Category Archives: This is Our Life

All I Wanted

PTS | All I Wanted

 

All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to go camping.

This was my twelfth Mother’s Day. And after all these years, I know myself and my family very well. I have no need of breakfast in bed (seems silly when I wake hours before everyone else!) I don’t need to be showered with gifts (we have far too much stuff as it is). I don’t need a fancy Sunday lunch (we had our favorite New York Style pizza because it’s what we all love).

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All I wanted for Mother’s Day was to be with my family, doing what we love best: camping.

Back in February, after returning from a camping trip to the Everglades, I wrote this:

LOVE camping…what I love about camping is that it strips all the extra stuff away. I don’t worry about doing laundry. I don’t worry about cleaning up. I don’t worry about checking email. I don’t put on makeup and I often don’t even bother changing clothes. When all of those little tasks are taken away, you are just left with time. Time to read, time to play, time to sleep, and time to talk. We did all of those things.

Yep, it’s all I wanted.

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Camping takes all the things I love best and throws them together:

family time
being offline
taking pictures
watching my kids play
lazy schedules
simple but yummy meals
playing outside
being in God’s creation
time to snuggle and read
hiking
warm fires in the cool breeze
seeing kids explore and imagine

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We left after church on Sunday and stayed two nights. Staying fairly local (a state recreation area just 45 minutes from home) meant more time to play and less time to drive. It was perfect. The kids played and explored. They founds bugs and lizards and a turtle. We swam in the lake and hiked for miles. We watched a blue heron who visited a number of times. The kids got dirty, sandy, and sweaty. I couldn’t have asked for a better Mother’s Day Gift (though the dozens of post-it notes with all the reasons they love me covering our dining table on Sunday morning comes pretty close!)

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I’m thankful for these twelve years of being a mama and all the joy these kids bring to my life.

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That’s a Wrap {Birthday Season 2015}

PTS | That's a WrapIt’s finally done…birthday season 2015. Eight birthdays in three months (seven of those being in eight weeks) is exhausting.

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People often ask if we just combine birthdays since they are all so close. And we always say, “No!”

There are many perks to being in a large family. I love it and wouldn’t ever want to change it. However, there are hard things too. Out of necessity, a lot of things in our life have to happen as a group. But birthdays? Those are a day to celebrate an INDIVIDUAL and to make that person know how thankful we are they were born. We want to celebrate the joy they bring to our life and look to the future and pray expectantly for good things to come. We take each birthday to make the day all about that one child, showering them with love, yummy food, and a few gifts.

Our tradition has been to let the kids choose the meals for the day (it used to be dinner, which is what my parents did for us, but somehow over the years it has crept into choosing all the meals. And of course, they often pick the hardest or most time consuming!) We also let them give input on decorations. They each have the choice of a family activity or a party. Over the years, we have only had three parties (two of them this year!) We love doing things as a family and that is most often their choice.

This year was a great year of celebrating each of our children (and my birthday and Jason’s birthdays fall right in the middle of all that!)  As much as I love the fun and creativity that comes with birthday season, I am usually quite happy to see it go. Now I have until the end of January before I have to plan another birthday!

Here is birthday season 2015 in review!

Alaina

Katie

Bethany

Zachary

Levi

Caleb

 

TDD | On the Porch Swing

On The Front Porch

TDD | On the Porch Swing

 

I love having a front porch. The missionary house where we are staying has a big, beautiful front porch, complete with white rocking chairs and a porch swing.

As the nights get longer and the school year end gets closer, I am being more lax in bedtimes and instead trying to enjoy the beautiful spring weather in the evening. It will be blazing hot soon enough.

Last night that meant a few rounds of hitting the softball with the big kids while the little ones played happily on the porch.

I wish they could stay this small forever. But since they can’t, I want to fully enjoy this moment now. Little ones are a lot of work and exhaustion is common, but there is nothing like their sweet smiles and squeals of glee.

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I haven’t worked in iMovie before, but I had some time in between answering math problems and I played around a bit. I love these two!

And if you want to see some sweet and spunky photos of Bethany, you can see them on my photography blog.

 

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Let Dad Be Dad (again)

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About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post entitled Let Dad Be Dad. It was based on some of the best parenting advice I have ever received. I think this mindset has been key in our marriage and in our parenting. If I had tried to make Jason parent like me, I would have squashed his spirit and taken much of the joy out of parenting for both of us.

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I won’t rehash my thoughts; you can read them here. I do think, though, another dose of photographic proof might be in order.

