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Dec 12, 2014

Sam's 7th Birthday Party

Sam's actual birthday is just a few days away from Christmas, so we usually end up having his party early to accommodate holiday schedules.

We decided to go more low key this year - just his three best buddies and Lori's family at a great old timer bowling alley.  No themed snacks or handmade decorations or long guest list this year (we did, however, still make a theme cake - we can't lose all of the awesomeness).  Sam got a few gifts, including the incredible gift of bowling alley pizza and soda.  Strikes and spares and fun were had by all.

It was a great little party.

We scaled back this year for a couple of reasons.  One, obviously, is because throwing our version of the perfect all-out bash for our kids and 20 of their closest friends every year is exhausting.  I can't do it without busting out about 13 pinterest ideas - charming homemade decorations, themed foods and snacks, games, favors, presents, the I'm-not-quite-sure-how-we-pulled-that-off cake.

It makes us feel good to do that for our kids and they enjoy it.  And we'll probably do those bigger parties for milestone birthdays.  But honestly, our kids don't care if there are homemade and creatively themed snacks.  Or that we spent 5 hours sculpting tissue paper into perfectly scalloped pom poms and making tin can robot utensil holders.

The bigger reason we decided to scale back birthdays is spoilage.

There is not one good reason on earth that my kids need 20+ gifts for their birthdays!  Their toy bins are shamefully full as it is.  The days my babies were born should most certainly be celebrated, but there has to be a limit.  Because our kids are entering dangerous territory where they're starting to expect stuff instead of appreciate stuff.  And I'm not down with that.

Part of that is just human nature.  We all want to accumulate stuff, especially as kids when our worlds are infinitesimally small and the idea that there are others out there with much much different lives is inconceivable.  We try to teach this at home - they have chores and expectations and consequences, we count our blessings, we explain that there are kids out there who have nothing and no one, we're involved in church, we pray, we volunteer...they listen, but I don't know that anything sinks in.  I mean, how do you teach your kids how special and unique and loved they are without making them think they are the center of the universe?

Maybe they're just too young?  Maybe we're not consistent enough in our attempts to teach them this?  Maybe we don't incorporate this enough into our everydays?

Shaping these these little humans into good smart faithful compassionate big people is a tougher job than we ever expected.  But so worth it!  And this scaled-down but still special birthday business is hopefully another step in that direction.

Soooo, that was a very long windup to post some photos of my son's 7th birthday party, I know.  But that's how I roll.

Sammy and his buddies.

The minecraft cake.

All smiles.

They all looked so tiny out there on those sprawling lanes.

 Close game!

My best game ever...of course Rich beat me, but whatever. :)

A very happy special day to celebrate this sweet crazy boy.  

Dec 2, 2014

Buddy Has Landed

Buddy, our elf on the shelf, has finally arrived!

The kids searched everywhere for him this morning and just couldn't find him.  Yeah...well...that's because Rich and I completely forgot to set him out last night.

Ugh.  Parenting fail.  I'm blaming it on the fact that we're in denial that it's December already.  Yep.  That's why.

We redeemed ourselves, though.  While the kids were upstairs getting ready for school, I sneaked down to the basement, Rich told me where he had stashed Buddy and suggested a perfect place for me to put the merry little elf where the kids probably hadn't looked this morning.

Teamwork!  High five!

The kids were surprised at what they found when I told them to get their vitamins out of the cupboard.  Buddy! They pieced together a theory that Buddy was probably very hungry after his long journey to our house from the North Pole, so he busted into our Frosted Flakes and set up camp in the cozy cupboard.

They even drew some pictures for him and asked me to draw his portrait on the chalkboard.

I love how all in they are, that they don't for an instant doubt any of the magic and spirit of Christmas - Jesus and Santa and snow and trees and nativity scenes and decorations and family and friends and gift giving and getting...they love and appreciate every aspect of everything.  Experiencing Christmas through the eyes of your children and watching the joy they wallow around in all season long is one of the greatest perks of being a parent.

Now let's see if Buddy's magic can keep their joyful little bums in check this Christmas!

Nov 28, 2014

Life Lately

'Tis the season to completely neglect your blog...fa la la la la...

Here are some highlights of the happenings here at the Coles' since Halloween.

I painted and applied a cute design to our lazy susan.  Crafting doesn't come easy to me, but it sure is rewarding when my project turns out just as I envisioned it.

Our little Elsa and strong army guy at Halloween this year.

The weather was perfect for trick or treating.  Sam wanted to go with his neighborhood friends and Lena with her's, so Rich and I split up and tackled the neighborhood with the kids' chosen trick or treat mates.  It was a fun night!

Sam went to work with me one beautiful fall day to hang out while the teachers were having an in-service day at school.  He loved being downtown and thought my office was cool.  Lol.  I loved having him with me. 

We had a little birthday gathering for Matt at a restaurant near the airport.  Good times with family just can't be beat.

Our last preschool Thanksgiving feast. It made me a little sad at how fast these years are going and so proud at how our kids are growing into awesome little humans.  

We were a little late (for us) this year getting our Christmas decorations up.  But we finally finished on Thursday - Lena added the final touch!

We had an old Christmas wreath whose berries had melted while hanging on our front door at the old house.  I liked the grapevine/pine cone base of it, just needed to get those sad little berries out of there.  So...brace yourselves...I crafted again.  

I cut out all of those melted plastic berries and created the cutest wreath ever!

Just look!  Isn't it beautiful?  I used an idea from pinterest as my guide, because that's how I roll, and was shocked how well it turned out (3 hours later).

I love it!

Thanksgiving at Aunt Nancy's yesterday was so fun!  It's been awhile since we stayed in town for Thanksgiving, so it was extra special.  Spending time with these people, my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandma, well, it was just the best day.  I love my family.  My photos didn't turn out too great, but I did catch a couple of cute moments.

