Saturday, June 30, 2007

Time, love and tenderness...

This post has nothing to do with Michael Bolton....that title just seemed fitting while I sat here waiting for the pictures to upload. I'm not really into musical reviews. Although I suppose I could do that...and show you w good look at who I am- musically speaking. =)
I've had a busy week...and can't believe I missed a few days of blogging. My mom is probably going through Nitty.Gritty. withdrawal, while the rest of you are just getting caught up from Father's Day and didn't even notice I was gone!
These pictures are a few more from our family day at Meijer Gardens. I was happy to catch the kids having fun and so into what they were doing that they didn't even notice me taking their photos. In the bottom photo they are all making silly putty strawberry pies...much like 'grandma' used to make. =) Not my grandmas...they were both expert pie makers...and I still love Grandma's pie at Thanksgiving.
I found, as I went about my tasks and activities this week, that priorities had to shift and my schedule was full where it normally has some down-time, and I'm not as a good a juggler as life demands sometimes.
Brock had lacrosse camp; in addition to therapy Wyndham had a field trip to a Whitecaps game; I 'crafted' with my girls, I helped with a church garage sale, and also my Shabby Rockstar Collection goodies arrived for me to play and create layouts from SIS tv. That was all on top of the usual 2 loads of laundry a day, chalk drawing on the driveway, baking zucchini bread, and other fun stuff. =)
While driving to pick one of the kids up, I heard a message on the radio and one of the quotes jumped out at me. It's fairly simple, but sums up so much. It simply went like this:
"The greatest thing in all the world is Love.
The greatest way to express your Love is through Time.
The greatest Time to express your Love is now."
I just wanted to share it with you, since it really meant a lot to me...and many of you that read Nitty.Gritty. mean so much to me. I was feeling badly that I couldn't share more time here. So I am making up for it by saying how much I appreciate the love and support and new friendships and encouragement that I get from so many of you every single week.
I have been blessed to know that there are many people who understand this concept...that Love IS the most wonderful thing. That Time IS precious and says more about how much we love than our actions do oftentimes. That even when I have nothing to say- whether I am too busy, too up, too down, too reflective, too introspective, too off-the-wall, too all-over-the-place...that you are willing to wait it out and you keep coming back for more.
Even if you're not my Mom.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Frederick Meijer Sculpture Garden Part 1-

Sunday, after church, we took our family to the Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. It was a gorgeous summer afternoon. The kids were actually pleasant, as compared to some outings we've taken them on. =) Brock was thoughtful and soaked up the 'facts' at every little turn...and the girls were really into the 'hands-on' aspects of so many of the sights and attractions. The theme is the "History of Chocolate", which follows the cocoa bean from it's origin to it's end product...any type of chocolate you can think of. It was really a fun time for all of us. We had lunch outdoors on the patio, we walked all over the gardens, and got a piece of Dove chocolate on our way out. I had dark chocolate, in case any of you wondered, but also a bite of the caramel center one too! =)
I've got more pictures and can share more thoughts with you, stay tuned. =)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I have had a huge empty wall in my living room ever since we moved into this house over 3 years ago. How terrible is that! I kicked around several ideas, and others I simply dismissed because my kids climb on the back of the couch all the time...and I figured it would spell trouble to hang certain things where they would just get knocked down.
Whether I have determined they're more grown up now, that this particular design is childproof, or that I just got sick and tired of that bare wall, I'm not entirely sure. But today was the day. I had bookmarked this blog a couple of months ago when I saw this idea. I love the random look of the circles, and I have really been getting more and more into patterns and fabrics and so this just seemed to be the perfect combination for me to play around with in my own home. I am no interior designer, and really, I'm not sure that I even pulled this off very well, but it does look better than the previous bare wall. In person it's even better and brighter than these pics- each of the fabrics has a print- even though a few of them look solid here.
I'm sure my mom will be proud that I 'designed on a dime'...she's the queen of that! Our styles may differ, but I can still appreciate decorating for a steal. This entire ensemble cost under $20! I've got lots of fabric leftover...which I think will make cute aprons and other projects!
Funny how something that took less than two hours of design time took me three years to actually pull off. There's a reason I'm not an interior designer. I'd never get a house all decorated before it would be time to start updating.
For my next project, I was lucky to get a box of scrap goodies that contains the ScrapInStyle Shabby Rock Star Collection! That was happy mail today, for sure...lots of fun stuff...and lots of inspiration for me to work with. And it won't take me three years to complete a project out of these items. I'm gonna scrap tonight!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Motorcycles and mini-golf

