Sunday, September 13, 2015

to henry, on your 4th birthday, with love

I haven't blogged for almost a year.
The months have come and gone swiftly.
I knew I needed to scale back but I didn't mean to quit completely.

A lot has changed in our lives since October.
Henry is four now.

Most of this post is about him, but here is a quick update on all of us:
After literal years of turmoil and feeling very stuck, we finally made the decision to sell our sweet little (tiny, really) house and move closer to family.
We have now lived in this new house for six months and I feel lighter and more at home than I ever could have imagined.

Let's just say I put up a big stink for three years about moving from that little tiny house.
We had met with an architect and made plans to add on and I just laugh looking back now because God was so obviously shutting the door on that plan and just I kept fighting it.
In those three years, He stretched me, humbled me and gently taught me to let go of the perfect house I was envisioning for us and embrace things that matter more, like raising our kids in a place where they are able to walk to grandparents', aunts', uncles' and cousins' houses.

The kids are growing and changing, of course, and in a good way.
Life is really sweet right now.

I hope that maybe "soon" I will have time to write more about our journey over the past almost year.
But what I have learned about myself is that if I really want to live an abundant life: to have room to worship and hear God well, be present with my family, and serve others, blogging really has to come last.
And that means it usually doesn't come at all.
At least in this season.

But enough about me.
Let's talk about Henry.

He loves Planes.
Last year, it was Cars.
And he still loves Cars actually, but now he also loves Planes.

Two nights before his birthday, someone asked him what he was going to do for his birthday, and he told her that his friends were coming over and that he was going to have a birthday party with decorations and balloons.
Christian and I looked at each other, a little concerned because that, in fact, was not happening.

"Ummm... actually, Buddy, Daddy is going to take the day off and we are going to do something fun as a family, anything you want."
"Ok! I want all of my friends to come over for a party."
"How about we go somewhere, just our family. Where would you want to go?"
"Anywhere I want?"
"Ok, then.  I want to go to my buddy Quinn's house and he can have all of my friends over there and we can have a party."

He wouldn't drop the idea.
Christian whispered to me, "Looks like we are going to have a party."

So, after the kids were in bed and I collected my thoughts, I came to the clear realization that his heart was set on this.
And even though I was completely overwhelmed by the idea of throwing together a last minute birthday party, I texted some friends to see if anyone would even be able to come.
Emily said, "I'll bring cupcakes!"
Erin said, "I'll bring a pasta salad for the grown ups!"
Jane said, "I'll bring sweet potato fries!"
Katie sent me this pin as an idea of what to serve the kids, which turned out perfect and easy.

God so uses those women to show me His love and mercy.

I found some leftover decorations from his first birthday party, went to the store the night before and pulled together food and decorations, then Christian and I stayed up waaaay too late to make his little dream a reality.

His birthday gift airplanes flying from the ceiling fan were a huge hit when he woke up in the morning. 

To top it all off, we had already bought him a Planes bike for his birthday.
He rides it with no training wheels, thanks to learning on his balance bike.

The next morning, he was overwhelmed with joy and excitement and told us multiple times that he loved his party.

Why, oh why, didn't I get a group shot?
Just these (not great) action photos:

Dude needs a haircut.
_ _ _


Before I wrote this letter, I sat down and reflected. Not only on the last year, but on the last four years. Four years that have gone by so fast. Four years that I wouldn't trade for anything.  You, Young Man, are a key piece to this family. God designed you that way and forever you will stay that way.  A key piece to this family.

You are so special to us. Since the day you were born, you took up residence in a little part of your mommy's and my heart. Since then, that little part has grown into a much bigger part.  So big, that some days I don't think I could love you any more. Then, of course, I do.  The things you say, the smiles you give, the hugs you share, are all sure to brighten any day. You are blue skies on a cloudy day, sunshine in the rain, and music in the silence. I love you so very much.

The past year has been full of so many changes for our family. We moved to Zionsville and are now closer to Grammy & Grampy and Mia & Papa. I'm not sure who is more fond of this... us or them.

This coming year, really in just a few weeks, you will be starting Preschool at a new school. I know you will do just fine. Your love for others, your compassion and empathy, and your general demeanor are gifts from God. I pray that you will learn these gifts and use them to better this world for His glory. I don't know what I will do in another couple years when you hit Kindergarten. Wow, that will be rough.

