Category Archives: Family

Noelle’s Frozen Birthday Party

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As I was planning for Cate’s party, I remembered the last time we had any sort of celebration was a year ago, Noellie’s 4th. She has a summer birthday, but since I knew the boys were coming early (I didn’t know how early!) we had a surprise birthday party for her in May.

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I think one of the highlights of my life was throwing a surprise party for Noelle. It was SO fun planning secretly, then quickly decorating during her afternoon room/rest time, letting Anna help with everything– and Anna was so sweet, so great, not a hint of jealousy that her younger sister was getting a surprise party.

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Like almost any other little girl in America a year ago, Noelle was obsessed with Frozen. : ) So coming up with a party idea wasn’t difficult at all!

frozen3At the end of her rest time, I helped her get dressed… a year ago she dressed up as Elsa everyday, complete with a cape and dress and braid. So I helped her get dressed, and I won’t forget how fun it was to walk her downstairs to a roomful of people who loved her, the Frozen soundtrack playing, presents, and ‘Frozen’ treats. She had NO idea!

 

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I could not have done this party without my parents! Seriously. I was (unbeknownst to me) just a few week away from delivering, on partial bedrest, VERY pregnant, VERY tired, with very little energy! My dad drew Noelle’s favorite part of the movie — the ice palace — on the chalkboard. He also painted Anna and Elsa peg dolls. My mom made most of the desserts, handled the punch, and made the ice candy to go on the cake (see here, here, and here for inspiration!) Thanks so much, Mom & Dad. : ) frozen5 frozen6 frozen7 frozen8

 

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Cate’s 3rd Birthday

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Last month we had the joy of celebrating our middle daughter Cate’s 3rd birthday with a fun little family party. This year I really wanted to have a bright, cheery party for my Cate. Her birthday last year fell between my trips to the Cincinnati Fetal Center (for the TTTS), and while we made the best of that birthday, I wanted to let her have the excitement of another party this year. : )

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As always, I drew my inspiration for Cate’s party from — what else? — patterned paper, this time using We R Memory Keeper’s Inked Rose collection. Painted mason jars & tins, striped paper straws, pink posters, and painted canvas — it was nice to spend some rest times crafting these decorations.

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I was out of pretty ribbon to tie up her packages, so I used a copper-colored sharpie and drew right on the wrapping paper… addicted! I think I’m going to decorate every package this way, now!

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I had arranged a desk with silver tins of paints and brushes, and we were going to have the kiddos paint their own 8×10 canvases as part of the party. But the day was pretty lovely, and between my sister and me we have EIGHT lively, loud, playful children. We sent the non-babies outside instead. And just cuddled the babies. ; )

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Nicknames Minibook

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I tend to make minibooks in groups, working with the same paper or shape back-to-back. I made this nickname minibook right along with my Learning from Anna minibook I shared last week. It even used the same paper!

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We are a nickname family. I know — that’s annoying to some people, but those silly nicknames just keep coming with each tiny human we add to our family. : ) This was a fun, simple, and quick mini to make: I just used alphabet stickers to spell out each of our nicknames, each person got two photos, and the paper is cut 4×8.

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I made this a year ago… that is why the boys are not present in this mini. : ) They have plenty of nicknames already, though! The girls have joined me in a mutual love for affectionate, goofy monikers.

 

nicknames4I’m glad I did this! Some nicknames are still in use, and others have already been traded in for newer, funnier nicknames. (Like “George Washington” for Cate!)

 

A “Coffee Party” for Rust

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My sweet Anna is always dreaming up adventures, planning parties & gatherings, and coming up with all sorts of ideas. She is so different from me, yet I think because of our differences, we really click. She stretches me and continually helps me move out of my (very-introverted) comfort zone (like wanting to knock on every door in our neighborhood to meet people, invite everyone in our church to their birthday parties, pass out cookies or treats to people we meet, write people we’ve only met once or twice friendly letters, and on and on). I love this about her! She teaches me so much and helps me grow as a person. : )

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One idea she had was to throw a “coffee party” for Rust, since Rust loves coffee. She wanted to invite practically the whole world and ask everyone to bring him coffee (love the heart behind it!), but since Rust is an introvert like me and hates to be in the spotlight, we just made it a family party (our clan + my parents–Rust’s parents happened to be coming the next weekend for Cate’s birthday party!).

