31 December 2014

Happy Birthday, Julia Star!


Julia's Big Girl Letter

Dear Julia,

Over the past seven years we have watched you grow.  You were born two weeks early and directly on New Year's Eve.  You answered Daddy's request and became our tax deduction baby.  Even though you were born early you were 8lbs and so alert.  We knew you were going to be a smart cookie!

As a baby you never cried.  You were such a good sleeper and eager to wake up and start a new day with bright eyes and expectation.  You loved meeting new people, going to new places, and trying new things.  You have always been a delight and joy to be around.  You make people around you feel welcome.  You are kind to strangers and great with babies.  You are such an awesome helper.

I have really enjoyed homeschooling you because you like to learn, and you are so bright.  Even if something is difficult for you, I love that you do not back down or give up, but keep on trying and searching for a way to solve the problem.

You have always been very verbal and a great questioner it is no wonder you excel in Reading and Science.  I love that you know that you want to be a Teacher, a Gymnast, a Surgeon, and a Scientist.  I have no doubt that you could be one or all of these things.  

Most of all, I am proud of you.  I am proud of the way you seek to help us around the home.  I am proud of the way you share with your brothers and sister.  I am proud of the way you do your schoolwork independently.  I am proud of the way you welcome and greet new children in your sunday school class.  You always have a smile for everyone, and you never want to see someone left out.  I even like the way you stare at people.  I will never forget telling you when you were 4 to stop staring at the lady in the mall.  You turned to me and said, "But Mommy, I can't help it, she's beautiful!"  I am so proud of the way you appreciate beauty in the every day things and how you are usually so care free and happy-go-lucky.

I am looking forward to seeing you work really hard the rest of the school year at Classical Conversations, and at gymnastics.  I can't wait to go to your recital and see how much you have learned and how much you continue to grow as an athlete.  I am also excited to see all that you are learning at Prims on Wednesday nights with the other girls at church.  I love watching you read God's word and hiding it in your heart.  I hope you continue to grow in your faith and cling to Jesus.  I love hearing you pray out loud because I can hear it in your words that you believe what you say and that you know God is with you and you are never alone.  He loves you so much.



I love you baby girl.  I am so happy I get to be YOUR mom.  I like when people say, "You're Julia's mom, right?"  Yup, that's me.  I am Julia's mom, and I am proud of it!

Love,
Mommy
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23 December 2014

Our 2014 Highlight


This has been the year of all years for us!

1. January 4, 2014 We found out that we would be needing another car seat in the mini van.  And John's comment to me when I told him we were pregnant, yet again, was, "It's fine honey, we have a mini van now, there's always room for one more!"

2. February- We got to spoil our sister in law Laurie at her baby shower for the twins.  Afterwards we sat her down and my mother in law and gave them two wrapped gifts.  When they opened the framed sonogram of our baby they had no idea what we were telling them.  They thought we were giving them a picture frame.  Then we announced...we are due Sept 3rd!!! I think people in China heard my in laws screaming.  Laurie kept yelling, "Get me up! Get me up!" (she was very pregnant and wanted to get out of her seat to hug us).  It was my favorite moment of all time.  My father in law just kept saying, holy s@#%! over and over and over. 

3. March-Micah turned 1 and was dedicated at our church Jacobs Well in North Brunswick.  A family dedication is basically a special ceremony where families with young children ask the people in the church to pray for them as they raise their family in Christ.  It's a really special day.  And we loved the support we felt as our MC (missional community) stood up front with us and prayed for us.

4. April-We continued getting our home ready to sell and put it on the market.  Staging our home with 3 kids was no easy task, but thankfully I have a great team mate who helped me through it.

5. May-On John's birthday we had a huge BBQ and gender reveal and we found out that the fourth baby mac was going to be a GIRL.  I wish you could've been there to hear Julia and Naomi Fields cheering, and see the smiles/shock on our faces, everyone told us it was going to be a boy...but God knew we needed another girl!

6. May-The twins Ava and Nik (our godson) were born.  They are the sweetest twins you ever did see.  Julia and I headed to meet them for the very first time at the hospital the second we were allowed.  And Cinzia my best friend baby sat my boys. (thanks chi chi)  Julia and I and all of us are smitten by our new cousins.  They are so perfect.  And Laurie and Kelsey are such great parents!

7. June-Last week of June was spent on our family trip to COTW.  On the first day we were there we learned our house was sold!  The only problem was we had no idea it would happen so fast and now we had to scramble to find the perfect home!  I will never forget how we looked every day at the TeePee (coffee shop) on the internet for our new home.

8. July-House hunting, packing, and being 8 months pregnant, not fun at all.  Putting a bid on a home that I personally felt very connected to, and then watching it fall through broke my heart, but all the while God had and even better home waiting for us in Freehold.

9. August-Celebrating 11 years of marriage and hearing our attorney finally tell us our mortgage was approved on this new home of our dreams was probably one of the best days of our life.  Especially since we would not be homeless...because who sells their home and buys a new one in 30 days!? I have fully learned that with man nothing is possible but with God ALL things are possible.

10. August 27 Amelia Susanna was born at 10:49pm...after a long 15 hour labor (only got intense around 3pm)  It was not my easiest labor but finally our very healthy 9lber was born!  And she had the biggest cheeks and sweetest face I have ever seen.



11. August 29 We move into our new home...literally John picked me up from the hospital and drove me to the attorney's office to sign papers so we could move in that night.  It was the longest week of our lives, but we LOVE our new home and we ADORE our Amelia.

