Monday, December 21, 2015

In the Moment

Peter's class had a little Holiday Open House today.

Peter is part of a local collaborative and his classroom is in a high school just a couple of towns over from where we live. Peter has Autism and is not able to be in a regular classroom. Because we live in a small town that doesn't have a program for kids like Peter, we get to choose one of the local Collaborative programs that services the small towns in the area.

Peter just transferred into his new classroom in early November. He had been in a collaborative classroom in a local middle school prior to that, but all of the other kids had "aged out". So, when he started the year, Peter was alone. It really bothered me and I spent lots of time communicating with his teacher and the person in charge of the program. They were trying to plug Peter into more activities with other "neurotypical" kids to give him opportunities for socialization...but it still didn't feel right. All that kept popping in my head was, "It is not good that man should be alone."

After speaking with our SPED Director, we decided that switching classrooms and schools would be best for Peter. It was the best decision for him and is thriving in his new program! :)

Peter's class has 8 kids in it, including him. They have one main teacher and three aids. There are also various therapists that come in and out over the day. They also have neurotypical students from the high school that are part of a program that come in different periods each day to work and play with Peter and his class mates. (This is by far my FAVORITE part of this program! Peter even calls one of the student helpers his "girl friend"! lol I love that Peter has role models and I love that the role models are getting exposure to kids with disabilities. The level of acceptance and kindness is incredible when neurotypical kids...sorry, I hate the word "normal"...spend time with kids with disabilities. There is no fear or awkwardness...they accept kids like Peter for who they are. Neurotypical kids that have spent time with special needs peers see beyond their limitations...the lack of eye contact, the lack of speech, the weird noises...and they connect with them on whatever level they are able to.

It's a blessing to everyone!

I signed up for Dynamic Catholic's Best Lent Ever. Today's message happened to be on "Visiting the Sick". I didn't listen to it until I had already gotten home from visiting Peter's classroom....but it talked about being present when you spend time with people that are ill, and not just seeing the visit as something else checked off a list.

I know that for myself, this time of year is SO busy that it's a struggle for me to stay in the moment and just enjoy whatever activity I'm on! It's something I have to work at all.the.time!

I enjoyed my visit to Peter's classroom. My Dad, Mom, Kate and our buddy, Declan came, too. I think Peter was happy that we were there. His teacher said he spent much of the morning looking for us outside the window. He came right over to us when we got there. Of course, the whole time we were there he played on the Ipad or walked around the room. The questions we asked him received minimal answers. I had made the pasta dish that he likes before we left to see him so he could share it with the class. He hadn't taken a bite, yet, from what I put on his plate before we left.  He was more interested in the mashed potatoes and pears that I had packed in the morning from home!

I got to meet a couple of other moms and I got a chance to talk to his teachers and speech therapist a little. I enjoyed spending time with Peter's classmates. Some were more withdrawn and just did their own thing like Peter. A couple were more talkative. One young man in particular, Ben, came right over, introduced himself and shook hands, and enjoyed watching Kate and Declan check out the giant exercise balls in the room. Ben was a BOSS with a rubics cube!! He would mess it all up and then solve all the sides perfectly in just a couple of minutes! I am SO impressed!

As a mom....we give and give and give and give until we have nothing left...then we somehow manage to squeeze just a little more give out! SO many times we give without much in return. I think this is true with any child...but especially with a special needs child. There are so few things that cause Peter to have a reaction that shows pure joy...(aka one of the ways that makes me feel like a success as a mom!) But that doesn't mean that I don't keep trying! His happiness might not be the same happiness that our other kids have....but that's ok. Just as long as he's happy! :)
Kate and Peter enjoying lunch at the Holiday Party!
Note that Peter is eating his potatoes...not pasta!

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Evolution of the Christmas Card!

I've written dozens of blog posts in my head that never made it to my blog space! So many times I have thought of how much I miss this space...yet, life and the lack of hours in a day, always managed to get in the way.

There's so much I haven't shared...haven't chronicled for my own kids. It just felt overwhelming!

