Back to the Hometown – Never Mind…

Brayden has wanted to fly on an airplane for quite some time, and if he wants to do something, Caylee is right there with him. I decided it would be best to make this dream come true before Bryson reached two. (You know because the perks of a wild, temper tantrum throwing, strong-willed one year flying free is enough to entice any anxiety-ridden mom to fly alone with her 1, 3, and 5yrs olds. I just love conquering my anxiety so much that I’m bound and determined to seek out opportunities to do so. 😉)

I was blessed that my mom visited us beforehand, so she was able to fly alongside us. Therefore, I only had to fly solo back to Florida. Seeing the kids’ excitement was worth every ounce of anxiety. That’s why I do what I do. I push myself for my blessings, and I never regret it. Ever since our move to Florida, preparing to travel back and forth to Indiana and having vistors come and go has caused me to suffer significantly. I do wish it wasn’t this way because they truly are some of the best times. I love variety, I love spontaneous plans, I love changing things up; it’s just extremely hard. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but anxiety generally doesn’t make a lot of sense. Just in case you are curious what I have anxiety about… Well, it’s about a lot of things, but mostly, I have anxiety about having anxiety. Truly, it’s nothing in particular. When I begin to get anxious, I just can’t bear the thought of feeling so miserable that I make myself miserable thinking about feeling miserable. I start to think I can’t handle what I’m already handling. I can get overwhelmed easily, and it makes me extremely anxious. Typically, I just do my best to kept breathing and continue on. I refuse to allow it to prevent me from living the life God wants me living. So, there it is. It’s weird, I’m weird, but aren’t we all?! (Sorry this post hasn’t even begun, but I just can’t bring myself to blog anymore without being me. I do this blog for my kids, so they will have a keepsake. I hope they get to relive their childhood through it some day. A tiny part of me thinks all this should be excluded, but a much bigger part of me feels it absolutely should not. So kids, if you’re reading this in your later years, I love you. Thank you for always accepting me for who I am and believing I am the best mommy in the world. You light up my life. Now, let’s get back to it…This is me, and I do not want to hide behind it. It’s incredibly healing being honest, and I’m all about healing!)

Thank you God for all you have done in my life and for your healing touch. Lord, I thank you for leading me to others that need someone to be real, so they don’t feel so alone, so isolated. Lord Jesus it is my prayer that you use my past hurts and things I do still struggle with to further work in your kingdom. Lord Jesus I want others to fight this along your side because I know doing life with you is far better than doing it alone. You are my savior, my Lord, and the one I turn to. Lord Jesus help me help others. Amen

Now for the good news… I had minimal anxiety on this trip! It has gotten a little easier each time (all praise to the Lord above!), and to be completely honest, I know that is why I’m sharing this now. It’s always easier to share when I’m doing better. I’ll always fight to eliminate the stigma that comes along with mental illness. In the meantime, I do not like to be stigmatized when I’m struggling. When I’m struggling, the last thing I want is to be judged or be seen as weak. I do not want others to think I lack faith. Friends, this is when my faith G  R  O W  S! God meets me when I cry out. It’s still very hard, but it’s so very doable. I no longer ask God to make my life easier. Why would I when I know this is exactly what he uses to grow me and help others?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”  2 Corinthians 3-7

Why do I share all this? It is not for me. Honestly, I’m a getting a little anxious wondering who is going to read this? Ugh, this is not comfortable for me to do. It’s because I’ve been called to. It’s simply for others. I do not want this for others. I want others to know it is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to be honest and real. It’s okay to do whatever you need to do to work towards feeling better. It’s okay!!! If you’re struggling now, it will get better. You are on your way. Though you are strong now, you are on your way to stronger!

To my precious children: this is what I want you to know… Once you are saved, there will be times when the Holy Spirit moves you to do something. Always obey. Yes, even when it interferes with your life and your plans. That is what has happened here. I did not know that was what was going to happen when I started this blog post a few days ago. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just focus on our trip to Indiana, but I accepted it. However, I know now. Today, I am to bless someone else. I do not know who, but God does. Whoever you are…You matter. You are worth it. You are enough. Let the one who calls you by name and knows the numbers of hair on head walk with you, better yet let him carry you. “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6

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It’s Vistor Time!

