Friday, October 31, 2014

Quick Take Friday: Goofy Wedding Shots Edition

Quick Take Friday!  I'm sharing those silly pics from the wedding that I promised on Wednesday!  Have a fun Halloween and a Happy Birthday, Pepere and my Aunt Carolyn!  

#1:  Strike a Pose

Mike and Sarah...making me think of a spy movie.  "My name is Bond, James Bond...."

#2:  Bust a Move
Luke and Brayden were dancing machines before anyone else even had dinner!  They had SO much fun.....

Jon was a multitasker himself that night and busted a move and the chandelier all at the same time!  Thankfully he was able to fix it!  

#3:  Joe Cool...aka Jon Cool
Some of my kids like to ham it up more than others. (Cough, cough...Jon!)  This occasion was no exception!
Me:  Look at me and take a nice picture with your father.

#4:  Silliness is Contagious
Sarah is goofiest around her brothers...#badinfluences!

#5:  The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree
And in case you were wondering where some of my children haven't gotten this "silliness" from, look no further.....Jay, Mike and Jon singing to Andrew.  Just because.....

More evidence.....

#6:  Photobombs
From all directions!
 #7:  More 'Strike a Pose"
Sarah and Mike

Silly....but very fun family memories!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

TBT: Halloween

This morning I had one of those rare moments of actually blow drying my hair.  (I had to...I was running late getting ready to go on a walking field trip with Luke and it was cold out this morning!)

Anyway, as I was blow drying my hair, Kate wandered into the bathroom so that I would blow air on her face and hair.  I immediately had a flashback to when the older boys were all little.  With only 3 kids, I used to blow dry my hair before church on Sunday all the time.  As soon as I would start the hair dryer, I would hear three pairs of feet race towards the bathroom!  They loved it when that warm air hit their faces!  They would all erupt in smiles and giggles....such a simple little thing that made them all happy!

Today's TBT picture is a Halloween pic of Mike, Andrew, and Jon from 1999.  It's amazing how something can feel so long ago and just like yesterday at the same time!

Mike was 6, Andrew was 4, and Jon was 3.  Jon was hamming it up even then with those big brown eyes!  I miss those days!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Here Comes the Bride....

I know I said on Monday that I would continue with the wedding stories and pics on Tuesday, but the day just got away from me!  This week's calendar is just as busy as last weeks' schedule, and I'm trying to play catch up with paperwork, laundry, dishes, and especially sleep!

Even though today is another busy day, I've got a short bit of time to share a little more of the exciting wedding weekend!

Saturday morning started bright and early!  Sarah, Ellie and I had 8am hair appointments to get to.  Up-do's were the bride's request so that's what we did!

After our hair was done, I ran home to finish putting together everything we all needed for the day!  That was a task because I had to consider that we would be gone all day, weather would get chillier as the day went on, and the little kids would need pajamas and some "just in case" clothes!  The girls and I were doing our make-up and getting into our dresses at my sister-in-law's house, so I had to remember all of that, too!  Plus, I had to remind Jay(multiple times) what time to feed everyone, get everyone dressed, leave for the church, etc.!

Multi-tasking mania, I tell ya!

It was exciting getting to my sil's where everyone was in some stage of getting ready.  Hair was being done, make-up being applied....our own "Big Fat Greek Wedding" moment!  Julie's almost sil, Courtney,  had gotten champagne glasses for all of the bridesmaids of age and the bride, so mimosas were poured.  Jay's mom had made a fruit bowl, quiches, and coffee cake and I brought apple stuffed french toast with homemade caramel we all ate a good brunch.

More importantly, Julie was beaming!  She was so excited and happy and she looked beautiful!:)
When she came down in her wedding dress, we all 'ooh'd' and 'aah'd and her smile couldn't have been any bigger!
The beautiful bride

me and my girls

Julie with a very fancy Luke and my niece Mya, the flowergirl

Jay and his mom

My sil Jackie with Mya

In the limo leaving for the church
The wedding itself was wonderful.  Tom and Julie both looked so happy!  The "I do's" were exchanged and the groom kissed his bride!  It was a very happy moment!

