Our Family Refuge

Heartbroken is an understatement.

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Today my grandpa joined my grandma in their heavenly home.

While he had been declining honestly since my grandma passed 5 years ago, I don’t think knowing the end is coming makes it easier to bear. There is still so much pain knowing that I will never get to hear his voice again saying, “Is that my youngest granddaughter?”

My grandpa was one of a kind.

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He had one of those magnetic personalities that everyone seemed to love. And he loved everyone right back. I was always in awe of his spirit and love of the Lord. He was one of those people that when he walked into a room his presence was felt.

He would randomly mail us pictures of scriptures that he had clipped from various paper goods. He always made a point to bring it back to God.

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He had a gift of talking to people. He wrapped his love around everyone he met, and no one was a stranger for long. He always had this uncanny ability to connect souls through stories. He had so many stories from his childhood, working and delivering for Coca Cola, driving a school bus, to his pastoral days.

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And he could make just about anything too. He was so skilled with wood working, and he would save so much thinking about how he could weave it into his next project. I still have all the things he hand-made us over the years from a hope chest, hand mirror, to even doll furniture for my American Girl doll. These things aren’t just things. They hold precious memories of his love for us.

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He was always a person you could call to help you figure something out. He was so patient, but he made jokes with you the whole time. He had an answer for anything. And he would drop anything for you. I think we all spent countless days at my grandparents’ house as kids (and as adults). They were our refuge.

He and my grandma were the epitome of a great marriage. Watching their love was something magical. The way he spoke in adoration of Grandma was a force to be reckoned with. And that love spilled over to their kids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He knew how to make us all feel so special and wonderful. I hope I always remember the way his voice lifted as he would call our names out in joy. He was so proud of his family, and you could just feel it in the way that he talked.

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I was always so grateful in how he treated Tom too. He was always intentional to be invested in our relationship and how Tom was doing. He always asked about his job and his parents and cheered him on as if he had been part of our family our whole lifetimes. He was an important part of who we are, and I am so glad that I will forever have the memory of him being part of our wedding day.

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He was a refuge for our family. He was the pillar that we all looked to for so many things.

I have so many memories of him, but some of my favorite were wrapped around my grandparents’ dinner table. From making home made ice cream, eating shrimp for Thanksgiving, to saying grace with such emotion that we’d either be laughing so hard or be brought to tears. His life filled ours with such beautiful moments.

It is going to be hard to go back to Kansas City now and not feel the pain that we can’t pop over to his house for a little visit. I am sure we will be feeling this for years to come. He was home for many reasons.

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I am so thankful that we were able to see him a couple weeks ago and spend an entire afternoon together just swapping stories. And he will live on in all of us, but especially in one little boy, who I can only imagine is just like Grandpa was as a kid.

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When I told George today that Grandpa went to heaven, he wrapped me up in his little arms and kissed my tear-stricken face. He told me that Grandpa was special and that he was with Jesus now. (Don’t worry he still acted like a five year old and said he was glad he got Grandpa’s train sets.) I am not sure if he fully got it that we will never go to Grandpa’s house again to play with Lincoln logs, but I am so glad they were able to have a relationship together even if it was for a short time here on Earth. They were two peas in a pod.

My hope is that we are able to carry on his legacy of grace and love and extend our own tables out to others. And bring back the era of homemade ice cream.

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Chiefs Kingdom

I have pinched myself several times this week. I still can hardly believe that the Chiefs won the SUPER BOWL!

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It is unreal!

Growing up in Kansas City, I always imagined what this would feel like. You always rooted for the Chiefs like this was going to happen, but then it never did.

So to watch this come to fruition this year was purely magical.

The Chiefs aren’t perfect, but what a perfect testament to never giving up and picking yourself up each time you fall. They are the only team to trail in all the playoff games to come back and win the whole dang thing. I felt like I was watching a movie all post-season.

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I really don’t know how to explain the spirit behind rooting for the Chiefs in KC.

The Chiefs have been an important part of my life making so many memories possible.

Growing up, it was just what we did on Sundays in the fall. We got home from church and put on our red and yelled at the TV. I would say part of my relationship with my dad was built through this time we spent cheering on our beloved Chiefs.

