Together is my favorite place to be

IMG_1259Now that my kids are school aged, every May I get so excited about summer. I told my friends this year, “Our lives won’t feel so fragmented now! My kids are home and we get to do life as a family unit again. Even things like grocery shopping or making cookies are more fun when we do them as a family.” And I truly do soak in every mundane, glorious minute of summer with them.

But its now nearing the end of August. School starts this week for my oldest two. And you know what? It is time for them to GO. The bickering, the boredom, the insane activities they come up with to terrorize the house and their pregnant sleepy mother. Be gone children! The other day, I took only two of the kids grocery shopping and I was living my best life. I am only half serious, of course, and the other half of me will still shed a tear or twenty when they go off to kindergarten and second grade on Wednesday because it all goes by so quickly.

I’ve been thinking about summer and how sweet it is to regroup together and find a slower rhythm, and then how great it is to launch our kiddos back into the world each Fall to become more of who they are made to be as individuals. Our summer family time is like a respite from the chaos of the crazy, hard, messy world. We spend time laughing and dancing and resting. We go on family walks most night with popsicles and talk about the silly parts of our day and the serious things like building our character.

Earlier this month, my best friend, Stephanie Ferris (of the amazing, Ferris Wheel Photography) did a lifestyle shoot for us. We didn’t even talk about it before hand but I was hoping that she would capture the essence of our summer. And she did just that!  Summer to me is family time. I was hoping for pictures that etched into memories the substance of our family of 6 (with sweet Abigail still growing in me) living out our normal routine that just happen to include tons of time soaking each other in.

Before I share any pictures, I need to give some disclaimers: 1. I cleaned my house for 3 hours before the shoot. In all fairness, I don’t mind not looking back in ten years at the dust bunnies around the floorboards. 2. Even though she totally caught pictures of us living our normal lives, I am usually wearing Josh’s boxer briefs while these things are taking place. The kids think I am nuts, but they are the only thing that is comfortable around my big baby belly,  but they didn’t seem entirely appropriate for a photo shoot. 3. If you wonder where I got any of our furnishings or decorations, you can assume garage sales, thrift stores, or hand me downs. I really love turning other people’s trash into treasures.

Ok, I’m glad I got those things off my chest! Now, here are some of my favorite pictures from the shoot:IMG_1217IMG_1211IMG_1253IMG_1255IMG_1275IMG_1207IMG_1204IMG_1243IMG_1250IMG_1284IMG_1286IMG_1291IMG_1296IMG_1300IMG_1315IMG_1303IMG_1078IMG_1144IMG_1105IMG_1119IMG_1121IMG_1137IMG_1102IMG_1035IMG_1041IMG_1046IMG_0981IMG_0992IMG_0995IMG_1006IMG_1011IMG_1016IMG_1020IMG_1030IMG_1022IMG_0912IMG_0918IMG_0924IMG_0941IMG_1075IMG_0975IMG_0976

Thanks for taking time to look through our pictures! If you are interested in booking Steph for a shoot, you can find her here. When I asked her about what she loves about lifestyle shoots, she said,

” I love this type of photography the most because I feel like I am capturing the small moments. They don’t feel special at the time but they are the memories that we want in the future. I always want to remember how my daughter’s legs were so pudgy before she started to walk, how my son looked so peaceful when he was reading or even what my husband and I looked like snuggled up on the couch together while all craziness broke lose around us in the form of toys and legos and children running around. Those are the  moments I love to photograph. Real life moments. The moments my heart will ache for decades down the road. There is a time and place for cute matching outfits for family portraits but I will always treasure the fun pictures of day to day life of my kids wearing super hero capes and masks jumping off furniture.”

I couldn’t love Ste’s photography style more!!! I just know that I will look back on these pictures longingly in September, ok maybe not until October, and remember the sweet family time we get during the summer.

For this afternoon, I am thinking of all the Momma’s and Daddy’s sending their babes off to school with mixed feelings! Half of us wanting to kick them in the rear on the way out the door for all the days they refused to sleep in or all the times they ate chocolate everywhere but the kitchen tables, and the other half wanting to lock them in the house forever and soak up their sweetness!

 

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And then there were six!

When we found out we were pregnant with our Ruth, we were over the moon excited. We were the first of our friend group to have a baby and honestly, we were naive as all get out. We sailed through our pregnancy with her never stopping much to consider the miracle that it is to carry a healthy baby to term.

Same with our sweet Lydia. Sure there was some fear knowing that I was having another C-Section but most of the of the time we took for granted how amazing the gift of life was while pregnant with our second daughter.

