A Third Birthday Letter To Clarice



My Sweet Clarice,

Darling, amidst all the paperwork and packing and moving, you quietly turned three years old a couple weeks ago.

We celebrated your birthday by taking a trip to the zoo as a family.  We asked you which animals you wanted to see and you said "E-wah-fants!"  Your voice is the cutest thing right now, high-pitched with a lisp.



Your hair is just as curly and delightful as it's ever been.  You are more active right now, so the curls don't stay in perfect formation.  They fluff and fly as you run around, and form the perfect frame for your sweet little face.  I've been intentionally telling you lately how pretty your curls are, and your blue eyes light up every time.

Your favorite food is definitely "choc-wat".  You went out with grandma for your birthday lunch a few weeks ago, and she told me that when she gave you a hot fudge sundae, you took a bite, sighed, and declared "Choc-wat is the BEST!"  You are a girl after my own heart, darling!



You are still very attached to one particular bear, your pink "first birthday" bear.  I've bought a couple replacements and backups for your bear, because it would be so sad if you lost it.  You call it "Baby", and carry it with you everywhere - and you are delighted whenever you get the chance to treat it like a real baby, by putting it in a stroller or strapping it onto yourself like a baby carrier.  You found the backup a couple weeks ago, dubbed it "Other Baby", and now you carry around both of them.  You came downstairs in the middle of the night a couple weeks ago, scared because of a bad dream, and you were clutching a "baby" in each arm, their heads tucked under your chin.  It was so impossibly adorable, I couldn't even stop myself from chuckling.  You act happy and sheepish whenever I tell you that you are a good little mama to your "babies".

When I think about you at this age, I think of a little girl with big feelings. When you are happy, your smile is so huge it takes up your whole face, and I dare anyone not to smile back.  When you are sad, the whole world is ending, and your blue eyes drown in tears.



Whether you are so happy you might burst, or sad enough to get my shirt all wet, when I pick you up to give you a hug your little arms wrap around my neck.  It's hard to want to put you down.  I walked past the mirror when I was carrying you the other day and realized how tiny you still are.



You are such a joy to me, darling, and the one I can always count on for a smile or a snuggle.  You light up all my days.  You have grown so much in the last year.  You have become such a wonderful big sister.  You have started talking more and more.  Your personality has become even more fun, if that were possible.  But you are still my sweet baby girl, willing to cuddle on my lap and dragging around your teddy bear.  I can't wait to see how you grow over this next year, but I also hope it doesn't happen too fast.  I know I'll want these days back.  I'm loving life with you so much right now, at three.

Love You More, Baby Girl.

-Mama


Where My Babies Slept (Nursery Tour)



T-minus 8 days until we close on our new house!  I wanted to show you the last corner of our first home before we leave it.

This room is one of the harder ones to leave.  It's gone through many transformations over the years, from blue airplanes, to pink and purple flower garden, to orange and turquoise ocean-themed, to coral and mint florals.  Each of my babies have slept in here at one point or another.  This is how it looks right now, how I decorated it for our last baby, Georgie.  It's hard to leave it, especially since she turns one year old in a couple weeks.  I labored over that quilt when my belly was so big I couldn't pick up the needle when I dropped it.  I rocked her when she was only as big as a loaf of bread, right in that chair.

The only thing missing is the rows of family photos that were on the wall right above the bookshelf - I took pictures of it before I took them down for showings, but I accidentally deleted the photos, so aside from one photo from my phone, you'll have to use your imagination.  Still, I'm glad I found time to snap a few more shots of this room amidst all the packing that is happening this week. I want to remember the place where each of my babies slept.






















 

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That's it, guys!  Our whole house, all the rooms in our first home.  We've had so many milestones here, so many good memories, and a few tears.  This house has been good to us, and the Lord saw us through it all and blessed us here.

Goodbye, First House.

You can click the button below to see the entire home tour.  Now, on to our next place!  I'll share "before" pictures of our new house in about a week or so!





All About Breakfast



Confession:  I give my kids Marshmallow Mateys for breakfast sometimes.

Now that we've gotten that dirty little secret out of the way...

Lately I have been branching out a bit on breakfasts for the kids.  When I went to the homeschool conference this summer, one of the speakers said that you can't really get mad if you gave your kids sugary cereal with nothing more substantial added in, and they act all crazy later.

As we've established, I have nothing against breakfast cereal, but I did think she had a point.

So while we still do Coco Puffs for breakfast occasionally, I've added a few other things into the rotation, with the intention of helping my kiddos get some brain-sharpening, focus-encouraging nutrients in, especially on school days!  Here are a few of my current go-to's.

