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img_9492Ellie had her school friends over today for a fondue party. It was in honor of her 10th Birthday, but it was more about just having a chance to play with her friends while Wes is away with the boys.

Ellie has always been very good at making wise choices in friends. Until this year, she had connected with individuals, often not being one to associate with a particular group. This year, she had only five girls in her class. I was a little concerned as the new student that she would have a tough time breaking into an established group. However, I have been very relieved to find the other girls very welcoming and incredibly sweet. Tonight I had the first chance to see the girls with each other for an extended period of time and away from school. It blew me away.

The girls have an amazing connection. They came up with their own activities, which included Capture the Flag, Sardines, and an impromptu dance party/gift opening thing. They laughed hysterically, they got loud talking over one another and trying to tell each other stories, and one girl even cried. Before they ate dinner, I asked if anyone wanted to pray. I suspected I would be the one to offer a short prayer by default. Yet, one girl piped up and said she would like to do it. Several others said they wanted to as well. It turned into a “popcorn prayer” where each girl thanked God for Ellie and mentioned a particular quality or trait they loved about her. It was incredibly sweet.

In the end, I had a very joyous feeling realizing that Ellie has found her people. This is a group of girls with whom she shares so much: intelligence, faith, affinity for active fun, and a good sense of humor and confidence. She will grow up with most of these girls. They may be some of her closest friends in life and they will likely be the ones to cause her great pain, too. But, there is reassurance in seeing them today and knowing that this is where she is meant to be and the people with whom she is meant to share life.

So blessed!

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Happy 10th, Ellie!

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February 27, 2017

Happy 10th Birthday, Ellie!

You are only a little bit shorter than us these days. There is no more bending down to talk to you or reach you. Wow! The day you were born (which feels like just yesterday) was one of the happiest days of our lives. We didn’t know how much joy and love you would bring into our lives. It continues to bring us much joy to see your contentment in life in this season.

You seem to be thriving in school and with friends. You have adapted to a new school, persevered through timed math tests and a new Spanish curriculum, and received your first letter grades (you rocked them!). You have always made good choices in friends (like Ava, Rachel, and Caroline), so we are glad you have made new friends (like Katie, Kate, and Milling), with whom you seem to share a lot of similarities.

Besides the expected academic growth we have seen in you, we have noticed how school has helped you to grow spiritually. In particular, your prayers have been thoughtful and meaningful. No longer do you copy what you have heard others say, but your prayers are your genuine feelings, hopes, and fears that you are offering to God. Thank you for sharing this with us.

You have continued piano lessons and you seem to enjoy them. You joined the school choir and you put on a wonderful performance. Your newest endeavor is the climbing team at Inner Peaks. We have appreciated this outlet that allows you to challenge yourself, build strength, and escape from the every day things of life.

As you mature physically, you are also growing emotionally. You have a lot of strong opinions and frustrations. It’s just plain hard to get what you want when there are five other people at home with competing desires, preferences, activity levels, and volume! We continue to pray about this and to work on it. We hope you will always know we care and we listen even if things don’t turn out as you want them to. We do love you dearly and want what is best for you even if our decisions don’t make you happy. Our hope is that you would be able to love and respect others even when you disagree. (This is still something we are working toward each day, too.)

The recent trip to NYC with mom was a definite highlight. You are very mature and a delight to be around. Your enthusiasm about making your own ice cream, getting to the top of the Empire State Building, and braving the subway have created lasting memories for both of us. You bravely entered the G-force simulator with a stranger, where you were tossed side-to-side and upside-down. This is symbolic of this new era as you enter the double digits. Life is going to be hard sometimes and you will feel like you’re being tossed around. But, just as the ride ended safely, as you journey on in Christ, He will always steady you no matter your circumstances.

Love to a special girl who makes us so proud,

Mom and Dad

Ellie’s 10th Birthday Trip

We just got back from the best weekend ever. Many years ago, I told Ellie that when she turned 10, I would take her to Princeton, NJ to see where she lived when we were born. And, you can’t visit NJ without visiting NYC. She has looked forward to it ever since.