When we lost Macy, our third pregnancy, we had just watched our dear friends lose a daughter. We were walking with other friends through the indescribable pains of infertility and struggling to carry a pregnancy to term. We grieved that we wouldn’t hold our baby on this side of eternity. Our naivety was gone. We now knew, with the certainty that only hard experiences could bring, that only God can open wombs, create life, sustain life, bring redemption when life is lost, and give us hope for the wait.

God restored our hope on our journey to become parents to our sweet Micah. We watched the way His plan for our life unfolded and it was indeed exceedingly, abundantly more than we could have asked for or imagined.

We said we were done birthing biological children. Little did we know that God had another surprise for us. Exceedingly, Abundantly more. We are now 12 weeks pregnant with our surprise baby. And while we make this announcement with utter joy, gratitude, and delight, we also make it knowing the pain that a pregnancy announcement will bring to many dear friends still waiting with hope. We are praying for so many of you today.

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When I was 7 weeks pregnant, I went into the ER fearing an ectopic pregnancy because of some severe cramping I was experiencing. The docs confirmed that a sonogram would be the best way to navigate through the problem. As a sweet, innocent, 20 something volunteer walked me down to the ultra sound, she looked at my eyes and said, “Are you scared?” I was honestly shocked by what came out of my mouth, “No, we’ve tasted and seen God’s goodness in our family. He gives and he takes away and nothing we’ve walked through has ever been wasted.”

She then asked if I was a mormon and thats why we were having so many kids….ha! In that moment, I rejoiced that God has been teaching my heart one of the hardest lessons. We are holding our sweet baby with open hands. And we are enjoying the celebration of life we get to have each day while our littles have begun dreaming up names. Thanks for celebrating with us and we of course appreciate your prayers for this little one!

Love, The Fieleke Six

The single best choice I’ve made all summer….

Y’all, the snacking game around the Fieleke house has always been quite impressive. And now that summer is here, we’ve reached a whole new level of snacking strong. My kids would prefer to have exactly 64 snacks a day. Not kidding. These memes are totally on point…

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About 2 days into summer break I was about to lose my ever loving mind.

In all seriousness, I’ve realized lately that I no longer have tiny babies who need served day and night. We are making a strong effort to start to give our kids age appropriate responsibilities. Not only does this allow me to not jump up immediately every time they ask for a drink, “No, I will not get you milk but you are welcome to pour yourself a glass of milk as long as you make sure to put it away and clean up any messes.” Obviously, we still get Micah milk, or better yet, the girls help too! But I am also loving the way they are learning that being a part of a family means helping with chores, serving each other, and putting others before ourselves.

The solution: we are rocking two charts this summer. The girls have a daily chore chart for the first time ever. If they get 100% of their chores done that week, they will get the pre-agreed-upon reward on Sunday. So far rewards have included Mommy and Daddy dates with kiddos and sitting on stools instead of chairs at dinner time (I have no idea why this is so appealing to them!)

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Don’t mind the wiggly stool in this video, we have since found a better option : )

But the chart that has forever changed my life for the better is this – our snack chart!

Here’s the deal. Each kid is allowed three snacks a day. The pictures are some ideas of good snacks but they have the freedom to choose a giant marshmallow or a handful of chocolate chips if they want. I don’t like those choices, but personal responsibility is the name of the game. After they have had their three snacks, they are allowed fruits and vegetables without limit. Other than that, the only option is eating whats on the table at  meal time.

IMG_9129   Day 1 they had gobbled down their three snacks by about noon. What followed was 8 hours of utter starvation and choking down carrot sticks begrudgingly. Now the big girls, at least, have learned to spread out their snacks and fill the gaps with yummy fruits and veggies. (Lets be real, Micah gets all the snacks because he’s cute and snuggly and two. Also he adores fruits and veggies so its not really an issue with him.) And I have had to listen to exactly zero whining from the girls about snacks for almost 2 weeks.

Y’all, I’m grateful you take the time to read our blog. And I want you to have the summer of every mom’s dreams. So here is the free download for your very own snack charts:

Snack Chart

Enjoy, friends! And happy snacking!

Toddlers, Unicorns, and Mermaids – Oh My!

Our crazy month of 3 birthdays has come to an end. May 5, Micah turned two. May 11, Lydia turned 5. And June 3, Ruth turned 7! We are tired but our hearts are so full. Josh and I still feel like the luckiest people in the world that we get to be these three awesome kiddo’s parents!

