Tuesday, October 2, 2012

mia gracie

On a Friday night in early September I got to meet a little girl who I've prayed for since the day I knew she had a heartbeat.

Which I just happen to have a picture of! :) She's a bit of a miracle baby and we celebrated each milestone as she grew  inside my sweet sister Jessica. So you can imagine that her birth was kinda a big deal!
I arrived at the hospital with my sisters about 9 a.m. and we spend the next 10 hours in pre-baby bliss. Well me, Stephanie & Emily did...Jess was in labor. Poor thing. So nice of her to carry and birth sweet Mia for us. :) Jess really was amazing...she made it look easy, and made me want another one which didn't please my husband. But back to sweet Mia...I wasn't the only one anticipating her arrival.
Once Jess got to the final stages of labor they called the rest of the family...and we packed out the waiting room.
You see this wasn't just any baby being born. This was a baby that we never knew for sure would come...
and when she did, so did the tears.
I'll never forget that day. Or the journey walked beside my sister that brought us to sweet Mia.
We serve a God who redeems, who brings beauty from the ashes... that is never more evident then when I look at my precious little niece and her momma & daddy. God had a plan bigger than we could have dreamed for Jess & Nate's young marriage. I can't wait to see what he has in store for their beautiful new family!
Welcome to the world sweet Mia Grace!
Your name means, "longed for child" and it couldn't be more true.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

my heart is blessed

What blesses my heart more than anything else? When someone takes time out of their busy life to pour themselves into one of my children. It overwhelms my heart!!!!

My sister Jessica, known primarily as "Aunt Chica" in our house, is one of those special people who truly LOVES my kiddos like her own. She promised Will a date before her 1st baby is born this Friday...little did Will know his date with Chica would also include "Uncle Tater" (her husband Nate, and yep we're kinda funny about nicknames in this family).

So to set the stage I guess I should go back to the part about their 1st baby being born....They found out this morning that they'll go in to the hospital on Thursday to be induced. Which means Jess & Nate have 2 nights left as a couple without any distractions. And what do they do with their free time? They pour love, time, attention & teaching into my sweet son. I don't really know how to communicate to them how FULL this mommas heart was tonight. I am SO BLESSED to have such amazing siblings...

Will has always wanted to learn how to golf. Neither Billy or I know the first thing about it...but Will's "Uncle Tater" is a golf STUD (see I don't even know golf lingo for "really good"). So Chica & Tater surprised Will and took him out to the course tonight for his first private lesson.
I love this shot my sister captured of Nate getting down on Will's level to show him how to do it. That's just my brother-in-law for you... taking time out of his crazy busy week and spending the last few hours before his first child is born loving on my little guy.
This picture might be one of my favorites from their outing...Nate is gonna be such a great daddy!!!
Jess sent me this one towards the end of their evening. I can tell Will is standing a little taller than normal here...he feels like "one of the boys" when he's with his uncles. My brother-in-laws and hubby are great like that. They create this amazing atmosphere for my boys and nephews where they include the boys and build them up. I'm overwhelmed tonight at what a gift this is to my boys. They are surrounded by GREAT MEN...men who not only talk the talk but more importantly walk the walk...
and tonight Nate invited Will to walk beside him for a few hours.
What a gift.
Finally, this is my precious sister Jessica. A woman whom I have the utmost respect and love for. We joke that we should have been born twins - we really do share the same heartbeat for the world. She is no doubt going to be the best momma ever. She's full of love & grace and it spills over onto everyone she meets.
I know I am blessed by a rare group of siblings that I get to call "mine". Outings like tonight are not that uncommon. It's a weekly think for us to "trade kids" and spend time loving on all our nieces and nephews. We know what pain is, and we know the sweetness of having someone to "walk in the rain through the storm" with. I guess you could say we've been refined a bit by the fire. We're not perfect by any means - but we love each other, and most days that's more than enough.
 Maybe it's my "twin-ness" with Jessica that is making me extra emotional tonight, but my heart is SO SO FULL. I can't thank God enough for the some of the richest blessings in my life.
As I lay my head tonight I'll be praying a special blessing over each one...
Aunt Stephie, Uncle Eric, Aunt Chica, Uncle Tater, Aunt Emily, Uncle Rossi, Uncle Adam, & Aunt Vern.

