Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Magical World of Disney

This past November, we took our 3 little loves to the happiest place on Earth: Walt Disney World. Before this trip, I honestly rolled my eyes at those who took yearly trips here. Being a bit of a vacation snob, I just couldn't understand why people would blow so much money on Disney.

However, all biases aside,  we had been wanting to take our little ones to this magical place during a time when they are obsessed with everything Princess, Mickey Mouse, and Peter Pan related. We had enough free hotel points to stay close by for 3 nights/2 days, so this Fall it was!

And from the moment we stepped in front of the infamous Cinderella's castle, I immediately understood the obsession with truly was completely magical. Incredibly hard work with 3 small children? YES! Worth it? Yes...a million times yes. We only spent 2 days at the Magic Kingdom and didn't venture into other parks, which was honestly about all we could handle with just us two adults. I am so glad we were able to take the kids during this age of make believe and innocence. For them, this truly was the place the Princesses live and Tinkerbell flies in the sky.

This was out first real family vacation. We've tagged along during the summer for Andrew's conferences at the beach, yes, but this was our first vacation we had to actually pay for.

Here is just a very small look into our magical vacation:

I hope you all have a very magical 2014! And if you are wondering if Disney is worth all the hype, I highly recommend a 2 day trip like ours. you won't regret it!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thanking God that His mercies are new every morning: 30 days of a Thankful Heart

So I was all ready to write my post dedicated to my one and only little boy who I lovingly refer to as my boyfriend.

But y'all...this sweet boy has temporarily been taken over by some demonic force. He has just been all out of sorts the past couple days. Now, all my kids have their moments. But, this boy has been extra all sorts of crazy foolish behavior. I thought yesterday was bad when he refused to get up off the library floor (meanwhile the girls are already halfway out the door). I bend up to pull him up and drag him out the door and he pulls that whole "go limp" thing toddlers just love to do when you are in public, causing me to drop all 15 books in my hands causing a really nice production for the onlookers. I temporarily leave my screaming son and 15 scattered books to chase the girls down before they start walking in the parking lot. I sit the girls by the door while I deal with this ridiculous scene we have now started. Finally some old man took pity on my pathetic self and carried my 15 books for me out to the car while I carried a kicking and screaming boy out to the van.

It was not pretty. Did I mention he pooped in his underwear FOUR times yesterday? Yeah, that was fun too.

I had high hopes for today. I prayed extra hard for a semi-normal day. I prayed for God to show me what it was I was missing and how to help my son through whatever is going on with him.

But, it was pretty much Groundhog's Day over here...wash, rinse, repeat if you will. This time refusing to go with his speech therapist to her classroom. He has NEVER done that! He caused such a scene. I had to go back with him and Audrey and sit in the back in a corner for the entire hour. He was fine at therapy, but he would occassionaly turn his head around and make sure I was still there. They really frown upon that by the way...parents aren't so supposed to be in the room. Ask me if I care though.

And then the whining that I won't let him listen to "It's a Holly Jolly Christmas" more than 3 times in a row. I just can't...after the third time, I'm not feeling jolly's time to move onto some Jingle Bells or Santa Clause is Coming to Town...I mean anything.

Today he pooped in his underwear Three times and in the toilet once. So, I guess from that perspective you could say today was a little better. Not really though...

Bless Him! ...actually, bless ME!!

Tomorrow is a new day. I have hope that we will wake up with a new perspective. I know underneath this nonsense is my sweetheart boy.

Thank you Lord that your mercies are new every morning!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thank Heaven for little girls: 30 days of a Thankful Heart

I love my children all the same. They each have their own special and unique qualities that totally captivate me. While I feel responsible for each of their upbringings, I do feel an extra responsibility towards my girls. Not to sound so anti-feminist, but I do feel it is my job as a female to lead them in their identity/social roles as to act like a lady, modesty, how to run a home, etc. They are at an age (especially Ella), where they imitate all that I do. It is flattering and TERRIFYING in the same breath. They are already, at this young age, identifying with me more. Yes, Andrew's role is HUGE in the their lives as well, but it's just different than mine.

So today during my 30 days of a Thankful Heart series, I am thankful for God giving me these two precious girls to be a role model for. (Don't worry Jacob, your post will come tomorrow!!)

