Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve at home

This little girl is always the most excited!  Fireworks...squeal!
For New Year's Eve this year, we decided to stay home.  I considered driving to my best friend's house in Atlanta again, but we needed to be here.  So we put the fire pit in the driveway and had our own little shindig.

Trying a new way to (safely) blow something up with a firework.  Boys!  (and men!)
The kids enjoyed s'mores and fireworks.  The boys tried the little "poppers" in bottles of water, with their Lego men tied on, etc.  Boys + fire= experimentation.  Thankfully, Andy was supervising...often devising...with them.  We were outside a couple of hours enjoying the night. 

My favorite spot
Sweet Josh enjoying s'mores.
The kids were determined to stay up until midnight.  We came in around 10:00.  Andy and I were tired, but we stayed the course with the kids.  I was a little appalled at what was on television.   Last time I watched Dick Clark's New Year's Eve show it was not what I saw last night.  Yikes.  So anyone we piddled around until we finally made it until midnight.  Hooted and hollered and then we were all asleep in the bed 5 minutes later! Happy 2014!
Good-bye, bad guy!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Girlie time

The boys headed to the farm to hunt for a couple of days between Christmas and New Year's day.  So Lydie and I had some time just to ourselves.  We enjoyed exercising together and the Y, art projects, movies, some fun meals, and some shopping.  We had "slumber parties" in my room, going to bed late and waking early.  It was such a precious time.
Lunch at Panera together
Shopping for art supplies
I adore the young lady Lydie is growing into.  She is so thoughtful and kind, she is vivacious and creative.  I very much enjoy our time together!  I think she and I feed one another's need for affection and time together.  It's amazing how alike we are.  And the boys had a great time, too!  They were with their uncle and cousin and enjoyed so much the time outside.  They got home just in time for New Year's Eve. 

Dinner at Moe's, of course
What a way to say goodbye to 2013! 
Exercising together at the Y
An option for new shoes.  Lights, glitter, hearts...SO Lydie!

Friday, December 27, 2013

ArT day with my nieces

The girls came over and joined us for an art day!  This time together was part of our Christmas present to them.  While they were waiting for me to set up, they designed Barbie dresses

and performed a ballet/cheerleader play for me!
First costume: the rock star

Second costume: the ballerina
Third costume: the cheerleader
And last: A song about Mommy...in her robe
And then we made burlap initial signs for their doors.  I end of the day, Lydie and I agreed that we should do this more often!

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls."  Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was such a sweet day this year.  My husband was fighting a cold, but otherwise we were all well.  What a gift! After the big, late party at our house the night before, I was a little tired.  It seems like when I am tired, the house is quieter.  My family seems to feed off of my energy, I think.  We started the day at my parents' house to celebrate and exchange gifts with my brother's family and my parent's.  My Mom always has us over for breakfast in our pajamas.  So the morning of this party, the kids always get a new pair of pjs.  Mom cooks a big meal and the kids are always really excited to see their cousins. 

Girl cousins
Poppy gave Jackson a "modern" record player.  He loaned his records to Jackson last summer.  This will be a lot of fun!
Oooo, little does Lydie know she is going to get Saige's horse, as well. 
Jackson had just gotten a North Face jacket the night before and Ross was the first to compliment it that morning.  And then...Ross got one, as well.  Handsome!
Oh the hours he will spend...
She just opened the horse like Anna's.  Oh the joy!
I usually do not record here what the children get for Christmas.  It seems silly and insignificant.  But I think it will be fun to see what they loved in the years to come.  So, this year Lydie got American Girl stuff and Lego Friends sets.  These are her favorite things right now!  Joshua got a Creator lego set and a National Geographic robot rover.  He is still building!  And Jackson got a war video game, Rock Band, the record player, and money.  Perfect for our teenager!

After enjoying all of our gifts, physically and otherwise, we let the kids play for a while.  Rick had an emergency at work and had to leave, so we came on home.  The kids played with their toys quietly all afternoon.   I spent several hours enjoying Legos with Lydia Joy.  Then we made peanut butter cookies and watched It's a Wonderful Life.  That lead to questions about suicide and other matters which were unexpected!  Wow, you never know when those big discussions will pop up!
Legos in her playroom

Licking the spoon during the movie
Our new church had a candlelight service at 5:00.  This service is my favorite event at Christmas time!  We enjoyed beautiful music and candlelight, along with a sweet message of hope.  Some dear friends of ours visited our church for the first time, which was a pleasant surprise!  Afterwards, we ended up at a Chinese restaurant.  Since we had hosted the night before, I did not have anything planned for dinner! 
After church, at dinner
The children were so excited this year for Christmas morning!  Andy read Luke 2 and we snuggled them in bed.  After MUCH wrapping of presents and preparation, we were ready for bed, too!  It was a wonderful, peaceful day.  We did not do all of our traditions this year.  But, it was so good! I am so thankful!

Love these two sweet boys!

