Category Archives: This is Our Life

It’s That Time of Year




















Almost five years ago, I chose a new domain name and pushed publish on my first post. Although I had been blogging or five years, I knew it was time for something new. I wanted to start a new blog and a new place to encourage other moms in their walks with the Lord and in their journey through motherhood. The dream was there but the name wasn’t.

Convinced God had a name perfectly planned for this new space, I prayed and waited on Him. Although I put fourth my own ideas, my heart didn’t feel the peace I was expecting. And so I continued to wait.

In His good time, God gave me His vision through my reading in the gospels. Matthew 13 and Mark 4 revealed a truth to me that I would carry both through life and motherhood: the key to a flourishing life in Christ is to first, prepare the soil.

Because my Bible reading plan lands me on the same chapters each year, my heart is annually reminded of God’s whispers to me: “This is the way, walk in it.” I choose to take some time each summer to reflect on what God has done and what He is doing, both in my children and in my own heart.

I’ve shared the story before, but like with anything of value, it is worth returning to. The details may become fuzzier each year, but the lessons learned will remain forever.

And so I reminisce with memories of summer 2011:

Five years ago, I sat on the balcony off of our master bedroom. My coffee steamed hot on the table next to me, my Bible in my lap. Jason and the four older kids were away for a few days enjoying the beach while I stayed home to write the book that was on my heart and to enjoy the extra snuggle time with my then four-month-old. 
I loved sitting on that balcony. One of my favorite things about our Indonesian homes was the balconies and their offering of a treetop view of the world below. Somehow I was able to think more clearly in the fresh air and unique perspective of life from above. That particular morning, with Bethany still sleeping and my coffee still hot, I opened my Bible reading for the day.

But before I finish that story, another one needs to be told. And I’ll save that for tomorrow.

Let Them Be Kids {part two} : Our Sweet Puppy

PTS | Our sweet Puppy


Everyone knows I love our sweet doggie.  My photos are proof:


©janetphillips_april20_2016_web-50©janetphillips_april6_2016_web-31©janetphillips_floridatrip2015_web-252But we have another little puppy…her name is Bethany…or Beppy…or Puppy…Skye…or Marshall




Yep, my daughter thinks she is a dog. She eats out of dog bowls (clean and unused my real canines), she insists on “wet food” (refried beans) in her bowl, she laps water from her bowl on the floor, she wears a puppy costume most days, and she is known to pant, bark, lick, and scratch.

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Naturally, back in March on her birthday, she had all-things-puppy:

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She’s also been known to eat some dog bones (aka Scooby Snacks)




It’s weird…I know. I have had to ask her not to lick guests. I have had to remind her she must use words when I ask her a question (as opposed to just panting and wagging her little tail bottom.)


And course with a puppy in the house, a kitty can’t be far behind:

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But you know what…I love it.

It’s just so her. She’s our sweet Beppy girl and I adore watching her just be who she is.

PTS | Let Them Be Kids3


Why do we try so hard to force our children to be what we think they should be?  I’m not talking about being a kid with character. We should do all we can to ensure our children are growing in traits such a kindness, gentleness, and respect.

No, what I mean is the all-too-often push for children to fit into some shape they believe children should be. I’ve written about this before.

Other parents seem to get it as well.

And yet, others have so much trouble just letting kids…be kids. They want them to do this or do that. To look this way or to act that way.

Why not just let kids be kids?

Why not just let them be little? Let them play and swing and jump and get messy and be loud and pretend they are a dog?

Having a 13 year old and having a three year old (and 12, 10, 8, and 5!), I know more than ever how fast this time goes.

They don’t stay little long.

  • Their sweet baby teeth give way to crooked ones that are far too big for their mouths.
  • Those cuddles we were too busy for are much harder to come by as they get older.
  • The funny little things they say will be long forgotten.
  • The way the pronounce ‘sketty will finally work itself into spaghetti.
  • They will stop calling their siblings Enny, Ca-bub, Wi-Wi, and Tatie.
  • They will stop asking you to draw a butterfly and snake at church every.single.week.
  • They will stop calling your family “our people.”
  • They will stop dressing up as knights and princesses…and even dogs.