There is this tender part of me that wants you to stay little forever. But then, there is this part of me that is so curious to discover what you will be, who you will be, and what your impact will be on God's world. My constant prayer for you right now, is that you will know and love Jesus. I pray that He will help and bless you along the way.

Your innocence at this age is so precious. Do your best to never lose your purity. You are a great big brother, cousin, grandson, nephew and son. You make me proud every day.  The other night, as we were laying down to bed, I asked you, "Henry, what is love? How does it make you feel?" You responded in saying that, "Love is what we give and it makes me feel happy!" Henry, what amazed me about this is that right away, you went for "Love is what we give." You didn't first talk about those that love you, but how you give love, and that makes you feel happy.

Your soul is a happy one, Henry James. Your burden is light. You are blessed with God's love and you hold the ability to share that love. One day, you might sail across the sea, find the cure for cancer, be the president, or even win the World Series. But above all of this, I pray that your success would come from, and be measured by, your love. Never lose sight of where you come from, what you believe and where you are going.

I love you now and for always,

Henry James, 

So, here we are again. Another year, in the blink of an eye. This one was hard for me, but then, I guess that all of your birthdays have been.

At four, you are tender, compassionate, thoughtful, articulate, generous, loving, joyful and friendly. Yes, you are also human. You make mistakes and bicker with your sister. You still need reminders to be respectful at times, of course. You're little. And you're learning. But what wins out, what you seem to just exude, are those characteristics that I listed before.

The way that you treat your sister is unbelievable to me. Too many times, I've snapped at you for grabbing two of something when I've told you that you can only have one. I'm a slow learner, apparently, and it still shocks me every time. "One for my sister," you remind me softly. Your generosity toward her is overwhelming. You came home from Preschool with a whole bag of treats on Valentine's Day. You asked me if you could have just one, and you went through the whole bag and carefully chose one sucker. "This one is for me, Mom, and the rest are for Caroline." "All of them?" I asked. "Yep," you said with a proud grin.

The first year of her life, I worried that you might never even like her. You have become her advocate, her protector, her encourager and her best friend. Just this week, you pulled her from a lake when she swallowed some water, asking her, "Are you okay?" over and over again. You've cheered for her and helped her as she learns to use the potty. This morning, she scratched you on the cheek, and you came to me sobbing. I put her in time out and came back to check on you.  Within seconds, you said, "I wish Caroline wasn't in time out. I miss her." Your concern and love for her so often leaves me stunned. Here you are, still bleeding from her fingernails, and you're worried about her in time out. I often tell you and Caroline to be "slow to anger and quick to forgive," and you are so quick to forgive. It's a rare trait that I hope you manage to hold to forever.

In so many ways, you are a normal 4-year-old boy, making mistakes, playing with your cars and planes, worried only about what you are going to play next. But in other ways, you are not like most kids, and certainly not like most adults. Your generosity, your deep thinking... you seem to have a high level of conscience- a mature wisdom about "good" and "bad". You want to turn off TV shows or stop reading books in which the characters are "being bad" or "mean" or "scary". While we were watching 101 Dalmatians recently, you told me that the men Cruela hired to steal the puppies were "bad guys" and that we needed to turn it off. I asked, "What does it mean that they're bad guys?" You said, simply, "They need love." 

It's totally normal to be selfish, to want to keep all of your candy for yourself, to struggle with forgiveness, to enjoy watching something funny or exciting, even though you know the words they're saying aren't kind or right. That's human nature. It's supernatural to spill over with generosity and forgiveness, and to turn away from impure speech. Your own speech often sounds like something straight out of a Daniel Tiger episode. I often joke that you could be a writer for that show. It's endearing, so gentle. I see God's fingerprints all over you -- in your wholesome innocence and your simple joy. I wish I could take credit for all of it, but really, I am inspired by you and wish I was more like you. Ultimately, what I'm seeing is a glimpse of the purposes He has for you, and of all the gifts He has given you to accomplish those purposes. 

But I have a confession. A deep anxiety that's been lurking in my heart. I'm terrified. 

I fear for you, Sweet Henry. That the world is going to chew you up and spit you out. That people are going to crush you -- crush your innocence and your joy, mock your generosity, your love for your sister, your distaste for "bad" things, and your flowery speech. 

