Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Real People Behind A Blog: Meet The Martins

I've talked about it enough, you know, THE TRIP. I know you've been waiting.

Colleen is the best and has already posted her version. Really, hop over there. Her version is probably way better and thorough and well, she just writes better than I.

What happened when I arrived back home was that my computer crashed while I was away and hubby had gone out and bought a new one. Problem is, I'm not good with change and there's a learning curve to this Windows 8 thing.

The other thing that happened was that I haven't felt 100% since the day after I arrived home. Suffering and pushing through homeschooling, back to home life, Halloween, and 40 hrs devotion/adoration/All Saints/All Souls day things with my church job last weekend was my goal. Then Monday hit and I wasn't any better. A quick trip to my doctor friend (truly, she's the best) got me meds for sinus issues. It still took almost two days to get out of the clouds and back to daily living.

Which, by the way brings new meaning to these photos I took while on the plane to Colleen:

Let's get started, shall we?

I wish I could explain Colleen in words that could even do her justice. I can't. All I can say is that sometimes in blogging you run across some really amazing people. Actually, lots of times you do. 
There are those bloggers that for one reason or another you cling to, gravitate toward, and suddenly they become real. One day you take the leap and assume they are not serial killers or wackos and give them your address and eventually your cell number and you begin texting. 

You talk about them like they are the bees knees and you've been forever friends. Then you realize that's a little weird to all your friends and family IRL and talk about them a little less. The bond is there though and that place in your heart is forever written with their name on it. 

Nearly seven years ago, God blessed me with stumbling upon the Martin Family Moments. Over time Colleen became a role model in so many ways to me. I was in awe of her family, her amazing husband, her growing family through her self proclaimed 'super fertility', her faith, how she worked full time and mothered so well, her genuine awesomeness that could not be explained, and the sweetness she exuded.

In time, she also became my prayer partner, cheerleader and personal trainer. She inspired me to be more physically active and make working out a priority, including taking up slow granny running. I knew she was a real person and I knew that if God ever saw a way for us to meet, I'd take it.

Last year I began entertaining the idea of a visit to casa Martin. I waited too long and the cost of flight tickets jumped, which only fed my fearful self and therefore I pushed the trip to the back burner. This past Summer I began watching flights after I had saved my pennies and Reed had encouraged me to take the trip. One day I leaped and bought the ticket.

I'm so glad I did.

In the midst of our back and forth text conversations prior to my trip, Colleen kept asking what I wanted to do. Even when I was there, she'd ask. I truly didn't know. My one and only expectation and thing I really wanted to do was to meet her, hang out with her and the Martin crew. That was it. In my mind anything additional was just fun stuff to do with her. 

The only other two things I also wanted to do was meet up with Marijanna (this trip was also about being a two-fer and getting to meet another blogger whom I met through Colleen online) and her sweet babies, along with seeing the ocean. 

Being that I'm so behind with getting this post up, I'll make a feeble effort to recount just parts of my trip. There's just too much to share all of it (again, Colleen did a great job with her post and you can read more there). I've picked out a number of photos to share with you all so hopefully you'll enjoy those too.

It was smooth sailing on the airplane, I survived security checks, a layover in Detroit and then my final landing in Providence, Rhode Island. Much to my delight, just outside of baggage claim my eyes finally caught sight of the real, in person Colleen. 

That moment began the fun and the surreal experience of a weekend with the Martins. 

After a short evening getting to meet the Martins and finding my place, I hit bed fairly early. I had been up since 3:30 am to make the drive to the airport, plus the full day of traveling was tiring. 

I think I was exhausted every night when I went to bed during my visit. It somehow seems that traveling and having fun all day is more tiring than being a mom on my feet all day. Or maybe the Martins are just crazy fun people who really know how to entertain their guests.

The next morning I was quick to learn that Colleen had indeed done her planning. Most everything we did over the weekend she'd reply with "I've got a Groupon for that" or "I have a gift card." She's thrifty that Ms. Martin.

We hopped on the bus that first morning and headed to Boston for most of the day. I enjoyed the BIG city and sights I hadn't ever before beheld. 

Everything from arriving at South Station, to the trolley ride with the driver with the killer Boston accent, pizza lunch at a little spot in 'Little Italy' and walking the freedom trail together.

There is so much history in that city. I only wish I was better at historical facts and remembered things. Reed (a history major) would totally love Boston!

I loved that we could take the trolley tour and then venture out on our own two feet to take in more of the sights. Good exercise (to make up for all the yummy eats and treats during my visit) and good conversation with a good friend.

