Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Ten of 2009

Wow, I guess it's been awhile since I posted here. Life is busy.

In my annual attempt to remember the excitement here at the Party of Five, with full knowledge that I am not as young as I used to be and therefore, not retaining memories as well....

The Top Ten of 2009: (sans crash ate all my pictures!)

10. Owen turned 2! This little boy brings a smile to my face any time of the day. Even when he's mad, he's cute. He's learned some interesting catch phrases, "Oh, no, he di-nt!" (complete with hand gestures) is one of my favorites. His laugh is infectious and I'm grateful he still likes to cuddle and let me kiss his cubby little cheeks!

2010 goal: Potty training and trying not to imitate everything that his sibs do.

9. Ellie turned 5. And went to Kindergarten. All Day. Everyday. It was a well-prayed for decision and we're happy to say she loves it. Loves her teacher, her friends, the bus and even her "homework." She's still gets tired and I'm beginning to realize she might need some wellness days off occasionally. But all in all, she is surprising me everyday by the things she learns, remembers and is interested in. Her birthday itself came and went fairly quietly, as I'm afraid it will too often (a birthday right before school starts is tricky!), but, thankfully she still young enough not to remember! (shh..don't tell!)

2010 goal: honesty, a calm spirit in the face of conflict and a way to harness her creativity (which usually ends up on the walls, table or any other surface besides paper).

8. Josh will be 8 in February. Although this isn't an event in 2009 technically, we're already thinking about it. (having a birthday a month after Christmas is tough...wait I'm noticing a pattern here). He is an excellent student, so full of energy and a real interest for all things family. He's our tradition-tracker, making sure that we've remembered "family night" and any other activity that keeps up hangin' together as a party of five.

2010 goal: Find out what to do when things are hard for you and continuing your talents in sports (we're so proud!).

7. Family nights have been our refuge. We've endured some interesting weeks, ones where we lacked serious family time and Friday nights have come to the rescue. The is our cheap family entertainer. We intersperse our nights with some game nights as well, knowing that our ultra-competitive first-born will most likely end up in tears if he doesn't win. We've had to say "no" to Bible study this fall, so we could keep our sanity, and also refocus our priority to the five of us. So many good memories have been had, snuggled up on the couch with a good movie, chomping on popcorn, and chatting about our favorite scenes, lines and characters. We miss our adult friends, but know that this time is fleeting and we're just trying to hold on as long as we can.

2010 goal: Find the balance between time with family and time with friends.

6. New niece and nephew. Oh how fun it is to rejoice with family on the birth of new babies! Ashlee was born in January and Andrew was born in June. These little ones are a joy to hold (and give back!). I think about how wonderful it is that our extended families are expanding. Each niece and nephew has their own distinct personality and I love seeing us all together. It reminds me of how much fun I had with my cousins when we were young.

2010 goal: Keep updated on what the little ones are doing (big and small ones!)

5. My knee surgery. Ugg. If there is one thing that will bring you back to reality it's a health crisis. You find who you can depend on, and who depends on you. As any busy mom will say, it is very difficult to take time for yourself. This forced me to stop and take time to rest. If this was a test on how well I could handle chronic illness, I can't say that say that I passed. No flying colors here. But, the support of my amazing husband and the surprising assistance and independence of my kids was a silver lining in an otherwise dismal situation. I am happy to report that I can run, play and move without thinking about my knee and it's month-long recovery in June.

2010 goal: Get strong so that this will become a distant memory.

4. 14 years of marriage. I have only recently realized what an amazing man that I am walking this life journey with. I run out of superlatives to describe how he supports our marriage, our family and our church. I'd add more, but some things are best said just to the ones we love.

2010 goal: Celebrate 15 years with an amazing man in an amazing place (hopefully!)

3. I sang in front of a crowd. This is one of those "Bucket List" items. It was my cousin's wedding and it was a silly song, but ~ I sang. People laughed (at the words, I hope) and I can proudly cross this one off the list. 2010 goal: Who knows!

