Gilly-Bean's Sweet 16

For you, sweet Thing 3, on your 16th birthday.  Every time I sit down to write one of these birthday letters nostalgia sneaks in and my mind begins to travel back to you as a toddler, you as a baby, in elementary school.  You resting your head on my shoulder and just wanting to be rocked, late into the night until you finally would give in and close your eyes.  Your little hands around my neck.  All the times you wore your swim vest in Poppi and Nani's pool, riding your tricycle around the patio, picking tomatoes straight from the garden and popping them into your mouth, standing on a chair next to me in the kitchen.  Then suddenly I'm jolted back to the now and you no longer need a chair, in fact you tower over me.  Yet you still do like those snuggles.  Now, we snuggle while watching Hallmark movies or reading our books, perusing cookbooks and scouring the internet for the next best recipe to attempt.  


 Life has been full of change and newness this last year.  A move and leaving behind friends and the known has had it's challenges.  I've watched you embrace the new.  Slowly, at your own discerning pace.  Just like always.  Never jumping right in but surveying it all and then deciding.  Or sometimes not.  I pray for fearless decision making in the coming year of 16.  I pray for Holy Spirit revelation, divine appointments and God surprises when you least expect them.  I pray for levity and more laughter than you know what to do with.  I pray for you and for your dreams to be realized.  I pray for favor.  I pray for your heart, your mind and your soul.  I pray you are confident in who you are in Christ.  I pray you know you are "fearfully and wonderfully made"; Loved by a Creator infinitely more than humanly possible.  I pray for boldness.  I pray for your servant's heart.  I pray for peace that transcends understanding and a closeness in your walk with Jesus that you haven't experienced before.  


When I look back at the your year of 15 there are so many memories.  Adventures in the kitchen, a chocolate cooking class, new horse stable and instructor, homeschooling, seeing Mamma Mia, hunting down the best donuts in whatever city we've traveled to, beginning a new job, supporting your siblings, traveling on your first missions trip for 7 weeks.  I mean, really, there is so, so much.  The friends made, the lessons learned.  Each year is a gift and 15 has been good.  Here's to 16 and all the promise it holds.  Be present.  Soak it all in and live with abandon for Jesus.  Which really means, stay close to Him.  Choose to walk with Him daily.  Read His word.  Remember to have HOPE.  And confidently know you are His above all.  You will make mistakes.  Please do.  Learn from them and grow.  There is always grace.  Always.  

My girl, I love you so very much.  It is nothing short of heavenly privilege to be your Mama.  Thank you for being you, no matter what, even when it isn't easy.  You are a precious gift.   

Much love,
Mama 

The Rest of January

Shortly after Thing 1's departure Thing 2's friend from Minnesota came to visit us and not too long after her one of my dearest friends and her sweet son arrived for a long weekend here in Nashy.  Its been a full 2016 and we are not showing any signs of slowing down just yet.  We all love when the house is full.  In between all of the visitors there were orthodontist appointments, chiropractor appointments, football matches for Thing 4, home-schooling science projects and papers, Thing 1 hiked the Grand Canyon and was in LA for a week, there was a work promotion for Thing 2 and then there wasn't, work for me came to an end, (at least outside our home), a trip to Minnesota for Things 2 and 3, a church retreat in which Thing 2 spoke on finding joy in all circumstances, a wicked snow storm for Nashy, some dinner guests and a new book club started.   Life has been chugging along.  We're trying our best to be present and appreciate the unexpected daily.  So here are photos from our fuller than full month.  And in case you're wondering, the weather is great, or if it's not just wait a day and it will be, we have an extra room and we serve three scratch made meals a day.  We'd love to have you join us, anytime.  Really.  Here's our month in photographs.

Thing 2 and Lauren at the tattoo parlor.  No tattoos were inked on this trip but a nose was pierced.  Hint, it wasn't Thing 2's or mine.  

Backyard campfire, complete with s'more roasting and pine cone burning.  

Thing 4's smile after braces.  Still as handsome as ever. 