But I've missed this space! I can't promise it will be consistent...but I will certainly try to just jump back in!

What was the catalyst to begin blogging again? 

Well...I FINALLY got around to ordering Christmas Cards today! And, unlike last year, all of the kids are in the picture! At least I hope so! I don't pick them up until Saturday, but I paid VERY close attention and counted to 8 multiple times to be sure! (Jon was closer to the middle this year, so if someone gets cut off it won't be him!)

I took over 20 shots and I had 3 to choose from! With our crew, you know none of them would be perfect! (And they lived up to the expectation!) And I'm ok with that! :)

Since it's 7 Quick Takes Friday, I'm going to share our "Not Top 7". Pay close attention to Luke's face! I laughed so hard I cried! (literally...Jon came in to make sure I was ok! In his words, "I thought someone died.")

 Then I showed him the pics and he laughed out loud, too!)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame perhaps?!?

Can you see who Luke reminds us of?!? He's a LOT like one of his big brothers!
(cough, cough...Jon!)

Note: Kate is just super cute throughout the "photo shoot" sitting in that tree! 
Ellie is always smiling. 
Mike has his "too cool for school" face on...maybe I' should cut him out of the photo on purpose this year! ;)
Andrew has the same "grumpy cat" face in every.single.pic! 
And Peter was just not interested in any way what so ever! 

Oh, well! 8 kids later and I'm happy that most of them look good!

Here's the winner:

Have a great weekend! :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

It's October!!!

It's October!!!

October is my favorite month of the year! I love the cooler weather, football Sundays, apple picking, apple pies, apple crisps, cooking in the oven(there's a homemade chicken pie cooking as I type), wearing sweatshirts, the changing leaves, apple cider....I could go on and on!

October is the month of our Anniversary! 23 years on the 24th!

October is also a month filled with some power house saints! There's no waiting, either! Right from the get go, October arrives ushering in the littlest power house of a saint, St. Therese of Lisieux!

I love the Little Way of St. Therese.  She's a saint that everyone can emulate because she spent her life focusing on doing little things with great love.  Those "little things" are really hard to do well! A hundred times a day I have opportunities to do little things with great love! Yet, so often, I totally miss the chance!

St. Therese has popped into our lives in special ways over the years. I read a random prayer to St. Therese while dusting in the late summer of 1997. In late September, early October, a dead rose bush in our yard started to bloom and produced lots of roses! We named our first daughter, conceived by the doctor's calculation on October 1st of that year, Therese Elizabeth. During our Therese's short life, God was very present in so many ways. One of the moments that has stuck out the most was the gift of a single rose that our next door elderly neighbor brought over the day we brought our daughter home from the hospital. It was the most beautiful rose I have ever seen. It bloomed fully and perfectly, as did our daughter, when God brought our Therese home to Himself at 2 am the next morning.      

Not a pic of our rose...but it was orange and beautiful like the one in this pic!

More recently, St. Therese has been on my heart after finding a book in Adoration. It's a mini retreat book that focuses on how God's love poured into St. Therese and how she returned His love so perfectly, that the love spills over as grace for the world. 

Another "St. Therese Moment" for me started with a question from a very good friend's conversation with my Sarah. Sarah asked me, "Mom, what's the area that is the focus of your mothering?" It took me a little while, but when I really pondered the question, the answer was, "Love. Trying to make sure that each of you feels loved as much as I can. Even in the little things."

By little things I mean: buying someone's favorite treat because it catches my eye at the store. Cooking someone's favorite meal. Creating a menu every week that includes at least a couple of meals I know that my pickiest eater will like...and making extra so he has leftovers. Spending time listening to my older kids late at night when I'd rather just go to bed. Giving thanks that I seem to always be the one that gets to change an empty toilet paper roll. Always looking for God's inspiration to make any of them(and all of them) feel special. 

I think that's why I love St. Therese's little way! I'm just a mom, but all the little things that I do in love can do big things! 