The Niehaus Inn was full the first quarter of 2015. We were blessed with family as well as friends that are like family visiting us.

Grammy and Grampy made a visit in January. Grandma and Grandpa came in February. “Auntie” Helen, Marielle and John came late February/early March. Grammy came back early March and stayed until we flew with the kids to Indiana at the end of March!

We crammed in a lot of fun and even a little crazy with 5 kids 5 and under! Brayden, Caylee, and Bryson love the all the excitement and are always wondering who will be staying in the guest room next. 

While Grammy was in Florida she joined us for a trip to Orlando as Brad had a work event at The Swan in Disney. We asked her to come along, so she and I could have fun with the kids together during the day. Brad and I were also looking forward to having her watch the squirts a few evenings, so I would be able to attend the dinner events. Unfortunately, Brayden got sick the first night and remained sick the entire trip. We still managed to have some fun here and there, but I have to say, it was far from what I would call a true vacation! Oh well, I don’t regret us tagging along because it was quite an adventure. I’m all about adventures!

Now onto the pics…   

 
Brad, Grandma, Grandpa and the kids checked out the Tree Hill Nature Center in Jacksonville. They also stumbled across a science fair while they were out. That made this homeschooling mama quite happy because science really isn’t my thing. For the most part, Sid the Science Kid has been our science this year. That show really is pretty cool though. In all seriousness, this is the one subject I want a little more for my kids than what I currently provide. I think I’ve found the perfect fit with a homeschooling science class at the zoo for next school year!

 Brad and I got almost an E N T I R E day to ourselves. A day date was just what we needed to refresh and recharge. We spent some time sitting on the beach, walking around the Atlantic Beach area, shopping a little and eating a delicious dinner at The Flying Iguana. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa!

 
 Grammy, Grampy, the kids and I had a fun outing to Adventure Landing. The big hits were bowling and the go karts. It was the first time for Brayden and Caylee to ride go karts, so they were beyond excited. We also enjoyed some open gym time at TNT Gymnastics. I have to resist taking off for a tumble pass every.single.time I walk through that door. Flipping was one of my first loves in life, and it just doesn’t go away!

   
  

 We showed off The Hands On Children’s Museum to our friends. During the “wintery months,” we go almost weekly. The kids LOVE it and finding something that keeps all 3 kids happy is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I mean I actually get to sit down which is pretty darn nice every once in awhile. 👍 Everything is better when shared with friends, so this morning was a big hit! We also enjoyed a little party for John’s 3rd birthday. Don’t you just love the simplicity of it? One little present, a tiny cake, a homemade sign by Brayden, Caylee styling in a stained undershirt, and a whole lot of love in our kitchen. Helen and I left ALL 5 KIDS 5 AND UNDER with Brad a couple times for a couple hours! Love you, love you, love you, love you, love you Brad! 😘

Grammy takes A LOT of pictures, so a month long visit = 1,000,000 pictures. So…   Grammy gladly joined us on our first beach day of 2015. Our hometown’s school was closed for a snow day, so that made me appreciate it even more! 😜

  Grammy doesn’t like to miss ANYTHING, so she was grinning ear to ear that she was here to watch Brayden’s first soccer game!

 Every time she comes to town, she helps me decorate our house AKA spending our $. 😉 This time around, we worked on the kids’ room. I love having all three share a room, and on a small budget, I think it turned out great! 

 
Grammy finally got to check out the Hands on Museum with us. Once again, the kids loved it. 

   

  

         Looking back at all we did while in Orlando, it’s hard to believe Brayden was so sick. He tried so hard to push through and have fun as he was so excited about this trip. In reality, he could barely eat, ran a fever daily, and had awful restless nights with night sweats. When you’re the mommy, all you want to do it make it better for your child. Sometimes, you just can’t and it hurts to see your child suffer. 😢

We still managed to make many memories. One of the best being that we stayed on Disney property and my kids were all young enough to not even ask to go to Disney. All along they thought they were just going to Orlando. As we were pulling in, they saw advertising and started asking if we were staying close to where Mickey lives. I panicked a little (thinking – I’m the worst mom ever. How on earth can I take them to stay at Disney, and not even take them to Disney?), but they had not a clue as I calmly said yes, Mickey lives very close. We did get to go to Hollywood Studios to see Indiana Jones as part of a work event and Grammy and I ventured out with them to Downtown Disney one evening. The BIG highlight of the trip was riding the Ferry boat around even though we weren’t getting dropped off anywhere. This, my friends, is why I absolutely adore little kids. Everything is great to them. Everything is a new experience. Everything is a big deal. Their excitement makes me never want to stop seeing, doing, growing. Life is one giant experience made up of a bunch of little experiences. When you cherish them and mesh them with living your life for The One above, well, that’s where it’s at. It’s the good life.