I still remember the first game I went to with my dad when I was in middle school. I remember feeling the electricity run through the Arrowhead stadium and the pure joy that filled my soul.

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During college, our marching band was fortunate to play at halftime. I remember being giddy for days after the experience of being on the Chiefs field. I also still have that field pass!

When I moved away, football was a connector for me and my family. We would often talk through what was happening and have hope that this year was our year…or move our faith into the next year when inevitably things went wrong.

But that is the thing as a Chiefs fan, you always have the hope.

There is something about hearing “TOUCHDOWN KANSAS CITY” that gives me chills and makes me want to jump up and down.

Being a Chiefs fan is often times agonizing and I bite all my fingernails off, but it also means that all the big moments are BIG. I jump out of my seat with every long pass, and I have lost my voice to many games. Being a Chiefs fan is emotional and stressful, but gosh it is so fun.

I think because they have always been scrappy and a little chaotic, they become so rootable because they aren’t always perfect. We are always the underdog, and that is fun to get behind because no one expects us to win. It’s relatable in a sense. Watching this team come back time and time again has a lot of life lessons in it.

I mean Kansas City is known for being the come back kings. I remember writing a similar post about the Royals

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But in the end, what I love about being a Chiefs fan is the way it connects people. It ties people together whether you are family or complete strangers. There is beauty in that, so that is why rooting for the Chiefs, rooting for our hometown, rooting for a football game is so enchanting.

And now I get to share that love with my own family. We get to create our own magic moments as my team becomes their team too. To hear my kids say “Go Chiefs” or “Come on Kansas City” brings me pure bliss. The Chiefs have been such an integral part of my life, and I hope it brings them the same level of joy.

How about them Chiefs!!!

WE WON THE SUPERBOWL!!!

Beginnings and Endings

I have found that with parenting, once a new phase begins you are not only dealing with the excitement of the new phase but also the feelings of leaving another phase behind. The art of watching your kids growing up is bittersweet.

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This last week I have been pondering on this thought quite a bit as both of my kids are going through pivotal moments. We registered George for kindergarten, and Daphne is now potty trained and moved out of a crib.

I am not ok.

The stark difference of what these things mean has left me in a weird place.

THEY LOOK SO GROWN.

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I am so excited to see George start big-all-day-kid school. I love learning, and school was a magical place for me growing up. I see that curiosity in George, and I know he will love it. But there is also this sadness that there will be so much of his world that I no longer know. I wrote about the emotions of sending him off to preschool this fall, but something about kindergarten is even more momentous.

And with Daph, potty training is such a big step in toddlerhood. For the most part, I am so ecstatic to no longer have diapers in my house. I feel a sense of freedom for us all with letting her learn more about her body and taking control of herself. She also moved out of the crib like it was no big deal, however my insides were breaking since that bed had been a crib for both my babies over the last 6 years. And while I am so proud of her walking into this next phase with so much confidence, part of me knows that the diapers and crib were the last of the babyhood stage.

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The thing about independence is that I believe it is the thing we all hope that our kids have when they get older, but man is it hard to see it slip away.

It’s funny that there are many stages that we see coming, like registering for Kindergarten. I have seen this coming since he was born. Yet it is still hard to know I am watching a season of our lives end this year. I wonder all the time if we are doing this phase justice and doing all the we can to make it positively memorable and impactful.

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Then there are other stages that you don’t even realize are gone until you are well into the next one.

There was a day with both kids that it was the last time I rocked them to sleep, but I don’t recall thinking let’s change up the routine. I couldn’t even tell you when that stopped for both. In my head, I am distraught because how could I forget that!

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I am not sure which is harder on the emotions: the ones you see coming and plan for or the ones that change with more subtlety. Either way when the worry of one phase ends the worry of the new phase comes flooding in to take it’s predecessor’s place.

As we are entering full force into the big kid years, I am trying to remain present. As I watched Daphne this weekend, I was reminded that it is all fleeting. I wonder all the time if the snuggles George asks for will be the last ones or when Daphne decides she doesn’t want to make me a bedtime snack of plastic food before I tuck her in. My heart just breaks thinking I might miss the significance of the last ask. So let’s read an extra book or build one more Lego structure.

