Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cousin Time!

Last week we were finally able to get some time away to go up to Virginia to meet my new niece Rebekah, and my new nephew Colton!  Because it's a pretty long drive, we really wanted to wait until we could spend a good amount of time with everyone, and I'm so glad we did.  I got up at 3:30 on Tuesday morning (yes, you read that right) and the girls and I were on the road by four.  The idea was that they would sleep for the first three hours, and then I would only have three more hours after that to keep them entertained.  They really didn't sleep all that much, though!  Maybe an hour or two.  But, they actually did great in the car, thanks to a collection of Dr. Seuss books on CD that I checked out from the library.

We arrived around 10:30 and we spent the next two days with just Stephen and Rachael and Leah and Baby Rebekah.  We played around the house, snuggled babies, went to the park, visited historic Yorktown, and just generally had a wonderful time!  These girl cousins are just so sweet to each other.  Here is a picture of Caroline giving Rebekah kisses!


Leah and Anna Kate are also developing quite a close relationship even though we live so far apart and only see each other a few times a year.  Something very special happened while we were touring historic Yorktown.  My sister-in-law, Rachael, just blogged about it herself, so I will let her tell the story:

"Anna Kate is a very special little girl, and I'm not just saying that because she is my niece. She is a very aware and thoughtful child and has a special place for Leah in her heart. She is very good about initiating interactions with Leah, talking to her and bringing her toys. This, of course, endears her to me all the more! It's hard for young children to understand Leah's disabilities (hey, it's hard for adults to understand!) and to know how to act around her, but Anna Kate is not put off by Leah's differences. She loves Leah as though she were no different. And that makes this Mama's heart full. One of the most special things happened with Leah and Anna Kate. They walked together. It was the first time Leah had ever walked without an adult. 

It was truly a moment of hope fulfilled. Not necessarily that Leah would walk without an adult, but that Leah would walk with a friend. Even thinking about it now, it brings tears to my eyes. As a parent of a child with special needs you look at the "normal" moments in life differently. Making a friend and going for a walk are wonderful milestones in a typically developing child, but in a child with special needs, it is a monumental occasion. We have prayed for a moment like that. We have worried and fretted, wondering what things Leah would do in her life and have had to turn those fears over to the Lord. Praise God that He cares for us enough to take our fears and give us even the smallest of desires, like watching our child walk with another child."


After some special girl time (well, with Stephen too!), Luke arrived on the train Thursday morning and my sister and her crew of boys arrived from DC Thursday night.  If Leah brings out the sweetness in Anna Kate, Sarah's boys definitely bring out her silly side!  Wesley and Cooper just crack her up and she loves to be crazy with them!  They decided to form a band at one point.  I'm not sure what they were performing here, but they certainly were having a good time!

It was so fun to have all SEVEN cousins together for the first time!  Of course, we had to get some pictures of them all together.  Logistically, getting a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old, two 3-year-olds, an 18-month-old, a 3-month-old and a 1-month-old in a picture together was a little difficult, but thanks to some good planning, a picnic table in front of some pretty azaleas, and some Smartie candies (for bribes to sit still), we made it happen!


And just because they are so cute, here are some close-ups of the two babies we went to meet!


To finish off our wonderful week together, we were able to all be there to celebrate sweet Leah's fourth birthday!  Rachael went all out planning a super fun beach-themed party!  The birthday girl and all her cousins and friends had a wonderful time!

Birthday girl opening presents!

 Digging in the sand for buried treasure

 And how cute is this beachy cookie cake!?!?  All made and decorated by Rachael!

After the party, it was time to say goodbye.  The two littlest babies needed some goodbye kisses from Aunt Patty and Uncle Luke!



And, just to tease 5-year-old, Wesley, we told him that he was a baby too!


We left Norfolk around 7:30pm on Saturday night and except for a couple of fusses here and there from Caroline, the girls slept really well all the way home.  We transferred them to their beds around 1:30am and then made it to church by 8:45 that morning.  Let's just say that we ALL took naps on Sunday afternoon!  But spending such special time with our family was more than worth it!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Caroline at 18 months!