"There has been only one Christmas.  The rest are anniversaries."
W.J. Cameron

Monday, December 23, 2013

Family parties

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
Luke 1:46-50
On the 14th, my Mom's side of the family got together at my parent's house...
My mom and aunt are the hostesses.  They have a friend dress up as Santa every year.  This year he was unavailable, so Andy got to be Santa.  SO funny!
Nana had two children, my mom and uncle.  They got married and each had 2 children.  And a few decades later...11 grandchildren!
Ho, ho, ho!
The girls created a musical show for us after dinner.  They always do!  And I love it!
Greyce and Eryn singing together.  So sweet!
Anna's song
On the 22nd, my Dad's side of the family got together at my Aunt's house and I forgot my camera!!  Aggg!  It was such a sweet night.  Fun cocktails, great food, lots of catching-up with cousins, a fun "dirty Santa", and beautiful gifts. I loved the time we had for good conversations.

On the 23rd, Andy's parents and his brother's family got together at our house...
Papa with his 6 grandchildren
Clay's gift.  Looks like the others like it more than him! ha!
Josh was SO excited to get this Disney Infinity game!
A North Face jacket!  This was the first year he asked for clothes for Christmas.  Weird, but cool!
Mimi enjoying being a guest and not a host!  I LOVED hosting this year!

Since the men were having a jam session in our basement after dinner, the kids and I decided to go ahead and give Andy our gift.  Here he is waiting, anticipating...
He has asked for a mandolin for years.  (He had one that got broken when he was at a Youth Group function years ago.  He was so excited and spent a while testing it out.  I hope he enjoys it!
I'm pretty sure he will!
"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!"
Hamilton Wright Mabie

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lessons from fall; looking forward to winter!

Yesterday was the last day of fall.  We finally trimmed the hedges and raked the leaves, just in time for Christmas!  I am looking for a day to plant some pansies.  The pipes are winterized, Christmas decorations are up, presents are wrapped, and I am feeling nostalgic.

After a week of parent conferences, new report card grades, a Nutcracker performance, a walk through Bethlehem program, and beautiful Christmas devotions, I am ready to take a look back at fall and record how the Lord is at work in our home and lives.  We had some major events in our family this fall.  Andy had back surgery again in November, the children and I began our second year at our classical Christian school, we put the farm on the market and Andy found a new job, and we found a new church here.  It has been a good, often exhausting, season.  In God's providence, he has eased the pain of selling the farm for us.  (We will keep a small parcel for our own use.)  For one, we have had several confusing and hurtful situations where people whom we employed and tried to help have not turned out to be who we thought they were.  Painful, but also in a strange way confirmation of our need to find a new community.  We have felt more deeply connected with our school, both students and faculty, and are so immensely thankful for the community of like-minded friends we have joined.  This community has been my greatest encouragement, as I have several women who feel like life-long friends already.  Also, my students and their parents are particularly precious to me.  They are a constant source of joy and confirmation.

Andy has recovered very well again.  I hated seeing him face another back surgery.  But it has been 5 weeks and the results are promising.  He has been patient and I truly believe it will pay off.  I know the surgery and having to sell the farm must be extremely difficult for him.  He felt like keeping the farm long-term was an impossible expectation, given his back issues.  But he is facing this unexpected course with courage and faith, and he seems ready to begin his new job on January 6th.  We marvel at God's grace in giving him a job in environmental consulting here in Birmingham so a move is not required for us.  And his salary, along with mine, allows for a very comfortable budget for us.  This is an unexpected blessing and will allow us to take some exciting family trips, develop a "nest egg", and enjoy tithing and giving to other ministries at a new level which is the very least we can do to further God's kingdom.

I still often feel the tug between ministry at home and ministry at school.  It is an enormous adjustment to work outside the home while parenting.  Most days I feel like it is doable.  But sometimes it still seems extremely overwhelming and impossible to tackle.  I think that my children enjoy having me at school with them so much that they would be very upset if I did not teach at their school.  But when they are sick and my husband or my Mom have to take care of them until I can get home at 1:30, I want to throw in the towel.  But then I take a step back and try to really assess the heart of the matter- what God is calling me to do, and how the children are progressing spiritually, emotionally, etc.  I see them progressing along, growing in their faith and understanding, happy and stable, learning feverishly about God's world, forming healthy friendships and bonds with their mentors and teachers, and developing their gifts and talents.  So I continue to carry on and pray and love them the very best that I can each day.  I realize my main stress is not the amount of love, affection, and time I am giving to my family.  But the very high, perfectionistic expectations I have for order in my home.  And for now, I feel like God is calling me to invest in these many souls outside of my own family and let go of my (extremely) high expectations of organization at home.

The transition from homeschool to the classroom has been very natural.  I have so much to learn as a teacher.  But at the same time, I feel a deep sense that I am doing one of the main things that God created me to do when I teach.  God has been gracious to give me a lot of support and encouragement from parents and others on staff.  I cannot imagine a better working environment.  I am constantly learning and growing in my knowledge and love for Christ.  I am often encouraged with kind words and gifts.  And I love who I work with, both on staff and the parents and students.  It's truly, unbelievably ideal.