Monday, September 3, 2012

12 adults... 19 kiddo's


I love sitting around a campfire and this Labor Day Weekend we spent every evening under the stars around this fire. We were invited to camp with 5 other families at Twin Mills...that meant 12 adults and 19 little ones...not including the 2 infants on the trip. To say we were outnumber was an understatment!

One afternoon I found all the kids sitting in a circle in our camper. It was so sweet to watch as the older ones organized a game of "would you rather"... I was so impressed with the way they kept the little ones attention. It was neat to see the next generation working together and including everyone. I was a proud momma!!!

I snapped this pic one day after we biked down to the lake for a swim. 12 adults & 19 kids equals a lot of bikes!!! :) Love being part of a big group of families committied to living life together and raising our kiddo's to love the Lord.
At the lake the kids had a sand-castle building contest....boys vs. girls. Ella loved getting to spend the afternoon in the sand with GIRLS!!! So often she's surrounded by all boys and to have all these girls to play with was pure bliss for my sweet little Ella-Bella.
As were were packing up the kids took it upon themselves to "put out the fire"....which as you can imagine turned into a water fight. It was the perfect ending to a relaxing weekend with some great people. I'm not sure my kids have ever been dirtier than they were this weekend... but the smiles on their faces and the endless giggles were so worth it!! 
It was a weekend of simple moments....my favorite kind. :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Our friend Glo (Gloria Hsu Pirotte) celebrated her birthday in heaven this week. Happy Birthday Glo - thank you for your beautiful voice, your contagious laugh, your challenging questions, and your committed friendship to April. I had no idea how much you challenged me until you were gone. I know with confidence I will see you again...until then I promise to hug and kiss Kelissa & Karinna for you everytime I see them, and remind them how fun their momma was.
I don't pretend to understand God's plan right now...but I choose to trust.
Just as you did.

mexico 2012

The longer I blog the more I'm finding that it's easier for me to give words to the simple moments in my days than the life changing moments in my years. Trying to explain how special our family vacation this summer to Mexico was seems overwhelming. I took the following pictures thinking they would add a fun touch to a beautifully written blog post detailaing our trip when we returned. And I just can't start. I can't find the words I need to share my heart.  The challenge of communicating the preciousness of that time with just the 5 of us is to big. So for now I will just share the pictures - and hope that they will be enough to remind me of that beautiful week of no computers, no laundry, no stress - just those I love most in the whole world.

Maybe my writers block has to do with the fact that these memories are so special to me I don't want to share them...I'm not sure. I'm just gonna pray that in the years to come the kids will look at these pics and remember all the special moments we shared... ordering chocalate ice cream from room service (every night!!), early morning walks on the beach, searching for shells, trying new foods, playing games in the room, bubble baths that overflowed with bubbles, and more...and may they know how much they are loved.
Mexico 2012 - I'll hide your memories in my heart and thank the Lord for that week. It was such a gift!!!
Hoping a picture really is worth 1,000 words...

Monday, August 20, 2012

a groundhog named frankie

Yesterday we decided to escape to our property for the afternoon. It was a beautiful, end of summer afternoon, in the mid 70's and breathing some fresh country air was exactly what we needed! We invited Stephanie & her kids out to play and as always the afternoon created memories we never could have anticipated. :)

Shortly before Steph arrived Billy and the boys spotted a groundhog in the next field. I see a groundhog, they see a challenge. Before long the gun was out and my boys were ready for the hunt. I could see the testosterone pumping through their veins - they were men who needed to shoot something! Billy sent the kids to a safe spot and waited for the groundhog to pop up from his hole. Not 5 min later...  BOOM!!!!!  ...he had met his maker.

Steph pulled up just as the kids and Billy were hiking through the fields to find their catch. Her kiddo's quickly caught the enthusiasm for the moment and after they found the poor groundhog I could have sworn I was being attacked by little Indians - they were hooping and hollering and SO proud of their accomplishment!!!

The groundhog, which they quickly named "Frankie", found his final resting spot near the entrance to our property on a 4x4 post...you'll have to see that in person to truly appreciate it. Lol! Oh my - I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I married a hunter! The rest of the afternoon was not quite as eventful - we filled it up with 4-wheeler rides, exploring in the creek and sitting and talking with my sister.