Ellie was such a delight and full of smiles. She is easy to travel with, goes with the flow, and was very quick to develop navigational skills, especially on the subways. She insisted on trying everything, even those things we adults tend to avoid, like city buses. We had a lot of funny moments making a few wrong turns, observing some “interesting” characters on the subway, and encountering some very crabby train conductors in New Jersey.

Her favorite parts were going to Cool Mess to make our own ice cream, touring the Intrepid aircraft carrier, eating in Little Italy, and meeting up with her friend, Caroline, who moved from Charlotte to NY last year.

Enjoy the highlights!

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The Lego Store

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Magnolia Bakery (red velvet cupcake)

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American Girl store

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Animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh 

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Definitely a Cool Mess

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Dylan’s Candy Bar

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9/11 Survivor Tree

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Ellie went upside down in this…

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Submarine tour, too

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Brooklyn Bridge

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Reuniting with Caroline

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Ellen’s Stardust Diner (Broadway performers sing while you eat!)

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The terrific actors from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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Catching the train to NJ

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Had my first Mother’s Day at this special place 10 years ago

We’re still here…

View More: http://ericamarkphotography.pass.us/barry-family

Blogging is not high on my radar these days, but I know a few family members and friends appreciate updates. So, it is my pleasure to reflect on our lives at present.

Before I get to the four cuties, I will share about the adults. Wes continues to thrive as pastor and leader of Waypoint. He has never been more fulfilled in his ministry and he exudes a good bit of joy most of the time. The church has really grown. There are some seasoned people who have stepped up to lead groups and initiatives and there are also some young families commiting with great energy and enthusiasm. We are so grateful to God for the ways He leads and guides us in this. Wes is also scheduled to finish up his doctoral degree (and very large thesis) early this summer. It is a big undertaking, but he enjoys the intellectual challenge.

I have embraced this season as one of “recovery.” This month I celebrate ten years as a mom. It has been an exhausting and overwhelming decade. My gift to myself was to not commit to anything as the kids began school full time last fall. So, the fall was a lot of restorative and quiet time to myself, some home organizing, a few running goals met, meeting with women at the church, and helping out at the school when needed. This month I have begun doing a Bible study with moms from school (affording me a great chance to meet other moms) and also a Bible study with a few neighbors (which has long been a desire of mine). I am also looking to re-enter the counseling field on a very part-time basis.

Ellie is thriving at school and in friendships. She recently joined the local indoor climbing team and she thoroughly enjoys it. They have goals to ensure the kids are challenging themselves and we see her gaining confidence and strength. It has been a good outlet for her, especially since she hasn’t been passionate about organized team sports. Wes and Ellie also bond over talking about climbing and going together on the weekends. Ellie has been struggling with some relationships at home. She is sensitive and emotional and we are all figuring out how/if to respond and what to ignore. She is not easy to parent right now, but she is easy to love…hopefully that helps!

Jack has been remarkable as of late. His teachers regularly report how well he behaves and how quick he is to learn. This has not necessarily been the case in previous years, so we are very thankful for the great experience he is having as well as the maturity he is showing. I am most impressed by the strides he has made in reading. I imagine it is very difficult to have two brothers your same age who take to reading easier. But, he perseveres and doesn’t get discouraged. Jack has had to deal with a few things socially. He hasn’t yet had a very close friend from school emerge. But, a new student has arrived who is also a neighbor and that is giving him some confidence and connection. He also enjoys playing with the boys on our street.

James is definitely the man about campus. He has made a lot of friends and has a lot of “girlfriends.” I get frequent reports from the girls in his class about how he has tried to kiss them or how they are “in love.” I am not quite sure what to make of all of it. I do know he is very happy and connected and he has a teacher who is sensitive and thoughtful like he is. He is doing very well in school and he loves Bible time. His class is well bonded, so he has a lot of birthday parties and get togethers with his buddies. He is wrapping up basketball season and has LOVED it.