As of last week, Caroline is officially a year and a half old! I thought I would take this opportunity to write a little bit about what our very busy toddler is up to these days!

Caroline is a joy. Caroline is also a drama queen. Her highs are very high, and her lows are very low! But most of the time, she is a very sweet little girl who loves her Mommy and Daddy and Sister more than anything in the world.

Caroline has started to really communicate with us over the past couple months. She will try to imitate just about any word we say, but as for the words she says on her own without prompting, here are some of her favorites: Mommy (not Mama anymore), Daddy, Sis, ball, nana (banana), doggie, ama (amen), Pappy (paci), Ora (Nora), Ahhhvah (Ava, or avocado), Nee (Annie), Lala (Angela - our pastor's wife), hi, bye-bye, shoes, ticka ticka ticka (tickle), Tig (the neighbor's kitty), baby, wa-wa (water), out, night-night.

Caroline knows lots of animal sounds and especially loves to do them with Anna Kate. Her favorites are the monkey and elephant (because those have motions too), but she also really likes the horse, dog, and cat!

Caroline is very affectionate - toward Mommy, Daddy, and sister, and then anyone under the age of 5. If you're older than 5, then you are pretty much out of luck in the hugs from Caroline department. At least if Mommy's in the room.

Caroline loves to read books. She will sit and read books on her own, but she will also sit and let you read story after story after story to her. She is also starting to finish words in some of her favorite books (Hop on Pop, Barnyard Dance).

Caroline loves to play outside. Whether we are at the park, or in the sandbox in the backyard, or out on a walk, her little face just lights up.

Caroline has a very special relationship with her big sister. They know just how to make each other laugh and they do it often - in the car, at the table, wherever! When they are not arguing over toys, they really play well together. They love to play doctor, school, baby dolls, and cooking.

Caroline is quite the runner and climber. She is quite fast and she is constantly surprising me with the things she can climb!  She can climb all the way to the top of the playground and slide down the big slide on her own.  She also just figured out how to climb the ladder at the park (not just go up the steps).

Caroline could still use some improvement in the sleep department. Lately she has just been waking up once though around 3 or 4am. We've mostly been sending Luke in there to remind her that it is still night night - if I go in, it's a much longer ordeal =) She does take a great 3 hour nap every afternoon though!

Caroline LOVES her daddy. She gets SO sad when he leaves to go to work. In fact, this is one of the few times of day that she actually puts multiple words together.  She stands at the back door after he leaves and she says (in the saddest voice you've ever heard), "Ooooh, my Daddy!" Her sorrow at his departure is no match, however, for her joy upon his return. She stands at the same back door and bounces up and down saying, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!"

Caroline's favorite song is "The Word of the Lord" from our Seeds Family Worship CD. She loves to dance to it and wave her hands in the air every time it comes on.

There is always more that I can say, but I will stop there for now! Caroline Hope, thank you for the joy that you bring our family. You may not be the most "easy-going" baby in the world, but you sure are passionate about life, and your daddy and I pray that God will use that passionate personality to do great things for his kingdom. May you rejoice in seeing the gospel spread, may you mourn as you minister to the brokenhearted, may you be filled with a righteous anger at injustice around the world, and may you always direct those emotions toward bringing honor and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday's Letters

Dear Spring,
You finally arrived!  We have been playing outside all week and getting VERY dirty!  We are so enjoying all the flowers blooming around town.

Dear Friend Alice (and your mommy and daddy and sister!),
Thank you for coming for a visit!  Anna Kate loved being able to spend time with you.  You all picked up right where you left off with your silliness!  Make sure you check your mail this week for a letter from your Pen Pal!

Dear Sam and Margo,
Thank you so much for letting us keep Grandmother's china cabinet at our house for a while.  We love the way it looks in our dining room and having a place to display our china, but most of all, we love having a special remembrance of a very special woman.

Dear Camden,
For a small town, you sure have some pretty nice little parks!  In fact, we have enjoyed three different parks/playgrounds just this week!  Here are the girls climbing and swinging the days away.

Dear Baby Rebekah and Baby Colton,
We can't WAIT to meet you both next week.  I hope you're both ready for LOTS of snuggles and kisses!


