whoa, GWO.

so a few weeks ago was GWO. you didn’t know? whoa. GWO.

girls weekend out, folks. it is a real thing and it happens every January. me and about 6 or 7 or 8 of my college buddies meet up for a weekend of LOTS of laughing, LOTS of games, LOTS of testimonies, LOTS of eating.

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I’ve written about these weekends before, but I just want to write again about how much I love the heart of these weekends, and that is…encouraging one another in Christ. it really does boil down to that. we each tell our ‘story’ of the year…over breakfast, over lunch, late at night (although our ‘late’ nights are getting earlier and earlier!), on hikes….then we each ask one question of the gal who tells their story, and one of us then prays for her. and it’s lovely.

when I got to our house we’d all rented for the weekend this past January, I hadn’t seen these girls in one year. most of them I hadn’t even talked to on the phone (we do several emails a year)…anyways, it was truly like no time had passed. we all even looked exactly the same (except one girl wasn’t pregnant anymore, thankfully)! mindy showed me around the house and we immediately dove to the heart of matters and within those first 30 minutes I could’ve packed up and returned home and my heart would have been full, encouraged, and loved.

and lemme just break this down. these girls are full of talent and intelligence. I am truly the least of them. I’m not sure why they ever asked me to come along. . hmmm. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s because I bring desserts.

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this is how excited we get over a game of dice.

one gal in Chattanooga studied piano at college. last year, she was wondering how this year would go, as her two kids would be in school all day. she wondered how God would direct her to use her time. and guess what she’s doing…her son was struggling to memorize Scripture verses from school so she began composing little tunes on the piano to match scripture. over this past year, this grew into creating whole cd’s of children’s scripture memory songs with her and her kids singing & playing piano, which the children’s department at her church is using! she brought one along with her and let me tell you…she.is.talented.

another gal is looking at starting her own cleaning & organizing business in Atlanta. because that is her passion, and who doesn’t want to get paid for what they LOVE to do?

another gal from Texas is a Doctor in School Psychology and right now a professor part time while the other part time she is raising her two boys, 17 months apart! (both in diapers….I can relate).

another Tennessee gal is the director of the children’s ministry at her church and she also teaches Zumba on the side. she’s given us lessons before, and I was secretly grateful we didn’t get around to that this year. because she kicked my tail.

and the other Atlanta gal is busy raising her two, part-time working at an amazing church there, who with her husband had just sold their home 3 days previous!

we have a new Florida GWO-ER, who we all knew and loved back in school. she shared from her heart how the past 15 years has rocked her whole being and left her empty and broken, angry and done, before Christ. her story of Grace, Redemption, Forgiveness, and Healing was so very encouraging in a lot of levels to each of us. I am so thankful she came this particular year. God knew we needed to hear her story.

our second Chattanooga gal just had her 4th about a year ago and is homeschooling. her husband is a lawyer who works tirelessly to put laws into place, protecting businesses and individuals from easily accessed pornography and prostitution rings. all in the name of Christ. what a need!

our Colorado gal didn’t get to come this year, but she just returned from Guam where she worked at the university there. she’s currently opening her home to female college students as a discipleship ministry, while she works as a pharmaceutical tech. no big deal, right?

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if you can’t tell, we’re pretty darn hilarious.

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I always leave these weekends feeling full and ready to tackle the few weeks in front of me. this year seemed even more pivotal. maybe I see us getting older, we are certainly wayyyy passed any honeymoon stages in marriage, kids, jobs….life is hard. it’s ugly, it’s exhausting, it shows me my sin-filled state so clearly. and it’s not pretty. but these weekends are a gift, to me, from the Gift-Giver. a chance to really laugh, be open, accepted, and most of all, encouraged and prayed for. so thankful!

holiday highlights.

oh it’s not the holidays anymore?

well shoot.

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these cookies were a highlight. and look, Elvis loves them too. that’s m’boy.

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this walk was a highlight. as Taylor said ‘this is the best day of my LIFE’. what can I say. my neighborhood is sorta like Disneyland. sorta. in West Rome, GA.

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these Christmas Eve steaks were pretty fantastic.

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this picture was a highlight. look at us. all smiley and stuff.

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meeting my new baby nephew Elijah was a highlight. look at those cute kiddos! t.r.o.u.b.l.e!

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this picture was one of the highlights of my entire Christmas.

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my mama reading one of the books she read to me, to my kids. that’s always a highlight and one for which I am particularly greatful for this year..

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I’m thankful for this relationship. my neice mari Olivia is sorta Natalie’s hero. aren’t they beautiful??