Andrew and I refer to them as our Jane and Elizabeth Bennett characters from Pride and Prejudice. Both equal in physical beauty, yet their spirits are so different. Ella is our Jane: She is ridiculously beautiful, kind and shy, compassionate, and more reserved. Audrey is our Elizabeth: equally as beautiful, yet much more spirited. She stands up for herself and is quick to vocalize her opinions. It has been challenging for me to know how to mother these two different personalities. Ella is more like Andrew and Audrey is more like myself. I have already had to learn to embrace the fact that Ella's shyness is not a negative is a wonderful thing, yet it is challenging to help her feel confident in herself. Her meek spirit keeps her out of trouble. She is the one who I doubt I will ever have to worry about behavior in school. I do sort of dislike the label of being "shy". She's not antisocial...just more of an observer. However, her sensitivity has challenged me. Her sensitivity makes her so compassionate towards others, but it also means we deal with a lot of tears. People hurt her feelings very easily. I hate that for her...but, I also know that this is who God created her to be. And the world could certainly use those who feel deeply and love deeply.

And then there is Audrey. Oh dear! She is so sweet, yet has a mind of her own. She is definitely the same as I was as a young girl and still am in many ways today. I don't want to tame Audrey's zest for life and her free spirit. Her free spirit has enabled her to be the most self entertained of the 3 of my children. She could play with princess figurines for hours happily on her own. She is self driven...the clash, however, is when her drive goes against what I need her to do. I know her desire to be completely independent will be a wonderful quality later in life. That girl will stand up to a bully...I see her daily stand up for any injustice her siblings have imposed upon her (ie-taking a toy she is playing with). My parents will often remind me that I was their only child that "talked back". I was a very good arguer when I felt like I was not being treated fairly. I want Audrey to be a strong woman and embrace that amazing will and drive she has in a positive way. She'll probably be President of the Student Body one day. And just like the world needs compassionate females like Ella, the world will also need people who stand firm and strong on their beliefs in the Lord. My prayer for her (and both girls really) is to stand strong for the Lord and lead others to Him with her spunky personality!

I am thankful that these two girls challenge me to be a better woman myself. Yes they challenge me as a mother in my role of leading them, but they also have taught me a lot about myself along the way. Children are amazing in how they can reveal your own sin in your life. My prayers lately have been for God to show me the Godly woman He desires for me to be...because I know I have little eyes that are watching and imitating and ears that are listening and repeating.

Thank you Lord for using those two girls to help shape me and mold me into the woman I know you desire me to be. I am in awe of how children of such a young age can be used for God's glory. We spend so much time thinking of how to teach them...and upon reflection, perhaps it's really them who lead us to the Lord and help us become more like Him. It is an honor to be the mother of these two little ladies. Thank you Lord for using these girls to lead me to be more like you! Thank Heaven for little girls!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What mother's want : 30 days of a Thankful Heart

It is a common thing, a cliché if you will, to do these "30 days of Thanksgiving" during the month of November on your Blog, your Facebook status, or whatever your social media outlet is. Always going against the grain, I'm usually slow to join in on these things, but I've changed my attitude on this one. For one, it is not a bad thing to focus daily on the many blessings our Lord has bestowed on me and my family. It's not about "bragging", but us having a heart of gratitude. If anything, my heart could use some practice on reflecting on such things. And secondly, I always genuinely enjoy reading others proclamations of gratitude, so why not share mine with the world as well.

However, rather than a simple status update, I am going to elaborate on my thankfulness. It would be so easy, for example, to say "I am thankful for my husband"...but, wouldn't it be better if I explained just how amazing he is? I believe so! So here 30 day series of a Thankful Heart...OK, make that 29 days because I missed the first day of November (see...I told you I always "go against the grain"! hehehe)

Today (and always), I am so thankful for other mommies who encourage me and continue to lift me up.

We live in a world with many strong opinions. Although that isn't always a negative thing, it can most certainly cause a divisiveness amongst people. We've always been taught about being careful when talking about religion and politics (of course, that warning has never and will never stop me from proclaiming my love for Christ and my desire to follow Him). But what about motherhood? With a quick Google search, we are inundated with an exhausted list of blogs and news writings on the opinions of how best to raise our children. Even amongst a group of followers of Jesus, there are even beliefs on child rearing that completely divide people. Even books that claim the "Godly way" can contradict each other. It's so frustrating and confusing as a mother. It is so hard not to get lost amongst the muck of books and people who advice us and forget to remind us to fall on our knees and simply pray for the Lord to help us discern how best we are to raise our child.