Photo: Happy Sunday!!!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

National Sibling Day!

Well, I didn't know that it was national sibling day until I saw a couple people post about it on facebook, but I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and do a little post about my own siblings!

I am the third of four kids.  Currently, we are 33, 32, 28, and 20.  Here we are a couple summers ago on an all-siblings/families beach trip!

Stephen, me, Andrew, Sarah

And here we are doing what we do best - playing music together!  This was taken when everyone came to meet Caroline for the first time.  You can't see her, but she is in the sling in this picture, which is why I am singing and not playing violin too!

I love being part of a "big" family.  I know four isn't THAT many, but to a lot of people it is!  I love how different we all are, yet similar in so many ways as well.  Stephen is the smart one with the PhD.  Sarah is the crazy one who keeps us all laughing.  I tend to be the level-headed peacemaker =)  And then there's Andrew - the baby - who is now quite the world traveler with big plans and goals (and who also happens to be a GREAT uncle to 7 babies!).

I love that in my siblings, I always have someone I can call to share news with, or to ask for prayer, or to visit when we have a free weekend!  And, I especially love all the nieces and nephews (and brother/sister-in-law!).  In fact, we are going to meet a brand new niece and a brand new nephew next week and I can hardly wait!

I hope that my girls (and any future children that God entrusts to us) will always share the special bond that I have with my own siblings!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday's Letters

I've been inspired by my friend Renee from church, over at Southern Gal Thoughts, to do a weekly post entitled Friday's Letters.  There are so many little bits and pieces of our days and weeks that I want to document and remember, but that don't seem to warrant an entire blog post.  So, I love this idea!  Here goes:

Dear Kershaw County Library,
Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing new books for us to read each week.  We LOVE storytime and checking out new books each Thursday.  The wonderful worlds of imagination your books open up to my children are priceless!

Dear Amelia Bedelia,
I love that your silly antics have been engendering the same vast amounts of laughter in Anna Kate that they used to do for me!


Dear Anna Kate,
You amaze me.  You woke up yesterday from your nap at 2:45.  You know that you aren't supposed to get out of bed until the first number on the clock is a 3, so you asked for your library books.  I brought them to you and when I still hadn't heard from you at 3:15, I found you engrossed in your stories.  I read with you for a little while and then headed downstairs to start on dinner.  You came down at 4:15 having read ALL of them!

Dear Caroline, 
I love that you are wanting to "do school" with Anna Kate too!  Yesterday, you crawled up on the couch while Anna Kate and I were doing our reading lesson and you started pointing to the letters and trying to make sounds.  Anna Kate and I had lots of fun "teaching" you to read too!  Now, to be fair, sometimes you just end up eating crayons when we try to "do school" with you, but yesterday was a good day!

Dear Spring,
We are ready for you now.  You have toyed with our hearts with a couple of 70 degree afternoons, but they haven't lasted.  45 degrees and rainy is getting a little old.  But we don't want summer to come too quickly either!

Dear Luke,
I know you've had a busy week trying to keep your youth entertained while they are on Spring Break, but seeing how excited you get when the kids are having fun and inviting their friends and enjoying fellowship together makes it all worth it!

Photo: Had a great time with our students tonight! Volleyball, ice cream, and some good fellowship makes for a good evening.

Dear Riverbanks Zoo,
Thank you for providing a great Daddy/Daughters date this morning for Luke and the girls while I went to an appointment and ran some errands.  They especially loved the penguins and gorillas today!

Dear Mrs. Linda (who runs our little hospital gift shop),
Thank you for asking my girls to "model" some of your precious new clothes!  We had lots of fun and hopefully took a few pictures that you can use!

Dear homemade almond butter,
Thank you for being so easy.  Way easier than I thought.  I have been craving peanut butter ever since I've had to stop eating peanuts because of Caroline's allergy.  But alas, finding almond butter at a decent price in our little town has not been easy.  Until I found out that all I had to do was put almonds in the blender!

Dear almond chocolate freezer fudge,
Thank you for being just as delicious (dare I say more delicious?) than the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups I haven't had in over a year! 

Dear full nights of sleep,
We miss you!  Please come back soon! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

He is Risen!

