New Year. Fresh Starts.

As an old year draws to a close, and while the New Year is still in its first month of life -  I always like to look back on the twelve months previous and just remember everything.  A lot can happen in just one year.  And it's so easy to forget and just keep plowing forward into the newness of the next one.

So, I like to stop and record.
Just for me.  Just for us.  Something for us to look back on and see God's hand woven into everything.

  And really, the days are long - but the years are fleeting.
Life is really made of the moments -- the day to day seemingly insignificance...
It all adds up....and before we know it, another year is wrapped up and in the books.
So, I think it's good to slow for a bit...and to remember.

So, for the sake of posterity and for the 2016 blog book that shall once again be thin and wispy because Mama is out of the habit of writing about our days...  I shall list, in bullet form, some of the significant things that went down in 2016.  It was a good year.  It was a FULL year.  And though I do tend to see the glass as half full anyway, I think it's good to count our blessings and to name our Joys.  All of life is a gift.  Everything that we have is all on loan anyway.  The Story of our lives belongs to our Creator, and I'm just thankful for the honor to be written in however He sees fit.

So, my Loves....
Here we go.  SOME of the big doin's of 2016:

~ Well, as Kev puts it:  "Plexus has been the biggest surprise of our marriage."  Ha.  Having never sold a thing in my LIFE, I have found myself with the sweetest little home business that I absolutely love.  But, as I have told your Daddy all throughout our marriage...pretty much everything I do is because of him.  And as we all walked his journey of health together...when we found something that helped him after years of struggling to get him better, sharing about this company and these products has become an organic overflow of my thankfulness.  The taking care of people part of it is in my gift mix.  That's my jam, and it brings me deep joy.  So, it's kind of a good fit for me.  Who knew....

~ The greatest gift of this past year is Kevin finally feeling better after years of struggling to figure things out.  This will always and forever be my highlight of 2016.  And I will always and forever love your Daddy deeply because of his epic fathering and husbanding - even in the midst of daily feeling yucky.  He still showed up.  He still invested.  One of the zillion reasons why I love him so.

~ Big doin's for Kev - he turned the big 4-0.  Own it, Baby.  Just enjoy the ride.

~ BOTH Kaden and Jesse got their very FIRST deer! So special.  So fun to watch and experience.

~ Kev got two deer this year.  One with his bow and one during gun season.  We have a full freezer of amazing, organic meat now....and for this, I am deeply thankful.

~ Mama's first real hunting season...in which she is now addicted.  I hit one, and we had a glorious adventure all through the night with a tracking dog following the blood trail.  My bucket list for my 40th year is to actually put one in our freezer this next fall.  It's happening.

~ As a family, we experienced our very first Soul Fest music festival.  SO much fun.  A gift of tickets from a sweet friend.  An unexpected and unplanned family adventure.  Such a highlight.

~ The big boys had their first season of football - both summer and fall.   Completely adorbs in their big boy jerseys and shoulder pads.  So fun.

~ Piano lessons!  Kaden absolutely LOVES it and can play by ear like his Grammy.  Jesse pushes through and allows his teacher to convince him to stick it out.  I'm proud of you, sweet boy.  You are sticking with something that is hard.  You are persevering, and you are GOOD.  I love that you are not quitting, even when you want to some days.

~ Sweet London is now both potty trained AND has given up her pacifier.  Praise the good Lord above, I wondered if either of those days would EVER come.  She potty trained on her own schedule. When SHE was ready, it was instant and entire...both naps and bedtimes - DONE.  But, only when she was ready - until then, she putzed around with equal successes and fails.  And she was older than ALL of my boys when she did it.  Those who say that girls are easier, I heartily disagree.  The pacifier habit had some help when her puppy bit her favorite one in half.  Before Mama lost her courage, she snipped all of the others in half on the spot - and we never looked back.  Londy grieved it for a few days, so we made a special trip to Build a Bear like we did with all the boys.  I'm proud of you, Love.  Another season of babyhood is now shut down forever.  Bittersweet for this Mama...

~ London also got her first big girl bike with training wheels..."just like my boys."   She is fearless and wild.  She will age me early, this girl.