The two older boys decided on a birthday party this year. Our children are allowed to choose between a family activity and a party. They usually choose to do something as a family, but this year the boys wanted to celebrate with a few friends. And really, they just wanted an excuse to play more football.

For the younger kids this year, I purchased piñatas. Never ones to miss a chance to get candy, the boys wanted one for their party. Since I gave Jason the reigns of the party beyond the food, the piñata and other activities were up to him.

When it was time for the piñata and the kids were all on the front porch, I took a few moments to rest in my room. I was quietly checking email when I hear this from the porch:

“Now, in Piñata ninja, you have two choices: two hits with the nunchucks or one flying kick.”

Um, “piñata ninja?” What is this man up to?

I snuck outside to hear the rest of the directions. I grabbed my camera to prove once again this man is crazy and that my kids are so incredibly blessed to have Jason as their dad.

Fifteen minutes of nunchucks, headbutts, flying kicks, and karate chops later, the coveted candy spilled and the boys joyfully descended like vultures.

Yes. Always. Let dad be dad.

And let dad run boy birthday parties.

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Eleven

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My sweet Caleb is eleven today.

I didn’t know I was having a boy. I suspected, but chose to be surprised. After a long labor, a sweet boy was handed to me and I thought, “What am I going to do with a boy?”

I continued to ask myself that question over the next few years. Girls I understood. But boys? I don’t get them at all. How can I be a mother to a boy?

Two years later, the Lord then blessed me with another boy and I have spent these eleven years learning what it means to be a mother to a boy (or three).

It means watching the warrior heart of God shine bright through rough play, sword fighting, and sports. It means lots of sweet cuddles from boys with big hearts. It means trusting that when my mothering instincts fail, God’s fathering instincts have been there all along.

I love my sweet Caleb. He was the squishiest, most kissable cheeks on the planet. I could kiss them all day.

I love his zest for life. He’s so much like me: what he loves, he loves deeply and completely (admittedly, bordering on far into the territory of obsession). His ages and stages have changed, but his passion remains.

I had so much fun going through photos, trying to choose which to show. I couldn’t narrow it down. Every single moment of his life has been filled with great joy and love.

I love you, sweet Caleb. You are such an awesome kid and I am so glad to get to be your mom. You have taught me so much and have inspired so many. Your tenacity and loyalty will take you far.

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And Then There is Today

©janetphillips_april27_2015_postimageThose who know me have heard me speak of “yellow bus days.” Those are the days I dream of a big yellow bus to take my kids far, far away. I admit to daydreams of a life where the kids are gone for seven plus hours a day. Think of all I could accomplish! I could clean and there would be no one to reverse my work. I could have a cup of coffee without having to microwave it three times before finding the bottom. I could shower on a regular basis and not have to answer math questions from behind the curtain. Oh, to dream!

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Homeschooling is hard. The educational component of it alone is enough to send prayers for the yellow bus. When your child’s academic progress and future depends mostly on you, the guilt flows freely. When you have to listen to struggling readers stumble over the same words again and again, the stress builds quickly. When you realize that no matter how many times you explain squares and cubes, the child will always say that 42=8, the feelings of defeat mount fiercely.

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Beyond the academics, homeschooling is still hard. The kids are home all day. They mess up far more quickly than you can clean up. While you read with the first grader, the toddler is pulling DVDs off the shelf. When you are doing grammar with the sixth grader, the third grader has slipped out to the trampoline, multiplication tables long abandoned. When you are snuggling and reading stories to the four year old, the fifth grader can’t find any of his work and therefore asks if he can go out to play instead.

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Yes, it’s hard. It’s really hard. And I have many yellow bus days. But then I have a day like today.

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A day when we laugh through group work because words like Hawaii and Oxygen can be said in all sorts of silly ways.

A day when wet rags are thrown and giggles abound during chores.

A day when KLove blasts in the kitchen and the kids discuss their favorite artists.

A day when the kids decide school is much more fun in the camper and they set up a home and pretend its an RV while they do their math.

A day when the big kids play with the little kids and the love just oozes from everywhere.

A day when the little ones splash and giggle in the bath and beg me to take pictures of their funny faces.

A day when we have a scavenger hunt in the afternoon and the bigs are paired with the littles and the tender moments threaten to make my mama heart burst.

A day when we can enjoy silly food during an indoor campout and the kids munch on “acorns” and “bear poop” and wash it down with “river water” and “bug juice.”

A day when I am cleaning in the kitchen and I hear wails of laughter as the kids have their first encounter with The Little Rascals.

A day when they don’t want the fun and togetherness to end and they drag their stuffed animals and sleeping bags to the camper and end their day chatting past their bedtime with their favorite people.

