It was lovely...

It was lovely, it really was...
...from start to finish...

 Each year on Christmas Eve when I get ready to pile the gifts under the tree I always think we've not done enough...
that our love for each child might be measured by how many gifts they receive the next morning
or by how much money we spent

Each year as I set everything lovingly under the tree
I am overwhelmed by the reality of how generous the Lord has allowed us to be 
and how generous the Lord is with us

in more ways than just tangible gifts...

When we drove through the devastation that is Joplin on our trip two weeks ago we were brought to tears...
and still I am affected.

Acutely grateful and aware of the ways the Lord has spared us, and so thankful to
with family
in our house
under a roof
in the warmth
with food
our own clothes
fresh water
wrapped gifts
Gifts that we don't NEED
only things that we 
small tokens
weak gestures
attempts to represent
and symbolize
the most





a tiny baby
helpless in an animal feeding trough
wrapped in strips of dirty rough fabric

here to save

So...embracing all this, we had a wonderful Christmas. We spent the days with family, crammed in small houses, talking above noisy children, waiting for slow food to cook, cleaning up messes, laughing, hugging, and loving every precious moment of it.

I am ready to put behind me all the tears and unanswered questions of this year and
turn to face the only One who knows the answers
and follow Him into the next year,
the future that only He is certain of...

Worrying about what lies ahead and trying to answer things for myself is too big a burden for me to carry
and I gladly




to my Savior,
the precious tiny babe
come to save the world.

Happy New Year!
May you look to Him for the truth, and the true measure of your gifts.

Ephesians 3:20-22
Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.


Merry Merry Christmas!



I'm unabashedly excited!

We had a wonderful time last week on our impromptu trip to Dallas and many other places. I'm so glad we got to go, and so thankful for Marvin's job that allowed us to!

I LOVE Christmas...

I LOVE this week of preparation, of our hearts and home...

We do Advent, but are scrambling to catch up since we missed two weeks being gone...

Marvin always makes Christmas so magical for me, especially! I don't know how he does it, but he's amazing. We didn't celebrate Christmas as kids at my house, so he's trying to make up for a childhood of lost memories!

I can't wait to share our trip with all of you...but right now

It's time to roll up my sleeves and get to work!

(and get Ava out of the bathtub...)

{Ava took this at one of the many beautiful places we went last week...}


Minus one...

It's been a bit over a year since my miscarriage

I still cry and miss my baby...

I think about how old she'd be right now...she pops into my head at odd times, and I mentally fit her in to what we're doing. 

I always feel like someone's missing and am constantly looking around, counting to make sure we've got everyone. 

I have friends who had babies around the time I would have had my angel, and it makes the empty space in my heart even bigger when I see them.

I also have friends who have shared the pain of miscarriage...but they've gone on to have other children.  "But what if I can't?" I always think...
We've tried...and I had one more miscarriage...

Discovering and dealing with related health issues should make it easier to bide my time. Some days it does, but some days it doesn't.

They say time heals everything, but I'm not so sure. Part of me is forever changed...will forever be longing...
Despite the sadness, I've come to terms with the reality that
it happened.

I am a mother of five...
two of whom I've never kissed
but will someday.

It will forever be a part of who I am
we will always have a part of our family missing.

Our family is not yet complete.
God has promised me to one day fill my aching arms again...but the waiting is so hard.



Me: "Who told you that?"
Ava: "No one! I just found it in my head!"


Ava: "Mom? I'll miss you when I'm dead..."


Ava: "I wish I had fourteen children, then I could have a mansion and fourteen beds!"


Ava: "Mom? When am I gonna be old enough to go on a stage? I want to sign up for one right now! And I'll be fine with a crowd."


Ava: "I'm guessing that God is writing our prayers on little Post It notes and hanging them up with our names on them?" (after bedtime prayers one night!)


sleep in heavenly...



{proof} positive that
they really are!


Field of Bees

It was a beautiful day...
typical fall in the midwest, brilliant colors everywhere
summer fading away in a last wash of richness

The wildflowers were stunning
the field was full of bees...

She didn't want to stay and pick flowers.

We left, and it made me think...
Am I ever in a field of bees?

Walking in seems so appealing
Curiosity is my second nature.