Another friend from our parish sent out a link to a St. Therese Novena last week. I'm not usually good at doing novenas...and I'm a day behind because I forgot one day. But over the course of the novena, all of the things that I've prayed for have had either answers or opened a path for the next step I need to take. Thank you, St. Therese!  

I put on my Jamberry Nails with a rose design today to honor St. Therese and our little Therese, too!
The flowers were a surprise from Jay last week, "Just because"! :)

Happy October!

Friday, September 18, 2015

What's on My Mind....

Linking up with 7 Quick Takes today....and trying to un-jumble the messy head I can't seem to keep myself out of!

#1: Missing Ring

This week I lost my wedding band!! :( The ONLY time I ever take off my wedding/engagement rings is when I make meatballs!  (Well....I also had to take them off during a couple of my pregnancies bc my fingers got too fat. But that isn't relative right now!)

So, on Tuesday afternoon, I was making meatballs. I hate when raw meat that I've got all over my hands gets around my rings and in the stones of my engagement ring. I mean, it's gross, and hard to clean, and I feel like I won't wash it all off well enough and have raw meat germs on my rings, (and fingers)! And, yes, my family will tell you that I have an issue with raw meat....don't even bring up raw chicken!

I didn't even remember taking off my rings, but I'm sleep deprived and dealing with some perimenopause memory loss(see below)! After I finished the meatballs and washed my hands(a couple of times), I reached in my pocket and the only ring in there was my engagement ring?!? What-the-what?!? Well, I looked all over! Swept the floor, peeked under the stove, watched Jay go through the garbage(once I got up the courage to tell him I lost it!).....and the meatballs have all been eaten now so it wasn't hiding in there! So far, my prayers to St. Anthony have gone unanswered!  I'm hoping it's in some stupid place....since I don't even remember taking it off!

Jay and I got married young and we had no money, so it's just a plain gold, "what's the cheapest band you sell", kind of ring. (I wish we had gone with silver, but gold was the "in thing" back in the early 90's!) Jay was concerned at first because I might go out in the world and appear to be single! Thankfully, I still have my engagement ring...which we actually bought many years later at some point when we had a little Jay can rest easy!(bc, you know, there are LOTS of singles ads that read "single male seeking relationship with single woman that has a boatload of children!)

Replacing the "what's the cheapest wedding band you have" ring will cost about $400!!! Yikes...23 years of inflation is a beast! I'm not going to do that....we'll just wait until a big anniversary and get a special wedding band!(hint, hint, Jay)

(and I'll keep praying to St. Anthony..that ring is around here somewhere!)

#2: World Youth Day
World Youth Day will be in Poland in August of next year. Sarah's high school just announced that they are putting together a group to go....and guess who wants to sign up?!? I have VERY mixed feelings about it! I know it would be an incredible experience to be around so many youth that love their faith...and Pope Francis! Jay is 1/2 Polish and has an obsession with St. Pope JPII, so that makes a trip to Poland even that much more special!'s going to cost about $5000!!! We have to figure out fundraisers on our own and only have 6 months to raise the money! Then there's the issue that it's in....Poland....and that we would be sending our (by then) 17 yo daughter overseas to hang out with millions of strangers all bombarding a country where we know no one. The "what if's" of my fearful mama heart can get a little loud...."What if she gets sick", "What if someone hurts her?", "What if someone steals her things?", "What if she loses her passport?!", "What if some crazy people plan an attack?". She will be halfway around the world and we won't be there to protect her!

Fear vs possible experience of a lifetime...and the decision has to be made asap.

I like it better when they're little and the biggest decision is to order them vanilla ice cream or let them have the chocolate ice cream that will probably ruin the white shirt that they're wearing!
Not a white shirt...and she was eating chocolate chip pancakes, not ice cream...but you know what I mean! 

#3: Getting Older Part I
Since this is supposed to be 7 "Quick" takes and not 7 "long" takes...I need to move this along! Since I turned 40 fifteen months ago, the adjustment has not gone well! My kids are getting older, I'm getting older, and all of a sudden all the rules are changing! I'm trying to transfer gracefully from a mom with a (seemingly) constant stream of nursing babies and busy toddlers to a mom with less constant hands on parenting. It's not easy! If people ask, "What are your talents?", for the last 22 years the answer would be having babies and caring for young children!