Oh, can’t we just let them be little. Let them be dogs. Let them dress up, go barefoot, make a mess in the kitchen as they help you cook. Let them beg you to read the same book over and over. Say yes when they want their fifth bath of the day (and look the other way when they have chosen to use a new towel for every dip in the pool and the subsequent baths…if you are counting, that is no less than TEN towels used by ONE child in ONE day.)


It’s funny. I blog so rarely these day and I hardly remember what I have written about in the past. Apparently this subject isn’t new to me. I was looking for something else and came across all of these:

A Time to Say Yes
Saying Yes to Our Kids (audio post)
Whatever It Takes

And a number of other posts on my old blog (which I need to resurrect!)

And of course, there are times to say no.

But this is what I have told many mamas:

There will be so many times we as parents have to say no. So why don’t we say yes to absolutely anything we can?



Because you know what? I love our sweet puppy…actually, I love both the furry one and the one who comes to cuddle with me each morning during my Bible time. (Oh wait, both puppies do that…I see where Beppy gets it from…)

And so—yes. When the little white costume with black spots was so small it was cutting off her circulation, we bought Skye Marshall Rover Fetch Puppy Bethany new puppy costume. And since it is summer in North Carolina and the temps usually hover around 95°, I am glad I talked her out of this one.

So…can’t we just let them be little?

And if you need to release some pent-up emotions, how about this song. I hadn’t heard it before…guess I need to get back to my country-music-loving high school days.





Lessons from the Strawberry Field

PTS | Lessons strawberry

We’d been meaning to go for weeks. However, with varying schedules and March-like weather in May, it just hadn’t happened yet.

Fearing we’d make it through another strawberry season without going, we chose to make it a priority. With one day left in the picking season, we finally headed out to the strawberry fields.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-30 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-32 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-33 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-34 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-36

Without shame, I admit my favorite part of picking is the opportunity to take pictures and to just watch (well that and the forthcoming strawberry pie.) It isn’t just because I like cute photos of my kids (which I do), but rather, it is because I know when I take photos and I slow down enough to to truly see, I notice (and appreciate) all the little things that are so easily missed in the hurry-up nature of our lives.
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I see how little and innocent my children are. I notice what they find important (which is often far different than my own classification of important.) I see the way they approach challenges, opportunities, failures, and successes. I watch the way the older ones demonstrate the reality of their hearts as they reach out a hand to help a little one. I see small adoring eyes, with neck cocked back as far as possible, staring straight up to match the smiling gaze of an older sibling. With my camera, I am reminded to slow down, to notice, and remember.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-81 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-93 strawberry picking_2©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-89 strawberry picking_5

When I am too busy experiencing my life and jumping to the next great thing (or the next strawberry bush) and I refuse to take time to notice and reflect, I miss out. I miss the beauty of my children in these carefree years of childhood and I miss the beauty of the lessons weaved through our moments, calling out to be learned.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-20
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After we managed to fill our bellies and our two one-gallon pails (I can see why this field was calling it the last day of picking—the fields were sparse!), we returned to the front in order to pay and clean up. As Jason dipped the kids in the sink (because simply washing hands and faces dripping with sun-warmed strawberry juice isn’t nearly as fun as an actual bath in the sink), I chatted with the farmer as he shaded himself under the canopy.