~ My oldest boy had his last year of life before being a teenager.  He is now sporting braces and has legs that are longer than his Daddy's.  He is quiet and funny...and has become quite a skilled hunter.  He has a tender heart for animals and the outdoors soothes him and brings him joy.  I joke that as long as he is pulling his weight, he can live with us a little longer.  So far, he was provided multiple partridge, turkey, trout, and  now a good sized deer.....so he's golden.

~ Jesse conquered his fear of shooting and his fear of a gun's kick -- and as a result of pushing through his fear, he was rewarded with a deer at the age of 9, as well.  I'm proud of that boy and his tenacity.

~ This past year Ransom learned to read, and I am always amazed at the miracle of seeing my kids finally connect the dots and make letters turn into words.  I'm humbled to be able to walk that journey with each one of them.  This sweet boy also conquered his thumb sucking habit which was a pretty big deal.  This was the first thing that I remember getting victory over in my life.  I was ADDICTED to my thumb and I could not break the habit.  I was junior high - anyway - before I was able to quit.  So Mama understands the pain.

~ Ransom also conquered his fear of riding a big two wheel bike after having taken a major digger the summer previous.  For a good, solid year there was no hill riding, so I am proud of this boy for trying again.

~ Our summers are always highlighted with fun critter finds and crazy collections of living things.  This year we rescued six or seven baby turtles that were getting crushed by cars on our road.  We brought them home and made a super cool living space for them all throughout the summer before we released them back into the wild.  In our short couple of months that we had them, they grew from the size of a dime to the size of a fifty cent piece.  So much fun for the kids to experience this.

~  A beautiful black, Cayuga female duck was gifted to us.  She is darling and has mated with our little white call duck.  We shall see what the Spring brings to us or if any babies will come of it.

~ Cliff jumping in Rangeley.  Something I've wanted to try every year.  Something no one else was remotely interested in doing.  Kaden - my wisest and most cautious child expressed an interest this summer, so big Daddy and both big boys jumped multiple times.....and I stood back and realized this is probably the awakening of my boys becoming men and conquering fears and adventures that will make this mama's prayer life stronger...

~Texas Leader's Retreat for Plexus.  Something I earned.  Something fun to experience.  A redneck country girl surrounded by glitz and glam required an entire days' hunt in the woods back home afterwards.  But, it was fun, and the student in me loves the learning.

~ A puppy and a pickup.  Two things we've talked about getting for years.  Two things that have brought a lot of joy and a whole lot of headache.  Two things we've contemplated selling on a daily basis.  Two things that are still up for debate.  But, for now they are ours.....and they MOSTLY bring us joy.

~ And me stepping down from a seven year stint of waitressing just a couple of shifts a week at Anglers closes the door on this chapter of our lives.  How I have loved this sweet little job.  The people are my family, and they have treated me well all these years.  In an effort to keep life sane and in our fight to have more meals around the family table together than NOT - this is the right decision for us in this season of life right now...

So....
Those are the highlights of 2016.
Not a whole lot of negatives to report, and for that I am deeply thankful.

Here are the lowlights of the year for this Mama...
There are FAR fewer than the highlights, thankfully.

~ I made 90 pints of jam.  My berries somehow went bad, so my boys call it "rotten jam" when they eat it.  I'm still making us eat it because of the blood, sweat, and money that went into the creation of it all. But, I'm sad and disgusted about it all.  But, we eat it anyway.  I'm THAT Mom.

~ I hardly ran a single mile last year when the year previous I ran my first Half Marathon and fell in love with everything about the sport.  This year it just didn't happen.

~ I hit a deer but didn't kill it.  A bummer on so many levels.  There's a wounded deer running wild, and it was a close shot, so my pride was bruised as well.

~ Our entire household got infested with lice.  It was epic, it was embarassing, and it was gross.  On the upside, my house got purged and was never cleaner.  There's the silver lining.  And by God's grace we got rid of it on the first go round and with natural products to boot.

~ Our three sweet call ducks got hit by a car one rainy morning.  A complete hit and run with two dying on the spot, and the other one I was certain who was braindead.  Jesse convinced us to keep him inside for a week, and in a matter of days he was up and back to normal.  I still can't believe it.  We had a little ducky funeral for the other two...lots of tears shed....but all four kids are still convinced that the love of having pets far outweighs the pain of it all.

