Merry Christmas

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This Christmas may you be wrapped within the arms of Jesus, know a deeper love you’ve never known before, and find hope in the promise of Emmanuel – God with us.  Always.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours.

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Christmas Vacation

Our Christmas vacation was packed to the gills.  It may have gone by quickly {pretty sure I blinked and it was over.} but we certainly lived it up.  Between blinks there were many dinners with family, an evening with Poppy and Birdie, a pancake breakfast with friends, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day {at our house!}, we squeeze in a trip to Sun Valley for a week, celebrated the new year with our little family and wrapped things up with a fun brunch with Gigi, Grammy, Aunt Corey, Uncle Andy and cousins.  Oh and Caroline and I also made a quick overnight trip to Bellingham.

And somewhere in the midst of all that coming and going Caroline checked a few fun milestones off the check-list.  She was on a roll {literally} while also giving real food a taste, and learning how to sit up independently.  She’s also become quite the charmer.  That is unless you are holding a camera.

It was truly a wonderful, almost magical, two-weeks.  There really is nothing better than an abundance of days filled to the brim with family, lots of fun and lots of crazy.  Just the way it should always be.

December.

{caroline and my grandparents}

{a new tradition.  family bowling and dinner at the golden wheel.}

{one of charlie’s many kinder christmas art projects.}

{our over-the-top decorations.  grocery store plant and limbs from the backyard.}

{four stockings!}

{real life}

{christmas baby}

{life with boys}

This season has been a constant reminder of God’s love and grace.  We’ve kept things simple this year and it’s been such a blessing.  We’ve held onto a handful of our silly traditions and I think we may have even added one or two new ones into the mix.

I’m counting my lucky stars to be home this Christmas with our little family.  Happy.  Healthy.  Together.  {Just praying for a bit more sleep.} ;)

Merry Christmas and very Happy New Year to you!

My beautiful children. Right now.

More often, and at what always feels like the last-minute, I try to grab my camera to get some shots of the kiddos in action.  And always, always I’m so glad I did.  Looking back, my favorite photos are the spontaneous, in the moment shots.  But a good old-fashioned posed picture is just as precious.  I love pictures so much because they capture what sometimes words can’t express.  You can’t help but see the distinct personalities, feelings and features of each child.  And isn’t it amazing just how different each sibling is?  Together I’m certain that these four make up the sweetest little family I could have ever imagined.

Henry.  At eight he no longer sees himself as a little boy, but isn’t quite as grown-up as he’d like to be either.  He still finds so much comfort in the safe cocoon of our family but is just starting to spread his wings and establish an identity separate from us.  It is both heartbreaking and lovely.  He is so, so brave and I know that this school year has not been easy for him.  His days are a swirl of love, responsibility, the need to distance himself and the pull to protect his brother.  It is a lot to ask of one little boy.

Charlie.  This has been such a year of growth for Charlie.  His speech is taking off and if all else fails there is no doubt that Charlie could beat anyone in a game of charades.  He will pull out all the stops to make his opinion/wants/needs known.  He has also become so aware of his limitations.  His frustration is real but his tenacity is greater.  Those traits serve him well.  Little dude is also mastering scissors and getting pretty darn good with his colors.  Oh and he’s never met a sweet treat that he didn’t like.

William.  He is healthy, praise God.  He is all spunk and sweetness.  He is smart as a whip and stubborn as a mule.  And funny, he’s really funny.  He is my little buddy, afternoons are ours – eating lunch, doing chores, and puttering around the house together.  He’s obviously not the baby of the house anymore but in a way I think he will always be my baby.  I sort of wish I could freeze him in time right now.

And Caroline.  My daughter.  Daughter.  Someone spoke that word to me the other day and for some reason it just hit me.  We have a daughter.  Isn’t she lovely?  And she squeals!  High-pitched little girl squeals.  And she talks and smiles and coos.  She also knows how to wear a serious expression.  She is alert as can be and always on the look-out.  With three boys flying through the house who can blame her?  She is sweet and she is spicy.  She is opinionated yet laid back.  She just might be the most relaxed of all our children.  This is something I never would have said four months ago.  Go figure.

The more I write and ramble I realize that it’s difficult to separate my story from the story of my children, or at least the story of their childhood.  My hope is that through all of these photos and ramblings my children will one day look back and see how grateful I was for each one of them.  I hope they see a mom who loved them unconditionally, stumbled right alongside them, prayed over their mistakes, laughed often with them and did her best to hand her mountain of worries over to the Lord.  I hope they see a mom who was far from perfect, but loved them so much.

Kindergarten Christmas Program

look center, up to the left of the bright blue skirt…see our favorite blondie?

Last week was Charlie’s kindergarten Christmas program and I seriously wish that we had invited every single person that we know.  Leading up to the big night we were a bit nervous.  Charlie is doing so well at school but standing up on a stage, in an auditorium that he’s never even set foot in?  We didn’t know what to expect.

As usual, Charlie set me straight.  Not only did he do the hand motions to all FIVE of the songs, but he was SINGING.  Sure he was a bit off-key.  Yes, sometimes he was a beat or two behind.  But to see him standing proudly and to hear his voice along with all of the other kids in his grade was quite simply the best.

Of course I’m kicking myself for not taking more photos or a video or doing something else to document this moment, but honestly Alex and I were paralyzed in our seats for the entire performance.  Amazed.  Panicked.  Ready to run down to that stage in a flash.  But mostly we couldn’t stop laughing and smiling at the wonder of our little guy.

It probably sounds silly, but that night felt a bit magical.

Who knew it could be so good?