12. September-although we live one house away from the elementary school, we began another year of homeschooling.  This in fact has been the hardest year of home school yet.  I have a needy newborn, an active toddler, and two smart big kids who need me to teach them and its SOOOO overwhelming every day, BUT with God all things are possible and each day I just tell Him how much I can't do this in my own strength.

13. October-connecting with our neighbors in Freehold has been amazing.  This is such a sweet community and we are making a lot of cool friends, and 4 kids seems to be a very common thing on our block, its rather awesome.  I don't feel like the crazy lady with the most kids anymore.

14. November-Amelia was dedicated at our church...it was kind of funny because we literally just dedicated a baby at the last dedication, and here we were again!  But it was so special and we had Amelia's awesome god parents and their families over after church.  It was the best day ever.  I loved just seeing everyone from my immediate family, and John's immediate family and our friends there in one place.

15. December-This month John finished another seminary class, he is very close to completing his degree, and our sweet Julia will turn 7!  Looking over this past year I just really see God's hand, His perfect timing, and His grace on us.  We didn't deserve all that He gave us, but He gave it to us.  He's been so good to us all along, and we are thankful.  None of it has been easy, and there were times that I was so frustrated and unsure of what the next month would hold.  But it was just one of those years that looking back it's amazing to see how far you've come.  And it's nice to know we were never, ever, alone.


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15 December 2014

Tra-dition! Tra-dition! Tra-dition!


Christmas Morning Traditions

Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof?  I'm sure you have.  One of my favorite songs is when the amazingly wonderful Jewish Papa of the family sings Tradition!  I love seeing him explain why they do what they do in order to abide by and keep the family traditions.  After all, traditions are so apart of family life, aren't they?  What would we do without them?  They bring us safety and security, they create happy memories for a lifetime and in a way they define who we are and what the holidays mean to us.

This post is to share some of our favorite Christmas traditions.  Ones that you may do in your own home, would like to implement or start at some point, or just might find fun to read.  I always like hearing what other families do on their holiday to make it more meaningful to them.  I think traditions that moms and dads set and repeat year after year can be so special and hopefully loved by the kids so much so that they want to pass on the Tradition! to their family.

Christmas Eve

Our family makes it a point to attend Christmas Eve at our home church.  Usually this is not easy.  There is so much to do and prep for the next day with company coming.  John still has to work in NYC that day.  I am running here and there wrapping gifts, going grocery shopping, sprucing up the house, all the while watching our little kids.  But when John comes home I find it very important for all of us to put our energy and focus on preparing our hearts for the real reason for the season.  This is our third Christmas Eve at Jacobs Well in North Brunswick.  I love that Pastor Reid allows the whole family to sit and be a part of the service.  The kids get to worship with us, they get a bag of snacks and a craft book to keep them busy during the sermon, and they aren't expected to be silent, because we all know kids are noisy!  Of course we all do our best to keep quiet during the quick sermon.  It's so nice to just sit as a family and be together with all the other families!  I love it.

One gift

Christmas Eve we let the kids open one gift!  Usually its new pajamas, or a new coat, or maybe some fun slippers, sometimes it was even a family movie we could watch.  It's just something special we like to do before going to bed and it will keep the kids super excited all day knowing they get to open a prize, as we call them, a day early!

The big surprise

We don't put gifts under the tree until the morning of Christmas.  The kids don't know where we hide all of the gifts.  We just keep our secret stash to ourselves.  And no, santa does not bring them gifts.  Daddy and Mom have worked way too hard plotting and planning and saving to buy them their prizes, why give all the glory to SANTA!? Plus, John fully believes in telling the truth to our children.  (They even know the tooth fairy isn't real)  Before you get mad at us...just so you know, my children are forbidden to tell any other child that santa isn't real.  We would never dream of spoiling the fun for another family.  It's our little secret.

Christmas pajamas

Every Christmas morning we wear Christmas pajamas until noon!  Okay, this may not be a big deal to you, but for me (type A personality here) it is a huge sacrifice!  But it is rather comfy cozy!

Christmas brunch

My family comes over early christmas morning to open presents, and eat with us.  We've been doing this since John and I got married 12 years ago.  My mom and dad always make it light hearted and fun for us.  And it's really nice seeing my two sisters and spending the morning with them.  We eat waffles, bacon, eggs, sausage, fruit, french toast...whatever breakfast foods are carbalicious and tasty...we eat!  Then we all relax and watch the kids open gifts and we play with our new gadgets, play a board game or two, and just share how God has blessed us the past year.

McInerney Celebration

After my family leaves, we get dressed and head to our second Christmas celebration with John's side of the family.  One of the beauties of living close by everyone is being able to share the day and see all the grandparents, aunts and uncles, and this year the COUSINS!  Julia, Mark, Micah, and Amelia have twin cousins finally...Ava and Nik!  We are so blessed this year.  Three new babies were born in 2014!  My in-laws now have 6 grandchildren and that's pretty good since they only have 2 kids!  

The McInerney's have a feast awaiting us...turkey, ham, pasta, wine, and all the fixings, and grandma sue always bakes the best desserts...crumb cake, cheese cake, and plenty of christmas cookies from Aunt Laurie.  We love playing LCR and other family favorite games.