In 2008, as a new mom to Ella, I can recall a particularly difficult day where I threw a book across the room because its methodology was not working for my baby. I was exhausted and weary from caring for a very colicky baby. I tried the crying it out, the not-crying it out, the 5 steps to a happy baby on the block or whatever the heck it was called. I tried changing my diet in fear that something I was eating was affecting my milk and perhaps bothering her sensitive tummy...all to no avail. And although well meaning people tried so hard to give me advice, all I really wanted was a hug. I wanted someone to tell me that I was a good mom. I needed someone to comfort me and tell me that "this will pass" instead of hearing "savor this moment" or even worse "just wait until they are teenagers". I wanted so desperately to have this Babywise baby that everyone talked about...but, no one told me that colicky babies are different. They may need a different approach for a few months until the "colic" starts to fade.

One especially weary day, at the end of my rope, I truly believe God appointed a very special group of mommies into my life. A group of women who all already had several small children took me under their wing and they poured love and encouragement into my heart. 

I'll never forget that late August day in 2008. A friend I had known since college invited me to her small group...a group of women whom all went to different churches, yet were brought together because of motherhood. I only knew two of the women in that group of 7 or 8 that night. But, we sat around a round table and they said things I'll never forget.

"Sarah, you are a good mom. He gave you that little girl because He knew YOU were the best mommy for her"

"Sarah, forget those books for now. Just pray. Pray for God to show you how to mother. Everyone at this table?We all do the baby thing differently."

"Oh, your first baby? That's the HARDEST! It's so, so hard becoming a mother. Your body has never had that kind of lack of sleep. Everyone tells you to savor these days, but it's hard to savor it when you are exhausted and your boobs hurt!!" (one of my favorite quotes)

And the best advice ever...
"Sarah, rest in the peace that God will give you the sleep you need. Don't focus on how much sleep you are getting. Just know that God is taking care of you. When you are tired? Just make that your prayer...ask the Lord to provide the sleep you need for that day. Don't look at the clock...that will just make you more anxious. Just trust that God will give you the rest you need."

Those women were my lifeline during that season on new motherhood where I desperately just needed love and encouragement. That group of women? Well, they encompassed everything: they had bottle fed babies, breastfed babies, Babywise babies, co sleeping families, easy going babies, more high maintenance babies...all of it. They didn't judge me when I "only made it" to 10 months of breastfeeding. They didn't judge me when I said "Y'all...I just had to bring Ella to bed with me last night" or "Y'all Ella slept in her bouncy seat all was the only way I could get her to go back to sleep." They would just laugh and promised me that eventually my little girl would indeed sleep all night. (By the way, by 6 months, that little girl was wonderful and still is AMAZING!)

In a world where there are so many opinions on raising children, it is a blessing to have moms who encourage, listen, and don't judge you when you feel like you are falling short. Moms who pray for you and always point you to Christ are my lifeline in this adventure of raising three small children. I call these women my "Titus 2" women:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."
Titus 2:3-5

What do mother's want?  We want to feel encouraged and loved. We want someone to listen and love us when we are weary and tired, yet always pointing us back to the Lord. We want older and wiser moms to know that us younger moms are still learning and growing. We don't want to feel judged on those grey areas of life. It's so important to remember God is still working on us all. Whether it is how we choose to school our children or how we celebrate different holidays, God is doing the same work in us all, yet our journey's will all look different.  He is slowly chiseling away at all of us to make us more into His image. 

And now I am in a different season of life. I no longer have "babies" anymore. Now my stresses are how to school my children and whether it is OK for us to celebrate Halloween or pretend the whole Santa Clause thing with our little ones...OK, I'm mostly laughing at that last part. I really like Santa. Jesus is the reason for the season, but Santa is a lot of fun...just being honest! I digress...

Once again, the Lord has placed women in my life with similar life challenges. All of us have different paths and roads that the Lord is leading us on. Some public school, some home school, others private school...but, all of us are united in raising warriors for Christ. We respect and know that God has a different journey for each of our families. We don't judge...we just love and encourage each other along our own paths. 