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Yes. There are yellow bus days. And then there is today.

Just Like His Daddy

Nine. 

Seriously, how could he be nine?

Our sweet Levi Sebastian was born in Penang, Malaysia, and welcomed home at two days old to a dorm full of international students and two very young siblings (Alaina had just turned three and Caleb was not yet two).

It’s hard to put into words this little guy. He has been amazing from the moment he was born. He is sweet, funny, sensitive, loves to laugh, goofy, and full of sweet cuddles. He has never gone through a hard stage (in fact, a few years ago, we were at the zoo and he disobeyed me and I told Jason we should take him to the doctor because it was that far out of character for him).

I think the reason I am so smitten with him is he is just like his daddy. He is Jason in a little boy’s body. They are so similar that I can fully imagine what Jason was like as a child. The two were cut from the same cloth.

I am so thankful for his tender heart. I love the way he loves to play with his younger siblings. I love to watch him love to cook and take pictures (so I guess he got a few things from me!)  He loves to play any and all sports and he loves to joke around. He likes games of any kind and he loves puzzles (just like his dad).

To my sweet Levi Sebastian..I love you far more than words could ever express. You are such a joy in our lives and I look forward to seeing the man you will become. If you really are like your dad, I know you’ll be an amazing man and an incredible husband and father.

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Our Beppy Girl

 

Our sweet Beppy girl is FOUR! She has been waiting so long. The last eleven days (since Katie’s birthday) have been especially difficult. “Your birthday is next” meant “the very next day” in her little heart, and we had a lot of tears to wipe the morning after Katie’s birthday when we informed her that she still had ten more days to wait.

I love this girl. There is a love that is so deep, so fierce. Of course I love all of my kids, but this girl has a special place in my heart. First, she is the only of my children to make an appearance early (six days early, bless her heart!) That in and of itself awards her favorite child status. But more than that, we share a love language. We both speak and listen in words of affirmation.

I have never met a child like this girl. Ever since she was about ten months old and could sign, she has been saying please and thank you without being prompted. She hasn’t changed since. She is quick to offer affirming words at any and all occasions. Regularly she throws her arms around me and says, “I so very love you.” When dad brought her to see the toy kitchen we gave her this morning, she ran to him and said, “You’re the best dad ever!” This morning when I was making her cake, she said with all seriousness, “I’m so sorry.” “For what?” I asked. “For not being able to stay three forever.” (She knows I LOVE THREE).

Bethany Noelle is such a blessing to our family. I can’t wait to see what God does with her amazing personality. I know it’s going to be huge!

 

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Seven

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Our sweet Katie is seven. SEVEN.

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Most of the time, time passes and I wonder where it all went. It usually seems as if it goes so fast. But with Katie, I can’t say that. The beginning of her life marked the beginning of so much of mine that I find it hard to believe all that has happened in seven short years.

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When Katie was three weeks old, we found out that we were unexpectedly leaving our job in Florida. We had no idea where we were going to go. The next month was filled with a lot of anxiety as we wondered about life with four kids age five and under with no job, no house, no insurance, no ideas.  But God…I love that most of my stories have a “but God” phrase where His amazing power gets all the glory.

But God had plans for us, plans we knew nothing of, plans that would give us breath and life. This post is about Katie, though, so I won’t go into all that moving to Indonesia did for me, for our family, or about how the grief of missing it is so thick right now.

I can’t help think of Indonesia, though, when I think of our sweet Katie. At four months, we moved to the island of Java, and while there we have watched her grow into this sweet, crazy, selfie-obsessed freckle-faced girl. She keeps us laughing, she keeps us guessing, and she keeps us in awe of God’s creativity in creating her.

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The Everglades, Part Two

Other than my time in the Word, I feel closest to God when I am in nature. I absolutely cannot look at the incredible beauty that surrounds me and at the same time question God’s great love. He created everything in nature for us to enjoy and for Him to receive glory. I love what it says in Genesis 2:

“Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…” (verse 9, emphasis mine).

He made nature for us to enjoy. When I am outside, and I see the tiny details He paid attention to…the way a spider weaves its web, the order of a leaf’s veins, the tiniest critters most people miss, I am overwhelmed. I stand in awe. Often, I walk and I giggle as I see God’s creation before me. He loves us that much!

We love to walk. We love to open our eyes and LOOK. When we were in the Everglades, I tried to get out and walk as much as I could. The mosquitos were really bad, so it was hard to do many of the trails, but I still got out every day. I filled my soul. I watched the birds and the bugs and I let my heart feel God’s great love.

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