Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas!!

As we celebrate this special season, we think about you, our friends and family! We pray that this Christmas letter finds you in good health and enjoying the wonderful Christmas season. Here's the update on us:)

Speaking of seasons, Brian has had a busy season at our local Community College this year. He is serving in a new role as Interim Dean of Academic Affairs. He continues to fulfill some of the duties of his previous position, Director of Student Services, and to teach online Humanities classes. He is still enjoys spending a little of his free time trying to “tame” our property—four acres that surround our one and a half year old home. He also earned “father of the year” by hosting a paintball party in our backyard for Chris’ 8th birthday… truly a brave dad:)

Kelly has been busy home schooling the kids, staying active in the local home school group, and participating in a ladies Bible study. At church, she can be found in the classroom with Nate or filling in for other teachers (which is something she enjoys!). At night she is usually found hunting for activities for the kids (for future lessons), finding good deals to help fill the cupboard and bookshelves, or instructing online classes.

The kids have stayed busy, too!! All love their Sunday School and RA/GA classes with their teachers and friends at church. Anna, Chris, and Lydia also played soccer on the same team this fall—very convenient and exciting! They are excelling at school work, too, studying all sorts of world history topics, science, and becoming good little readers and writers! When school is not in session, they have an interest in all things LEGO and being outside or with friends!


Anna (9) began taking piano lessons this year and cares for her super sweet rabbit, Mr. Darcy. Chris (8) continues to love anything art related, and for his birthday he received paintball guns and an archery set which are now hobbies. Lydia (6), our  bookworm, desires to begin horseback riding this year and can be found outside climbing through the woods or helping Kelly in the gardens. Nate (3) is our resident mischief maker but can proudly write his name, recite the ABCs and John 3:16! He loves the outdoors and candy! And Jack, our dog, continues to add to the craziness of the house with his puppy antics and desire to be in the middle of everything!

During the 1st half of the year we spent a lot of time traveling to spend time with Pey before he passed away with cancer in April. It was a bittersweet time knowing that soon he was going to leave us but sweet in that we had lots of precious moments with him before that time came. We miss him dearly.

In July, we took a memorable road trip to Mississippi and the Space & Rocket Center in Alabama with Grandma and Grandaddy! The kids were able to meet Grandma’s extended family, to see where Grandma grew up, and to see the places Brian visited as a child! We had a wonderful field trip in that rented 12 passenger van. (It was nine hours—one way!) The kids were making plans to go back to MS as soon as we left!

We look back on our year with gratefulness as we have seen God’s goodness and mercy during all of the good and hard times. And as we enjoy this Christmas season, we are thankful for the greatest gift of Jesus, our Savior.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, 
I bring you good news of great joy 
which will be for all the people; 
for today in the city of David 
there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
Brian, Kelly, Anna, Chris, Lydia, Nate

Friday, December 20, 2013

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

We've been enjoying this Christmas season:)

 This week we finally tucked the school books away so that we could slow.down.a.bit and enjoy it all... well not ALL, I think that's the secret to this season is NOT trying to do it all. We have attended and participated in a lot but there were some activities that we just missed so we didn't have to rush or so we could just have time together:)

Anyway, since I can't recap every activity, I thought I'd share some of our favorite moments so far this Christmas season:)

Nate helping to decorate the tree in his "summer attire"

The older kids and I working on a pinterest project...
its still is not completely finished but we had fun with 3 glue guns going at one time:)

Designing our Gingerbread House the church's Christmas party!

It's precious to see Nate's joy when he finds the Jesse Tree ornament
 that corresponds to our readings each day:)

A vinyl sticker snowman that Nate played with while we schooled some in Dec.

Attended our former town's Christmas parade!! Always feels like home to go back....
seeing friends
watching kids from past VBSs growing up so quickly
meeting grandchildren of church members
being thankful for our years with them & glad we're not that far away now

The card "factory"... the kids stamping and preparing envelopes for our annual Christmas cards.
Even though we have scaled back from the amount we used to send out,
I'm not sure how I managed to do it all without their help!

Sugar Cookie making....