~ I think my hardest thing for this past year was trying to get London's teeth fixed.  She freaked out in the dentist's chair, so they remain unfixed and it hurts my heart every time I look at them.  All three boys have perfect teeth - there are only two cavities between the lot of three little boys.  And here my only daughter has seven.  Apparently this can happen in a family.  Both Kev and I have solid, good teeth.  Our girl?  Not so much.  And so we withhold a ton of lollipops at church, and we pray that her second set comes in strong and solid.

So, there we have it.
Snippets of 2016 in a nutshell.
The good and beautiful FAR outweighing the bad.
And if the bad outweighed the good -- which we have had some years of that being the case, God is still good, and we still trust him.

And 2017 goals for your Mama?  I always have a bucket list brewing...
Here are just a few:
~ Read through a Bible again in a year - this time journaling prayers specifically for Kaden.
~ I want to read through at least six books that will grow me as a Mama, Wife, and Leader.
~ I want another Half Marathon under my belt.....and some day a full one.
~ I want a deer in our freezer - shot by me.
~ Debt paid OFF.
~ A Whole 30 lifestyle of eating this way more often than not.  No legalism with it, but my body feels best this way.  And Plexus plus Whole30 is kind of where the magic happens.
~ Maybe a garden plot this year?  I miss my hands in the dirt.
~ Writing more.  Blogging more.  Taking this time that I love.
~ God's will with my little Plexus business.  I love it.  It's ALL His.  He can grow it as He sees fit.
~ Homeschool success in my book is my children LOVING to learn - and character over curriculum.
~18 years of Marriage.  Good, solid years.  Always honoring Kev.  Always building into us.
~Always being a student of my children - as individuals...learning their strengths and their needs.
~ Church ministry growing.  People plugging in.  People feeling ownership.  How I LOVE that place!

Nutshell goals...
A wee little bucket list.
Here's to 2017, Dear ones!
God is good....ALL the time.  And ALL the time, God is good.

Slow.....see the sacred in the chaos.
Count the graces.  Name the Joys.

When Christmas Came Early...

Meet Ranger.
He's a GINORMOUS eight week old Labrador Doberman mix puppy.....and we are in LOVE.
For years.....YEARS....my boys have begged us for a puppy.
And for years, we have told them, "Not until our rugs get ripped up."
So....today, was an EPIC surprise.
Somewhere along the way, Kevy and I lost our marbles....we decided to throw caution to the wind...we figured rugs are just....rugs -- and so why NOT give our boys the Christmas of a lifetime -- a few weeks early?  We're already nuts....why not add to the Crazy?  And I think little kids need a dog.  Especially little boys who have begged for one for YEARS...

A week or two ago, I threw the question out on Facebook and got a plethora of responses.
One of Kev's cousins is a breeder, and when she saw my question, she private messaged me with a, "I might have the perfect pup for you"...  So Kevy and I went on a little datey date to have ourselves a look see.  I really didn't even need to see him.  I love Ruth.  I trust Ruth.  And knowing my own four "puppies" would be all up in the dog's grill.....it was just as important for me to know the breeder as it was the pup.  If she would trust her babies with this dog, then I would trust mine.
And So.....
Even though we still have rugs...
And even though this puppy was ready to go 3 full weeks before Christmas...
And even though I never really wanted a boy puppy...
Even though I am fully aware that I'm gaining a fifth child...when I JUST finished potty training my 4th...

We knew he was the One....
And we knew this was the time.
I made the kids a fun, special breakfast, and then we headed out the door to do some "errands."
Somewhere along the way, we flippantly told the boys that we had a little surprise for them today, and we would give it to them right after we stopped over at "my friend's house to say 'Hi.'"

Just yesterday, when we purchased our Christmas tree, there were two dogs hanging out in the Christmas gift shop.  This was the highlight of the kid's day, and the entire drive home Jesse was pensive and a little sad.  We asked him what he was thinking about and he just said:  "Oh....I was just thinking about being able to play with my own dog someday.  That will be so great..."

