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 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 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...."


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  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 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 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. 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..


London fourth and final baby.
Today you are three.
And my heart feels just a little bit broken over just how quickly these three years have flown.
It's like I blinked, and now you're a real little girl.
It's crazy how life happens...

I can remember clear as can be, the day we found you that you were going to be a GIRL.  I remember all five of us crammed into that little ultrasound room.  I remember telling the doctor that I didn't want to know the gender unless she could stake her life on not being mistaken.  You were the very first baby where Daddy said he kind of hoped that it would be a little girl, so when she told us for 100% certain that this was indeed what you were going to be, I remember this sweet, gentle smile that crept over his face at the news.  I remember Kaden exclaiming:  "Hey!  You changed your recipe!"  And Jesse's confused:  "Well, what are we going to do with a GIRL?!?"

And I remember crying.

I remember the fear and the uncertainty of this new adventure I was about to take; and I remember being certain that God knew what He was doing in always only giving me all boys.  I was raised with boys.  I always played with boys.  I understand boys.  And I am surely not a girly girl.  I knew for certain that God wouldn't give me any girls, because I was afraid of them and knew that I would ruin their delicate emotions.  I was not made for anything fragile.

But, then He gave me You, and thus began my Journey of trust.
And of wonder.
And of this deep, new Joy in learning the world of wee baby girls.

From the get-go, you were wild.
You were my ONLY baby that gave me a false alarm pre-run visit to the hospital.
You literally made me queasy with your somersaults inside of me.
And you have always been my earliest riser of them all.
You live life loud and wild, and you are as crazy as all three of "your boys" combined.  True story.
And it kind of delights me.

You love nothing more than to be in a dress... flying wild in the breeze...filthy face...skinned up knees...with a chicken or a duck under your arm.  You want to do whatever your boys are doing, and you are fearless.  I love that about you.  I love your crazy, and I love your sweet.  You are strong-willed, sweet girl.  Probably, my strongest of them all.  And I pray that you will stay strong.  I pray that you will stay fearless.  I pray that you will stay loud and wild about all of the things that you should.  I pray that you will grow to love Jesus with ALL of your heart.  I pray that you will watch your Daddy and your boys, and that you will let them protect you and treat you like a lady.  Even now, I pray for your future husband...that you will wait for each other...and that God will continue to prepare you for each other.

Sound crazy with you only being three?
Well, I blinked and lost three years already...I'll blink again one day, and you'll be gone.
And so today, I slow down and I savor the gift that is You.

Sweet London Faith - namesake of our Mamas - you have broken and re-made me.
You have been my undoing, my remaking, and my gift.
You have been the Joy of our Home, and you have expanded our hearts and our lives.
You have made me slow and see...and you have caused me to cautiously love the color Pink.

I love your sense of humor and your love for your boys.
I love how you have accepted as your birthright, the lavish love of four smitten Hoolie men.
I love watching you with your Daddy - His gentle love for you, and his delight in a daughter.
I love your kisses and your hugs...and how some days I think you'd crawl back inside me if you could.  You are bonded to me, and we KNOW each other.
I love how you have made me grow, and how you have completed our family.

You are well loved, little girl.
This you know full well.
And I love you more than words can say.  I'm so thankful that God knows better than me.
We will learn together, you and I.
We will write this story of womanhood together.
It will be good, and it will begin again and again each morning when I walk into your room to the yells of:  "Maaaaamaaaa!!  Where ARE you?!"

Each day, when you open your arms wide to me and to your Daddy, to your boys, and to your duckies...we will begin afresh and anew.  Because His mercies are new every morning, and because God is faithful.  I am imperfect, sweet Love...and I will make a whole lot of mistakes.  I'm still learning this Ministry of Motherhood.  I'm still walking uncertain and unsure.  But, my love for you is wild and true.

I love the adventure of us.
I love the challenge of learning a little girl.
I love that you have four big protectors, and I already feel badly for the boy who catches your eye one day.  I lived that, too, with only brothers and a big Daddy.  It was kind of fun.  And frustrating, too.  But mostly fun....  Dad showed an unused bullet to one of my suitors and said he surely hoped he'd never have to use it.  It mortified me.  And it made me feel safe.  That's what you've been born into, sweet Love.  You'd best embrace it and just go along for the ride.

Happy 3rd Birthday, London!
How we love you!

Spring Has Sprung.

