Sunday, November 15, 2015

Beach Trip October 2015

On the second weekend in October we took a little trip down to the beach house with our friends the O family, plus our sweet goddaughter Cecilia. The weather was beautiful and it was a great time away with friends!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

+Beverly Kloesel+

I haven't been blogging much the past few months. Life has been busy as usual, but it has also been difficult as I was anticipating the loss of one of my dearest friends. Beverly passed away last Tuesday, November 3rd after a 9-month battle with gastric cancer. The past few weeks have been spent in earnest prayer for her and her family and coordinating their needs with our local community. I was blessed to spend a few hours with her a few days before she died, which will be in my heart forever. I was also honored to be asked to share a little bit about her life at the Visitation and Rosary at the church last night, which I have shared below. Today was the funeral mass, which was beautiful and was a standing-room only crowd in the huge church. There were so many people at the reception you could hardly walk through the gym, and I didn't get to say hello to many of our old friends who were there. We have many similar friends in our homeschooling, Catholic, and Aggie communities and it was lovely to see all of these beautiful faces, although I wish it was for a different occasion. Beverly touched many, many people's lives and it was a great honor to be her friend. I miss her so much.

Beverly’s Eulogy
Hello, my name is Blair and I’m a close friend of Beverly and the Kloesel family, a fellow homeschool mom of five, fellow Aggie, godmother of precious Cecilia, and I consider Beverly like one of my big sisters and mentors in motherhood. As I’ve been talking to friends and reading Facebook reflections the past week, there are a few thoughts from fellow moms that really struck me as a true reflection of Beverly’s life.

“Lord, let me live until I die.”  A friend shared this quote the other day and it’s truly an attitude that Beverly personified, even before her cancer diagnosis. Beverly seemed to live about three lifetimes in her one lifetime! I’m not sure if she ever slept! (Did you get those emails at 2am? Did you know she pulled all-nighters well into her 40s?) She truly seized the day and lived life to the fullest. She never turned down an opportunity to learn or grow in faith with her children. She took them to daily mass often and participated in many church ministries. She and Gordon traveled with them to special masses and church events, and they made every holiday, every birthday, and every church holy day a special one with beautiful family traditions. They’ve taught their children to pray, to serve God, to follow the saints, and to live virtuous lives, and we’ve all experienced the fruits of this labor. How many of us have received a thank-you card from them? How many of us have had a Kloesel child approach us with a genuine hello and how we are doing? How many of us received meals when we were ill or had a new baby? She was even first to sign up to deliver a meal right after her cancer diagnosis! Their family has always been there with a smile, with a prayer when we were hurting, or a special note to let us know their family was thinking of us. Beverly truly lived until she died, and I hope I can do the same.

“The Kloesels are like a professional family.” Other moms were commenting on how beautiful and admirable the Kloesel family photos have always been. They are all so poised and beautiful! Most of us know those Christmas card photos, because I think the family sends them to about 500 people every Christmas! Coordinating clothes, beautiful poses, Penny the dog included. But these photos were only a snapshot of their home life which often seemed even more “professional.” She helped create such a beautiful little “domestic church” for her family. We’d come over for a quick visit, but soon after arriving the children would quickly set the table and we were welcomed into a beautiful meal. Maybe she’d ask if we’d like to come over for some small holiday or holy day activity, and we’d arrive to find decorations, crafts, food, songs, and an evening of activities planned for the children. I hope we can continue this beautiful legacy of family meals and celebrating church holy days with our children and friends the way she did. Beverly was truly a professional mom!

“Our ultimate cheerleader.” Beverly was the ultimate fan of her children’s sports teams. Even to the end, she was putting together gifts and trinkets to give to their teammates. When she first arrived home in the ambulance to begin hospice care, she got a text message from her sister saying that the score at Johanna’s volleyball game was tied at 11-11. She said, “Go get me a blue shirt and some pants. We are going to the game!” And she did. What a great memory of her last outing with the family. Beverly also encouraged the children in their academics and taught them all in their homeschool classroom. The family shared that after she passed on Tuesday, sweet Cecilia said “She taught me how to read.” And then the other children began discussing that “100 Easy Lessons” reading book, or their version “100 Not So Easy Lessons!” She always challenged the children to stay on top of their schoolwork, and to be successful students, and we know that they are and they will continue to strive to be the best they can be. I hope that I can be as big of an encourager and cheerleader for my own children, in their activities, in their academics, and in their lives. And I also hope Beverly will pray and cheer us all onto Heaven, just like she cheered for and encouraged us when she was with us on earth.

