golden child

Does anyone still do golden birthdays these days? Are any of you old enough to know what that means? I was sitting here thinking back to when I turned 17 on that one fine (and I’m sure, cold) January 17th back in … eh, it doesn’t matter the year. Because I’m too old to remember. But doggoneit, we just had a golden day around here and it was for my one and only golden child.

I was so super proud of myself this year because at least three weeks in advance of Connor’s birthday I had a cake ordered, gold-colored candles, a gold-flanked 14th birthday banner and a shirt I’ve wanted to order for years from Amazon in-hand. I’ve not ordered it previously because it isn’t on Prime (which is so dumb!) but it made sense for the golden theme. I mean, you only turn 14 on the 14th one.time. It might be totally lame but I love it; it says, ‘February 2006 – Limited Edition – 14 Years of Being Awesome’. And yes, I made sure he wore that sucker to school. But my hunch is no one saw it because the child lives in a hoodie. It’s fine.

We also had our ducks in a row a couple weeks prior about our plans because Connor’s birthday happens to fall on the highly-anticipated love fest that is Valentine’s Day so instead of trying to do dinner out, he chose B.C. Pizza, cake and ice cream in with the fam bam. Honestly, it’s one of the many reasons I think the world of this child. He’s not terribly high-maintenance (maybe just thank God in general for boys) and he is ridiculously happy to eat gluten free bacon and cheese-laden bread. Also, a huge shout-out to Connie’s Cakes in Grand Rapids. They delivered what I heard was ‘the best cake I’ve ever eaten in my life.’ So, good job on that, too.

So, while it was a golden birthday, I really mean it when I say this child is golden. Maybe it’s supposed to be man child now. I don’t know when they make the official switch but I do know that we talk more about him being a man (ahem) than we talk about him being a child. And I’ve watched him change so much again just from a year go, deep voice aside.

I thought I’d put a quick list of ‘things I never want to forget about Connor at 14’ together so I can refer back when I’m much older, like 41.

  • This was the year Connor fell in love with golf. He spent much of his summer days at a few different courses with my parents and has decided he will probably be playing that instead of baseball (yes, I die) when he gets into high school. Side note that my parents are the greatest grandparents on the planet
  • This was the year Connor got sick. And it sucked and we’ve talked about it. But, it was also when he showed amazing resilience, courage and commitment when it came to his school work. He was nominated for Student of the Month when he missed the most school he’s ever missed (16 days).
  • Speaking of school, the kid is a straight-A student. And it’s effortless for him. That was never the case (still isn’t) for me, to be clear.
  • He is also super diligent about getting his homework done. That, or he is doing the gchat thing with a few ladies that make his little face grin in a way that frightens me. I’ve seen the grin. I know the grin.
  • We also likely know by now Connor is a sports fanatic (FAN-A-TIC). He has dreams of being a commentator of some kind and I have no doubt he can do it if he so desires. I hear there is a good school for that in Oregon. *wink*
  • … which means he is obsessed with football and basketball. Well, those are the two he is obsessed with anyway. And it also means that he plays on fantasy leagues. Not just one. Multiple. He played in a league with some guys from church and it was literally the sweetest thing ever because those adult (I mean, are they really though?) men welcomed him into their little clique and then gave him awards at the end of the season. More than that, they just loved on him and it always warms this mama’s heart to see it.
  • In the world of outdoor sports, Connor has shown crazy promise fishing as well as now, hunting. We went camping for a bit last summer and he spent H-O-U-R-S fishing. Sometimes, I had to beg him to come to the camper to eat dinner. That’s not like him. He also snagged his first deer this past gun season. I mean, it was his first time out. And, the second time (aside from sighting it in) that he shot his gun. I actually cried watching the whole scene. It might have been because he was gutting a poor, defenseless deer as well. I can’t be sure. But, it was a beautiful buck and I’ll be honest that I was actually crying because his brother-in-law (my hero) took him out and showed him all the ropes and celebrated alongside him. I’m serious. I’ve never felt more thankful and appreciative for the man my sister sucked into this chaos. It was also sweet because his dad came to see. We were both so excited for Connor.
  • He grew and he grew, too. CJ is now hovering just over 5’10” which is officially the height that makes it too hard to let go of him sometimes. He just needs a little more meat on his bones and then he’ll be my perfect snuggly companion.
  • Nearly everyone that I encounter who has spent time with CJ tells me what an amazing young man he is and how much they just love him. I pray that is always the case despite his age

Connor’s 14th made for a good sampling of who he is right now. He had a great day at school (which he said was easy), a dance after (to which he said he didn’t dance with anyone … can we just all pause and say a big ‘hallelujah’ about that?), a shower (in which he takes too freaking long), his favorite meal (that he can devour in three minutes-ish), gift-opening with the fam (where I had no choice but to get him a membership to the Dollar Shave Club – save me) and a basketball game that he forgot to tell me about until ten minutes before he wanted to leave (yep, that’s 14).