In our family, the kids get a birthday party with friends every other year, and on the off years, we celebrate a little smaller (and cheaper) as a family. This year was Micah’s year off, so we had a low-key bbq with some family and he loved it. At one point he broke out the water gun and attacked some of us. We couldn’t love this sweet boy more if we tried. We are crazy about our silly monkey of a two year old. While I type this, he is trying to ride an inflatable donkey while sitting on top of the coffee table. Pray for us! ha.

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Lydia Joy has never wanted a b-day party, let alone a b-day cake. She doesn’t love the spotlight. But as God has grown her and she is conquering her fears, this year she got super excited about inviting some friends over for a Unicorn Pizza Party. It was so fun!

Our favorite memories of the night were watching her enjoy her friends and letting us celebrate her. A bunch of 5-8 year olds running around with tails and unicorn horns was pretty adorable too! Lydia is such a faithful daughter, sister, and friend. She is easy to delight in!

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And somehow our little baby Ruth is already 7. I sure wish time would slow down a little bit. She only wanted a pool party. She had no second options. A pool party it must be she said. Of course, she doesn’t understand that Mom and Dad can’t easily afford a pool party at the city pool with all of her friends. And Jesus provided! Sweet partners of our ministry graciously allowed us to use their backyard pool! Every time I start to forget that my God cares about every single detail of our lives and desire of our hearts, He sweetly reminds me.

Ruth’s party was so fun! She chose an under the sea theme, so we bought a few inflatables and called it a day. Her friends showered her with the most thoughtful presents and we loved watching Ruth love on the people who came. One of my favorite parts of the party was when she included Auntie Ste and her littles, her babysitter Ali, and our sweet C, Micah’s first mom on her list of invites. She loves to love her people well!

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Throwback Thursday – Micah’s First Birthday

Tomorrow my son turns 2 and I don’t quite know what to do with myself. He is growing up way to fast!

I am feeling all the feelings today and decided to post pictures from his first birthday EXTRAVAGANZA last year. Last year at this time, we were moving, demo-ing our new house, and preparing to move to Florida for the summer. But there was something else tricky about these party pics. Most of the pictures of his first family, we have chosen not to share because Micah’s story belongs to him and it will be up to him one day how much of it he wants public. And because we are CRAZY IN LOVE with all of them, they are of course in almost all of the pictures.

But today, I sorted them and found a few pics that I want to share. While you are browsing pics and reminiscing with me how fast this little guy is growing up, trust me when I tell you that Micah Joshland is one of the most loved little boys on the planet. And even though I’m not posting much of the crowd, it may have been the most populated first birthday party EVER. ha.

IMG_7695.jpgIMG_7702.jpgIMG_7742.jpgIMG_7708.jpgIMG_7777.jpgIMG_7778.jpgIMG_7682.jpgIMG_7686.jpgAnd just in case God uses this post to prompt your heart, let me help push you along: If you are considering pursuing adoption, run towards it. Fight for it. Spend all the dollars on all the paperwork and lawyers. You see, there was a little baby that God had made that was born to be a Fieleke. We were praying for him and searching for him. And little did we know, that our family would burst open at the seams and find out there was room not only for our treasure of a son, but for his whole biological family too. Friends, open adoption is the most beautiful thing in the whole world. And yes, it can be messy too. But messy and hard aren’t bad. We remind our kids all the time that God builds families in all sorts of amazing ways. Jesus writes the best stories. IMG_7751.jpg

 

 

Dear Desperate Mamas

09.pngI don’t know about you but I have gotten the nasty looks from women when my kids throw a fit in the middle of target. I have seen the laser beams dart out from annoyed eyes towards the mama whose baby is crying his way through worship songs at church. I have read the public letters that go viral addressed to the mama at the park who dares to look at her phone instead of her kids.

I will never forget my bestie calling me a few years ago after a little old lady got all up in her business in the Hobby Lobby parking lot for not making her toddler son wear socks in the 40 degree chilly weather. This lady used words that would make Amy Schumer blush. Clearly, the dear old lady forgot what it was like to have a toddler son and the sheer accomplishment it is to even get him dressed!

Every time this happens to me, (most often with nasty glares in the grocery aisles because IT ALWAYS HAPPENS IN THE GROCERY AISLES!) I want to let the tears flow. My heart is saying, “Don’t you know I brushed my teeth to be here? Don’t you remember the panic that rushes through your veins when your baby cries and you know that it is totally up to you to meet his or her every need? Don’t you remember the thankless years of raising infants around the clock? Can’t you see me? I am tired and weary but I am here. I brought my best.”