While I knew those years wouldn't go on forever....even though many nights it seemed they might...I'm struggling to redefine myself. My focus and goals have been on helping my kids through all the various phases of childhood that I'm struggling to figure out how to make personal goals for my "second half of life"! Any tips would be appreciated!

#4: Getting Older Part Deux
This whole perimenopause/menopause thing does seem a little unfair. As if hormones don't wreak enough havoc in our lives during our child bearing years! I think I'll have to get Jay on of those books for men to understand exactly what's going on and how to be supportive. Is there a "What to Expect When You're (Peri)menopausing?

#5: Trying to Get Back My Game Day Groove
Fall is Football Sundays! I'm trying to get back into creating some special game time menus! The request for this week: Buffalo Chicken Wings and Mini Meatball Sliders. Now I have to find the recipes.....I SO need to get organized!

#6: Can We Please Start the Fall Weather
The kids are in's time for beach weather to go away! Bring on the 60's! I want to wear sweat shirts and enjoy putting the oven on again! p.s. Fall weather is welcome to stay until April.  There is no need to send Winter this year! Thank-you.

#7: Happy Weekend!
(At least this one was quick!) :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

New School Year Update!

I seriously don't know how time passes so quickly!  I have written so many blog posts in my head that I'm shocked that it's been so long that I've actually gotten anything on my blog!!!

The last 2 weeks of August and the first 2 weeks of September always go by in a blur! Most of my kids are in school....with the exception of my youngest, who is home with me for just one.more.year, and my oldest, who graduated in May. Although Mike hasn't found a full time position, middle/high school history teaching positions are hard to find(!), he is subbing a lot. (So, technically he's in school, too! :)

Andrew is a Junior at UMass Dartmouth! He is majoring in computer science. (Which is good, because now I will have someone to fix my computer when it doesn't work!)
Andrew doesn't "do" pictures-he claims college is "too old" to take 1st day of school pics.
His "mugshot" pose is his form of protest!
My posting this pic is my form of revenge encouragement to smile in the future!

Jon is a Sophomore at UMass Dartmouth. He is majoring in Mechanical Engineering. (I think his choice of major came from all those years of Lego building!)
Thankfully, Jon likes to smile! :)

Sarah is a Junior in high school! Seriously, I can't even believe it! Sarah is a BIG over achiever and has an academic year packed with 4 AP classes plus religion, spanish and a 1/2 year course of computer science. She just wants to learn about everything!
1st day as an upperclassman!

Peter is still in a self contained classroom at our local collaborative.  His start of the year has been a little crazy...all of the other kids have aged out of his classroom and his main teacher is out on maternity leave until Thanksgiving.  After lots of prayer and consideration,(the continual thought in my head was "It's not good that the man should be alone"), Jay and I decided to pursue moving him to a different program. This week we met with our town's new SPED director, which is always a little stressful. The meeting went great and she agreed with our concerns. We will be visiting a new potential classroom on Tuesday morning.
Peter being Peter

Life with Peter is ALWAYS an adventure!

Ellie is in 7th grade at St Francis. She is 1/2 an inch shorter than I am and is really growing up!
Ready to go! :)

Luke is in Kindergarten and doing really well!  He has transitioned great into full days....he loves having lunch at school!
Luke and his cousin, Brayden, waiting in the Kindergarten line! :)

Kate is home with me.  She is missing her playmates, so I have been playing more than my fair share of "dollies" with her.  Not my favorite, but I know next year, when she goes to half day preschool, I will be missing these moments!

Kate and I aren't alone all day.  We have our friend, Declan, that comes to play.(Since my babies are growing up, I need to bring some in from the outside! I don't want my skills to get rusty....eventually I'll have grandbabies! :)
Isn't he a cutie?!?