While the bride and groom were congratulated by their guests, we had some time before leaving for pictures.  I brought my good camera and was hoping(fingers crossed, prayers said!) to get a family picture that was Christmas card worthy since we were all dressed up for the day!  My dad took about 30 pictures and at least a couple were really good!(Everyone looked and smiled...except Luke, who wasn't looking at the camera for any of them! I have no idea what the heck he is looking at!)

Here's a sneak peek.....
Probably the winner! 9 out of 10 looking isn't bad!

Everyone except Ellie is getting tired of smiling!

What is Luke looking at!?!

Yeah...everyone is done...but Ellie is still smiling!(And Luke is still a spaz!)

...and the ranks are broken...Pandemonium ensued! lol
I was thrilled to get even one shot that could be used!  #familyshotsaretoughtoget!

I got some really nice family shots at the reception....(I got lots of goofy ones, too!  I will share those on Friday!)
Andrew and Sarah

Jackie and Julie

A nice shot of my parents

Mike and Jon

Mike, Sarah and Jon

Jay and the boys with his sisters

A couple shot:)

Jay swinging my mom around the dance floor with her new knee!

Julie with her 93 year old grandfather

In Julie's words..."Those grandpa hugs have always been like gold....
invaluable and you have to take advantage of them when you can;)
I love him more than he knows....."
Priceless moments for sure!

Grandpa with 4 of his granddaughters and 2 of his great-granddaughters!

Can you stand this disheveled cuteness!
Luke was a dancing machine!

Julie and Tom...(I got at least one shot of the groom!)

Congratulations, Julie and Tom!  We are so happy for you!  
Love you both:)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Get Ready, Get Set, WEDDING!:)

What an exciting weekend!  Wedding prep, our anniversary, rehearsal dinner, the wedding, pictures, reception....just, WOW!  I think it's going to take a few days to catch up on sleep after so much excitement!  (But it was totally worth it!:)

There was so much that happened in such a short amount of time!  It took me quite a while just to go through all the photos I took and edit them.  I need to learn more about my camera because some of the pics were off bc of the different lighting.:(  I guess I will add another item on my to-do list!

I'm thinking that there is just waaaaay too much to share for one post.  I will spread it out over the it will add to the suspense!;)

(In case you missed it, last week I did several special posts leading up to the wedding.  If you want to catch up, you can find them here:  All Things BridalTil Death Do Us PartOn Seasons and ChangeFor Better or For Worse, and a special Anniversary tribute to my hubby!:)

Thursday was the start of the wedding prep....girl time and nail appointments for the bride to be(my sil, Julie), the matron of honor(my sil, Jackie), and me.  It was a lot of fun getting to relax in the salon and be pampered!
Julie has the french manicure, Jackie the neutral color, and I got the wine color

Friday was an incredibly busy, yet special, day!  Not only was it the rehearsal dinner, but it was also our 22nd wedding anniversary!  Jay took the day off so that we could spend part of the day together.  We got to start the day off at Mass, then breakfast.  We had Kate with us, too...
She had pancakes in case you were wondering!?!
Sorry, I didn't realize she still had a mouthful when I took the pic!
Since I still had to get some things to get for the wedding, Jay and I spent some time together at the mall(so I could get some make-up and the rest of the wedding gift) and at the grocery store!  Such a romantic couple, aren't we!?!

At least I got a pro to do my make-up!
Luke's pre-k class was having a Halloween parade Friday afternoon, so we stopped by school on the way home...

Luke is Optimus Prime!

Luke and his friend, Josh.  As his mom, Laura, said....
Optimii Prime:)

After the parade we went home for a short while.  Then, I went to Sarah's volleyball game half-an-hour late because I wrote down the wrong time! Ugh!  (There goes my mother-of-the-year-award again!)

By the time we got home, it was time to get ready for the wedding rehearsal.  It went really well.  Julie and Tom looked so happy.  We had a grown up night hanging out with Jay's family and eating good food.  #notabadwaytospendouranniversary!