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It is like there is a little mourning that happens with things of each phase. There are days that I really miss the sweet newborn stages, but then I see moments like tonight where George came in to comfort his sister when she was hurt. If he stayed a newborn, I would never get to experience watching their relationship evolve.

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But that is the push and pull of parenthood I guess. There are often times we are looking for a phase to end and rushing into the next one (hello George at 4…). Then other moments I never want to leave the sweet innocence, or I look back and weep that they have grown so much in a blink of an eye.

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I am not sure I am really saying anything profound. Parenting is this weird mix of polarizing feelings. I am sad my babies are growing into big kids, but I am happy seeing how fun the big kid stage can be. I am sad that it seems that they need me less, but I am happy that they are figuring out their own way. I am sad that there are things about their lives that we will never experience again, but I am happy to welcome all the new experiences we will have together.

With the beginning of each new season, brings an end to another. There is some poetry in that I suppose. I could see that if we stayed in a season for too long, you would lose sight of it’s beauty. It does give us something to hope for with the change, and something to look fondly back on when we have forgotten the mess of it all. I guess we are in each season as long as we need to be, and we can thank God for that.

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These kids I tell ya. The things they do to my heart!

Word of the Year

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Chaos, never ending to do lists, constant demands have taken me away from this space. Writing here for awhile became a chore and just one more thing to take up brain power.

As with every January, there is a refreshing push to start anew.

I want to get back to this space and my free writing. It has been so much for me in the past from my time as a military spouse to my first days as a new mom to learning my way as a professional.

I have missed it and the outlet it provides me.

So here I am putting some thoughts down on the page about how I want to approach the year.

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Many people do a word of the year or resolutions. I have done both in the past, but as I have thought about what I want this year to be focused around I couldn’t get two words out of my head. And one of the biggest mantras of “goal setting” is to share with others to keep your accountable, so here we go!

Gratitude and Connection

I am trying to be more grounded  going into this year. My job is very stressful right now. There are a lot of things as a director that they do not prepare you for. There are a lot of challenging months ahead for me, so the gratitude is definitely something that I need as reminder of the great opportunity I have to make an impact.

I am being intentional about my devotions moving forward. I highly recommend the YouVersion app. You can really tailor to what your needs are. And my first day with my most recent plan was already a big reminder about not being grumpy. “Maybe part of my grumbling came from my desire to feel powerful while truly feeling powerless.” I am extremely guilty of this. I think we all fall into the trap of complaining. And seeing this statement about grumbling being that grasping effort to have some power really resonated with a change I need to make internally. My anxiety really ramps up when I feel like I have lost control. I need to stay grounded and humble, and I believe that reminding myself of all the blessings will keep me from circling around the drain in a sense. It will also help me to not just focus on what is happening negatively and being consumed by the toxic nature of those thoughts.

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I know I am not perfect though. And just because I put these words out there, doesn’t mean it won’t be work. Just last night I lost it on my kids more than once. I have this unique opportunity to mold them, and I don’t want them to get a sense that I am not happy about the time that we get together. I want to be grateful for their neediness and constant touching because I know these days are numbered where they want to hang on me or find immense joy in playing together. I also need to walk the talk when I tell them about appropriate emotional output. I want to be more mindful about the environment I am building, and I feel that gratitude is the center of that. (This was made even more apparent after this past month with my kids attitude towards presents…but another topic for another day.)

One of my closest friends recommended a gratitude journal for me to take a minute every morning to start my day fresh. This will be so vital in beginning my day with positivity and centering. It is also a good reminder that every day is a new day to forgo the negativity from the day before and move forward instead of sitting in the junk. Thanks Jeannette!

Then we look at Connection.

I will be honest making friends has not been easy for me here. We have lived here for five years, and I would say only recently do I feel like I am starting to create my circle. Having young kids and the fact that we live outside of town has made it hard to really cultivate friendships.

Tom also has gotten our basement to a place where entertaining is a little more feasible. There are so many memories to be made, and we really want to focus on bringing a community together. Now that the kids are a little older and Tom’s job has completely changed, I am hoping for a little more freedom for us to take the time to connect with others. We redesigned the spaces in our house to allow them to be filled with activity, and we hope to do that more and more this year.

