Friday, August 31, 2012

Settling: Our Bedroom

Last week I wrote about how I need to settle into this house, into this phase of life.  Since then, our house has gotten a series of mini make overs, where I am re-purposing, re-purging, and generally just trying to "make it work."  Of course, things have temporarily gotten worse before they could get better.

Does everyone else's husband roll his eyes when he comes home to find a room rearranged for the third time?

The biggest thorn in my side in this house has been the kitchen.  It's been a little better since I got the new table and since I've been trying to actually stay on top of the dishes.

The second biggest thorn in my side is my bedroom.  The size of our bedroom is truly not bad, but I have gargantuan bedroom furniture (which I love, so don't even ask me to part with it), and a super small closet (especially compared to the closet we had in the old house).

We needed more storage and I needed it to be prettier, homier, more us.  

I stole Levi's dresser/changing table, and even though it doesn't exactly match everything else, I don't care, it works.  It provides the extra storage I needed and frees up some space in his room (watch for more details soon!).

My cupcake server got re-purposed as a pretty jewelry holder, and the lamp that almost caused world war three between Herb and I got a coat of spray paint and a pretty shade.  And finally, I took a nap time to hang some things on the wall that are special to me.

It's certainly not a "retreat" but it's finally less cluttered and I like it better already.  Now I just need to finish up our new duvet cover (with my mom's help).  It's going to look like this:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Letter L and the Number 2

This is the recap of Levi's birthday party.  It's more for me than you, but feel free to read on if you'd like! I'm SO THANKFUL I asked someone else to take pictures at Levi's party.  It was one less thing to worry about!  I'm also thankful to have a brother who rocks behind the lens.

We started with these invitations which invited guests to our Sesame Street themed party.  I couldn't help it; he loves Elmo.  It seemed fitting given my sister's time on The Street and our recent trip to Sesame Place.  The table cloth is actually two rolls of wrapping paper from the Dollar Tree (so, yeah, $1 each).

We had the party at the radio station where Herb works part time.  They have a beautiful new building and a cafe style room that seats 40.  I was really excited about the venue and the large screen and projector to show Levi's Birthday Video. Unfortunately, the projector was not working and all 25 guests crowded around our 22" TV from home.   The effect was still there, but it was a little bit of a bummer!

When Levi arrived at the party, I showed him around and pointed out all the fun things like cupcakes and veggie trays to look like his favorite characters.  He kept saying, "Elmo!"  "Balloons!"  "Birthday!"  I think he kind of got it!

We ate pulled pork sandwichs, had Oscar and Elmo Veggies, Dorothy Goldfish, and drinks.  I tried to keep it pretty simple with the food.  As people finished eating, the kids were getting rammy and so we cracked open the goody bags and let them color in their activity books.

Inside the (homemade and so simple to make) goody bags were a pack of crayons ($0.25/Target), Activity Book (3 for a $1.00/Dollar Tree) and Stickers (4 for a $1.00/Dollar Tree).  I realized that Levi's late august birthday is perfect for buying fun (school realted) treats for goody bags!!  A quarter for a 24 pack of crayons?  Yes please!  So each bag was less than $1.00.  Score!

We played a little bit of pin-the-nose-on-Elmo ($6/Hobby Lobby).  The bigger kids closed their eyes to pin, the littles just tried to get their sticker on Elmo's nose with their eyes open.  (Elmo is now living on a wall in our entry way.  Levi likes to high five, hug, kiss, and feed the life size Elmo poster).

Next we watched the movie.  While everyone was still in their tear induced stupor, I broke out the cupcakes and we sang to the birthday boy.  His big sister, Savannah, held the cupcake on the plate for him to blow out the candle; a job she took very seriously!

The cupcakes were a hit and pretty delicious.  Say what you will; but you cannot convince me that boxed cake mixes are any worse than those from scratch.

Finally, Levi got spoiled with too many presents.  Luckily he had lots of help ripping into the paper and the bags.  He had a blast though.

I think everyone enjoyed getting a mini-tour of the radio station.  The location also worked out well because Herb had to go on the air at 6pm, just as the party was winding down, so his family got to see him DJ for the first time.

I was really looking forward to making a point out of introducing Levi's birth family to our families, and it actually happened.  I know it was slightly awkward and forced, but soon guards came down and everyone was chatting, laughing, and sharing tissues.  I regret that I didn't invite Levi's play date buddies and their mommas, but I was thankful for the smaller crowd; we got to spend a little bit of time with everyone and it wasn't overwhelming.