It's funny how life works sometimes!  It's was strange to think that we have been married 22 years(!) on the eve of my sister-in-law's wedding!  Jay and Julie are only 4 years apart....but we got married really young and it took Julie a while to find "Mr. Right".  

We are so glad that Julie found Tom...and Tom found Julie.  They truly complement each other.  Tom is a great guy and very family oriented!  Everyone left the restaurant on Friday night looking forward to Saturday's wedding...

.....and hopefully you will be looking forward to more pictures and stories tomorrow!:)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Quick Take Friday: Happy Anniversary Edition!

Happy Friday!  

One more day until my sister-in-law, Julie's, wedding!  In honor of her wedding, and our anniversary, I have dubbed this week "All Things Bridal"!  I've shared about bridesmaid dresses and weight loss, reflections brought up over America's longest married couple, the changing seasons of marriage, reflections on 'For Better or For Worse', and a special TBT picture!  It's been a fun and full week!

Today is extra special because it is our 22nd wedding anniversary!  Jay took the day off so we could spend some time together before the rehearsal tonight.  The hope is to start the day off with Mass so we can thank God for the last 22 years...then breakfast out.  After that, our couple time will consist of groceries, errands, and a costume parade with Luke's class!  We're romantic like that!;)

I've been praying for some inspiration to write Jay a special anniversary post.  A few things have been simmering in my head that I'm hoping will ladle out coherently as I type!  One never knows!:)

Jay always chides me for calling him 'my better half', but he truly is.  There are so many character traits that make him a great husband and a great dad.  Since this is 'Quick Take Friday', I thought I would share some of my favorite memories and thoughts of my husband.

Sorry in advance if some of them aren't really "quick"!

#1:  Love is Patient....
My husband is an incredibly patient man.  Patience is not my strong suit!  Jay can definitely remain calmer than I can in the midst of everyday chaos much more effectively that I can.  When things get topsy/turvy around here, I look to Jay to remind me that everything is going to be ok and "This too shall pass."

#2:  Love is Kind....
This is an easy one!  Jay is a very kind person.  He genuinely cares about people and wants to help them.  He is a physical therapist in his day job who has always been drawn to work with the elderly population.  He treats them with gentleness and respect.  He doesn't rush and he listens to them as they share stories from their past.  He loves being able to help people get back their confidence and independence after illness or surgery.  

We see that kindness, too.  I'm pretty sure I've shared this memory at some point before, but a special moment that springs to mind was the first ultrasound I had when I was pregnant with Mike.  I was 16 weeks and it was the first ultrasound either of us had ever been to.  I remember seeing a baby so little and perfect looking....and he looked like he was using my uterus as a trampoline.  We were in this tiny little room and Jay was at the end of the bed I was on.  He was so excited but the only thing he could really touch were my feet.  So he stood there rubbing my shoes with a giant grin on his face!  (It's such a vivid memory I even remember the shoes!  Bass hush puppies...totally in style during the early 90's!)

When the older kids were little I had an 8x10 frame on the wall for each of them with their hospital picture and a few other snapshots.  I need to find what I did with them because there was a picture in Sarah's frame that spoke a thousand words.....  

In the picture, Sarah is dressed in her pink coming home outfit and laying in the hospital bassinet.  I got a picture of Jay leaning over kissing her cheek.  His eyes are closed and the look of peace and joy on his face just jumped right out at you.  He was so in love with his brand new baby girl!(and he still is;)

When Luke was born, we had gone 6 years without a baby.  In comparison, we had 7 children in the first 10 years of our marriage so 6 years really was a long time.  We had thought our family was complete...but God had other plans....  

Luke's labor was my first medicated one. (So.much.easier!) I looked up at Jay as they put Luke on my chest and he had tears in his eyes.  My doctor...who was awesome...looked at Jay and said quietly, "It never gets old, does it?"  Jay just answered back quietly, " it doesn't." as he gazed at his new little son with such obvious love. 