 Decorating, and eating:)

 If I complain about gaining weight over the holidays it will be from this deadly combination:
peppermint and chocolate!

Personalizing cards for their Sunday School and GA/RA teachers.
 And making some for the retirement home residents as well.

Decorating some ornaments to give as gifts to the residents at a local retirement/rehab center...
the residents love the kid visits and the sparkly gifts

Their FAVORITE Christmas tradition:)
One night camping out in front of the Christmas tree...
Simple, sweet and a fun memory.

And what was Momma doing while they slept??

Hot cocoa in an alma mater mug while folding laundry;)

Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day at the Museums

Brian approached me a few weeks ago with the idea of the family going to Raleigh for the day while he attended a conference for work.

I'm a realist.... I immediately thought that it would mean an early morning for us (out the door, packed for the day by 7am), doggie care, and me alone with 4 kids away from the house:) Not to mention it was just 2 days from Chris' party with friends coming to the house.

But the benefits kept the idea alive. Having 2 hours each way with Brian was a key... definitely some bonding time stuck in the car for hours;) We are so blessed with having two great museums right next to each other that are sooo kid-friendly and sooo informative! I learn soooo much when I am there!! And that the majority of the cost of the trip (gas and parking) was already provided through work/conference!!

So I baked, purchased and packed to provide meals for the kids and I - morning, lunch and snack times;) We rose early and loaded up into the car eager for an exciting day:)

IMG_2779We had a wonderful time..... gleaning information, "seeing" what we have learned played out in artifacts and displays/videos, exploring in the kids' room.... but,

it was a challenging day too!!

 My pictures display the 1/70th-ish of a second shots don't include the fussy, demanding 3yr old (just a stage... at least that's what I'm telling myself), or the bored/tired 6 yr old, not to mention the almost 8 yr old being told by a much-older visitor to have better museum manners.... humpf :/

A normal day in a not-so-normal (for us) place.

Onto the pictures.. I don't have many b/c I let Anna use the camera to capture what she wanted to through the museum!

Chris loving the pirate ship replica

The history museum had bags you could check out with activities and books. We did this "overall" bag and the Indian bag. We didn't do every activity but it was helpful.

Nate used the mini slate from the history bag as we joined the museum's story time. Love that he's soo "into" writing his name right now. He's doing it alone now but during the trip he wanted me to write it first:)

It was very cool to read a book about the Wright brothers (from our bag) sitting under the replica! Yes, even stopping once or twice to pick out the different parts or figure out where the brother's rode;)

Nate was cracking the kids' room attendant up with how much he loved the BIG beetles from the dead wood display. It was something he had to ask to play with and he had the man there for a LONG time a couple of times;) Lots of hand-washing going on, too!

The amazing high-powered TV microscope had our attention for a while!! Did you know that the Lincoln Memorial statue can be seen in the Memorial engraving on a penny?? I never knew!

Chris of course checked out his latest splitter wound.

I think they took out all the boxes at least once while we were in the kids' room!! Funny to have them all working on separate things for a little bit of time!


I got my first sniff of fossilized dinosaur poo.... awesome! LOL!!

Nate's first remembered trip on an escalator. I was very thankful we did that at the end of the day because we might have spent the rest of the day just riding the escalator- if it was up to Nate;)

We even got to walk through and explore the new Science Research Center for a little while!! It's amazing and very modern! Not sure of all that is discussed but definitely a place for older kids (or my kids to grow into).

I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I might not try to do all I tried to do (understatement of the year). And maybe planned for a few downtime/snack breaks. But the kids are still talking about their "day at the museums in Raleigh" and I have already tied something we saw to what we started this week in history.

So lots of benefits to getting out of our routine and spending the day just absorbing;) Maybe it will be a yearly thing:)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 8th Birthday Party:)

A week ago Chris turned 8:)

My fun-loving, opinionated, creative, busy boy! I'm not sure how the weeks, months and years fly by so quickly when sometimes the days feel long and exhausting. But they do:) And we capture the fun, sweet, silly moments and work through the tough ones;)

This year we told Chris we would host a birthday party for him. He's 8 after all and had never had his own friend birthday party:/ We've had other families over to eat his favorite meal and once had a bunch a friends over for a "going away" playdate that happened to be on Chris' birthday, but he was 2 and was too busy shoving a carrot up his nose.... really, gotta love 2 yr olds:)

Chris came up with some wild ideas and I was floored when Brian agreed to do a "paintball party"!! We priced taking the family paintball-ing but decided it would be cheaper and a lot more fun to do it at the house (and get to keep our stuff)!