We hit the shops at Feneuil Hall, walked in Copp's Hill and saw the Old North Church.

Along the way as we were walking, there suddenly was a courtyard with beautiful greens and old statues outside a Catholic church. You know me, I had to stop for photographs. 
It was beautiful and so serene. 

The other major point of interest that we simply had to stop at (per Phil's request that we bring home cannolis) was Mike's Pastry

I only took a photo of one small section of the goods. There was a huge display counter filled with this stuff and people galore. Busy place. 
Being ever the tourist, I chose an authentic Boston Cream Puff which I ate later that evening. Of course by that point we clearly deserved the treat after all of that walking earlier. 

The next day was my birthday and the Martins were bound to help me celebrate. The four oldest were off to soccer in the morning, but they took the time to capture a photo with the birthday gal.

I know, really, how cute are the kids??!! The weekend really made me appreciate even more large families and also the value of a really good husband. Phil is amazing and like my husband, of a genuine and generous variety. Phil and Reed were the untold heroes of our visiting weekend and surely earned some extra merits in heaven. I cannot even tell you. 

You know what? Being with these great kids all weekend also made me totally get why Phil and Colleen keep having them. They are really good at what they do and are raising some amazing kids. Each has their own personality and place within the family and it was so fun watching that. Again, so well displayed on the blog but equally evident in person. 

We were then off with Xander and Declan to visit Marijanna. You know her, right? If not, you must. 
Kid you not, God bless that woman. She has Ava who is 3 and Clara who is like 20 months.

And then she has those twin babies in that belly right there. She's a saint. Those babies are like full term, 7 lb each boy and girl. Yes, she's still up and walking around with them like a real person. 

Even crazier, in the midst of that her husband works crazy hours and she manages to be a really great mom. Again, I learned so much from her even in our short visits during my weekend. 

Marijanna is a chatty woman, has an opinion, smiles a ton and really is just the cutest. She's even taller than me, which says something because apparently I'm "tall" (5'9"). She embraces her faith and the gift of her vocation so beautifully that I couldn't help but be encouraged.

Her girls, her girls, are really like the sweetest things ever. I cannot even say how darling they are in person. 

As you can see, Ava and Xander had a little breakfast date while we visited.

Afterward, we rounded up the Martin troops and headed to a pumpkin patch/corn maze/hayride place. Declan was my van mate during my visit. If I could have rationalized it and it were legal, I probably would've smuggled him home. 

He helped with my baby fix. So precious and like the happiest baby you've ever seen. EVER. 

That evening we headed to Mass, Colleen and I hit a local store to get small tokens of love for my kiddos, and we grabbed Five Guys for supper (or dinner which is what they call it). Having never been to Five Guys and to top off another great day, it was the perfect ending for my (29 and holding) birthday.

Sunday was my last full day with the Martins and we had plans.

I was going to finally run an entire 5K without wimping out or walking. Yes I was! And I did.

WE did. I was able to do my first "official" 5K from start to finish with my Best Bloggy Friend. For years this was my goal, to one day exercise with Colleen. I was excited (but tried not to show it) and nervous. Thankfully, Colleen made me feel like I was actually running, encouraged me all the way, and kept up a good course of conversation to keep my mind busy. 

I wasn't the fastest runner ever, but as Colleen chided it was about finishing the race 

In the afternoon we headed to lunch with Marijanna at a local restaurant. Another excellent round of food (local haddock with a pesto cream sauce served with rice and veggies that pretty much made Colleen display a serious case of plate envy) and great friends with enjoyable conversation. 

Sadly, after that it was time to say good-bye to Miss Marijanna and the babies. While for their sake I'm glad they were still inside growing, there is a little disappointment that I didn't get to meet them in person. Perhaps one day. 

Afterward, we picked up two of the boys from altar server training and headed home. We had decided that we'd go to do one more touristy thing that afternoon and chose the Cape.

For fun, Miss Maggie joined us that afternoon. I really enjoyed the one on one time with her because she is so sweet and obviously I kind of understand girls. The other reason is that I've kind of been a big Team Maggie fan for all these years. She stole my heart early on and as she stands alone in that house full of boys, I find her even more endearing. Sweetheart.

Off to the Cape we drove, hitting up the beach where the Martins go in the summer, seeing the ocean once again, checking out the amazing houses along the way, and walking along the Cape canal.

Pretty awesome.

Colleen even drove across the bridge to Cape Cod, drove around the rotary (Minnesotans, think large roundabout) twice for me to get photos and we headed back over the bridge. At least I can say I was technically to Cape Cod.