#3:  Love is Not Envious or Boastful or Arrogant or Rude
Jay is very humble.  Another special moment was Michael's first bath.  Mike was 24 hours old and we were still in the hospital.  The nurse said we could give him a bath and Jay asked if he could do it.  We were young and he had zero experience with babies, but Jay was so enthralled with his son that he wanted to be a part of everything!  Even though he had no idea what he was doing, Jay jumped in with both feet and never looked back! 

Jay is a diaper-changing, dish washing, take care of whatever you need help with kind of husband.  He never complained if I left the stomach bug clean ups for him when the boys were little, or when the sneaker covered in dog poop greets him on the steps by the front door, or any number of gross tasks he let me dub as "dad jobs" over the years!  

#4:  It Does Not Insist On Its Own Way
Jay is the most selfless man I know.  He works incredibly hard to provide for his family;  financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  He works like a maniac to get through his work day so that he can show up to every.single.home game and many away games for all of the kids.  He drops kids off, picks kids up, all without complaining.  He frequently inconveniences himself so that he can help me with a schedule jam!  

With lots of kids comes lots of demands.  When he finally gets a chance to sit after a long day or chill on a Sunday afternoon, the requests start pouring in.  "Daddy, play legos with me."  "Dad, can we play basketball?"  "Dad, can we throw the football around?"  "Dad, can you fix this?" "Dad, can you help me with my volleyball serve?  etc., etc.!  I see on his face how much he would love to just relax, but he always gets up and plays, fixes, and helps time and time again!

#5:  It is Not Irritable or Resentful
Jay is not either of these...and he often has good reason to be.  With all of the demands on his time and attention, life is often completely exhausting.  With a big family, a full time job and a per diem job, Jay has lots of people pulling him in different directions!  

I have to say that this verse most makes me think of Jay's relationship with Peter.  Peter is severely autistic and can be quite challenging when we are out and about.  Jay has always been the one to really take over with Peter to make sure he is safe.  This is no easy task!  Peter is very talented at pressing our buttons, too.  Peter goes through phases of repeating things over and over or making different sounds or getting in your personal space just because he knows it drives us crazy.  Peter pulls on your arms as you walk if there's something he wants to see, without telling you he wants to go in a different direction!  Jay takes it all in stride and, because of his patience and love, Peter can join in many of our family outings and be part of the memory.

#6:  It Does Not Rejoice in Wrongdoing, But Rejoices in the Truth
I wasn't quite sure how to approach this one so I'm going to blame it on sleep deprivation!  Here's my take...
Jay has a deep faith that he loves to share with his family.  Sarah and Jon especially like to get Jay started on his favorite subject...JPII...and watch him get all animated and passionate as he talks!

Most of our older kids are very grounded spiritually...and that's mostly because of Jay!  Even the one that struggles a little has all the seeds planted and we're just waiting for God to do the growing:)

#7:  It Bears All Things, Believes All Things, 
Hopes All Things, Endures All Things
No matter what happens, we are a team.  Jay and I balance each other out.  When I'm overwhelmed, he steps in and helps.  When he's overwhelmed, I encourage him and remind him what's important and worth our focus.  When we struggle with a stage one of the kids is going through, we tag team.  Kind of like wrestlers in a ring...."Had enough...tag my hand!"  And we work together until the struggle is over.  

Marriage is not always roses and chocolates, but I am blessed to have Jay as my better half!

Happy Anniversary!  Love you:)

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.(1Corinthians 13)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throw Back Thursday and busy, busy, busy!

Two more days!!!!!  I'm so excited for my sil as All Things Bridal week continues!
Image result for bridal cartoon pictures

This week has been chock full of all our regular commitments and the extra things that need to be done/thought out so our family will be ready for the wedding!

Last night was the second meeting of the Momnipotent book study I'm running at Luke and Kate's school.  I think it went really well!  The topics and conversations have been really inspiring...and spending time with other women sans kids is a great break!

