Saturday, December 29, 2012

What a Guy!

As if waking up with the boys this morning and feeding them breakfast so I could get a couple extra hours of sleep wasn't enough, Riley then offered to take them to Barnes and Noble to let them play with the trains so I could have a quiet morning to myself catching up on housework and preparing for another little trip to Lynchburg! 

What a guy! ♥

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

"Good Christian men rejoice
with heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say,
Jesus Christ is born today!"



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Stories

"...And there they were all safe and warm,
All together in that ancient barn
When hail--the first wail of a newborn babe reached the night
Where one great star was burning bright
And shepherds with their sheep
Are come to watch Him sleep.

What child is this who is born here
Where the oxen stomp and peer,
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
What child is this who lays down His sweet head?..."

-Excerpt from Christmas in the Barn, Margaret Wise Brown

This book is one I hadn't heard of before this season, but we found it at our local library and it's quickly become one of my favorites.

It's beautifully written, and gives me chills when I'm reading it to my children.
Children's books do this often to me. Is that odd?

Christmas stories are one of the best parts of the Christmas season.
It's so cozy to snuggle up and read tales of Christmas trees and snowmen, shepherds and angels, mistletoe and  holly with my children.

Another favorite book of ours is actually a sing-along book. It's the first verse of Silent Night, beautifully illustrated by Darcy May.

Asher always makes me sing and read it.  :)

The Christmas story is one of the greatest stories ever told on this earth.
Jesus, God, coming to earth as a baby.
Angels lighting up the night sky, bursting with song.
A star so unique that it sent wise men from the East all the way to bethlehem to worship a little child.
An evil King Herod, reminding us of why Jesus had to come.
Visions and inspired dreams.
A virgin mother, and a caring husband, and barn animals.
Prophesies fulfilled in a way that absolutely baffled the world.

This story is bursting with magic and wonder.

It's impossible to beat the story that God told on this earth that Christmas morning over two thousand years ago.  But, that said, we do enjoy all sorts of Christmas tales this time of year! 

Happy reading!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Jammies

It's the third Sunday of Advent! The boys got advent jammies today...

I bought the red shirts at Walmart for just $3 each.
I made the fleece pajama bottoms... in a frantic scurry last night.
(Classic me!)
They're cute little snowmen in red and green scarves.

It was my first attempt at sewing any kind of clothing. I did it without a pattern, and somehow they turned out! Amazing!

I am so thankful for these boys of mine. God has been very gracious to us. I've held them a little tighter this weekend, having been reminded of the blessing the breath of life truly is. 

We enjoyed a lovely worship service this morning in a new church building, the boys took nice long naps, and we devoured a delicious slow-cooked roast for dinner.
Warm pudding (chocolate, not figgy...) topped us off, and now we're winding down for the evening.
(And Mommy is winding up for another evening packed with projects! Tis the season!)

Wishing you all a blessed advent Sunday!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas: This is No Time to Whisper

Our house is officially bursting with Christmas. I love seeing little festive reminders of the most wonderful season of the year gracing each room. A bouquet of evergreens in the bedroom, a pine scented candle in the bathroom, advent candles on the table, and of course the beautiful Christmas tree as the focal point of our living area; they all cry out,


Our little decorations loudly declare the glories of Christmas, and Christmas is a good thing to shout about! Christmas is about more than a baby being born in a barn. It is about God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, becoming human. The incarnation. God the infinite, reducing Himself to finite man. The spiritual becoming material, flesh and blood.

To quote Doug Wilson, "The one who spoke the galaxies consented to have His diapers changed."

And through His birth, death, and resurrection, He redeemed His creation.
Without His birth, there would be nothing in which to rest our faith and our hope.
But He was born. In a stable. And the Word became flesh.

This is huge.

So, it is good and well that we make a big deal out of this holiday! It is fitting to have material reminders of the most material happening in the history of our world. God becoming flesh. Something that could be touched, held, seen.

So, we decorate our house, and do so robustly. And we eat chocolate. Lots of chocolate. And we sing at the top of our lungs.


The Christmas gospel has been declared in our home for awhile now. Since I hosted the brunch on the first of December, we took full advantage of the excuse to get ready a little earlier than normal! (Although, if you knew how early I used to decorate for Christmas in high school, you'd think the week after Thanksgiving is pretty good for me! My parents actually made a rule that I wasn't allowed to decorate until after my birthday.... which is in the middle of October. haha!)

Since we've been enjoying the decor for a few weeks, the tree has definitely started showing signs of... shall we call it love?
My bead garland is a bit wonky, and the majority of ornaments have migrated up (or made their way into the basket of "ornaments awaiting repair")but for the most part it's managed to withstand running jumps, couch cushion warfare, and rambunctious children crawling beneath it and around it. It's still a festive centerpiece in our home, and is absolutely magical at night.