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We made coffee cookies and had chocolate fondue with way too many sweets, something we haven’t done in almost two years (had fondue, that is… we have had plenty of sweets in the last two years)!

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I have a very rough draft of a post I wanted to write about Rust for Valentine’s Day, then his birthday… but it has been SO difficult to put into words what he has meant to me during my last year… through a complicated pregnancy, a NICU stay, and an almost year-long fog of very little sleep. To have been continually served when at my weakest physically; to have been loved when I have been stretched thin and unlovable; to have been quickly forgiven when snappy, or selfish, or stressed… He has quietly tended to our family the past year, often taking most (if not all!) of my load, and never resenting me–for being weak, for never getting it all done, for forgetting simple daily things, for getting stressed or snarky or selfish. He is not perfect, I’m not saying he is, and he would never say he is, but I say–he has loved us all so well. Beautifully well.

So this little coffee party was a fun “thank you!” and a fun “you are loved!” and I am SO glad my Anna just kept insisting we do it! She loves so well. Like her Daddy.

One Year Ago, Today

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One year ago today, I thought my twin pregnancy was finally getting easier — or, at least, manageable! My nausea had subsided, I was getting off the couch for longer periods, and I was celebrating the news our twins were boys.

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One year ago today, we had not officially decided the names of our boys. We had settled on Noah Ryan for our Baby A, but we were still deciding Baby B.

One year ago today, I had my first appointment with the maternal fetal specialist, an appointment I wasn’t really prepared for, an appointment I went to alone because I was told “not to worry,” and that it was “no big deal.”

One year ago today, Rust was out of town traveling for a few nights.

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One year ago today, I ended up being at the maternal fetal specialist appointment for three hours while they had a long anatomical ultrasound for both boys. The ultrasound tech spent forever looking at Baby B, and as I watched her spend so much time measuring him, my heart cried out, “Something’s wrong with Grayson!” and I knew that was his name.

One year ago today, my maternal fetal specialist very gently told me about Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, how our boys were showing signs, and how I would need to go to Cincinnati for further evaluation while I cried.

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One year ago today, I drove around after my appointment, crying, calling Rust, not even sure where I was driving, coming home to sweet joyful girls, not sure what to think.

One year ago today, Rust cried on the phone with me, prayed for me, and later texted me James 5:11, “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

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One year ago today began the long second-half of my pregnancy, full of ups & downs, tears and hope, unknowns and new friends, hospital visits, long worrisome nights, wrestling with faith & hard questions, travels & bedrest, finally culminating in our baby boys’ early births & NICU stay, then home home home where — one year later — life is FINALLY seeming “normal”.

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One year later, our family is so much closer because of what we have gone through.

One year later, I get to spend my day with five joyful souls who are loud, cheery, and brimming with life.

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One year later, our life is still chaotic & unpredictable, but this time I have two almost-mobile, almost-sleeping-through-the-night boys to thank for that — not constant doctor appointments, hospital visits, or fear of the future.

One year later, I watched yesterday at an allergist appointment as Grayson gave open-mouthed slobbery kisses to the nurse who was holding him, while Noah gave me an open-mouthed slobbery kiss as the doctor was trying to talk to me, and I thought, “I love these kids.”

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One year later, I have the honor to take my boys to their nine-month check-up this afternoon, and as much as it is a lot of work, I am joyful that I get to do it.

One year later, I am a changed woman, who the past year saw God love us, and love us, and love us again through our family, friends, church community, and beyond.

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One year later, I am more in awe of Him & the way He works — how He unites the horrible, hard, and scary and somehow outlines it in beauty, shades it with goodness, and uses it to amplify His grace and love.

