Tuesday, November 18, 2014

our crew 2014

Hello!!  I meant to write about our children in my last post, and I got a bit carried away.  So here is our update for this year as it is quickly coming to a close!

Our kind-hearted, reticent oldest is fast approaching the teen years!  Natalie turned twelve this year and grew at a somewhat alarming rate.  She is now a good five inches taller than me, and she passed me in shoe size long ago!  She's adjusting to middle school life and being responsible for a large amount of homework and projects.  I'm thankful that she knows what needs to get done and finishes it with little help from me.  Although she is growing up, I love that she still happily joins in on going ice skating, bike riding, to the park, and this year she was nearly as excited as Hallie about Disney on Ice.  She spent a very busy summer going to church camp in Kentucky, going to the beach with her friend Caroline, and then going on family vacations as well.  She also spent the summer volunteering at a therapeutic horse farm.  She's not old enough to help lead the horses yet so she was mainly just cleaning stalls, but she got to be around horses so she was happy about that.  She's still helping me and Michael every other week in the two year old room at church. She is so good and patient with them, and she usually chooses to stay behind while we go to worship to clean up and set up snack.  We usually have a few favorite kids we get excited to see, and then we're quite sad when they celebrate a birthday and have to move on.  She has also been the most enormous help to me when I go on photo shoots.  She'll hold the reflector for me, trek through fields with my little step stool, help make kids smile, blow bubbles, and when I have a bit of a drive she keeps me company. Currently I pay her with some sort of treat (froyo, ice skating, Starbucks), but we dream about making more money and taking an extravagant trip to Paris or London.  I think she helps set a fun tone for shoots, and a few weeks ago a sweet family gave her a $10 tip!  She can be pretty quiet with company, but when she opens up I think she has a pretty fantastic sense of humor and wit.

Our thoughtful, lego-loving, hard-working Ben turned nine this year.  He is mostly patient with the two sisters he's been sandwiched between.  They are friends as long as Hallie doesn't touch his legos, and no one steals the treat he's been saving.  He loves playing with the neighbors,  shooting his Nerf guns, playing baseball, and running around outside.
While Natalie galavanted off to camp and beaches during the first part of the summer he was hard at work taking reading classes, doing homework, and memorizing multiplication facts. Henry Huggins and his dog, Ribsy (Beverly Cleary's fictional characters for those who haven't met them) will forever have a place in my heart for being the ones to entertain Ben long enough for him to finish his first novel on his own.  Although he was working hard he still had a lot of time to relax and have fun this summer.  One morning, while we were in Hilton Head, Ben and I left the girls sleeping to go on a bike ride.  The light was streaming through the Spanish moss, the birds were swooping in to the water to fish, and the world seemed perfect and at peace.  He took the lead and kept looking back at me with a huge, excited smile.  Also, I finally got to take him to the fort in St. Augustine I first visited two years ago and couldn't wait to show him.  He did think it was pretty cool, especially the cannon fire reenactment, but way cooler than that was the alligator farm we went to after that.  It was quite a fun day!  I prayed all summer for him to have a great teacher and for his friend (from primary school), Andrew, to be in his class.  I did a little dance in front of the school when the classes were announced, and I think he's really blossomed with this teacher and having a good friend in his class.  I've been helping with science labs, and he really got into the owl pellet dissection (um gag) and the motion one was really fun (and much less gross).  When I visit his teachers every year they always say that he is kind and a good friend.  I don't think there is a higher compliment for a person.  I hope he is always those things.

Our captivating, energetic youngest turned four this year.  Hallie is perceptive, loving, funny and can start up a conversation with just about anyone.   When any of us is hugging anywhere in the house you will hear the uncanny tiny footsteps running towards you so she can take part in the hug too.   She has a flair for the dramatic, but I love the zest for life she carries.  At the end of her ballet season in the spring she had a recital.  She was not so excited about the routine or her itchy costume that day, and she fell asleep on the way to the theater.  So she really surprised me when she got on stage and flourished in the spot light.  She missed her cue at the end, and everyone laughed and said she stole the show!  She gets really excited about sparkly clothes and costumes. She found a ridiculously sparkly, hot pink dress at my sister's house in Kendall's closet.  Since Kendall never wore the dress she passed it to her, and Hallie wore it nearly every day for a month.  That was followed by a hot air balloon dress, a ballerina costume, a Russian nesting doll dress, and a bee costume that she wore in rotation for months.  The recent cold weather is the only thing that has forced her to add new clothes to the rotation.
She does gymnastics at the local Little Gym (sometimes in a bee costume) and looks forward to that every week.  I enjoy the time reading for one guilt-free, beautiful hour while she gets worn out (sort of).  Earlier this year I found a big tub of Little Pet Shop toys saved from when Nat was younger. If I need time to do something I bring it up from the basement and she entertains herself playing and talking to those little plastic guys for hours.  She loves to watch videos of people making things with Play Doh and then trying it for herself. She told me recently that she wants a color mixer and to add it to her Christmas list.  I asked where you find this and what it is exactly.  She told me with a passive wave of her hand that Santa would know all the details so I wouldn't have to worry about it. Right. Hmm.  If you meet her you will surely fall for her charms.  As exhausting as she can be a this age (she drew all over the carpet in blue crayon recently because the carpet "wasn't colorful enough"), she is a sweetheart that never fails to put a smile on my face.