First, I have to share a picture of me and Chip that I like that was taken last week. I am proud of the way he has dropped some weight and how he has managed to get in better shape the past several months. It's never an easy thing to deal with weight issues- whether over or under or just wanting to get to or maintain a certain weight. It's easy to tell someone that you love them no matter what weight they are...but it is difficult to support all the changes and strength it takes to actually follow through with the real-life issues from day to day in regards to food/health. I am proud that Chip has pushed himself and I hope he knows I am proud of his efforts. I hope we both keep striving for ways to become better people- no matter what issue/struggle is at hand.
The other pictures are just a few fun on the Harley of Grand Haven's teaching pro, Scott. He had mentioned he had a bike and I mentioned I'd love a ride. It was fun- even if we rode only a few miles. I'd love a Harley- it's just not practical for toting 4 kids from place to place. =) Chip and I also managed to take all of our kids mini-golfing last week too. We lucked out and got $2.50 Tuesday tickets...the kids had a fun time, and Chip and I were glad we hadn't shelled out full-price! We would have gladly played 9 holes instead of 18...but I think the kids made some fun memories while we were there. Summer is in full swing around here. And I'm getting worn out already!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

In the mail...

I got some 'good mail' this week. =) One was a full-page invitation to Jaymun Kaat's and brother, Ben's birthday celebration in just a few weeks. I am so happy for their family and the difference a year has made in their lives. Some of you may remember that Jaymun was diagnosed with cancer at birth. He underwent a bone marrow transplant as his brother, Devon was a perfect match. Some of you sent cards and gifts to them in the hospital. Many of you prayed. I am happy to report that Jaymun will celebrate turning one, and I'm sure the whole Kaat family will celebrate the fact that they have gotten through some real trials and hardships together. I wish for them continued blessings and joy in life. Even in the struggles that come our way at times. Happy {early} birthdays, Ben and Jaymun!
I also received a little package from a reader here, {Hi Lisa!} who after emailing me about sending me a piece of her jewelry whipped up this special Nitty.Gritty. necklace for me. I love it! You know I love mail, and little goodie packages are among my favorite pieces of mail. I just had to share these pictures that I snapped, but I also want to tell you that Lisa has some really beautiful and unique pieces of jewelry in her collection. I'm sure she would love for any of you interested in her work to stop by her blog and there you will find pictures and a link to her items available. In addition, she has a unique story and a wonderful family that is worth stopping by when you get a minute or two. If you stop by her blog, I hope you'll leave her a comment and tell her "Nitty.Gritty. told you to say hi!". =)
I just love the connections/friendships/stories/fun stuff I have found through blogging. It really is amazing to me how many people I have been forunate to 'come in contact with' all through something as simple as a blog.
I have lots of unanswered emails that I hope to keep plugging away with in responding to...I read all my mail and appreciate the way so many of you pour your heart and concerns out to me. I find myself thinking of many of you as I go about my busy, summer days...and I hope that you feel these thoughts and prayers- often from long-distance. Just wanted to share my happy mail with you...and I'm watching my mailbox for the next SIStv Collection to make its appearance soon! Funny. Mail can be so simple...yet it can make someone's day! Hope you get some good mail coming your way too!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gifts from Dad