One of these days, I'll get around to actually writing about Levi, the two year old and what he's up to these days.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I Got All My Sisters (and Brother) With Me

When it comes to the family department I am ridiculously blessed.  Between Herb and I, Levi's got three great grandparents, six grandparents, three uncles, four aunts, and four cousins.  But it's rare that everyone is together at once.

There are tough schedules to juggle and my sister is a traveling gypsy actress, so we definitely don't get to see her as much as I wish we could.  She blew into town for Levi's birthday party last weekend, and the night before the party, the Stoltzfus siblings were reunited. I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I hung out with my brother and sister and our spouses and our children, especially without our parents being involved.

And it rocked.

We've all grown up.  My brother and sister, who in my head are always only about 8 and 10 years old, are now 24 and 26. They are legit adults and they make their big sister so proud.  When I am with Josh and Wendi, I am being surrounded by the people who know me the best and love me the hardest anyway.  It sure doesn't hurt that Josh married my best friend and that Herb is an amazing addition to the family, too.  And now that Levi and Joelle are here, the entertainment just  never ends.

Sure, even as adults, there is drama, but it's nothing like it was 10 years ago.  I remember praying every night that God would help the three of us not to fight so much, get along better, and truly be friends.  Saturday night I realized that prayer had been answered.  I never laugh as hard as I do when I am with Josh and Wendi and Jocelyn and Herb.

My heart is full and I am blessed.

Also, isn't my brother an amazing photographer?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I need to settle.
set·tle  (stl)
v. set·tledset·tlingset· To put into order; arrange or fix definitely as desired. 2. To put firmly into a desired position or place; establish. 3. To establish as a resident or residents: 4. To restore calmness or comfort to. 5. To cause to sink, become compact, or come to rest6. To subdue or make orderly7. To establish on a permanent basis; stabilize.
v.intr.1. To discontinue moving and come to rest in one place. 2. To move downward; sink or descend, especially gradually: 5. To reach a decision; determine

Yeah, all of them.  Especially the things I put in bold.

I'm so guilty of looking for what's coming next in our lives.  I've been so focused on big things like where we'll move next, how soon we can buy a house, how we can achieve financial freedom on one income, how/when we can expand our family.  But it has to stop, and the sooner the better.

I need to settle my heart - I need to be content with where we are, when we are, and who we are.  I need to reach this decision and choose to be happy with this situation.

I need to settle for this house - it meets our needs, it is a blessing, even if it's small, and it is so affordable it's not even funny.

I need to settle this house - I need to put it in order, really make it work for us for the long haul, and not just as a temporary fix.

We found what we perceived to be the perfect home - and then found out there's no chance we'll be qualifying for a mortgage we can actually afford anytime soon.  Turns out qualifying for a second mortgage is virtually impossible without 20% down, even with the orginal house being rented.

So I will settle to live here.  I will embrace our tiny square footage and make it work us.  I am begging God to make my heart content with where we are.

In the meantime - I need another round (or five) of purging.  Why do I have so much stuff?!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Levi is Two!

My baby turned two yesterday.  So I'm thinking I can't call him baby anymore.  Definitely a toddler.  Definitely making his own thoughts and choices (and making them known).  If you want to know how I feel about this birthday, read this loosely transcribed conversation between Herb and I.

Michelle: I like that we have this tradition of taking a picture of us kissing Levi.  If we do it every year on his birthday, won't it be cool to look through them when he's 18?  I'm sure he'll love the kisses then.

Herb:  We'll probably be moving him in to college on his 18th birthday.

Michelle: . . . . sniff

Herb: Are you crying?

Michelle: . . . . yes. [and then I cried. Seriously.]

I'm too overwhelmed with feelings of completion, joy, and exhaustion from the birthday weekend extravaganza to actually write more about it at this point.  But I will!  Coming soon...

In the mean time, please enjoy this birthday montage video.  My goal was reached at the party - several teary eyes.  No, not really the goal, but it definitely makes me happy to know my son has touched so many people's lives!!  If the video doesn't show up below, click here to watch it on vimeo.

Levi Year Two from Michelle Suereth on Vimeo.

Monday, August 13, 2012

This Is Why We Party

What comes before part B? Par-tay!!

No, but seriously, I have been having a little internal struggle  over Levi's upcoming second birthday.

Pause: my son is going to be two on Saturday.  SOB SOB SOB!!!

Resume.  You see, in my little circle of friends,  two year old birthdays don't call for a big party.  Whether it's that there are other children in the family or funds are tight, or that logically, parties aren't necessary for the child who can't actually name their friends, birthday parties for two year olds just don't really happen 'round here.

But yet, I want to pull out all the stops.  Oh, and Pinterest is not helping at all.

