Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Knee Deep in the Hoopla

The past two months have been a whirlwind of celebrations; a wedding (Congratulations Mollie and Drew!), birthdays (Happy Birthday Carson, Abbie and Mandie!), an anniversary, and a couple of Thanksgiving gatherings with family. We have so much to be thankful for and so many great memories.

Here are a few pictures from some of the events:

The cousins spent most of Thanksgiving chasing each other...
...until they couldn't any more.
Creighton and the cousins tearing up the dance floor!
Mollie and Papa dancing "a holka polka" (as Patrick calls it)
Mollie and Drew gave all the kids stuffed animals for being part of the wedding. The kids LOVED them!
Mommy and Maddy dancing away!
When the kids' legs got too tired to dance they wanted us to hold them and keep dancing :)
And here are some more from our very busy and very wonderful weekend!

PS - We'll post more pictures from Mollie and Drew's beautiful wedding soon from the super talented Haley Sheffield 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I Don't Know My Kids (Sometimes)

This last week, Patrick's school had their Winter Program. We almost didn't go or invite anyone else to go. It wasn't that we even had anything else to do. We were just going to stay home instead.

Let me explain. Last year, Patrick had a Winter Program just like this one. Each class got to sing one song they had been practicing for a few weeks. We were super excited about it and showed up early and invited the grandparents out to see it as well. Since Patrick was in the youngest class performing, they were up first. We waited with video cameras ready in nervous anticipation for his first "performance." The curtains opened, the crowd clapped and Patrick lost it. For a kid that likes to take his time to get used to his surroundings, this was kind of a nightmare. He was immediately overwhelmed with the sound and lights and pressure and just started crying and trying to get off the stage. We rushed up to the stage, scooped him up and as soon as he stopped crying we got in the car and headed home feeling terrible for putting him through that ordeal and having the grandparents rearrange their schedule and drive out of their way to watch our kid have a breakdown on stage.

So this year when the school planned to hold the same event, we weren't sure we even wanted to try. Some of it was selfish: do we really want to rearrange our schedules, keep the kids up late and drive out of our way just to go to a 5 minute program that Patrick might not even want to do? But it was mostly about Patrick. We didn't want him to feel pressured to do it or put him through another experience like last year. The point of these things is to have fun. If he isn't having fun then why do it?

Luckily, we gave it another shot. Patrick was showing signs of enthusiasm throughout the week and it seemed like he was excited about singing his song. The night of the performance, he couldn't wait to go. Every three minutes he'd ask "Is it time for my performance yet?! Can we go now?! This is really exciting!" We even made last minute calls to all the grandparents that morning to let them know it was happening just in case they wanted to come (which, of course they did).

Patrick did awesome. Here's a video of him and his class singing "We're Just Like Snowflakes."

He had SO MUCH fun and was really proud of himself. Obviously, we were incredibly proud of him too and couldn't stop telling him that for the rest of the night (or week, really). And Madelyn had a blast as well. She loved watching all the kids up on stage singing songs. We can't wait to see her up there next year. For this year though, she was happy to pretend she didn't know us and sit on her teacher's lap for the entire night. She just makes herself at home wherever she goes and it's so funny to watch.

So, parenting lesson learned: don't assume you know everything about your kids just because you spend a lot of time with them. They will surprise you in unexpected ways and do things you maybe didn't think they could or would want to do. We NEVER want to be a limiting factor in our kids' lives and this was a good reminder that sometimes the best intentions can be limiting in needless ways.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh Happy Day

Akil, Mexico. 2001.
It all began in Mexico on a mission trip to Akil when we became friends and had no clue that our journey through this life would intertwine and become one. Before marriage, before children, before even knowing we would ever be more than we were at that moment; two kids on a trip to strengthen our faith and find our way.

It’s all so vivid in my mind - journaling with Abbie on the cement slab outside of the church as the roosters were crowing, the sun rising and most of the group still sleeping in hammocks outside. It was day three and I had already fallen in love with your family, or 4/7 of it anyway. I remember all the talks we had, sweaty and unshowered, sitting on the stone wall overlooking the small village where we stayed. It was so primitive and yet so rich in faith, in love and community. And we vowed then to strive for simplicity in our own lives. Let everything be as uncomplicated as our days there: morning prayer, build a church, set off a few bombs, siesta and soccer in the afternoon, then end the day with praise and worship. We decided we would only want for what money we needed to get by, vowed to strive not to cling to possessions or popular opinion, never to cease in prayer and always keep family above all else. And here we are, 10 years later, 7 years married, with a family of our own and two amazing children that fill our days with laughter and discovery. I am so very happy we met. And even happier we married.

And here’s where I was supposed to introduce a wedding highlight video that I wanted to surprise Toby with on our anniversary. But after months of trying in vain to figure out how to put all of our wedding footage on the computer and then edit it into one short and meaningful little video I gave up. There is a reason Toby handles all of the technical devices in our house. So, I confessed I had no anniversary gift for him because I was more technologically impaired than I first thought and voila -he made a video. Just like that. In ONE day (two hours to be exact). Thank you, sweetie, for stepping up where I fall short. You do it every day in so many ways. Happy anniversary. I love you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Patch Pictures

I know we're a little out of order on this but we wanted to post some pictures from our annual trip to Berry Patch Farms to get our pumpkins. Here are a few of our favorites...