“Beverly was a model of friendship.” Friend after friend was sharing about how Beverly was the one who first welcomed them and made them feel like an important part of our homeschooling group, and I’m sure she did the same thing with all the other many groups in which she was involved. Her ever-present smile and warm words made us feel loved and welcomed, and she always inquired about our day, our children, or our sick or struggling family members.  She was a true friend through and through, a model of friendship for us to emulate. As we reflect on the beautiful life of our friend, we pray for her soul, and we also trust in the mercy of God that she will be with all the saints and angels in Heaven. As we ask those saints in heaven to pray to God for us, I hope that Beverly will be able to pray for all of us too, as we aim to be as good of a friend to others as she was to us.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

A letter to our sweet little friends Lauren and Kate,

I've been wanting to write a little bit about Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I thought I'd share with you two girls how you became such a special part of our lives.

Dear Lauren, 
We met your parents when they were walking around the neighborhood, introducing themselves to neighbors and asking if they could pray for us. That right there shows the kind of people they are! We were approaching the open heart surgery of our little boy Steven, and you had already experienced this same surgery yourself. Although we didn't know each other well, your generous parents drove up to the hospital after his surgery, brought us a meal, and showed us around. I remember just how comforting that was during one of the most difficult experiences of our lives. 

Now that we have moved back to the area, we have been able to share so many special times with your family this past year. They are what neighbors should be...dropping off a meal when we are sick, watching children on the spur of the moment, lending a hand during our move, and sharing many fun evenings together. Your family has kept us in prayer during difficult seasons and big decisions, and we are so grateful. 

You love our two big girls, and our baby Katie Grace with such a fierce love. You have those big girls wrapped around your little finger, and they will often let you boss them around! Your sympathetic heart gets so upset when Katie cries. And your feelings get hurt when the big girls are gone to ballet or doing schoolwork. You love generously and confidently, and you have such a tender heart. We are blessed that you are a part of our lives!


Dear Kate, 
I met your mom when we were both honored at a group baby shower for our homeschooling community. From our first conversation, I was immediately struck by her bright smile and warm words. Even though we hadn't yet moved back to the area, we kept in touch and I started reading your mom's beautiful blog. Her poetic words and spiritual depth always strike me in a profound way. Her commitment to motherhood and making a beautiful, happy home is an inspiration to me. Her texts and encouragement when I need it have been balm to my sometimes-weary soul. Your dad also has a generous heart and has spent many hours helping our homeschooling group in our online communication. I know that both of your parents are committed to faith and family, and they are witnesses to life as they welcome children lovingly from the Lord!

I wish we lived closer, because I'd love to spend more time with your sweet family and I know my girls would thoroughly enjoy babysitting and playing with you and your sweet siblings more! We do get to share time together every couple weeks for homeschooling events and play dates, and I'm very thankful for that time to get to know your family. You seem a bit reserved and take awhile to warm up to the crowd. You and your sister are always together, and you can tell there is a deep closeness between you two, and between all the members of your family. It shows that the heart and center of your family life is your home, which is where you are most comfortable, and that is so very beautiful.


Lauren and Kate,
Each of you has made a special impact in our lives. Although you both have Down syndrome, you are so very different and show us how unique God makes each of us. You have helped my children to learn more compassion and love. My big girls have a heart for children with Down syndrome, likely because of how important you have been to them. Your parents are true advocates for both of you, finding the resources you need to succeed. But most importantly, they are forming your hearts to love others and be a shining light of God's grace to the world. I wish that more families would welcome beautiful children with Down syndrome like you sweet girls. You make our lives so much richer and sweeter!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Seven Quick Takes

Not much time for blogging these days! We are still settling into our new house and trying to make it more of a home. There were quite a few furniture items that needed Craigslist replacements, so my part-time job has been scouring the online classifieds to find the best deals! I'm generally pretty savvy at this, but I've still lost 3 or 4 desk deals for Mary Clare, who is currently using an upside-down moving box in her room as her desk! Overall I've done pretty well with scoring couches, bedroom furniture, a fridge, and a buffet for a very good deal! We also went ahead and got a set of IKEA chairs and compensated our friends with dinner and wine to help us assemble them!

Another reason I haven't been blogging is that my amazing friend Beverly isn't doing so great. She just spent a few days in the hospital, and we are all praying that they find the right treatment to manage her cancer. She's still so positive, her kids are showing great kindness and courage, and we got to spend a whole weekend with her youngest, our goddaughter, last weekend!

A weekend away at the beach has also kept me away from my writing. We've had some warm October weather and were blessed to spend two nights at the family beach house with friends. It was just what we needed to take a step back from everything going on at home. 

