Friday, December 16, 2016

Polar Express Train

The first grade team at Burl's school goes above and beyond in so many ways, and yesterday was amazing! 

It was Polar Express day and the surprise at the end of the day was their own polar express train. While the students were out of their rooms, the teachers transformed the first grade hall into a train with different stations with fun games, crafts, and treats. 

Before Burl knew that I was there, I watched his surprise reaction. His sweet face was complete lit up with amazement and it made me feel so great that he has those feelings at school. He's happy and thriving there and I'm thankful for his sweet school family. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fern's 5th Birthday

I have so many thoughts about having Fern as a daughter. She is my one and only daughter and such a delight! I've never met a child like her and I'm learning how to parent her and the learning curve is twisty. While I won't put all my big mother-daughter thoughts here, I'll go into too much detail about her special fifth birthday:

I absolutely love being with her, talking with her, talking about her, and taking her picture. Her birthday this year was a complete delight. She set the terms like any birthday princess does and was electric the entire day. 

We started with a grandparents' brunch where we were all allowed to sing Happy Birthday (a switch from last year). Then, she was spoiled with presents. All her presents suited her so well: she got more Barbies, her first American girl doll and hair brush, jewelry, high heels, and a fringe purse like mine that goes everywhere that she does. 

The presents don't seem that notable, but I'm a mama who loves toys and gets into it more than I would like to admit. 

Later that afternoon we had a park party with her friends. 

Park parties are by far the easiest parties to throw. I was fully prepared to do some homemade jewelry and crafts at home, but the birthday girl asked for a playground party. Easy peasy. We showed up with a cake and drinks and let the kids do their thing. John didn't even have to take out the trash. 

The girls ran and squealed but also sat and talked. It was such a sweet time for Fern. We could see that she was very happy!

Fern is such a treasure! This year has been a great shift for Fern. There are so many great ways in which she's grown. We credit most of it to the fun that she has had at her all-girl little school that she goes to twice a week, but we all know that God has gifted her with such a precious personality. She's sensitive, aware, happy, playful, and such a deep thinker. We truly cherish her. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Decorating Shift: 3 Favorite Things

"Ok, I start to see it now. What's the name of your look that you're changing to? Whatever it is, your house is starting to feel that way." -Rena, one of the teenagers who comes over for small group and occasional babysitting. She mourned the end of my baby blue/burlap combo but respected my decision for the switch. Obviously, we only focus on big, important subjects at small group. 

I made a new little spot in the living room with a few favorite things: 
1. fun shaped mirrors from Urban Outfitters (a new favorite resource)

2. Our photo books that I made last year and will continue to make!

Last Christmas, I invested a lot of time in pictures. I pruned each year, double backed up everything, and made a photo book for each year. Artifact Uprising is the first company that meets my expectations. Matte print. Pick my own layout. Prints to the ends. And the prices are extremely reasonable. I'm sure there's a fancier way to say all that, but I don't have time for fancy lingo. These books are good y'all! My family has enjoyed looking at them all year long! 

3. My faux tapestry/mop art. I bought a $5 mop from Walmart and got a stick from the yard, then I delayed dinner prep one night and made this. I've added some braids and twists since them, but it's pretty basic. The kids think it's the coolest thing that I've ever made-and we even made a tiny one for the Barbie house. 

It's only a tip of the hat to my new look but it's still a notable shift. I'm hoping to add some wall baskets eventually. It's such fun to make any progress from images in my head to my actual home. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Captured Moment

Fern truly is an outstanding older sister. I've watched her engage Ridge to meet him where he is in the most sweet and endearing affections. She is kind, patient, fun, and loving when she plays with him. It's the sweetest relationship. 

Their new thing is that they crawl in his bed, pull up a blanket, grab some books, and she "reads" to him. He looks at the pictures, pays attentions, and stays there for a while. 