Oatmeal - One of the reasons I used to default to cereal was because it was a quick, easy breakfast for the kids - but I've learned that oatmeal is fairly quick and easy too!  And it's healthier and more sustaining since they are getting the whole grain.  I use old-fashioned oats, and add a little brown sugar, nuts, chocolate chips, raisins, apples, or cinnamon.  The kids think I'm the best mom ever when I add in chocolate chips (but it's still less straight sugar than cereal!).

Muffins (made with freshly-ground flour) - I mentioned that I got a grain mill this summer, and I have to tell you, I love it!  When flour is freshly ground, it still contains all the nutrients that the whole wheat berry contains, so it's more sustaining, has a lower glycemic index, and it's healthier.  But beyond that, I like the way baked goods taste when they are made with fresh flour, and the texture is chewier (which I actually love!).  I have a few go-to muffin recipes from this book. I try to make one batch every week so they can be our on-the-go breakfast, but that doesn't always happen.

Hard-Boiled Eggs with toast - Also quick to make, because I just pull them out of the refrigerator!  (Are you noticing a theme here?  I like quick and easy breakfasts.)  I have to be careful with this one though, because sometimes I forget I boiled the eggs and we don't end up eating them.

Yogurt - We don't eat yogurt as often as I'd like, because with five kids and me that could get expensive really quick.  But sometimes I buy a big container of plain yogurt, and I mix it with honey and frozen berries for the kids' breakfast.  This is also one of my favorite breakfasts for me!

Cereal or Donuts - Everything in moderation, right?  Sometimes cereal or donuts is just easier, and I don't shame myself or anyone else for going there.  Having a sugary breakfast sometimes is fine in my book.

What are your breakfast go-to's?  Any other quick-and-easy ideas for me?

A Point About Evangelism


(A picture from when we visited our friends' ranch in the Spring.  Ranch...agriculture...seeds...let's just go with it.)


Last year I started going to the Community Bible Study I went to as a child with my mom.  I can't express how much of a blessing this Bible Study has been to me since I started back!  It's so encouraging to hear everyone else's insights, and it challenges me to get into God's Word and think about things a little deeper.

Today we talked about the parable of the sower in Mark 4.  To be honest, I didn't love the questions and commentary in the lesson book this week - I felt like they muddied the waters a little.  I was also frustrated with myself for not preparing my lesson ahead of time this week, which limited my ability to contribute to the discussion.  Since I couldn't really get my thoughts out today in class, I thought I'd write them out here since I've had a little more time to think about it.

 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Mark 4:3-8

The parable of the sower is a tricky parable, and I've heard it applied different ways.  But as I've read it, I've always understood it to be a representation of how different people who have not yet believed will respond to God's Word when they hear it.  I did a little more research on it today after our lesson, and I wanted to write out my thoughts for my own clarity, and because I thought about one point in a different way after the discussion today.

"Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satancomes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

Mark 4:13-20

These are the categories and my thoughts:


The Hard Soil - Those with hard hearts, who hear the word but it doesn't sink in or take root at all.  Satan immediately snatches it away, and they do not believe.

The Rocky Soil - Those who have an emotional response to God's Word, but who only have superficial, incomplete understanding of it and have never truly repented.  They may even say they "believe in Jesus" in a superficial sense, but we know from other places in the Bible that just acknowledging the truth does nothing.  Even the demons know the truth (James 2:19), but they will not accept it and repent.  When tribulations come, the true colors show, and it is shown that these people never truly believed.  They superficially accepted God's Word because it made them feel good, and as soon as it doesn't anymore, they fall away.

The Thorny Soil - From the way I read this same passage in Matthew, these are the people who hear the Word, and initially want to accept it - but they love the world, they love the things of the world, and as soon as they get back to their lives, it all comes to nothing.  John MacArthur (his sermons were some of my "research" - listen to them here) gave the rich young ruler as an example of this.   They love money and everything else the world has to offer, and that love stifles the Gospel, because we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).


I think the important thing about those second two there is that these people did NOT lose their salvation!  Jesus tells us that once we are His, NOTHING can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:27-30).  Those second two categories of people are those who were never truly converted in the first place.  The love of the world, and misunderstanding of the truth, led to false conversions.

I think the temptation is to try to fit people we know into these categories, but I don't think we should do that.  God knows what kind of soil a person is, and in the end, time will tell, because true believers will abide with Christ and bear fruit (John 15:1-6).  If someone eventually falls away, it's because they never truly let the Word of God take root in their heart and change them, they never truly repented.

I think another important note here is that we shouldn't assume that just because someone "prayed a prayer" that they are actually saved.  God is the only one who truly knows, but if a person has turned away from God, by all means, I think we should preach the Gospel to them again!