(Editors Note: And likewise, let us not be so sensitive to those who advice us even if we don't agree. Although some moms are very dogmatic about things, most of us know that we are all just doing the best we can with the tools we've been given. It's good to remember that most people only give advice because they want to help...they aren't trying to make you feel worse. I frequently have to get my "sensitivity meter" back in check...looking at the persons heart and not their words.)

So today, and every day, I am thankful for the friends and Titus 2 women that the Lord puts in my life. The ones who love and encourage me in motherhood. The ones who know when I just need a listening ear...the ones who point me back to Christ...and the ones who make me laugh at the small stuff. I am thankful for the mothers who know and understand that we all fall short in everything in life. How desperately we need fellowship with other Believers. Thank you Lord for sending these women into my life, even if only for a season. 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

September 1st: a Peter Pan and Tinkerbell Party

Ever since I signed up on Instagram, I've become the worst blogger ever. Not that I was that great before, but the iPhone pics have replaced the blog. Actually, in all of reality, it probably shows more of our "real" side than the blog world.

Anyway, despite that, I keep wavering back and forth as to even continuing the know, for the two or three people who even read it any more. But, then I had to remind myself it's really more for me and not about anyone else. Unfortunately, I'm not one to really "air all my business" to the world, so sometimes I feel like this little space on the Internet feels a little too vulnerable for me. I'm still trying to figure out the balance in all that.

It was a really, really busy September..just like it was for everyone else in the world.

On the first, we celebrated the twins 3rd birthday. And while I could reminisce on how far they have come, I'll just simply say that we are thankful for how well these two have much they have overcome...despite being born so early. From birth until age 2, I feel like all we did was see specialists and have appointments. And remember, I don't have help. Andrew is gone 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I truck my whole crew with me...EVERYWHERE. We are quite the scene, yet I'll say I am to a point in motherhood where I am oblivious, nor do I care, what the general public thinks of my crazies when we are out and about. (If you have help, I hope you thank the Lord every single day for that.) Anyway, although the craziness continues to abound between ages 2 and 3, I'm happy to say that life is more settled. There are less worries about their future and they seem to be mostly caught up developmentally. Our only small issue at this point is that Jacob is still receiving speech therapy (he has made huge strides this past month though!)...and I really have very few concerns regarding that. I am confident he will catch up. And honestly, when you have watched your children on the brink of death, this really is nothing.

We had a Peter Pan and Tinkerbell party, complete with costumes. Jacob really loved his costume as you can see below:

Good grief. What am I going to do with that boy? Of course, Audrey was happy to flutter around in her Tinkerbell costume.

And of course, no Peter Pan party is complete without a pirate ship carved out of a watermelon. Andrew is to thank for those amazing skills. I showed him a picture of what I wanted and he exceeded my expectations.

And pirate popcorn with a visit from Peter and Captain Hook

All 3 of our kids have loved watching Peter Pan, as well as the Tinkerbell movies all summer. It seemed only fitting to have this as the theme for the twins birthday. I must say, it was the cutest party.

And lastly, I must share a funny story about the twins when I took them for their 3 year old check up at the Pediatricians office. He asked them the following:

Doctor: "Audrey, are you a girl or a boy?"
Audrey: "A Girl."
Doctor: "Jacob, are you a girl or a boy?"
Jacob: "I Peter Pan!!!" (Insert big grin)

These two are such a handful right now, yet the things they say make me laugh. They both know how to charm a crowd.

The days are still pretty long and hard. I'm just being honest. I miss Ella while she is at school in the mornings (she only goes 1/2 days), but it does make it a little easier. She is not a burden by any means, but she is at an age where she wants to go, go, go...always wanting a friend over or to go somewhere...and it is hard for me to do that every single day. I'm still finding it hard to find friends who stay home and actually want to get together to play...seems like the world is way over scheduled...or maybe we still haven't found our "groupies" yet. Ha! I am so thankful that I am able to stay home with them right now. It truly is a blessing. Despite the sometimes lonely days, I am so thankful for the abundant blessings these children have given us. God has truly shown us His love and mercy with all we went through with the twins. We are so undeserving, yet so grateful for these three amazing miracles.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

'twas the night before Kindergarten

You don't really think you'll be "that mom"...the one who cries when she drops her kids off at school. You don't think you will be her because until that reality comes to the forefront and you have no choice but to take it, suddenly you have this feeling that someone has kicked you really hard in the stomach.