**total side note…for weeks Charlie’s teacher, me, really anyone who has tried to get a photo of Charlie cannot get him to keep his head straight for a photo.  I couldn’t figure it out.  Until I was snapping these photos.  And guess who had her head turned to the side while holding the camera?  Duh.  Mystery solved.  ;)

Halloween

A cowboy who doesn’t like his hat, Uncle Si, a mouse, and a “super-uncle Willy”

“William what are you dressed up as?”

“This.” gesturing to his cape and headband.  “I’m dressed up as this!”

the cutest little mouse you ever did see…

We did it.

It was touch-and-go for a bit.

But we did it.  And we had fun.

The kiddos dressed up for school, I wore my big ‘ol orange wooly sweater {which didn’t seem quite so big this year…} I was able to help out at both Henry and Charlie’s class parties, we visited nana and my grandparents, Alex took the boys trick or treating around our neighborhood and Caroline and I passed out candy at home.  Later, after filling their own pails William and Charlie were thrilled to share their stash with all of our *customers.*  In fact passing out candy at our front door might have been their favorite part.

Don’t quote me, but there might just be something to this whole dressed-up candy-crazed holiday.

Boo.

Pretty sure we nailed Halloween this year.

Oh, and Halloween is still three days away.

Boom.

I’ve never been one to hide that fact that Halloween just isn’t my gig but somehow, someway, we pulled things together at the last-minute.  And by last-minute I mean that we were 30 {45?} minutes late to the pre-school Harvest Festival because we were still trying to figure out who was wearing what.  Henry was all set with his Uncle Si costume.  And since the manly men around our house have been duck hunting long before it was all the rage, we had almost all the key pieces.  Charlie was a cowboy.  Again, we were pretty much set in that department.  William was the wild card.  First he was going to be John McEnroe.  {Possibly the only time I’ve ever tried to put together a real costume.}  Alex nixed the idea – too cold and really would anyone get it?  Next he was going to be a package delivery man.  Then he changed his mind and put on a monkey costume that was at least three sizes too small.  Finally he acquiesced and went as Willy {Willie?}, side-kick to Henry’s Uncle Si.

My total lameness was solidified upon arriving at the event only to realize that I had forgotten to put Caroline in her costume.  Oops.  Honestly it didn’t matter – we were just thrilled that we made it to the party {along with a plus-one} no one was crying and we were almost able to carry on a conversation or two.  A total success in my book.

Total side note.  The last few weeks we have had a running rotation of extra kiddos at our house.  Granted, the kiddos have all been elementary aged, but honestly I’m thinking that four kids is the tipping point.  Five kiddos?  Six?  No problem-o!  And it’s been so much fun!  However, I should also point out that we are all set with four.  It’s OK mom, take a deep breath.

Oh, and a pretty funny story.  William changed his costume about 20-ish times before we left for the Harvest Festival and in the process kept various layers and pieces of each costume on or with him.  Apparently a key part of his “package-man” costume was a stack of envelopes.  Immediately, upon our arrival at his school festival he went to work passing out the envelopes.  Come to find out they were his offering envelopes from church, each with a picture and scripture boldly printed across the front.  Kiddo was preaching it and asking for donations.  We didn’t even realize what he was up to until one {concerned?} mom handed me a card with a burning bush and scripture asked what William was doing.

“Why he’s just trying to add a little Jesus to your pagan holiday ma’am.”  {Don’t worry, I didn’t respond this way, but it would have been pretty funny right?}

Lucky stars.

We had the best, low-key, unplanned weekend.  It was just what we needed as we gear-up for all the busy-ness the end of the school year brings.

Oh, yes and as we prepare for baby.

Even with the grey and rainy weather we had no major meltdowns. We played board games and read books aloud.  We stomped outside in the rain.  I drank a full cup of hot coffee each morning after finishing up breakfast in bed.  For real.  Alex and the boys surprised me by serving breakfast in bed not once, but twice.  Spoiled alert.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  Certainly I had planned on lollygagging in bed a little each morning.  You know, giving the kids the freedom to snack on Cheerios and bananas while arguing over which PBS kids vs. Disney Junior cartoon to watch.  That’s what weekend mornings are all about right?  But I think it was the combination of some early contractions and exhaustion, my looming birthday, plus the fact that Charlie has started to boldly pull out frying pans and eggs that made Alex jump out of bed each morning.  Nothing like the fear of early labor or bedrest, coupled with a small child turning on the stove to get the day started.

Don’t be totally fooled by all this low-key talk.  Alex was a champ checking things off of our {my} to-do list.  Things that MUST be completed by the time baby arrives.  Like cleaning out the garage.  Getting the yard in order.  Clearing out over 30 balls from our gutters.  And while I learned the art? skill? of relaxing we still managed to have a pretty social weekend.  We had friends over for dinner and hosted a long-time friend of Alex’s one afternoon.  We celebrated my birthday one evening with my parents, grandparents and brother.  And then we wrapped up the weekend with an impromptu playdate with some dear out-of-town friends.

It was a successful weekend for sure.

Yet even after all of this low-keyness I’ll admit that by Monday afternoon I was exhausted.  So I did what any good mama would do, I fed the kiddos an early dinner {4:30!} loaded them up for a quick ice cream stop, and headed back home for baths and an early bedtime.  As in lights-out by 7pm.  And in my defense, I don’t think I was that far off because we only had one round of “I have to go potty” before everyone was out cold.  But as for getting myself to bed at a decent hour?  Total fail.  Oh well, that’s what coffee is for right?

So much is happening around here.  Sometimes it seems impossible to keep up, but it’s really all so wonderful.  I mean holy smokes, we’re about to have another BABY.  And we have three thriving boys already.  And I’m married to a guy who quite possibly might be the most patient and loving husband around. {I know this because he has to live with me.}

I can’t help but thank my lucky stars.