I caught them again the other day and dashed to get my camera. They didn't seem to notice that I was there, so I was able to sit and snap away. It was the sweetest capture. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


My favorite gift to give my children right now is empty time to play and roam. Their rooms. Our house. A campsite. Our yard. I love to give them time and space to fill on their own. 

My best and strongest memories of my childhood were filling the empty time that I was given. On Sunday afternoons my parents would nap while Joseph and I were left to ourselves. We loved to pack up stuff, take it outside, and turn one of our tiny porches into a ship. We loved pretend-boating. 

I'm sure there is some science behind the benefits of children filling their own time, because my brother has told me about them. I'm not down on the science-I do it because it's fun and it's cool. (Plus, with Burl in school five days a week, I know that he needs his unstructured, unplanned time to be Burl.)

Burl, Fern, and Ridge are all at the ages and abilities where I can trust them outside. After school, we might grab a snack or change clothes, then we head to the front yard or back yard to play. Right now, I pretty much plop myself down in a chair and supervise from behind a book. Third trimester ain't kickball and frisbees...

Playing outside has become a rarity in our neighborhood, and we're on the hunt for friends who are free to play too. It's not that easy these days because everyone's schedules seem full. (We're known as the ones with "kids always playing in the front yard," like it's something unique.) I read my favorite parenting article ever recently about letting kids play. This was my childhood minus the adult-curated backyard. We made our own playgrounds. I pulled out my first teeth trying to pull a big wheel on top of my neighbors' treehouse. We moved our trampoline all over our yard to find places to jump off of. And yes, we even got on the roof (my brothers more than me). How we survived with no broken bones is always our wonder... 

It wasn't that my parents RAISED us that way, like it was a conscience decision. It's just what we did. I often wonder about my involvement with my children's play. Sometimes I think I might hold them back in the name of safety, but not letting them develop can be more dangerous. 

We will continue to play outside, while I overthink things once again. Am I too involved? Am I not involved enough? It's one of my favorite things to do with them, and they are actually each other's best playmates. Watching their worlds unfold to themselves is a sweet delight.


These pictures were taken a month ago. 
Outside play currently looks different due to heavy smoke from forest fires

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Battlefield Cures

A couple weeks ago we were plagued with the stomach bug and lost all of our dignity. That's rough, but especially rough being pregnant. Woe is me. 

One of the downsides of being that sick is how isolating it is. When we are too sick to play but well enough to feel stir crazy, we use our secret weapon. We take a drive through the Chickamauga Battlefield, mainly in search of deer. This time did not disappoint: we saw two deer fighting:

It was the perfect little break to our stomach bug madness. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

My Social Media Diet

Lauren jokes that I've gone Amish on her. Several months ago, I deleted my Facebook account and never turned back. I haven't missed it at all-it's like leaving a lame party and wondering why I stayed so long. A few weeks ago, I wanted another push. I thought about shutting down my blog and deleting my Instagram. John suggested taking a break from Instagram but keeping my blog, and that's what I did. 

It sounds like such a small move, but it feels like a big life decision. TAKE A BREAK FROM INSTAGRAM? WHAT IF I MISS SOMETHING IMPORTANT? We all know that if it is "important" then the news will reach me. 

So why did I do all this? Several exhausting reasons:

1. It was boring but still a distraction. Facebook with its articles and links and advice and boring parts of people's lives...Instagram with pictures of every little cute moments of people's lives. Once I stepped away, then back in, my first thought was, "wow this is all really not that interesting." Why did I spend so much time keeping tabs with so many people? 

2. It was unnecessary white noise. Here's some honest truth: what I saw on social media and what I thought about posting became a quiet but constant noise in my head. When it comes to people and religion, I've learned that I stir those things over and over in my head. Politics, for example, goes in one ear and out the other for the most part. When it comes to people, I think and think and think about them and what I've experienced (even if it's a picture on Instagram). 