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this family, this year, is a highlight. this is Jenny Norton’s family. there is a whole mess of things to say here, but three words: God is good. and gracious. and He is working. that was more than three.

of course there were many other highlights that didn’t make it on camera…those are always the best highlights anyways.

so, is it January? cause it’s okay with me if we do it allllll over again.

the highlights.

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1: January. I guess she wanted to play in the dark?
2: February. standing on top of their playhouse, taunting the neighbors. sheesh.
3. March. 6 years way too old.
4. April. the Pals playground. I think I grew up here.
5.May. these two monkeys.
6. June. just some ballet at soccer practice.

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7. July. this deck. I painted it five times. don’t ask.
8. August. walking her to First Grade.
9. September. donuts in a van, on a rainy day.
10. October. their filthiness has ceased to shock me.
11. November. bountiful harvest, picked before the frost!
12. December. 3 kids, 2 egg beaters filled with cookie dough.

oh don’t worry, I’m not.

so there’s a lot of blogs and such going around written by very meaningful, precious mamas, aunts, authors, sisters, grandmas…that strongly and sweetly basically say ‘I see you there, little mama…don’t try to be perfect this season. the lights don’t have to hang just right, the children don’t have to decorate cookies every day..just enjoy This Season, enjoy Those Children, and that is enough!’

believe me when I say, I am doing a bang-up job NOT being perfect this season. and it feels lovely.

no, I’m not being sloppy and everyone is getting meaningful gifts (I mean, I hope so?)…but that one wrapping session I had went way faster because I left out the bows and ribbons. this sweet striped paper will do just fine. and look! when you put them under the tree the bows aren’t squished! (because there are none)….I wanted to make a batch of puppy chow because I think the girls would love it. did you know Walmart sells puppy chow in a big bag?? who knew! that bag is waiting to be opened on Christmas Day for snack time and it only cost me $4… our little tree from Lowes is alllllmost dead. and it’s still leaning. have you ever tried to level a tree with 3 little kiddos bouncing from foot to foot so stinking excited to decorate & not understanding they had to wait five more minutes so daddy and mama could make it stand up straight? after a couple good attempts we said ‘looks great. have at it.’

since school let out, this warm weather has spoiled me. wearing shorts, riding bikes, making mudpies. that is all those 3 want to do. so I let them until they absolutely had to bathe or eat..or, if you were one particular 2 year old, be drug inside because of bad behavior…and I watched from the window, or the deck, or from the front stoop. sad for them, if I interrupt their play to make a Christmas Memory. this IS their memory.

lets talk about breakfast. I don’t do this meal well. ever. I do give a great attempt on Christmas Morning, the Day of All Special Days. I used to make orange rolls from scratch, until halfway through baby #2. now I pop open a can of cinnamon rolls, Natalie’s favorite, and this year we’ll also make some eggs and fry up some sausage…and I know full well only the cinnamon rolls will be eaten. and they will be happy!

don’t tell the girls, but they wore their Christmas dresses from last year, their shoes may have been a bit scuffed and they absolutely will not let me put ribbons in their hair. but they twirled those dresses like that’s what they were born to do. and they were!

we did have a Christmas Craft Day, which I took Nat out of school for. how on earth can we make crafts with my best crafter sitting in a desk one mile down the road? anyways, those crafts aren’t perfect. but the memory of glitter on faces, food coloring staining shirts, and hands covered in paint is. I always say…that’s what bathtubs and vacuum cleaners are for.

I forgot the kids were also going to make a batch of cookies to take to my mama’s tomorrow…they were too busy chasing each other around the house…around and around and around…with the Christmas music blaring because turns out Jonathan loves a good song…so I quickly sliced that dough, stuck it in the oven and tadaaaaa. done. tomorrow, mom will ask if the kids made them.

nope. they were too busy playing!

so none of This Season is perfect, nor have I even tried to make it close to really super nice. it is just right, and we love It.

the tooth fairy blues

so Natalie has lost five teeth in 6 months. 2 of them have been this month. that’s great, you say. no, not great. not great if you really stink at being the Tooth Fairy.

the first tooth she lost I was totally on the ball. I snuck back in her room before I went to bed (first off, who really wants to risk waking their sleeping kid up at 11pm?) and stuck a whole dollar under her pillow. the second one I totally and completely forgot, until I met her the next morning at her art table before breakfast (I usually have to bribe the girls away from doing art at 7am to please come eat breakfast. it’s amazing the stuff they crank out first thing in the morning). she had the most dejected expression on her face.

I swore I would never ever forget again.