I'm getting used to everyone's schedules...although clubs are starting next week for Sarah and Ellie so I'll have some adjusting to do! All in all, the school transition has gone pretty well for just about everyone!

Monday, August 24, 2015

On Borrowed Time

I know the end of summer is trying for lots of moms. One of the best things about summer is that everything slows down and there's less of a set schedule.  By the end of summer, that lack of schedule and routine starts to get to everyone I think!

While I miss having a more set routine, I actually love having my kids around me. (OK...honest moment.  I love having all my kids home except Peter!  Peter is hard and I have a whole other post in my head about vacation time with special needs kids! Extended periods of time with Peter 24/7 is challenging.  I love him...but he burns me out.....)

For the rest of my kids....I love the opportunities that summer holds for long, lazy days of swimming and playing and spending time with them.  As summer draws to an end and a new school year is upon us it makes me cringe a little because, by the time summer time rolls around once again, all of my kids will be a year older and everything will change once again! And even though it seems as if each moment will last for ever, it truly doesn't! I have personal experience with that one since we have a college graduate who has recently moved out on his own!!!

This year in particular is a hard one for me.  Luke is going to full day kindergarten.  My baby boy is growing up and I know all too well how fast this next year will go by!  I know I'm on borrowed time!  The little boy, (that slept for the first time in his very own room on the TOP bunk all night long), came into my room this morning so proud of his independence and in the next breath asked me to snuggle.....that little boy is growing up! I'm on borrowed time! I'm still the center of Luke's life but it won't be like that forever.  I'm on borrowed time! I love the relationships that I have with my older sons, but there is no snuggling involved and I'm definitely not the center of their world anymore! (Nor would I want to be bc that would just be unhealthy and weird!) But I still miss the little boys they were!

Since I've had the experience of raising older children, I have appreciated the time I have with my littles so much more!  But it's still going by!

One of the books on Luke's Kindergarten reading list was The Kissing Hand.  We read it last night...and I was holding in tears by the end! It's hard to let your baby grow up!

Seven years ago, I sent Ellie to Kindergarten! She was the baby of our family(at the time) and was our sixth child to enter school.  I had no idea what to do with myself.  Being a stay at home mom with little children had defined my every waking moment for 15 years at that point in my life and in that one moment everything had changed and I felt SO lost!  I started working part time for my parents but I felt like I had no purpose. (I seems melodramatic but it was a huge life change and it was how I felt!) It got better over time. Between late August and early December, I went from feeling like I had no purpose and was just waiting to die to finding a rhythm I enjoyed that included getting to talk to grown-ups in my job, having a little free time to myself to shop and clean, and volunteering at school.

Then, just when I adjusted to my "new" life....I found out I was pregnant with Luke!  God totally has a sense of humor!

Next year, Kate will go to half day pre-school! Knowing this is my last year with her home with me full time is VERY bittersweet!  I'm close to entering another moment in life that will re-define me! I'm on borrowed time! It's really not easy. (Not to mention that next year, Andrew will be a senior in college, Sarah will be a senior in high school and Ellie will be an 8th grader!!!! I'm SO going to need some Valium!)

It's exciting...and it's all good things.  But change is hard!

(And I'm going to miss this little guy!)

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Glance into Summer

Summer always goes by so fast! August mornings usually start off on the cooler side, reminding me that Fall isn't too far away! It's bittersweet!  I LOVE Fall...the weather, the football Sundays, cooking in the oven all the time again, wearing sweatshirts! But, I'm not ready to let go of summer just yet!

Blogging has been on the back burner for me, but here's a look into some of the things that have been taking up our time recently!
#1. Pool Time
(Lots of it!) It's such a blessing to have a pool!  It makes every summer day special!

#2:Celebrating Babies!
My friend, Laura, is expecting her fourth baby in January and let me throw her a gender reveal party!  I love hosting parties...and gender reveals are some of the most fun! Laura is blessed to have three boys so EVERYONE was anxious to find out whether baby #4 was another little he or, just maybe, a little she! I got silly string in the appropriate color and when we all counted to three, her boys gleefully started spraying.......