I fear that you will be hurt, (and you will). That it will change you, (and it will). That you will grow up, (and you will), and therefore "grow out of" these gifts which God has given you, or at least choose to ignore or stifle them in order to fit in (and you might). And I will still love you. Nothing can change that. But the thought still makes me sad... and scared for you.

A couple days ago, a big yellow school bus rolled down the street for the first day of school. My eyes immediately filled with tears as I realized you are one year closer to getting on it. I was strapping Caroline into her carseat and you totally caught me. "What's wrong, Mom?" you asked. "I'm just sad that you're going to go to kindergarten someday," I told you, honestly. You didn't say anything at first. I started the car and started driving down the street. "Be brave, Mom!" you exclaimed, breaking the silence. "I'm growing up!" Your bubbly encouragement didn't help the lump in my throat. In fact, it made it worse. But then, the memory verse I have been teaching you popped into my head. And I realized that I need to hear it too. "Have I not told you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed. For the Lord your God is with you, wherever you will go." Joshua 1:9

I trust God, the same God who made you and who has surpassed all of my expectations for who you would be at four. I know that He will continue to be with you and that He has great purpose for you, and that nothing the world tries to offer you or does in an attempt to knock you down can match His provision for your life. He will provide for you, comfort you, and protect you. He will forgive and redeem your mistakes if you let Him. His love and mercy always win.

So, I will try to be strong and courageous as you continue to grow. I will remind you to do the same. But sometimes, it will be me that needs the reminder. Thanks for that, Buddy.

I like you, I love you, and I always will,

_ _ _

I can't get over how our birthday letters always compliment one another.
The rules are always the same.
We sit far apart and write, then we come together and read them to one another.
Every year, we are shocked at how similar the themes are.

A few last pictures from Henry's first day of Preschool at his new school:

We forgot his backpack the first day.
For the win!

Sometimes I'm sure that these two have NOTHING in common and are nothing alike, then I see a series of pictures like this, and I can't believe how similar they seem, just singing, (or something?) and being silly together.

Friday, October 31, 2014

to caroline, on your first birthday, with love

Caroline Anna,

I stood there with my palms open in pure disbelief. A little girl? Really? I was in shock. Caroline, I never thought your mother and I would have a chance at loving a little girl. And then... it happened.  "It's a girl!" the doctor said.

Well, seconds after and now, a year later, I am so happy you are our little girl. Oh, and what a beautiful little girl you are.  Everyone thought you looked like me at first.  Everyone but your daddy that is.  I knew the moment I laid eyes on you that you had your mommy in you. I don't know if it is the little twinkle in your eye or your soft olive skin, but there was something that said, "I'm your little lady; your other girl to love," the very first time I held you.  Funny how a year later I can still think back and remember very, very vividly how it felt that first time I held you in my arms.

One year has passed and what a year it has been.  You are a lovely little lady but, a lovely little lady who knows what she wants when she wants it. Most of the time that want is your mommy. For the longest time, you didn't really want a whole lot to do with me. You knew who I was and you knew I was important. Now though, you love to have my attention. You play this little bashful peek-a-boo game right now that is very sweet. You look away and then look back and when we meet eyes, you giggle and giggle. :)

Caroline, you have a smile that makes me absolutely melt, while also saying to myself, "Oh boy, I'm in trouble." You are absolutely beautiful, not surprising, knowing who your mother is. I am the daddy of a little baby girl who can steal my heart with just one look or giggle. I can't say that I know what I am doing with you like I did and do with your brother.  As you will know someday, I come from a long line of boys: dump trucks, dirt & superheroes. However, I will say this... this journey of raising a girl is not one that I would trade for any other in the world.  I am excited and eager to see where this little lady takes me. Whether it's tea parties, dollies, ponies or even cars, football and trucks, I promise to support you and love you every step of the way.

My hope and whole hearted wish for you on your first birthday is that you learn to know The Lord and trust Him with all your heart, follow His ways and take refuge in Him always. My second wish is that you and I would grow a strong, trusting, loving relationship where you ALWAYS feel supported. You will always be my little lady. Even when someday you think I am the worst dad ever, (which you will at some point), or even when I walk you down the aisle on your wedding day.. I will always be your daddy and you will always by my little lady.

