Kindergarten Coronation

Although it has seemingly been the month of Cullen around here lately, we have had lots of celebrating to do with the other boys too. Wells finished preschool last week with an amazing (loud) singing performance and yesterday Bennett left the “Kingdom of Kindergarten” and was knighted into the first grade!

(Special thanks to the mom who let me borrow these off of facebook…Kev and I are clearly first year parents are this school and got there too late–20 minutes early– for good seats.)

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Kindergarten Coronation is a long standing tradition the school and I have to say one of the cutest things I have ever seen. It was complete with a moat and alligators, two Queens and a Knight announcing each Sir and Lady as they crossed the bridge.
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After the exciting announcements, they started with a special prayer from Father Nelson to bless them as they continue on their learning adventure…
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then it was time to officially be knighted “Kings and Queens of the First Grade”!
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My wonderful friend Jen (thanks, Jen!) watched the littles so Kev and I could enjoy this special time with just B. He was so happy to have us both there.
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And then the new royalty feasted on crown cookies, magic star sandwiches, Lance-a-lot fruit skewers, Dragons in a Blanket and Dungeon Drumettes. There was even a “Knightly Grog” to drink. untitled-1-1137

As the kids were eating, a man walked over introduced himself as a dad of a boy in the class and asked it we were Bennett’s parents. With a little trepidation, we nodded yes and he went on to say “I always ask my son who the best kid in the class is, since he has a little trouble sometimes, and every time he tells me it is Bennett. I’ve told him to follow Bennett’s example! And I wanted to come over and tell you all that my son constantly talks about how well behaved he is, you should be very proud.”

We thanked him, then giggled as he walked away. I know it shouldn’t surprise us every time we hear that B is so good in school (you remember the behavior chart, right?) but it still catches us a little off guard. B is a really great kid, but at home also marches to the beat of him own drum, so picturing him as the model student makes us chuckle a bit.

Bennett my boy-

I can not believe you are done with Kindergarten already! You have thrived this year and I think your desire to always be your best is a true testimony to just how wonderful your school is. You have made good friends, are reading so well and developing your critical mind. You’ve recently announced that you are going to become a priest (first Delta Force/Chaplain combo ever?) and that decision is obviously tied to the strong faith community you and religious education you are getting in the classroom. We couldn’t be more proud of the wonderful feedback we get from your teachers, friends and parents. It is honor that people think your good choices are our doing. You truly are an amazing and unique kid and we can’t wait to see what you accomplish as the King of First Grade.

Happy Coronation Day! We love you so much!

Eight!

Cullen’s gone and gotten another year older on us again…we woke up this morning with an 8 year old!

Every year on their birthdays I try to capture just who the boys are at this moment and the story that encapsulates Cullen’s personality actually happened just last night. He opened a new Wii game that Marme and Papa sent down but his excitement quickly turned to disappointment when he realized it was for WiiU, not the regular Wii like we have. We told him it was okay, I am sure we could exchange it but he still need to call his grandparents to say thank you. He facetimed my mom who apologized and assured him she would send the receipt so we could exchange it. All the sudden he started to cry (a rarity), handed me the phone and went to his room. I hung up with Marme and went to give him a pep talk about disappointment when he said:

I’m not crying for me, Mommy. That was a really, really great gift and it made me feel bad to tell Marme it was wrong. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

And that’s my boy. Cullen the kind-hearted.

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{Birth, One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven}

Year 7 was a busy one. We moved from DC to FL and Cullen is thriving at his new school. He loves math, PE and reading. He finished the first two Harry Potter books. He played flag football, lacrosse and basketball. His adult front teeth came in and I am pretty sure he grew 6 inches. He got big. If you need to know any sports stats, including obscure recruits Auburn is signing, Cullen is your guy. Recently, he discovered hair gel, and while he will still let me pick out his clothes when we got out somewhere, he prefers all apparel to be dry fit. His favorite music is “anything that sounds like it should be on a warm up tape”. He is the world’s best and most patient big brother.

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Cullen my dear,

Happy Birthday you amazing kid. I say it all the time, but don’t think I can ever say it enough: I am so very proud of you. The way you handle life with grace and kindness is truly inspiring. You are becoming a young man right before my eyes and the transition from little kid to big kid is an honor to experience.  I have a feeling Eight to going to be something special. I am excited to celebrate with you at Legoland today! Thank you for the privilege of being your mom. Remember to always keep your body strong, your mind sharp and your heart open.