Daddy and the kids carved the pumpkins the weekend before Halloween. They all had a fun time taking the "gook" out of the pumpkins. This year, Madelyn's pumpkin was Kitty Bat and Patrick's pumpkin was Two Spookies...

Toby got a few cute pictures of the kids hanging out with the pumpkins on the porch later that week...

Having a very involved conversation with Kitty Bat

Here's a slideshow (gallery here) with some more pictures from the pumpkin patch and carving!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween 2011

It's probably hard to guess what this post will be about with a vague and ambiguous title like that. If you missed it, we're talkin' Halloween. Halloween 2011 to be exact.

This year's Halloween was super fun. We spent almost two hours trick-or-treating with the kids and it flew by like it was only five minutes. I think Angie and I were more upset than the kids were when it was finally time to go in. Costumes this year were really fun because Madelyn is old enough to wear a real costume and get excited about it and Patrick has all kinds of ideas about what he wanted to be (luckily, none were as crazy as last year's ideas).

We had actually gotten Patrick a couple costumes this year because Angie spotted some awesome dinosaur costumes at consignment for $5 and couldn't pass 'em up. We figured, if nothing else, Patrick can just use them as fun everyday dress up clothes for playing around the house. He was excited about them and does use them when he's pretending he's a dinosaur sometimes but he wasn't sold on them being his Halloween costume. For his real costume, he kept asking to be a rocket ship and we kept hoping he meant an astronaut since we had never even seen a rocket ship costume before. But lo and behold, one day while wandering the aisles of Target with the kids, Patrick's head almost exploded as he spotted a rocket ship costume. The search was over. The costume was decided.

This is the face you get when you say "Patrick, make a blast off face!" and he has to think about it.
Patrick spent the rest of the night blasting off from house to house and looking up longingly at the moon.

For Madelyn, we had lots of ideas but as soon as we thought of Wonder Woman we couldn't picture her as anything else. It just seemed to fit. Lucky for us, she thought so too and loved the costume. She even kept the head band on for a good 3 minutes.

Meme and Papa also stopped by for a bit which was great fun. Patrick and Madelyn loved showing off their costumes and pumpkins and telling them over and over again about how Halloween works...just in case they forgot. Meme and Papa also stayed back at the house handing out candy so Angie and I could both take the kids door to door which was awesome. (Sadly, Grandma and Grandpa were in Florida for a medical conference. Who holds a medical conference on Halloween?!)

Papa counting down to Patrick's blast off to the moon.
Meme helping the kids sort through their loot.
Of course, the most fun part of the night was just watching the kids. Our usually shy-at-first Patrick had no problem coming out of his shell and talking to everyone at the door and other kids on the street. He was excited to see all the decorations in the yards and what costumes all the other kids had on. As for Madelyn, this holiday really was made for her. A night of wandering the neighborhood, meeting and talking to all our neighbors and their kids and every time she smiled somebody gave her candy? That's like heaven to our little social butterfly with a sweet tooth. In fact, if we stood at someone's house too long talking to them, Madelyn would start walking away saying "C'mon! Eeeeaaaat!

Here are a few more of our favorite pictures from the night...

And here's a slideshow with the rest of the pictures since putting a couple dozen directly in the post would probably annoy people. (Full gallery here.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Super Hero Dance Party

I'm sorry, but this video deserves its own post even if it IS terrible quality...

I laugh every time I watch it. It's hilarious to me that even Madelyn stops dancing when Patrick starts his crazy dancing. All the moves Patrick does in this video are entirely new to us and he hasn't done them since. He is apparently "in character" when dressed in the costume and that comes with a new set of shimmy shakes. And I love that Madelyn thinks laying on her back doing bicycle kicks is a dance move. She also holds onto her skirt pretty much every time she dances now and we have no idea how it started. Plus, they're dancing to "Must Be Santa" in the middle of October. Hard to beat that.

As a bonus, here is our sweet boy saying grace before dinner. He says it by himself almost every night now and I never get tired of hearing it. I'll try to get a better video where you can see Madelyn with her little hands folded under her chin, too. She gets so proud of herself for being able to participate.

Friday, October 14, 2011

40th Wedding Anniversary

Dear Patrick and Madelyn,

On October 16th your Meme and Papa will have been married forty years. 40 years!

Patch, your time now with Papa is typically spent outside playing chase or practicing how to square up to home plate. Madelyn, you have frequent tea parties and tickle matches with him. Patrick, you love to play games like The Good Night Moon matching game and sing the Indian song with your Meme. Madelyn, you love to show Meme your dance moves, read books and cuddle with her every chance you get. But there is so much more to these two incredible people that you love so dearly. Let's take a glimpse back in time to find out what they were like in the “olden days," shall we?