Now I have a confession to make: I cannot keep anything green alive. Those who excel in growing anything other than weeds utterly fascinate me. I wanted to hear about how the farmer grows and maintains these amazing fields. “It’s a long process,” he said with half exhaustion and half idyllic reminiscing. “It all starts in August and continues straight through ’til opening day.”©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-11 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-19 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-36 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-94 strawberry picking_3 strawberry picking_6 strawberry picking_8

After sharing more of what is involved in covering his acreage with strawberries for the masses, the farmer explained to me how almost half his crop this year was lost due to heavy spring rains. Having learned a bit about crop failure and insurance through my four days sitting on a jury for a case involving tobacco fields and insurance claims, I was curious as to how his loss was handled. Sadly, he explained, specialty crops aren’t covered by insurance. His loss was simply that — a loss.©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-18 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-63 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-71 ©janetphillips_may27_2016_web-95 copy

Finishing his story with an attempt of an upbeat, “At least we’ll break even,” the farmer told me he wasn’t likely to plant again. “Too much work for no guarantee,” he said. “But,” he qualified in a laid-back southern farmer way,

“The last day of the season ain’t the time to make that kind of decision.”

I immediately thought of the director of the camp where Jason and I met. I remembered the wise words offered as he explained how he and his wife were committed to never making a decision to leave camp in August or September—the two months following the busiest and most exhausting part of the year for a year-round camp. Wise words, indeed.


Long lasting decisions aren’t to be made—if at all possible—in the shadow of stress, exhaustion, or confusion (and, I would cation, nor under the glowing lights of recent success, first-week-of-school-determination, or brilliant newfound ideas).

PTS | decisions quote

Notice I said, “If at all possible.” Sometimes, decisions simply must be made. In those moments, it is more important than ever to remember the imperative to “get wisdom,” (before you need it!) and  “…He stores up sound wisdom for the upright…”

In the absence of a need for expediency (an actual need, not simply a felt need, belief or impatience), wise decisions are best made through the result of quiet waiting, wise counsel, and realistic appraisals of situations—all things we humans don’t find all that exciting.

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But what kind of life would we live and what kind of world would we create if all our decisions—from what we choose to eat to what kind of businesses we build—were made not in defeat or fear, nor in excitement or glittery inspiration, but rather in wise waiting and slow steadfastness?

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What would happen if we allowed the still small voice, the gentle blowing, and the low whisper to have far more power over us than the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire? 

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I sure haven’t mastered this process, but oh how I want to!

Jordan Lake



(If you are just here for pictures, feel free to scroll through this post to see a few. And then—if you have seven minutes of your life to spare—you can see a lot more in the video below. I am learning that with the number of photos I take and with my desire to be better at capturing video, putting together quick slideshows like this is a great way to remember our trips).

It’s just how we are wired, I guess.

I’ve talked about it before — this need to get away, recharge, refocus, and be refreshed. I worded it this way:

When the beauty of routine starts feeling confining, I know it’s time. It’s time to find another place to lay our heads and new scenery to fix our eyes upon.

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And it is still true. When we get away for a few days, letting the worries of work, housecleaning, and life decisions slip away, we are free to focus on what matters most: relationships.

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Life has a way of robbing us of what we were created for. Life tells us to hurry up, accomplish this, prepare for that. Life rarely tells us to slow our pace, to look and speak and read deeply , to focus not on the breath of what we accomplish, but rather, the depth. Life fools us into thinking our frenzied pace is evidence we are truly living, when in fact most of our “living” exists solely in the fictional day of tomorrow — the day all the things will get done, the memories will be made, and our good intentions will come to fruition.

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The more we in the west try to do, do, do, the less we believe the truth: we have the time.

And so for our family?

We get away.

We camp.

We hike.

We enjoy creation and the wonders of what God has given us. We slow down, enjoying long talks around the campfire, slow morning snuggles, and kids piled on the bed for a sweet movie. 


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It’s been a busy spring. Between work, finishing school, doctors and dentists, meetings, and more, we haven’t had a chance to sneak away. And yet, we know how important it is. During another busy week, we looked at the calendar to see what we could say no to, and we carved out a few days to just be us. Jason still had to work, so we chose a state park close enough that he could drive back and forth. It wasn’t ideal, but I know deeply that this is true:

If we’re always waiting for the ideal, we will always be waiting.