Thomas is in a great place. Everything in his life is coming very easily for him. I am not sure that is necessarily a good thing, but it is definitely true. He is academically very similar to Ellie where there is no challenge too great. He loves to learn and work hard. He is quite popular among the boys in his grade. For now, that benefits his brothers, too. I anticipate this being a source of pain and hurt feelings at a later point. Thomas highly anticipates going to play with his friends in the neighborhood each day. The very mild winter we are having has allowed him to be outside nearly every day, which is great for him. He, too, has played basketball and is passionate about it.

This spring has many adventures in store: Ellie and I are going to NYC for her birthday, she turns 10 on Feb. 27th, Wes and the boys are traveling to the Adirondacks for a retreat in early March, and for spring break we will travel to Florida. I can’t promise to report on those things, but I do promise they will be fun times!

 

 

 

 

First Day of School 2016

IMG_1181School decisions are so very personal and can stir up a lot of emotions among groups of people as each person tries to justify or defend his or her choice. We try to stay out of it and trust that each family is doing the best they can to make the best decision for their family. We know the pressure and we can only hope we have made the best choice we can.

That said, the very first day of 4th grade and 1st grade at a new school went very, very well. There is a feeling you get as parent when you know your kids are where they need to be. I am so thankful for that feeling we have right now and pray that it continues. I feel like our children are in an environment much like preschool; it feels like a close-knit, family-like environment where kids are loved and cherished. Yet, it also has the challenges and enrichment needed for their ages and stages. The smiles on everyone’s faces are something we will treasure for a long time.

Here are some photos and some recaps about each of the children:

 

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Ellie—she was very excited about the behavior points system they use, which includes parties and movies as larger rewards. She said all of the kids were very nice and she never felt like an outsider. She likes her teacher, Mrs Pierce. She loved that they prayed a lot and she said that it feels like a much nicer group of teachers and friends than she was used to.
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Jack—he was full of elaborate stories and wanted to share ten “highlights” at dinner. His joy about his day was evident. He seemed more confident and sure of himself than I had anticipated. He hugged me at the end of the day and said, “Thank you for taking me to school at Covenant Day, mom!”

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James—poor James is dealing with an awful cold, but he still had wonderful things to say about his day. I can tell he has a very thoughtful and kind teacher (Mrs. Kleven) that he will connect well with. He spoke of a few new friends and some games they did in the class. His teacher sent home pictures of the day and he has already been invited to a playdate. He’s off to a great start.

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Thomas—of course, everything was “awesome” according to Thomas. He, like Ellie, was very into the behavior points system. We heard countless stories about new friends and some of the “get to know you” games they played. He was sure to tell me they read stories and did syllable games, too. In true Thomas fashion, anytime someone else shared a story, he had a connection to their story. He had no “low” moment, he said.

And, weekly chapel uniforms:

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With the Olympics starting in Rio this weekend, we wanted to have a Barry version in honor of the boys’ 7th birthday. It may have been the best Barry birthday party to date.

10 boys attended and decorated flags and jerseys from their countries. Then, they did a parade of athletes led by Wes and the “torch.” The events included Discus (frisbee), Three-legged race (most entertaining to watch), Golf, Archery (medals were swept by the Barry boys), Shot put (water balloons), Goal kicks (soccer), and running race (participants were most intense during this event).

 

 

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August 3, 2016

Dear Thomas,

Happy, Happy Birthday! We don’t have to remind you about your birthday as you’ve been talking about it for a month. You are an enthusiastic guy…friends, gifts, games, food…you’re all-in. A favorite expression of yours is “Watch this,” which is usually followed by bike tricks, incredible sports shots, or wacky jumps off the diving board. You also have a way of describing things with such animation and enthusiasm that even your simple bus ride and popsicles at sports camp made everyone else feel like they missed out on a trip to Disney World.