Your Papa was a cool cat, non-conformist in high school. When all of the other boys were part of the preppy or hood* crowds, your Papa wore Hawaiian shirts and Converse All Stars. He even rode his bike to school way before that was cool (if it ever was). He was an all around athlete, quick to laugh and always ready for a good time. He played on his high school’s football, basketball and track teams. He pretty much rocked the pole vault and even tried to teach your Mommy when she was old enough. Although, at the time, they didn't have girls’ pole vaulting at my high school (archaic, I know). He may be laid back but don’t ever think for a minute that you can get away with anything around him (I may be speaking from experience). He’s not only seen everything, but chances are he’s done it too.

Senior year he actually jumped onto his desk in protest of a homework assignment. A very stunned teacher, Sister Maxine, didn’t have time to react before he opened the huge old warehouse window (three stories high, by the way) and proclaimed, "Goodbye world! I can’t take it anymore. I need something more in life than homework!" before hurling himself out the window. Thankfully Milwaukee had gotten several feet of snow that winter so he landed at the bottom unscathed. He ran into a couple of his buddies and quickly told them what had happened. Naturally, they went back to his classroom, knocked on the door and told Sister Maxine they had found something that belonged to her. Then they carried Papa in the classroom and placed his still, lifeless body on her desk. She ran from the classroom screaming. Like I said, he has seen it all, done it all and probably wrote the book about it too.

Senior prom, they had started dating a few months prior to this.
Your Meme was a diligent student, captain of the cheerleading squad and started the first high school pom pom team in the United States. She single handedly lobbied to the administration of Messmer High School to grant permission to have the team, ran try-outs, chose the members and did all the choreography. When she took her teams to Stevens Point, WI for a National Cheerleading Association clinic she met Mr. Herkemer, the man who invented the pom pom and founded the NCA . He asked her to join the summer staff for college camps; a huge honor in the world of cheerleading. Kinda cool that your Meme learned to do a Herkie jump from Mr. Herkemer himself!

 She is one of the most creative people you'll ever meet and has the organization and planning skills to pull off any kind of project you can think of, a rare quality if you ask me. Usually, people are either extremely creative or extrememly organized but your Meme is both and the combination of the two make for some amazing results (i.e., Aunt Abbie and Uncle Matt's wedding). She has always had a gift for sewing and crafting beautiful things, something she got from her Mom, no doubt. She sewed her prom dress, her wedding dress and all seven of her bridesmaids' dresses, along with the two flower girls' dresses. She even made the priest's vestments to match because, well, that's your Meme, always going way above and beyond the norm to make even the smallest details perfect and memorable.

Together your grandparents are a true testimony to love. I've seen them go through a lot. Endure a lot. Change, absolutely. Through everything they've never stopped respecting each other, never stopped loving each other and on many occasions loving the family more than themselves. They have never stopped working to make their union and their family the most important thing and it is evident in the way their four children know undoubtedly that our parents love us to the ends of the earth and back. We are so lucky they are invested in our lives, children. Their love is unconditional and will follow you throughout your days and give you strength in the toughest of times. We are abundantly blessed to have them in our lives. You are the luckiest kids in the world to call them your Meme and Papa. And I am honored to call them Mom and Dad.


Happy 40th Anniversary Pam and Joey! I raise my glass to who you were then, who you are now, and everything in between. I am so thankful for your love for each other and for us. Cheers!

* I have no idea what that means, I am just reporting the facts.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Zoo Trip, Apple Picking and Camp-In

The cooler fall weather has been so refreshing! A couple weeks ago we made a family trip to the zoo. The kids had a blast and enjoyed the animals and train ride. It was great spending  time as a family making memories.

I caught this moment a millisecond too late. They were holding hands so sweetly!

Most of the extended family spent last weekend at the cabin in Blue Ridge. We did some Apple Picking at Mercier's (like last year), celebrated a few birthdays and had a camp out, or "camp-in", as we ended up sleeping in the camper with Patrick because the temperature was going to dip below freezing that night. It was wonderful having everyone together and watching the cousins play. They enjoyed the makeshift sandbox Papa made,  jumping around in the bounce house, throwing the ball for Bailey and roasting marshmallows on the campfire. We even had some time for a little baseball while the kids took their naps on Saturday afternoon.

Creighton is ready to pick some apples!
Carson taking a bite
Madelyn smiling and talking to her food (not unusual)
Which one should I eat first?

Carson can say so much with just one look ;) I don't blame her;
Madelyn's been known to steal  other people's food!

 Maddy and Daddy 

Brother and Sister

"How do I make her laugh..."

 And, back at the cabin...

I love how you can see the tree we planted for Patrick when he was
 born  in the bottom right of the picture.

A very sleepy Carson snuggling with Uncle Toby

Creighton and Madelyn playing in the "sand bucket"
Uncle Jonathan always makes time for a little one on one with Patch.
 Rumor has it he even demoed a log roll down a grassy hill for P :)
Mandie and Abbie

Thanks to everyone that made it up to the cabin! Here are some more pictures from the couple weekends (full gallery here).