Our CBS director said something that was encouraging to me today - she said that no "soil" is beyond hope.  God can pull out those weeds.  God can remove the rocks.  God can break the hard ground.

He can make the soil good.

The final category:


The Good Soil - Those who hear the Word, understand it, and accept it with repentance and faith.  They bear fruit, and spread the truth to those around them, leading to a greater harvest.


All that we have to do is be faithful to spread the seed of the Gospel.  The true Gospel, not a incomplete, feel-good, emotional gospel; not a false, you-can-follow-God-and-keep-all-your-sin gospel.  The true Gospel that we are sinners, people who broke God's law, who deserve death and Hell, but that Jesus, God Himself, came to take our punishment.  He died in our place and rose again to save us from our sin.  We must recognize the truth of who we truly are as sinners and what Christ has done, repent, turn our back on everything the world offers, turn our back on our sin, and follow after Christ alone, with all that we have.

The thing that I realized today is this:

It is not in my power to change the soil of someone's heart.  Only God can do that.

I can't make the soil good by saying things a certain way, or following certain "strategies".  If I am living out and speaking the whole truth of the Gospel, I can't mess this up.  My only job is to spread the seed of the truth of God's Word to those around me.  I can spread the seed, I can water it, but it is God who makes it grow.

"So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."

1 Corinthians 3:7

I can't explain how comforting this is to me.  I've lately tried to speak to people about the Gospel more, for the first time in my life really, and I've been shut down, and it breaks my heart every time.  It's easy to worry that I did it all wrong.  But according to this passage, I should expect rejection, I should expect that some will not truly understand.  God is in charge of that, not me.  I don't know how big my personal harvest will be, and I'm not in control of that anyway.  I only need to be faithful to the Great Commission, to spread the seed and pray for God to prepare the ground.

And oh, the joy when some of that seed will take root in good soil.

That's what will make it all worth it.


The "Master" Bedroom (Before We Move)



This house will officially no longer be ours on Friday.   I thought I better get a move on and show you the last couple rooms!  

This is our "master" bedroom.  I put "master" in quotes because it doesn't have a bathroom actually attached, but it's the biggest bedroom in the house.  It's gone through a few transformations over the years, and this is what it looks like now, right before we are about to leave it.

This wall color is a good example of how a color can be scary until it's finished, just like our house color.  When we painted the outside of the house gray, we were afraid we made a mistake until we added the white trim.  When I painted this room "Ice Cube" by Behr, I was afraid I had made a mistake!  I wanted something that could feel airy, but could also feel cozy, and when I got this color on the wall it just felt...chilly.  But I persevered, and once I added all the furniture and wall decorations back in, it hit that balance of airy and cozy and colorful that I was going for.  

I'll probably go with a different color in our new master bedroom, because it's much bigger and I think this color would actually feel cold in that room.  But here, I've enjoyed it!



















I don't have a linkup going anymore, but PLEASE comment below if decide to join in and show us your home!

My Morning Routine, If You Can Call It That



One of my goals for this year has been to develop a better morning routine.

I have had visions in my head of getting up before the kids, accomplishing my devotions and a ton of writing work before they even get out of bed, then graciously closing my laptop, giving my darling children a kiss, and going upstairs to make everyone a picture-perfect breakfast.  I look adoringly at my troop while I drink a cup of hot coffee.

Yeah.  That hasn't been going so well.

This is closer to what our mornings actually look like.


6:30 - The sun starts shining through the window, and wakes me up, but I am still exhausted from the night before. This isn't even just Georgie's fault - the three youngest and the dog all conspire to wake me up at least two or three times a night.  I turn my head and try to go back to sleep.

6:40 - I hear little feet pounding around upstairs.  I roll out of bed and call up the stairs, telling the kids to go read books in their room for a while.  I stumble back to bed and fall asleep.

6:55 - More foot-pounding.  I ignore.

7:02 - A child starts to come downstairs.  I want fifteen more minutes of sleep.  I remind them to stay upstairs and try to squeeze in a few more minutes.

7:10 - I realize it is futile to resist and get up.  I brush my teeth and wash my face, put in my contacts.

7:20 - I go upstairs and make the kids breakfast, while reminding them they can't actually eat it until they make their beds and get dressed.  Breakfast used to always be cereal, but then I realized the kids where a little calmer if I didn't hype them up on simple sugars first thing in the morning, so now sometimes I make them oatmeal.  After I make them breakfast, I remind them to put their dishes in the dishwasher.  I go back downstairs to fix my makeup and get dressed.

7:40 - I finish my makeup and go back upstairs.  All the bowls are still on the table.  I remind the kids to put them away again, and then tell them to go play while I drink some much-needed coffee.