Do I stay despite the sting of reality?
Should I?

Depends on where the field is...
sometimes fighting the bees is a good thing!



These days Daddy leaves for work at sunrise, before any little feet come pitterpatter down the stairs...and sometimes barely before Momma is awake!

We take our time getting started, sometimes me in my jammies still while I'm getting the kids organized.

More often than not, as I serve breakfast, I look at the clock and it's going on 11:00!

It takes me a long time to feel awake in the morning, I have to do things in a certain order or it just doesn't feel right.

First, the laundry. First before anything else! 

Then making the bed, checking email, showering/getting dressed...

THEN I'm ready for kids, breakfast, etc.

We usually wrap up violin practice and school work around 2, then we have lunch!
Sometimes the munchies hit us around 12 and we'll have a quick bite, but real "lunch" is not usually till 2 or sometimes even 3:00!

Afternoons are usually spent tidying up the house, playing outside, or running errands.

I start dinner at 6 or 6:30 and we eat at 7 or later...when Daddy comes home.

Kids go to bed all at once at 9, parents at 10..or 11...or whenever!

Our normal is not normal for everyone else

Do you have a normal that isn't?



5 years...

1,825 days...

43,8000 hours...

2,628,000 seconds...

gone by in a blink of an eye!

I still think, "Wow! I have a DAUGHTER!"

Someone to train to be a wife and a mother

Someone who will watch my every move and want to be like me...good or bad

A little person who is like me but also completely un-like...

She mystifies my head
my heart completely understands her


 Having a daughter is NOTHING like having sons...

I'm still surprised!

 She's a delight to watch...

dancing and singing her way through life
loving passionately
hating with fury

There is no lukewarm here!

Stuffed animals are her companion and lovie of choice
I was exactly the same...
and like her, I had a toy tiger!

She's a rose petal tornado...

wild wind

She amazes me every day
and teaches me things about myself
sometimes I do not want to learn

Five marks the end of a journey
and I'm sad

in awe of what will be happening
right before our eyes...

grace and beauty...
laughter and sweetness...

tigers, lions and poodles
plastic food
and princess dresses

songs and dances
and falling down

silliness and tears and
coloring books

in {Love} for 5 years...

can't wait for the rest!


One of THOSE!

It's one of THOSE days...
you know, when you sort of have to forget what is socially acceptable?

When it becomes completely reasonable to let the dog clean last night's dinner leftovers out of the crockpot...

When you don't see anything wrong with staying in your pajamas, bra-less,
even when your 10 year old son invites a friend over...
and the friend's dad is coming over to pick him up...

When you feed your grain-free kids popcorn and pretzels for lunch and then get irritated when they are hungry 15 minutes later...

When the bathroom smells like pee but you see no reason why you should investigate or, heaven forbid, CLEAN it...

When you stare at the laundry pile in the middle of the floor and idly think what pretty colors it is before stepping over it and continuing out of the room...

When the only activity that seems reasonable for everyone to do involves the computer or television...

When you try and remember what your domestic duties are and just hear static...

When you fleetingly wonder if you should pretend to be sick in bed so your husband won't ask what you did (or didn't do!) all day...

one of THOSE days!

We all have them, and it's OK.
I don't have anything profound to say about it, other than it's just life, and it's normal.
Honestly, I haven't had one in a loooong time.
I must really need a rest!


More than just a hill 'o beans


I love having three kids...but my heart still aches for my fourth...and my fifth
that we lost.  
I think about it every.single.day.

I'm not angry...just sad...
wondering what God will have for us next!

my Three Musketeers love adventures in the outdoors!
They pray every night that Jesus will give us a farm...
with a creek...
and a large hollow log...
and a cave...
and a couch and a TV in the cave...

I tell them that God hears every prayer but sometimes He answers them a bit differently than we expect!
You know, to avoid any tears when our new farm has the hollow log but not the cave with a TV in it!

One of the many aspects of homeschooling I love is that my kids are friends
not just siblings, not just "the other one that sleeps in my bedroom"
but friends. Real honest to goodness friends.
I cherish their conversations...
I love that Ava wants to give Alec "huggies and kisses" before he leaves to play with a friend...
The other night, Ava had trouble falling asleep and Alec sat in her bed reading her Bible stories
till I could come up and talk to her...

