Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day 18--The Mom Squad

When we moved here almost four and a half years ago I was lonely.  Really really lonely.  Having left a wonderful group of friends, a job I enjoyed and a church we loved I wasn't sure what to do with myself.  I looked forward to staying home with Ben but the adjustment from working mom to stay at home mom was tougher than I thought.  Ben was an incredibly erratic sleeper and I was bored a lot of the day.  My most adult conversations were those I had with Andrew when he was home or my good buddies at the local hardware store who patiently walked me through how to paint our house.

Eventually every room had a fresh coat, including the kitchen cabinets and I ran out of projects to keep me busy.  Ben started getting more interactive and we were totally enamored with his every move but I still felt lonely.  The highlight of most weeks were either dinners with his parents or with two of his high school friends that also lived in the area.  I ran a lot and took a lot of walks but Ben wasn't quite big enough for the playground or storytime so meeting other moms was hard to do.

After about a year though, I needed things to change and God moved a young family into the area with a little boy just a few months younger than Ben.  They attended our church, came to a small group and we arranged a play date. One play date turned into two, then three and four and now three years and two more kids (for both of us) later we are still playing strong.

 It was incredibly helpful that by this time Ben was walking and able to actually do things at the playground so I started staking out the local parks.  Within walking distance of our first house here there are five different playgrounds and with all of those playgrounds come children..and their moms.  As Ben grew up, I did as well.  I became more confident in my own skills as a mom, pregnant with Caleb and ready to make sure my children were well socialized.

Four and half years later I have what Andrew enjoys calling, "The Mom Squad."  Over the last few years I've picked up moms at the playground, a local mom's group, the library,running, and now preschool.  Play dates at each other's houses are the norm.  My first time hosting in our new house brought four moms and about thirteen children.  As laughter ran through my house I felt so blessed by how full my days have become.  During the summer we enjoyed picnics at a local playground where each of my children had four or five different kids to play with. The kids all share snacks and toys as the mom squad and I share frustrations over sleeping, eating or just enjoy one another's company.

Life in Fredonia now is not boring.  I rarely go a day without seeing a familiar face and my children are blessed to have so many other wonderful children to grow up with.  When Hannah was born I received meals every other day for almost six weeks and most of them came from other moms who are busy with their own little ones.  I even received a gift certificate for someone to clean my house!  The village mentality in Fredonia is strong.  I know if I need anything I have a list of people in my phone that will come and help.  I trust the mom squad with my kids and feel so thankful to have each of them in my life.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Day 15--The Mother-in-Law

My in-laws with Hannah hours after she arrived

Every once in a while I will run into someone in Fredonia that doesn't know Andrew's family and I will get asked with a cringing face, "What is it like living so close to your in-laws?" Mother-in-law jokes are popular and I think some people are fascinated when I respond with, "wonderful!"

After the purchase of our new house, I am more thankful than for my mother-in-law.  I am not a gifted home decorator.  I love to cook, bake,and throw parties but hand me a decor magazine or ask me to pick out a paint color and I feel overwhelmed.  I can tell you if I like certain things together but managing to take a random group of materials and make them into a room is a skill I don't possess.  I've done my fair share of looking at Houzz, reading Better Homes and Gardens/Country Lving, etc. but my main mode of decoration is to put some pictures up and call it a day.  Not so for the charming lady who lives up the road and is the mother to my husband.

Walk into her home and you will feel at home.  From carefully hung pictures/baskets/quilts, to beautiful curtains, stitched pillows and refinished furniture, every room looks carefully planned and put together.  I understand that part of it is that she has lived in her house over twenty years and I about six weeks but without some serious help, it might never get there.

Which is where my mother-in-law comes into the picture.  Not only did she and my father-in-law spend a day here unpacking for us right after we moved in but, she is happily helping me decorate.  When trying to pick out a rug for our living room, I asked her to look and obviously bought what she liked.  (It is beautiful and looks wonderful in our living room).  Yesterday she watched Hannah for me while I taught Bodypump and after class she showed me curtains she'd ordered for my dining room, fabric she'd purchased for pillows for our living room and told me she'd ordered the paint for the buffet she found and is redoing for our dining room.  I've had a little input, but since I did stand in TJ Maxx before we moved in trying to decide on a shower curtain for about 20 minutes, I've mostly said, "Whatever you think looks good!"