2. A recharging trip to DC. After a month long recovery from my knee surgery, the hubs and I went to our nation's capitol to celebrate his cousin's wedding. Without kids. It was glorious. We did some sight seeing, reminding me of the fact we need to head back there some day with our kids. We did some laughing, reminding me that life is funny. No matter how sad it may seem some days. And we danced. On a rooftop. With young people who probably don't even remember the 'Macarena'. Reminding me that life can be a party like none other. Instead of feeling old and hobbled, I was able to boogie in the open air, with my oh-so-groovy dance partner for life.

2010 goal: Dance more, laugh more, get out and go places!

1. In some ways, it was an uneventful year. In other ways, I should be blogging every other minute about the wacky, happy, sad, eventful happenings of our little Party of Five. But, I think that in all that happened this year (big and small), I saw that my Savior is the one with His hands on the controls. He saved us when He saw fit, He held us when we cried, and He danced along with us when joy overflowed.

2010 goal: Lean on Him for everything. Everything.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Since the end of last spring we have had ants in our kitchen and eating area. On and off throughout the summer, I warred with these little buggers. We had weeks where they were a distant memory and then, they would reappear. I even got the kids so fired up, that their "alarms" would go off and the sounds of children screaming, "ANTS!" would sound through the house. Even Owen gets into it. I'd come around the corner to find them, nose to the ground, squishing these invaders to oblivion. (And then we washed our hands *wink*)

Although this is not a family pastime that I would like to continue, it has been a good way for us to fight off a common foe and see how we handle frustrating situations. I cleaned like a mad woman, even putting off breakfast one morning to practically hose down the kitchen. I was diligent in my efforts, but they seemed to always find some other avenue for finding miscellaneous food. My kitchen has never been cleaner, and yet, they come.

But these ants. In the midst of calling them an assortment of colorful names (in my head, of course), I began to admire them. They're tenacious, single-minded in their purpose, and are not swayed by the occasional obstacle. Heaven knows that I could use some of their stamina, drive and even flexibility.

What I don't need is their presence in my kitchen.

Who knew that a small insect held such deep insight?

Ps. I've used a variety of products, which work for a while. Now, I'm glad to say that having the Orkin man for a neighbor is good thing.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

My Dad turned 60 recently. A few months before that my Mom did the same. They also celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in June of this year. Which means that they got married when they were 20 years old. Just like me.

In preparation for making their anniversary video I looked through hundreds of photos of them throughout the years. It was amazing. I began to see my parents in a different way. I saw photos of them goofing with other young newly married couples, taking cute new-baby pictures, growing as a family, and posing in many wonderful vacation spots.

And it looked familiar.

Not just because I was in some of the photos (and certainly I had a whoosh of memories because of them), but because it looked like my life. Even though I sometimes believe that they have no idea what I'm talking about, I was quickly reminded that....They lived it and they survived. True, many things have changed over time in the way of child-raising and marriage roles, but in it's essence, they lived the life I live now.

In a way, it encouraged me to seek out opportunities for them to revel in this next stage of their lives...grandparenting. Even though they have been grandparents for over 7 years now, I want this to be one of the more enjoyable times of their lives. I love seeing them with their grandkids. My dad is right there on the floor with them, rolling around, laughing, teasing, and makin' noise. My mom is sweet and affectionate to them, always ready to sit and read them a book that she's read a hundred times before.

It's great to see them leap into this stage. To see them embrace the joys and sorrows of seeing their own kids raise kids. To see them envision a bright future for our family, one that includes a whole lot more birthdays, anniveraries and celebrations.

Happy Birthday, Mom and Dad. Here's to many more years together!

Ps. Here's a picture of the cake I made. Yes, I am loving my new cake pan and finding any excuse to use it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Garden Goodness

I came around the corner of the house and saw this:

Then the first words I thought of were these:

God is great. God is good. Now we thank him for this food.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Another birthday cake attempt...

Ellie turned five this week. Five. Years. Old. Kindergarten is on the horizon. School bus ride. Backpack filled with papers. Everyday. All day.