I also love that Ava will have two BIGGER brothers to look out for her! What a filter that will be when boys come a knockin' down the road! And I also enjoy knowing that Ava will have a really good idea of how to relate to the opposite sex and what makes them tick! Of course God's plan is perfect, but I also certainly wouldn't change the birth order here even if I had a chance!

Getting the three of them to cooperate for a photo is virtually impossible, in fact, I don't really even try anymore. Usually I just put them in the clothes, put them in the location, and then let them do their thing! And honestly, the "outtakes" are probably my favorites, because they capture what my three are really all about...

If the picture below was the norm, I think I'd be deathly bored!

Marvin is working on the big "protect and honor your sister" idea with the boys.  It's tough because even though they are older than her, she's still the pesky little sister and  all they wanna do is protect their stuff! This is, unfortunately, a lesson only Daddy can teach...
He's begun to encourage them to play games that involve "rescuing" Ava from a giant horrible beast, in attempts to make it exciting to learn the life-lesson.
It's REALLY important to us that the message gets through...
I'll keep you posted!

It's so awesome to me to get to watch them all learn new things. Benji has taken off with math like nobody's business and his drawings in his sketch book are completely amazing! Tiny and full of detail and each one tells a complete story.  Alec is becoming so much more self motivated. I can tell he's really starting to enjoy school, HE chose his own science book this time around AND his own history book! Ava is pretty much teaching herself how to read...and is extremely motivated with domestic tasks. Sweeping, scrubbing out the sink with baking soda, and washing the cabinet fronts with vinegar water are some of her favorite things to do!

All I can say about the image above, is...

 These two do.not.get.along.
(for right now, but...)
It's awful!
I remember Alec and Benji going through the same phase right before we took Alec out of public school in second grade. Within 2 months, we noticed a remarkable positive change in Alec, and in his ability to kindly relate to others outside of his peer group. That is one way that a traditional age-grouped school setting is crippling...kids develop a tight tolerance for only those in their developmental stage. It makes dealing with siblings after a long tiring day in the classroom nearly an impossibility!

My hope is that their friendships will continue to blossom, Ava's naturally bossy nature will subside a bit, Benji's highly sensitive temper will quiet, and Alec will come into a fuller realization of his role as the oldest...
Because, deep down, they really and truly are FRIENDS
and that's the best part of being siblings!

Ava loves animals. More than dollies. More than nearly anything.
She goes to bed with no less than 10 animals piled high on each side of her bed. Good thing she sleeps in a queen! I've come in her room at night before and found her using her big tiger or horse as her pillow!
I remember loving animals as a little girl, too. I remember on several occasions just BEGging my mom for a new teddy bear when we were out shopping.

I love watching the nurturing, motherly side of Ava grow. She takes such good care of her stuffed animals, putting them to bed under the covers, shoving them down in her dolly high chair and feeding them plastic carrots, singing to them, taking them for rides in the dolly stroller...
You WANT to be a stuffed animal in this girl's room! Ha!

 Even though she's turning 5 in a week, I can still see traces of baby sweetness lingering. She likes to bring an animal to snuggle with if she feels shy...she runs straight to me for a snuggle when she wakes up in the morning...she still cries HARD when she's upset...she still needs a rest in the afternoon...
But it's all fading fast. Too fast.

This handsome fellow is my comedian! Oh, the laughter he brings to my heart!
He's finally realized that HE is funny, and we are NOT laughing AT him! It took a while...he cried a lot thinking we were making fun of him for a long time.
Now he knows he's funny. He has great timing, does a fantastic British accent, and spits out the most random, hilarious things all day long.

You can't parent well without a sense of humor!

Benji will be eight in January. That's two years under 10. That's 6 years under driving.
I hope he's still funny then!

My oldest, my perfect baby.
Napped twice, for two hours each time! Slept through the night at 7 weeks!
No allergies, no issues, no naughtiness, no terrible twos...
I thought I was the best mom ever!

How we learn and grow!

Alec is 10...sometimes older, sometimes younger!
Older, more often than not these days.
I love watching him read
and write his school work

He's so big, up to my shoulders...
Makes the weight of my reality on my shoulders heavy.
I will soon have a teenager.