Beyond her patience with my lack of decorating skills and willingness to help, she is an incredible blessing in both my life and the lives of my children.  She is a doting grandmom who is supportive of our parenting decisions, a constant source of encouragement, a sympathetic ear and someone I deeply admire.  She is a wonderful cook and Andrew had pretty high food expectations when we first got married.  When pregnant with Hannah, she fed me more times than I can count and was willing to help whenever we needed it.  I hope that one day when I fill the mother-in-law role for Ben and Caleb, my daughters' in-law will feel even the tiniest bit of admiration and love that I feel for her.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Day 12--COTW

Twelve years ago Andrew's mom, and now my mother-in-law, sent me a letter inviting me to stay with them at Camp of the Woods while they were on vacation with their family.  I accepted her invitation (which prompted Andrew and I to have "the talk") and we had a relaxing week together.  A Brautigam summer family tradition, we all look forward to our week together and hate to have to skip a year.  

In the past twelve years I think Andrew and I have missed three times:  the summer we got married, the summer I was pregnant with Ben and technically the summer we worked at Deerfoot, although we visited a lot while we worked down the road.  We have so many rich memories at Camp of the Woods as a dating couple that found a brown bear on a couple of evening walks, young married couple who relaxed, read books, and exercised a lot, and now a family of five with a minivan full of toys.  

Located in the Adirondacks on beautiful Lake Pleasant, Camp of the Woods is a Christian family resort.  It is truly a vacation.  Meals, lodging, maid service, free mini golf, a huge gym, a beautiful beach, a playground, and numerous other activities it is a place where families can just hang out together and enjoy one another.  We look forward to the trip every single year.  Ben and Caleb both experienced COTW at six months of age, Hannah at six weeks.  As the children get older it is so fun to watch them get excited about heading up together.  Our only job at Camp of the Woods is to relax and recharge.  For a few of us that means a lot of exercise, for others time relaxing on the sand reading and for the littles, embracing every single activity in fifteen minute increments.  I could spend hours writing about the wonders of our vacations there together but I will instead let a few pictures from the last couple years speak.

Yesterday Andrew received an email with our reservation confirmation for our summer vacation at Camp of the Woods and we can't wait to make more memories there together!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Day 11--God's Protection

Yesterday after a fun morning with a dear friend, something happened that was the most personally horrifying experience of my life.  That might sound like an exaggeration, but it isn't.  I won't go into details but the event that occurred could have ended tragically.  Over the past 24 hours I have had quiet moments in which I relive the incident and am immediately stricken with guilt and fear.  An individual from my church sent me an email to remind me that every time I start to relive what happened I need to praise God for what didn't.  Every time my mind wanders to the dark place of the incident I audibly praise God for His protection.  My children probably think I am going nuts, or maybe they don't even notice.

This last day has been hard but, also a good reminder of how my life is not my own.  My children's lives are mine to guide and help grow but are ultimately God's to protect.  Things that are dangerous are always out there but how cool is it that we have a Heavenly Father who is watching out for us and keeping us safe.  Psalm 18:30 says, "As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him."  Yesterday God was a shield. A literal shield.  Today I am so thankful for His protection in my life everyday and especially in the situation yesterday.  I know that what happened will be in the forefront of my mind in the coming days and weeks but I also am so thankful to know that there is someone greater than me looking out for my life and the lives of those I hold so close to my heart.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Day 10--The cousins

Disclaimer:  I realize I missed two days, I will catch up on the other side...the littles don't always sleep at the same time which means that blogging is at the bottom of the list.

My first official extended Brautigam family gathering was at the wedding of one of Andrew's cousins--one of his twelve girl cousins.  When we met only one of those cousins was already married.  As you can imagine over the course of the last ten years, we have attended a lot more weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, graduation parties, etc.

Over the weekend I attended the baby shower of one of his cousins who is due this winter.  As I sat next to my mother-in-law, across from Andrew's grandma and received hugs from other cousins and aunts I felt so blessed.  I married into an incredible family.  Andrew's extended family is a part of our lives, have come to birthday parities for the boys and we are fortunate enough to even attend the same church as his aunt and uncle.