Because of all this energy, we have given you the word “self-control” this year. You have to remember to reign yourself in. A few side punches, frustrated kicks, and emotional outbursts can cause chaos due to your exuberance. We have to be careful not to crush your joy, but also to make sure you don’t burn everyone out along the way. Your brothers appreciate the fun and friends you bring into their lives, but they also get frustrated when you don’t think about their feelings or desires.

You seem to thrive in things that involve other people. Sports are a huge thing. You love to throw balls with Papa and Dad. You are very much looking forward to flag football this fall. Also, you frequently ask to have friends over and we are so grateful that you have helped to make friends with the many boys on our street.

You are, and want to be, everyone’s friend. And as you venture into Covenant Day, this will be a great place for you to make new friends. Being everyone’s friend, however, requires that you see what they need and not just what you want. By noticing the scared child in the corner or the nervous one on the playground, you will find great opportunities for your smile and laughter to invite them into the group.

You admire your father; if he is working in the garage you are right beside him. If he takes his shirt off, your shirt goes off. If he is working out, you are working out right alongside him. However, when someone else places you in the spotlight a bashful side of you emerges. It has surprised us when you have been called upon to pray or speak at F3 dads or other occasions, you get silent.

You are an amazing reader. It makes us smile to see you get lost in a book, just like Ellie. In fact, she frequently looks for books that you might enjoy that she is reading or has read in the past. You took to reading so quickly we are missing out on time to read with you. But, we enjoy the few times we get to read an A to Z Mystery or Hardy Boys book with you.

First grade will be a great adventure for you this fall. You are definitely ready and will need a challenge. Your brothers will probably miss not having you in class and we wonder if you’ll even notice they are gone.

Leaning into your outgoing personality, having a strong biblical foundation, and with a supportive family surrounding you, you will begin to grow beyond being the fun-guy and into becoming a faithful man.

We love you T-Dog,

Mom and Dad

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Dear James,

You, our sweet son, are 7 years-old today! You are a great blessing in our lives and we would never, ever trade you for anything in the world. Our love for you is so very great. This matters, because you require reassurance of our love. You routinely ask us, “Do you love me?,” “Do you like me,” and “How do you know you do?” While our words cannot fully explain the depth of our love, we know God gave you to us and He made you uniquely you. There are many reasons we adore you, but those two reasons alone are enough for us to love you fully and completely. You appreciate receiving big hugs and you give even bigger hugs & kisses. We hope those will satisfy when words or circumstances fail to express our love for you.

We are very proud of your progress in swimming and biking, especially because we know it requires you to overcome some very deep fears. When you approach something new, you like to observe and take in all the details before jumping into something, whether it is the deep-end of a pool, the ocean, a game or a sport. We pray regularly for you to have a greater sense of courage. We also hope that you will grow to trust in and believe in yourself so you can lead others.

You are becoming a strong leader in our home. We can count on you to lead us in prayer as a family or with others. We also see you take care of Brody and Brady and play with Everett in the pool. You stand taller than Jack and Thomas and this may be symbolic of your budding role in the family.

Another thing that is very apparent at this stage of your life is your ability to want to know the answers to life and say whatever is on your mind. It has taken us—mom especially—time to realize this gift. It is not that you are questioning our authority, but rather you have a deep desire to understand. You share your opinions and you don’t mean for your comments to be offensive or hurtful. We are working with you to express your keen observations in a gentler way. You also have a loud voice, so, truthfully, we are helping you to express yourself in a gentler AND quieter way. We know deep down you have a tender soul that loves people and God well.

Your word for this year has been “attentiveness.” You are not naturally inclined to notice details or think through things very carefully, so we are working with you to become more aware. You can be very defensive when we call you out. For example, if we remind you to put your shoes away, you say, “You never told me that.” Though you may forget to put your name on your homework and forget to clean up after yourself, you have a very sweet way of being attuned to others’ emotions and needs. For instance, you show tenderness toward Ellie and you care for your sister when others frustrate her. Those kinds of things we cannot really teach you, so we are thankful for your kind heart.