He'll be amazing.
I just know it.

And that, my friends, is more than just
a hill 'o beans!


Just words...

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My parents hosted it this year, which meant a short 15 minute drive instead of our usual 50 minute drive. We missed my other aunt and uncle, but saw one aunt/uncle set and spent the day with my parents, brother and "Aunt Fancy" and her husband. We call her "Aunt Fancy" because both of the aunts are named Karen, but this particular aunt owns a lovely black and white horse named Fancy. Ava loves the horse, and consequently, loves Aunt Fancy!

We saw my in laws on Saturday for turkey dinner number two, and spent that day lounging, watching football, and I was knitting like a madwoman to finish a certain Christmas present...
My mother in law sure makes a delish pecan pie!

After two days of culinary indulgence, we spent Sunday working HARD, getting our house decorated inside. Before Ava was born, we used to get our tree and such on the weekend after Thanksgiving. But...once she came along, we felt that having the house decorated for Christmas on her birthday every year was just not the best idea...for many reasons.

This year, however, we are taking an unexpected trip waaaaaay down South, right smack in the middle of the month. So, we asked (very nicely!) if Ava minded having the tree up for her birthday party this time. She cheerfully said, "Sure!" but then decided that it was HER birthday tree and the boys could put NO boy ornaments on it. Uh-oh! There were tears, and it got worked out, but I kind of doubt we'll be doing this again any time soon.

All weekend, I felt like I was on the up part of a roller-coaster...tick...Tick...TIck...TICK and guess what's happening today? Happy Monday to me! Over the top...aaaaAAAHHHHHHHH! Ha!

With volunteer work, three classroom parties for our co-op, two violin lessons, a haircut (that I'm doing), and a birthday party to plan and throw, this week seems a bit daunting. Not my typical week, we've cut WAY back on crazy time obligations from what we used to.

We'll make sure to drink plenty of kefir smoothies and eat lots of green veggies and healthy fats to keep our immune systems bolstered during this stressful week. We also use something called Berry Well daily during stress or a cold/flu time of year. This stuff is fantastic, and tastes good. Perfect for anyone who is "new" to alternative medicine and having a hard time getting their kids to swallow the garlic and honey!

I"m doing some experimental food drying this week and next in prep for our upcoming road trip, which I hope to be able to share with all of you. Also, my packing list and how we still eat healthy when we travel!

Happy Monday, everyone!



this Boy


this Dog

we had to say


but the pictures





one more Last Time

Babywearing is near and dear to my heart...

it's one of the things I miss most about not having a tiny one in the house...and one of the things I hope I'll get to do again someday

Back in the spring, Ava went through a brief spurt of asking me to wear her on my back as I did housework. She was the one I wore the most as an infant because I was finally at home full time. After having to leave my boys as babies with a sitter, I just didn't want to put Ava down!

I knew that these were going to be the last times she asked me...she's getting so big and independent...as she should be!

So...as I wore her one more Last Time, I grabbed the camera and stopped time with our reflection in my dirty living room mirror...

i love you, baby girl!



We have this beautiful tree in the smack middle of our backyard...it's some type of hydrangea, we call it the "snowball bush"

Every summer, beautiful white round flower clusters grow, and snowball fights in shorts is a popular activity

Ava loves the flowers...

Daddy and I don't love the location of the bush


can't bear to cut it down!


It's about time!

Yesterday was my birthday.
It made me think about endings and beginnings
and it made me think about how much I had missed writing about our journey
during my hiatus.

I'm ready to pick back up again!

here's a little bit of this
and a little bit of that...

We took an amazing vacation to Hilton Head Island at the end of August/beginning of September.
It was all about the ocean! I had three pairs of wide eyes and thirty curious toes discovering everything there is about the seashore.

It was without a doubt the most incredible trip ever. After the initial discomfort of figuring out the island, enjoying our time together was effortless.  Our condo was right on the beach, and it was off-season, so we had a little strip of heaven all to ourselves.

We saw coastal wildlife, plenty of dead sea critters washed ashore (even a dead armadillo!) and got our fill of watching the magic of a sand dollar burrow it's way into the beach.