On the agenda this morning is playing catch-up with laundry and dishes and, hopefully, prepping dinner!  I also need to make a grocery list to pickup the items I need for the weekend!  After lunch, I have an appointment with both my sister-in-laws to get mani/pedi's for the big day!  A little bit of girl time and another item crossed off the list! 

Later on this afternoon will be a haze of volleyball pick-up, basketball drop-off, dinner, basketball pick-up, and doing the paychecks for my parents business!  Whew!  Not a lot of breathing room!

Tomorrow will be even crazier!  Jay took the day off for our anniversary so we can spend at least part of the day together.  Hopefully, the day will start off with Mass to give God thanks for each other!  Then we plan to go out for breakfast together with Kate in tow!  Part of our together time will include grocery shopping and a trip to the mall because I'm running low on foundation.(so romantic, huh!?!)  Then Luke's pre-K class has a costume parade at 1, Sarah has a volleyball game at 3:30, and we have to be at the church at 6 for the rehearsal!  At least we will be together most of the day.  I'm hoping in the next couple weeks he can take a Monday off when my parents can help with the kids for the day and we can have a real "date day"!

Anyway....let's just chalk it up to say we are busy!  Since my earlier posts in the week were a little, umm, wordy...I thought a short, sweet post was just what was needed for today!  

Without further ado....Throw Back Thursday, Wedding Style!  It's hard to believe that 22 years ago today we were getting ready for our own rehearsal dinner!  Honestly, the whole wedding went by in a whirlwind!  It's amazing how much planning and prep goes into a day that goes by with a blink....but it certainly was one of the most special day of our lives!

...and i'm off to tackle my giant to-do list!  Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

For Better or For Worse

Only three more days until my sister-in-law's wedding!  So much excitement just around the corner!  Julie's upcoming wedding, and our upcoming anniversary, (only 2 more days until that!), inspired me to create my own All Things Bridal week!
  Image result for bridal cartoon pictures

This was not a well-thought out, planned ahead theme week!  It was a spur of the moment, #thatsoundslikeagoodideainmyhead, kind of week.  Each night I go to bed thinking, "I have no idea what to write about tomorrow" and I pray for inspiration.

Each day, that inspiration has shown up in some form!  On Monday, inspiration showed up on my Facebook Feed as a picture of the longest married couple in America.  On Tuesday, inspiration came from the changing season right outside my window.  

Today, I feel like the dreary, rainy weather has pushed my thoughts toward a subject that is a hard part of marriage:  Suffering.

I don't know about you, but speaking the line "For better or for worse" sparked a little fear in my heart.  I think the majority of marriages are a blissful high of happiness and hope.  The brand new married couple holds all the opportunities for the future right in their grasp.  There are many, many happy times but, at some point in every marriage, the other side of life shows up for a season.

Getting married very young had it's own struggles as Jay and I started out our married life.  We had to figure out how to be adults and parents all at the same time.  College, working part time, 3 babies in 3 years, and grad school for Jay made our first 6 years of marriage go by in a whirlwind.  The order in which we did things made life more challenging then it could have been, but somehow, God worked it all out!

Then came 1998.  

That was the year Jay was finishing up graduate school with an MS in physical therapy.  June was graduation and we were hopeful a real job would follow!  Finally, after years of hard work and help from our families we would be financially independent and moving on in our grown-up lives!  

Mike started pre-school in the Fall of 1997, so our days in 1998 started to take on a little more order and consistency.  With an almost 3 year old and an almost 2 year old at home, things were a little easier.  And I was pregnant...with our first daughter!  The future we dreamed of was almost ready to start.....

....or so we thought.

In 1998, the last semester of Jay's program was made up of 3 clinicals.  His first placement was a nightmare.  The woman PT and her supervisor had an obvious issue with men and made his life miserable.  Jay was working incredibly hard...studying for hours after he got home, working on no sleep, talking with his school adviser for advice...trying to make these women happy.  They mocked him and he could never do enough in their eyes.  