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A repost: Vday Chalk + Thoughts

Last year’s Valentine’s Day, I was in the grip of twin pregnancy nausea, and my own memory of Vday is only that a sweet friend who watched the girls for me helped them each make a sweet Valentine’s Day surprise for me, which is already on display this year! : )

This is a repost from two years ago. Rereading this post was what I needed to give me that push to brainstorm & plan celebrating Valentine’s Day with the girls this year. I am still working out what we will do for that day, but reading this gave me a great place to start!

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Rust & I have never gone crazy over Valentine’s Day for various reasons. We’ve never done anything fancy, and the first Valentine’s after we had gotten engaged, we began the tradition of just staying in & enjoying take-out pizza. In a sense, we kind of “skip” Valentine’s Day every year. The day is just not a big deal. Yet this year was the first year I awakened to the fact that even if I don’t feel like I need an over-commercialized day to be a time for me to be validated & affirmed that I am loved & remembered, I have three little hearts who are constantly looking to be filled up with love & delight. I have three very big, very precious love tanks in need of filling! And while Rust & I seek to do this daily, through our care & nurture of our little girls, why not GO BIG on Valentine’s Day? Especially since Anna was brimming with excitement over pink & hearts & little cards & sweets?

So, my goals for this Valentine’s Day became:

  • Share with them God’s deep, incredible, steadfast, overflowing love for them.
  • Share with them that we treasure, love, and delight in them, because they are our precious daughters and because God gave them to us.
  • Help them see that they have so much love to give to those around them, and that we can love freely, because God freely loves us; and that by loving others, we not only impart God’s love, but we also express our love for God.

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So we made pink cupcakes with red sprinkles for ourselves & for friends and family. We cut out hearts & colored them for others & delivered them around our neighborhood. We had a pj day because the girls love their jammies. We talked about verses from the Bible of God’s amazing love (on the chalkboard above). We appreciated the sweet Valentine’s cards & treats & gifts from friends & family. Rust surprised the girls with heart balloons (Anna’s favorite!). And we followed an inspiring mom‘s example and did a little experiment to illustrate God’s love pouring over us. (She has other great ideas I can’t wait to try in the years to come!) (She is one of my favorite bloggers!!)

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I’m so thankful my girls’ infectious excitement helped change my ho-hum attitude about Valentine’s Day. I’m thankful they spent the day in eager anticipation for what was next. I overheard Anna say to Noelle, “I just LOVE Valentine’s Day!” I do, too, now, little girl, thanks to you!

House Musings: One Year In

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We are one year in to our 1980’s tri-level! So much has happened during the first year in our home, though not in the way we expected.

If you had asked us last August what we’d like to have happened in a year, we would have dreamily rambled on about having so many rooms painted, so many things updated (master bath! light fixtures!), projects we’d be saving up for (a nice complete kitchen overhaul), and on and on, things we planned on tackling together… oh, we were so ambitious!

Here’s how our year went down…

only 4 rooms painted, 2 rooms with trim replaced, 1 80’s toilet replaced after it overflowed, 1 long drawn-out septic tank fiasco that resulted in our yard being dug up (all this, of course, during our traveling to Cincinnati for the twins!), 4 sets of blinds broken, our favorite oak tree struck by lightning & cut down, a happy but surprising twin pregnancy complete with non-stop nausea the first four months, complications, premature delivery, and a NICU stay. Whew!

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Not exactly the way we planned it!

Yet, if I switch lenses — from looking at all we didn’t do — and instead look at the sweet everyday blessings that were given to us, here is how our year went down…

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Our littlest daughter learned to walk on our hardwood floors. We welcomed with joy two new little souls into our hearts & homes. We hosted friends & family for dinners. Our daughters discovered a love of insects & animals they watched & found in our yard.

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We saw friends willingly & lovingly give their time and energy to help us paint rooms & assemble cribs while the boys were in the NICU; friends & family who helped us figure out septic tank and plumbing issues; friends who donated trim and tools. We had friends & family give us meals during the nausea stage of my pregnancy, and give again while I was at the NICU, and give again and again; friends who came over and played with my girls, made them laugh, baked with them, colored with them, filled up their love cups, watched them during my appointments, and stayed with them all day so Rust could work while I was at the NICU. Our new home witnessed all of that.