And oh how we needed these days! They filled my soul, reminded me of what is important, and offered the rest our weary souls were crying out for.

Here is a seven-minute video of our time away (a mixture of photos and videos from both my phone and my regular camera).




The natives were getting restless.

We’ve been taking an early summer break to give us all a rest before we start our summer school schedule (reading and math). After a few weeks of endless trampoline and slack line time, I started to notice a few mopey glances and a lot of “what are we going to do today?” questions.

I’m not the camp and cruise director type of mom. I believe it is good for kids to be bored and un-entertained. First, it teaches them that I don’t exist merely to provide daily entertainment. Second, when children are bored, they naturally move into creative ideas to pass the time. Third, because our family does a lot of hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities, the down days are good for them.©janetphillips_may20_2016_web-41

That said, I do at times provide the kids with some activity ideas if they seem to be twiddling their fingers as they figure out what the afternoon is going to look like.

Last week, after a few hours of us drawing pictures, playing games, and having fun, they still wanted to do more. I had some work to do, so I told them I would give them an activity if they committed to doing it. I wouldn’t tell them what it was, but I explained they would have to be creative and work together.©janetphillips_may20_2016_web-12

After being assured I didn’t intend for them to clean the house (but what a great idea!), they accepted my challenge and I told them their mission:

Create a coffee shop for the family

“It must include coffee (of course) as well as fresh-baked treats. Each of you must have a role/part to play and you will all need to work together to figure out a plan and how to get it done. And no one individual kid (**cough**cough**Alaina**cough**first-born**) should take over the plans. “

With smiles on their faces and creative ideas churning in their minds, they kicked me out and I gladly obeyed orders to not return until I was called. A few hours later, we were requested to enter through the front door. And this is what greeted us:




















They did an amazing job. I love seeing their creativity! We used to do this kind of thing on a regular basis (like this hotel night a few years ago). But life has been busy and stressful and sometimes creative activities like this fall through the cracks.

I am so glad that even though the kid are older now, they still became really involved in the activity. It’s good for the older kids to think through all the details and it is good for the younger ones to experience it in order to see how they can come up with activities on their own.

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I loved all the little details…the decorate your own cupcakes, the “employees only” sign, the Happy Camper mug, the menu, the picture frame, the kiddie play area, games set out, and more!

Jason ordering his food

Jason ordering his food

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Zach enjoying the play area

Zach enjoying the play area

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Katie helping Beppy with the decorate-your-own cupcake area

Katie helping Beppy with the decorate-your-own cupcake area


Zach waiting for his turn

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Top notch service from the staff

Top notch service from the staff


Roasting marshmallows over a candle was such a cool idea!

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After roasting marshmallows and playing games, it was time to clean up. That’s when the older kids gave Bethany her role: being the janitor. Never has there been a cuter or more enthusiastic Cinderella.


…and yes, that is a green potty on the floor. Zach feels the need to bring it with him to whatever room we are all in.

So, what do you have planned this summer?

Let Them Be Kids {part one}

PTS | Let Them Be Kids

I remember the first time I noticed it.

We are at Disney World, enjoying the annual membership we saved up to purchase for our year in Orlando.

Family after family walked along, pushing their rented double stroller filled with weary children far beyond the age of being carted along by equally weary parents. It was the “trip of a lifetime,” or so explained the parents.

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Sleepy, exhausted, and often crying kids: in strollers, in the hands of adults half dragging them toward the next ride, begging to be done for the day. “Can’t we just go back to the hotel?” they pleaded. The parents’ response always sounded something similar to:

“Come on! This is fun! We still have so much more to see! This is our only chance!”