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I have grand plans at work to increase connections at the college. I won’t bore you with all my ideas, but one that I do want to work on is starting a podcast of sorts for our institutional staff. I want to hit on our stories and show how we are all inter-connected in helping our students write their own stories. This idea is the most scary on my list, but also the one I feel most convicted to carry out. Hearing about people’s stories is what keeps me going to work every day, so I want to find a way to harness that for our institution. My hope is that by creating this platform we can find connections and similarities which in turn create more bridges with our stories instead of continuing silos. (This is me speaking a goal into life…the more people I tell right?)

And of course I want to connect more with this family of mine. Tom changing jobs has turned our world upside down in the best ways. And the kids, while wild, are at such a fun age. We have so many plans to connect as a family, especially with this being the last summer before George is officially in school. We have several trips planned, and we want to start new traditions in our weekly schedules. I know this is the age where I started remembering large chunks of my childhood, and I hope to establish routine opportunities for us to connect.

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Lastly, I want to connect more with myself, which is why I want to come back to this blog. This last year, I have gotten lost in what is expected of me and trying to be all the things. Putting my thoughts and feelings out in this blog is a therapeutic thing for me. However, it has been hard since my brain is on overdrive all day, and the last thing I have wanted to do is to get in front of another computer when I get home. I have found though that I miss this outlet and little space I created years ago. I also need to do a better job connecting with my faith, so I want to center myself more with my devotions. My prayer life has been lacking, and connecting my soul again is definitely something I need to focus on. And since I know the stress is only going to come at me with even more fervor in the upcoming months, I need to keep connecting with my core so I can be my best self instead of just trudging along waiting for the next expectation to define me. Through continued prayer and introspection, I hope this connection will just come more naturally.

For me, gratitude and connection will be highly intertwined, and I hope that having these words as my focus will help me to grow but also to remain grounded in my faith and who I am meant to be.

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So tell me, what do you want for 2020?

Lego Birthday Party

It only seemed natural to have a Lego birthday party for our boy this year. He is obsessed with all things Lego and building is his favorite past time.

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It was one of he easiest parties we have put together mostly due to the fact that Legos are so popular. It was simple to find all the things I needed, and usually at a great price because I could actually shop around.

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We brought all of George’s Legos and used them for all kinds of decorations. We put a handful at each table so kids (or adults) could DIY the table centerpieces.

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I got the tablecloth and balloons from Amazon. My sister-in-law made the sign. It’s handy to have artsy people in the family!

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These cute little crayons were our party favors. The boxes I got a the Dollar Store, and then the crayons I got on Etsy and Amazon.

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I got the cake and cupcakes from Hy-Vee. And then these little sweet-tart Lego candies from Amazon. We still have tons of these candies!

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George picked out the candles himself at the Dollar Store.

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Whatever Legos weren’t being used for the centerpieces, we just had them out for everyone to create.¬† I used extra tablecloths on the walls for more decoration in the Lego creation areas. We had everything from Mega Blocks, Duplos, and little Legos. The kids seemed to really love it, and I loved watching George with his friends and family making things.

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Not to toot my own horn, but the pinata was the best idea I had for this party. Amazon had a Lego one, so it was perfect. The pinata itself came with little toys and then we just bought big candy bags to stuff the pinata. The pinata also came with a stick and a blindfold.

One of the “birthday packs” on Amazon that came with the balloons and tablecloth also came with these party bags which were perfect for picking up the guts of the pinata.¬† This was so fun, and great for all ages! Watch the video at the end for snippets of it!

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Daphne’s shirt actually came from my in-laws when George was her age. So it was the perfect hand-me down for the event!

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George’s shirt was perfect for the event with its Lego stitching. I am sad that he has already outgrown it! I got it on Etsy.

This was also the first time we opened gifts in front of people, and George’s reactions delivered!

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This kid’s spirit only grows as each year passes. It was so fun to watch him with all the things and people he loves at his party.

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Here is a fun video recapping the day.

And to keep the videos going, here is a recap of his fifth year!