I love you and can't wait to see where this journey takes us. I can't wait to teach you and also learn from you. We've got a lot of memories to make.

I love you, Little Lady,

Caroline Anna,

Hello, Sweet Girl. My heart is so full of love for you and also love for your Creator. When I reflect on what this first year of your life has been for me, one word stands out: surrender.

This year, I have learned to surrender.  See, I wanted you. I planned for you, I prayed for you and I was never nervous or scared throughout my pregnancy with you because I knew being a mommy was hard work with beautiful reward, and I knew that watching your daddy become a parent only made me love and admire him more, and I knew that your big brother needed a sibling and a lifelong friend. And I thought I had it all together. I thought I had this mommy thing down.

But doubt and fear entered my mind within seconds of hearing you cry for the first time.  Twenty seven minutes earlier I was breathing through contractions in our living room and now you were in my arms... and after nine months of thinking you were for sure a boy, I was holding a baby girl in a pink hat. It had all happened so fast and it was all so unexpected. And I questioned.

I questioned why I didn't even know my own baby in my heart.  I questioned how I was going to fare as the mom to a little girl and if I would be able to teach you what it means to be a woman. And I stared at a dear friend who was struggling with the hurt of losing a baby girl just months earlier and was now watching me welcome one into the world. I questioned God's timing. It seemed cruel and confusing and messy. It took months for the truth that we had a girl to soak in... to realize that the hair bows and tutus weren't just make believe. And in the quiet moments, I stared at you and allowed your beauty to captivate me.  God doesn't make mistakes and He formed something beautiful in you, and He entrusted you to me. And I was thankful.

But there weren't many quiet moments over the past year. Between your crying and your brother's rambunctious two-year-old ways, I was overwhelmed a lot. I was tired. I had long, imaginary 'to do' lists with all sorts of stuff I thought was important and necessary but no longer had time for. I tried to cram it all in but failed time and time again. And I believed the lie that I was failing.

Many days, I didn't have the energy to read my bible or hardly utter a prayer. But still, God was teaching me. He would meet me in the dark of your room, as I laid on the floor feeling helpless and listening to you cry.  He would say, "Don't you see that it's the same with you, My Daughter? I've met your needs: you are safe, well fed, with clean, dry clothes... and still, so often, you cry. But know that whether you are actually in pain or in need, or whether you're crying for no good reason at all, I'm here. Just as you lie on the floor of your daughter's room, even when you can't see me, I'm here." And slowly, very slowly, He taught me these little lessons, begged me to trust Him, and called me to surrender more fully. 

"Just stop," I would whisper to you as you cried, and I would wish that I had time to sew or blog or even just take a shower. "Just stop," He would whisper to me. "Stop crying and striving and wanting more than Me.  I am enough."  I was humbled over and over again as I was forced to surrender, to die to myself and my own desires. And it hurt. But every single time I took a leap of faith and chose Him and the good work He had for me right here, of being His daughter first, then a wife and a mommy, and relinquishing the stuff that I no longer had room for, such as self-interest, a perfectly kept home and a desire to grow my small business--or really, just caring what people think more than what He thinks and chasing after the shiny things of this world-- It was scary to let go of those things, but every time I let go of something, He filled that space with peace. 

His ways are so much greater than the ways of this world. This world's standards leave us just short, never quite right and always striving. His ways give us refuge. This is what I hope to teach you as you grow.  

Because I often didn't have the energy to pray eloquent words over you, every night before bed, I simply read you the scripture that hangs above your crib. "The Lord Your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will calm you with His love.  He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

Thank you, My Dear Child, for forcing me to learn the truth of that verse and causing me to surrender. It was all worth it.

I love you,

Thursday, October 30, 2014

caroline's 1st birthday party

I dreamed up Caroline's first birthday party long before she ever existed.
Back when I was planning Henry's first birthday party, I came across an adorable old fashioned ice cream parlor party and I told Christian, "If we ever have a girl, this is happening!"
I owe a huge thank you to everyone who helped me make this vision a reality, especially to Caroline's Grammy and Grampy, since the party was at their house!