I also had my annual GWA (girls' weekend away) at the beginning of November, but I did not take one photo.  What?  I'm not sure how that happened.  As soon as I snag some from the other girls, I'll post more about that fun weekend.

Hope you're enjoying this holiday season as much as we are!

Oct 14, 2014

Struggling with Gratitude

"Give thanks in all circumstances", is a bible verse I hold to be true deep in my gut.  Gratitude makes us better people, more aware and humble and present and balanced.  I'm crazy about that - I want to be that.

In general I believe myself to be a fairly grateful person.  At least I try to be.  I feel closest to God in those moments of now-ness and gratitude.  A part of his big picture.

But during trials, when this concept is put to the test, my propensity for gratitude hits a wall.  A great big, poor me, has anyone ever experienced such humiliation/pain/confusion/worry/etc. wall that I cannot move past or knock down until I go through what has become my dysfunctional egotistical process.  I assume most people have their own version of this process, but realistically most of you are likely much more adept at assimilating troubles and quickly putting them into perspective.

My process usually begins with me getting very quiet, regardless of the emotion with which I'm struggling.  Then comes pouting, isolation and obsessing.  And if someone dares speak to me during this time, I lash out with tears or sharp words...sometimes both (and what a treat that is) in what boils down to an adult version of a child's tantrum. So ridiculous and self indulgent.  Many times I'll come to my senses the same day, but sometimes it lingers.

Seriously, it's amazing that Rich can deal with me.

I wonder sometimes if it's a side effect of being an emotional person because, while that often guides me to places of joy and appreciation and love and perspective; it can also careen down weird twisty paths.  Or maybe I'm just an asshole.  It's hard to discern.

For instance on Sunday I sang lead with my band on a beautiful song.  Rehearsals went well and I felt confident.  But during the service I totally bombed the beginning.  My throat was thick and cracking by the time my song came around and, well, I was distractingly bad. I pulled it out at the end, but I was humiliated that I'd let down my band and the congregation.

Anger came first this time and, when I got into my car, I lashed out at God.  "Where were you when I
prayed for you to use me?  How could anyone be moved closer to you through that song when I sounded like a frog?  You abandoned me up there!"  Then I fell comfortably into my process of quiet self deprecation and, later, yelling at poor Rich when he tried to tell me it wasn't so bad.

I came to my senses later, realizing that it was indeed not that big of a deal and that my wounded pride was causing the trouble.  Some Sundays I'm so connected to the Holy Spirit when I'm singing that I'm able to step aside and let him use me.  But this Sunday I just couldn't get out of the way.  God didn't abandon me on stage.  I didn't let him in.

It made me ponder the depth of my faith.  Why is praying not always my knee-jerk reaction to difficulties?  Why do I so often turn inward instead of of upward?  Do I use God more as a rabbit's foot instead of my soul's anchor? What does all this say about my faith?


Obviously I'm not as mature in my convictions as I'd like to be.  People go through horrendous shit with such grace that it astounds me.  And I struggle with a cracking voice?  A difficult boss?  Overloaded monotonous housework?  It's laughable.  Seriously.  

But I'm aware of my ridiculousness and am trying to figure it out.  I need to read my bible more often.  I know that's the first step in working this.  And my friend Jen sent me this video today that reminded me how infinitesimal my crap is in the face of the great goodness that surrounds us all everyday, which also helps.  

Do you struggle with this?  How do you work it?

Oct 8, 2014

Quality Time

With the sickness lingering for so long, we haven't had many opportunities to spend quality time together, which is the opposite of nursing back to health time and lying in misery on the couch time and stuck inside going crazy time.  Those times we've had aplenty.
We did manage to do a few fun things.  Like a little watercolor/marker/coffee filter craft (which I still haven't gotten around to cutting into leaves and stringing into awesome autumn garland...mommy fail). 

We made a quick trip to the reservoir on Sam's first fever-free day to give the poor kid some fresh air and sunshine.  We didn't overdo it, but he was elated to be feeling better and to be outside.  And we were relieved to see him happy. 

Second fever-free day we went to see The Box Trolls at a nice theater with reclining seats.  Pretty awesome.

Lena has been doing "really hard work", as she calls it, at ballet class lately.  And she's right - it is hard work.  Last year's ballet class was basically just a bunch of kids running around with wands and ribbons.  This class is teaching her fundamentals and combinations and stretching and strengthening.  She's the tiniest one there, but she does a good job.  We feel like she's getting good exercise and learning something, which is awesome.  Yeah Straub! 

Sam missed so much soccer during his lengthy illness, but was finally able to play last week.  This was his game on Saturday and it was COLD!  He's not a very aggressive kid, so he has trouble understanding the competitive edge to sports (which I believe he acquired genetically from both Rich and me).  But he has fun with it, it's great exercise, and I think his coach is teaching him good things.  Yeah WASA! 

Sunday at Freeman's Farm.  Pumpkin picking and kettle corn eating and hay riding fun was had by all!

Of course Lena had to be the little kitty.

They are growing like...sunflowers!

My handsome man.

That last photo is my favorite. It makes my heart swell full of this unimaginable kind of love for these people. Rich is too handsome and kind, too smart and funny, too good and patient and loving with our kids and with me to be true.  Yet there he is every day doing and being all of those things.  And more.  And those kids...ugh, those kids.  They are both so unique and insane and mysterious and amazing and beautiful and crazy in the most awesome ways.  They make me feel complete in places I didn't realize I was lacking. 

My family...overwhelming and true, oozing goodness from the depth of their blue eyes and joy from the breadth of their smiles, making the world a little brighter and a little better just by being them.