I have since forgotten twice since then. twice. the worst time was when I remembered about 6:45 am, just 15 minutes before I would wake her up. I quickly searched the kitchen counter where I’d laid it down the afternoon before…’here, mom!’ she said. ‘put this somewhere safe!’…’of course!’ I said, absently laying her white tooth on my white countertop. so it was that early morning when I realized I wiped all the counters off last night….fortunately for me, I had actually kept that first tooth she’d lost back in May. I ran to get it, a couple quarters, and prayed she wasn’t awake yet. in the dim light in her room, she was sitting up in bed. she immediately said ‘the tooth fairy didn’t come again.’ I came quickly to her bedside, saying ‘oh NOOOO, surely not. check again!’ in the 7 seconds it took me to say that, I stealthily slid those quarters and that little tooth under her pillow. and voila. happy girl.

she was a little confused about why her tooth was still there, to which I replied the tooth fairy is probably very busy and confused.

yep. that’s a pretty good description about the tooth fairy.

she lost her 4th on Tuesday evening, and I remembered everything. proud moment there. she lost her 5th yesterday at school, and I forgot it all last night. the tooth, the money…everything. as Emmett was tucking her in tonite, I heard him say ‘maybe she’ll come tonite..don’t worry.’

maybe she will. but she probably won’t! again! but I WILL make her breakfast, double-check her homework, make sure her library books are in her backpack for library day, clip the $3 for her Thanksgiving Feast next week to her folder, sign her progress report, lay out her clothes, and pack her lunch (and the same for the other two, minus the homework, plus more reminding, telling, and reminding again).

she’s five.

this girl. her name, in Greek, is literally Grace.

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when she was 1, she was such a Joy and sweet delight.

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when she was 2, she had us laughing all.the.time.

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when she was 3, I realized why God impressed upon us to name her Karis..

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because we needed more Grace. and so did she.

when she was 4, I realized, hey. this kid is just like me!

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I adore how utterly filthy she gets, while wearing her favorite ‘donut dress’…I love that she had a huge big ginormous meltdown because we didn’t understand her need for her own rocking chair for her to sew in…I love that in whatever situation we have, she can make a card for it….I love and understand her need to be outside getting dirty….I love her passion for her few best friends…I love her need to watch a good movie with not one but two bowls of popcorn. I love her fierceness in her play, her compulsion in loving others, her compassion for the hurting and her honest longing to meet Jesus.

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it’s been amazing with you, these five years. amazing in so many ways. yes and amen.

things I hear myself saying #3

so, first grade has started. we’re experiencing some early mornings, some car lines, some bonding with two younger siblings. it’s different, but all very good. except for the bad, of course.

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here are a few things I’m saying. because you’ve missed it, that’s why.

1. eat your breakfast. like, go ahead and pick up your food. now.

2. we’re taking Nat to school. no, you can’t color on the way. because it’s two minutes away. we’re dropping her off, not picking her up. do you see her sitting next to you?? right.

3. how did you two get so filthy before 9:00 in the morning??

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4. no, you can’t hang on the grocery cart. because you’re too heav-…I mean, the cart is hot lava.

5. it’s Friday! the last day! no, not your last school day ever. the last day of this particular first week of school.. sorry.

6. karis: ‘actually, mama, I don’t like playing with Jonathan because I don’t like playing with babies.’ me: ‘well, Karis, that’s just not kind at–‘ karis: ‘OH LOOK!! A MOTH!! JONATHAN, SQUISH IT!!’ (running away) me: mmmkay.

7. lay down, it’s bedtime. head on the pillow. put your legs down, I’m trying to tuck you in like a sweet mama. stopppppp pulllinnnng myyyy shirrrrrt. I love you. i’m so proud of—HEAD ON THE PILLOW–you. (big smile, assuring pats, walking backwards, towards the door..) hmmm? what, sweetheart? yes, I’ll ask daddy if you can get a pet fish. yep, so goodnight!

8. please do not eat your yogurt with your fingers. use your spoon. no, your spooooooon. if you just picked up your sandwich with two hands and took a bite, it wouldn’t be in a million pieces on the floor, your hair, or your brother. do not lick your sandwich, me, or him. do not eat your cereal with your fingers. i know you’re picking out the pink ones, but use your spoon. do not slurp the milk out to get to the pink ones, either. please stoppppppppp acting like a four year old.

9. let him squish the frog. it’s okay, that’s what boys do. don’t cry, just walk away. help me pick flowers.

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10. you can’t go to school with Natalie because I need you at home just a little bit longer. you make me laugh. you make me crazy, but you make me laugh.