Our tradition after bedtime

By the time we head home, tuck everyone in, and put all the gifts away, we are exhausted.  John and I crack open a bottle of wine, sit by the fire and just relax.  This year we will have a new fire place to be in front of, just another blessing that God has given us.  I still can't believe we have survived four kids and a move this year.  I'm feeling very much at peace and content.  Life is crazy busy, but I'm sharing it with an awesome team mate.  God has been so faithful.  He has kept us happy, and healthy, and surrounded us with some really great people to share life with.

So, that was Christmas Team Mac style...what are your traditions? why are they important? How has God been faithful to you this year?
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09 December 2014

The Mommy Ministry

What does it take to be in a ministry?

When I taught at a private school as an elementary school teacher I knew ahead of time that teaching was going to be my ministry.  I was getting paid peanuts compared to most school teachers even though I worked the same hours as public school teachers.  But that was ok. I wanted to do it.  I enjoyed every minute of it...even parent teacher conferences, and back to school nights and field trips...ok maybe not field trips (s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l).

But I loved my job. It was my calling.  I went to work early and came home late (life before kids).  I even did aftercare programs, and book clubs because I really wanted to get to know the kids better, be involved, and grow as a teacher, plus the extra money was nice.  I wanted to teach.  I loved my students.  I was ALL in.  I told John all the time I would teach for free.

Then I became a mom.

And I had NO IDEA how much this "motherhood" job was my ministry.  I mean I didn't expect to get paid, but a break every now and then would be nice.  You don't get sick days.  No one says thank you...I mean they can't even say thank you yet.  You just do all of this "stuff" because you want to touch their heart for eternity.  You cook for them, clean up after them, drive them to the doctors, bathe them, stay up all night when they are sick, teach them the alphabet, right from wrong, how to add, subtract, tell time, count money, save their allowance, how to share, and how to be kind.


Maybe I was naive but I didn't realize that a ministry would be this hard, or this tiring or even super frustrating.  Sometimes you think it's always going to be awesome, that there won't ever be bumps in the road.  You really think it's always going to be happy go lucky and finding a rainbow in every meadow, and when you don't find your rainbow, or you don't get much sleep, or you realize your ministry is a lot harder than you ever expected it would be...sometimes you want to give up, or check out.

Lately, I've just been praying all day long.  God, help me in this situation.  Lord, help me to be patient.  Jesus, please give me strength.  Have you ever felt so tired, so spent, so emotionally drained that you couldn't rest?  Like there was just so much to do and feel you couldn't even stop your mind from going a mile a minute?

I've been reading a book called: The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.  And guess what?  She has 4 children too...two boys and two girls.  She lives in Tennessee with her husband and is involved in Campus Crusade and with women's and singles ministries in the US and overseas.  

I know that God has designed motherhood to be a "deeply meaningful role," but sometimes I wonder is it okay to want to do more when my kids are so young?  Sometimes I feel like I was made for more than motherhood.  I miss having a career, a pay check, a dream.

Today, God spoke so clearly to me through our guest speaker at MOPS.  Today I learned that I have been having a DRA...

A dirty, rotten, attitude...

And I was glad for her honesty, her advice, her guidance, and her direction.  She pointed all of us right back to God's Word.  She let us know that our roles as moms are valuable.  She reminded us that it's not about "us" and that we are held accountable for our response to others, especially to our families because so often they get the short end of the stick.  She was sweet, she was honest, and she was vulnerable as she shared stories of how life was like when she raised her 5 kids who were close in age...3 boys and 2 girls.

Hearing her speak today gave me so much encouragement that this is a season...that God has a plan for my life...that I am still allowed to dream, but that right now while my kids are young it's my turn to minister, and bless, and invest in their lives.  It's my job to do it with joy.  It's my choice and even though this ministry may be difficult it will be just as rewarding as my teaching ministry (if not more so since I have these 4 children of mine since birth).  How lucky are we as mothers to bring life into the world, watch it grow, and be a vital part of their growth?  It's a ministry for sure.  

I'm thankful for veteran mothers out there who encourage us newer moms and younger moms that are still in the thick of the raising and growing of little people.

So, what does it take to be in a ministry?

It takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and right thinking.  Instead of having a dirty rotten attitude I am going to embrace my ministry, ask for God's help, trust that His plan is better than mine, and love the heck out of my family! 


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30 November 2014

Monthly Menu...December

My babies are so much bigger now!

Monthly Menu

FYI: On the weekends John and I cook together or we go out to eat so I usually don't plan the weekend meals because John likes to be a part of it.  Holidays we are with friends/family so the meal is usually at a special place.  There is always one day during the week that we have buffet style or left over night.  You will notice that carbs are low this month (I have a wedding in January!)  

Dec 1 Baked Chicken, Raw veggies and dip, salad
Dec 2 Taco Tuesday and black beans
Dec 3 Spaghetti and Meatballs
Dec 4 Buffet Night (left overs)
Dec 5 Tuna Melts/Tuna and Crackers & chips and salsa

Weekend

Dec 8 Salmon and steamed veggies
Dec 9 Chicken & Rice
Dec 10 Chicken pot pie & salad
Dec 11 Buffet Night (left overs)
Dec 12 Steak & mashed potatoes w/asparagus

Weekend

Dec 15 Three Bean Chili & corn bread
Dec 16 Baked Tilapia and raw veggies with dip
Dec 17 Shepherds Pie
Dec 18 Buffet Night (left overs)
Dec 19 Pizza Night & salad

Weekend

Dec 22 Tortellini Salad
Dec 23 Whole Chicken in Crockpot with corn and salad
Dec 24 Christmas Eve
Dec 25 Christmas
Dec 26 Buffet Night

Weekend

Dec 29 Chicken Soup with Sweet Potatoes
Dec 30 Soup & Salad
Dec 31 New Year's Eve & Julia's Birthday


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29 November 2014

Boys will be Boys

The joys of boys...