I didn't want Caroline's party to be as expensive or time consuming to prepare for as Henry's was.
I have learned that the desire to create beautiful things for my children to enjoy is, in fact, in line with the image of God (He created a perfect and beautiful home for us in the beginning, after all) but I also want to be a responsible steward of my time and resources, so in order to make sure that we didn't go completely overboard, I starting working on it a few months before and challenged myself to keep it fairly simple.
In the end, I failed.
In His image, he created me to be creative.
But so easily, it turns to sin as I get snippy with people I love under stress and think I "need" everything at Target.
Hi, my name is Heather and I am a perfectionist and a craftaholic.

Here are some things I did right: I kept the guest list much smaller this time, though that is a laughable statement when just family includes 17 people... so we kept it to family and our small group.
In some ways, my time seems more valuable than my money in this season of life, so I resisted the urge to make her invitations myself, even though it killed me.
I ordered them from here and forced myself to email the digital file instead of
 of printing them, addressing the envelopes with cutesy envelope wraps, sealing them with washy tape and paying for stamps like I really wanted to.
We had three special out of town guests so I let myself splurge on them.
That took an hour so, phew, I'm very glad that I had already forced myself to email the others.

Also, I didn't reinvent much.
Many of the ideas I used are taken straight from here.
Again, this was hard for me.
But instead of trying to out-do it or start from scratch, I saw, I loved, I copied.

I also delegated.
My very talented friend Erin loves hand lettering and made all of the signs!
I got a lot of teasing about the "schedule" that hung on the front door but really all I was trying to do (besides use the phrase "Here's the scoop" because it's adorable) was let the parents of little ones know the plan because it can be stressful to know when it's okay to leave or to be able to tell your child "We will have ice cream after we sing 'Happy Birthday'".
It was also supposed to help me remember to keep the party moving right along since dinner and bedtime can sneak up so fast.
Of course, we got behind schedule because I'm never on time for anything.
Oh well!

Caroline's Grammy made the smash cake and the ice cream cone cupcakes (LOVE!) and her Mia and Papa can take credit for the lovely "cafe" food display.
So thankful for their help that morning!

Christian used the banners I made for her room and clothespins to hang all of her monthly pictures.
I totally squealed when I saw what he had done.
He knows the way to my heart.

We ordered this "Make of your life something beautiful for God" print from here and used it as inspiration to create a "Wishes for Sweet Caroline" station.

The party was just getting underway and I was beginning to relax and enjoy because friends were arriving and it all looked even better than I had imagined thanks to everyone's help.
I was trying to snap the perfect picture of the birthday girl when someone walked up to her and started to pick her up.

With the camera still to my face, I was thinking, 'RUDE! I'm obviously trying to take her picture...' 
(Very bratty of me, yes.)
Then I heard a familiar but very unexpected voice ask her, "Do you remember me?"
I didn't even have to look.
I knew.

(That's what I screamed out loud).

It was my lifelong best friend, Caroline's Aunty Leesha, who flew in from Bozeman, Montana to surprise me!
Oh my goodness... crying just thinking about it!
What a great moment.
So thankful she was there to share in the fun and watch Liney smash... er, gingerly pick at... her cake.

The kids each got to make their own ice cream using this super easy recipe and method.

For favors, we made pink cloud dough to look like strawberry ice cream and found play ice cream scoopers and ice cream cone bubbles at Party City.

{Photo Booth Fun}

Our small group, minus Corey, Jourdan and their daughter Reese.
Since they couldn't make it, Caroline was the only little girl at her very girly pink and white birthday party.
It was great.

So thankful for our family and friends who shared that special day with us.

Just cracking up that these are the shots we got of our little family.
Looks about right.
This is the first picture we have together since Caroline's newborn pictures.
Like, not even on our phones.

(A huge thank you to Christian's dad for making my dreams come true on that cute awning hanging over her high chair!)

She was in heaven with her new toys.
Considering that two of her first five words were "roar" and "vroom", it was time for a couple girly toys in our house.

Happy birthday, Lulu Girl!
I hope someday you can look at these pictures and know how dearly loved you were at one and that you always will be.

Friday, September 5, 2014

to henry, on your third birthday, with love

I was recently telling a friend about our tradition of writing Henry letters on his birthday and she said, "Oh, I might have to steal that idea."
My response was, "You HAVE to!"
Seriously, I recommend it to anyone.
What a great gift for your child someday.