(insert LOUD cheer and a few happy tears shed by many!)

Happy and excited!
 Laura's husband was away on business but he got to see it all through Skype!
 #3: Birthdays!
Last week we celebrated Luke and Peter's Birthday with our families!  This was Luke's gift from us...a digger toy!  He opened it at 7am and spent almost playing on it!! At one point in the morning he was playing in full sun and his red, sweaty head told me it was time for a break!  

Me: Luke, go jump in the pool and cool off for a while. You're all hot and sweaty and I don't want you to get sick. 
Luke:  Mom....real construction workers get hot and sweaty all the time.  I'm supposed to be this way!
Me: (laughing) Go jump in the pool anyway!
(10 minutes later he was back on his digger! :)

Peter's airplane cake that Jay's mom made! She is super talented!

Luke's X-wing Fighter Cake!

Peter with his Grandma whose cake he LOVES to eat!

Oh my goodness I can't stand his excited cuteness!

#4: Cousin Time
Luke and Kate are blessed to have cousins their own age who live in the same town!  They get together at least once a week!  This week they came over and Sarah made them a giant fort in the family room!  The kids loved it! :)


Playing in the rain
 #6: More Baby Celebrations!
Another close friend, Brea, is expecting her fourth baby in just a few short weeks!(gender yet unknown!)  This morning my book club crew celebrated Brea and their new baby with a little "sprinkle". 
Kim and her girls made this cute fruit bowl!

Our beautiful expectant mom!

What does a mom expecting baby #4 need?
 Lots of diapers and wipes..and a couple of books and toys! :)

Most  of us moms...we had a couple missing today!
Book club is definitely more for mom socialization.....
broadening our minds just happens to occur occasionally, too! :)
#7: The "S" Word
I'm trying to put off the "s" word as long as possible!! School for Luke and Ellie starts in less than 2 weeks.  This Sunday is an ice cream social at their school so they/we can meet their teachers and drop off their school supplies. (I haven't bought any yet!) They all need new sneakers, three of them need dress shoes, plus everything on their supply list. (sigh) August is an expensive month!

That's it for now!  I still have about 400 pics to go through from our Vineyard trip in July!  Hopefully I will get around to that sooner than later! (But the way things are going, I'm thinking it will be later!)

Hope you all have a great weekend!

p.s. I'm looking for people that live in/have friends or family that live in Australia or New Zealand! I'm still working as an Independent Consultant for Jamberry and they are debuting in the Aus/NZ markets on October 1st! Super exciting and a great opportunity!  If you, or someone you know, are interested in learning more please contact me!! :) 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Happy Birthday, Luke!

I have completely neglected this blog space!  Life has been full and going by fast in our neck of the woods!  When I think of how many pictures and moments that I want to share it simply overwhelms me!

But, today.....well, today is a very special day!  Our littlest man turns 6 today!!! Six!!! He has to use 2 hands now to show how old he is! And when he smiles, there's a missing tooth and a 1/2 grown in adult tooth grinning back at us!(yeah...that's one of those pictures I've yet to post!)

Today is a day to celebrate!  I feel a little sad that my baby boy is growing up!  Luke is such a special part of our family!  I've been reflecting lately on the gift that he is in our lives, so I thought I'd share a little of that a 7 Quick Takes Friday kind of Way!

Why "bonus babies" are such a blessing....

1. Surprises Can Be Good
6 years and 9 months ago(give or take), we got an early Christmas present.  A few weeks before Christmas, 2008, I realized that there was a strong chance that I might be pregnant.  Ellie, our youngest at the time was 5 and 1/2. After such a long break, (we had 7 children in 10 years before that!), Jay and I both thought that our family was complete.  Obviously, God had other plans!

I was trying to find a moment to tell Jay....when he gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, "Are you disappointed that we never had any more children?" To which I answered, "Well....". Then Jay's eyes lit up brighter than the lights on the Christmas tree and he ran out to CVS for a pregnancy test! (He has no patience when it comes to finding out if there might be a new "littlest Hamel" on the way!)