Breathing the air out there always was exactly what the Dr. ordered for this momma.
Bring on the week - my soul can breathe. :)

reason to celebrate

My little sister Jessica is just a few short weeks away from the birth of her first child... birth is a miracle I will never tire of!!! For my sister Jessica it is truly a miracle in every sense of the word. Her story will remain private to her, but let me just say that along the way her story has taught me firsthand that God has a beautiful plan for our lives greater than we can ever imagine!

This weekend we got to celebrate the upcoming birth of the "yet to be named" Princess Stemm. We gathered all her best girlfriends for an evening on the lawn.

Jessica is probably one of the most loved women I know. She has deep, rich friendships and you would need more than two hands to name all the women who count her as their "best friend". She has a compassionate heart and a beautiful sweet spirit. Celebrating her was easy - trying to make the evening a fraction as beautiful as her was the challenge.

Someday for Jessica's birthday I think I'll plan an overnight slumber party for her with all these wonderful girls. They could talk for hours and one short evening on the lawn was not long enough to truly catch up!

Martin Luther King once said, "To serve you only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love."
I couldn't agree more. These women are living proof.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

paper bag puppets

I'm still waiting on Mason's Kindergarten curriculm to arrive in the mail, so school hasn't officially started for him yet. We have however attempted to do fun crafts and read lots of books.
Today he wanted to make puppets out of paper bags & I thought I'd teach him how.

He complained the whole time I was making the puppet and refused to make his the same way. He kept saying, "I already know how!!!". Fully realizing that how he makes his paper bag puppet really doesn't matter I decided to let him do it however he wanted instead of insisting he use the googly eye stickers (which I thought would be a big hit, but he wasn't interested in). I half anticpated him getting half way through and realising it was harder than it looked and asking for help. Boy was I wrong! 

He started making his and I quickly realised that he indeed did have his own idea in mind...and to be honest it makes mine look silly. Why do I think I have all the answers? Why did I think there was a "right way" to make a puppet?

Here we are with our completed puppets....

Yep. Mason's is the really good one on the left with a whole body and a fun head that bobbles when you stick your hand inside. Mine is the weird one on that right with giant red lips and squiggly hair.

Humbled by my kindergartener this morning.

Not sure who's gonna learn more this year....Mason or me. :)

back to school

My three little ones headed back to school yesterday after a wonderful summer together. We packed this summer full - and my only regret is not having a lot of "down time". Thankfully we tried to be intentional with how we did spend our time and made lots of family memories. Let's just say I didn't hear the words, "I'm bored!!" very often this summer. :)

Will is my kind and uber-responsible oldest child. The thing I argue with him the most about are "rules" and it's usually because he thinks that I'm breaking them! :) We are blessed that his 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Bergstedt, is looping up to 4th with her class from last year! She is the first teacher Will has ever had that really pushes him to reach his full potential and I love that!! Academics come fairly easy to him - let's just say he has his daddy's mind. Praying that his love for reading continues to grow this year and that he will continue to grow into the young man God designed him to be.

Ella is my strong, fiercely independent, creative, "little momma". It's hard to believe she's going to be in 2nd grade already. She's thrilled to have Mrs. Mast for her teacher, and I've already told Mrs. Mast that she is an answer to our prayers.Learning is not the reason Ella goes to school - recess is! :) She is our social butterfly and I think Mrs. Mast will be a great fit for her this year - I watcher her in 2nd grade when Will had her and she has a knack for making learning fun. Exactly what my sweet little Ella needs! Praying Ella learns to use her natural leadership gifts appropriately and not just to "be the boss", and that God would continue to reveal himself to her in real and tangible ways.

And then there's my snuggle bunny Mason. He is the most affectionate little guy I've ever met. He will not hesitate to give me 10 kisses in a row before he goes to play in another room in the house! We've decided to home school him for Kindergarten this year and I'm thrilled to get to pour some one-on-one time into him. He's creative and incredibly detailed. Not to mention smart - the way that boys mind works stops me in my tracks sometimes. I think (and hope and pray) that homeschooling him is the perfect fit for this year. He didn't seem socially ready to be gone all day, and I don't regret the years I home schooled Will & Ella for a second. They were challenging at times but those were days I'll never get back and I cherish them. Praying that Mason learns that God is always him, even when I'm not, and that he can find comfort and strength in that.