If you've been reading my blog for awhile you may have remembered my series on "Bringing up Boys" by Dr. James Dobson.

It is very obvious that boys are different from the fairer gender.  I love having daughters and sons for different reasons. Mark and Micah are really different with their own boy personalities.

Mark is very verbal for a boy and extremely smart (he taught himself to read last year at the age of 4).  My in laws are always amazed at how bright and what a great communicator he is.  At the age of 1 he was talking in full sentences.  But he's very sensitive, and sometimes cries at the drop of the hat. He loves playing with his big sister Julia and is very competitive with her.  He really doesn't play by himself he loves having Julia tell him what to play and if she's out for the day he mopes around the house saying, "I'm bored."  Mark enjoys Taekwondo, sword playing, dressing up as super heroes and Legos! 

Micah on the other hand is one of the toughest little kids I know.  He can trip and fall on his head and get up and act like nothing happened.  He very rarely cries.  He is happy go lucky, and very independent.  Every one of my friends says that Micah is their favorite because he's always laughing (he has the best smile) and nothing bothers him (except losing his pacifier).  He's a riot.  

Micah can play for hours by himself in the dirt in the back yard or at the park in a sand box.  He doesn't need anyone to tell him how to play...he's been playing by himself since he could sit up at 5/6 months.  He reminds me a lot of Julia because as a baby she could keep her self occupied for hours with her toys.  Micah is the same.  He can play with a bucket of cars, make noises for each one, read books to himself, and be completely content.  

And Micah ADORES Mark.  Mark is the first name in our family he learned.  (Besides mommy and daddy of course).  I still remember the day he learned it.  We were sitting on the couch watching a show and Mark left to go upstairs and Micah yelled, "MARK!!!!!!!!" As  if to say...Dude, get back here, I need you!  He loves taking a bath with Mark, sharing a room with Mark, sitting at the table by Mark and playing outside with Mark.  Mark is his BOY.  But if Mark was out for the day...he would be completely fine.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Micah is not nearly as verbal as Mark was.  He's gotten a lot better recently because we've taken the pacifier away, but still Mark was a 15 month old genius!  Micah is 20 months old and just starting to put sentences together...although that still is good.  Micah is much more gross motor skilled.  Crawling at 4 months, climbing steps at 6 months, walking by 9 1/2 months.  I think he's going to be VERY athletic like my Dad who played baseball, soft ball, basketball and football competitively...

What I love about having sons is that they love being outside.  They love getting dirty, finding sticks, looking for worms, making forts.  What I sometimes struggle with having sons...is that they love getting dirty, love finding sticks, love looking for worms.  Every day with boys is a bath day.  Every minute is spent exploring, digging, and searching for the next adventure.  And they are always yelling and screaming, and shooting the bad guys.  No we don't let them watch violent shows or play violent video games. How is it that they know what guns and knives are and how is it that even if you never have weapons in the house they can make them out of sticks, rocks, tree bark, or their sister's batons?

Boys are loud, dirty, and dangerous!  I'm constantly saying: "Don't hit your brother with that! Be careful on the stairs! and "Stop, RUNNING!"  Why did I ever expect my third and fourth grade boys to keep their shirts tucked in and have clean desks and lockers?  What was I thinking???

But boys will be boys...loud, dirty, dangerous, and awesome!


I love both my boys...both sweet, both smart, both awesome.  But, who am I?  I'm just a very, very, biased mom.





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25 November 2014

The Perfect Holiday Card

The Things We Do For the Perfect Family Photo

1. Coordinate the outfits

This seems like an easy task.  I mean how hard can it be to coordinate or match your own children?  But then you find the perfect shirts and pray they are in the right size.  If you have a newborn you are praying the baby doesn't spit up or poop all over their clothes.  Thank goodness my boys like wearing the same clothes.  Let's be honest, Micah is 19 months and he could care less what he is wearing.  Mark on the other hand is 5 1/2 (don't forget to say 5 and a half)

2. Make sure everyone is groomed properly

Usually by the time you get in the car someone is a hot mess.  So I bring a comb, a brush and duck tape to keep hair in place.  (okay, not duck tape...hair spray works)

3. Choose a theme

I love fancy pics, but this year I went casual and I love how the kids looked.  It was fun to put that tutu on Amelia, especially since she can't talk and doesn't have an opinion yet.

4. Beg, plead, and bring chocolate

Smile at the camera.  Put your arm around your sister.  Lower your chin.  Yeah, right!  You try taking pictures of 4 kids! 4 kids!  You get what you get and you don't get upset.  I looked at Erin, our family photographer who I highly recommend, (Erin Nicastro Photography) and I said, just take a bunch of pics, don't worry if they aren't smiling.  The fact is kids are cute.  And any pic where they are all in it is a good pic.  Even if they are crying they are cute...well, sometimes.


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24 November 2014

Not At All

My Right Hand

I always wanted a daughter.  Mostly because I thought it would be fun to dress her, put bows in her hair, find ruffled socks, and take her shopping.  But being a mom is so much more than playing dress up.