3. I became nostalgic for my pre-social media life. I don't know what it is about this point, but I wanted to live freely. While my blog feels different, maybe more thoughtful, my social media pictures feel over saturated. It felt almost like the fun stuff was only fun because I could share it on Instagram. I wanted to see if I could do fun stuff without ending it in a post to share. 

4. All the cool kids are doing it. We all have those unicorn friends who are off of social media (like my husband) and they seem cooler, above it all. I often wondered, "how do they breathe without that social oxygen?'

So far, it's a great decision. Without the presence of social media, I've realized that I have a friend-void. I need more face-to-face adult interaction, so that's a top priority now. When I get that face to face time, then it's more fun, exciting, and important. I could almost, *almost* say that my life is richer, but that would be too strong. A rich life is not my life's goal, at all. I don't mind being simple, and I think there's a good value in it. However, social media was taking too much away from real life and giving me too much of a foggy life. 

From here, I will keep posting on my blog. I have a teeny tiny readership (hi to my dad and mother-in-law, my most loyal readers!), so it feels small like it's just for me. I will keep my Instagram account. It's off my phone and I won't be checking it regularly. I will definitely be pursuing friend dates more often, and I'll be free of that unnecessary white noise that social media created in my head. Most importantly, I won't take myself too seriously. Hopefully. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Netflix & Camping

Before I get into my peace-love-happiness chant about our great our time in the woods was, I don't want to forget two poignant stories: 

First, there was a night that Burl stayed up a little later than the rest of the kids. He sat with the adults, poking the fire with a stick (his new favorite camping activity). He said something along the lines of, "I love it here. I wish we could live here and this could be our house." Cue Mama patting herself on the back for giving her kids the real kind of experience. Then he added, "all we need is our TV and I could sit by the fire and watch movies." 

The next morning, I was in the fallen trees near our campsite with the boys. The kids have named it their clubhouse. Ridge was picking off bark on one of the trees, and I had another prideful moment. I thought, "see. Kids don't need a lot of STUFF. Ridge is perfectly content playing with bark!" He sat down in a pile of leaves and played with wood-sy stuff. Then, he picked up a big chunk of bark and put it to his ear and said "ello" like it was a iPhone. 

While we like being outside and most of our best memories happen there, we can't call ourselves outdoorsy. That label is beyond us, because we like Netflix, iPhones, disposable diapers, and regular bathing. For this weekend, we gave up most of those and had another fun time. 

I planned this trip one day longer than we usually do and it still wasn't long enough for Burl and Fern, who went four days without going indoors. Ridge and I skipped the first day, because I'm 6 months pregnant and I played that card. On Friday, we joined John and the big kids and another sweet family came with us too!

This is our second time camping with friends, and I don't think we will ever go back! When I tell older adults about these camping trips, I get knowing smiles and "Oh man! Some of our best family memories are camping with friends!" That's all the fuel I need to my mom-fire to put in the work to pull these weekends off. 

Our kids got along amazingly! These are our "we should get together more often friends" but we usually don't make it happen. Watching our kids together was so sweet-the girls would sneak off to the tent for "private drawing time" and we could find the boys in the hammocks laughing about poop jokes or climbing trees in their faux clubhouse. 

Ridge cautiously roamed the campsite and thankfully had a healthy respect for the fire ring. Praise Jesus for one son who is aware of his surroundings. 

My mom asked what exactly we did on these trips for the whole weekend. Anyone who camps knows that it's a lot of campsite tinkering for adults and kids alike. There's sitting around the fire trading stories, campsite nesting, exploring the campground, and of course, HIKING!

The last day, we met my dad at the inn restaurant as usual, looking tired and dirty. We told him about the deer that ran past our campsite, about Fern falling and hitting her head, about how great our other friends were, about the hammocks, and about poking the fire. 

When we got home, we were exhausted and eager for showers, but we were happy. John and I were talking about the weekend as we went to bed-the weekends often feel too short when we're at home. It's different when we're camping. They feel long and full, like we really had a good, extended time together, so we did what we always do. We started planning the next one...