I'm excited to get organized and get back into a routine. Sometimes I think it's easier for me to be an intentional momma when I have a schedule. I want to make the hours I have with these little ones count. I want them to know they are loved - and not only by me but also by the Father who created them and has big plans for their little lives.

Asking God to shape my days and my heart - I have so far to go to be the wife and momma he wants me to be...

I'm a work in progress - and committed to the process.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

the stuff dreams are made of

Every June my husbands company, Edward Jones Investments, sends our family to a regional meeting somewhere within driving distance. It's always a great chance to make fun family memories, practice our "best manners" at nice hotels and fancy dinners and usually explore something new. This year the meeting was in Indianapolis -and boy did we wear that town out!!

On our drive down Billy asked me to call and see if I could arrange a group tour for some Edward Jones families to tour Lucas Oil Stadium - the home of the Colts, the NFL team my boys are currently in love with. In typical "me" fashion I decided to bypass the online tour form request and call the stadium directly. It couldn't hurt right? I was blessed to have a super friendly girl answer the phone and she put me right thru to someone who was able to arrange a tour for 50 people the next afternoon! My boys were so excited!!!

 We were in for such a treat...

We started the day off visiting the Indianapolis Colts Grille...it's hard to tell from this picture, but Mason is excited. :)

Once we made it to the stadium even I began to think it was cool! :) Will's eyes were wide from the moment we stepped inside. He'd only seen the Colts Stadium on TV before...now he was breathing the same air that Peyton had!

The view from the press box was amazing - our tour guide said that during the games all you hear up here is the clicking of computer keys. Funny to think that some of the best seats in the house are filled with people who don't even cheer.

We stopped to take a picture of the Colt's locker room not knowing that our super cool tour guide was going to let us go inside.
I could tell that Billy was starting to get excited now! :)

The boys asked THE question she must get on every tour she gives, "where was Peyton's locker?" and upon finding it my boys lost their cool. They were touching it, pretending to be getting ready before a game, talking football lingo...it was hilarious. I made them focus for a picture and Will insisted on his game face!
 They were in their element and I loved watching every second of it.

At this point it was obvious everyone was thinking the same thing....
Could we.. maybe.. perhaps.. if we're really good.. go onto the field?

I have never in my life witnessed grown men turn back into little boys so quickly as I did when she said "yes"! The adrenaline was flowing...it was game time. They were standing in the locker room, and ready to run out of the tunnel.
And run they did!!! :)

My amazing husband, being the ever prepared man that he is, had planned ahead and brought a football with us - just in case. As soon as our feet hit the turf the guys in our group were sprinting to catch the ball and racing each other up and down the field. It really was precious. There was no shame. This was a once in a lifetime moment for them to live their dream and they weren't about to let it slip away. Our tour guide probably thought she'd never get them off the field!
I honestly think even she enjoyed watching their unbridled enthusiasm.

Pretty sure I had to hold the boys feet to the ground during this shot.  They practically floated back to the hotel. For a moment they were professional football players - warming up before the fans arrived for the big game. They could taste it. Through Will's eyes this was simply a glimpse into his future - he loves football and can't imagine doing anything else someday.

For me it wasn't so much about living my dream as it was watching those I love live theirs. That's just one of the beautiful things about TRUE LOVE. True love isn't always about me. I can't think of any other way I would have rather spent the day than watching boys & Billy come alive.
 A day for the memory books for sure.

Friday, July 6, 2012

coming home

A few weeks ago I got to take these two little cuties on a trip. I felt like I was a professional courier with the most precious of cargo! Once our plane landed in San Diego these two would get to be with their daddy for the first time in weeks and more importantly their family would be whole for awhile.

Baseball has blessed them more than they ever could have imagined...but the realities of how hard it is were ever present in my mind on our traveling day. Madeline & Luke live on airplanes, out of hotels, and off the room service menu. These things are all fun when they are treats, but when they become your everyday you start to miss the basics that so many of us take for granted.

I knew they kids were beyond excited to see their daddy, but also a bit sad to be leaving the comforts of home that they cherish like many of us cherish vacation. I was totally caught off guard by what happened the next day.