On Sunday when I sat down to write a blogpost for Father's Day, I had a few nice words to say and a mix of pictures-old and new- of my kids with their dad. But as I started writing I realized I would either write at great length and risk scattering my thoughts all over, or I could break it down bit by bit, and that is what has transpired here all week long.
I have taken the opportunity to 'highlight' each one of our children in the spotlight with their dad, and today is no different, with the exception of the last two pictures.
Ava is our youngest daughter, and she has been more of a mama's girl in all of her 3 years of life...but she does have a soft spot for Chip, and it continues to grow and grow. I've watched it blossom in the last several months, and now she is one of the first to give him hugs and kisses as he comes and goes in our home. They have a special relationship, and one of my favorite things about it is how, even after 3 girls, there is still a newness or freshness about the way Chip interacts with Ava. I know it's true with all kids...but it's still fun to see it in real life.
I was thinking about how each child has the ability to almost 'glean' what they need/desire most from Chip. With Bella it is all the loving and hugging. With Brock it is affirmation and encouragement. With Wyndham it is optimism and support. With Ava it seems to be individual attention...and she is at her best with Chip when she gets that from him. =)
One of my favorite things about Chip and Ava was the nickname that came about from him for her. Daddy calls her 'Chi-chi'. It happened almost accidentally...he started telling her during times of hugs and kisses that she was so cute...that she was just a little 'chi-chi'. Only a few days of this took place before Bella called Ava, 'Chi-chi'. I asked why she was calling her chi-chi, and she said, "That's her name; Daddy calls her that". And ever since the name has stuck...Ava is often called "Chi-chi" around our house. Especially when she's being cute.
Those little things are what really hit me as I sat down to blog on Father's Day. Our dads have such 'power and influence' and the ability to make us feel loved and secure. They can lift us up and make us believe we can do the impossible. But they also have the ability to do the opposite. Just as all people in our lives can do...but at this point in my life- with small children growing up under my care- it is most often their dad and me that are shaping them and their beliefs about themselves. It's an awesome and overwhelming responsibility and can be scary if I think of how many times in one day it happens that I can either lift them up or tear them down. Or simply do neither and not care at all.
I know I am not exaggerating these 'powers', and have been encouraged- especially through Wyndham's doctors and therapists, that the way we parent and love and challenge and respond does have a lot to do with a child's growth and development. That is why I felt I had so much to say on this topic. I know how much I rely on Chip for his part in raising our kids, and I know they are counting on him and appreciate his efforts everyday. I love that he brings such different aspects to our relationship as a couple...and most of them compliment me or fill in the gaps where I fall short. And believe me, there are lots of 'gaps' in my abilities!
I have felt my heart ache for people I know who grew up without a dad in their life, or for people I know who weren't fortunate to have their individual needs met by a father figure. I understand that it leads to great trials and life-long hurts for some- simply because someone failed them along the way. It's not fair, and I realize I am so fortunate to have been surrounded by great men in my own dad, my husband, my brothers, and the men in my husband's family too. Not to mention all the amazing uncles and grandpa's and friends who are of upstanding character and have had wonderful relationships with me and my family. I am truly blessed in that regard.
It made me think of the gifts I have been given in life through the years. Not items and tangiable 'stuff', but gifts that have been given that can't be bought or sold. I have mentioned some that I think are so important in the lives of kids- especially from their dads; gifts such as time and attention. Gifts such as love and discipline. Gifts that kids don't always appreciate, but they can make all the difference in the world when it comes down to it.