And being a mom is so much harder than I thought it would be.  After all these little people watch everything you do, they copy you, they hardly ever say thank you, they take and take and take (because they need you!) and you can never have a bad moment or mess up or need their help.

Well, these last two years I have officially learned my lesson.  I'm sorry it took me so long, Lord.  I have learned that children are not toys or dress up dolls (although it is fun to match) they are little people we are to invest in.  And to do that we have to be ALL in.  That means not expecting thank-yous, not expecting them to be perfect, and that means not expecting yourself to be perfect.

Julia, my almost 7 year old, teaches me on a daily basis by her giving attitude and selflessness.  There was a reason God had me have her first.  She was an easy pregnancy, easy delivery, and a super easy baby.  I mean the kid never cried.  She always wanted to see what was going on around her, always exploring, and very very smart.

When we found out last May that we were having another girl, Julia and I were the most excited!  She wanted a sister so badly and after having two boys in the middle our whole family was anxious for pink toys and pink bows again.  But having babies back to back and moving this past year was really rough on me, physically and emotionally.  And Julia, my favorite older daughter (they are all my favorites) has helped me every step of the way.  

I literally don't have enough hands anymore, and Julia always is helping me with Amelia (3 months) and Micah (20 months).  She folds laundry, she picks up everyone's toys, she helps bring in packages from the house, she puts laundry away, she takes the boys outside to play, she holds Amelia so I can shower, she even pushes Mia's carriage while we food shop so I can push the cart.

This past Friday after food shopping I looked at her and said, "Julia thank you so much for helping me in the store, I couldn't have done it without you."  She looked me straight in the face and said, "Not at all mom." 

Not at all.

I don't know where she heard that phrase but it was enough to make me cry.

She is such a sweetheart.

And I love her to the moon and back.

I am thankful for you my Julia!

This Thanksgiving I am so thankful for so many things.  I am thankful for family and friends, our new beautiful home, God's constant provision, my church family, my amazing best friend and husband John, and my children.  My children are my treasures and even though life is crazy busy and stressful at times, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

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22 November 2014

Mary, Mary Quite Ordinary?

Mary, Mary, Quite Extraordinary


There are so many questions I would like to ask Mary.  When I think of all she went through being the mother of Christ, the sacrifices she made, the ridicule and shame she faced being pregnant and not yet married, the glares and questions, and then her own inner voice causing her to doubt or question what was about to happen to her.  I wonder how she did it.  

Motherhood is no easy task.  And here this young girl from Galilee was chosen to be Jesus mother.  Just an ordinary, every day girl from a normal little town.  It baffles me that God didn't choose a woman from an upscale home, someone with wealth, someone with prestige, someone with experience.  God always blows my mind when he chooses the ordinary.  It is just His way of shining his glory in the midst of the every day ordinary human and doing something unexpected.

When an angel came to Mary and called her "favored one," and said "the Lord is with you"...that also amazes me.  The fact that God called her favored.  What was his favorite part of her I wonder?  Does He call us favored?  What was so special about her? And then that the angel was sure to add: "the Lord is with you."  God is constantly reminding us of His presence.  He is all around us in everything.  It can be in simple things like looking at your own hands and seeing the veins and thinking of the process of our circulatory system and how He designed all of our body systems.  Or even when you watch a sunrise or sunset and you see the beauty in nature, or the power of the waves on the shore.  I am constantly reminded of Him when I hold my newborn.  She is so small, and needy, and perfect and I think of how amazing it is that God knew her before she was born, that He knows how many hairs are on our heads, that he knew our names.  And to know that that same God of the universe cares about us...and is always with us...knowing that He loves us is mind blowing.

He is always with us.  It goes against everything society says about us.  We aren't favored unless we are beautiful, wealthy or brilliant.  And here, God chose a young, poor girl, who honored Him, and He called her "favored".  So basically, she was special, because God said so.  She had value because He created her for a purpose.  She was favored not because of what she could offer but because of who made her and because of His plan for her life.

The angel goes on to tell her that "you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the most High."  She finds out that she is having a baby while she isn't even married.  Her question to the angel is..."How can this be since I am a virgin?" I love the simplicity of Mary's question...How is this even possible?  And then I think of verse 37 "for with God nothing will be impossible."  So often I think we get stuck in the thought of the impossible.  We can't even wrap our brains around how God works, how He can make tough situations good, or how He can change a simple heart of stone to a heart of flesh.

Mary was so unselfish.  She didn't protest or tell God, "Look this isn't in my plan! I am not ready to have a baby!"  How did she know that God's plan was even bigger than she could imagine?  How did she know to just accept it and move forward without fear?  How was she able to be the Mother of Jesus and have the wisdom to raise the Son of God?  Wasn't she overwhelmed with the thought of all that was expected of her?  She simply says, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." 

That was it.  She listened.  She trusted.  And she moved forward in obedience.  Mary was ordinary, yes, but she was willing.  She was obedient to God's plan and His calling on her life, even though it would be difficult.  And she praised and glorified His name.  

So often I feel very stuck in this life.  The days are long and hard and extremely lonely as a stay at home mom of 4 kids.  There are so many tasks before me and it is easy to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and hopeless.  But then I am reminded of my purpose.  I am reminded that I am not alone (God is always with me) and I don't need to be afraid (or worry).  I am still in awe of this young girl Mary, Jesus' mother.  She was pretty amazing. 

 "My soul magnifies the Lord.  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.  For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation." Luke 1: 46-50

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Questions to think about...