The arrival of Minette and Kaleb.  Which in this case meant that the boys woke early and began mine-crafting.  

During their weekend visit we toured the Carnton Plantation and the Carter House.  I have done the tours numerous times before and each visit I walk away with a new nugget of history or a story revealed and a greater appreciation for this place I live and the part it played in our American history.  

The boys and Husband Jared went to the Adventure Science Center where they pretended to be astronauts for the afternoon.

My lovely friend on Winstead Hill, reading more on The Battle of Franklin.

Us girls made a spontaneous trip to the infamous Bluebird Cafe; An iconic and unassuming music venue in Nashy for 40 years.  What an experience.  So thankful to have shared it with her.  

Besides exploring historic sites we managed to put together a 1000 piece puzzle in our time together. An impressive feat if I do say so myself.  I have no photos of the day they left.   Mostly because I do not like goodbyes and my eyes were puffy on my way home from the tears.  I am grateful for the weekend with her, it was full of all the good stuff that come from the kind of friendship that feels like home.  

And the following weekend we were in the snow.  Thanks to the scary road situation Husband Jared found himself gifted a four day weekend.  We made sure to enjoy it by playing in the snow and sledding.  Maybe we caught some snowflakes on our tongues and we might have even kissed while the snowflakes landed all around.  

This one, she prefers to eat the snow.  She knows to stay away from the yellow stuff.  

Never too big for sledding!  

He tried his best at snowboard sledding.  This kid misses the "slopes" of MN!

Had to document the perfect pour of Guiness we enjoyed on one of the snowy afternoons in downtown Franklin.  

We had some visitors for breakfast and a footie match that required hot cocoa and craft time with Auntie Leanna.

An afternoon of being the only child meant he chose the lunch spot.  Pizza and wings and watching the Broncos make their way to the Super Bowl!  

Love this photo that Thing 1 sent me from her time in the Canyon. What an experience that was for her.  Stories beyond stories.  And so much beauty captured from behind her lens.

No big deal, just Polo wearing a sweatshirt.  Hey, he was cold and he was part of our January too.  

And not long after the snow we were in short sleeves and bike riding to Main Street.  See what I mean?  The weather is fickle here.  No matter to us, I'll take short sleeves and sunshine in January!  That about catches me up.  At least for now.  

Life through January 5th

Thing 1 is long gone and has been experiencing life on her own for a few weeks now (again) and I am just going to post on our family togetherness while she was here.  You know this is all about firsts.  Our first child leaving home.  The first time she wasn't here for Thanksgiving.  The first time she left again.  You catch what I'm saying.  And then just this past week after about two weeks of limited contact with Thing 1 the other two girly Things headed off to Minnesota where there were even fewer texts and pictures and such otherwise known as communication.  I'll stop pouting and get over myself.  It is only that this Mama's heart sometimes can't make sense of all this growing and changing and independence taking place here.  And when I say that out loud I can imagine the eye rolls and head shaking on the other end.  This is the design though, right?  Growing up, learning, creating life experiences of one's own, gaining wisdom, making mistakes, dealing with consequences.  We are in the thick of it around here.  How about we pause and remember a couple of weeks where we just were.  Where pajamas reigned as the outfit of choice and the biggest decision we made was what Netflix show we were going to watch, what kind of cookies we were making and whether or not we were playing cards or a board game after dinner.  Yes please.  

That is what our in-between week was.  Well sorta.  There was still work to be done, for some of us, and chores and laundry and all that but we sure tried our best to maximize our time together.  We celebrated birthdays, we hiked, we picnicked, we read, shopped and dined and lounged.  And here are photos from it all.  