Because it's the first warm-ish and sunny day that we've had in what feels like.....years...
And because Kev has the day off...

Because I firmly believe that "play is the WORK of childhood"...
And because I'm Head Teach, so I CAN.....
Liquid gold in the near future....
We did absolutely zero bookwork today.
Instead, we lived and we played outside and It. Was. Blissy.

Not to mention loud.
With a few squabbles thrown in here and there.
And some toddler ranting.
Some brothers spatting at each other now and then.
A hubby trying to figure out how to build a treehouse.
A Mama feeling like it was still just a tad too cold to go out at crack of dawn, like he wanted.
Snot flying, coughs wheezing, mud flying, fire building, chickens squawking.... SO much Happiness.
You know, per our usual norm...
Like I said.....Blissy.
Introducing our babies to the Great Outdoors.
Because your days are what you make of them.

And right now - these days are right filled to the brim with Crazy...
And loud.....and messy....with little down time....and a WHOLE lot of Hoolies right under foot...

With a Mama who sometimes feels like she has her hands in the mix of many many things...
And wonders, at times,  if she's doing a good job at any ONE of those things...
And introducing our two ladies to the 8 little rascals that will soon be joining them.
And so that's where the grace comes in...
And the whole "your day is what you make of it" mentality...

Our days are never perfect.
And our kids are never flawless.
There's always more to be done....and things to do "better." what?
I will never "arrive" - and that's okay.
I'll give my kids their own brand of dysfunction to take into their own homes someday.
Kev and I will get frazzled and flustered with each other and need to apologize.  Daily.
London's perpetual messes will make me want to perpetually fork out my eyeballs.
And her little girly emotions will continuously leave me feeling stumped.
The boy's bedroom of blankets that I can't even walk into will make me back away and close the door....
No words.  Just......None.
But this.....ALL of this....
This is a good GOOD Life.
This is a life being Lived, and it's a Life that is Full.

This is a life filled to overflowing with beauty and blessing....and mess after mess after mess...
And I will choose to see the blessing of it each and every day.
Even if I need to get up at 5:00a.m. to greet the day in silence in order to fully adjust my attitude....
Chicken sausages....with my chickens looking on.
And these kids - they're so good at giving us big baths of grace...
They are Naturals at showing us how to "seize the day" and really live...
They're great at discovering the magic in each and every day....
And it's sweet and special....and really fun to see life through their little eyes.

They're crazy.  And wild.  And free.
And Happy.  And content.  And joyfilled -- even amidst all of the messy.

They're good at finding the Joy in the small things of wooden boards nailed into a tree.
And hotdogs and s'mores cooked over an open fire.
Like swinging high....and finding glory in little, fuzzy things.
Sometimes it's good to be schooled by your kids...
Count your blessings, Friends.
Name them one by one...

It's kind of Life Changing.


Roughly 355 days out of the year, I am with my children 24/7....give or take.
And roughly, 355 days out of the year....I really love this arrangement.
Give or take...
Coffee Art.  It's a beautiful thing.
But, for just about a week every winter, and for the same amount of time every summer - my sweet Mama and Daddy-O kidnap our babies and take them up HOME for a few days.  It's tradition, and it's one of the highlights of the year for my kids.  Up North, they are educated in all things Redneck - like target practicing out the basement door and driving laps around the house on four wheelers.  They stay up late watching movies, they eat copious amounts of junk food, they trap wild animals and drive on old back roads to release them....and they live the County Life for a week...getting their love tanks filled to overflowing while spending time with two of the most important people to ever mold me into the woman who I am today.

That's a gift, man.  A treasure.
One in which I do not take lightly, and one in which we all look forward to and savor.
My sweet parents are saints, and need a long winter's nap when all is said and done....
My kids come home feeling loved and spoiled...with tales of glory and adventure.
One of our favorite coffee spots...
And, this Mama over here....
Well, those five days were jet fuel to my soul.
They are my push to re-set.
And they give me just enough of a break from my normal reality...that I crave the chaos of their return.

I see my kids with fresh eyes.
All of the empty, quiet spaces that were my life for the previous week are all flooded back in with CRAZY.
And I fall in love with my life all over again.
The Stonehurst Manor in North Conway, New Hampshire.
One of our favorite getaway spots...
That little break...that little recharge has done wonders for my soul.
I have a fresh set of eyes.  I have renewed vision for our days.
Kev and I have had full and complete conversations.
We've usually skipped Dodge for a day or two.
We have reconnected.  We have both recharged.