I have no real concerns for her as she starts this venture. Ellie is a spunky girl who knows her mind and what she likes. She has two brothers and she holds her own whenever the "love" they show her is beyond what a girl can handle. She makes friends easily and has an imagination that puts Dr. Suess to shame. I love so much about her, and I can't wait to see what this year brings. And although I've got mostly cliches to describe her at this moment, something tells me that she'll find some poetic words someday to tell stories about her mother made crazy cakes for birthdays every year.

I'm not sure what drives me to attempt these cakes. I'm not a very good baker, let alone a steady hand at anything remotely detail-oriented. I have little patience for most projects that don't have a definite result in a relatively short amount of time.

But maybe that's it.

It's a labor of love. It's a challenge for me. And I know they love it. I love the part where we snuggle up in a chair and discuss all the possibilities. How each idea represents a part of them, at this moment in time. When the idea is finally chosen, colors decided, frosting and cake mixes bought (oh yes, bought), I get to make something. Make something for them. Something that is all their own...before we cut it up and devour it's sugary goodness.

So here it is. The latest installment in the birthday cake making years. It's not perfect, but it's a cake made with love. And pink frosting. She'll love it.

Happy Birthday, Elle Belle.

Ps. Big thanks to Aub and Paul for finding this great cake pan at a garage sale and donating it to the cause.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Landmark Purchase

As a young lady, there were many landmark purchases that signaled momentous occasions, or the passing from one stage in life to another.  The first clothes purchase with money earned on your own.  The mortifying trip to your local department store to buy your first bra.  With your mother.  Who smiled the whole time, like she was thinking, "you have no idea what you're getting into."  Of course, there are similar necessity purchases that coincide with a certain time of the month.  Those get easier as time goes on.  Purchases like a wedding dress and clothes for the honeymoon  elicit a bit more excitement and fonder memories to be sure.

As a mom, I've had even more landmark purchases.  My first pack of onesies as I registered for all things baby while I was pregnant with Josh brought tears to my eyes ("will it really be that small?").  Diapers were a drudgery, but the purchase of special undies as that first one made the leap from diapers to boyhood was just as thrilling for me as it was for him.  Of course, the first few copays at the doctor when your little one gets sick, bumps his head or needs shots make their mark in your memory as well.  Soon your kiddos grow. They get into various extracurricular activities and you're quickly on your way to purchasing all manner of sports equipment.  Before you've pumped up the first soccer ball, you notice your garage is being engulfed by all kinds of balls, bikes, trikes and spikes (shoes, that is).  

But my latest purchase is one I did not expect.

I bought Josh's first sport's cup.

I'll assume you all know what I'm talking about. But maybe I shouldn't as my story will soon show.

He needs one for baseball this year.  "It's not required," the Coach said, "but my son will be wearing one."  (read: "If you care whether or not you have grandchildren someday, you better get yourself to the store, momma.")

So I went.  Checked the under.wear aisle with no luck. (I have to preface this to say that it had already been a frustrating morning and wandering around me.ijer looking for a boys' peep protector was not getting me through my list as fast I would like.)  So I got the guts to ask a nearby saleslady for help.  (I can only say that this moment is probably tantamount to a man asking someone where he could locate the tam.pon aisle.)  

She didn't know what I was talking about. 

I tried to describe what a cup was without sounding like a pervert or snickering.  Then she whips out her walkie-talkie.  I began to panic.  Is she calling for help?  Will there be that embarrassing announcement relaying the need for a young boys' althletic supporter?  Will a crowd gather as we all try to figure out where this mystery object is located...until I finally scream, "It's to protect his peep and my future grandchildren!"?

Deep breath.

I further explained that it was for sports.  AHH!  Then we should look in the sports section, she says.  Ok, thanks, I'll be on my way, then.  I walk away.  She follows.  I wasn't sure if she followed out of sheer curiosity, or out of some customer service obligation, but I could have done without the escort.

We found it.  The way it was packaged reminded me of the head of a Transformer.  Maybe Decepticon.  Odd.  But it's a boy's item.  What could I expect?  Anyway, after a brief pause to decided on the size (oh dear) and a gracious "thank you!"  to my fellow cup hunter, I tossed it into the cart and high-tailed it out of there for safer territory.

I headed for the baking aisle.  I needed chocolate.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The little Train that could...look any more less like a train

In an effort to document my follies as an over-eager cake maker...