So the not-so-secret, very excited Dad began purchasing a couple guns and plenty of ammo... some even on clearance:) And the Momma began planning a menu that would be large group, kid-friendly, low-final prep:) And then they came:)

IMG_2837I worried over whether the rain was going to hold off.

 Or whether the younger kids would run through the house.

 Or where everyone was going to sit!

But don't you know if all worked out! It always does! No need to worry....  I just planned for some "what-ifs" and  watched how everything came together:)

How the afternoon before the party, a man we had hired to cut down some trees not only cut the tree down but then sliced the trunk up into perfect log seats (and log barriers for the boys to hide behind).

 Love God's timing on that, especially since the man's equipment sat in our yard for 2 or 3 weeks and he picked THAT Friday afternoon and he went above and beyond what we asked him! There was NO way Brian would have had the time (and probably didn't have the equipment, either) to complete all that cutting!


And the rain.... it came all BEFORE the party:) The sky looked SOO dark about 30 minutes prior that I was soo worried we were going to be washed out. All 34 of us stuck inside together.... maybe watching Lego movies( if it was Chris' choice)!! But we had a gorgeous morning/afternoon:)

I also had my hands full with the cake!! We are still having to be egg-free (with applesauce) and they just don't hold together right!  I was trying to make a BIG cake (not the casserole dish size) so we could have plenty to share with our friends! So I make a huge sheet cake. But God even allowed a busy mom with the "spiritual gift" of icing a cake to come just in time to help me! And Boy, oh, boy did she work some miracles!! You totally wouldn't have guessed the cake broke into many pieces and had to be put back together... kind of Humpty Dumpty  like (yes, it was bad) :/ Totally wouldn't have known looking at the final creation:)


Kids sure didn't know (or didn't care)!

It was so sweet to have a few of our local friends over to celebrate Chris' 8th birthday! It's so cool to see how everything fit right into place... weather, logs, friends who could make it (last minute I should add), the angels that secretly cleaned up our playroom and the meal that was well received and even fed us the next day when family visited...

 the kids had a blast, the parents got to visit and Chris had a great 8th birthday party:)

More pictures from the day:)
funny to watch my little Lydia expertly load a paintball gun
Brian ready to (take down) play with the kids... Daddy definitely earned some "cool" points!!
Chris proudly wearing his paintball welt (just under his eye to the right)
Lydia and Chris- 14 months and one pound a part (my "twins")
Splattered by paintballs hitting the log barriers
The fierce older sister:)
What do you think.....  maybe our Christmas card pic ? LOL!!

And I see many more paintball battles happening... as soon as it warms up a bit:/

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Singing His Name

Nate is at a very exciting stage:) He is learning something new daily and showing us that he knows it;) It's so awesome to see him beginning to recognize letters and understand letter sounds.

So a few weeks ago I was trying to teach him the letters of his name and he just wasn't getting it. But he loves to sing...

We started to use a short, little song to practice his name.

And it stuck!

What is even cooler is that he is finding letters that are in his name and trying to make the letters! This morning he was making letters too using straw-like tubes.


It was just a reminder of how much kids can memorize through song and repetition:)

And I wanted to share this one too! We have been singing "Jesus, Loves Me" to Nate since he was a tiny little bundle. But just recently he has been singing with us;) Just precious!

This morning he changed the lyrics a bit...

Jesus love me
This I know,
'Cause me mommy tells me so

I giggled and reminded him that mommy loves telling him about Jesus. And I learn about Jesus from the Bible:) Anyway, it was another sweet, encouraging mommy-moment!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Their 1st CampOut

Grammie returned from Nepal safely:) While it was a little lonely not having my mom just a "phone call away" during a challenging season.

