Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review (and oh, what a year it was)

Thank you so much for spending this last year with me here!

  It was a wild and rough and joyful and crazy one, no doubt.  I don't really realize the enormity of all that it held until taking a moment to look back on the thoughts and memories and moments I captured here.  It was a full year.  So full.  I second guessed this whole blogging thing a lot (a LOT) this past year but when I look back and see the posts I collected here, I'm so grateful I took the time and emotional and physical energy to do it.  It's funny how our minds mess with us sometimes, isn't it?

Here's a little year in review of a few of the more popular and noteworthy blog and family moments of 2014 (and it took way too long to put together so just pretend it's super mind-blowing and helpful and awesome, okay?  Great.):

For the Whole Year



Most Pinned Post:  Scriptures for Miscarriage

January

We celebrated the remainder of Christmas.  We battled flying rodents.  Our family bore the heartache of losing baby Charles.  I tried to find a little beauty in the winter and I finally wrote out Michael's quick and crazy birth story.

The post that blew all the others out of the water view and pin wise was Scriptures for Miscarriage.  What a grace it is to see that the suffering of losing a child years ago and the grief we endured as our family lost baby Charles was able to be used to help other people.  I hope and pray that those Scriptures I collected there have been a comfort for people enduring that same cross.


February

I ignored football.  We endured February during one of the worst winters ever.  And we entertained more rodents in the house while calling it educational.  During the first few months of the year I pondered a whole lot of Chesterton with Sarah and at the end we unexpectedly lost Brian's dad.  That was (and is) hard.

The post that was seen the most was my Five Favorites {The Somehow Staying Healthy Edition}, i.e. the ways that we were staying healthy last winter.  What a gift it was to not deal with any big illness last year!  It would be wise to keep up that plan for this year as ugly things have already started invading our area.  I really need to get me some more smoothie making motivation.


March

March found a lot of new people making their way here which was fun!  I let you all in on my crazy and explained how (and why) I have white couches with a house full of boys.  I hosted a Chesterton weekend for Sarah and thought deep thought about forgiveness.  We celebrated Michael's First Reconcilation.  You all helped me do my doulaing a little bit better and shared your thoughts on labor.  I also shared what I thought were some great ideas for celebrating the Annunciation.

But the posts that generated the most discussion and views and were dearest to my heart?  
and
The response to these two overwhelmed me and was a huge blessing as a I bore a whole lot of my wounds and heart here.  Thanks for that.

I shared with you my wedding day crazy-eyes.

April

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I showed you our new laundry room done on the crazy cheap and we talked about preparing a child's soul for First Holy Communion.  

But WE WENT TO ROME!!!  Remember that??  And then I blogged about it each day!!!  Because this family (but apparently me in particular) is completely nuts!!! What an amazing joy it was to have Michael receive his First Communion on Easter Sunday in St. Peter's Square and we got to be there for the canonization of Saint John Paul the Great!  Wow.  I still can't believe that that (and the whole trip) really happened.  I am still humbled and surprised when people to this day tell me that they followed the trip each day we were there.  I don't even know what to say except thank you for sharing in that joy with us.  Thank you for letting me pray for you while we were there.  The most popular post from that whole trip was the very last one as I wrapped it all up.


May

I shared our travel tips and we had the greatest John Deere party for David's fifth birthday (if I do say so myself).  The most viewed post was about Our Little Oratory, thanks to Leila's linkup.

I'm torn about my favorite post for this month, though.
It's either The Romance of Running Shoes wherein I tell you a little why my husband running a marathon helped heal our marriage.  (Who'da thought?)
Or
Of Breastmilk and Suffering.  I totally forgot I had written this.  I'm really really glad I did.  If you haven't read it, I hope you do.
  

June

 I talked about my homeschooling ways and how I'm laying the cultural smackdown with my graying hair and both were pretty popular.  So were my reasons why I like when my husband leaves.  

I think my favorite post from the month and the one making me sob my eyeballs out right now is How Did I Not Know You?  

The one that's received the most attention via views and pins is my post on my Scripture Cards for Labor and Birth.  I truly hope they have blessed other women out there and helped them have a beautiful and holy birth!


July

We visited Presque and I decided to try my hand knitting female reproductive organs and reading scifi.    I talked about my theories of breaking up with your OB and shared my curriculum choices (which, yes, have changed).

But by far the post that generated the most discussion and support was my post Dear Small-Time Mediocre Blogger, I Think You're Great.