My children are growing up with such a wealth of family surrounding them and I feel so thankful that they get to know such an amazing group of people.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Day 7--The Leaf Rakers

When we lived on White Street our neighbors were almost exclusively college students.  Most of the time they were quiet but there were also a fair share of frustrating times.   Parties/getting blocked in our driveway/beer cans in our yard/water balloon fights in the street and just general 18-22 year old behavior was at times a bit much.  Our first year was the worst but our summers were quiet as were any breaks from school.  The second year I made a lot of cookies and paraded my kids up and down the street in the hope of earning good will.  It seemed to do the trick and the students were way more respectful.  I kept the cookie train going each semester, we tried to be courteous and we existed together.  There were still occasional weekends that looked like this:

Moving to our new house meant moving closer to the college, with some college housing nearby but also real neighbors with families.  Today I had my post organized in my head but then I drove home after a baby shower to see neat piles of leaves all raked up lining our sidewalk.  Recent windy weather and huge trees left a few layers of leaves so thick on our yard that the grass was hard to see.

 Not anymore.  A group of college students every year does a community service project and rakes leaves at the houses in streets near the college.  We live on a corner lot which meant that they raked our ENTIRE yard.  Andrew said it took 15 students about an hour to do our house alone.  The yard looks beautiful and we didn't have to rake it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Day 6--10 Years of Marriage

When Andrew and I met at Houghton in the spring of 2002 it wasn't love at first sight.  I was engaged to someone else and it wasn't until nearly a year after that engagement ended that we started dating.  Andrew chased me around for a while, got his family to woo me, made sure I got a job down the road from where he was working and once we started dating I was done.  I knew he was the man I was going to marry. Our dating relationship started awkwardly with me saying, "Andrew I like you," he replying with a very certain "I know," and nearly two years later we both said, "I do."

Our first years of marriage were challenging.  We were married young, he was 21, I was 23 and we decided to grow up together.  We both had a lot of growing up to do.  Neither of us was set in a career choice.  I was finishing a degree I didn't want any longer, he was working a job he didn't like and we were both trying to figure out what was next.  In our early years we spent a lot of time exercising, even more time eating, watched a lot of Sabres games and slowly figured things out.  Eventually he went to law school, I completed a second graduate degree  and we started our family.

Ten years ago, ten years seemed like a long time to be married.  Now I am not sure how it  passed so quickly.  As a couple we've grown so much and learned so much about how to live with another person.  We've been so blessed in our marriage to one another.  We've grown our family and grown up.  I can't imagine being on this adventure with another person.  Andrew is my rock.  He works tirelessly to provide for our family, loves our children deeply, loves me unconditionally, and most importantly puts God first in our family and lives.  I can't wait to see what the next ten years hold.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Day 5: This old house

Four years ago I wrote this post about our first home as a married couple.    Our little white house on White St. was the perfect fit for our small family when we moved to Fredonia with our first blondie, Ben.  We loved the proximity to Andrew's work, library, playgrounds, hardware store and local eateries but in the winter of 2015 after our family of three grew to four and five in the near future we decided to start looking for our forever home.  Our long term plan is to stay in Fredonia.  We have both grown to appreciate our lives here and raising our children with so much family nearby is important to us.

In February of last year with my belly rapidly expanding and feet of snow on the ground we began our search.  We were hopeful that our house would quickly sell and we would find something that suited the needs of our growing family.  Our first trip out with our realtor made us want to stay put.  From a house with a basement out of horror movie to another where the tenant was making sauerkraut in the kitchen to another where the nicest room was the laundry, we felt a little discouraged.  But then we looked at "the one,"  a beautiful white victorian that both of us had admired from afar for years.  Once inside, though it was freezing, we both really liked it.  Hardwood floors, a huge kitchen, two full bathrooms, a basement, attic, etc., it checked most of our boxes.  We were sold.  The only problem was the house was listed as a short sale so we knew it might take a while.  We put our offer in and sat back and waited.  and waited. and waited. and waited.  February turned into March, April quickly passed by, Hannah arrived in May and while on vacation in July we finally heard that our offer was not accepted and they were taking another.  Disappointed, but also a little relieved to finally know something we took a step back from the house search.  With a brand new baby in tow, the thought of moving was overwhelming so we thought we would wait for a while to see if anything else came up that we liked.  We had exhausted the list of houses on our list and were not in a huge hurry to move.

