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.
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!!!