I’m Going to Work!

I’m doing it again. Jumping ahead. Remember when I said I hoped I’d never do it again? http://wp.me/p4cZ1W-81

Who am I? I don’t even know myself anymore! I’m jumping ahead to today but am hoping to get a couple more posts up soon about the first few months of 2015. Today I just simply want to celebrate TODAY because my heart is swelling. 💗

April 23rd 2015 was the annual take your child to work day. Brayden has asked numerous times to go to work with Daddy. About six months ago, he asked once again. I said why don’t we look up when take your child to work day is? He was beside himself. He couldn’t believe there was actually a day dedicated to this. Unfortunately, a half a year is kind of long time to wait, but it also helps with the anticipation aspect.

Earlier this week, I reminded Brad of this day, and I’m fairly confident I saw a glimpse of panic. Brayden might be able to handle a full day. Okay that’s streching it, a half day, yes. Now just so no one has forgotten – we do have a princess 👑 in our house, and there is no way Brayden is going to do something like this without her. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! This girl couldn’t make it even a half day. So, the take your child to work day was a take your child to work hour, but it was perfect.

The kids have been to work with me their whole lives, but I wonder if they even realize that!? They have gone with me to teach Fun Fridays at Olivet Preschool, babysit one of my friend’s daughter, substitute teach Mother’s Morning Out at Crossroads Christian Church, teach gymnastics at the YMCA, and currently provide child care for the Mom to Mom group and women’s bible study, Alive! at Creekside Christian Church. Daddy’s work though? That’s the real deal. I’ll give Brad all the glory. Sigh.

In order to extend the hour, we had Brad meet us for lunch at Chick-fil-A. Then, I dropped the big kids off afterwards. We only had one slight problem. I was left with a toddler SCREAMING for Daddy. I asked him, “don’t you want to have some special time with Mommy?” He repeatedly told me NO and continued to scream for Daddy. Poor Bryson had to stay with umm his favorite person? I promise I am, but this was not cool, and he made it known.

This is what drop off looked like…

I decided to take Bryson to a library hoping he would play or let me read books to him. There was not a single toy. He refused to even glance at a book. However, he thought he was big stuff because he found a computer to play on. He wasn’t logged in and did absolutely nothing, but I guess he thought he was doing something? Crack me up boy!

    

I sent some homeschool work with the big kids and wondered if they would actually do it while with Brad. Turns out they did. 😄  I’m not sure why Brayden looks miserable in his picture while his dream of going to work was literally coming true. Maybe he is annoyed that his “work” is being disturbed by his mom asking for a picture?

When I arrived for pickup, Bryson yelled “OUT!” You better believe I let the boy out. He was one happy little dude running around outside for a bit!

      

Thank you Daddy and Johnstone Supply, The Ware Group for being such good sports! Brayden and Caylee had such a great time and told me they even got a piece of candy. This was a special day, and I do hope it becomes a tradition.

Christmas in The South

2014 marked year #1 of celebrating Christmas in The South. The previous year we managed to travel back to Indiana after only having moved away the month prior!

I have celebrated in Indiana for the past 30 years, so I knew this would feel different. I just didn’t know exactly how “different” would feel. I throughly enjoy celebrating the birth of our savior and spending time with people I love. Now shh I have a little secret to share *the rest of the stuff ……… not.so.much. I honestly think it is insane the amount of prep and money that the majority of people do and spend for Christmas. Call me the grinch if you will, but I don’t feel that I am. I would just much rather celebrate the birth of our Lord and spend quality time with loved ones. I imagine people must love the hustle and bustle of holidays. For me, it is overwhelming and feels like unnecessary pressure. Pressure to have the kids look “just so,” bounce the hooligans around from place to place until they become utterly exhausted train wrecks, shop, buy and bring presents for each and every event, feed the stinkers enough sugars and dyes to promote bouncing off the walls and surely cause long term damage all while trying to teach the precious little angels that were gifted to us from God that Christmas isn’t about all about fun and getting each and every thing you ever wanted in your life. Really? I’m confused. This unnecessary pressure is honestly not all that enjoyable.  Sure, it has a whole lot of excitement and joy mixed in, but I just think it has turned into TO MUCH!!! I want my kids to live a simple, unmaterialistic life and to be honest, all this hyped up jazz doesn’t quite fit that mold.

