all get to be a regular, influential part of our lives and more importantly, our children's lives. 

SO, the plan right now is for Ethan to hopefully get his first job in the Marquette area, which he seems to think will probably work out.  (Just over a month ago, he went around to all the PT clinics in the area and handed in a resume, and had some positive feedback - always hiring - from a couple places!)  Then after some years of experience for Ethan, and when the kids are old enough to think it'd be cool to move away from their extended family :), we could then do the whole, "move somewhere we've never lived before" thing.

And although there are a few things I'd change about Marquette to make it perfect, like knocking two months off the winters here, and making it closer to a major city (although I think the remoteness is part of the appeal too), there are so many things I love about living here:  our family, our friends . . . some since high school, our Church family, the Lake, NMU, the size, the bike paths, the beautiful outdoors, our old neighborhood, the beautiful beaches, the hospital (where all three babies were born), 3rd street, the library . . . oh the library, the look, the vibe, the people.  I l-o-v-e MARQUETTE.  And although I've lived here for a little over eight years, cumulatively, I could live here a little longer.  Especially if it makes Anna happy.  :)
We'll keep you posted on that.   

Scenes from Indiana:

So, what do you love about your neck of the woods? 

P.S. All of these pictures are from google images.