Christmas cheer can be found all over the house! 
I made my very first fresh garland...

I still haven't taken the pom-poms down from the brunch, and while I originally planned to, they're a fun addition to the decor, and coordinate nicely with the lovely advent calendar Grammie sent the boys...

A splash of red in the kitchen...

Nativity on the short bookshelf...

The boys love to play with it! It's ceramic, and I'm shocked at how gently they pick up the pieces. It's like they know it's something special.

Then there's my lovely blue mason jar gracing my desk in my room, displaying a bunch of arborvitae and a red ribbon...

The boys' room features a decorated garland this year... 

Last year I had a miniature tree set up with all of our childhood ornaments Riley and I had collected over the years. This year, since the boys often love to play in (read: destroy) their room by themselves, I draped this garland above their closet door, so they can still have the cheerful blinking lights without the risk of breaking ornaments. (Or, more importantly, the risk of Mommy having to re-hang them all every single day!!)

And lastly, the living room is very festive, especially when it's actually picked up!

The cork board you see hanging to the left of the front door usually hosts colorings the boys draw or the most recent batch of birthday cards, but it will be packed full of Christmas cards by the end of the season! (How fun!)

But, while it's peaceful and cheery when the room is tidy, there's a real sense of wonder and joy that comes from boys and toys sprawled out on the floor...

Christmas with children old enough to get giddy about it is so much fun.

We're shouting the joys of Christmas loudly over here. I hope to hear you joining in the chorus!
Happy Christmas!


Advent is the season of anticipation, looking forward to the coming of the Christ to Earth as a baby.
We like to celebrate advent in a way that builds Christmas up. We like to think of it as a foretaste of the explosion of joy that will happen at the climax of this season: Christmas Day.

Ready for church! 2nd Sunday of Advent, and lookin' good!

It's been so fun to see our Advent traditions slowly develop and grow richer over the last few years.
For starters, I like to make extra nice Sunday dinners during Advent, and I set the table with festive linens.

Each night during advent we follow a little liturgy our family has developed, and it's lots of fun!
When we sit down to the table, we turn all the lights off in the house, and then light the candles on the advent wreath as we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

The boys absolutely love it, and I have to admit there's something magical and powerful about singing in the dim candlelight. (Thank you to the Coopers for the idea!) Since tonight was the second Sunday of Advent, we lit two of the candles on the wreath, and the room shone just a little bit brighter than last week.

Think how bright they will shine on Christmas, when we change our hymn to Joy to the World

We pray over the food in the candlelight, and then flip the lights on and enjoy the feast. 

Tonight's meal featured Alfredo Penne with Italian Diced Chicken!
It was delicious!

As dinner winds down, Riley reads from the Bible. We ordered some Advent readings but they still haven't arrived. We'll switch to those when they do finally come in! When he finishes reading we sing a Christmas carol from our hymn books, Riley prays again, and we sing the Doxology with hands lifted high (Asher stands on his chair so his can be the highest). Then the boys take turns blowing the candles out!
And then we have treats. (Of course!)

On Sundays, the boys get a little gift to open after dinner. Tonight they each received a canvas bag with their names embroidered on them (Thank you Lands End Black Friday sales!), to use as travel totes on our trips to Lynchburg. Inside they found a fun book to read!

And lastly, each morning the boys find a miniature stocking hanging on the tree, stuffed with a little surprise waiting for them. They come downstairs bleary eyed, squinting in the brightness of the lights (because they're always up long before the sun!), giddy and dancing as they take their stocking down to find a couple M&Ms or some other sweet treat hiding inside. 

I sewed these stockings, which are miniatures of their normal-sized stockings, to use for advent this year. One year I'd like to make an advent calendar filled with notes describing fun activities or privileges they will enjoy each day, but for right now the M&Ms really hit the spot.

I pulled out the Christmas train for the first time this season!
It was a big hit.

We sure love making our celebration of  Christmas as big as it can get. Our little family will continue to develop new traditions, rich and full and sweet. And it's fun to think about how our Advent celebrations will look years from now. 

We'll probably be really good at partying by then!

Happy second Sunday of Advent!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Beautiful Mess


Ironically, as Asher was creating this masterpiece in the middle of the living room floor, he exclaimed excitedly, "Mama! I building you a beautiful house!" I have to admit, it made me laugh.

His idea of beauty differs slightly from mine... *wink*

But, as we all know, messes tend to prompt lots of fun. 
Before I knew it, this was happening:

And some of this:

And then, Child-at-Heart-Daddy joined in on the fun:

That picture makes me laugh every time I see it.

Then, they didn't want Gray to feel left out, so he jumped in, too:

Way to whoop it up, boys.
And the house got back to Mommy's idea of "beautiful" in no time.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Brunch

To kick off the Advent season (which begins tomorrow!) I hosted a Christmas Brunch with some of my very sweet friends from Providence Church in Lynchburg. They very kindly drove all the way to my home to spend the morning with me!