Three.  THREE!  The baby days came and then went so fast.  All you prepare for when you're expecting is a baby, and then, very quickly, that's over and you've got a toddler.  Toddlers are fun. Toddlers are hard too. You can't reason much with a toddler. In the past year, you've grown from a toddler into a preschooler.  You've changed dramatically, though I have to admit, I hardly noticed while it was happening.  This year has been a big one for all of us.  You turned two and just a few weeks later, Caroline was born.  In my memory, you were the same then, but when I look at pictures, you were so much younger!

It was a tough adjustment for you.  As your third birthday approached, I looked back at this year with a lot of guilt and heaviness.  For you, this was the year of, "Hold on," "Not right now," "Be gentle," and "Shhh!"  That had to be hard. I was completely unprepared for how hard it would be and how much she would cry, and how many times I would have to disappoint you when you wanted to play and I just COULDN'T.

So I sat in that guilt for a while, and I felt terrible that I couldn't go back and change this past year; to be more patient, to work up more energy when I was running on empty, to just stop more often and look into your eyes and listen to you, and to just notice that you were changing.  But I can't go back.  And that's ok.  The grace of God swept over me in my guilt and reminded me of a few things:

1. I'm always going to fall short as your mother.  I'm human.  There is only One who can meet your every need and my job is to point you to Him.

2. Having a sibling means I can't give you as much of myself, but you now have a live-in playmate and a friend for life.  Cherish her. It truly is a gift worth the sacrifice.

3. I have not ruined you, (not yet!).  I am so proud of you, My Son, and of the person you are becoming.  At three, you are compassionate, kind, respectful, polite, obedient, tender-hearted, curious, funny and smart.  You have been forced to learn patience and how to play by yourself, but those are skills you need.  So really, how can I look back and wish to change a thing? I LOVE who you are at three. I love who The Lord is shaping you to be.  He made you, He loves you dearly and with Him, we can't mess this up.

"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

He takes our messes and he makes them good! Therefore, I will continue to point you toward Him and His grace.

I love you, Henry.
I am proud of you.


Henry James!

3 years old! Wow! How did this happen?  Well, I love you more today than I did yesterday; this is how I know you're special. You are the most impressive, funny, caring, giggly, joyful three year old I have ever seen.  Your originality surprises me everyday.  You are so polite too. Always saying please and thank you. And most recently, you have been saying "I love you, Daddy!" a lot.

You make every day special and we are so blessed to have you in this world.  You have so much love in your heart and you love to share that love.  In fact, you don't understand what it would be like to not share that love.

This year, for your birthday, you said you wanted the theme "to be about Jesus...and baseball." What kind of three year old says that! You are so full of joy. You even decided, (with a little help from your mommy), that you wanted to help sick kids, so we donated money to the Make a Wish Foundation in your honor.  Henry, you make me so proud.

Every day you are learning more and more.  Your curiosity for life is amazing.  This last year has been a little different for you with the birth of your sister but you are always proud to be the big brother.  Your sister adores you.  You can bring a smile to her face sometimes when no one else can. Please always love her and take care of her.  You're her big brother, after all... To go along with this, every day when I leave for work, I say "Take care of your..." and you respond, "Take care of my mommy and be good to my sister." You make me so proud.

The best part of my day is still when I get home and you greet me with a big hug and say, "Daddy's home!" You have a very special way of being just you and you are full of "Henryisms".  My favorite right now is when you say, "It's not a big deal." or "May I have just a little bit of milk?" as you fold your hands and make a sweet little 'pretty please' face. Also, you like to say, "I'll just play for two more minutes" whenever it is time to stop something or move on to the next, especially bed time.

Henry, you inspire me to find the good in the world and always look at life as the glass being half full.  You have a great way of reminding me that joy is really what matters in life and that "it's not a big deal" no matter how big or small.  You bring great pride to our family and I am more than blessed and grateful to call you my son.  I promise to always be here for you, support you and love you every day of your life. Happy birthday Henry. Here's to many more to come!



I wasn't planning to do a party for Henry's third birthday.
I am sort of working under a "one and done" philosophy.
We went overboard on his first birthday because something about the miracle of life coming into the world and then changing in just one year from a tiny bundle of dependency into a small, walking, "talking" person is just... well, worth celebrating, in our eyes.