August

This summer was a hard one emotionally.  I struggled a lot and I shared some of my heart on that here.  I made the brave admission that I don't hate laundry and how I keep it under control.  Oh, and that time I almost died at the lake

My first post of the month, Why NFP Matters for Your Birth (an important topic, right?!) was the most popular of the month.

Oh, and this awesomeness happened.

September

We ditched school for the pool, we tore down decrepit outbuildings (happy birthday to me!), and I reminded myself why I need to fast a whole lot more.  I talked about all the things I wish God would explain (and why it's okay that He doesn't) and why the angel Raphael is one of my faces.



October

Bonnie invited me to share our Autumn home with you.  I meditated on guarding our hearts and souls from the ugly and I began a role as contributing writer at Elizabeth Ministry with my opening piece on labor, doubt, suffering, and the beauty of it all.  We celebrated Saint John Paul's first official feast day with a feast and had some fun little saints to show off for our All Saints' celebration.

Oh, and I let you in on our grape baby news.  That was kinda big :)


November

I thought some on the relationship between All Saints' Day and our miscarried babies as well as angry Jesus.  John Paul also shared his latest stick bomb hobby and impressed a whole lot of folks.

But clearly out of all the deep thoughts and meditations and sharing of precious childhood memories, it should have been obvious that the most commented on and popular post was about things I buy at the dollar store, right?  Ah, blogging ;)


December

Advent began and I couldn't keep my mouth shut...again.  I tried to reach out to other women and remind them that Advent is for them, too.  Brian and I got an overnight away (and met Marian Grace)!  A post that I thought would receive a little more response was Dear Friend Joining Us for Christmas Mass.  It's always interesting seeing what clicks and what doesn't!  (And all the other bloggers said amen.)  

The post with the most views was pretty much due to the fact that almost everyone loves a baby bump
  
But I think this is one of my favorite photos of the month.


What. A. Year.
Thank you.  Thank you all so much for reading here.  For the support, love, and prayers you've given over a really hard year.  Thank you for letting me share my heart here.  For rejoicing with us in our joy and grieving with us in our pain.  Thank you for the emails, the comments (here and in person), the conversation.  Thank you for forgiving me when I mess up, for giving me the benefit of the doubt, and for remembering that the things I can post here are just one little snippet of a much bigger picture.  I am truly grateful for each person who comes to this little place.  I don't think I'll ever get over the fact that the words I type from my little head get read by real people.

I pray that God blesses all of us in only the way He can this 2015.
A blessed and happy new year, friends!


(Oh, man, it is hard picking just one photo for each month!  Some are from the calendar I gave to Brian for Christmas.  But I tried so I'm going ahead and linking up with Dwija's 12 in 2014.)



Monday, December 29, 2014

And from Them to Us


And now the gifts from them which, of course, are far more entertaining and sweet.
I intentionally stay out of their way when they are furiously working on gifts for us and each other, unless they ask for my help with some specific part.  I love to see what they come up with.  

And I love how excited they are to give their gifts!

David had gifts for Brian and me but didn't leave himself enough time to make gifts for the siblings.  Which at age five is quite all right, I think.  At their learning center there has been a table of freebies sitting out in the hallway for the last few weeks bearing medals and holy cards and all sorts of sacramentals that the church was hoping people would take.

David was thrilled to find on the table this small cross to give Papa for his desk at work and wrapped it meticulously.  And the flower copped from my ribbon box was his gift for me :)  "I worked for DAYS on it, Mama."

And apparently both Michael and John Paul were making ALL THE ORNAMENTS as gifts.  They're pretty cute but we may have to work on branching out a bit next year...

From Michael:  A train for Luke, a snowflake for John Paul, a snowman for David, a moon for Papa, and a cross sun catcher he got from that same table he just was absolutely sure I would adore :)  Michael was working on a wooden rubber band gun for John Paul in the garage for a long time but I think he ran out of time.  And motivation.

And from John Paul:  A marathon runner for Papa, a Nativity scene for Michael, a train for both David and Luke (apparently the creative juices were running low at this point), and what's that in the corner?  Pretty much the reason I needed to write this whole post.  His gift for me.  Let's take a closer look, shall we?

That is exactly what you think it is.  
You guys.  He made a doula ornament of an unborn baby out of cardboard.  Yes, he very much did.  And it made my Christmas morning.  I'm pretty sure when I figured out what it was I laughed until there were tears.  I'm not sure how many people get to hang a cardboard fetal replica on their tree but now I get to be among the lucky few.  But I guess considering that the whole God humbling himself and entering humanity as even the tiniest, most fragile of human beings is the whole point of observing Christmas, I suppose in some sense it's pretty appropriate, huh?
  