Perfect timing.
The kitchen floor is the new hangout.
So far...all #2's have taken place outside.
Four puddles, and one puzzle piece destroyed inside.
Good times.
 When we got to Ruth's house, I hopped out and yelled:  "Hi, my Friend!" And we gave each other a big bear hug.  As the kids piled out of the truck...two huge puppies came running from the backyard.  Kaden knelt right down and said:  "Oooh Daddy!!!  This is the kind that we're going to get someday, isn't it?"  All of the kids knelt down to pet them and ooh and aah over them, and we just stood back and watched.

After a few minutes, I knelt down beside this little guy and said:
"Hey Kids.... this puppy in the red collar is your Christmas present...."

"Are you serious?"
"Are you for REAL?!"
"Do we get to keep him forEVER?"
"Can we take him home today?"

Yes, Loves.
Yes to ALL of those questions....
And this has been our afternoon....
Sweet chaos.
Little stinky puppy breath.
Three boys who have told us that we are "the best parents" more times than I have ever heard them say over the course of their entire lives...

And a Mama and Daddy happy....because their love tanks are filled.

I have always dreamed of giving a baby animal as a Christmas gift..
Granted....he is no small pup.
He's ginormous.  There were only four pups in the entire litter, so he had space to GROW.


He is part Labrador and part Doberman....
Built to last.  Built to be protective.  Built to be able to handle a WHOLE lot of loving...
And so, this was the day when Christmas came early....

And in the words of my Jesse, it was "The best day EVER...."



Little Lists....

And just like that.....Summer fell into Fall.

 My blogging days have been far too silent these past many months.  Ebbs and flows, I guess.
As my world around me gets busier, I still record our days in pictures.  I just lack the follow-through to drop them over here and write about our happenings.  This year's blog book shall be awfully sparse.  It kind of makes me sad to see a skinny recording of our lives.  So, my goal is to improve.  One post a week is what I'm going to strive toward.  A Friday phone dump of our life with a written recording of our days for the sake of Memory.
First time at SoulFest with the WHOLE family.  SO fun.
Because the days are long, but the years are fleeting.
I am watching time fly away right in front of my eyes.
My girl is no longer a baby; and my boys are becoming men.
  SO many lovely places visited this year.  Rangeley, New Hampshire, and Texas.
Complete and total potty training has happened for my London.
A thumb sucking habit has been conquered for my Ransom.
Big, beautiful 1st time deer for both Kaden AND Jesse.
Our whole entire family (except for Kevin) got lice.  That's a doozy to look back on.
My hubby turned 40.
 Two big milestones right here.
One he found to be quite fun and one not so much.
I tell him to own his age like a BOSS.  He's like a fine wine.  He gets better with age....

Chronic health issues getting healed has organically turned into a business venture for this Mama with no one more surprised than myself.
A church that is growing -- exploding, really -- and our days are full into ministry.
A first year of piano lessons is almost in the books.  One boy has fallen in love.  Another begs daily to be done.
Year seven of Homeschooling has been eased into, and I am finding my groove for what works and what doesn't.
And the Holidays are upon us once more.....
Jam and Applesauce made this year.
My jam came out horrid and I'm devastated.  My applesauce restored my Joy.
Busy days.  Normal days.  Very regular days.
Sweet milestones.
New ventures.
The daily whirling and swirling of wash, rinse, and repeat.
Count the Joys.  Name the gifts.  Our Thankful Tree.
It's a simple life, and I love it.
It's been a good year.  A year of many changes, and a year of Growth.

I love looking back and seeing how far we have come.... as a family, as a couple, as individuals.
When one year winds now and another is upon me, I like to look back, and I like to remember where I was then and where I am now.  Things I have grown into.  Areas that still need growing.  Always assessing and re-assessing.  It's good to keep a finger on the pulse of our days...
This author is EPIC.  He wrote Praying Circles around your Children....among others.
Life.  Changing.  Books.