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Its the cry of every mama. We live in this culture of do-it-all and have-it-all and keep-it-all-together. But really, we can’t and we don’t. We make it. We make it through the sleepless nights. We make it through the teething. We make it through the can’t-get-out-of-sweat-pants-and-put-a-bra-on-to-save-my-life stage. And every once in a blue moon, mamas venture out into the real world to get a breath of fresh air before they head back to the sacred space raising up a little human.

Most often when this happens to me, I rush home, often put the kids in front of the tv so I can I pour out my heart to the Lord in a stolen moment of solace, “Oh Father, today I feel weary and frazzled. Do I have value as a mom or am I just an annoyance to the watching world? Do you see me? Does what I am doing even matter?”

Oh, He is ever near to the hurting. The Spirit speaks to my heart.

Jesus died because he saw me. My mind darts to Zacchaeus, to the bleeding woman who grabbed his tassels, to the woman at the well, to the children who wanted time with him. Jesus saw them all. All the hurting, all the needy, all the frazzled ones, He sees them. And he lived a perfect life in their place, because he knew that they were utterly incapable. Though his glory and righteousness knew no end, He died a criminal’s death on the cross for us. Because He sees us, all the tired and desperate, he conquered death and rose again.

Because my Jesus saw me, came for me, died for me, rose victorious for me, and sent His Spirit to dwell in me, I can live a transformed life. I can move from defeated to renewed and refreshed because my Risen Lord promises to make me new over and over and over again.

Oh indeed, he sees us weary mamas. And though I was embarrassed and defeated for a moment today, all He has for me is goodness. When the laser eyes make their way to you, or you feel stomped on and unnoticed, He sees you. The Gospel is our assurance. We are seen, loved, and doing a holy job by the power of his mighty Spirit.

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Teach me more of this resurrection life…

It all started a few months ago with a simple prayer, “Jesus, teach me more of this resurrection life.” And so He has. Each time I can steal a few minutes away with Him, he has been showing me resurrection everywhere. I don’t have more words to share quite yet, because I sense that I am at the beginning of this journey towards living fully in His resurrection life. But Easter, there is no better diving board into resurrection than Easter.

This year we got to celebrate Easter with some of my family joining us at our house. We Fieleke’s, we Easter real hard. Its a huge deal, this Jesus being alive business. So I thought I would share a bit of our weekend memories…

 IMG_8589Grumpa and Grandma brought their new fifth wheel to Clinton lake and we got to spend some time hiking in the woods where they were camped on Friday night.

IMG_8598Easter egg dying was surprisingly un-messy and non-disastrous. IMG_8600Grandma Fick read Bub all the books and he was real happy about it. IMG_8620Of course us girl’s decided the Easter cupcakes needed some fondant decorations so we got to work. IMG_8624Wanna talk about resurrection? How about my amazing parents who put the past behind them long ago and decided, by God’s grace, to be the some of the world’s most amazing grandparents who hang out together! Goals, people – follow their lead! IMG_8627Grandpa Alan read us The Garden, The Curtain, and the Cross on Saturday night as we all adored Jesus and this amazing gift of new life. IMG_8658
Wanna talk about more resurrection?!?! One of our favorite women on the entire planet, Micah’s birth mom spent the whole morning with us. When many would have suggested ending life, she chose to bring new life into the world and Micah’s life has brought more joy to our family than words can ever express! Also, we are obsessed with her and forever grateful that she lets us be a part of her life. (Her story belongs to her so I don’t share pictures of her on our blog for her privacy)

IMG_8662The most handsome Easter Bunny of all time. ever. IMG_8667
IMG_8669They were so proud of their full buckets and are still sneaking jelly beans around the clock. IMG_8672Time for a Resurrection Day feast! IMG_8673The girl’s were so excited to set the table and decorate with their newly painted Easter eggs. IMG_8678

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 Thanks for looking through our Easter memories. I can’t believe how fast these three are growing up!

[ He Is Your Life ] So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Colossians 3:1-2 MSG

“It’s urgent that you get this right: The time has arrived—I mean right now!—when dead men and women will hear the voice of the Son of God and, hearing, will come alive. Just as the Father has life in himself, he has conferred on the Son life in himself. And he has given him the authority, simply because he is the Son of Man, to decide and carry out matters of Judgment. “Don’t act so surprised at all this. The time is coming when everyone dead and buried will hear his voice. Those who have lived the right way will walk out into a resurrection Life; those who have lived the wrong way, into a resurrection Judgment. John 5:27-29 MSG

Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah! Romans 5:9-11 MSG