My hubby would tell you that it's no surprise that I have the little note pictured above...he thinks I save everything. I do save a lot of stuff- especially written stuff- cards, journals, notes. But this one has a special place. I keep it tucked in a little drawer in my jewelry box. Set apart from the rest of my 'pack-rat' stash of papers and sentimental items.
It has no date on it- but I can tell you that I got it when I was in 10th or 11th grade. I've kept it for about 18 years or so. It's one of the few things {maybe the only thing...truthfully, I'd have to look through boxes of my stash to be certain =)} that I have that is hand-written by my dad. Not that my dad never writes anything. He does. He writes sermon notes and checks and other important things...but nothing that really comes across 'my desk' very often. This little note says, "Jody- Thanks for cleaning the house on Sat. Love Dad P.S. Thanks for being a great daughter."
I'm sure he has no recollection of even writing this little note, nor would he think I still have it tucked away as one of my prized 'treasures' in my jewelry box. I probably told him 'thanks for the note'...or hardly acknowledged that he'd given it to me at the time. I was sort of hard-hearted as a teen toward my parents...and it makes me both happy and sad as I think about it now. I am sorry that I had an attitude toward them and life in general. But I am thankful that my Dad (and Mom too) made efforts to 'keep me on the right track' and to encourage me even in small ways- such as this note.
And obviously, it DID mean a great deal to me and I appreciated their care and love and concern- even if I acted as though it didn't matter. At this point in time I can tell you that my relationship with my parents is one of the best 'gifts' I have in this world. I don't see them often enough, as they live in Minnesota and I am in Michigan...but the distance between us doesn't affect the love and care we share. I have called on my dad at all times of the day, and he is available to me every time I need him. I have needed advice and prayers or simply know that he will cry for me or laugh with me. {The same goes for my mom...I'm just pointing out my dad here.}
When I think of all the things I have needed or expected or simply been given from my dad, I realize the list is practically endless. I couldn't be more grateful to my dad- for his wisdom, his insights, his love and devotion to me and all his family through the years. It really is priceless.
And now I have the good fortune of seeing similar 'gifts' being poured out to my own kids from their dad. My heart wells up with thanks.
I know that there are people in this world who could be jealous of such relationships and gifts that I have in my life. And there is much truth to that- I have done nothing to deserve such the great men in my life. I understand this...and really want to make a special point of saying that I have hurt for some of you- to the point of praying for you and asking for grace and mercy in your heart- that you might be comforted and that the voids that exist in your hearts from broken relationships with dads/men in your life might be filled. By the only One I know who is perfect- the Heavenly Father who created us, knows us, loves us and desires to meet all of our needs. The greatest gift I have is the salvation I received as a result of Jesus dying on the cross- a perfect sacrifice- for my sins. In so doing, His death on the cross, and my belief that He died for my sins-has restored the relationship and secured my eternal place in Heaven- with God forever. This relationship and assurance of salvation is something that shapes me and defines me and feeds my soul more than anything else in this world ever would or could do for me.
It is this gift of salvation- and 'restoration' to God the Father- that is the only thing that can ever make any of us "whole". No matter how good or bad our relationships are with our earthly dads. These posts have reminded me, that I have gifts, that dads have unique abilities and qualities and opportunities and responsibilities. And I obviously think the world of Chip and my Dad when it comes to their roles in my life and to my loved ones. But it is the awesome, undeserving relationship and faith that I have in God, that makes all the difference in the world to me and how I live my life. My prayer is that you would seek this...or that it already means the world to you too. It is a gift like no other. Humbling, undeserving, yet indescribeable and FREE!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