That didn't last long.  The entire time we looked at houses, there was one in particular that I always clicked on when it popped up on zillow.  I admired the pictures but never wanted to look inside because it was out of our price range.  For months it sat on the market and every six or eight weeks the price fell.  While we were waiting on the other house, the price kept falling and falling.  Finally Andrew contacted our realtor and said we wanted to look at it.  I dropped the boys off with a friend at the playground and told her before seeing it there was no way we would buy it--it was too expensive and out of our league.

When we walked into the house I was a little taken aback by its beauty.  It checked all of my boxes:  mudroom, beautiful kitchen, gorgeous woodwork, room for a playroom, fireplace (with woodstove), upstairs laundry room, four bedrooms with nice closest, attic, basement, garage...I was in love.  Beautiful leaded glass windows, pocket doors, pull out shelves in the kitchen with nice appliances, the house was a dream.  It was way nicer than any house I ever imagined owning.  Sensing we liked it, our realtor encouraged us to think about putting in an offer.  A few days later we did and right now I am writing this post from my new living room.  We closed quickly, moved in a lot sooner than we'd planned and unpacked with the help of my wonderful in-laws.

Every morning I wake up excited about our new place.  Whenever I walk or run home I think about the memories we will create here.  The kitchen that I love will cook birthday cakes, create meals for friends and family and host numerous small groups.  Our kids will get off the bus here for their first day of school and will shoot baskets at the hoop over our garage.  This is the home that our kids will come home to when they are off at college.  This is the house that our children will bring their children too.  This, our forever home, is where Andrew and I will grow old and gray.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thankfulness Day 4--Today

Every November my facebook feed is flooded with thankful posts.  Four years ago I blogged every single day of the month of November with memories, people and things in my life for which I am thankful.  Four years later, I am still thankful for all of those things but, so much has changed I thought it would be fun to revisit the month of thankfulness and hopefully challenge me to continue to blog beyond the month of November.

When teaching English I gave the journal prompt at least once a school year to describe your perfect day.  Students would often include things they ate, people they hung out with and activities they would do.  As a mom of three littles "perfect" days might not look like one would expect but today for me is one.  The last three days were rough.  Daylight savings time, Halloween and general excitement led to blond boys who woke early, didn't nap and a princess who didn't sleep very well.  I felt like a zombie.  A very tired, very frustrated, very frazzled zombie.  The situation deteriorated to the level that on Monday night as I was trying to clean the crayon off the floor, finish our small group dessert, make dinner and keep all three kids alive, I had to send a text of desperation to Andrew to walk fast on his way home.  I was spent.  My patience was totally gone.  I honestly was wondering how many more no nap, up early days I would be able to handle.

But, yesterday things started to turn around as all three kids got the sleep they needed.  Today they woke up just as I was leaving to run and when I returned we settled into our morning routine.  We enjoyed a big breakfast, the boys were quiet as I put their sister down for her nap and once we were all ready we headed outside.  Our new house is about 400 yards from the playground and on this perfect morning we embraced our location and headed down the sidewalk with our load of trucks.

Ben pulled and Caleb pushed our red wagon stacked with six or seven trucks, balls, a blanket and snacks.  Their blond heads bobbed along as they worked together to reach our destination while I walked along with Hannah smiling in her carrier.  T-shirts for all of us, not a hat, glove or coat in sight and even shorts on Caleb's skinny little legs.  Once we arrived, the friends started coming on foot and in vans.  Our wagon quickly emptied as all the boys used the wood chips as their construction site.  Dump trucks zoomed down slides, laughter filtered through the air from the swings, the babies cooed on blankets and snacks were shared.  Everyone embraced the sunshine that I am sure we will soon exchange for snow but for today, things were perfect.

Days like today make my heart feel so full it could burst.  I am so thankful for the sunshine that is showcasing the fall colors, the playground outside my door and the warmth that is such a gift in November.