With all this being said, I knew there would be some things that I wouldn’t miss at all, instead in all actuality there would be some relief. However, I also knew I would desperately miss being with my family during the holidays. It is especially sad to not see all of my neices and nephews that I love dearly. My kids would miss out playing with their cousins. Some of the best memories of my childhood include spending holidays with my cousins. It literally breaks my heart that my kids don’t have that now. I try to pull it together and remind myself that I have three very happy kids that are living a great life. God has blessed us immensely, and regardless, it is important to be grateful for your circumstances no matter what they may be. You are right where you are for a reason and a purpose. I encourage everyone to focus on that. When you realize that He is in complete control, there is peace.

The whole month of December turned out to be great. We had so much family fun with just the fab 5, Brad, myself, Brayden, Caylee and Bryson. The weather was wonderful. Although I would gladly take swimsuits and flip flops every single day of the year, it was much better than the cold I’m used to! We enjoyed a little decorating at our new home. It included a tree out in the lanai in order for me to maintain some sort of sanity from the destruction that can occur with Bryson in approximately .1 millisecond. Brayden and Caylee helped me make sugar cookies for our church to pass some out to everyone at the Christmas Eve services. We enjoyed a celebration at the ammenity center in our community. The kids had a wonderful time getting their picture made with Santa, making crafts, writing a letter to Santa, riding a train, and eating off of food trucks that came out for the event. The kids and I celebrated a Happy Birthday Jesus party with mini cupcakes in our class at church. We also attended an event at group foster homes in Jacksonville. They invited the community in to come and see what they were all about and provide fun for kids. The big kids got their first horse ride in and Bryson got his first pony ride!

Then, finally it arrived! Christmas Eve and day came and despite all of my concerns, we truly had a wonderful holiday. We missed everyone back in Indiana, but we definetly made the most of remaining in the sunshine state. Christmas Eve we enjoyed a play at church and also enjoyed having the ability to serve. Brad passed out cookies and hot chocolate and Brayden and Caylee thought they were big stuff helping me love on toddlers including our Brycie baby! After the services were over, we went out to a Japanese restaurant which turned out to be delicious. It was so good that now I’m thinking hmm when can I go there again? Yes, I’m a foodie. Love it! Christmas morning was an absolute blast with the kids. They were very excited Santa made a visit. You really don’t need a lot to make young kids happy. The excitement of everything is enough to keep them smiling. Now Santa (aka this lady) let’s have a little chat. Why oh why would you allow 3 living creatures into this house? Hermit crabs may seem like the easiest most logical pets but lady let’s be honest only 2 survived the first month with The Niehaus’. WE DON’T DO PETS. Santa, make me a pinky promise right now. NO MORE. NEVER AGAIN! I’ll happily welcome 10 more kids over a single animal. That’s just how I roll. 

After an exciting morning, our good friends came over and hung out for a VERY low key Christmas Day. Kids loved having buddies over to play and the adults enjoyed it too!

For the record, Christmas in the south ain’t all that bad!!! Indiana friends and family, we love you all dearly, and we will gladly see you as soon as we don’t have to pack up coats, hats, gloves  and long underwear. 😜

  

                                             

Olivia – The One That Forever Changed My Heart

I am donating to The Out of the Darkness Walks, a overnight walk in Dallas, TX  https://theovernight.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&participantID=13851 and thought I’d take a moment to let you know why. It is not at all because I want everyone to know I donated but to let others know why and encourage others to consider doing the same. I am well aware that we absolutely can not donate to everything that comes our way. I struggle with that because typically I wish I could! However, if mental illness awareness and suicide prevention pulls at your heartstrings, then please consider donating in honor of a very special girl and her family. I only spoke to Olivia a few times, but she has changed my heart forever. Mental illness awareness and suicide prevention has pulled at my heartstrings for sometime, but now it is my heart. Since sharing my story, I have had numerous people reach out to me who have either previously struggled, are currently struggling, or have someone close to them that is struggling. No one ever wants to hear that someone else has to deal with anxiety, depression, bi-polar or any other mental illness. However, it was made very apparent that there is a lot of power in feeling as though they are not alone. In a strange sense, people feel comfort in knowing that they are not the only one out there.