Note the engine of the train. If you look closely you can see how it is starting to separate. Apparently gravity works and toothpicks were not doing their job.

Here the birthday boy is getting instructions from Dad about how to blow out the candles. His eager face is what I'll remember, not the slouch of the cake or the fact that jelly beans DO NOT taste good on cakes.

The first candle gave him some trouble, but....

He succeeded!!
(Here the slouchy engine can be seen actually
being supported by the train car behind it.)

My eagerness to make fun cakes for my kids matched with a slight competition between some more crafty sister-in-laws makes for good memories, eh?

Happy Birthday, Owen!!

Just don't get into Star.Wars or anything too complicated by next year, ok?? Not sure the Millennium Falcon is on my list of "can-do" cakes!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Because they were just too white, I guess...

As I've noted in the past, my daughter's creativity knows no bounds. Especially when related to the medium with which she chooses to express said creativity.

Today's choice: New. White. Shoes.

To further explain why this a big deal (they were washable crayons, came off in a flash, bought at the cheapy shoe store, with a coupon, so really not a big deal), I must say a few things.

I am Dutch. I shop mostly at resale stores. This was only the second pair of real, live, brand-spanking, "I've still got the shoe box" shoes that I have ever bought. For any of my kids. Thanks to a very generous aunt who had boys and girls with a plethora of shoes and the resales, I have been able to avoid the shoe store.

Now I see a bit even more logic in skipping the store.

And just tying plastic bags to their feet.

Or maybe paper. She can color on paper.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

He's Two!!

My youngest has turned two! Although it is extremely clique'...I can't believe he's two already. And this child is, as they say, All Boy. He's dirty, rowdy, loud, loves to land on his bottom for no reason except for the fact that it makes a fun sound, tackle, throw (every)things, and thinks colliding humans are hilarious.

And I love him.

He's very different from his big brother in how quickly he's joined ranks of the rowdy, but still has a sweet side to him as well. In fact, when he sees one of his sibs in tears or feeling sad, he'll head over and with a slightly tilted head and a gentle pet on the arm, he reassures the ones he loves that all will be ok. And then he runs. Full tilt in any direction. E.R., here we come. We haven't totally celebrated yet, but I'm looking forward to watching him open some presents and chow on some boy-design birthday cake very soon.

This little boy, he is my third, my last, my Owen.

Happy Birthday, buddy. Momma loves ya!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Doesn't everyone eat their bagel this way??

Monday, March 30, 2009

Looking for the bright side

In a bit of writing therapy, I'm hoping to write out a bunch of things that are bringing this family down and hope that they will then magically disappear. Also that maybe I can also see a few positives in all this mess.

My knee is in serious need of attention. An MRI tomorrow will hopefully shed some light on how old my knee thinks I am and what to do next. For now, just call me "step-and-a-half." The most frustrating thing is that I'm having a hard time making plans because I just don't know how much the ol' bod will take here. Or how much it will take back!

We have all succumb to a couple of nasty springtime colds. Ellie has taken the brunt of it. Poor dear was up often last night just trying to ignore her ear pain long enough to drift off into some fitful sleep. My mommy's heart was hurting because it's been awhile since one of my little partygoers really needed some serious TLC. But we muddled through and went to our fourth (yes f-o-u-r-t-h) doc's appointment in a week to confirm the reality we already knew. Whopper ear infection.

Which brings me to our personal attempt to keep our docs in business. Ellie was there a week ago with a sudden fever and suspected strep. No strep, just the beginning of this doosy of a cold. Owen went on Thursday for his two-year well baby appointment and they generously agreed to look at my knee while I was there. I figured my part of the appointment to be the more hefty one until the doc came back and said that Owen was also needing a trip to the hospital radiology department for an echocardiogram on his heart. Apparently, he has a heart murmur which hasn't presented previously, so they like to check it out with further tests. NOT what I was expecting. I'm not terribly worried at this point, but it's the unexpected that's got me going and I'm glad they can get both of our tests done tomorrow. Sooner is definitely better than later for me when it comes to gettin' some answers.