Before heading home, Colleen took my past some more beach houses on the way to this lighthouse. I know, stereotypical, but I wanted to see a lighthouse while out East. And we did. 

That evening the Martins had two priests over for supper and they were a hoot! I can see why Phil and Colleen have included them as Godfathers for two of their children and why they fit so well with their family. So much fun! They made me think of a couple of our priest friends who joke and feed off of one another the exact same way.

Best and most hilarious part of the evening was when the conversation came to how Colleen and I knew one another. We'd discussed this several times during my visit and how awkward we felt when we tried to explain our oddity of a relationship to other people prior to my visit.  Everyone was like, so you're friends but you've never met? You only know each other online? 

So, when this point came up that evening, we looked at one another and giggled, neither of us speaking a word. Phil was totally reveling in it and was so gonna make us admit to two priests that essentially we were 'strangers'. I think the priests said random things that perhaps made us connected and we answered 'no' to each one.
Looking at one another confused, Fr. Dave's eyes suddenly shot open as he shouted (in an accent, of course) "FROM THE BLOG!!??" I almost died laughing and still do every time I replay it in my head.

Yes, we were two dear souls who met on a little obscure place called a blog. That little place became a bigger place where we shared our lives, our families, our joys and sorrows, our struggles, our realities. Those little blogs formed a safe place for a friendship to blossom and grow. 

I am so glad that God put us both in those little places so that we could meet.

Since my return home a couple of people have asked if Colleen was what I thought she'd be. I wholeheartedly reply with "YES!" She turned out to be the wonderful woman portrayed on her blog. A unique, golden hearted woman, wife, mom, and friend who is definitely changing the world one diaper at a time. 

I promise, she really is. 

I am honored to call her friend, to have shared life in her shoes for a few days, to have conversed in person, and to have hugged her. 

I truly hope that each of you who longs to meet some of those computer friends of the heart, one day that you do. It is like a balm to the soul and a completeness that God gifted me with being able to experience.

Don't forget to read Colleen's post because hearing both sides of the story is always good. If you haven't already read over there or met Colleen, you really should. You'll soon see why she became my Bestie and how she blessed my life from over 1,000 miles away for all these years.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Hallows' Eve Recap

I've somehow managed to fall into the pit of no blogging. I want to do it, really, I do.

After taking pretty much one of the greatest.trips.ever. and returning over a week ago, I'm just treading water. I came down with a wonderful sore throat and cold after the three hour plane ride, so that has been a damper on the last week. Hello, recycled air and germy people.

You'll wanna hear about my trip, I know you will. I've got photos and stuff to say, but no time to blog it. Maybe it will be more photos and less words.

Maybe doing it that way will also make me cry a little less when I post it because it really was that great. I mean, it totally would've been WAY better with my family, but it still was a blessing.

That will be another day.

Until then, let's entertain you with Halloween photos, shall we?

My kids had picked out pumpkins a few weeks ago and were super eager to carve them. Which of course meant that I freaked out a little over actually getting them to turn out like the kids envisioned.

Enter daddy and a power tool to the rescue.

He pretty much went from zero to hero in a matter of mere minutes. He also saved me a bunch of time.

Jonah chose a Lego minifig face for his carefully selected pumpkin.

Lily chose an owl. Everyone seemed impressed with the results.

The next morning I traced a cat face stencil for the girls to paint the while pumpkin we had picked out.

Being that it was probably the first time I recall painting a pumpkin with two toddlers, it went swimmingly. The girls really enjoyed it and thankfully were ok enough with holding on to my hand as we painted together.

Small successes turned into cute and wonderful creations on display.

Which I somehow managed to forget to photog in the dark with the candles inside. Now that we're after the fact I'm just lazy to do it. 

I bet you would like to see the costumes after the sneak peek, right?

Finished products included an Elsa, Anna, and Olaf. Store bought Spiderman.

As you can see, they were pretty much super excited with their costumes. I think they were really sweet and totally fit their costumes this year.

Jonah has a new found interest in Spider-man so when we stumbled upon it on sale and in his size, he was sold. Phew. 

He did a great job protecting the Frozen girls of the town. In our town, there were A LOT of them. Like a bazillion Elsas. For real. Not many other Annas and no Olafs that I saw. 

One last one. 

This one successfully opened my eyes to the reality that the kids are once again growing up way too fast. Hello, I have a tween. A tween!! And an in between boy sandwiched at the end by little girls, not longer babies.

Hope to be back again next week with a trip post. Until then, Happy November!

Did I just say that?!

Let the holiday shopping freak out fun begin.

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