Hearing of Olivia’s death, attending her funeral, and knowing that her family will never be the same has been more than enough to let me know that I must continue. I am willing to be open, honest and transparent about my past because it is worth it to help someone else. There is hope; it can and does get better. I want to encourage others to take mental illness seriously and provide support to those who struggle with it.

If this walk saves one person, spares one family, it is all worth it. Every single person is worth it. We have to continue the fight to stop the stigma. We have to help others. We have to make a difference. Please consider donating in honor of Olivia Dunham, the girl that forever changed my heart.

The Big 5!

I have a 5 year old. It’s really hard to believe. That’s a kid, a REAL one. He’s no longer a baby, toddler, preschooler… 5 – kids start kindergarten at 5. Wow! Now, I know what it feels like to no longer be a “young” or “new” mom. 😢
Should I have this together by now? I feel 5 years is adequate time to figure something out. This is a hard one though. I’ve always adored children, thoroughly enjoyed taking care of them and teaching them. It’s even better when they are your own. So, why can’t I have this whole motherhood thing figured out yet?
Motherhood is HARD. Maybe there are some moms out there that would disagree. If you’re out there, I’m sorry we just can’t be friends. If you have it all together, you’re all that and a bag of potato chips (does anybody remember saying that?), keep doing your thing momma. However, I don’t want that pressure around me because I’m confident that I will never achieve that. Sure, I learn a little more every step of the way, but I will never have motherhood mastered. It’s a life long journey. Good news son, I’m here for the long haul, and I’m so thankful that this is something I will never give up on. No, not when you turn 18, graduate college or start your own family. Son, I will always be your mother, and you will always hold a very special place in my heart.
Now, let’s get to the goods. The big party? No, not my Brayden. While running a few errands to get ready for Caylee’s 3rd birthday party, Brayden determined parties are too much work and wear him out. He decided he wouldn’t be having a party, but we would do something fun as a family instead. Son, have I told you lately how much I love you? That was music to my ears. I’m not a fan of parties. Yes, I’m a party pooper, but at least I’m honest about it, right? They just stress this momma out!
A couple months before his birthday, he started talking about wanting to go on the polar express. I began researching and found The North Pole Express in Parish, FL, a little city near Tampa. Adding up the cost of the train and travel, I panicked a little. I knew he REALLY wanted to do it, and it’s something I also really wanted to do as a family. However, living on a single income isn’t easy. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but it definitely is challenging financially.
I discussed it with Brad and recommended that we do it for Brayden’s birthday. Brad agreed it would be great if that is what Brayden chose. I held my breathe as I told Brayden he had options for his birthday. (I figured he may have forgotten about the whole “not wanting a party” thing. Just kidding. The boy’s my son, and he doesn’t forget these kinds of things.) I tried my best to not use my low, down, depressing voice when asking if he wanted a party or worse yet, presents or use my super excited, happy voice, go on The Polar Express. (Please, no one ever mention to him it is The North Pole Express because I’m pretty sure it is The Polar Express. 😛) Well, I didn’t have to hold my breathe long. He was beyond ecstatic his dream was going to come true. Heck, I was too. Mini-vaca = happy mommy! Unfortunately, when Brayden has something to think about, it never leaves his mind. He lives, breathes, sleeps it. This is brutal for me to handle because I know exactly what it’s like. Thank goodness it was a good thing he was living, breathing, and sleeping, but non the less, it’s exhausting!
A couple weeks before the mini-vaca, Brad told me he would have to travel to Charleston, SC following the weekend away to Bradenton, FL. (Yes, we stayed in Bradenton, FL for Brayden’s birthday weekend. I thought that was pretty special. 😊) Then, a miracle took place, well kind of. Brad asked me if the kids and I would like to go along. I’m pretty sure I’ve always dreamed of him asking us to tag along. Extend my mini-vaca = ecstatic mommy!!! It was going to be the week before Christmas, and we weren’t going back to Indiana for the holidays, so this is just what I needed to keep from crying my eyes out that we moved away. Yes, I still have those moments, hours, days, weeks, oh why or why am I typing this in February because winter months are by far the hardest. Winter, even a mild one in Northern Florida, is not for me and can get me down. Come on spring and summer, you help me to not look back!
So, the time came. The big birthday weekend was finally here! Our little family of five had an absolute blast. I’m so very thankful for free hotel rooms from our credit card rewards. Dave Ramsey, I like you, I really do, but please respect me that we need to use a credit card for this very reason. I can’t do motels. I’m thrifty, I really am, but those things creep a lady out! I know you would tell me to save for the hotels, but I could never justify spending our money that way. Please don’t hate me. 🙈 I cherish hotel stays!
I didn’t get the best pictures; let’s face it, I never do. Maybe it would help if I hadn’t lost my camera and my only option wasn’t my phone. Nah, not going to blame it on that because I would never actually use my camera even if I knew where it was! Regardless, I captured some moments. That’s all that matters, right?