My beloved Hubs has not been immune to the cold bugs and is also fighting a pretty decent cold with all he's got. So on top of doing all the legwork that is harder for me to do right now, he's battling to see the forest through the fog. Bless. His. Heart.

So....The Bright Side??

We have doctors who can take care of us.

At least it's not both of my knees. (then I'd be "no-step")

We're on Spring Break this week, which means, no missed school, sub plans or working around schools schedules.

Josh is fighting a small cold, but still has enough energy to power a small city. Man, how do they keep him busy at school? (thank goodness for baseball practice tonight!)

Owen is Owen. I thought it would be a good time to start taking away his pacifier, but hey, someone needs some comfort around here when times get tough, right?

I'm praying. A lot. And not always in petition for our needs, but recognizing with gratefulness the blessings He has given us. A home. Food. Medicine. Family. Sunshine.

Ps. I don't want to post this as a sympathy-getter, but just a bit of therapy and an honest record of our days. Let's hope for brighter ones soon!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

'Cause that's just how we roll

This weekend we spent oodles of time celebrating my dearest man, the Hubs.  He turned (an undisclosed amount of years), but let's just say that it'll be about 2 years before he's over the hill.  It was quite busy getting together with family all weekend, but apparently we here at the Party house like to party.  A lot.  Often.  All in one weekend.  

Of course, doing that kinda partyin' is just asking for something to go awry.  Fast forward to about 5 pm on Saturday.  The dear Hubs had dropped Josh off at a friend's bowling party and was on an errand to pick up a few essential dessert items I had forgotten to get for our next party on Sunday with my family.  I had the other two dear children at church with me for our dinner before Bible study.  

Enter calamity.  

Ellie had an accident in the church's bathroom  and I have no change of clothes for her.  Ugg.  I cry out for help in a quick call to the Hubs.  

Enter odd timing.  

The Hubs is at the local discount grocery store picking up whipped cream in a can, and a bottle of wine that caught his fancy.  So as he is checking out, I call, asking desperately for him to pick up some pants and underwear.  

Enter loud cell phone conversation.  

"So you need underwear?"  (said loudly on the phone, in front of the cashier)...

While checking out with whipped cream in a can. And a bottle of wine.

Underwear+whipped cream+wine= odd look from cashier.

'Cause that's just how we roll.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Man of Action

This kid makes me laugh. Owen is almost two years old!! His birthday is a month away, but I'm already tearing up. It's been amazing to see him grow so fast in the last few months. He's been talking for quite a while now, and I can't even remember what it was like before he could use words! Owen has discovered that he can now tell us something that he's seen out the window of the car or in the aisle of a grocery store. Wow, the beginnings of real conversation. Of course, that's if you can keep him still for any length of time. He's a ball of energy and I'm imagining many active days outdoors this spring and summer. (yeah!) He loves to make people laugh and has also found out how to "make an entrance." This usually means entering a room with a big "Hel-lo!" Just this week the kids put on a little show to celebrate the Hubs' birthday and, of course, he got into the action. After his show (which consisted mostly of super-fast dancing feet and something like yodeling) he stopped. And then, stuck out his belly and yelled, "TA-DA!" What a crackup. One of my Dad's favorite sayings is, "Never a dull moment." Oh. How. True.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Spring Dirt

Here's to many more dirty hands, sunny skies and
warm days that draw our winter worn souls outside!

ps. We're enjoying it while it lasts. Tomorrow promises to be rainy and cold again.
Ahh, spring in Chicago.

You can never be too careful...

Buckle up, friends!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Score one for old-fashioned fun

Awhile ago a dear old lady from our church gave us her piano.  She was moving into a nursing home and had no space for it.  We still haven't tuned it, but it certainly provides a general sound for our little family chorus.  

Today, Ellie was on the computer with Owen at her new favorite website (which I also love, it's from the guys who brought us singing vegetables).  I sat down on the piano and found a wonderful rockin' song called "Soon and Very Soon."  I was singing my little heart out (as only a crazy woman would, knowing no one could actually hear her, or at least anyone who knows what sounds good).