The weather was unseasonably warm here for Christmas.  In fact despite the rain and gloomy clouds we were in short sleeves and even shorts for a hike we took at Radnor Lake.  We walked around the lake, asked the ranger questions, stopped to look at trees and turtles and laughed our way through the trail.  Bigs and littles alike.  And after we picnicked in the parking lot.  No really, we sat in the parking lot with the tailgate open and ate our lunch.  It was a good afternoon.  We spent the remainder of the afternoon playing footie at the park and eating pizza for dinner.  To say it was a good day would not do it justice.  The entire day was so much better than that.  I forgot to mention that we started the day off with a trip to The Barista Parlor.  Husband Jared had met the owner of said coffee shop in his store and it had been on our list to check out so that is just what we did.  An old grease garage turned coffee house, yes please.  I'll take that any day.  There was vinyl spinning, scientific coffee brewing contraptions and a diverse customer base all enjoying their beans.  The sign had me and the makeshift stage, dreamy, which I am certain hosts all manner of musicians, poets and artists when the weather is just right.  We will be back for sure.

Swoon.

After hike tailgating?

Horels and Hansons.

Cousins skipping rocks.

Hanson Six.

New Year's Eve we scheduled a family game night, per our usual plan.  We made all the snacks.  And I really mean that.  Then we played all the games.  Wore silly hats.  Lit sparklers.  Ate our traditional NYE dessert, crack balls, and didn't even make it to midnight.  Well 3 of the 6 didn't.  Guess who?  Ok, I'll tell.  Husband Jared, myself and Thing 1 were in bed by 10pm.  The other three partied hard downstairs and danced their way into 2016.  It was a good night.  Maybe even more so since I was in bed by 10pm.  Wink, wink.

Polo-Lolo.

Silly girls.

Dance Party 101.

For Christmas this year the Things were surprised with a day of zip lining with Uncle Jeff and Aunt Natalie.  They were whisked away in the afternoon, bundled up and then given clues for their gift.  It didn't take them long to figure out where they were headed.  I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with Autumn and Gemma.  We explored a new park, had arts and craft time, drank hot chocolate and giggled the entire time.  The Things soared above the tree lines and then were treated to a delicious dinner of wood fired pizza.  Which of course they shared with us upon their arrival home, along with the tastiest cannolis I've had, next to mine of course.  I'd say zip lining for the win!

Thing 4 and Uncle Jeff.

Aunt Natalie and the girl Things.

 Thing 2.

Thing 4.

 Thing 3.

Thing 1.

The group.


My hot chocolate dates.  With marshmallows and whipped cream.

Mema and Thing 1 had a date at the REI garage sale and Thing 2 and I tagged along for fun.  We weren't quite prepared for the experience that awaited us.  A line wrapping around the building and people camped out with blankets and coffee and lists and backpacks.  We learned so much about the way to have a successful garage sale experience and we will most certainly be back for the Spring sale.  Thing 1 scored the shoes she had been  hoping for, a yoga mat and some other backpacking supplies and necessities.  Thing 2 found herself a winter coat for her upcoming Germany school experience. And Mema and I held clothes and gear and were on the support team.  Then it was off to breakfast and an afternoon nap for us before birthday celebrations that evening for Thing 1.  We couldn't send her off to Seattle without first throwing her a family birthday bash.  Good, I knew you'd agree.  The dinner menu was all her choosing and chocolate cake and frosting her choice for dessert.  There were decorations and plates and candles and birthday banners adorning the dining room and all of us gathered round to show her just how much we love her.

Thing 1's loot.

Smelling birthday cards made with scented markers.

Make a wish.

The remaining few days found us soaking in each other's company.  A couple days off for Husband Jared and time around the table and hunkered down close.  We held our annual goal setting and reflection of the year past discussion over a long and slow breakfast.  Then there was the frigid afternoon hike and one more lunch at Chick Fil A.  Yikes.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend our last day together though, despite the icicles that formed on our eyebrows while hiking through Natchez.


Reflecting and looking forward.  2016.

Swinging vines on our hike.  

Family selfie for the win!

All that to say, it was full, overflowing with joy and sweet time together as six.  Now onto 2016.