I love him. He is my hero. He makes me more proud than I ever could have imagined he would (even when he does act like a teenager, because he does!). And I just know that God has so much more for ahead for my golden man child.

christmas

I am purposely being clear about the content in this post because well, it’s January now. I recognize that Christmas was #solastyear. And I also recognize that I just teased the village of Martin yesterday for the Christmas remnants that still flank the main street (but only in my Instagram story so it’s like it never happened).

I’m not gonna lie. I struggle with the holidays. It’s basically a month-long reminder of how life is different for us. There is grief and loneliness and a desire for solitude that doesn’t make sense in a time that should be joyful and filled to the brim with family and apparently, reindeer corn.

This year felt similar except that grief was exacerbated by the tragic loss of a young man in our community; a man I’d watched grow into a simply amazing husband and father. There was a celebration service held for him on a cold Friday night. His mom, dad, brother and sister spoke and I don’t think they realized how much they ministered to the many hurting hearts there. And our grief is a fraction of theirs. But my grieving heart felt held and reminded of the beauty in the brokenness. It might not feel like it’s supposed to be this way, but there is pure grace. And it’s all I need. (Scroll down to see how you can support the Pavlak family)

After that Friday night, I felt a shift in thinking about the remainder of the holiday season. Connor and I did our one of two shopping trips that weekend and we went to one of our favorite shops and wandered Eastown and it was perfect. Perfect because we weren’t at the mall (praise!) and because we were together shopping intentionally for those we love the most. Imperfect only because there is one store I heart big time and I swear every item with language on it in the store is inappropriate. And well, CJ is at an age where he starts laughing and I feel immediately shamed for bringing my child into such an establishment; however, they have amazing completely appropriate gifts! Such a battle.

The other big change this year was that our Christmas was on Christmas Eve. With schedule shifts in recent years, this was the first Christmas Day I wouldn’t see Connor and I was kind of a wreck about it. But, with the change in thinking, I decided that Christmas Eve was Christmas and that was that and we were going to enjoy the crap out of it. And you know what? We totally did.

I’ll also give a major shout-out to my family for being so flexible and willing to host Christmas on the Eve. And for the agreement we all had to avoid going insane with gifts this year. My parents asked that I donate to the Pavlak family’s education fund and that was the best type of gift to give. Otherwise, we all set limits and for the most part, stuck to them. I was so proud of us!

As usual, we read the story of Christ’s birth and ransacked the living room with wrapping paper. The one gift that was not.cool. was the stuffed dog my parents gave him. My mom and dad both acted like something big was going to happen so I got all excited and grabbed my camera and then we got a dog! A fake one. Lame.

We ate an amazing meal and got to do some church before CJ had to go for the night. As hard as Christmas Day (the real one) could have been, I just enjoyed it for what it was … an extra day off and more freaking food. #sweatpants

It all really just comes down to this choice we make and I’ve allowed myself to see the world from this place of pain for too many holiday seasons about where I should be and how far away I am from everyone else my age and … etc.; when, all the while, I do have so much to be joyful about. And again, I choose joy.

*As I’d mentioned, you can be a part of supporting the Pavlak family. Know that they are humble, sweet people who would only ever ask for your prayers, but if you are so inclined a fund has been set up to ease the burden on Kaitlyn and her two small children as they navigate life without Mitchel. https://www.gofundme.com/the-mitchel-pavlak-memorial-fund

seventh grade basketball

It’s still fairly difficult for me to believe Connor’s in seventh grade. It’s also still somewhat new to see him playing sports where there are scores and wins/losses (gasp!); although he told me that throughout elementary sports, the kids all keep track. How’s that for messing with the whole ‘nobody wins or loses, kids. you all get a ribbon for participating!’ approach?

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#cjandsjadventure2018: nyc

Well here we are … back at my favorite time of the year; that time when CJ and I embark on a little adventure to somewhere he’s never been. This year? New York City was on the agenda and as soon as I told him (after leading him on that it could be Tulsa or South Carolina or Minneapolis), he was all about it.

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come at me, bruh

You want to know what happens in the rural parts of town on a Saturday night? I mean, I can’t speak for what the younger kids are doing but I can assure you that Talladega Nights may or may not be on and that animal activity outside can have four people gathered at a window quicker than you can say two-track.

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