We saw an indignant puffer fish, a baby flounder, noisy blue crabs, oyster beds squirting up at the sun, and curious dolphins.

...and a really cute bunny by our boardwalk!

We went on a road trip south one day and toured the deep mystery of Savannah in a yellow trolley.  The city seduced us with it's magical canopy of trees and soothing green squares.  Forsythe Park amazed us and we spent an hour or so gazing at the white iron fountain...and giggling at the partially nude mer-men and long necked geese sculpted at the bottom!
At the end of the day, our ears ringing with tales of fearsome pirates and desecrated graveyards, we wound our way deeper into the city and enjoyed flavorful local fare for dinner.

We also took time out from the beach to go see Fort Pulaski and Fort Sumter, squeezing in all the history we could in the all too short week we had.  Gazing at century-old brick, molded by hands, and scarred by canon balls, we took a step back in time and appreciated our past all the more.

On the way back north we breezed through Charleston and gawked at the stunning waterfront residences. Having no more than a few hours in the city, I rolled down my window and had Marvin drive slowly as I photographed everything beautiful (which was everything I saw!)

The very last day of the trip, Marvin surprised me with a tour through one of Charleston's few remaining precious gems, a plantation home called Drayton Hall.
It's been left in it's natural state, only preserved, not restored. Original sun faded paint partially covering the hand carved mahogany ornaments on the walls, and no furniture to distract the eye from the architectural loveliness made for a veritable feast for my eyes! Sadly, our jaded tour guide rushed us through and I wasn't able to satiate my photographic appetite!! But it was still awesome...

When we got home, it was time to jump right in to our school year. There are definite advantages (like cost!) to taking a vacation at the beginning of everyone else's school year, but also disadvantages. Our homeschool co-op that we participate in started the week we got back, and I felt oh-so-rushed and pressured to rapidly undo the post vacation disaster that overtakes the house when one returns from a trip.

This time around at the co-op, I'm teaching a class, so there was even more prep and pressure involved! Fortunately, I had spent time in the summer planning out the entire two semesters in great detail, so I was able to be a bit more relaxed on the first day.

The kids did great, last year Benji was extremely clingy and I could go NOwhere (not even the bathroom) without him attached to my side, and Alec nervously used walkie talkies for several weeks to find me. This year, OH MY GOODNESS! It's like I have entirely different children!

I don't see Alec all day at all until it's time to go home, and I hardly see Benji and Ava unless I"m walking them to their next class. It's amazing what little time and patience can do when there are frustrating developmental stages with a child!

The class I'm teaching is going well, it's my first time working closely with teenagers...They are awesome! I've enjoyed every minute (mostly!) of it so far, except for the fact that we never have enough time in class to accomplish what I want to.

I finally got my curriculum choices for this school year narrowed down for my three...I had a major hitch in my giddyap a few weeks ago, though, when Alec found a history book on the shelf and positively BEGGED to use it instead of what we had planned.  Thank goodness we hadn't ordered anything yet!

You know you're doing something right when your child is begging to use a history book! So...we're derailing from our grand plan (which was to switch everyone over to Sonlight) and heading down the now familiar path of an ecclectic school year. A little bit of this and a little bit of that!

Benji's remedial exercises for reading are coming along very nicely, and Ava had her very first formal reading lesson today. Although she already knew what I was teaching her...that girl has a mind like a steel trap and has been listening in to her brothers lessons her whole life!

We are still doing the GAPS diet...have been since May. We did try and stick closely on our trip, but had a few "illegal" meals, too!  I promise I'll write about all that soon. I have some great food photos and recipes to post and lots to share about how going grain free has helped our family.

I've also recently learned that I have hypo-thyroid (low-functioning) and while to some that may seem dismal, I'm actually quite relieved. I've been feeling like something just wasn't right ever since Ava was born and this answers and explains a whole lot.  I'm looking forward to sharing this new journey to healing with all of you!

I'm finally feeling like I've got a pretty good handle on the routine of our life at this moment...but I know that won't last long! God has a habit of shaking up my snow globe the moment the flakes settle!!

And now, because it's the end of a long day of school, house cleaning, food making and violin practicing...I'm heading to my pillow!

'Night all...and thanks for reading!

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