Happy fifth day of Christmas!




Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Gifts - From Us to Them


I think I've realized that one of my love languages, at least with my children, is gifts.  I love to give them something special at Christmas and for their birthdays.  I love knowing them and figuring out what is that gift that will speak to their heart and just be that perfect unique gift for them.  I feel like truly knowing someone results in that gift that is such a sign of love and it's not even necessarily the gift itself that means so much but the knowing of the person well enough to pick that gift.  

I also love chronicling what we've given them each year.  I find it so helpful for future reference and it just makes me happy to see those faces!  Anyway.  All of this is my really long way of saying this post might not be interesting or useful to anyone but me.

This year I decided months ago that Michael, David, and Luke would be getting play vestments.  They love to play Mass and they've each been talking about how they'd like to be a priest when they're older.  David sometimes opts for deacon.  I toyed with the idea of making them myself and I am so glad I didn't!  Last year's Lord of the Rings costumes (and the two days before Christmas tears that were shed over them) were enough sewing for me for a while.  It was such a relief to order these from Faithful Findz and have them beautifully and prayerfully made by someone who actually knew what they were doing.

Father Michael

And Deacon David


Jean was wonderful and made David special deacon wear!

They kept them on almost all morning!

Luke wasn't in the mood for trying his on but you can see John Paul holding it here.  If we had time I was going to have Brian try to make a little tabernacle to hold all their Mass supplies since they're just kept in a basket right now.  But we had to pass on that as Brian's been pretty busy with work lately.

I also knew John Paul's gift months ago and had it ordered in October.

Realizing what it is...I think he was kinda excited ;)

We've got big plans to make this winter!  I ordered the suit from here.  He then decided he had to wear the suit to the party at the grandparents' later!

One of our little traditions is that I get each of the boys and Brian a special ornament that represents something about them from that year.  I LOVE doing this and am so glad I started it.  I love that they'll have a little cache of memories to take with them when they leave our home someday and that they'll know, at least a little bit, how much they were loved.


The Luke got a train.

David was tougher this year but in the tend I decided to make an ornament of The Last Judgement painting because he was so enthralled with studying Michaelangelo and going to the Sistine Chapel on our trip.  This was the painting he loved most.  I thankfully had a postcard I had happened to buy when we were there.  I cut it to a square, modpodged it to a piece of plywood, and added a ribbon.

Michael got a St. Peter's replica in commemoration of his First Communion.

And John Paul got an altar server cross.  I just changed this pendant into an ornament by adding a ribbon.

I got Brian an ornament to commemorate the marathon.  It's personalized with his name, date, and time.  When I looked back on the post I wrote that day to double check his time, I cried all over again.

We normally just do one bigger gift for each boy but I really wanted to get a couple of them something else specific so I decided to get them each one extra this year.

Luke got a homemade spool sorting toy thingy.

I'm glad he actually really likes it.  At one point the spools became projectiles which was expected but a few times he's actually used it for...sorting!


Because every five year old wants a Last Judgement puzzle, right?  Funny enough, they don't make this in a child size so we're going to have to do this one together :)

Michael with the long-awaited camouflage watch.

And John Paul with the microscope.  He was wearing his suit and using the microscope all morning...it looked like he was some biohazard research scientist or something.  I asked around on a few homeschooling boards and this microscope came highly recommended as one at a reasonable price that worked well and was of good quality.

And Brian with the annual photo calendar so we can stare at him at work all day long.

Later that morning, Michael and David treated us to Christmas Mass.

In case you didn't see my share on Facebook, Deacon David was even able to proclaim the Gospel ;)

And this was this morning.  I think they sort of like them :)



Friday, December 26, 2014

Scenes from Day One

Merry Christmas, sweet friends!

One boy serving, two boys in the choir and it was only three of us in the pew!

Not home raised this time but it still looked like perfection coming out of that oven

Sitting down to the feast

New pjs

The first Christmas cookie taste of the season



Reading The Story before opening gifts (and yes, despite the window, it was morning.  We held them off til about 7)

Placing Baby Jesus

And the opening begins...you'll have to wait for shots of everyone's gifts!

The annual homemade better than amazing cinnamon rolls

Happy birthday, Jesus!
(Word on the street is that this chocolate peppermint cheesecake cake is Jesus' fave.  Yes, cheesecake inside that chocolate cake.)

The party is just getting started around here and my heart overflows!
Wishing all of you a beautiful, peaceful, joy-filled season celebrating His Love!





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