A 19th Birthday Letter

For my eldest daughter on your 19th birthday,

Where do I begin?  It is your first birthday not celebrated in our home.  The first time I've woken up on February 1st and you were not here for me to sing to.  Strange, this becoming a Mama of adult children.  Watching my heart beat outside of my body and witnessing your journey into adulthood.  To say I am proud would be an understatement.  For me to simply say that seeing the work God has done over this past year of 18 to be remarkable just doesn't seem sufficient. What I'm really trying to say here is that you, my sweet girl, are the gift.  A daughter of the King and to think that He chose me to be your Mama.  That in and of itself makes me want to pinch my skin in disbelief.  So happy 19th birthday to you.  Shall we recap your 18th year a bit?  Yes, well alright then.  Here we go.  

You turned 18.  Then you graduated from high school.  Before that though, you made honor roll for the first time ever in your high school career.  You worked with a personal trainer to become a healthier version of yourself.  You were a para for a sweet girl with some special needs.  She and you became fast friends.  When I would see you two together her adoration was quite clear.  I think it was mutual.  You traveled to Israel with your Dad.  Shared in experiences of our faith and saw things anew.  You returned a bit different.  Changed, scarred, in the best way.  You said goodbye to many of your friends.  Celebrated them all.  Dealt with changes.  And then you left for Seattle.  Kairos.  The discipleship program that you enrolled in for your gap year.  So much new.  New people, new places, a new family to live with, new teachers, new experiences, new goals and new expectations.  Like I said, so much new.  And through it all I've watched the girl that didn't like change adapt and grow and thrive and press in like never before.  

Thing 1 you are stronger than you think.  More beautiful than you know.  Loyal like none other.  Steadfast and honest above all else.  You feel deeper and think logically than most.  I won't say don't change, because that is inevitable.  What I will say is keep on keepin' on.  Trusting the Lord with all your heart, reading, learning, loving and taking those risks.  Continue serving everyone, everywhere.  Smile.  Find joy in the little things.  Be committed to what stirs your soul and causes tears to flow.  Don't lose your passion.  Ever.  Admit when you're wrong.  Give grace always.  Be you, no one else can do it quite like you can.  

I wait with anticipation to see where this year of 19 takes you.  I'll be praying along the way.  Not for boundaries and safety but for the unknown.  For you to have courage and be bold.  For relationships unexpected and for doors to open and close.  I'll be praying that you know how much you are loved.  My sunshine girl, I wish you a happy birthday!  Much love is being sent your way, today and always.  

xo, Mama

The Boy's 14th Birthday

Boxing Day.  The day after Christmas.  Otherwise known as Thing 4's birthday.  In our house, a pretty special day.  Thing 4 has his own birthday tree, updated this year to a blue table top tree with matching LED lights.  It sits in his bedroom and holds his birthday cards and presents.  Separate from our Christmas tree and no Christmas wrapping paper is allowed under that tree.  This year a present sat under that tree for almost an entire month and had Thing 4 guessing and wishing.  Hmmm.

For his day, this 14th birthday, Thing 4 chose each and every activity and meal, beginning with the Manchester United match, quite early, and a proper English breakfast; Of which I have no photographs, slacker Mom alert.  The Horel family joined us for breakfast and the morning of footie. It was quite wonderful.  From there it was on to the skate park with his new scooter and then family dinner at Burger Up with cake and ice cream to follow at our house.  G-pa and Mema joined us for cake and ice cream and then Husband Jared, Uncle Jeff and the birthday boy were off to the new Star Wars movie in IMAX.  From what I heard it was incredible.  Sun up to sun down was spent celebrating this boy of ours.  

Thing 4 attempting to keep his eyes open to watch his team.  Although, I may have shut my eyes through some of that match too, it was ugly.

After breakfast swings in the Eno.  

My birthday boy!  

The six of us at the table.  Birthdays are a big deal around here.  At family dinner we like to continue the celebration by sharing one thing we admire or love about the birthday person.  

The present he was waiting for, from his sisters.  That might be the look of disbelief right there!  

Strawberry cake with strawberry icing and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream for the birthday boy this year!  Make a wish!

The family!

Post Star Wars, 3-D glasses!  

One celebratory filled day in the books for this now fourteen year old.  Can't wait to see what the year holds for our teenager.