I get it. I do. Most people aren’t in our situation. They don’t have the luxury of living in Orlando, enjoying a job that leaves them with evenings and weekends full but with days free to take our (then) all preschool aged kids to explore “the most magical place on earth.” After a few hours, we were ready to return home, knowing our passes could and would be used many times again. For many families, however, this was a trip of a lifetime. And they made sure to let their kids know it. Over and over.


This a photo from a recent trip to the zoo. We hadn’t been there in more than three years and our kids were so excited, especially about the mud kitchen. We were disappointed when it appeared as if the play area had been closed. To our delight, we saw that it had only been moved and improved.

Fast forward four years and our family found ourselves in North Carolina for a year of furlough. Wanting our kids to enjoy the amenities of America, we purchased a zoo membership (yea for places that have family membership and don’t define family as “two parents and two children”!) It was a 45 minute drive from our home, but still, it was worth it.


In this particular zoo was a little treasure: a children’s play area. I don’t mean a playground (though there is one of those in another part of the park). No, this was something entirely different. It was a huge, fenced-in area filled with all sorts of imagination- and curiosity- filled things. There were sticks and ropes and random pieces of fabric. There were shovels and rakes and burlap sacks. There was a mud kitchen, overflowing with pots and pans just waiting for a child to “bake” a beautiful pie.

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Our children loved it. One one occasion, I am pretty sure we spent more time in the play area than we did seeing the animals. Our kids built teepees, made mud cakes and casseroles, and pretended to be carpenters, monkeys, and the next winner of Cupcake Wars.

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I remember watching them, the rising pregnancy nausea threatening to steal my enjoyment, and thinking, “This is it. This is what childhood is for.”

As we sat there, sun hot against our backs, we heard variations of the same conversation outside the gates:

“Mom! Can we go play in there? I want to play!”

“No. We’re at the zoo. We’re here to see the animals.”

“But just for a little bit?”

“No! Let’s go!”


Family after family walked past, sweaty kids being pulled by parents along, disappointed little faces pointed in our direction, longing to be with the blond-headed crew enjoying the massive space all to themselves.

Jason and I looked at one another with a knowing glance: It’s Disney all over again. “No, kids. You can’t play. You can’t rest. You’re having fun, remember? We have things to see and places to go! We have an agenda!”

“You’ll get dirty!”
“You can play with sticks at home.”
“There is a nice playground by the concession stand.”

With mud-covered children, sun-kissed cheeks glistening with sweat colored brown by the dirt, we reluctantly gathered our things as the zoo closed its gates for the day. Half the animals went unseen, a lonely section of map unused.  But our children’s curiosities were satisfied and their little souls filled.

Oh parents, let them be kids.

This I plead.

However, this pleading to “let them be kids,” is in reference to a child’s curiosity, wonder, and inhibition, all of which come naturally to children. I do not in any way mean “let kids be kids” in the sense of allowing childish and selfish behaviors that also come naturally. The former helps children gain a greater view of God and how He has revealed Himself in Creation. It awakens their senses, forming neural pathways for sensory stimulation and integration, imagination, and awe of God. The latter furthers the sinful notion that children are the center of the universe (or at least the home) and their behaviors should be overlooked or excused by the turned head of parents who don’t want to “squelch their personality” or simply don’t know what else to do.


Clearly, this is a topic in desperate need of wisdom, discernment, education, and encouragement. When do we push kids to keep going even though they are tired? When do we slow down and enjoy the benefits of the proverbial encouragement to “stop and smell the roses?” How do we balance parent’s desire, children’s wills, and invested time and money?

What about safety? Do we allow kids to play unattended? Should we let them climb trees? What if they get hurt? Will they ruin their clothes if they play in the mud? Will they make a mess of the house with their glitter, glue, and playdough?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I struggle with this issue at times along with every other parent. When to push? When to let go? When to worry? When to encourage? When to say yes? When to say, “not now?”

However, even in the midst of own questioning, I do want to share some thoughts and guiding principles we have used in our family. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve enjoyed successes, but for the most part, these principles and ideals have served us well.