Luke at 6 credit Deanna DiMarzio Photography!
2. A New Level of Appreciation
It had been a while since I had been pregnant and had a baby in the house!  After having such a long break between babies, I appreciated and enjoyed Luke's pregnancy a lot more!  I enjoyed each moment in a whole new way. (Well...maybe not the morning sickness...but all the other moments!)  I knew there was a good chance that this could be my last pregnancy, so I tried to see each moment as the gift that it was!
Luke at his 1st birthday!

3. The Appreciation Continues

One of the benefits of having a "Bonus Baby" is that your have the experience of seeing how fast your children grow up!  When Luke was born we had three teenagers!! Mike was 16, Andrew was 14 and Jon was 13.  It didn't seem like that long ago that they were newborns in my arms!  As the song says, "Don't Blink"! With Luke, I knew how fast it would go! So I tried to soak in each experience....I stressed less about getting things perfect and enjoyed living in the moment more!

.....and yet, I still am dumbfounded that my baby boy is 6, losing teeth, and heading to school full time in just a few short weeks!  Sigh...guess I blinked somewhere!
Luke about 2

4.  Family Changes
Luke is one of the best things that has ever happened to our family!  We worried at first how it would work having teenagers and a baby in the house..and all the other kiddos in between!  Teenagers are interesting creatures!  Having Luke when we did kept the teenagers connected to the family in ways that we never would have predicted.  The teenagers didn't want this new little person to not know them as he grew up.  They made sure to be around so they could be a big part of Luke's life! Luke kept his older brothers grounded in our family life in such a unique and awesome way.  I think Luke's birth made his brothers more selfless because they had someone else to focus on other than themselves.

Our boys...Luke at 3 months!  Photo credit: Deanna DiMarzio Photography

 5. Experiencing Things Through A Child's Eyes
It is SO cool to see the older kids want to do things with Luke that they enjoyed doing as a child!  They love watching Luke's reactions to the movies/cartoons that they loved as a child.  They love watching him enjoy the zoo and going to the beach. Going to Disney is SO much more exciting for them because they get to experience it through Luke's eyes, too!  It's so special to see Luke bring out this childlike excitement in his siblings!
Jon and Luke: almost 4

6. How Does It Feel to Be a Hero?  
When Luke was born, ALL his siblings wanted to hold him all.the.time!  Seriously, it was a good thing I was nursing him otherwise the only time I would have gotten to hold him was the middle of the night!! As much as all of his siblings love him, Luke loves all of them with his whole heart.  They are his heroes!  His big, cool brothers and sisters!  They surprise him with trips to the park, zoo, ice cream store, and the occasional toy store visit for Legos!  They play with him in the pool and make up games in the yard!  They run around the house "pew-pewing" with their Lego creations.(and Luke loves that Andrew and Jon have super cool Lego sets that they let him play with...and that they play right along with him!) 

Luke looks up to his siblings as his heroes!   That makes all his siblings feel pretty special and important!  What does it take to be a super hero? Just spend time with a 'bonus baby' sibling!

Kate, Mike, and Luke, 5 1/2
7. Just Because He's Luke!  
The biggest reason our 'bonus baby' is a blessing?  Because he's Luke!  Luke is our truck loving, Light Saber wielding, Star Wars watching, Lego building little goofball who is so incredibly loving and lovable!  He is so expressive and silly that we often question whether he might be part Muppet!

Luke is clumsy and awkward and happy and loving.  He still loves to snuggle and ALWAYS wants to play with Jay and build Star Wars Ships and construction trucks every moment of every day!  

Luke is such an easy going little guy! He gets so excited about things he loves!(aka trucks, Star Wars, and Legos). He is a very patient and loving big brother and such a joy to our family!  I cannot imagine our lives without him!  

I am so grateful that God blessed our family with this very special bonus baby! We all love him so much!
Luke...2 days before he turned 6!

Happy Birthday, Luke!

Now I just need to figure out how to stop blinking....My baby boy is growing up!