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Our home witnessed lonely nights of prayers & tears over the future of our boys, over how hard everything seemed; our home witnessed rejoicing and laughter, celebrations and even one Frozen party.

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We celebrated fall with trees that had leaves that changed color! We celebrated Christmas with a cozy fire & the echoing laughter of our girls.

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We started our second year of homeschooling in this house, and the space downstairs has been perfect for it… learning, talking, crafting, coloring…

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Our three girls moved into one room this summer, and have learned how to live & play with different personalities, share spaces, compromise, apologize, forgive…

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There is still so much to be done in our house, and sometimes I can feel overwhelmed! We are at a snail’s pace with home improvement, and I can easily get impatient. Yet thinking back on all the blessings scattered through our first year in our home, even in the midst of the stresses of toilets failing, medical issues, a backyard dug up, I am thankful for our home & our year.

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Four weeks in AND shop sale!

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We are HOME! We have been home four glorious, tired, joyful, stretching weeks! Some days are smooth and dreamy, where the house runs like a nice little machine & there’s laughter, messes, much snuggling, and fun. Other days take a nose dive into chaos & crying right away, where it all runs away from me, and I spent the whole day trying to catch up & catch my breath. Everyday, though, is full & fast, and there is a bright spotlight, or if not that a small glimmer, of how gracious & tender & loving & kind God has been to us through everything.

During the boys’ 20 & 27 day NICU stay, I wrote so much! Someday I hope to find minutes here and there to type some of them out. God is good.

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In the meantime, I am running a 20%-off sale at my Etsy shop! Because of bedrest & all the upheaval that was my pregnancy, I never nested. (In fact, I picked out the boys’ room paint color over text while at Ronald McDonald house, ha!) As soon as I got home, that nesting instinct kicked in and I have cleaned out almost every closet & cranny in our house in the last 4 weeks! This included my craft stash! I am ready to clean out all those minibooks and maybe someday finally list all those other ones waiting to be photographed! : )

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Currently Mini

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I love crafting + minibook-making + minibook-filling + photography + on and on and on. Life right now, however, doesn’t allow for large chunks of time to create + make. So there is often a huge — huge! — lag between ideas of projects & the actual implementation of them. This minibook is a perfect example!

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Early in 2013, I had an idea for doing a minibook of little things about our family — current faves, interests, mannerisms, quirks, etc. In the spring, made the base of the minibook & spent a few days scrawling down little notes here and there about each person in the family.

The base is a piece of sturdy, but not thick, cardboard, with a Tim Holtz binder mechanism attached. It’s painted a lovely turquoise color, using one of small tubes of acrylic paint. Paper is bright & cheerful, a line from Glitz called Cashmere Dame. (This paper is an older line, so it’s a little hard to find!) Alpha stickers are also old, from The Girl’s Paperie. I also stuck in some of Echo Park’s “Memos” journal cards I found at Hobb Lobb.

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By the time I selected, edited, and then ordered prints for all the pictures, it was summer! Nearly 5-6 months later! This is the way most of my minibook projects are. I may have an idea and scribble it down; a few months later, I may finally make an empty mini; and then a few months after that, I finally develop pictures; and then, then, then, a few months later–I finally work on it.

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So even though I am just now showing this, now, in the fall, this all reflects on “currents” from the spring of 2013. : )

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Anyway, I really loved working on this mini!

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This will be a fun minibook to look back on in about five years or so. I bet I won’t have time to make minibooks then, let alone keep track of all our “currents”! Who knows!

 

 

House Musings, pt. 2

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So, after I wrote my first  “house musings” post — filled with various ramblings about dreams & plans for our house — I realized I wasn’t quite done with my thoughts.

As a stay-at-home mom, I spend a lot of time in our house. A lot. The majority of my “living” takes place in our house. So as I go about my day, with my little girls by my side, I have a lot of time to think about houses and homes and decorating and colors and, really, how it all intertwines with my faith.