To put things in perspective, Jay was probably the valedictorian of his class at the time.  The school sent another student into the same clinical the next rotation, (but this time a girl), with the warning, "You need to watch out.  This is going to be a very bad situation."   

In the end, his grad school didn't back him up and the clinical was ended early, had to be repeated at another location, and Jay was not able to graduate with his class.  It was devastating to destroyed his confidence and took the joy out of finishing his degree.

That was February.

In March, I started having problems with my pregnancy.  The baby wasn't growing properly.  Ultrasounds revealed the baby had a kidney growing in the wrong place and was small, but nothing else was detected.  I was told to stop working and get more rest.

In early May, when Jay should have graduated but was starting his last clinical, I was put on total bed rest.  On May 19th, my doctor induced me because of low fluid levels and Therese Elizabeth was born at 35 weeks weighing only 3lbs. 11oz.  The 16 days that followed were some of the most difficult of our marriage.  On June 5th at 2:15am, Jay and I held her as she took her last breath.

What looked like smooth sailing turned into a hurricane in the blink of an eye.  How did 1998 finish?  Jay graduated in August without fanfare or a graduation ceremony, I found out I was pregnant towards the end of September, and Jay received an offer for a full time job the very next day.  

The year ended well, but we were changed forever as individuals and as a couple.  We grieved in different ways, but thankfully we stayed close to each other despite how broken we felt.  It took many years for me to work through my grief and brokenness.

After struggling with depression for several years because of un-dealt with grief, I finally reached out and got the therapy I needed.  That was mid 2002 to early 2003...when Ellen joined our family.  

Again, just as things started to feel like a new beginning, Peter was diagnosed with Autism in October, 2003.  Our world took another ginormous turn!  The first year with a diagnosis was exhausting....we were searching for that magic bullet to "fix" Peter.  It took a while, but we realized it wasn't healthy that Peter was getting 95% of our focus and the other 5 kids only 5%.  Despite help from my parents, we were racking up credit card debt and everything was out of balance.  

We started to try and live a more balanced life..with our family and our finances.  We stopped looking for new treatments for Peter and tried to focus on the things we were trying.  We prayed that if there was something that would help Peter, that God would put it in our path.  We had to let go...and trust.  Not easy!

Life with a severely disabled child is a constant struggle.  Especially when Peter was younger and needed to be watched a literal 24 hours a day because he was impulsive and a wanderer.  Peter also had severe sleep issues and was up at least 3-4 nights a week for 2-4 hours at a time wide awake when one of us would have to lay with him to keep him from waking up the rest of the house.  The situation was beyond hard!    I tried to go to support groups but they depressed me because it seemed they were filled with parents separating and divorcing or children on high levels of multiple psych meds.  I always left crying and discouraged...not very supportive!

I read an article not too long ago that talked about how parents of autistic children have similar symptoms to soldiers with PTSD.  Well, I believe it!

2010 was another difficult year for our family.  Jay became severely overheated in a 10K and almost died in July.  Jay's sister, Jackie, went into early labor and our niece, Mya, was born at 23 weeks 6 days on August 21st.  Then, at the end of the year, Jay's dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  There was a lot of stress and worry about what the future would hold.  Thanks be to God, Jay recovered completely after several weeks of pain, Mya is a 100% normal 3 year old, and Jay's dad's surgery and treatment was successful.  

My point of all this is to say that difficult times will come.  Those difficulties can make us stronger....or tear us apart.  Thankfully, what Jay and I have struggled with has made our marriage and our faith stronger.  That in no way means any of these moments were easy!  We made many mistakes along the way.  But, we are still together.

Now that time has passed, we can look back at our family struggles and see all the good that came out of very painful situations!  God is still bringing good out of those painful situations when He allows us to comfort and share our experiences with other people that are suffering through something similar.  Seeing God's faithfulness to help us through trying times, (even when we were kicking and screaming!), will be a comfort to us if/when hard times come up in the future.

My hope leans heavily on the "if".......

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On Seasons and Change

"All Things Bridal" continues!

The leaves are in their full glory in our neck of the woods.  My favorite are the bright orange leaves!