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Brayden Michael – we had an absolute blast making memories and celebrating your big day as a family. Eating lunch out on the sand and playing in it was pretty cool. The Polar Express and The North Pole was so much fun. We sang songs, ate many treats, made crafts, and even got to see a true ugly cry from your brother, Bryson when we met Santa. You rocked your superhero shirt (that you just had to have since I didn’t pack one of your 100 from home all because you remembered I bought Caylee a princess shirt for her to wear on her birthday.) We had a fabulous time taking a homeschooling field trip in Charleston. History is quite fun when you get to hear about it while touring a beautiful city on a carriage ride. You helped me keep Bryson alive while on it, so thank you for being mommy’s big helper and such a good brother. Oh how I love you, our precious miracle superhero son. It is so fun being your mommy and watching you learn and grow. Thank you for always being you; I pray you always will. Son, you are very special, and I’m so glad God gave me you.

Lincoln – Simply The Best

Lincoln. How do I describe what my family simply calls Lincoln? Well…it’s an extended weekend of rustic cabin camping that takes place at Lincoln Sate Park in Lincoln City, Indiana. It’s more than that though. It’s pretty much a holiday, a BIG one. Remember how I said Halloween might just be my favorite holiday? http://wp.me/p4cZ1W-7X  That’s only because others wouldn’t recognize our family gathering as a holiday. 😉 It’s by far my favorite one to celebrate. I’ve been there 31 years in a row. It’s kind of a BIG deal to me. Why do I like it so much? It’s full of family, fun and lots of food! Those 3 f’s happen to be 3 of my favorite things here on Earth.
Now, let me get to the goodies. In between eating, we relax and tell stories by a fire and hike away some of the calories consumed. But, there’s so much more. We are into competitions and challenges. While there are a handful that laugh a lot about the competitions and challenges, there are many that are quite competitive. They probably take them more seriously than they would like to admit. Years past we have had treasure hunts, field goal kicking competitions, soccer matches and even building the largest possible fire without burning the park down. Most recently, we have been holding sodie cup presentations. We all participate in a March Madness pool, and the winner is presented with a sodie cup trophy. What exactly is a sodie cup trophy? It was created by my very creative and talented cousin, Lindsey. It is made out of a plastic cup and straws and designed to be usable. It is usable in the sense that the winner may enjoy a sodie out of their trophy. What is a sodie? The name originated from my grandmother, Bev. She lovingly made them with vanilla ice cream, and you were given a choice of whether to have root beer, grape or orange soda on top. I’ll never understand how anyone could choose root beer or grape over the delicious, amazing orange, but it happens. Fine by me; this allows me to indulge a little more over the weekend. I would never want to waste. 😝 Victory in this competition is oh so sweet. Well, I imagine it is. It’s a darn shame I’ve never won. It’s safe to say I am one of the competitive family members. We also hold a corn hole tournament. There’s nothing unique about it unless you happen to drive by and see the opening ceremony that takes place immediately before the matches begin. My quick witted cousin, Blake, aka recurring corn hole champion, found a small battery operated flag waving, national anthem playing device in a clearance aisle at Walmart. The corn hole tournament simply can’t begin until all are present and participating in the national anthem beforehand. The kids enjoy a piñata. This lady gladly accepted the challenge to knock it open when the job wasn’t getting done this year. Unfortunately, Brayden and Caylee have recently informed me and asked that I pass on the following information – no adults are allowed to do the cracking anymore. 😂 This year we participated in the most unusual, creative and unforgettable competition yet. The master mind behind it was my mom, Cindy. It was simply called the ugliest sweatshirt contest, much like the ugly Christmas sweater competitions that many participate in. The preparation for it was brutal. I was so hopeful I would walk into a Goodwill store and voila there would be a winner. