first snow

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Here in the mountains of North Carolina we gladly welcomed our first big snow of the year last night.  It’s still coming down in huge flakes as I write.  We had a cozy morning taking it slow and then took like an H O U R to bundle everyone and get outside.  This is the first snow Philippa can play in and potentially remember.  One of the best parts of raising kids is getting to see them discover the world.  SO fun.  We took her on the craziest sledding hill ever and she loved it!  As did the other kids.  Until they didn’t, and everyone was thoroughly wet and soaked and there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  But hey, that’s par for the course.  Everyone recovered their sanity after hot chocolates and getting cozy by the fire.

This week has been a heavy week here, emotionally.  A lot of friends and loved ones going through a lot of difficult things, and my heart has literally been aching on and off this week, grief rolling over me in waves, as grief tends to do.  Tears coming unbidden at inconvenient times.  Playing in the snow this morning, seeing the world blanketed in white, seeing it look fresh and new… it is a gift to me from the Lord.  A quietness settles over our little corner of the world, broken only by children’s squeals and laughter, and we are soaking up every glorious second of it, even in the face of grief.  Maybe we just needed the reminder that storms can bring glory as well as grief, beauty in spite of the bitter.  Maybe we just needed to see that a storm can be the way God chooses to make all things new.

christmas day

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This was probably our favorite Christmas with the kids thus far.  Whereas last year all of us cried at some point on Christmas morning and the children kept fighting over gifts, this year everyone seemed relaxed and content.  I got up a good bit earlier than the kids to make our breakfast cake, enjoyed some time alone with coffee and candlelight and the Lord, and just savored that holy quiet anticipation waiting for the house to wake up.  Soon the patter of feet running down the hallway, squeals and giggles and snuggles.  We let the kids open their stockings right away, which was really fun.  Phoebe tried on her socks that I had knit for her for the first time which was so awesome for me to finally see them on her and see how they fit!  Brandon read the Christmas story, and we ate our Blueberry Yogurt Morning Cake (thanks to Shauna Niequist’s recipe, adapted to be gluten-free) with eggs + sausage, and sang happy birthday to Jesus.  The kids truly love doing that.

After breakfast we opened the gifts under the tree and just took our time.  They got a lot of books this year, mainly, plus one bigger item and a couple of hand knits and clothing items.  Family members also contributed some of their gifts.  I bought Brandon some new jeans + boots, and a woodburning kit.  He bought me a beautiful bracelet (which I adore), a book I have been wanting, cozy socks, and some knitting supplies (a yarn bowl + wooden needles)!  We headed out for a walk and bike ride, then B + I snuggled and watched a movie (and I knitted) while the kids took naps.  After they woke up we headed to my parents house (10 min away) to gather with family, open some presents there together and have dinner.  It was maybe one of my favorite times together, singing Christmas songs with my brother leading us in worship + piano playing.  My parents always make the most amazing celebratory meals, and we were not disappointed!

It was a sweet day of worship and pouring out love on each other.  It was simple + extravagant at the same time.  For some reason it’s hard to achieve that, I feel, to worship our God and love one another extravagantly, and yet to keep the gifts simple.   It’s a battle to keep our focus on celebrating the greatest gift of all, which is Christ.  We fail in one way or another every year, but still, even knowing our frail and broken nature, He offers Himself to us afresh each year.

I hope you had a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones + that you have a blessed and happy New Year!  Thanks so much for reading along here with our little family.  You truly bless me!

we have a five year old

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Her birthday is only a couple of days before Christmas.  It’s historically very difficult to plan a party around that time, being that everyone is out of town usually or busy, and Phoebe is a girl who loves a party!  When I asked her this year what she wanted to do, she said she wanted to play with her best friend, Melody.  The morning of her birthday was a work day for Brandon, so as soon as the birthday girl was up, she opened her cards and gifts (it’s hard for a 5-year-old to wait all day) so that Daddy could be there.  We gave her a sleeping bag and a new flannel nightgown, which is basically her favorite thing to sleep in ever.  She will wear dresses night and day, given the opportunity.  I also gave her the scarf she had asked me to knit for her in the yarn she had picked out, which she loved way more than I thought she would.  I had also made her a hat, since she’s been asking me for awhile.  Her cousins gave her a dress-up dress with a matching mini one for her doll, which she LOVES.  Her friend Melody came over mid-morning and gifted her a wooden bead necklace set, which they loved working on together.  Such a sweet and thoughtful gift!  After naps, we prepped for some family to come over for dinner.  She loved her cake and strawberries (which are her favorite) and opened gifts from Rainey + Grandpa (a play mobile dollhouse + some Hanna Anderson silver clog boots)!  Earlier in the month, one of her aunties gifted her and I tickets to the Nutcracker ballet, which basically made it a perfect birthday for this girl who loves to dance.