1. Mary made major sacrifices to be the mother of Jesus.  It was a huge calling.  What sacrifices does God ask of us daily? or personally? 

2. Mary faced the shame/ridicule of being pregnant before being married...do you ever face shame/ridicule to be a follower of Jesus, what is your response?

3. Mary trusted God so easily.  Do you find it easy/difficult to trust?

Our 4 treasures


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15 October 2014

Amelia's Birth Story

All photos by Erin Nicastro Photography

August 27, 2014 Your Birth Story


I woke up Wednesday morning watching John get dressed and ready for work...I knew then (6am), that this was the big day, I could feel the cramp like pains of the beginning of labor.   But with so much false labor that week, I decided not to say anything and John went off to the city like any normal day.  By 7:30 a.m. after my shower they were every 10 minutes.  I called John because I knew he needed to head home.  I knew he wanted to be apart of it.  He had just walked into his office when I called.  So he had to make a few phone calls, send out emails canceling some appointments and head back to port authority for a trip back to NJ.


By this time I had called my doula, my mom and my mother in law.  My mother in law came to help with the kids and pick up Julia for the day.  My mom came to babysit the boys.  My doula came to be with me until John arrived.  Roe (my doula) had a great idea to go to the doctor's office just to be sure this was "it" even though we all knew, but since we knew Dr. Giovine was in the office we thought it was a good idea for him to see me and to start the ball rolling.  I still wasn't in any pain just dealing with the contractions as they came.  Swaying, walking, talking, and getting ready for the hospital stay.  Packing the car, taking pics of the kids with their cute shirts on and making pb and j sandwiches for a snack for the car ride.

Mark, Micah, and Julia

I felt better once John was home because I knew my team mate was with me.  It was exciting that baby day was finally here and a week before my due date...I knew I wasn't going to have a September baby!  We drove to Little Silver with excitement and anticipation.

Dr. G saw me around 11am and I was indeed in labor and at about 3cm and 80 percent effaced.  All that walking the past 3 days at the park really did help!  I was doing about 2 miles each day to speed the birth process along.  He suggested we go to the board walk for a bit and then go to the hospital.  But since it was 90 degrees we decided to head to the Monmouth Mall to walk and eat lunch and perhaps shop before heading to the hospital?

It was fun to go to a new place to walk around and be in the comfort of the mall.  But by 1:30 my contractions were getting more intense and I didn't want people staring at me every time I had to stop to deal with them.  We got in our cars and headed to the hospital.  My contractions got more intense on the drive and John started to speed a bit and go over some bumps which made the contractions worse.

Then we heard sirens...

A police officer was pulling us over...GRRRRREEEEAAATTTTT!  This was all we needed! I just wanted to be at the hospital, John was driving like a lunatic, and we were going to get a ticket for speeding...awesome.  Well, I did what any pregnant woman would do during labor and stress, I started to cry...the cop took forever to get out of the car...and when he approached our vehicle he looked inside John's volvo like he had drugs inside...it was crazy!  He comes the window and John goes, "Officer, my wife......." and then I interrupted and said, "I'm in labor!" and burst into tears.  The cop switched into Dad gear and said, "Don't worry, I will escort you to the hospital...follow me!"  In that moment, I wanted to hug him!

Amelia, you were our first police escort to the hospital...it was pretty cool!  He dropped us off at the Emergency exit and got a stretcher for me and everyone took over and I just concentrated on the contractions as they came.  Once we got upstairs to labor and delivery we were put in a room and Dr. Burke was there to check me.  I was now 5 cm.  Things calmed down a bit and my contractions did too.

We decided to walk the labor halls to keep things going.  The nurse said that once I got to 6 cm I would have to get out of the birthing tub so I decided not to labor in the tub this time.  I figured, what would the point be to set the whole thing up only to be told I couldn't be in it.  Plus I just wanted to hurry up and push this baby out so we walked and walked in hopes that I could progress soon.

The contractions got very painful around 4pm.  I was having very bad posterior labor.  Which meant the baby's head probably wasn't exactly in the right place but leaning on my pelvis in a way that made the contractions unbearable and when they checked me I was only 6cm...it was all too reminiscent of my labor with Micah.  Micah was 9.2 lbs and his labor was 12 hours and extremely painful, it was also posterior pain.  I was in agony for the last 4-5 hours and I promised myself this time if my labor was stuck again at 6cm I would not be in agony for hours.

I got an epidural at 5:45 p.m.  The only problem was it didn't work.  It didn't numb anything until 8 p.m.  So from 6pm to 8 p.m. I was stuck in a hospital bed in the worst pain I've ever experienced.  And I have a very high tolerance for pain.  But that pain was unholy.  In those moments I just did the best I could.  I was thankful for my sweet nurse, roe, and john who encouraged me, but I was really angry that I got this epidural hoping it would help and it did nothing.

At 8 p.m. my legs and pelvic area went numb.  It was the weirdest feeling ever.  I didn't feel any contractions for the rest of the time.  It was so scary at first because all my other labors I was completely in control since I wasn't medicated, and now I had to trust the nurse to tell me everything was ok.  My biggest fear was how will I know when to push?  She assured me I would be fine.

By 10 p.m. I was tired of waiting.  I called the doctor in and told her I was ready to push.  She checked me and I was, lo and behold, at 10 cm.  And that was the easiest part of this labor.  For the next 45 minutes I pushed and all the while Dr. Chang, she took over after Dr. Burke left, kept telling me, "Your baby has so much hair!"  And I kept thinking...get. her. out!