And around the corner peeked Ellie.  Her smile said it all.  These rockin' tunes telling of how we are only here for a little while while we wait for our King to come drew her away from the computer and into the dining room where she joined me for several verses (a few made up ones, too).  

Score one for old-fashioned toys.  And music that speaks to the soul.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fighting Back

To combat my previous post's winter hold on me and the fact that despite my serious tries at just willing my belly pudding (funny word...thanks Sarah S!) to disappear....

I worked out.

For 15 whole minutes.  

With the loving support of my Hubs (he set up the TV so I could watch and elliptical at the same time) I did not pass out, did burn all of 100 whopping calories (which I seriously wanted to eat again in the form of some tasty evening snack, but didn't), and did restore my faith in my own willpower (or at least the fear of embarrassing myself as the big winter clothes will soon be unable to cover me up!).  

This whole phenomenon of "working out" is actually pretty new to me.  In all honesty, I haven't had to work out to keep in relative shape in recent years (or so I told myself).  But a recent screening of my cholesterol and my growing belly pudding (I told you it was a funny word) from having baby #3 have catapulted my health front and center. 

I actually think I went through various stages of grief.  I felt that I was losing my youthfulness, or at certainly I was gaining an older body than I was not ready for.  So I was in denial.  "It's not that bad."  But when recently Owen was playing peek-a-boo with an oddly large portion of my stomach sticking out the side of my comfy pants,  I quickly moved on from denial to reality.

Really. Fast. 

So then came anger.  The "what the ?" question would be punctuated with choice words about getting older that I refused to believe or want.  The Hubs was a total dear.  Poor guy listened to rants without saying one word  about how if I was so pissed...well, I should darn well do something about it.  Luckily, I came to that on my own.  He's patient, but not that patient.

So here we are. Day 1.  Exercise+me= a happier me.  Right?

Why am I writing this?   Mostly so that when I'm thinking I don't need to exercise, or that I don't look that bad, I'll remember how good it feels right now to know that I've started.  I've started to care about myself a bit more or at least enough.  

Enough that the only bellies that we'll be playing peek-a-boo soon with will be those of the 2-and-under set.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's what's for dinner...

I've hit an new all-time dinner-makin' low.

Corn dogs. With pasta.roni noodles. Leftover veggies.

Where did I get that idea?

My dear girl, Ellie.

Why am I listening to her?

The winter-dinner doldrums are hitting hard and fast here in the Midwest.


Ketchup, anyone?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Writing to Remember

I'm writing today to remember. I want to remember a day where I actually thought about how wonderful it would be to homeschool. I could see it now...the freedom to combine my greatest loves...spending time with my kids, teaching, and controlling any situation that I can. I'm finding the more that Josh is in school, the more I still want to influence what he is learning, how it's presented to me, and who his friends are. I suppose this is only natural seeing that up until recently I was in charge of all of these things. Unfortunately, life and the passage of time has a funny way of reminding us that "this too shall change."

I find some of it liberating, though. The idea that, maybe, somebody, may not, absolutely, need me all. the. time. for Ahh.

Josh was home today on a "wellness" day. We had a jam-packed weekend filled with friends, family and several birthday cakes. Add that with a bad cold he's not been able to shake and I allowed my mommy heart override the teacher in me and kept him home. And as we sat at home today, resting, and playing some of the great games he recieved as gifts, I smiled. I loved that we could just sit there, no agenda, no place to be, just discovering patterns in cards, jumping at the "attack" of an Uno card and occasionally letting my mind wander about how time is passing so quickly (he's seven now, you know...I've been a mom for seven years now).

I've been a bit sad about not blogging lately. I read this post by Jenni recently and felt better, because she wrote exactly what I had been feeling. But still, although I knew that they would remember more that I was there, playing with them, keeping them fed and clean, I wanted to remember the details. The things that photos didn't catch, the things that my momma brain will quickly file under "remember later in a dream, or not at all."

So today was one of those days. It was great. It was relaxing. It warmed my heart on a cold day.

Although, I'm pretty positive in the next ten minutes the kids will remind me why I can't wait for them to go to's the ebb and flow of life with kids. Yep, I think I hear screaming now...