It’s hard to believe this little one is already five years old.  Her birth was one of the best days of my life and becoming a mother to her opened up a world of joy to me.  She’s had a hard year in some ways, lots of change and doctor appointments.  But she’s also matured so much this year and I am savoring the little bond that is growing between us.  The other night I was taking a bath and she came in and sat with me, feet in the tub, and just talked about life and whatever was on her heart.  She’s becoming such a little woman.

yarn along

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I haven’t been getting much reading done lately, with all the birthday and Christmas and family celebrations.  I’m still working through Parables and The Things of Earth.  I’m itching for a good fiction, though.  I have a list waiting, just need to force myself to finish up what I’m reading before I move onto something else.  James Herriot’s Treasury for Children was one of the kids’ Christmas gifts and we started on it today.  They seemed to really love it, as I figured they would.  They love anything having to do with animals + farm life, and so do I, really.

Noah’s first sock is done and I’m part way through the gusset of sock 2.  I hope to have it done by tomorrow.  He seems more excited about these than Phoebe did, so I’m hoping he likes them!  She told me after I gave her hers for Christmas that she wanted red, not pink, and that they were too hot and poke-y.  Ahh!  But when I told her I’d just hand them down to her sister, she seemed suddenly quite attached to them.

Either way, I enjoyed making them. 🙂

(Joining up with Ginny Sheller’s weekly Yarn Along today)

 

winter birthdays

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For the kids’ birthdays we try to do something fun or different on their day, sort of let them decide what activity they want to do (within reason).  At this age it’s so cute because they have no idea what options are available to them, so they ask to go on a bike ride or do a special craft.  I sort of hope it stays that way.  Simple is best!  The hard part about winter birthdays is that there’s not much you can do outside and we don’t want to pay and arm and a leg to play somewhere indoors, either.  We decided to pay for a family day pass to our local YMCA and take the kids climbing and swimming for the morning of Noah’s birthday.

It was such a hit for everyone and a great way for us to play together as a family!  Every one of us had a chance to climb (well, Noah and the littlest only bouldered around) and it was refreshing for B and I to share something we love with the kids.  Phoebe did really well and seemed pretty fearless, so we hope to take her again and let her try going a little higher.  Of course, she made friends immediately with another little girl that was there bouldering around, and they had a blast.

After naps and snacks, Noah wanted to go out for a walk + bike ride.  He saw the moon over head and said, “Look!  The moon is coming with us!”  We came back for dinner and gifts + cake, just us.  He is the shyest birthday celebrant ever.  He didn’t want us singing happy birthday to him, though we did anyway, and he didn’t want us to watch him blowing out his candle or opening his gifts.  We got him a sleeping bag (thanks to my older brother for his pro-deals) and some new pj’s, and that stuffed Captain America (who he called “Jackson America”), because he kept asking for Superman for his birthday (Superman was unavailable, so Capt America stood in).  He was probably most excited about the Lightning McQueen sticker book from his cousins.

This little guy is so fun and special and different from the girls, and it’s such a gift to get to raise a little man child.

five years old

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You.

With all your laughter.  With all your curiosity, your creativity.  Your huge imagination.  Your happy approach to life.

I just marvel over you.  The unexpected and undeserved gift that you are and continue to be to me, to us, to this family.  In a hundred ways, you are wild grace to me from the Lord.

You’re my first, and in basically every way, you pave the way.  That can be a hard burden to bear, my girl, but I know the Lord equipped you specifically for that role.  This year with you has been so full of change.  You seemed to have transformed slowly before our very eyes into this grown up little girl child.  Still young at heart and little, but different somehow.  This year has been both death + life to us.  In the very middle of the year, we found out about your diagnosis with Celiacs disease, which felt very much like a death sentence in some ways.  Death to whatever was normal before.  I look at everything basically though the lens of “that was before we knew,” and “this is after we found out.”  And yet, that very same month, you so quietly decided to give your heart to Jesus.  I was skeptical at first that you really understood what you were doing, but I have SEEN HIM so change you.  How can that be?  I can’t explain it.  But a huge shift happened after that, and you have been such a conduit of grace in our family since then.  I have seen Him working in your heart, I have seen you become so repentant over any sin, and such a desire for God on your own, independent of our promptings.  How can this be for a four-year-old?  I don’t know, I can’t understand it.  But it is precious.

I love the way you pray.  The way you run in at night to your sister’s room as I’m putting her to sleep, the way you run in to pray over her and to sing her “Jesus Loves Me,” and kiss her goodnight.  The way you are protective over your brother + sister, and love on them so well.  The sweet bond I see forming between all of you, even amidst the days where there is fighting and tears.