Love to you and yours!!  We hope you have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving and a very merry Christmas!!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

the year of dreams

“Prayer adds an element of surprise to your life that is more fun than a surprise party or surprise gift or surprise romance. In fact, prayer turns life into a party, into a gift, into a romance.” - Mark Batterson

The year isn't quite winding down yet, but in anticipation of all of our holiday plans I thought I'd write up a re-cap of our year now while it's on my heart.  So there's this book, The Circlemaker by Mark Batterson, I've seen it many times and never picked it up.  Maybe that is not a coincidence because this year I was in just the right season of life for it.  My heart was so inspired to start dreaming, to ask and hope and imagine.  You can ask any of the people that knew me as a child, and they would tell you they knew I would be a mom and wife someday.  It's what I've always wanted. It was my dream.  My dreams came true, and I've loved loved being a stay at home mom for these twelve years.  So while I was reading this book I realized I have more dreams, and I had to ask myself if it is fair after having what you've always wanted to ask for more.  I have had a love for photography ever since I got my first camera, a Nikon Smiletaker, the Christmas I was ten.  My poor brother, I would dress him up and semi-force him into photo shoots.  I think my favorite one was him in pajamas and robe reading a newspaper.  I've been taking photos of my own kids, friends, and their kids for several years for fun, and in the past few years it has slowly morphed into a very small business.  I started to get frustrated with my photos, and them not turning out how I wanted.  Part of that being because I didn't know how to properly work my camera.  So after reading dozens and dozens of photography articles and watching online free classes I realized I needed to take a class in person, but I was afraid to ask for such a thing.  After reading The Circlemaker I found a new bravery and excitement in my heart to pursue photography, and I remembered a few people over the past few years suggesting these non-credit classes at UT. So I looked them up and with them being once a week night courses for a reasonable fee my heart starting beating with immense excitement that this might be something I could actually do.  So I asked Michael what he thought, and he...well really I can't capture in words this moment.  He has been so enormously supportive of me, and so I shouldn't have been so surprised that he thought I should absolutely do this and he would happily pay for it.  Then, the fear set in thinking of having to find a seat among strangers, parking in a parking garage at night, finding out I have zero talent, taking time away from my family...the list goes on.  Facing those fears has been the most liberating thing about this entire year.  I found friends in my classes, and in fact am going on a weekend class with one of them in a few hours.  I found a new voice, a new independence and a new passion to create art.  Since my first class, I started dreaming about more classes and my parents have generously said they will pay for me to finish my certification (this is 160 hours worth of classes and I currently have somewhere around 70).  I'm not sure where this is going exactly, but I do know I have loved pursuing this.  I have been photographing families, high school seniors, newborns, children, and I even got to do a shoot for a boutique.  So, speaking of dreams-- Michael got a new job this year!!!  Actually, he just started this week!  He is working with the same company, but in a different division.  He is working at the corporate office and he will also be traveling.  This job means so much to our family because he will be home a lot more- hurray!!  This means no weekends of working and more time off!  He has worked so hard in the different parts of this company and the experience, in my opinion, makes him so perfect for this job.  I know I wrote so much about me, and I'm writing so little about him but he doesn't like for me brag on him (which only makes me love him more).  Just know my heart is bursting for him and with the appreciation of what God has done for us this year.  I was going to write about what the kids are up to this year, but I will have to save that for the next post.

To my awesome and amazing friends and family, thank you for supporting me. I have literally wept with thankfulness for many of you.  Dream on dear friends, I wish you a year of dreams for yourselves!