We don't necessarily want our kids growing up thinking that birthdays equal a crazy amount of presents or over the top parties.
Still, we have learned that our dearest friends and family really want to see Henry and celebrate with him on his birthday and we treasure that.
It's such an honor to know that he is so loved.

Our house is small so we can only host outside, which means it's weather dependent, and there's not much parking and blah blah...
Last year, Christian's parents hosted a sweet party for family.

This year, I was explaining the predicament to my friend Jess, (people want to see Henry on his birthday but we aren't really up for hosting a big party in our little house...) and she suggested I ask him what he wants to do on his birthday and then invite people.
So I did.
I think my exact words were, "Hey Henry, who do you want to see on your birthday and what do you want to do?...Like what do you want your birthday to be about?"
I would have put money on race cars, pirates, or going to the park... or that he wouldn't understand the question or just say "I don't know".
Instead, he listed every member of our families and his best buddy, Quinn, and after that long list I was sure he had forgotten the rest of the question...
But no.
He said, "...and I want my birthday to be about Jesus. And Baseball."

I was a little caught off guard, shocked by his ability to answer the question and also deeply touched.
I screamed to Christian, "I think you just reached the peek of your proud parenting moments. How could you ask for anything more? Your son wants his birthday to be about Jesus and baseball!"

I thought he may change his mind seconds later but he never did.
I immediately wondered if we could all go to an Indianapolis Indians game (fun for the adults too!), though I wasn't totally sure how to work Jesus in as a "theme".
There was a game the night before his birthday.

Peanuts, Cracker Jacks...and popcorn. 
The boy is popcorn obsessed.
I recently asked him "What do you like better, ice cream or popsicles?" and he said, "popcorn."

So, how to make Jesus a "theme" at a baseball birthday party... after some thought, we told Henry that Jesus says the most important thing in life is to love God and love others, and not just our friends and family.
The Indianapolis Indians accept donations to the Make a Wish foundation, so that seemed like a perfect way to teach Henry about sharing love with others.
You never know how a kid is going to react to something like this, but we gently suggested that he has a lot of toys and asked if he wanted to give money to help sick kids instead of getting more toys for his birthday and he was genuinely excited.
I would never want to push a kid on that against their wishes.

I promised myself I wouldn't spend too much time or energy since I wasn't planning to have a party to begin with.
I emailed invitations from paperless post and the only "big" project I was thinking of taking on was to make baseball sugar cookies (which would have taken forever), and when we went to the store for ingredients, Henry happened to see this cake and shouted "I want that cake!"
It was $15.
I printed the bunting banner from here.

So, I threw some drinks in a cooler, bought the popcorn in bags, I already had the popcorn containers, used a store bought cake, and made some sandwiches which I put in the (Cleveland) Indians bags that Christian's brother bought him for Christmas.
The snacks were easy.
Putting them in the wagon made it easy and cute!
The pictures make it look way more over the top than it was.

The National Anthem...

Caroline was passed around to all the grandparents.

We sang and had cake between innings.

Henry and his best buddy Quinn ran around in the grass and all of the adults just lounged on blankets.
It was so fun!
Oh, and Quinn got Henry race cars.
He just loves the movie Cars right now.

The next morning, (his actual birthday), he woke up to all of his existing cars and three new ones wrapped from us.

We made him pancakes (his favorite breakfast) with "pink sauce" (Kefir yogurt), sprinkles and candles, then his grammy and grampy picked him up and took him on the train to the state fair.

This is Henry at three...
All of his friends go running off together and he stops to "tell me a story" about a tree.
Probably this one: "Mom, when I grow up, I'm going to climb a tree!"
Then, I point out that all of his friends ran that way and he sort of skips/walks to follow them.

He is not necessarily worried about "keeping up" with his friends (and I'm fine with that as long as he is) but he does adore them.
He talks about them with pride, asks to pray for them, and often puts his arms around them and tells them, "You're a good friend".

Of course, at three, his friends are our friends' kids.
Here is our small groups' growing bunch in age order (5 families, 10 kids, 8 boys, 2 girls):

Oh, and he just had his first day of Jr. Preschool.

Still don't know how we got here.
The days are long but the years are short.

And one last thing about Henry at three...
He doesn't always love sharing the attention with his sister, but he does love her a lot.
(And smothers her with hugs that look more like head locks).