And we find ourselves craving the chaos once again....
It's a good thing to crave your kids.  I LOVE getting the chance to really really miss them....all the while knowing they are having the time of their lives.
Meanwhile.....we are as well!
I will be forever grateful to my parents for ASKING to take my kids.
I don't take lightly the role that they play.
I honestly believe that (good! godly!) grandparents play a role in our kids' lives that we cannot play.
I LOVE surrounding them with older and wiser people.
I LOVE seeing the active role that my parents play in their grandchildren's lives.
I love hearing of their conversations and their discussions on.....whatever.
And I love the memories that they will have - just like I still do - of the countless nights spend at my own Grammy's house.

It's a beautiful thing.
Happy Valentine's Day.  To us.
And so, I thank you - sweet parents - for loving on my babies.
Thank you for loving me....just by the way that you love on them.

I apologize for anything that may have gotten broken during their stay.
Because.....I'm SURE it happened...
...and for your ears that are probably ringing from the car ride back to meet us.
...for any potty accidents London probably had.
,..for the super de duper early mornings that you all got to experience.
...for the brothers who (I'm positive) still wrestled like puppies (even though I repeatedly warned them not to).  I'm sure they still did it.  They can't help it.  It's how they show their love.
...for the squabbles I'm sure you had to referee.
...and for the groceries that got destroyed by four Hoolie children.
P.S. ~ Any family secrets that Jesse told, be assured that they were embellished....

I'm fully aware that my parents are some of the BEST....
I think for a wee, small fee they could be rented.  I can check for anyone inquiring....

Friday Photo Dump.

In the spirit of attempting to write and record more over here in this little spot of mine, I'm trying something new!  

A weekly (give or take a ......month....if we're keeping it real) photo dump of all of the pictures I've taken in that (hopefully) wee little span of days.  This spot is, for the most spot, my recording of my Joys - and more often than not, it's my phone camera that captures these little random snapshots of Life.
Little boy letters to friends who have been sick...
Memories captured in pixels,...
Little moments I want to remember...
Simple pleasures that I try to stop and breathe in amidst the crazy that is our day....  
Simple Pleasures like the day's first cup.
And Jamberry nails.  They make me feel like a real girl.
To which Kaden replies:  "Except you don't act like one."
To which I reply:  "You're no longer welcome here."
And I am always, always, always reminded of the quote:  "Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things."  

Kind of hauntingly true...  
Puzzles and snacks.....and sunlight.
Nothing really major happens in our days, for the most part.  
Just a whole lot of the same.  
And  yet, biggest boy is almost a teenager, and my baby now speaks in full sentences and pees on the potty.  
She also bribes her big brother to paint her toenails whilst on said potty...
I blinked, and in the midst of all of our normal, simple days of nothing....they all grew up.

And so these pictures are my recordings.
They are my Pauses and my Pushes to Reset.
They are my Little Things....that actually make up my really big things...
Dinner.  Caught by my men.
That's been my prayer as of late...honestly, my prayer always.
I want to be fully present.
I want to embrace the chaos and slow and see the sacred that's found right smack in the midst.
I want to savor....yes, savor....this last go round of potty training.
I want to delight in the new words and phrases that are exploding from London each and every day.
I want to celebrate the victories of brothers who work to get along and be patient with each other.

I want to encourage the creativity in the kitchen and at the the basement....and wherever it overflows.
I want to pause in the evenings and drink in the sweet, deep breathing of all four of my babies still under my roof.
And breathe deeply at my children's decorating of their own rooms....

And I don't want to wish any of it away.
These are the sweet, simple days.
These are the days where the biggest frustrations are still just the messes and the chaos and the LOUD.

We have yet to enter the deep seasons of friendship betrayals, and broken hearts, and major life disappointments.  We're still in the weary and crazy - but easy - stage of our parenting.  

A bear hug from Daddy and a snuggle from Mama can pretty much wipe away any woes of our days to this point.

But I know the Heavy with come.
And I want to embrace that, as well...

This is just still such sweet Simplicity....
And this I want to drink in deeply.
Sweet simple Joys...
While the coffee perks.....a Daddy and his daughter do what she loves best...
"Children are not a distraction from more important work.  
They are the most important work." 
~ Jonathon Trainer ~
Childhood is a Journey, Not a Race....
And the Days may be long....but the Years......they are fleeting.

These are the days....