"called to build the kingdom first through the romance and adventure of our home..."


Roo's 4th Birthday | Grocery Store Party

"Because I love going to the grocery store and talking with you!"
- Roo, almost 4

"Full of life." "Boisterous." "Marked by exuberance and high spirits." "Energetically cheerful and noisy."

"...a word used to describe someone spirited, loud, and slightly out of control — like someone with a spring in their step and a song in their heart singing to strangers on the street."

I remember sitting in the hospital bed in Gaithersburg, MD staring at the baby boy we had just met and needed to name. We had a short list of choices, with an almost definite decision. 

Rocco Neil Morris. Roc for short. 

I loved the meaning, especially given my father's strong German and Italian lineage: "German and Italian origin, derived from Germanic elements 'rohon' meaning 'roar, battle cry'; or 'hrok' meaning 'rest, repose'." Battle cry and rest.

Yes, given the season we were in; given my pregnancy; given cancer; given our place in the story it had felt perfectly right to my and Caleb's heart almost the whole pregnancy. Not to mention the many beloved verses and hymn-lines about "Christ the solid rock," or the way he would specifically come alive and dance inside me when "Hey, Mama Rock Me" would play on the radio.

And then he was born.

I tried to say "his" name to him and it just wasn't right. The beginning of our relationship and really paying attention to him and who he is. Hm. He just wasn't Rocco. We consulted our list again. "Crew Neil Morris." "Caleb Neil Morris Jr." Cal for short? Junior for short? "West/Weston Neil Morris." No, for some reason these names are all names we love but they aren't for him. We could feel it.

As Caleb and I simultaneously scrolled through name lists online, I happened into one titled "Old Hollywood Cowboy Names" and Rowdy was the only one on that list I read out-loud to Caleb. "Rowdy Neil Morris." Caleb loved it. I said it and felt like what butter looks like when it melts in a pan. Everything had just clicked on. I then went on to look up the official definition of the word. The first that came to mind was wild, naughty-ish, unruliness. And, even though it's not the first definition that will come up when you google, the first link I happened to click said "Rowdy: boisterous, full of life."

Full of life. 

I definition-hopped for a few minutes longer and said the name out of my mouth, while looking at him. No battle cry. No juxtaposition. Just life. Just a cheerful spirit, filled with exuberance. Rowdy, full of life. I think it every single day. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it in full." John 10:10

I think I'm a broken-record mother waxing poetic about her child, but I try to choose my words so carefully, so honestly, so accurately. Rowdy's tender heart, emotional depth, peacefulness and flexibility, and really his love have opened up our lives to so much more. Caleb and I get to love each other more because of Rowdy. We didn't feel "held back" by having him, but like he flipped on the light-switch in a few dark rooms of our souls. He quickened us back to ideas and dreaming and "what could be...!" instead of "what are we supposed to do."

He melted us. We're soggy cookies for this guy.

As I was brainstorming ideas with him about his 4th birthday, a birthday he has been looking forward to actively and verbally since last June, he couldn't make up his mind. A pirate party. A Lion Guard party. A pool and shark party. A Paw Patrol party. A dinosaur party. "Actually, actually, I changed my mind, mom!" he's say.

Until one day he woke up with complete clarity: he wanted a grocery story birthday party with a monster truck cake. I thought he might change his mind again, but after three days of unwavering decision I told him I'd do it. But first: "Why do you want a grocery store party??" Without skipping a beat, while jumping on the bed, he said: "Oh! Because I LOVE going to the grocery store and talking to you!"

A few weeks ago I was working out some ideas in my head that Caleb and I had been discussing about priorities, guilt, and being a good mom. Rowdy heard me say something along the lines of "It's okay to be a good mom, and not be the best mom..." I hadn't finished my thought but from the other room he interrupted with a panicked shout: "But mom! You ARE the best mom!!"

I'm going to miss every bit of who he is at this stage. How he walks around the house in just his basketball shorts, if Caleb is just wearing basketball shorts, or in the buff if dad is too. How he pushes the elevator buttons but always checks first "This is 5 [or whatever floor we're going to], right?" He doesn't want to make a mistake. How he talks and talks and talks and talks and wants story after story after story after story (sometimes I might miss this more than I enjoy it in the moment. But I only had it coming... ;) The apple doesn't fall far from the tree!) How Summer will wail on him and he'll be trying very gently but urgently to ask her to stop. "THAT IS NOT VERY NICE SUMMER PLEASE DO NOT SCRATCH MY FACE PLEASE SUMMER." How he loves cold, cold water. How he falls asleep with his hands clasped, all cherub like. How he is not a drain-er but a fill-er. How he tries to come up with more distances and measurements to describe his love for me and Caleb, just like Little Nutbrown Hare. (One of my favorites was "All the way to the top of a giraffe and back!" And I told him I loved him all the way to the top of a giraffe AND an elephant and back.) I love this human being. I loved making his little grocery store party, and monster truck cake. I've loved every single day for four straight years with this delicious-minded, lean-and-lanky, old-soul, dearheart child.

We wrapped his presents in paper grocery bags! Inside was all plastic food ;)

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One of the best parts of the day: We opened the door to let Rowdy see his party room... and Summer was seeing it for the first time too! These pictures of her coming up from behind and then swooping ahead kill me. And then Rowdy focusedly, seriously taking in every detail. Later when I asked him what his favorite part of the day was (after we had done everything, including bike rides! cake! presents!) he said "When I got to see my grocery store for the first time." 

He played then, and has continued to play for hours in his room. That's all my mama heart wanted! To see him happy and enjoying himself! And he really did! Total victory! Maybe next year he'll get to have some friends over ;) 

 And than kCindy, Caleb's mom, and Hosie, his sister, were in town for the fun! I love getting to share any part of life with family and it was quite meaningful to have "a grandma" in town. Cindy and the whole family drove from Oklahoma to Maryland (no small task!) a couple weeks after Rowdy was born, and then Cindy came out to MD for his first birthday. She made the birthdays of all her kids so special, and I know they felt so loved by them... she inspires me to want to make my kids feel extra-special on their birthdays! We love you! And thank you for all your help getting the party set up!

Party Details / Aka: I Should Be Sponsored By Amazon Prime
(The party decor was basically all his gifts, and our groceries! Ha!)

  • Signage: I designed them myself and had them printed through PosterNinja, my new obsession! Can't say enough good things!
  • Hats / Soda Jerk Cap from Amazon
  • Carts / One for brother, one for sister! Mama ain't dumb!
  • Art Smocks for Cashier Aprons / So much cheaper than actual aprons...
  • Plastic food / As cute as the wooden Melissa&Doug options are... I just went for budget-friendly ;)
  • Vintage Pricing Labels / Free download!
  • Market Stand / A few of the other ones I was looking at were between $100-$200! No way! $65 even felt frivolous, but it really was our "big gift" and it won't be a throw-away/use-once piece for us.
  • Play Kitchen / GoodWill find for $10!
  • Bunting / Target $1 Section -- I also wouldn't mind be sponsored by that little nook ;)
  • Publix paraphernalia / The night before Roo's party I was at Publix buying groceries to use as decor, and I told the cashier what we were doing. She immediately grabbed stickers, plain paper bags, coloring books, crayons, and just gave them to us to use for the party! The few employees who overheard were so excited and I promised I'd come back and show them pictures! 
  • Old 50's Commercials / I had YouTube videos of old Coke, Campbells, etc commercials playing in the background!