One thing I have learned this past year for myself is the intense need to fill myself up each day so that I have something to pour out onto those around me.  The first hour and a half of my days this entire past year have grown me like no other time in my life, I think.  In those early moments of my days while the rest of the house has been silent...during those coffee dates with Jesus...I have read, and I have prayed, and I have learned, and I have recorded my prayers......and their answers as each month has passed.  I have systematically seen God show up time and time again in answers to my prayers - both big and really small..
Waiting for my turn.  #bucketlist
~Father, help me to find Jesse's brand new hoodie he just got for his birthday.
~ Please have London be potty trained before I leave her for a week with my Mom.
~Show us....lead us to answers for Kevin's stomach issues.
~You know our curriculum needs...and our committment to paying only cash.  Guide us, Father.
~ Should we get a dog?  Is this the right timing?
~ Please - I BEG you - make these lice die and leave our lives.  lol....wowzas....
~ London's teeth, Lord...guide us.  Show us what to do..
~ Keep my boys safe while they hunt.  Deer or no deer, we thank you for Your provision.
~ Please instill in this boy a love for reading.  Please help it to become easier for him.  May he love it one day.
~ Help the brothers to love each other.  To have grace.
~Might she learn joyful obedience...and learn to obey the first time.
~Give us wisdom, Father.  Show us the way....  Is this from You or from my own selfish desires??
 
Little prayers.  Big prayers.  Answered prayers.  Still waiting prayers.
All recorded.  All written down...
A living heritage for my children to see how deeply He cares.  How wildly He loves.
How deeply invested and involved He is in our days...
And how He longs for us to love Him back with that same deep love....
These early hours have grown me this past year....
I trust Him more.  I love Him more.  I NEED Him more.

And while many things change and shift all around us -- He stays the same.
While this Mama and this wife stumbles along....learning, and failing, and falling -- He gives grace.

I think it's why I love this month so month.  An intentional mindset of thankgiving...of thanksLIVING.  Like this little blog space that has sat too silent for way too long.....it's good to look back on.  It's good to remember.  Record the gifts.  Name the graces.  Count the Joys...

Slow.....
See the sacred in the chaos.

Push to reset....

In His Own Words...

Kevin's Plexus Story.
In His Own Words.....
Recorded for our Blog Book so our kids can know the Story -- and see their Daddy's bravery again.
And written here for anyone else who may need a little bit of Hope....

"We were all bundled up to go sledding as a family.  It was a beautiful snowy afternoon, but I was struggling to enjoy it.  Guilt riddled my mind as I thought about how much fun I wished I could be having if I had felt better.  I forced myself to go sliding to make memories with my children but I wished I was home because I felt so sick to my stomach and had no energy.  I had been feeling like this for about a year, and I was super discouraged and quite frankly, depressed.

I had tried cortisol medication, proton-pump inhibitors, clean eating, a gluten-free diet, had extensive allergy testing with a homeopathic doctor, probiotics, supplements, and even tried acupunture.  I was so discouraged, that I was prescribed an antidepressant.  Even still, I had stomach pain and zero to no energy.

In March of 2013, I decided to have my gallbladder removed.  This was my last resort, but I had felt so terrible for so long, that I was going to try it.  This helped me some, mostly because the organ had become inflamed, but by no means did this help to the degree I was hoping for.

Over the next couple of years, I remember constant digestion problems.  I took Zantac and  Tums like they were candy, experiencing frequent stomach pain, low energy, and what I would call "brain fog" - the feeling you get when you are exhausted all the time!  What I know now is that all of these symptoms were actually related to poor digestion.  I had resigned myself to the realization that I would always have poor digestion, stomach pain, and low energy the rest of my life.

It was near the end of 2015 that we started hearing about Plexus from a friend, and I had no interest.  After all, I had already tried everything, and this had to be just another probiotic.  I was very critical of anything I heard about Plexus because I had tried so many things that claimed the same results.  I would have probably never tried Plexus at all, except that someone gifted a one month's supply of the Triplex to us because my sweet wife so desperately wanted me to feel better.

We committed to trying it for 2 months.  I told myself that at the end of 2 months, if I didn't notice a difference, I would discontinue it.  But after 2 months, I was noticing a difference.  My stomach wasn't in the same degree of pain, and I didn't feel exhausted all the time.  My moods were much better.  My brain fog was starting to lift.  I was having more "good days."  That was enough of a change that I decided I would keep going.  After 3 months, I noticed even more of a significant difference.  In fact, there was a 2-week period where I had run out of the Triplex I was taking, and I relapsed into my regular stomach pain and brain fog.  This was quite discouraging, but it also helped me realize how much it was actually working!