No better place to be...

...than wrapped in the arms of the one in whom you feel loved and secure. I had to pick and choose from all the pictures I have in which Bella and Chip are sharing hugs, rubbing noses and sharing their love. The ones posted her are a snippet of all the hugs these two have shared in just under 5 years. =)
I think I've shared this story here before, but it's one that I don't mind repeating. After Teagan died and life just held heartache and brokenness for Chip and me, I prayed and cried every single day that God would give us Teagan back, or turn back time and have life happen differently for us on the day of July 29, 2001. There was such a void in our lives without Teagan's laughter and singing and excitement around our house. But I think what I craved most were her tight hugs and her unconditional love. She especially poured it on thick for Chip, but it was evident and felt to all of us who were privileged to have shared time with her in life. Her hugs were tight, her love was innocent and sincere.
Although we never planned on having kids after our tragedy, God had other ideas for us. In fact, we would lose Teagan and have Isabella all within a year's time. When Isabella was born, my heart was still aching with grief from Teagan's death, and with the daily challenges and hurts we were living with and beginning to realize their lasting impacts from day to day. I know I had concerns at how I'd be as a mother at this point in time, and with all the issues and 'scars' Chip and me and Brock and Wyndham had. We weren't exactly the perfect choice to welcome a newborn into our lives...yet it happened. I thank God for the way He chooses to work at times- even when those plans don't make sense to me in the least. Including the death of one little girl and the birth of another.
I would never claim that Teagan could be replaced in our hearts and lives, nor would I ever suggest that Bella or Ava or anyone else is her replacement. But I do know that God heard my cries and although He didn't give us Teagan back, He has filled our hearts with peace and comfort and has given us the gifts of Bella and Ava- and their presence has given us reason for much joy in life.
As you can see from these pictures, Isabella has a lot of love and laughter to share. She has a lot of spunk and energy and somehow got the same ability to give the tightest hugs around the neck- much the same way that Teagan did. It's no surprise to me that she was awarded the character quality of 'loving' at preschool earlier this year. It's no surprise to me that she dotes on Chip the way she does. She is all about wearing her heart on her sleeve, and making sure that she never misses an opportunity to give or get hugs and love.
These pictures and my thoughts this week have cemented in my heart and mind just how much a Daddy's love matters to their kids. And how much it hurts when it's not given or received. When I was in jr. high I kept a small notebook for myself, and just recently I read through its pages. Some of my thoughts made me laugh- to read them now. But one of the things I had written resonated with me; it was a list of "Things to remember should I ever have kids". Among the things on that list was the statement, "Never stop showing your love to them- even if they act like they don't want it in their life".
I am happy that the love and hugs and affection come easily and are obvious in our kids' lives right now. I know that I was fortunate to have love expressed to me all the time when I was a kid. But I am also aware that time can change and hormones and puberty happen and that love sometimes is hard to do- even among those you love most. I know that Chip is making a point to model his love and share his time and attention with all of our kids...and even though they're young, I know it is rubbing off on them and shaping their image and self-worth. I hope that together, we will be an example, not of perfection and ease of parenting, but of people who love and care and seek to be a haven of safety and unconditional love. The world is full of places for kids to find hurt and to not feel as though they are 'good enough' or worth time and affection. I hope that Chip and I can offer something different...I hope our kids grow up to feel that truly, there is no better place to be than surrounded by love and security.
For now, I continue to take notes on how to constantly be a better person and parent. And I hope that, along with Chip, our kids and people around us will know that loving others isn't always easy...but it is always enough- and it always has deep, lasting rewards. For everyone touched by love.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wyndham's turn...

When I look at pictures of Wyndham, no matter who is pictured with her, I get a little knot in my throat almost every time. She nearly died twice in her short life already...and has had more hospitalization than most kids do in their whole lifetime.
Truly, she is a remarkable little girl, and I'm sure Chip would agree that WE are the ones who have been blessed to have her in our lives. Even though we have ached for her and with her and we watch her overcome hurdles after months and even years of trying to reach achievements that come as second nature to most.
She came into this world weighing just 4 lbs. 6 oz.- she was tiny {although full-term} and yet she was perfect. She had no health concerns other than her small size. She was a gift from the very beginning...we got pregnant with her just 2 weeks after a miscarriage. I have no doubt that she was meant to be a part of our lives- even though we didn't 'plan on having her'. Just as with all our other kids. =)
Wyndham has challenged Chip and me in our abilities to accept whatever comes our way. I have seen Chip be his strongest and his weakest as we've sat next to Wyndham's bed at critical moments in her life. I have seen her bring out the best and worst in both of us. And in the end, it has been those defining moments which we have gained strength and vision and purpose in our lives. Wyndham has been cause of some of our greatest concerns at times, but has also been the cause of some of our greatest joys and celebrations...especially as she has defied the odds and done things some doctors never dreamed she would do. Like walking.
We have learned to modify our expectations, while at the same time believing that anything is possible if we just keep pressing on. It's mind-boggling to actually see where we've been and how far we've come, and yet to see we still have a long way to go.
Thankfully, Chip is the one has been so optimistic with life in general, and he's rubbed off on me in a good way, more often than I could note here. I have no doubt that Wyndham has survived her injuries in life for a very special reason. It has kept Chip and me focused and in sync with our hopes and dreams and wishes for our future together. Her life has given us all reason to be joyful in the midst of sorrow, and to constantly look ahead, rather than dwell on the hurts of our past. I thank God for Wyndham in our lives. I can't help but think that God still has some surprises in store for her life. And we are humbled to be a part of that. Each and everyday.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Playing an active role