I meant what I said on this blog’s About page —

I am a Christian passionate about my faith & relationship with God. For me, being a Christian is a life-style, a way of living, not just one aspect of my life, but a relationship with God which defines & informs & directs my thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and decisions. What I mean is, what type of spouse, child, sibling, worker, etc., I am is being determined daily by my faith in Christ. It is all-encompassing to me. I am constantly in a process of change, and I truly want what is most important to me (my relationship with God) to be reflected in all areas of  my life–even in all my craft endeavors! I fail everyday, but I rely on God to transform me as I walk through this life with Him.

— and it is true of how I want to think about my house. I want my relationship with God to define, inform, and direct my thoughts & beliefs about having, maintaining, decorating, and living in a home.

So what follows are loosely connected thoughts about home + faith, or, better– how my relationship with God shapes my view of having a new (to us!) home.

I believe it is okay to pursue beauty in the home, in decorating, in art, in painting, styling, and on and on; I think it is part of walking out what it means to have been made in the image of a creative, artistic God. I think it’s okay to even enjoy! have fun! delight! in making a house into a home and all that it entails.

I love many of Edith Schaeffer’s thoughts from The Hidden Art of Homemaking:

“If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation.”

“A Christian, who realizes he has been made in the image of the Creator God and is therefore meant to be creative on a finite level, should certainly have more understanding of his responsibility to treat God’s creation with sensitivity, and should develop his talents to do something to beautify his little spot on the earth’s surface.”

“It is true that all men are created in the image of God, but Christians are supposed to be conscious of that fact, and being conscious of it should recognize the importance of living artistically, aesthetically, and creatively, as creative creatures of the Creator. If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for us.”

 And one final quote for Edith Schaeffer…

“There are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact-that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us.”

I have journaled pages and pages of personal thoughts of the kind of atmosphere I want to create in our home. This is different, in my mind, from the types of things I said I wanted my house to “be” like in my previous post. I may, later, devote a separate post delving into a little more detail about atmospheres and whatnot, but I will say now: I want our home to be a haven, a refuge; a safe, comforting, warm place for our family. And while furniture, decor & colors can help with that, in my mind, ultimately, it’s not WHAT we have in our house, but WHOM. I so desire to create a home that reflects the presence of God — “God is in their midst!”

My favorite quote on this is from one of  my favorite books on education, Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson:

“…your first responsibility as a parent is to lead your children to the life-giving presence and reality of Christ in your heart and home. Your desire should be to implant a longing in their spirits for God that can be satisfied only with the water and bread of life in Christ. No matter how good your church may be, a few hours each week cannot create the longing for Christ that God has uniquely designed you to impart to your children. You are to be the primary life-giving presence of Christ to your children, through his Spirit living and working in your life as a Christian parent and through his Word, just as Christ imparted life to those who came into contact with him: ‘The words I have spoken to your are spirit and are life.’” (pg. 45)

This is what Rust & I greatly desire! How can your home BE such a place? –A place where people experience the peace & presence of God, or a place where they can begin to find rest in Him, or a place where the heart can begin to open up to that longing for Him? Again, I have so many further thoughts on this I would love to delve into in later posts.

Rust & I prayed when we moved in that we wouldn’t lose sight of the precious souls living IN the house in our excitement to do stuff TO the house. The atmosphere of our home — a place of peace, love, acceptance, joy, and generosity — is way more important to us than the right furniture, the perfect color, or updated everything’s or anything’s. If we aren’t actively cultivating these qualities, and asking Jesus to fill us more and evermore with His likeness so we can reflect those qualities (because, honestly, we know ourselves–they aren’t going to last long in our own try-hard, do-it-myself strength) to our girls, then what we do TO the house doesn’t really matter. Because who wants to live in a trendy, eclectic, perfectly decorated house of strife? of impatience? of stinginess or nitpickiness or hopelessness or despair?

I pray I become a woman who cares more about nourishing souls than painting walls; that I pursue pouring into my girls the good, deep things of hope & joy & generosity & contentment, than demonstrating a shallow obsession with Pinterest & decor; and that I show them that I am woman who needs Jesus to transform me into the very things I want so much to be reflected in our home.

More thoughts to come!