Food Table


Miniature Crustless Quiches
Ham with Praline Sauce
Miniature Yogurt Parfaits
Shortbreads with Strawberries Devonshire
Chocolate Ricotta Muffins
Citrus Fruit Platter

Beverages: Coffee, Hot Cocoa, & Cranberry Mimosas

Drinks Table

Kiwi and Pomegranate Yogurt Parfaits
Shortbreads and chocolate muffins

I also made some after-brunch treats!
Peppermint Bon-Bons and Vanilla Meringues

We played a Christmas game, sang carols, and shared our families' advent traditions. 
It was a lovely time of friendship and fellowship.
I expected nothing less... :)

 These ladies are really so dear to me. I've been blessed beyond measure to rub shoulders with such godly, inspiring Christian women.
(And they helped provide a great deal of the food, too!)

Tamara, Elizabeth, Meg, Matthew, Megan, Toni, Katie, Holly
It was a treat to have them in my home!

Happy Advent!

* * *

p.s... I posted the recipes I used for my Peppermint Bon Bons and the Peppermint Fudge I gave as a door prize over on my church's recipe blog, Providence Table. Hop on over and enjoy some peppermint goodness this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry ice cream.

It's never really been listed among my favorite flavors, although I do think it is quite delicious. It's not the flavor I typically buy, but it holds a place very dear in my heart.

Today marks the four-year anniversary of the death of my absolutely wonderful Grandma Lois.
As she was dying in the hospital (with the most cheerful heart and kind spirit you could imagine), one of the foods she requested most was strawberry ice cream.

When her lungs finally failed her and she breathed her last, she was surrounded by about 30 members of her family. All seven of her children were gathered around her bed, with their children and their children's children.
The pastor from my parent's church offered up a prayer as her soul left her body, and at the amen we all decided that there was one thing left to do before we left her hospital room.

Eat strawberry ice cream.

It was absolutely fitting, and I think it was a wonderful way to mingle our grief with our fond memories and the joy of a life well lived. The joy we couldn't help but have, because our lives had been touched directly by her.
And she was full of the joy of a risen Savior.
That joy couldn't help but overflow, spilling out onto anyone who came near.

So, strawberry ice cream holds a special spot in my heart. 
It makes me think of my Grandma, and I always love to think of her!

Before she died I was able to tell her that I was (very newly) pregnant with Asher, and her excitement burst out of her lips with a squeal and a, "Ooooohhh, you're going to have so much fun!!!!"
She told me that she was going to float through the sky over to Virginia and watch me playing with my children. That I would just absolutely love it, and she was so excited to watch me.

When I'm outside, I often look up at the sky and smile.

Grandma was the sort of person who was impossible not to love, and I'm so glad to have had such a wonderful example to follow. I'm so thankful to have been close enough to her to be regularly showered with her loving kindness.

She has been one of the greatest examples to me, both in her life and her death, and I aspire daily to match her servant's heart, her kind lips, her contagious smile and her continual outpouring of a love that never ran out.

I want to be her when I grow up.  :)

To my sweet Grandma, I miss you dearly! And I'm eating strawberry ice cream tonight, because I know it would make you smile.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Coffee Break

So, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have, in my care, two pretty good little nappers. 
Both of my boys lie down in the afternoon and give me around an hour and a half (on average) of quiet time.

This is Mommy’s coffee break, and I have been taking full advantage of it!
I used to use this time to frantically catch up on the house that’s managed to fall apart (once again!) and start prepping dinner. Or sometimes I would collapse on the couch and close my eyes and tell myself that if I couldn’t see the mound of toys (piled on top of the mound of unfolded laundry), then it didn’t exist.

One day I decided that instead of a nap (or a massive cleaning spree that resulted in a Mama who really needed a nap but was suddenly joined by two rambunctious toddlers with a fresh wave of energy), I was going to sit, drink a cup of coffee, and read a few chapters of Scripture. I felt so rejuvenated after my little break, that I’ve kept it up and now consider it a vital part of my med-school survival plan! (hah) 
I find it much more effective than a nap, incredibly nourishing to my soul, and a wonderful way to stimulate my mind, which rarely gets a workout beyond that which a conversation with a three-year-old can muster.
My coffee break has morphed to almost a full hour of reading. I am plowing my way through the New Testament, and have been drinking in some wonderful, uplifting wisdom from books on practical Christian living, and how that translates to me specifically as a wife and mother. I often pop into some of my favorite blogs and read stimulating posts on a wide range of topics (everything from motherhood and crafting to politics and theology!) written by people much wiser than myself!

I find it so refreshing, that when I am done I feel ready to tackle the world! (Even the small little one I live in day to day! Which is good, because it usually needs a good tackling!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Don't be a Dragon

This is my little dragon.