I love the way you put creatures to sleep in tiny beds all over our house and dress up in the most gawdy of outfits, layers upon layers of tutus and dresses.  I love the way you still have to start the day with snuggle time with me first, and the way you don’t really feel like the day has begun until we’ve had that time.  I love your love for books and stories.  I love the way your coloring has taken off to a whole new artistic level the past few weeks.

You are hilarious and fun and I think you are a light to everyone who knows you.  Which is why we named you Phoebe, our little ray of light.  You are my girl forever and I adore you so much.  I look so forward to all that is ahead in the year to come!

Happy 5th birthday.  Now, how ’bout those birthday spankings!?

Love
Momma

the boy is three

 

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You’re such a stinker, my sweet sweet boy.  My favoritest littlest man.  I came into your room this early morning with a big number “3” balloon to wake you up, singing happy birthday, and you’re like, “No, momma!  Don’t sing.”  That’s so you.  You don’t love the attention at ALL.  You are such a quiet and tender spirit.  You can be louder than both of the girls, don’t get me wrong.  Never have I heard someone with a better ear-piercing high-pitched scream!

I say it every year, every birthday, with every child, I know, but I still can’t believe you’re turning three today.  You changed SO much this year, you changed from being my baby boy to my little man.  You are so tall, almost taller than Phoebe now, and definitely outweighing/outgrowing her.  You love pancakes every morning if you can have them, or puffins if not.  You love helping me make pizza so you can snack on the pizza cheese.  You fell in love with Mater + Lightning McQueen this year, and the infatuation still stands.  You gave up your bottle + after-nap snuggles this year.  Now when you wake up in the morning and after your nap, you push away my hugs and kisses and get right to work playing.  You love driving your cars and toys, laying down on the floor next to them so you can slowly watch the wheels turn as they drive.  You were obsessed with the Christian Mother Goose cd, able to recite the whole thing with it as we listen.  You’ve really started to learn and engage with our bible reading time, wanting me to ask you questions and explain to you like I do to Phoebe.  You transitioned from crib to toddler bed this year, loving every second of your freedom to get in and out on your own like a big boy.  We gave potty training a concerted effort this year.  Maybe in 2016.  You love for me to sing “There Once Was a Wild Little Donkey,” and “The B.I.B.L.E” (or “B.I.E.L.D” as you say it) before bed.

I love how when I ask you what you want or what you’d like to do, you say “Hmmmm…How’d about…”  Or how you call the blender/food processor “the louder.”  Popcorn is “pine corn.”  After breakfast you tell me your hands are “stinky,” meaning sticky.  In bed at night, you ask for a “speck” of water (sip).  When I asked you what you want to do when you grow up, you said “go sledding.”  You still get the hiccups HORRIBLY whenever I tickle you or get you laughing hard.  One night I was kissing you goodnight and you asked me, “Momma, where is God?”  And then as I’m answering you started sniffing and said, “I smell spiders.”  Classic.  Or how when you hurt something or we reprimand you for something, you always tell us “but that hurts my feelings,” pointing to some random part of your body.  When I tell you I’m going to eat you up, especially your cheeks because they’re so full of juice you say, “NO!  It’s all gone!”  Daddy was teaching you how to put your own shirt on, how to look for the tag, and as you were putting your pants on you said, “But I don’t see the flag!”  One morning you were coughing when you got up, I asked you how you felt and you said, “Berry Happy.”  You are still super attached to your “dee-tee” and now “little mr. fox” and “big mr. fox.”  You are starting to play with lots of imagination.  I love when you are playing with your big and little tractors and little one is the baby and the big tractor is “tractor mommy,” and listening in to the conversations they have: “do you need to go potty?” “No, I don’t need to go potty.”  “Tractor mommy!  Tractor mommy!  Where are you?”  Etc.  I love how one night at dinner you said to daddy, “watch your ‘tude, dude.”

Life with you is hilarious.  You are quiet and mischievous and stubborn as all get out.  You just recently started to ride Phoebe’s strider, after a year of trying to encourage you to pedal your “kykle” with your feet/pedals.  Now all you want to do is ride the strider.  If you feel like we are going to force you to do anything, you are afraid and dig in your heels, but if we give you some space and some choice in it, you will give something new a try.

We took you rock climbing for the first time yesterday to the indoor rock wall at the YMCA.  When I was walking you into the rock climbing area, you said “I just want to go home and watch a movie.”  Ha.  Finally toward the end, after watching all of us climb, you decided to try bouldering around and were so proud of yourself.

I know this next year will be full of change.  I know you’ll get the hang of this growing up thing in your own time and way, without too much force and pushing from others.  I hope we can do the best job of guiding you and helping you and encouraging you as you go through this process.  One night after I scolded you for jumping on me/hurting me, you burst into tears and said, “I just can’t be a good boy.”  You are so precious to me, my little man.  The truth is, none of us can be a good boy and girl on our own.  We need a Savior!  I hope and pray for you every day to love Him and turn your heart and life over to Him.  I believe in your own time and way, when you’re ready, you will.  I see in you such a kindness, a sensitivity toward the hurting and a desire to please God.  I see you.  I will walk beside you all the way.  I will love you, even when you push me away.  I will always be your momma + you will always be my boy.