No, Levi doesn't care if we party or not.  Of course he won't remember his second birthday, the fifty balloons I've bought, or the Elmo cupcakes I'm going to make.  And I'm sure I can name a million other things to invest our money in than Sesame Street party favors.

But this is why we will party:

We celebrate a miracle - our miracle.  

We rejoice in the incredibly unique union of two families. 

We remember the hole that has been filled by a little boy who stole our hearts from the moment we saw his picture on the screen.  

We relish in God's lavish faithfulness.  

It's the perfect opportunity for birth and adoptive families to spend time together and get to know one another a little more. In fact, last year we were all still so awkward, I'm not sure if I even actually introduced Jen to our siblings, parents, and grandparents.  So this year we'll keep the party smaller, with more chance of actually getting conversation in between cake bites and pin the nose on the Elmo games.

This is not to say that parties are right for everyone, I just came to the conclusion that a big birthday party is exactly right for us and our situation, and I need to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.

The following message from Jen perfectly sums up the importance of Levi's birthday to those who love him...

"...I received a small phone call today with a reminder of a very big day. The day my second miracle came into this world. Less than a week. Levi you may not be able to read this, but I'm so glad to have you still close in my life, and to watch you become everything I knew you would be in more. I thank God every day that I will always be a small part of what you are. To his wonderful mother and father, thank you for your seemingly endless patience and understanding, and for being the exact opposite of what I feared. I worried about what you thought of me, before I even knew what to think of you and I'm sorry for that. Two years have allowed me to see that the nights I laid awake and spoke to my tummy, making promises of more than I would be able to provide were all more than fulfilled. I love all three of you, and hope you see how much you mean in my life..."

It's time to celebrate.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Love The Number 12: August

It's Levi's birthday week!  Lots of blogging and crafting and general introspectiveness coming up.  So for the big 12 post, I'm keeping it simple this month, but it's probably my favorite.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, 
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

That is all for this month.  That is enough. :)

(Wondering why I love this verse?  Well, this is called "My Hope Fulfilled."  But you can read this story, or this one, or even this ditty.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

How I Spent My Pittsburgh Vacation 2012

The short version of this story is that Herb and his brother road tripped to New Hampshire to celebrate a 30th birthday and a band reunion.  While the men were gone, the ladies spent their days chasing kids and spending too much money (pittsburgh has such amazing shopping). The end.

Here are the pictures to fill in the rest of the story.

{And by the way, I think it really says something about the quality of my in-laws if I was willing to spend a whole weekend with them sans husband.  And you know my free weekends are few and far between.}

First, Cali and I drove in the car for many hours with a baby and a toddler.  They did a pretty good job in the car and we only made one stop.  Success!

Uncle Josh and Aunt Sarah both turned 30 this summer.  Since Josh and Herb got to celebrate all weekend, the least we could do is take Sarah out for a girls night.  After Grandma and Grandpa arrived to take care of all four (!!) grandkids, my two sister in laws jumped in my car and to Ikea we went.  It was Cali's first time!

I also gave Sarah a little gift - a wristlet made from this tutorial.  This might officially be my new favorite thing to make.  In fact, I have started another one already!!

On Friday (day 2), the four kids and five adults took on the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.  It was amazing.  I was really bummed Herb missed out on that adventure.  If you're ever in Pittsburgh, it's a must-see.  I had to drag Levi away from each exhibit/station to try something else.  I think he could have played there for two weeks straight without coming up for air.  His favorites were the train station, the painting station, and the water room.  Although the nuts and bolts held his attention for a long time, too.

On the day of the museum, we got home at 5pm, and of course, no nap had been had by Levi.  In my mom delirium, I thought no nap meant he might go to sleep at 7pm.  So we had an early bath time and then headed to bed.

After two hours of fighting him to lay down in the queen size bed (no crib made this tricky), I finally took him for a drive, bought myself some consolation ice cream and he was out in minutes.  He's totally a bed hog.

Of course, having two girl cousins means playing with some non-manly toys and princess-y diapers.  But see - a train is making an appearance in the doll house, and at least the diaper is being rocked by some saggy shorts and a ripped upper body (ha!).

Finally, this morning we all fought the crowds and grabbed soem incredible deals at the Grove City Outlet Mall.  Mostly, Cali, Sarah, and I shopped (what we do best?) and the kids played on the playground with some very generous and helpful grandparents.

This picture probably explains why, on the five hour drive home, Levi only crashed 1 hour from home.  Thanks for that, Grandpa.

I had an awesome weekend, and I know Herb did too.  But boy did I miss him. I do not like being away from him for three nights in a row (I think this is our longest to date), and I kept thinking how much fun we'd be having, together too.