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I left numerous Goodwills with raised blood pressure and a heart nearly beating out of my chest. I really wanted to win. I’m not sure why I’m so competitive, but I am. It didn’t help that my mom told me numerous times that I should give up. No one was going to beat her because she truly had the ugliest sweatshirt ever. I actually enjoy celebrating others’ victories, but the lead up to competitions really gets me fired up. I was the girl that couldn’t do anything but live and breathe our routine the day of cheerleading competitions. I never could understand how other teammates were actually out having fun enjoying our destinations pre competitions. Afterwards, I was all about it, but before, I had tunnel vision. Who, my friends, was the winner? The one who continuously bragged pre-competition? Yes, she was without a doubt THE WINNER. I voted for her along with numerous others. Words cannot describe this sweatshirt. I’ll try my best. Someone thought it would be a good idea to cut right underneath the crotch and all around the waist of a pair of jeans, then sew it along the collar of a sweatshirt. It doesn’t stop there. This person also thought it would be real fancy to cut right around the seams of the jeans and fringe them before sewing them onto the sleeves of the sweatshirt. For the grand finale, a pocket of the jeans was sewn on the front of sweatshirt. Therefore, a hand could comfortably fit when you have those awkward moments of “my hands are just hanging here, where should I put one?” Am I the only one that has these moments? Please tell me there is someone else out there that suffers with this strange affliction. As you can imagine, this sweatshirt and the person that danced out into the crowd as she wore it oh so proudly deserved a prize. The prize was a handcrafted gold medal designed and created by a couple that were perfect for the job. My brother, Ryan and sister-in-law, Julie, thrive when it comes to creating ideas with fine details. This same couple proudly created our new “Lincoln” shirts that are worn for our annual picture.
Now in all seriousness, Lincoln just gets better as the years go on. Maybe it’s because life gets crazier each year, so we all appreciate the simplicity of it more as the years pass? Maybe it’s because we have grown more as a family each year because when you take a vacation like this you learn a lot about each other? Maybe it’s because our family grows through marriage and children and each new member adds something special and unique to the mix? Whatever it is (probably these reasons and more,) I simply love it.

 

SUPER HALLOWEEN

Um okay remember how I wore a Mickey Mouse shirt to Magic Kingdom at Disney? http://wp.me/p4cZ1W-1k

Well…I decided I would keep letting my inner nerd out and dress up with my kiddos on Halloween. Better yet, I would get Brad to as well. Honestly, I didn’t fathom he would participate. When he put on that Superman shirt backed with a super cape, I seriously about peed my pants. Oh the things you do when you totally lose yourself to your kids. 🙂

The munchkins and I were already in Indiana before Halloween, but I was beyond thrilled Brad joined us the night before. I love Halloween – in fact, it might be my favorite holiday. Yes, I’m a Christian and still find it appropriate to celebrate. C’mon fellow believers; we all should get out there and spread Jesus’ light especially on a day that can be quite dark.

This Halloween, we weren’t The Niehaus’. We were… The Super Family. We all dressed as Superman with the exception of the princess in the middle. She decided she wanted to be Super Elsa. There were approximately 1,000,000,000,000,000 girls dressed as Elsa, but how many were Super Elsa? Way to stand out in the crowd Princess Caylee. 👑

We met my brother, Ryan, and his family at my favorite library in Newburgh. I seriously miss that place and the fabulous people that make it so special for kids and their families. The library had a Halloween party full of fun activities, and the kids enjoyed each silly one. It’s pretty darn easy to please kids under 5. What do you do when they grow? I have no clue. I’ve always taught little ones; the big ones scare me a little LOT! It doesn’t help when all anybody ever says, enjoy them now because these are the easy days. THE EASY DAYS? I’d rather hear false hope than that. Just because I know what “to do” with little kids, they nearly beat me to death every.single.day. I actually feel like a real live superhero when I make a “real” breakfast rather than launch each rascal a breakfast cracker or when I manage to save the carpet by catching vomit from one of them in cupped hands. I’m sure it gets harder, but humor me and tell me it gets easier.