As promised, we finally signed you up for basketball league last winter. You LOVED it. You are also very good at it. You take it very seriously, are quite competitive, and we frequently find you practicing your shot outside and inside the house. You are also perfecting your golf game and have a lot of potential. We see how smart you are as this passion keeps you well connected with all of your grandparents who are known to sneak in a few rounds with you when you’re together.

Piano was another new thing for you this year. You have learned quickly. You don’t seem to love it, but you stick with it. Time will tell if this is something you will learn to love.

You continue to amaze us with your memory of the Bible and your ability to understand biblical principles. You tell us you might be a minister one day and it is not hard to believe. In fact Dad has a started an entire sermon series based upon your inquisitive nature called, “WHY.” You have also shown amazing improvement in your reading as compared to this time last year. It brings us much joy to see you grab a chapter book and begin to tackle it.

As you begin first grade this fall, we know you are going to thrive. You love classroom environments and we expect you will really enjoy having a class separate from your brothers where you can set yourself apart.

We look back on your past year with fondness for all you have done and for the little man you’re becoming.

We love you forever, we really do!

~Mom and Dad

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Dear Jack,

Happy 7th Birthday! You have had a tremendous year in terms of major developments. In the last several months you have learned to ride your bike, swim (you went from not putting your face in the water to jumping off the diving board in 12ft water in less than a month), read, and eat more meat and eggs (well, that may not be THAT exciting). You have also conquered the climbing wall at Inner Peaks, torpedoed down ski slopes, scampered up the monkey tree with Brady and Ayden, and built elaborate Lego cities.

Most of these achievements are great outlets for releasing your energy, so it has been helpful to you and to us that you are independent and active. You seem to thrive in accomplishing things, just like your parents.

You have also shown us a growing thoughtfulness. You frequently say things like, “Thanks for taking us here” and you are quick to offer, “I’m sorry, Mom.” Though, like your brothers, you are quick to irritate one another and retaliate when you’re angry. You have also shown care for the younger boys in the neighborhood by watching out for Brody, Brady and Everett.

You are also navigating how to balance your own desire for independence and control with the fact that mom and dad are in charge. You have started to call us “bossy.” This is tricky to navigate as you want to be the boss as well.

We see in you a child who is rule-oriented and analytical. You have a knack for hearing Bible stories and saying, “Jesus lied” or “That’s sinning.” We enjoy watching you develop your sense of what is right and wrong and we hope you will grow to appreciate the gray area that exists.

Your word for the this year has been “patience.” This is mostly geared toward waiting, but we are also seeing how we are training you to be patient (tolerant) toward others. You are making good progress and showing awareness in this area of growth.

Earlier this spring, you accepted Jesus into your heart. You were very intentional about it and we were proud of how you showed patience and authenticity by not just going through the motions, but really exploring for yourself what you understand and believe. We have seen you blossom since, including being more comfortable with praying.

Your favorite subject in school is history. You gravitate toward non-fiction books at the library, especially those focused on wars, battles, or building and architecture. You will soon be able to read these books on your own and you will be very excited when that time comes.

This fall you will start first grade. This will be your first year in full time school. We know you will do very well and we are eager for you to have your first classroom experience without your brothers, to make your own friends, and to learn many new things.

We close with a story from Dad: Just two days ago I got to run 4 miles while you biked in front of me. Just 5 months ago I was holding your seat around a track as you nervously learned to peddle. But on this day, I watched you careen down the hills, disappear around corners, and navigate your way through the neighborhood. While I tried my best to keep up with you, I realized that as the gaps emerged between us—as they will continue to do so as you age— it ultimately is your Heavenly Father that will be steering and leading you home safely. I am already learning to let go, but I am so thankful we are never alone.

We are so proud of you and we love you beyond belief,

Mom and Dad

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