Now, there is nothing wrong with pretending to be a dragon, but here's the thing: My son likes to gather all his beloved toys (far more than he can physically play with at one time) and then pile them up into a heap. He sits on top with a scowl on his face, and does his very best to keep his little brother away. He doesn't actually want to play with them, he just wants to make sure Grayson doesn't. They're his, after all. No one gets to touch his stuff.

And we all know dragons do that sort of thing.
(That is, if you read the right sorts of books...)

So far I've managed to refrain from nick-naming
Asher "Smaug"

"Being a Dragon" has become a legitimate offense in our house. I frequently have to remind Asher that he is acting like a dragon, and that selfishness is not allowed in our home. It's hard not to smile when commanding, in a stern-like voice, "Asher, don't be a dragon."
Motherhood is full of silly little things like that.

Now, I think this sort of selfishness is normal in a three year old. (At least I hope??) But this basic form of selfishness grows as we do, and it rears its ugly head at all ages. For example, since having children I've been surprised to find out how selfish I am about my sleep. I have to pray every night before I go to bed that the Lord will help me prevent fire flaming from my nostrils when my toddler greets me before six o'clock in the morning. (It helps when I get to bed at a decent hour!) 

Selfishness is always destructive, both to yourself and to those around you. Selfishness destroys homes, shatters friendships, rips apart marriages, and is the driving force behind those nasty self-pity-parties. Dragons are destroyers, and the only way to avoid this destruction is to avoid thinking about ourselves too much. The trick is to think out. Don't think about what you don't have, give thanks for what you do. Don't think about all the ways the world has let you down, think of all the blessings God has showered upon you. And then look to the people around you and consider the ways you can bless them. We are called to be thankful, and we are called to serve out of that thankfulness. This is our Christian duty, and this is the only weapon that can defeat dragons.

If you find that you dwell on yourself often (your circumstances, your looks, your desires, etc.), whether positively or negatively, you may want to grab yourself a sword and shield and prepare yourself for battle. There are beasts lurking in the shadows, ready to wreak havoc on your loved ones.
God has called you to knighthood. 

"Above all, [Take] the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
Ephesians 6: 16-17

As I train Asher in the ways of kindness, it is my hope and prayer that he will learn to conquer selfishness at an early age, and therefore be equipped to slay those dragons as he continues to grow into a godly man. If he achieves knighthood as a young boy, those fire-breathing beasts will be easy to recognize, track, and kill when he's a man.

But first we have to get him to learn that he's not the dragon. 
He's the one to slay it.


p.s... this little guy doesn't seem to think he's a dragon, 
but he may have other issues going on...

I walked into the room and found him like this.
Completely stripped and in Asher's coyboy boots.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

19 Months of Grayson Goodness and Other Randomness...

So, Gray turns 19 months today! I know, not really that monumental, but I'm continually reminded of how quickly he is growing up.

He's shooting up like a weed, and any concerns we had about his health have almost completely vanished. 
Seriously, this kid is so tall. And his feet? Wow. HUGE.

Last night we took his pacifier away for good. We expected to be in for a long night and an early, early morning. We were pleasantly surprised! He didn't even cry. I guess it was time!

He's talking more and more, and even singing. This is a fun treat, because Asher still, to this day, won't participate in singing. I have no doubt he knows the songs, but he would rather sit quietly (or not so quietly) than try to chime in. 

Gray is such a fun little guy to have around! He smiles all the time, cuddles on command, and absolutely loves to read books with his Mommy. (So much so that if I'm distracted on the computer I can count on being surprised by a random book being thrown in my face! Subtlety isn't listed among his virtues.)

My boys are growing so fast, I can barely keep up.

Asher now uses the potty largely without assistance. I often walk by the bathroom door and find him sitting in there with a big smile on his face. (No doubt thinking about the treat he is going to get when he's done!) He's learning at lightning speeds, and asks questions ALL THE TIME. While he doesn't ask the famous "why... why... why..." very often, he will ask you "what's that mean" with a similar zeal. And he can quote Toy Story like nobody's business.
(Don't tell him, but Woody and Buzz will be here on Christmas morning, waiting under the tree! Many thanks to Gramma and Pappy! Yippee!!! I can't wait. I'm tempted to pull them out of the box and play with them myself! How fun is this??)

My boys run laps around the house (literally!), scream louder than I knew was humanly possible, pull all the cushions off the couch at least twice a day, tackle each other on endless repeat, and delight in trading sippy cups full of milk. 
You've heard of Milk Duds? They're milk-buds. (Doughty humor alert!!)

I can't believe how big my babies are!!!
Today I've been focusing on being as sponge-like as possible. I have to soak up as much of this fun, little stage as I can. It will be over in a blink...