I was only in town for one day before turning around and catching a flight back to Indiana. I had 3 little ones I left home with their daddy and a VBS program to race home from the airport to see. Steph and Eric were so thoughtful to plan a fun day of seeing the sights for me. We hit the Padres stadium, the famous "gas lamp district", local boutiques and a great coffee shop. Soaking up San Diego was a blast - a great change from the routines of mommahood. Then we decided to take the kids to the beach to play for an hour or so. They'd been so good all day (even with jet lag) being carted from place to place and they deserved some time to run.

Out of the car and allowed to play I watched this family truly come alive. They had been catering to me since the moment we got off the plane - when all this family really wanted to do was to "simply be" together. Hallie was asleep so I found a cozy spot in the sand to sit with her and watch the magic unfold.

The kids giggled as the cold pacific water hit their feet. They drew pictures in the sand and played chase. They let themselves go....unrestricted by time or location. 

They were together....a family...and it was priceless.

I don't think words will ever do justice to the joy I got watch them experience as they played together as a family for the first time in weeks. In that moment it didn't matter that they were thousands of miles away from home because all this family really needs to be home is each other.

When we first stepped on the beach we cautioned Luke to "be careful and not get all sandy" - we were in practical, traveling mode....

This is my sweet boy after 15 min. on the beach... living FULLY IN THE MOMENT - with all of watching in total surrender to the joy we were feeling. This moment was to good to be contained or constricted by silly rules that were torture to a little boy who LOVES getting dirty. So he rolled in the sand and we cheered him on. It was a beautiful, crazy, dirty moment and we could have cared less.

I got to watch this family get lost in the moment and it's a moment I'll remember forever.

They were together.

They were home.

Friday, June 8, 2012

my little brother

When I was 13 my little brother, Adam, and the 5th child in our family was born. I honestly wasn't too excited when my parents told me they were expecting - it was just embarrassing and weird because by then I knew exactly where babies came from. I will never forget walking into that hospital room at Memorial Hospital and seeing him laying in the warmer...and he had a shooter!! LOL! Just stating the obvious - after 4 girls this was new territory!

Life with my little brother has been different than my sisters from the start...but oh so sweet! He was a charmer from day one, and still is. He has these beautiful eyes that can still hit me straight in the heart. Growing up he was like my little side kick (I had a car seat in the backseat of my first car!). I took him to basketball games in high school, went on his field trips in elementary school when my mom couldn't make it, and took him on more than one date with Billy & I. Often I felt more like a momma to him than a sister.

I've heard people say he's been "spoiled" by having 4 others sisters who dote on him and love to compete for his affection. I personally hate the word "spoiled" unless it really applies. To me "spoiled" means rotten, no good, no longer valuable...my brother couldn't be farther than the meaning of that word.

In the last couple years I've watched him grow from a boy into a man. Physically he's now taller than Billy - love giving him a hug and feeling my head rest on his shoulder.  Kinda feels like he might be the one protecting me now. :) He's matured even more than he's physically grown. He's gone from a boy consumed with living in the moment (as we all are when we're teenagers) to a young man making choices based on how they reflect the kind of man he wants to be.I was proud of him before - always wanting to show him off and his many accomplishments - but that pales in comparison to how I feel about him now.

The day I took Adam's senior pictures I had my littlest Mason with me, and snapped this shot as Mas was getting a ride from Adam back up to the house. My boys adore Adam. They want to be just like him down to their cowboy belt buckles that he bought them last summer.

My husband & I always said that Adam would probably be one of the most influential people in our boys lives - even when Will was a baby and Adam was 10, Will copied him. I've prayed for years that my boys would have strong, Godly men in their lives that challenge them as become men. Watching Adam grow into this description has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

He's a young man who knows what he believes in and isn't afraid to stand up for it. He's willing to sacrifice the "good" for the "best", the "temporary" for the "lasting". He's committed to honesty even when it's ugly. He's determined.  He loves deeply. He's a seeker of absolute truth. He's compassionate. He's this amazing balance between tender and strong. He's hilarious. He's spontaneous. He's passionate. He's courageous.

He's my little brother, who's now bigger than me....and he's my hero.