I decided to do more than one post in regards to my thoughts on Father's Day, as I had so many different thoughts and they took different directions. I was looking through lots of photos on my computer and I was pleasantly surprised to find how many pictures I have of Chip with our kids. Yesterday it was Chip and Teagan. Today it's Chip and Brock.
I heard a brief message on the radio on Sunday (Father's Day) and the announcer was saying that it's so meaningful for people to have their dad's be present on the important days of their lives- birthdays, holidays, graduations. As I paused to reflect on that statement, I realized, yes, it's true. But I couldn't help but think that to me, I believe it's even more important that a dad is present in the very ordinary, 'unimportant' days of their loved ones' lives.
I thought back on my own life, and while I was so fortunate to have a dad around in my life all the time, holidays or not, I think back on the times when I needed him most. Most times it wasn't on my birthday or when things were going really well. But instead, I needed him to be there when my car wouldn't start. Or when my world didn't make sense. I loved having him around when I wanted to learn how to start the mower and mow the grass, or when I baked a new recipe and I knew he would give me honest feedback on how it turned out. =) I think of the important days that my dad was there for me in life...and I am grateful and appreciative to have had him there and that he made me a priority.
But to me that's sort of 'easy' or expected at times. I think what really shows someone that you love and care is when you make yourself available to that person- no matter what's going on in life. I have been blessed by both a dad and husband, who have taken the role of fatherhood seriously, and have made a point in being 'present' in their kids' lives. I know that it's not something that everyone in this world has seems more and more it is a gift to have a father figure in life- especially a dad who chooses to be available and serves as a model and leader in the home.
My dad would say that he wasn't perfect. He would tell you that he has grown and changed through the years. Chip would say the same thing. Often times he is hardest on himself and his 'qualifications' as a dad. But seeing these pictures of Chip with our kids, and knowing that he loves them and wants the best for them, and seeks to provide for them and offer them opportunities and encouragement, that is the heart of the matter as far as I'm concerned. I know that Brock "acts" different around Chip and that he looks up to him and respects him and wants to please him- and for that I am thankful. I know that Chip thinks the world of Brock, and is always looking for ways to push him, challenge him, have fun with him, and just show his love for him.
I paused for a few moments while I sat thinking in church on Sunday. I prayed for some of you and the hurts and challenges you have had or continue to have in life as a result of your dad not being who you would like him to be in life, or for not being present when you needed him most. I do take comfort though, knowing that there is a heavenly Father who has, is and always will be the perfect example of what a Father should be to others....and who also can fill the voids and heal the hurts of the pains caused by dads not living up to expectations and failing those around them in their life. Nobody is perfect, and people will always let others down. I realize just how fortunate my kids are to have Chip, how fortunate Chip was to have his Dad, and how grateful I continue to be for my own Dad in our lives. It's wonderful to have them around on the important occasions, yes. But more importantly, I love that they are there in the every day moments of life that shape us and define our characters in bigger ways than we can see.
So today I just want to say thanks, to my dad, and to Chip and to all the other dads out there who are taking their 'jobs' seriously and striving to be the best they can be for the ones they love most in this world. It is a gift that I don't say thank you for often enough...but one that I appreciate most sincerely in my life!