It's great to drive and see the beautiful colors lining the sides of the road this time of year.  
Fall is my favorite!  

The change of seasons is one of the best perks of living in New England.  Weather changes around here in the blink of an eye.  "If you don't like the weather, just wait 15 minutes", is one of the sayings you hear often in our neck of the woods!  Of course, it's not a literal 15 minutes...and almost every year winter cold overstays its welcome!  But, just when you think you will never again remember what it feels like to be warmed by the sun, Spring arrives to give us hope and wake up the sleeping beauty from its winter rest.

Marriage goes through different seasons, too.  

There's the first season of newness and discovery.  Blissful on one hand, (with eyes for only each other), and challenging on the other, (If he leaves that wet towel on the floor one more time....).  Then, two become three and the exciting and scary ride of parenthood begins.  The wonder and miracle of the tiny life entrusted to you mixed with the physical challenges of pregnancy, childbirth, and lots of sleep deprivation change a husband and wife relationship like no other!

If baby #2 is in God's plan....(or 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 &9!!!)....more changes and challenges enter the picture!  

When we had 3 little boys in 3 years, we didn't get out much!  But the little boys had early bedtimes, so our quiet time came when they went to bed.  There were "date nights in" with take-out pizza or homemade fajitas eaten while watching a movie or a tv show we followed.  Some un-interrupted talking happened until we inevitably fell asleep on the couch together!

As the kids got older, and multiplied(!), it got busier.  Little league baseball invaded our lives first.  Much of summer was a sea of practices and games.  Some years were easier because the boys were on the same team...but then Jay started coaching and it got harder in new ways!    While Jay was on the field directing kids, I was off the field herding 3 little ones and trying to watch my older sons play!  

Basketball eventually seeped in our lives, too.  We were a one sport family for a long time just because I couldn't deal with the insanity of sports schedules over multiple seasons.  When your sons start to approach the 6 foot mark, coaches start to take notice!  So our lives as basketball parents began...but Jay promised no more coaching!  

As the boys reached high school age, things became a little easier because their practices were after school so we only had to pick them up.  Most of the time there were other parents from the area who we could carpool with.  Getting to games together didn't happen often.  Peter couldn't handle sitting still that long...and still can' Jay and I usually take turns going to games unless we can get an occasional babysitter.  (Then it's a date night!)

Of course, when you get a bonus baby or two, it makes life a little extra crazy!  Starting over after you haven't done diapers or nursing or bottles for several years is overwhelming and exciting.  It was such a blessing to have Luke...and then Kate.  They changed our family forever....and brought everyone closer together.

Having teenagers and toddlers at the same time is challenging!  The teenagers want to stay out late and the little ones wake up at night.  The older kids' worlds are getting bigger and having little ones makes our world smaller.  Trying to make it all work can be hard.  We tend to do a lot of splitting of tasks.  Up to now, Jay has gone with the older kids the majority of the time and I have stayed with the littles.  Now that Kate is almost three, that will be starting to change.

Unlike when the boys were little and all went to bed early, our older kids stay up later than us most nights.  That makes together time a challenge!  The upside of having older kids is that we can get the occasional date night in a little easier!

For many years, our anniversary dinners included a nursing baby as a tag-a-long guest!  Our 20th Anniversary 2 years ago was no exception.....

Oh my goodness, I love that sweet little face!  She got so big so fast!
Now we are in the midst of a season of young adults on the verge of moving up and out.  It is a bittersweet season.  It helps us to appreciate the time with the little ones more....because we know how fast it goes by! 

When we said our "I do's" almost 22 years ago, we never would have expected all that has been a part of our marriage.  There has been lots of great times, but there have been some really hard times, too:  Getting married young, getting through college, having a difficult pregnancy, having a child live only 16 days, having a child diagnosed with severe Autism....those have been major hurdles.  Through God's grace, our families, good friends, and a little therapy, those challenges have brought us closer together.  

We certainly aren't the perfect couple, but we are perfect for each other...through every season:)