Now, where was I? Oh right – Halloween, The Super Family and the library with the cutest little monster I’ve ever laid eyes on.

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DSC05039DSC05043 DSC05052DSC05054Mom, Brad, the kids and I all went out to lunch at one of our favorites, Manna. Just typing the word Manna had me practically salivating. Seriously, it’s that good! What we thought would be just a quick, delicious lunch turned into much more. Brad and I had to put our super capes to work – no, I’m not joking. However, I am choosing to leave the details out because I would appreciate the details of the memory to leave my brain before the next time I eat there. Fat chance, but let your imaginations roam…

One of favorites things about Halloween and why I was so thankful to be back home is visiting relatives. The kids thoroughly enjoy it, and everyone loves seeing them dressed up. We “trick or treated” at Grammy’s, Great-great Aunt Marie’s and Auntie Grammy, Uncle B, and Lindsey’s houses.

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The last several years we have finished the night out at Chick-fil-a, so we figured we should keep the tradition rolling. It is always so nice to let the kids go play; it’s even better when cousin Lindsey will play with them! They love her so.

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A Special Day

To me January 1, 2015 is special. The date makes me smile. Why? Well…January 1, 2005, the day I began my life. Those are Brad’s lyrics, not mine. It was in a song he wrote me as we first met on January 1, 2005. It’s been 10 years since that day. Today, we celebrate 10 years!!! Since this day is so special to me, I will do something that I hope to never do again. My blog will be out of order. Even typing that made my heart nearly jump out of my chest. I can do this. I’m always trying to keep my life in order or in my mind, organized. I’ll be honest though, it hasn’t been in years. It’s funny that it drives me wild because in all honesty, I like it that way. I just need to accept that I like it that way. Does that even make sense? Anyway, I have about 5 posts I would like to do in order to complete 2014, but today I will celebrate January 1, 2015.
A lot of people don’t believe in “love at first sight.” Well, maybe Brad and I didn’t experience “love at first sight,” but in my eyes, it was as close at you can get to that fairytale you dream of when you’re a little girl. I’m teary eyed as I type because that skinny young dude with earrings had me from hello.

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These past 10 years have been filled with ups and downs. Together we have lived, we have loved, and we have learned. Our faith has grown by leaps and bounds together, and I’m so thankful it was grown together. Brad truly is the love of my life and is a phenomenal husband and father. He works hard to provide for our family, and I’m so proud of him. With all that being said, it hasn’t been easy. Honestly, I think it has just been in this past year that we have grown to realize we must accept each other for who we are. We now appreciate each other’s talents and gifts. We work hard to extend grace to each other where we struggle. We have hope that the areas where we struggle are there for a purpose. Wouldn’t it be miserable to be married to a “perfect” person? Never feeling you could live up? I am so far from perfect, and Brad loves me just as I am. In fact, he tells me, “you’re doing great.” It always makes me smile. I really don’t feel I’m doing anything great, but Brad sees everything as the glass is half full. Thank goodness because together his half full glass and my half empty glass make a full one. Our lives are so full. They are full of faith, hope, and love. It is the good life.

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The first 10 years have come and gone, and I’m ready for some more. 2015 is going to be a good year. Last year was about survival. It was a unique year for us for lack of better words. I’m always hearing people say, don’t look back. Well, when God calls you back to your past, I’ll be the first to tell you – he has a reason and purpose. Survive we did, now let’s thrive! Love you always Bradley Wayne.

Happy Fall

I truly enjoy all things fall; the cool crisp air, the array of colors, mouth watering aromas and numerous outdoor activities that occur during this lovely season make it simply wonderful.
We packed in LOTS of fun, enjoyed a visit to Indiana and attempted to capture the moments through photos. There is nothing like seeing your kids so happy enjoying the little things in life. My hearts swells every time I think of my 3 little blessings.

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