I have been taking the Triplex for 10 months now, and I feel like a different person!  More energy, minimal stomach and digestion issues, stabilized mood, and a love for life and doing all God has called me to do!  I love having energy to wrestle with my boys, shoot hoops, or go on fishing expeditions!  I am so thankful that God brought Plexus into my life. I believe that this is what He wanted to use to heal my body!  Plexus products are legit, and I am living proof!

I trust this is encouraging to you that regardless of what symptoms you may be facing today, that there can be hope and health for your future."

Seven.

Ransom Malachi.
"God's Messenger of Hope."
How in the world is my youngest boy already SEVEN?
 
Seven years old, my sweet little man...  And what a JOY it is to be your Mama!  I will always remember your birth story, because you came into this world the very morning after we purchased our new to us HOME.....after having lived four years either in the city of Pennsylvania, at a camp on Pushaw Lake, or in an apartment above a hotel.....where we had men in hoodies running across our rooftops at night and staring into our windows.  Those were a few years of (fun....blissy-ness, even...but nonetheless) Insanity.

So, when we finally signed papers on a house to call our very own, and we laid our heads down to sleep the night before you came -- amidst all of the whirling and swirling chaos that was the newness of just getting things moved in.  I was in my absolute ELEMENT of contentment.  We had chosen our paint colors.  My Mom and dear friend Rachael had completely set up our kitchen.  Our bedroom and your little nesting area were completely set up and organized.  And that was it - we were still completely surrounded by boxes.  But, I rolled over and looked at your Daddy in our sweet lofty bedroom with trees in our view from every window, and I whispered to him:  "If Ransom chooses to make his debut tonight. I am READY!"  I was SO happy.
Brother Gifts....
And so, you and I had conversations all night long.  I knew you were coming.  And I had a house full of people sleeping downstairs...   Ready to prime.  Ready to paint.  Ready to help me organize and clean.  But, you changed the plans for Mommy and Daddy -- and so early the next morning, we had us a little visit to our Midwife Jane.

Mid morning, you made your little debut -- much like your own little personality.  Not a lot of ceremony.  Slowly, but surely making your presence known.  Sweet Jane let me reach down and catch you myself.  And there you laid...right in the middle of my heart, where you had been all along for those sweet nine months.  My heart was full.  You were content.  And I was SO proud.  You, sweet boy, were my hardest labor -- but my easiest baby.  You came home on a schedule.  You have always loved your sleep.  And you just loved being held.

From the time you were young, you have ALWAYS been your own little person.  You are funny.  You are quirky.  You are easily amused and you invent your own play.  You have always loved cars and trucks, and you still love your puppy.  You are strong willed and feel things deeply.  You have always articulated well what you are thinking.  And being the youngest of three boys has never phased you.

This year you are a big first grader - reading and writing and doing Math like a champ.  You fly on your big boy bike, and you can run like the wind.  I LOVE watching you run.  You have better endurance than any of us, and I loved when you said a few months ago:  "God made me to run!" Indeed He did, sweet boy.

He made you for a whole lot more than that as well, Rancey.  My prayer for you is that you will do dangerous things for God.  That you will grow into the meaning of your name and that you will fall madly in love with Jesus.  I pray that you will always feel deeply and that you will always articulate clearly....but I pray you will do it for the cause of the Kingdom.  I love you so much, Ransom Malachi.  I love our relationship.  I love your sweetness.  I love your little conversations with London at night.  I love watching your tender care of her.  And I love your crazy personality.  Your dance moves delight me, and your nightly squishing hugs melt me every time.  You are a gift to our family, and I thank God for you every day.

Happy year number seven, sweet boy!!  Maybe it be a year where you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.  May it be a year where your relationship with Him really becomes your own. May your imagination and creativity grow, and may your friendship with your siblings deepen and solidify.  Stay honest.  Stay a little wild.

And never stop kissing me goodnight.
I love you so......

Nine.

Jesse Micah.
My "Gift from God."
My Wild Child Boy Joy.

This year, you are Nine....inching ever closer to those double digits.

 Growing ever bigger, ever stronger....always in the 95% in size for boys an entire year older than yourself.  God made you big.  And He made you strong.  He made you bold, and He made you brave.  And we pray that you always use these gifts for good.  God made your heart to match your size, as well....and that's always been the coolest thing to witness, Jesse Bear.

