A Bushel of Brooks

A Bushel of Brooks
Us as we are ...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas brought sooooo many good memories this year! We had our family Christmas together on Christmas Eve morning. For the first year (with probably many to follow!), we let the boys sleep in sleeping bags in the living room by the light of our Christmas tree. There was MUCH excitement in the room! My dad came over and read stories and sang Christmas carols with us to them that night. Since we both have big families, Eli and I really work to keep what we spend on the boys under control. They don't need big amounts of money spent on them. The focus is on giving to each other, enjoying gifts, and realizing that Jesus needs to be the center of our celebrations! It also helps that they are still young ... expensive electronic gifts are not at the top of their lists - yet! They love LEGOS, and board games, and small toys in stockings. Those things still bring big grins!

Ready for Stockings!

All three big boys got Daddy a rubber mallet!
It was fun to hear them stirring around 6am, and then have Jonah tiptoeing into our room to see if we were awake (we were). Such a sweet family time that morning!

Jonah got them mustaches = )
Christmas Day we headed by 8am to Eli's parents house, just as we have done year after year. Our family has grown and grown, and I believe there were 22 of us there Christmas morning this year! That means present-opening can take quite awhile, but we enjoy it! We came home by 1 for some much needed nap/down time for ALL of us!

Uncle Seth, Aunt Ann, and Aunt Joy with the boys
Silly brothers
Sweet cousins
At 4 we headed over to Ed and Betty's house. Dear friends of ours. They were having an open house for family and friends to come over and have snacks and play games! We couldn't miss it. We were only able to stay about 45 minutes, but I am so glad we dropped by.

And then headed from their to my extended family's Christmas dinner. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and family we don't get to see all the time! Not everyone can make it every year, but I treasure the time with whoever can be there! My Opa and Oma would be so thrilled that the family continues to make time to get together a few times a year, no matter how big or spread out the Willems clan gets.

Exhausted? Yep! But, still happy. The boys were still wriggling with excitement because there was ONE MORE CHRISTMAS. Opa and Oma's. We let them sleep in the living room one more time = ) Why not? Before long the Christmas tree will be down and it won't even be an option anymore. I figured they could have naps if they needed it! We had so much fun with my family.

My dad and Abram
And then? And it was Saturday afternoon and we were five Christmas celebrations behind us. Full of good food, good company, and lots of love. I was exhausted (I am quite a bit of an introvert and that was a lot of people time!), but it was such a great weekend. We all came away with wonderful memories and I am still smiling when I think back on all those celebrations!

My brother, Isaac and Selah
The Willems!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Trying to Slow Down

Just when the year seems to ramp up its pace (hellooooo holidays!), I feel the urge and desire within me to s.l.o.w. everything down. I know there are many people who are not as fond of holidays, or maybe the holiday time is tough because of family members no longer around. Or perhaps it feels more like a lonely time. And my heart aches for those around me that are walking that path.

And so I want to draw them in. Into what? Into the beauty that I believe is in this month.

But the so-called "hustle and bustle" is surely trying to suck us all in. Suck my boys into the wanting and getting of it all. And I want to see past all that. I want them to see past all that.

See the babe lying in the manger. See the greatest gift of all. Realize that all these gifts and goodies around us are suppose to be just a physical reminder of the gift of God's son coming earth! I want it to stir our hearts to give to others. To be an extension of God's love throughout this season. And not just consumers.

We get to do so many fun things in December. A Christmas advent countdown that Eli started for me before the boys were even born (isn't he awesome?); gift shopping for family and friends; singing along to Christmas songs in the van and at home; practicing for the church program; wrapping presents; watching Christmas movies; and the list could go on and  on!

First day of Advent countdown - no one can smile normally!
But what I really want my little family to get a hold of is the deeper message of hope. And to find it, I know that we have to slow down and take the time to reflect. Maybe some think that four little boys make such a lofty goal impossible. I say no.

Amidst their short attention spans and light saber fights, they have childlike faith. They experience wonder. I just want to catch it. Rein it in, even in short moments each day, and sit together to talk about how Spirit became flesh and walked among us. Ask them how they can extend love and kindness to those around us who really, really need to see it demonstrated. Sure, sometimes their answers are off the mark, but at the same time, my little boys know what it is to feel love. They are loved. They know it! I want to draw from that and teach them to find in their everyday moments, an opportunity to give it to others.

I know I fail miserably. And so will they. And the Lord keeps gently reminding me to walk in His mercy, because that is the only way I will have mercy to pour out. It's only two weeks until Christmas! And even though the days are packed (with good things!), it isn't an excuse to miss out. I don't want to miss the chance to be a light. Or to see the lighting up in my own Bushels' eyes when they realize the deeper meaning of Christ coming to earth.

And so each day, I am trying to take what time we can, and slow it down. Take more time on the couch to sit together. Reminding each other to look for moments. Taking more time to be silly and laugh even, so that the boys know that even though Mommy is busy, she is never too busy to be present with them.

I love Christmas. It is such a gift. And really, to truly enjoy a gift, don't we often have to slow down and savor it??? That is exactly where I want to be found right now.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Full Recovery!

November was full of great things, but it was also full of infections. I had mastitis twice, and Abram had two ear infections. Yuck!

Fourth kid. The third one that I have nursed sucessfully, and I had never EVER had mastitis before! Many of my friends had had it, and I have heard of the horrors. But when I woke up that morning in November (and Eli was out of town) with the pain I was experiencing, followed by chills, muscle aches, etc. ... I will forever want to do whatever I can for anyone else experiencing the horridness. I seriously told Eli over the phone that I would rather be in labor at that point: unmedicated labor. I walked around all day with this heat pad stuck in the side of my bra, alternating tylenol and ibuprofen and hoping for some relief.

Thankfully, since I was home sans hubby, the doctor called in antibiotics for me and didn't make me come in for an office visit. About two days later I was in recovery, although it took a few good days for everything "up top" to clear up and un-clog. Ugh.

Around that time as well, Abram got an ear infection, so we were dealing with a cranky boy during the day. His sleep isn't amazing anyway, so it doesn't seem that bad when he has had ear infections, and I count my blessings on that one!

Two weeks later? Yup. I woke up with the same exact thing. And Abram had already been back to the doctor and still had one ear infection. This time, though, our roles reversed. Poor little guy took a full five days to finally cheer back up.

Abram is a naturally happy boy. People comment on it all the time. He loves to laugh, play, and has such a sweet nature at home. But those five days he was sad. Lots of tears, and needing to be held. And that happened as we were entering Thanksgiving week. He and I missed the dinner at church because he was running a fever. He spent many times just laying on me that day, hot and tired and unsure why he felt that way. And four days into that, I woke up with mastitis again. = ( Abram and I were a definite sickly pair for one day. I carried him on my back quite a bit because he needed to be held, and I was attempting to not put pressure on my chest.

This time when I called, I just begged my nurse for another call in for meds. I knew the symptoms, Eli was working that day, and all I wanted was (hopefully) quick relief before we were at people's houses the next day for Thanksgiving meals. The doctor was in agreement, and this round cleared up fast.

Sometimes these things just happen! You can't anticipate them, you can't get out of them, you just have to walk through them, right? Much like a lot of life, I think. As I look around at all the things going on around us, I see how I often cannot change the circumstances and have little control over them. But I do have control over my attitude and how I approach what lies in my daily path. And some of what I encounter is just plain ugly, not fun, not easy. But I can still accept the grace God extends to me each day to walk humbly but confidently forward. I'm not asking for more sickness or infections (!), but no matter what happens, my joy can still shine.