It's time...time for a new season of's time for Ella to start Kindergarten.

Suddenly, the sleepless nights, temper tantrums, and countless drives to the doctor for croup seem like a distance memory and all you remember is snuggling that little baby in your arms. Your firstborn. The one who got your undivided attention. The one who always wore matching clothes from head to toe...the pink sweater pants and pink and white striped cardigan and pink beanie hat...sigh, that one stands out the most. Suddenly, all you see is the absolute treasure. And although I'd like to take credit for this kind, gentle, and loving little lady she is becoming...I'm realizing the more accurate statement is that she is so lovely despite our many, many failures as parents.

We got her a new book, "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn. Let me tell you...if you need to release some big mommy tears, this book will do it to you. It was a special moment...just she and I. At the end, she kissed my hand so that I, too, would have a kissing hand. A kiss that I can hold up to my cheek at any time whenever I need a kiss from Ella.

And then for her bedtime song, she requested "Baby Mine"...of course, because she could not have picked out a worse tear jerker. I couldn't even make it through the end before I was in full on sobbing. Completely ridiculous. I can't help it. I'm a sentimental lady...but, I'd rather feel too much than nothing at all. Oh, and "Baby Mine" is the song I sang to her over and over again as a baby. Seriously, she couldn't have picked a more appropriate, gut-wrenching song. But, that's ok. I can't imagine a more perfect book followed by the most perfect song to share with my oldest daughter on the eve of Kindergarten.

One of the main goals of parenting is to guide them towards independence. Raising them to be kind to all people, raising them to help others, and raising them to know the Lord in such a powerful way that they do not fear this world. Yes, as they become more and more independent, we get sad...sometimes scared. In reality, we should be patting ourselves on the back saying well done! Well done! No go and show the world the love of Jesus!

I know that God has a great purpose for Ella's life. She is, after all, His child on loan to me for such a short time. What an honor that He is allowing me to raise her. Most of the time I feel like I am majorly screwing up...but, deep down, I hear the gentle whisper of the Lord remind me that "I'm not really that powerful." He is God and I am not. My role as her mother is to continue to point her to Him and hopefully lead a life that reflects His great love in such a way that she will be drawn to the beauty of a relationship with her Savior.

That girl. She is going to move mountains.  So the heart sandwich has been made, the locket already  wrapped and ready to give to her in the morning, camera battery is charged...we're ready. Just be kind to this anxious mother's heart...because even though you may think "it's just kindergarten", I can only think that if I take a moment to blink she will be graduating from college. And I don't want to miss a second.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer Came and Summer Went...and now I'm sad.

Lightening speed does not even come close to describing how quickly this summer has passed us by. I mean, it's been over two months now since I last blogged. How do I even summarize all our comings and goings?

We swam, and we swam, and we swam some more. We swam in pools, lakes, oceans, fountains. Ella took off swimming by mid-summer, so she wanted to swim every chance she could get. Proud Mommy. 

We went to South Florida and visited family in mid June. And not too much longer after that, we spent our time at the lake over fourth of July.

And because going to the beach once isn't enough, we had to go to our favorite little island off South Georgia called Saint Simon's Island. It is so charming and we eat seafood until we can't stuff one more crab leg down our throats. 

We have worked hard and played hard and now it is starting to come to an end. Ella starts kindergarten in less than 2 weeks...that's plenty of time for me to lose all my marbles. I had all these things planned to do with the kids once public school started, but knowing we still had two weeks to ourselves...but then we had this unseasonably cool weather come through and lots of, I'm thinking all those hopes of having the pool to ourselves are slowly dying.

Speaking of dying, Ugh! Why does this growing up thing have to be so painful? God has been so good to us. We have such a great teacher and school for Ella to attend for Kindergarten. She's only going 1/2 days, which is all this mommy can handle. My kids are obsessed with Peter Pan right now and I think that Peter guy was on to something...let's all fly away to Neverland and never grow up!

First star to the right and straight on till morning...