You love big, and you love freely.
You would give the shirt off your back to anyone who needed it, and you are the first to notice when someone is hurting.  I love this about you.  It's probably one of my favorite things.

You are one of my deepest joys, sweet boy.  One of my proudest moments.
And you were my favorite birth.

You came fast, and you came loudly.  Hollering bloody murder as soon as you entered the world.
Eight minutes after we walked through the hospital doors, you made your presence clearly known, and that's pretty much how it's been ever since.
You caught a crow....because.....why not?
You keep me on my toes.
And you keep me humble.
You perpetually keep us in stitches.
And you ask the deep questions.  The hard questions.  The ones that always surprise us.
This mix of crazy and of depth in you is the coolest thing.  I love this about you!
You......being You.
 My prayer for you this year, my Jesse, is that your love for Jesus will be deep, and wild, and true.  I pray that you will lead with integrity, and that you - in humility - will allow yourself to be led, as well.  I pray that God "will make you dangerous for His purposes so that you can make a difference in your generation." ~ (Mark Batterson, Praying Circles Around Your Children)  I pray that you will be a difference maker!  I pray that you will fall in love with Jesus and allow Him to write every chapter of the story of your life....that you will lean in...and you will trust Him and His purposes for your life with 100% confidence and assurance.  I pray for godly friendships who will speak into your life and challenge you to be better...to follow hard after Jesus.  And I pray for your heart.  That it will always stay tender.  And that it will always love Big.

I love your tenderness toward the underdog, and I love how you notice if someone is sad.  I absolutely love the adoration that you have for your baby sister....and your patience and sweetness toward her kind of slays me.  When she gets into trouble, you are the first to come running and want to soothe her.  That equal parts delights and frazzles me.  haha!  I love how you take to kids who are smaller than you and how you love holding babies.  I love how brave you are.  And I love watching you play football.  I love seeing you live in your gifts.
You and me on the SkyDiver....and you screaming:  "This is Wicked!!!"
Want to know what else I love?  I love watching you push through and practice your piano or read your chapter books when it's hard...and when you don't want to do it.  I love seeing your determination and perseverance....and I love to see your sense of accomplishment when you've finally mastered something that you thought you could never do.  That's life, sweet boy.  It will be full of challenges that you might never think you'll be able to accomplish.  But, you will.  And you'll have us right beside you rooting for you all the way.

Thank you for the hugs you still give so freely.  I treasure those...and I hope they are always up for grabs. Thank you for working so hard to be patient with your little brother.  You guys have come a long way. Thank you for working on your friendship and for including him for sleepovers in your room and for inviting him into your imaginary play.  He looks up to you.....SO much.  He loves being "one of the guys."

Thank you for your honesty with your mom and  your dad.  Thank you for telling the truth, even when you wonder if it will get you into trouble.  I respect that about you.  I'm proud of you when you choose honesty and integrity....and when you choose kindness and tenderness.  I'm proud to call you my Son.

I love that you are a lot like me....it kind of delights me when I see aspects of myself in you. When we both can't stop laughing at something....especially if we're supposed to be serious.  Or when we find ourselves hilarious.....even if nobody else does.  Mad skills, I'd say.

It's been a great year, sweet boy!  I can't believe you are almost in the double digits.  You are growing up, my Jesse.  And I'm so proud of the young man you are becoming.  There is nothing you could do to make me love you any less....and there's not a thing you could do to make me love you any more.

Happy birthday, Love!
Almost two months late...but still in the books for our memories...
I can hear you in my ear:  "I love you more, Mama."
And so I whisper back....."I love you most...."

Twelve.

Kaden Quint.
My biggest boy.
My "Gentle, Dark One."
My boy who is growing into a teenager right before my very eyes.


  Twelve years ago, you birthed me into Motherhood, and my life has been forever changed.

There was a day -- many many lifetimes ago -- when I thought I never wanted babies.  I was a teacher.  Daddy was a youth pastor.  We were coaches together.  We were surrounded by kids all day, and we both enjoyed coming home to a quiet, tidy house that was just filled with.....us.  But, things change, and God is the best story teller anyway.  And when we let Him write the pages of our lives....He does a far better job than we could ever think of doing.....even if the whole idea of it all was pretty scary to this young girl who always made babies cry whenever she held them.