7:50 - I sit and read or type or listen to a podcast and try to get motivated to actually start the day.

8:30-9:00 - Georgie wakes up.  I make her a bottle and go downstairs for some snuggles.

9:30-10 - We actually start some sort of school.


Give or take 30 minute on all those time slots, and that's how our morning usually goes!

While I still think it would be wonderful if I could manage to get up before the kids and get some of my own stuff done before the day, our actual morning routine isn't completely terrible.  I would like to be more productive, but there is a part of me that truly loves this slow start to our day.  I'll probably continue to try to drag myself out of bed early, mainly because I would love to be able to squeeze in morning devotions on a regular basis, and I think that is something that truly would be worth making a change for.  As it is, I do my daily devotions at night, which is also fine, but ideally I'd like to refocus my day right from the start.

Do you have  morning routine?  Do you wake up before your kids?  HOW did you become disciplined enough to wake up before them (especially if you have early risers)?

Scrunchy Faces And Kisses - Georgie At Ten (And Eleven) Months



Shortly after Georgie turned ten months old, we figured out we were probably moving, and all the craziness that comes with that ensued!  By the time I had a minute to sit down and write her ten month post, it was really too late to share it.  So today we're combining her ten month and eleven month updates!  Thankfully I remembered to take her ten month photos though, so we can still compare!



Ten Months

This is such a fun age for Georgie!  She is so snuggly and loves me so much right now.  Her face just lights up every time she sees me, and it warms my heart.  She is still scoot-crawling, and she tries so hard to go fast, pushing herself with her right leg all the time.

Poor little thing is still teething, so her sleep hasn't been as great this month (though still pretty good).  It's so sad to see her cry and start to chew on her finger.  She still has those two little teeth in the front, and I'm waiting to see when the other sill pop through.

She does a scrunchy-face smile when she is really happy, and it is the cutest thing to me.  She has started to say "mama" and "dada" to me and Derek, so I think she is figuring out what those words actually mean!

Gwendolyn and Georgie look so much alike, and when I compare their baby pictures, it's almost like i"m looking at the same baby.  This month Georgie's hair has started to curl at the ends, just like Gwen's did as a baby.  She also likes to be turned upside down, just like Gwen.  If she is having a fussy moment, I'll just tip her backwards, and she immediately starts laughing!

My favorite thing right now is to give Georgie her bottle, because she tucks her little body against mine, like she's trying to get as close as possible.  I love it so much.  Georgie is such a delightful baby, and Derek and I have said multiple times this month how we wish she would never grow up.



Eleven Months

Georgie's personality is really starting to show, and she is just so funny!  This month her favorite thing to do is shake her head back and forth to make us laugh.  She also has started tilting from side to side to music - it's so cute to watch her little dance!

This month I really started to see the sister relationship between Clarice and Georgie grow.  They sit right across from each other in the car, and Clarice will often talk to Georgie or reach across the car to take her hand.  Georgie laughs almost as soon as Clarice notices her, and I can see her picking up some of Clarice's facial expressions and habits.  It's so cute!



One expression that I know she picked up from Clarice (because Clarice used to make the exact same face as a baby) is a funny scrunched-nose open-mouthed expression.  It kind of looks like a disgusted look, and I can't help but laugh every time she does it, which probably only encourages it!  She's cute when she does it, but I'm trying to train her out of it at the same time.

She has also started "talking" a ton.  She makes little humming and sing-song sounds, and if you make the same noise back at her, she just lights up at the "conversation".  She has started to say "hi" and "bye", "Mama" and "Da".  Her "hi" sounds a lot like Gwen's baby "hi", with a little southern lilt to it, and when she says "Bah", she waves her little hand.  It's adorable!



Unfortunately I think our bottle-snuggle days may be coming to a gradual end, because Georgie is so wiggly now.  She wants to see everything!  Now when she gets her bottle, she prefers to look out at everything that's going on around her.  This makes me really sad, because I miss our snuggles!  Occasionally she'll still fall asleep on my lap, and when that happens, I don't put her down.

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Georgie Bea,

How you have grown and changed over the last two months!  You are growing into your own personality, and I love to see it, but it's bittersweet to see my little baby looking so grown up.  Still, I'm not completely sorry, because you are becoming even more fun.

I realized recently that when I kiss your little cheek, you make a kissing noise back to me.  You lean back, look me in the eye, and say "Mmmwah!".  The other day, you even gave me a "Mmmwah!", and then leaned in and pressed your little open mouth to my cheek.  You leaned back again and looked so proud of yourself for figuring out your first kiss!  It was such a present moment.  You made my day, little one.  I'm so blessed that you are mine!

Love Always,

Mama.




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