I’m so thankful for you and the gift that it is to raise you and to love you.  Happy 3rd birthday Noah-man.

Love
Mommy

oh, december!

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Lots of life happens in this month!  These are just a few random snapshots from decorating with the kids, which is more fun every year as they get more excited about family traditions, and a recent visit to a local attraction, the Biltmore Estate, with my mom.  If only I could have taken pictures inside, it is so beautifully decorated for Christmas!  But it was nice to just soak it in with the kids.  I haven’t been inside the House since I was a little girl, what a crazy thing it is to visit and to imagine living there.  The kids thought it was a castle, which it sort of is.  I look at it differently now, after Downton Abbey. 🙂 Also, our weather here has been uncharacteristically warm, which we are enjoying but it just feels weird.  I’m ready for snow and storms and blustery wind and knitting cozy by the fire.  In the meantime, we are trying to play outside as much as we can and make the most of it.

going on a tree hunt

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Oh the agony + joy of attempting family pictures!  And all the mommas said Amen.

A few years ago, when we were living in Brevard we stumbled across this little family-run Christmas tree farm right outside of town.  It sort of birthed this dream in us to have a little place like this, a big white farmhouse, quiet hills with neat lines of evergreens where it could feel like Christmas all year long.  Space to raise a quiverfull of children and maybe a handful of animals, space to tend the earth.  I don’t know if that dream will ever be a reality, but every year since then, we’ve headed back to this little farm that reminds of and beckons us to the way of life we hunger for.  If for nothing else, it reminds us of Eden in some way or another, a haunting for that good life that was lost, the good life that will be ours again in Heaven one day.  A future hope that makes us smile and remember that while we are here on this terrestrial sod we are here to work hard, our time here is temporary.

We went again a couple of weeks ago with my brother + sister-in-law and niece, took turns snapping pictures of each other, and hunted for a tree.  The owners didn’t mind us taking our time, traipsing all over their property with our photo props, and they even offered our kids a fun wagon ride behind their tractor!  It’s well worth it to me to pay $30 for a tree to support this little place + family.

As 2015 comes nearly to a close, my heart is full.  Though it has been a year full of challenges and stress and strain, I look through these pictures and feel immeasurably blessed.  When I fix my eyes on these simple but profound gifts instead of the long list of things I could complain about or worry over, joy truly floods my soul.  Nothing can touch the joy I have in Jesus Christ, nothing can ever separate me from Him and all that He has won for me and secured for me by His death on the cross.  Second to that, nothing can come close to comparing to the profound depths of delight and joy I have in my little family.  What a crazy good and wise God we have to come up with the idea of family!

I know so many dear loved ones who long for this and struggle deeply with loneliness during the Christmas season.  Know that I’m praying for you, that I long for you to experience the joy of family this season too, even in the broadest of terms, even in the arms of your spiritual brothers + sisters, mothers + fathers, children + grandchildren.  Ultimately, in Jesus, we enjoy “family,” because He is Immanuel, God with us.  The God who is always there, always present, among us, within us.  The kindness of our God: we are not alone!  Praying He satisfies you with His presence this season + always.

season of light

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Our week has been sort of slow, quiet, different.  We started off the week with a stomach bug which thankfully didn’t pass through the family as we thought it would, but it took a couple of days for Phoebe to be herself again.  And we’ve been battling a head cold.  And it rained for half the week.  So we have been pretty hunkered down.  As much as I hate battling sickness, it has given us some time to just be together and read books, snuggle, knit, watch movies, stay in our jammies.  In the midst of it, we’ve been observing Advent together, momma reading this book in the mornings in the early + dark quiet, bent over coffee.  Kids gather over this book in the evenings, freshly bathed and coloring ornaments to decorate the Jesse Tree as I read.  We’ve slowly been pulling out Christmas decorations, putting things here and there as we have time.  Phoebe made my bed for me this morning, and I snapped a picture of that simple grace.  In all its rumpled glory, it sings of her sweet spirit, her kindness and the quiet way she serves even at her young age.  I hope I can be more like her.

It’s been sweet, savoring this season of light so far.  Remembering our Savior, the hope of His birth, the way it proclaims the Gospel to us:  Jesus came, even in the midst of a very broken and fallen and evil world, a wicked generation.  He still came.  He didn’t just come to visit us, God visiting man, He came as one of us, God and man.  The hope in this!  The glory!  That He knows our frailty in an experiential way.  He knows our need.  Our weakness.  He offers Himself to us.  I pray for you and for myself this season that above all else we open our hearts and hands to receive Him.