My three children are thriving.  They are now in 1st, 5th, and 7th grades.  Their academics are extremely challenging.  But they are all capable of excelling in this type of academic environment.  They have made all As so far this year, at the mid-way point.  The boys qualified, along with 2 other students from their grades, for the spelling bee again this year.  Their strengths and weaknesses are obvious already and we are working on learning all we can from both as to how God would use them in His kingdom.  They each have "best friends" and really godly groups of children that love them.  And they seem to all care much about loving Jesus and serving others, which I hope will continue and grow exponentially.  We are thankful for where they are, what they are learning, and all of the guidance they are receiving.  It has been a wonderful blessing, to put it mildly.

Looking back, I am thankful for how God is working in our lives.  I am thankful for the gracious communities with which we are involved.  I am thankful for the people we have met.  I am thankful for the house he has provided, as well.  And although I am laying here on the sofa, SO tired and excited for Christmas break, I am filled with gratitude for the all-day-long-never-stopping-until-bed work that he has given me to juggle.  I want to live my life giving all that I possibly can to this family and those whom he puts in my classroom, by and through His strength and power.  Looking forward to winter quarter and all that he has for us!  To God be the glory!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Celebrating hard work and good lessons

My three handsome men.  Hard workers, these guys, enjoying Flip Burger.
 We took the kids to their favorite restaurant and a movie tonight. We were celebrating all of the rich lessons they have learned in school this year. Biblical worldviews, many new things about God's world and Himself, interpersonal relationships, and perseverance.
When we go out to eat, she can always be found squished to my side in a booth.  I love it.

We are at the midpoint of the year. As has been the case in the past,  the children' s strengths and weaknesses, which are so varying, are in full bloom. Jack has little drive to work to his fullest potential,  but is eager to do the right thing and works hard when we ask him. He excels at writing and memorizing information. This gift is such a blessing in his classes which are so challenging and require him to recite long passages frequently.  He still considers Math to be a struggle. We work an hour to an hour and a half on it every night. He is learning how it feels to push through difficulty and reap the consequences of hard work. He has made all A's this year, including in Pre-Algebra. He got in the spelling bee again this year, as 1 of 3 representatives from 7th grade. We are so thankful for all he is learning. The biggest change in him this year is he questions everything and is occasionally argumentative. He is obviously learning to think for himself and stand on his own two feet. Good thing he is kind and tender or this stage might undue me!
Frozen was a great movie!

Joshua continues to make school look effortless.  He has made all A's with little effort. He is very independent with schoolwork and I often do not know what he has done until it comes home with a grade. It is rare that any of his grades dip below a 95. He also got in the spelling bee again this year. His academic strengths are in the math and sciences. He is a great reader, but is the only one of my children who doesn't love to read. If we go to Barnes and Noble, the other two are thrilled.  He is biding his time with the doodle books, puzzles, and such. He is an engineer through and through like my brother.  He struggles with losing things and with being often too reserved. But he has sweet friends, most of whom are completely goofy and loud, which is such an answer to prayer. The biggest way he has changed this year is he has become SO affectionate, hugging us constantly. It is so sweet!

Lydie is having a great year in first grade. She is a very diligent, motivated student. She is smart and seems to learn easily. Her most difficult aspect of school is memorizing, and she is required to do a lot of it! She gets the big concept, but has trouble remembering word-for-word details. Thankfully, she has made so much progress this year. Lydie has made almost all A+ due to hard work. Her work ethic and attention span are her greatest strengths. The biggest way she has changed is her spiritual growth. She has developed quite a prayer life and the beginning signs of discernment and wisdom. Praise God!

We are extremely thankful for a good first half of school.

I have more pictures of Lydie because the boys went to a different movie.  Ours was shorter and we had time to shop around.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Celebrating Jesus at school

16 precious gifts from God in Lydie's class
 This year I was able to attend Lydie's Christmas party.  As is often the case, I attend events in my own children's classrooms thanks to the kindness of my room mom's willingness to keep the class going while I am away.  I am deeply thankful to be able to work as a teacher, and yet not miss out in my own children's classrooms.  This is very important to me.
We provided plates and napkins.  Seeing her middle name on something at Christmas never gets old!
I am so full of gratitude as I reflect on Lydie's little first grade party.  These darlings sang, and quoted Luke 2, and each had a short speaking part, reminding their parents of the biblical account of Christ's birth and what it means for us even now in 2013.  They sang so innocently and boldly.  I am extremely thankful that they can worship and learn, all for the glory of God, in their classrooms.  I pray our freedoms are never taken away from us. 

Singing to Jesus!
Lydie's teacher is probably the most gifted teacher I have ever observed.  She has experience and wisdom and it oozes out of her responses to the children in every area.  If they are distressed, she has a biblical comfort.  If they are excited, she encourages them and thanks the Lord with them for whatever they are enjoying.  She points them to his guidance, grace, and mercy so naturally and tenderly.  Lydie responds so well to a gentle voice.  It is so inspiring to listen and watch her with our children.  I am very grateful that she shares her mornings with her teacher, especially during this season of Advent.  So thankful for the body of Christ and how we can minister to one another!

**Joshua was sick on Christmas party day!  We were so sad that he missed out!**