At 10:49 p.m. Amelia Susanna was born.  She looked tiny to me, but she was 9.6 lbs and 19 1/2 inches long.  She weighed a few more ounces than Micah and I think most of her weight was in those sweet cheeks of hers.  And just like the doctor said she had a head full of dark hair!

I really loved my nurse that took care of me towards the last half of my 9 hour labor.  She gave me such great advice (because we told most of the people who worked with us that we would be moving on Friday) about enjoying Amelia and not doing too much or being stressed about the house.

The only part (besides the labor) I would have changed about Amelia's birth story is that John could've stayed longer.  After Amelia was born he needed to go straight home to check on the kids and my mom (all were asleep of course) and hold down the fort, besides he was exhausted too.  I was honestly so awake and didn't really sleep Wednesday at all.  I was on such an adrenaline high from the birth.  I stayed in the hospital until Friday afternoon.  I left our home on Joyce street on Wednesday without knowing I'd never go back there...and when John picked me up on Friday we drove straight to our attorney's office to sign the papers for our new home.  It was the busiest week of our lives.

God worked out every detail.  He surrounded us with love and support from our family and friends and our doula Roe, and blessed us with another healthy baby with a fairly uneventful birth.  Even though the epidural didn't work from 6pm til 8pm, at least I got some relief before the pushing.  I was scared about getting the epidural but thankful that after I had it I was able to push Mia out and walk around since it started to wear off soon after she was born.



Amelia Susanna McInerney...we love you!

Our final piece to our family!  It amazes me how much you look like Julia.  You two are the perfect bookends surrounding our handsome boys.




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06 October 2014

Happy Harvest

Happy Harvest

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior    are children born in one’s youth.Blessed is the man    whose quiver is full of them.  -Psalm 127:3-5
Well, we knew we were lucky to be Julia, Mark, Micah, and Amelia's parents...but sometimes in the grind of it all we can forget that these sweet little pumpkins are a gift from God.

Sometimes I forget how badly I prayed to get pregnant with Julia.

And I forget how badly I wanted a son after I found out I was pregnant with Mark.

I forget how much I longed for a third child when we finally were surprised with Micah's pregnancy.

And I seem to forget how much I begged God for a sister for Julia, and another daughter for me because I missed ribbons, and ruffles, and shopping the pink aisle at Babies R Us.

God has given us 4 gifts, 4 blessings, and no matter how loud, and wild, and silly, they can be...we are thankful they were born.

This harvest seems extra full and extra happy this year.
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02 October 2014

Listening to God speak

1 Samuel 3

A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

I have been out of the habit of reading the Bible every morning and I really have missed it.  It has been so chaotic and busy these last 5 weeks and I am so happy to finally, finally able to get back into a routine and schedule.  I used to be able to read at the kitchen table while the kids ate breakfast.  The new norm now is I break out my lap top and read online whenever I get a few seconds with hands free.

A few nights ago I started to read 1 Samuel because I remembered how awesome God answered Hannah's prayer by giving her a son after being barren for so long.  She wanted a child so badly.  I look at my life these past 11 years and see how God was preparing John and I all along for this family of 4 little ones.

*God was faithful to provide us both with careers we loved
*God was gracious to allow us to travel before the kids came
*God was merciful to bless us with 3 amazing homes...each one meeting our current needs of the time
*God was loving to allow me to stay at home and raise our children while relying on one income

I love this particular chapter in 1 Samuel because Samuel heard God's voice in the night and thought Eli was calling him.  Each time he got up to ask Eli what he wanted.  Finally the third time, Eli realized that Samuel was probably hearing God's voice and didn't know it.  So Samuel goes back to bed hears God's voice and quickly responds...."Speak for your servant is listening."

I love that he knew he was God's servant.  First of all, I can clutter my own mind with so much "stuff" (my to do lists, my worries, my wants, my needs, my concerns) that I can barely hear the quiet voice of God calling me.  Can anyone else relate?  I get so busy in "survival mode" that I forget my true purpose as God's servant.  I forget all that He has done for me.  I worry about things that I should know God will handle.  

Samuel was young, and obedient and quick to listen to God's voice.  He knew who he belonged to.  He knew what his purpose was, and he was so ready and willing to do whatever God wanted him to do.

I want to be like that.

So today, I give God my day.  I open up my ears for his voice.  I want to be quick to listen and quick to respond.  


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17 September 2014

Rolling Her Eyes

What to do when your kid hates school...my mommy melt down

First let me be honest, I had a melt down last week.  Between baby hormones, new house, new routine, starting homeschool, and dealing with 4 little people, I really just couldn't take anything not going just so...and so, when we started our normal day of math, reading, writing, etc...and all the big kids were giving me an awful time of it, and micah was loud, and mia was well, hungry, I guess I just lost it, and to make matters worse...it was only 9:30 am....why does time go so slowly when you need to survive til after dinner when Dad gets home?

We had just sat down to start school, and the big kids wanted to play in the back yard, or their room, or watch t.v. and why mom, why do we have to do school????

And then she did it.

She did it right at me.

With a sigh, and an eye roll, she placed her head on the kitchen table like she had done a research paper, a science experiment, and a board exam...and she was too tired to do anything else!!!

Who was this child?

Why didn't she love school like she did for the past 4 years we've been doing school???  

