Monday, November 9, 2015

Caleb's Fourth Birthday (and why I didn't throw a birthday party)

Caleb is FOUR!!

God is making a lot of changes in me and one of them is a desire for simplicity in our lives and in our home.   Coupled with some thoughts from a book I'm reading, Tools For Cultivating Your Child's Potential, by Zan Tyler (about making your home a place where your family is united, feels like they are an important part of a team and where they Want to be), I decided to make some big changes and switch up the way we celebrate birthdays.  

Depending on how long you've been reading my blog, you may or may not know that I LOVE it when my kid's birthdays come around.   I have really enjoyed throwing them some fun, themed parties over the last few years.    Here are a few of them:

Kenyan Safari
Pink Snowflake
Strawberry Shortcake
Monster Truck
Winnie the Pooh

Now, compared to what you can find on Pinterest, and what some of my friends have done, these are nothing.   For me, though, they were a blast.    Helping the kids choose a theme, and then taking on the challenge of coordinating decorations, favors, the cake and food to go along with that theme was a Ton of fun...and a lot of work and planning and preparation...and stress.   Yes, I admit it, along with the fun there was stress.

So, is that why I opted out of a party for Caleb?  The stress?  No, not really.   We felt that we were setting our kids up to have selfish, unrealistic expectations each year as they got older, wanting their party to be even better than last year's.   Along with that, having a lot of guests, not being able to spend super quality time with Any of your friends in the madness, and then being showered with gifts (which you don't need, and most of which will be broken, lost or collecting dust by your next birthday), it doesn't create an atmosphere of special, meaningful celebration that births gratefulness for the blessings we have.   This is where the change really came from.    There are plenty of other, less important reasons I was excited about this change (expense, time, stress, food preparation, making the house look perfect, the awkward "who do we invite/not invite?" etc) but these are all just extra perks to not have to worry about, not the heart of the issue.  

*I had also recently seen some pretty sweet birthday posts on a friend's blog (she has six boys and has always done family parties) that showed how much happiness there can be in just celebrating with your family.

When none of the three families we had invited for Caleb's birthday were going to be in town that day, it made the plunge that much easier.    Okay then, we would just have a fun, family celebration all day on Caleb's birthday!    We had so much fun (mostly Keenan, Moriah and I) talking about the upcoming day and how we could make it special for Caleb.    I was Thrilled to not have to have the house immaculate, not have to make food for anyone extra, and to be able to just chill and "be us" and enjoy each other.   Making new birthday traditions is also fun!

The day started with Caleb coming out first (as usual), snuggling with me in the rocking chair, and then climbing into bed to snuggle Daddy while I made breakfast.

(I spent exactly $4 on decorations from Dollar Tree) =)

We started the day with Caleb's birthday breakfast of choice:  Waffles and Ice Cream (with hot chocolate)

Yes, everyone looks really sleepy because this was at 6:15!
(The kids opted to get up early so we could have breakfast as a family before Philip went in to work at 6:30)

Candle and sprinkles on his waffle =)

We did a few small gifts before Philip left (none cost more than $1 each)

I made him his own mug for hot chocolate =)

He loved it!

Moriah bought him some color changing lizards 

Keenan gave him a Mickey Mouse puzzle (both kids used their own money)

We gave him a "school book" and some punching balloons (it's soo easy to make a four year old happy!)

Keenan and Moriah each picked out four special books at the library that they thought Caleb would enjoy and we had a book reading marathon later (while Mommy still lounges in her pajamas!  Woop!)

* While we were reading books, he got a special birthday call from Papa in Kenya! =)

With his lizards...

...and after they started to change color in the freezer!

Late morning, we headed to the zoo!

The birthday boy on the tiger

Keenan brought along a notepad and wrote down "research notes" on a bunch of animals for a fun writing project we're working on =)

A rare sighting of the Red Panda, not sleeping in his burrow!

The kids played on the playground and we had a picnic lunch in the sunshine.

With the proud male lion in the background

He Is quite handsome

Zebra butts!

...and back in the log

All four of us on the way out

Next up, a trip to the Nifty Nut House, where the birthday boy got to choose one type of candy to share:

 He chose gold, orange, blue and white Sixlets

He fell asleep on the way home and took a long birthday nap =)

After he woke up, we took a walk around the pond in our neighborhood...

We took a break so the kids could eat their snack while watching the construction equipment

For his birthday dinner, Caleb chose chili and pigs in a blanket. =)

He did a GREAT job making them himself!

Philip was working on base this weekend, so he couldn't join us for most of the festivities, but he did come home early so we could have dinner and spend the evening together.

After dinner, we all decorated mini train cakes together (this is what Caleb chose when I let him chose his cake)

All done!
(I was super impressed with Philip's skills!)

Now time for the Real candle lighting!