I know this is a few days late, but we had a wonderful Resurrection Sunday, celebrating our Savior's victory over sin and death, once and for all.  It was a little bit of a crazy and busy weekend, but wonderful, nonetheless!

Thursday afternoon we headed to Greenwood so that I could participate in the Knowing Jesus event at Northside Baptist (Luke's home church).  I helped them record a CD back in September of all original songs (written by their worship team) that chronicle the life of Christ from creation to the resurrection.  You can click HERE to check it out on iTunes if you're interested!  Anyway, the CD release concert garnered so much excitement and enthusiasm that everyone started talking about it and saying, "You all just HAVE to do that again for Easter."  So, I was invited to come again!  It was such a neat experience.  Luke even brought Anna Kate to see it on Saturday night.  Here is the view from their seats before it began.

Photo: Sitting with Anna Kate and getting ready for Patty to help lead us in worship @northsidebc #knowingjesus 

As I said before, the songs span the entire lifetime of Christ, but obviously the ones surrounding Passion week were extremely powerful as we shared them on Friday and Saturday nights.  Here are the lyrics to part of one of the songs entitled, "It Is Finished":

"As they drove nails into your hands and feet
You absorbed all the wrath of God intended for me
And as darkness covered us upon your death
Sin atoned forevermore as you drew your final breath

It is finished
It is finished
Now the guilt and shame no longer keep me bound
It is finished
It is finished
At the cross the lost can finally be found
It is finished"

Pretty powerful music and I was so blessed to be a part of it!

It also gave us a great opportunity for the girls to spend some time with their Mimi and Papa and Uncle Jonathan.  Mimi and Uncle Jonathan worked hard to put on quite the Easter egg hunt in the backyard which the girls thoroughly enjoyed.

 Each egg contained a teddy graham and a jelly bean which Caroline promptly opened and ate after finding each one!

Saturday night after the final performance of Knowing Jesus was over, we packed up the girls in the van and headed back to Camden.  We were pulling into town around 11:30 when we realized that we had forgotten the girls' tights that I had purchased that afternoon to go with their Easter dresses, along with the ingredients for the side dishes I was bringing to Easter dinner at our friends house right after church.  Lovely.  So, we had no choice but to run by Walmart at 11:30 the night before Easter.  It was crazy!  Like, pushing your way through aisles, frantically filling your kids' Easter baskets, wild children running around, waiting for 15 minutes in line, CRAZY!  But I survived (Luke stayed in the car with our very dazed and confused little girls who woke up with all the bright lights in the parking lot) and we finally arrived back at home just before midnight.

Despite a short night of sleep, the girls woke up with happy hearts and were so excited to finish the last day of our 12 days of Easter.  We had to do it without Daddy since he had to be at church at 5:45, but such is life!  Anna Kate wasn't too thrilled at first about opening an empty egg, but when I told them that it represented the empty tomb, she lit up and said, "He is Risen!"  They were both ecstatic to find brand new Bibles in their Easter basket.  Caroline has always loved Anna Kate's little baby New Testament, so we gave her one of her very own!  Anna Kate has recently discovered that said baby New Testament doesn't contain the Old Testament, however, and therefore does not contain some of her favorite stories (e.g. the Noah story).  So she received a pretty pink Adventure Bible for Early Readers.  She proudly carried it all over church that morning explaining to everyone that would listen that she now has a Bible with the New Testament AND the Old Testament AND the Noah story!

After a wonderful service, we headed over to our pastor and his wife's house along with a number of other families from our church to celebrate Easter dinner.  Pastor Craig was kind enough to get a few family shots for us!  I spent a few days last week making their Easter dresses and I love how they turned out!  I know you can't see it in these pictures, but my favorite part is the long sash down the back!

After lunch we all took a great 2-hour nap and then headed over to grill out with our Small Group.  Such a wonderful day!

We tried to get a couple pictures of just the girls, but they were too busy running around...story of my life.  So I finally got a few good ones at home today (Wednesday!). 

My prayer is that we will not just celebrate Christ's resurrection one day out of the year, but that we would live each day resting in His triumphant victory by which he purchased our salvation.  He is risen, indeed.