Not only was I over tired from being up at night with a newborn, still healing from delivery, and slightly crazy from a move, but my kid, the teacher's kid, had the audacity to NOT LOVE SCHOOL!!!

Did she not know that in public/private school they are doing work from 8:30-2:30!  Hello!  I wanted a good attitude and I wanted it now!

So what did I do in my mature 36 year old way?  I had a mommy melt down.  Really mature!  I gave my kids the "school lecture" filled with: "you don't know how good you have its" and "after all mommy does to make your day special!"

And then I cancelled school and sent them to their rooms.  

And then I called my best friend.  

And cried...

And said how I just can't do this and how nothing is going the way I planned, and that my beloved daughter ROLLED her eyes at me! (God bless you Suzette for putting up with me on the phone!)

And would you believe it while I sat their on the phone, holding a newborn, watching micah play, my daughter brought me a glass of water and asked, "Mom, are you ok, why are you crying?"

Talking it out and getting some great homeschool advice and ideas was just what I needed.  I always feel better after a best friend pep talk, don't you?

This week...we have managed to complete school 9-2pm with structure, routine, and no eye rolls (wink, wink).  I think Suzette was right, every one struggles the first few weeks of school with getting back into the groove.  I'm thankful we survived and are ready to move forward to a good year of school.

Hopefully...

One can never predict what their kids will do!

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15 September 2014

This Crazy Life

Life With Four Little People

In my wildest dream we have five children and live on a farm.  But after three kids life was so full and so busy I couldn't have imagined, and I would never have even dared to picture life with more kids than we had at the time.

But now she's here!

And life is busy, chaotic, crazy, and quite honestly wonderful all at once.  

Noise: There is so much of it!  It ranges in volumes of peaceful slumber to everyone asking for something all at once, the boys running and screaming, Julia singing, John asking where his wallet is, and Amelia crying for more milk.

Toys: They have multiplied and they are everywhere.  In every room there is a lego piece, a weapon of some sort, usually a sword, a barbie doll with no clothes, blocks, books, and an American girl doll or two.

Clothes: The laundry has quadrupled!  Literally!  When you have a newborn you are always washing burp cloths and onesies, but now there is the normal amount of clothes and there is no way I can possibly keep up.  I'm at, at least 2 loads a day, and 3 or 4 on the weekend.  And there is always a pile of clothes in our white basket waiting to be put away...

Boxes: With our move, there are a few lingering boxes in our room and Amelia's nursery.  And the garage has a few waiting for us to get to at some point.  Since we had so many people just come over and offer to help we are so far along on the process of being moved in, and we've only been here 2 weeks.  Thankfully, I think by October it will feel like we've always been in this house.

Crying: Well, someone is always getting their feelings hurt, or falling, or needing some extra attention.  The key I am learning is that it's okay for the kids to wait and be patient with mommy.  I can't meet every need all at once, but with God's help, I sure am trying to love on everyone and not let anyone feel like the "middle child".

Meals:  Loud, because we don't just eat, we talk, we pray, we act silly, and we comment on how great the food is, especially when dad cooks!  We have been so blessed to not have had to cook thanks to friends and our church family.  We have been steadily fed and that has been a huge blessing and one less thing for me to think about.  I will start my meal planning in October!  

Bath Time: Wet!  Julia likes to shower in our new shower, but sometimes she forgets to close the shower glass doors...Mark and Micah take their bath together, and there is a lot of bubbles, a lot of splashing, and a lot of water...EVERYWHERE.  But, since we have an awesome back yard, and since the kids are outside everyday on their bikes, or digging, or hunting for sticks and bugs...bath night is EVERY NIGHT!

My Love: John and I have not had any date nights or breaks, but at night, when it's finally completely quiet except for the squeaky wood steps, or Amelia's heavy breathing sounds from her crib, we are able to take a deep breath, sigh a huge sigh of relief, high-five, and say, "We did it!" We talk about how we traveled Europe, how God continues to bless us, and how we are thankful for our 4 kids, even if life IS crazy right now.



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14 September 2014

The Sweetest Neighbors

Home Sweet Home

Well, we are finally home and settled and not living out of boxes!

Everyone has their own space and we are still working on making Miss Amelia's room the sweetest for a baby girl.  Right now she's still living in our room in a sweet bassinet-like/crib our new neighbors gave us.

We are surrounded by great neighbors, just like in our old neighborhood in Aberdeen.  The weekend we moved in all of our new neighbors came over, introduced themselves, and brought us meals!  For real!  The hospitality around here is amazing.  I can't wait til I'm on my A-game so I can whip up a batch of muffins or brownies to thank all of them.  

And the oddest thing is...everyone has 4 kids!  Right across the street from us is a sweet family with 2 girls and 2 boys right around our kids ages.  Julia and Mark were besides themselves with excitement.  And the first weekend they walked across the street to shake Julia and Mark's hands to say: Welcome to the neighborhood!  Who does that?!  I was so impressed and so was Julia!  She ran in to tell me right away, she said, "Mom these kids are so respectful!"

Looking back over the past few months...I can see how God worked it all out.   I knew He would...but I was so scared, so afraid, and I worried about how we would handle the move, the new baby, etc.  But God surrounded us with help from all different sides, from people I didn't even expect, and just a continuous overflow of blessing that whispered, "Kristi, didn't I tell you I would take care of you?"  

And all I can say now is..."You did it Lord, thank you, thank you so much."


Amelia Susanna joined our family two days before the big move!


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