Happy Birthday, Caleb!!!

After dinner, Caleb opened a few more gifts:

We got him this book,which is very similar to a favorite of his, "Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?"

Opening his gift from Mom and Jeff:

First look

This look says, "Yeah, Keenan, it IS totally awesome, isn't it?" =)

All three kids love this remote control!

This cool crane is from Papa

 It's super cool, with a drill that really works to tighten (and loosen) bolts and nuts!

All put together!

Before he went to bed, we had fun looking back through blog posts from the day he was born and his first few months...

Oh, my heart!

 Meeting their new baby brother (Moriah was still such a baby!)

I seriously can't even handle the sweetness in these two...

 Dr. Caleb

I still LOVE this one Philip took

Caleb Michael, you have brought sooo much joy and laughter into our family!    We love your spunk, your sense of humor, your crazy hair, your love of snuggles and the sweet way you adore your big brother and sister.   We are so thankful that God gave you to us and we pray that you will grow into a man who honors and serves Him with your life.

Well, it was a fabulous day, but unfortunately Caleb hadn't been four for even 24 hours before he started puking in the night!  =0/  He was sick four or five times in the night and several times the next day.  It made for lots of birthday boy snuggles and extra naps on Mommy which was okay with me. =)  He got to extend the birthday fun with a special card and money in the mail from Grandpa and Grandpa Woodford, too =)

Halloween and Surrounding Randomness

Here's a catch up of the week-ish surrounding Halloween...

October 28th, we decorated pumpkins with our new friends, the Doolites:

These three decided to paint...

While everyone else opted to carve
(My friend, Jenny, and three of her kids, Joel, Jacob and Jillian)

Jacob's smiley pumpkin =)

This is the only picture I took of my kid's pumpkins =0/
(It's Keenan's)

That evening we went to Elias's first birthday party!

Moriah holding baby Graciana (the one who's birth I photographed)

Just like I was...holding babies any chance I got! =)

October 29th:

Our C.C. group took a nature walk for Science

...and we had (less than a month) newly weds, Dan and Mindy over for dinner! =)
(They love our kids and I our kids love them!)

October 30th:
Moriah lost her first two teeth!

They had been lose for a while, and when the kids went to the dentist at the beginning of the week, he said they needed to come out ASAP (since the two behind them were already in!)  I upped our usual tooth fairy pay and told her if she got them out in the next week I'd give her $5. =)

Her two new teeth!

October 31st:

We had our friends from house church, Drew and Lindsay over for lunch.   They're fairly newly married too (four months) and we have great conversations with them.

This year, I didn't buy the kids new costumes, and we didn't make a big deal out of the day.   We went to a festival put on at the church they attend AWANA at...

Pirate Caleb coloring a picture

They had a bunch of fun games set up (all over the church) that had funny "Biblical" themes...

Caleb trying to take down the lions in the den with Daniel

Moriah getting blindfolded by Queen Esther...

...for a game of "pin the crown on Queen Esther"

Keenan hitting "Goliath" smack in the face with a foam ball =)

Waiting our turn outside of the "cemetery"
(I was a little unsure of this part, worried there might be a haunted house or something)

...instead it was a giant, dark, air filled "balloon tent thing" that the kids went in and someone told the story of Jesus rising from the dead... pretty cool!

Our friends, the Alleman's 

After that, we went home for dinner and then the kids handed out candy at our door for the first time ever.   We were really surprised and had a Ton of people come!  (I'm a mean mom - I let the kids each choose ten pieces of candy from the stash they came home from the church festival with, and all the rest got added into the bowl to hand out).

Moriah with our new neighbor and friend, Khloe

November 1st:

At lunch time we had our new neighbors over for burgers on the grill.  Their names are Eric, Hope, Khloe (6) and Bronze (7 months).    I think we will be great friends! =)

This was later that day.   A cool mobile Keenan made out of magnatiles:

November 2nd:

I made yogurt for the first time!
(I have done it twice more since then!)

Buying gallons of milk on sale for $2 and using my own starter, means I get 2 quarts of greek yogurt for $2!    I may never buy yogurt for myself again!  The recipe I use is for the crockpot and it's sooo easy!

This is the whey that is strained out and I use it to make my broth for soups, etc.  It has a lot of the protein in it from the milk

November 2nd:

Operation Christmas Child!

Philip actually took this picture while I was out (not sure how I would have felt about this had I been home).    When I got home, Philip had the ceiling fan in the boy's room taken apart... to remove a twisted mess of yard from it.   This is only now a little humorous. =)  Also just now getting to the funny stage is the fact that Caleb's hair was wet a few nights ago... from being dipped in the toilet right before bed!   Oh boy, that's one way to get an impromptu shower before bed.  

Anyhoo... that's what we've been up to lately.  On to Caleb's birthday!