Your Dad and I have become experts at doing scary things....and at doing things that we said we'd NEVER do....but those are stories for another day.  You were one of my very first majorly scary leaps of faith....one in which I felt a great burden of responsibility with very little preparation and instruction on how to do this whole thing called Motherhood.  I remember I had watched the movie Alien previous to being pregnant, so during my entire pregnancy, I wondered if you were trying to explode out of my belly.  Ha!  I remember telling my own Mama that I wasn't maternal and I was certain I was going to ruin this child growing within me.
Your first football camp.  
And -- SO clearly, I remember the day of your birth.  You being passed around from person to person.  Me looking on - still in disbelief that you were mine and that I had made you.  And I remember you starting to cry and your Grammy saying:  "Oooh!!  He needs his Mama."

I remember the world standing still and me panicking inside -- knowing that this was the moment when all of the world would know that I was a fraud and that I was not going to be able to soothe your cries.  But then.....as soon as you were back in my arms, you nestled in, and you burrowed deep....and just like that you stopped your crying....and it was in that instant that we were bonded.

You knew me, you were comforted by me, and you were mine.

Kaden....you are one of my deepest joys.  And you are one of my greatest accomplishments.
I am SO very proud of you.  I am honored and blessed to have you call me Mom.

We are so very different, you and I.  People say you look more like my side of the family....but you surely have your father's personality.  You think like him.  You act like him.  You have his quick wit and funny sense of humor.  You don't love being in the spotlight....and I can embarrass you really easily in public.  I love watching you with your friends -- your quiet confidence and your contentment in just being yourself.  And I love watching your younger siblings look up to you and the love and admiration that they have for you.

It's a big responsibility being the oldest brother.  One that you wear pretty well.  Thank you for your grace and patience with the Littles in the house.  Thank you for your gentleness with your little sister.  I love watching you with her.  I love the kisses you so freely give to her....and the open love and affection that you show her.  You are showing her - already - how she deserves to be treated.  And you are giving her - already - a standard to hold onto and to expect.  I love that.

I love you, Kaden.  I love the young man you are growing into.  I love your gentle tenderness toward things that are smaller and weaker than you.  I love your love for the outdoors and your passion for hunting and fishing.  I love listening to you play the piano and seeing your gifts starting to more and more rise to the surface.

I'm trying to savor these last years that I have you still under our roof.  The time frame has tilted, and the countdown of  years before you leave us is so much closer than I even want to think about right now.  I love our morning coffee together.  I love playing Cribbage with you at the counter.  I love our family vacations to Rangeley and watching you be in your glory in the Great Outdoors.  I love how you are quiet all day long until your Daddy and I are ready to go to bed and then suddenly you turn into a Chatty Pants with more energy than you've had all day long.  And I love waking you in the mornings when you are deep in sleep -- tracing your features with my fingers and memorizing your face that is still Boy....but ever changing into Man......

I love you, Kade.  And I am proud of you.
Thank you for your grace with this Mama who makes multiple daily mistakes and who often is at a loss for words and wisdom on this whole Journey of Motherhood.  My prayer for you is my prayer for all of you kids.  I pray that God will "make you dangerous for His purposes so you can make a difference in your generation." ~ (Mark Batterson, Praying Circles Around Your Children).  I pray that you will fall in love with Jesus.  That you will make Him the Lord of your life in every single area.  And that you will surround yourself with godly friends who will challenge you in your walk and who will make you better.  I pray for bold faith, for strong convictions, for tender love and kindness - for you to be an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.....and for you to be open and willing....and ready to allow God to speak into your life and to write your story how He sees fit.

I pray "that you grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." ~ Luke 2:52

Watch your Daddy, Sweet Boy.
See how he does life.  See how he loves your Mama well and how he makes his family priority.
See how he seeks the heart of Jesus....and how he leans in....even when he maybe feels it's hard to trust.  Keep treating your sister the way that you are doing......and treat every other girl who you are not related to the way that you would want them to treat London.

I pray that you will always talk to us, and that you will always know that we are safe.
We will always be on your side.  There is nothing you could ever do to make us love you any less, and there is nothing you could ever do to make us love you any more.

Happy 12th Birthday....two months late, but still in the books for our memories..
Happy last year before you are a teen.
You're the coolest, Kade..