I am soo thankful for her heart and her example. For her courage to go alone to a foreign country where she had a few faithful contacts who lovingly took her in; and who wouldn't... my mom is awesome;)

And for her testimony! She said that she shared the news of Dad's death to some of the people that they had worked with a few years ago. People they promised that they would return to work with... and now it was just my mom they saw!!

So after this amazing journey to Nepal and back. After a quick week or so getting "settled" back at home, WHAT DOES my MOM DO?

Heads down to my house

ready to take some excited kids camping... on their 1st CampOut;)

They didn't go far:)... just the carport... LOL!! The weather called for rain and we were wanting a good and restful 1st experience:)IMG_2607

Decked out in their Nepali headgear, they were all smiles as we tucked them in.


Chris was in his usual bed attire... just the essentials:) LOL!!

Since the tent was loaded with girls, he slept in the backseat of the truck and had his own peek hole into the tent to check-in with Grammie.

And amazingly it was a "silent night"!!

As soon as Nate was awake in the morning, he headed outside to check on the campers;) We could hear them starting to move around and maybe a little face or two peeking around the tent!


They had a blast!!!

They did awesome:) We have some campers on our hands!!

I was laughing at myself though. Even though the kids were just outside, with my mom and I could even hear them settling down for the night...

Brian could peek in on them!

 I was still a little nervous!

 I can count with one hand (and a finger) how many times one of my children haven't been under my care overnight. And 3 of those times it was when I was in the hospital birthing a sibling!

Seeing  my "shy" and "momma" kids to want to start becoming more and more independent...

is a joyful (and terrifying) part of motherhood. And this is just the start.... oh, I know, yikes!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Our Fall Beach Trip

The cold weather has surrounded us this week! It makes me very thankful for our mild fall and our quick, "somewhat spontaneous" fall beach trip to visit my aunt and uncle.

They had contacted us earlier about meeting them for the day while they were visiting a local beach. While I was excited about the chance and honored by the invite, I was hoping to find a day we could get Brian out of the office, too:) But it didn't happen so the kids and I headed to the beach.

The crew was willing to head to a local aquarium, too!! So we even were able to squeeze in a field trip during our mini vacation;)


They spent a lot of time in the simulated turtle rescue center. Chris and Anna were at the diagnostic center and Nate like the clinic side where he got to "treat" the turtles.... I actually he was supposed to be giving an enema... LOL!!


Chris dancing with the turtles:)


The touch tank was a BIG hit;)

We tried to keep Nate dry... but he was soaked! Thankfully I had packed an extra outfit, so a quick change and we were ready for more!

And the sharks!!


We did some swimming in the freezing cold water. I actually didn't swim until I had to:/ We had a  scary event that thankfully ended with giggling.

We also swam in a pool (for the last time for the "season") and made a Sonic visit after dinner... a true kid's vacation:)

Unfortunately, I didn't get beach pictures or pictures with my aunt and uncle:( It was a treat to get the opportunity to stay with them at the beach. Not only because it's not often we get to see some of our extended family, but because...

sometimes you don't realize how much you need a vacation until you are away and get to relax a bit ( as relaxing as it gets with 4 kids)!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

BRRR... it's Cold Outside!!

Anyone already looking for snow or have some on the ground?

WE had such a mild, lovely fall that this latest cold spell has broken the idea that winter wasn't really on it's way... yet!

The easiest way that I know it really IS cold is the kids!!!

Nate is wearing clothes!! )

And Anna left some selfies on my camera before she went out to tend her rabbit:)

I love the dimples across her nose;)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Napping Buddy

I haven't posted much lately:/

I really would love to get back into blogging the Weekly Wrap-Up again, it just became a good "schooling journal" for us:) So that is in the works... at least in my thoughts;)

And I haven't posted a Jack picture in a while either! He is such a quirky little dog... totally afraid of play guns, balloons and the broom. And he has to be in the middle of every dance session, race and bicycle ride. We're still working on his manners and calming him down when the kids are very active (it gets him too excited)!

Regardless of his quirks and kitchen towel snatching,

he's still a great napping buddy and totally loved on!!