We love you so much! Happy birthday, son.

The Day I Kind Of… Broke.

Right about this time last week, I was sitting in the ER looking like this:

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I was having waves of lightheadness sweep over me every few minutes (feeling like I was going to pass out, but never did) and when it happened in the car bringing the boys to school, I realized I needed to put a call into the doctor. We went over my symptoms (not dizzy, no loss of vision, I better not be pregnant, no nausea… just for a few seconds I feel like I am not getting enough oxygen) and she told me I needed to head over to the emergency room to be seen.

I called my amazing neighbor and asked if she could keep Wells and Griffin, then asked Grandma if she would come along to make sure I got there safely. We got settled in, answered all the same questions again, checked my vitals and then talked to two nurses, an NP and the doctor when finally they told me the plan: EKG, heart monitor, chest x-ray, blood and urine samples, and a CT scan of my brain. Grandma reached into her purse and pulled out the rosary beads (thanks, Grandma).

The staff was amazing and everything they ordered was done quickly, followed by a lot of sitting around waiting to find out if I was dying (Grandma was already planning my eulogy for sure). I sat there fidgeting and fretting because I didn’t know what else to do with nothing else to do.

After another hour, the nurse came back in with my results (Grandma blessed herself) and…. I was perfectly healthy. In fact, really healthy (Grandma got her purse: Let’s go for a drink!). I was diagnosed with a case of “almost fainting” and sent home with instructions to take it easy.

As we headed back to the car, I was annoyed. Grateful that I was okay, but annoyed that I wasted all that time when there was nothing wrong with me. I went straight from there to pick up C’s suit for communion and went to the grocery store (because allthethings) and as another wave hit on the way home, a thought occurred: Maybe I feel like I am not getting enough oxygen to my brain because I am not giving myself a chance to breathe.

There is something wrong with me.

 I like things to be neat and orderly, the boys to behave, and everyone I love happy and healthy. On days when things go awry, I find ways to turn the finger back on me, even when it is unwarranted and no one else (least of very all Kev) is doing the same. Last week I think I got to a point where I just broke. My body made me stop.

In the days since, Kevin and I have done a lot of talking about how we can all pitch in to avoid one person getting overwhelmed. We cleaned out the playroom and limited the kids’ toys to destroy the house with, I turned work notifications off of my phone, Kev has been able to bring the boys to school some mornings, we’ve had evening clean up parties so we start the morning on the right foot and the boys are trying really hard to not act like insane wild animals at the grocery store…and the day I came home from the hospital, I took a nap.

To be honest, I almost didn’t share this because part of me felt embarrassed that I broke down. I know a lot of people who are in more difficult situations and I felt a little silly that I let my good life get the best of me. I’m actually still pretty uncomfortable hitting “publish”.

But I am writing it because it is important to say: it is okay to lose it sometimes.

Now, I am working on being kinder to myself, trying not to cry over spilled milk (seriously, why are they always spilling the milk?) and remembering to leave some room to breathe.

If you ever need a reminder to do the same, feel free to reach out – I can always borrow Grandma’s rosary beads if you need me to.

Sunday Funday with Grandma

While Grandma was here visiting for the past two weeks she mentioned several times how much she wanted to go to the beach. It might have taken us to the very last day she was with us, but we finally made it happen for her.

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^^I have never in my 33 year seen Grandma drink a beer but when Kev popped one open she giggled and said, “Hand me that”.
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We love trying new beaches so this weekend we headed south to Cortez Beach and really enjoyed it. When you have 5 million kids and a lot to lug to your spot, proximity of the parking space to the bathrooms to the beach is essential. This was the most convenient place we’ve been to as far as those three things go, making it a win in our book.
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The best part of the day was just how happy Grandma was. She threatened several times not to get on her plane to go home because she was enjoying herself too much, but when we assured her that everyone else needed her back, she refused to put on sunscreen so that they would all know she had been in Florida…I haven’t talked to her today but my guess is that everyone can definitely still tell that she was in the sun!