Aside from unpacking, moving, decorating, and settling into our new home, we've also been renovating our old home for my parents! We are very happy with our contractor, and he's almost finished with the updates in the kitchen and bathrooms. It looks amazing, both inside and outside!

We have continued our normal ballet schedule which is pretty manageable. They dance for about 3 hours twice a week, and we just drop them off and pick them up. Piano is once weekly, and currently it's just Ellie and Thomas taking lessons. We also have 4-H, museum classes, and park days once monthly, and the boys and girls homeschool clubs twice monthly. we are back doing little league baseball for Steven Joseph, and it is a challenge! 3-4 days a week of practices and games, and every week the schedule is different. The two youngest don't handle the driving well, and I am exhausted! I'm hoping we can find a better solution this spring!

After I blog about our beach trip, I'll be sharing some wonderful photos of our big boy Steven who will have his First Holy Communion this coming Sunday! He had his First Penance this past Sunday, and we were so proud of him even though he was very scared. We are very excited for him to receive these sacraments. We're preparing for a busy weekend and a big party to celebrate!

Today we have a large group of our 4-H club over here to make meals for Beverly's family! The kids shopped together and are now washing, chopping, and cooking without much help at all from the adults. Katie was ready for a nap so I'm getting her down and starting to think about the rest of the errands of the day. A big weekend, but we will be blessed to share it with family and friends!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Moving days...

Where do I begin? Life has been a whirlwind the past few weeks, but I finally feel like we're settling into our new home. We had a lot of emotional days leading up to the closing of our house, but now we are here, it's a joy, and we are so very grateful to God for this gift of a new home!

I have so many more words, but there is just never enough time to sit and share here. Now I have a laptop to use, so hopefully once we figure out how to transfer photos to that computer, I'll be all set for blogging! For now there is so much to do...decorate a new house!!! Oh, and continue to move things out of the old house, clean it up, plan more renovations, and then pack and move my parents!  And that pesky little thing I'm responsible for...schooling all of my children!

Here are some iPhone moments of the past few weeks until I can share more...

Top row: babies schooling, little ones reading amidst the boxes, museum baby friends, little siblings during museum classes, and dinosaur buddies!
2nd row: a little moment at Barnes & Noble, MC and our sweet neighbor friend, Katie owning the world, Daddy walking the littles into mass, and kiddos at the zoo
3rd row: Daddy and Tommy in the reptile room, Tommy by his favorite animal--Komodo dragon, his new microscope in the closet "science lab" his sisters made him, SJ playing with water balloons one morning in the driveway (in 24mos swim trunks, the day before his heart surgery anniversary), and our first 4-H meeting with games outside
4th row: My little getaway for a mom's night, Katie enjoying the new house, kids on moving day, friends at the moving in pizza party, my mom hanging with us in the new house, Ellie with a new used furniture find, Katie at Old Town Spring after Sunday mass, Tommy reading his new favorite reptile book, Ellie my shopping buddy, and our new front door!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thomas is Five, and an Afternoon at the Zoo!

Thomas William turned 5 years old yesterday! He wanted to go to the zoo for his birthday, so after Mass on Sunday, we hit our favorite Italian restaurant with lunch buffet (his!) and went on to spend a few hours at the zoo! He's been to the zoo a few times, but he was too young to remember. And now he is our resident animal lover, so he was in his element!!!

The Komodo dragon is his favorite! He still can't stop talking about it. And he was so excited that Daddy let him make a penny coin keepsake with the Komodo dragon on it!

So happy I was able to get a photo of this sweet brother moment.

We decided to have a birthday breakfast before Daddy left for work, so Thomas could open his presents! His best buddy Andrew was able to come over too!

Thomas got a microscope, a remote control jeep, a shark lego set, and a laser game and reptile book from Andrew! Plus Ellie made him some really fun craft things, like a disk shooter made from cardboard and rainbow loom bands, and an egg with playdough inside and a hidden dinosaur. So sweet.

They had fun playing with his toys all day, and the girls even made him a science lab in the closet! He went to his co-op class with Andrew, but wanted to come home and play instead of going on a field trip.

After the girls came home from ballet, and Daddy grilled some chicken (and dove) to go with our pasta, we finally got out his cake, which he decorated with the new legos! It melted a little sitting out the night before.

It is so fun watching you learn about the world and God's creatures. You are like a sponge that soaks up facts and enjoys sharing them with everyone! You are focused and determined, and are doing very well with schoolwork and piano. You are so excited to start working in the Atrium on Sunday mornings again. May God speak to your heart in those precious moments and the times we spend together in His presence. May you always know His abundant love and mercy!

(P.S. Baby sister loved the cake and wore her sea creature romper in his honor!)

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