I hope to give you some examples specific to our family as well as some questions for you to consider as you lead and guide your own children.


Life Around Here

Life Around Here |

I’ve broken the first rule of blogging: post consistently.

Thankfully, I’ve never much worried about the rules of blogging.

However, just because I have been quiet in this little space, it doesn’t mean life has been quiet. In fact, it’s been the opposite. Life has been full (often too full for my liking). However, we have been told that this is the day the Lord has made and we should rejoice in it. Although there have been many days when I haven’t felt like rejoicing, I pray for the strength each day to offer up my sacrifice of praise.

Even amidst the struggles of this life, there is much joy to be found. This is the reason I love photography: it forces me to see the little moments that make up a big life. Without my camera to capture the fleeting ages and stages of our children and our family, as well as the short-lived beauty of God’s creation in nature, I would struggle with gratitude. My images remind me I have much to thank God for, much to rejoice in.

The last few months have been filled with birthdays and celebrations, a few weeks of three extra kids in the house, lots of hiking and enjoying the beauty of the North Carolina Spring, doctor’s appointments ad nauseam, and lots of little moments unbridled joy. Here are some of our moments of joy.

Some of these have been shared on Facebook, others have not. And because it is quick, easy, and it makes me happy, I have recently been sharing more of my nature photos on Instagram.

You can follow me on either Facebook or Instagram.

Also, I have updated my photography site a number of times recently. I am seriously considering just combining the two sites. I tried to separate my “photography stuff” from my “life stuff” and I have realized I can’t. This is why I end up not posting anywhere: I don’t know if a post should go here or there. So one site makes more sense. On the to-do list…

Life Around Here |

She told me, “This is what princesses do!”

Life Around Here |

Who knew when I was pregnant with her five years ago, I would give birth to a dog?

Life Around Here |

Our other doggie…

Life Around Here |

Sometimes the not-taking-naps thing backfires

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Little moments of real life

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Just one of the many puppies that are in Beppy’s “puppy pound.”

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Finally found a way to organize my Bible study and Bible journaling materials

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A trip to the zoo for Levi’s birthday

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The kids built their own little camping site in the woods, complete with shelters and a fire pit.

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One of Zach’s “callipitters.”

Life Around Here |

We haven’t had a chance to go camping this spring, but we make up for it by enjoying our big yard. A fire pit, marshmallows, watermelon, and lawn games…what else does summer need?

Life Around Here |

A little picnic spot Katie made me for Mother’s Day. She said, “I know you like the beach, so I made the water and the sand for you. But we’ll have to eat in the water or you might hurt yourself by sitting on one of the shells in the sand.” 🙂

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Zachy’s obsession with bubbles still goes strong!

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Do you think he likes licking the batter?

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Yummy, yummy food. This is one of my favorites…almond and parmesan crusted chicken tenderloins.

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Lots of batches of these…

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Real life around here

Life Around Here |

A treat for the last day of homeschool co-op

Life Around Here |

More “callipitters.” He often asks, “Where is my favorite bug?” And then he goes to find whichever one he has captured last and gives it a kiss.

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I found them like this

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A morning of missing Malaysia…Chinese pancakes and kopi peng (iced coffee)

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The $50 “baby pool for big kids” was worth every penny.

Life Around Here |

His obsession….milk and creamer. Every day. And yes, I know it isn’t healthy. Luckily, we make up for it in other ways.

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Alaina’s birthday

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Alaina had a CLUE murder mystery party for her birthday

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When I asked Katie what she wanted for her birthday decorations, she just said “cowgirl.” I think I accomplished it. How much “cow” and “girl” can you get?

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Moms get birthdays too!

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For Caleb’s special 12-year-old trip, we surprised him with a trip to Pittsburgh to see a Pirates game. And of course, he wore his Pirates t-shirt with “Phillips” and the number 12 to commemorate his special day.

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Watching pitching practice

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Easter morning

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