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This time every year, even on the off ones when we aren’t moving, Kev and I get anxious about “what’s next”. We have talked often in the past few weeks about the pros/cons of the Tampa area and how long we should try and stay here. The closeness to the beach is high on the list of pros and we are glad we got to write another one down so that when we move and forget all the negatives (like we have done with every place) we can longingly look back to Sunday Funday’s by the ocean.

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Thanks again for being with us Grandma, don’t forget to pick up some Aloe. Love you!

Cullen Makes His First Communion

This past Saturday, our oldest son accepted a huge right of passage in our Catholic faith and made the sacrament of First Communion.
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He has been preparing all year for this day and while we all shared his excitement, I was not prepared for just how special it would be.
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Going through sacrament prep with our boy gave Kev and me a chance to review and renew our faith as we learned along side him the importance of the ritual of communion. Our priest did such a beautiful job speaking to our children and talking to them about the importance of this moment, while also challenging us parents to remember it and appreciate it every week.
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We watched as each child went up to receive their first blessed host and then {wince} as they said Amen to the wine as well. When it came to C’s turn my eyes unexpectedly welled with tears as I saw his confidence and maturity. untitled-1-1097

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^^^When you ask Grandma to take a picture
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A the end of mass, Father Felipe told the children that now they have the gift of hope to carry in their hearts forever. I thought it was such a beautiful way to present the moment and it made my heart feel a little lighter too.
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As we left the church, Grandma turned to me and expressed how amazing it was that she got to experience a 4th generation First Communion. Her statement made me realize just how amazing the whole thing is. It is bigger than Cullen. Bigger than just our family… It is a moment that children all over the world, in countless languages have experienced in the same way. It is a moment that Cullen had, and we did, and our parents, and our grandparents, and back and back and back. How incredible is that?
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While our kids have unique first names, they all have saint middle names and Cullen’s is James. We got him a St. James medal as his gift from us and he hasn’t taken it off since.  He also told us that it is good that we picked James since he himself is a “really hard worker”.
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Finally, I caught this picture when Cullen thanked Grandma for being here to witness his First Holy Communion. A lot of different circumstances prohibited any other family from coming,  but Cullen’s appreciation for his Great Grandma being here shines through in this photo. We couldn’t have been more grateful as well!
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Cullen,

We are so very proud of you! I pray that Saint James will watch over you and help you to continue to always work hard. Even more so, I hope the newfound Hope that lives in your heart will stay there forever and help guide you to make good decisions and treat all people with kindness, humility and respect. You are an amazing child and we are forever blessed to be your parents.

Congratulations, my son!

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Spring Break Tour de Family: The Last Stop

It feels like it was years ago that we were in VA for Spring Break but there is still one more stop to on our trip to share!

After time with cousins and at the farm we packed up to head to Nana and Pop’s for a night. This was a particular bittersweet visit since it was the last time we would be at their current house since they move before we will be up there again. I’ve mentioned it before but for the past 20 years my in-law’s have lived in the same neighborhood I grew up in so even though my parents left several years ago I have still be able to share the Montclair experience with the boys. We are excited for Nana and Pop’s next chapter but so glad we got to cruise the lake and visit the big playground one final time.
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^^^Big thanks to Pop to capturing all the above pics for me! I didn’t realize I took so few of my own until I finally uploaded them this weekend.
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^^^Griff’s new favorite game is trying to find leftover juice boxes that his brothers are terrible at throwing away.  First time mom me would freak out and take the juice away from the toddler. Forth time mom is more like “eh, it is just a sip. Cute picture!”

It was a less than 24 hour drop in but we managed to fit a lot in to that small window. Mostly it was just wonderful to be together since we had not seen them since my brother’s wedding last fall. Thanks for having us Deb and Scott. We can’t wait to start making memories in the new house this summer. We will miss you, Montclair!

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So what has been happening since? Well, we recovered from the train ride and enjoyed having Grandma here to hang out for a few days. Then Kev flew home from Qatar last Monday, we high fived on Tuesday then I flew out for work for two days, and Grandma left to see her brother. We high fived again on Friday then split up Saturday for 4 basketball games and a first communion retreat. Then we put on our party hats (literally) and had some adult time at the school auction Saturday night. We brunched, did a whole lot of laundry, spray painted shields for Kindergarten graduation, got everyone new shoes and bought Cullen’s suit for his big day this weekend.

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And of course somehow the calendar flipped over to May and I realized there are only 20 days of school left.  Help!