Eleven months yesterday.

Last evening, I bent over the bath and began filling up the tub for two little boys that were covered, from head to toe, in dirt. I lifted myself off of my knees and stood up to a smiling Wren Margaret, in her daddy's arms, expectantly reaching towards the tub. We couldn't say no.

She loves water and especially splashing, the louder and messier the better. She loves her doggie and the painting of two kitties in her room. She points at the painting eagerly waiting for me to say to her, "what do the kitties say?" She smiles and jabbers. 

Her vocabulary is growing and includes woof, doggie, hi, I love you, mama, dada, and all done. She loves to wave and clap. She adores her brothers and is bored to tears without them. She loves noisy things, like the blender for instance, and watches bravely while her brothers cover their ears and stare at her. She loves taking apart her brothers' wooden train tracks. She laughs when we laugh. She has thee best sense of humor. She refuses to keep her hair bow in. She is getting a pretty bad reputation in the church nursery. She might not like to say goodbye to mama. She is the proud owner of one tooth and two more on the way. She gives the best kisses and is so proud of herself for doing so. She is eleven months old. Eleven. Happy eleven months, sweet Wren Margaret, happy eleven months.

big Xs and Os,
your mama

Our Home | Part One

Lately, I've been thinking quite a bit about the wonder and beauty of a home and all that goes into creating such a thing. The people that share in the messes and the quirks, the things that we carefully curate to fill each space, and all of the time that is spent transforming four walls into a deeply personal dwelling. What I've learned over the last couple of years, mostly through the process of renting, is this-- home for me isn't a place, it's a feeling. And, that feeling isn't dependent on things, it's dependent on people. But simply put, what is created by those that live together is what brings the feeling of home alive in our souls. Today, I want to share our living room with you and why we enjoy being together in this space.

The story of how we found our home is for another day but I will never forget lying on the couch staring at www.realtor.com all the while every bit of thirty eight weeks pregnant and sensing that this was our house. A terrifying yet exciting feeling, for those of you who are or have been familiar with being every bit of thirty eight weeks pregnant. (wink)  A few weeks later, we placed an offer on our home and, nearly nine months after that, we signed the papers and received the keys. (Read: short sale but long process. In actuality, it was perfect timing for our family.) After drastically purging our things over the last couple of years (or so I thought until moving! day!) I wanted to purposefully pursue a very clean slate for our home. Its ranch style with long open spaces made this decision an easy one. 

On my sister's recommendation, we painted the entire house Dove White by Benjamin Moore. My sister is never wrong with her paint colors. We love the white, although I fear that my oldest son, the one who paints beautiful watercolors, will someday grow up and swing the pendulum clear to the other side by painting each room in his home a different color. He just cannot understand why I love white.  But mommy, white isn't even a color! he said to me. I love him.

There are two little people, three actually, that steal the show in this home every day. And, there are two things that steal the show in our living room: the large watercolor over the couch and the beautiful white shutters on our large picture window. Several months ago, Graeme watercolored the most beautiful painting and it's been hanging in various rooms ever since. (Currently, it's propped up on a shelf in my bedroom.) When we moved into our new home I envisioned a large scale painting over the couch and Graeme's watercolor was my inspiration. If you follow along with us on Instagram then you already know the outcome of the story. But for those of you who don't know the story behind it it's this-- I fully intended to do the painting myself. But I tried twice and miserably failed. And finally, I said to Graeme, Graeme, I need you to help me with this painting! And he did a marvelous job. He inspires me to be brave with paintings. You can probably see that I kept most of my area of the painting in vertical strokes and pale colors. Graeme came along and swished around on the top right corner and confidently went to town with a deep gray green. To say I love it would really be quite the understatement. (My husband made the frame out of leftover pine flooring and did a beautiful job.)

Through the years my husband and I have really tried to buy gifts for each other that can be used by our entire family. Two years ago, for Mother's Day, my three guys gifted me a record player that now sits in the corner of our living room. Over top is a sun hat that my husband also gifted to me for a Mother's Day gift. And on the couch is a throw blanket that they gifted to me for Christmas a couple of years ago. Daily this blanket is strewn all over the house as some sort of floor airplane, until I catch them. And after that, it's the boys' constant companion while they read books. Or pretend to read books while really seeing who can toot the loudest. Boys.

When I knew for sure that this house was to be our home, I immediately started to dream about shutters for this window. It measures over ten feet wide and is basically a behemoth. When my dad and my husband installed Blinds.com's shutters I nearly cried. They are beautiful, and not just from the inside but also looking in from the outside. When I think about the most beautiful parts of our home (to me anyway), these shutters most definitely come to mind. My favorite way to style them is one open here, one open there, and the middle section propped open. They allow all the light my heart could desire and at night they button up to allow our family top-notch privacy. (In the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing the master bedroom of our home and more about Blinds.com.)

By all appearances, our living room is quite sparse. A piano, a chair, a sectional, a single painting, a record player, a couple of hats, a pile of books scattered here and there, and a basket piled sky-high with Wren Margaret's toys. But there is so much life lived in this room and the little people that constantly run through it, their squeals and laughter echoing off the wooden floor, they make this space feel full. And even though some days are filled with craziness and tears, wherever they are is where I want to be. Home.

My favorite people. Our favorite guy. A whole lotta love.

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, You're tearing up the grass. We're not raising grass, Dad would reply. We're raising boys. | Harmon Killebrew

To her, the name of father was another name for love | Fanny Fern

Taken on Father's Day,  2 0 1 5.

Radical Generosity | My parents .

Yesterday I read an article about the cost of radical generosity and these words stood out to me-- "you can't keep up with the Joneses when you are committed to radical generosity." The first people that came to my mind were my parents. Maybe it's because they just spent two entire weeks giving and giving to my family but most probably it's because this is the pattern I've seen them live out all of my life. And not just in terms of finances but their time and energies too. 

The other night I snapped a few photographs of my parents with my children. But I wanted a few of just them too. I asked my mom to look at my dad and I loved how this one turned out. Anyone who knows my parents then knows that the sun rises and sets on my dad in my mom's eyes.  Anyone who knows my dad knows that he's the loyalest of New York Yankee's fans. (wink) And, goodness, they need those fans right about now. (double wink) 

My boys are up to their necks in dirt and jumping off piles of stacked cinder blocks, dangerously close to breaking an arm or a leg, of that I am sure. Wren is napping and Cal-girl is panting beside me as I type and sway on the glider in our back yard. Looking around me and seeing all of the changes that have been made over the last couple of weeks, I am incredibly grateful for my parents and for all of the help they have given to us in making our new house a place where we feel at home. 

I love you mom and dad. And I love the way you love people.

Saying Goodbye to Evelyn

We said our earthly goodbyes to a dear friend last week. And, even though this journaling space has been a little quiet as of late, I wanted to come here to process a few thoughts about a precious lady in our lives. 

Several years ago I met Evelyn. She was intriguingly warm and genuine. And honest. Oh how I loved her honesty and spunk. My husband and I were nearly finished with seminary and we found ourselves on an exploratory ministry trip to the pacific northwest. I had met so many people that particular Sunday morning and had forgotten nearly every single name. (I've never been really good at remembering names. Even now, under pressure, I forget names faster than the speed of lightning. It's embarrassing to forget your own child's middle name. How do I know this? Because when Job broke his collarbone this happened to me. The nurse asked his middle name and I panicked. I pretended to have a cough and bought myself some time. And, finally, after convincingly getting through my coughing spat, I patted my chest, cleared my throat and calmly said, "I'm so sorry. It's Job Hudson.") I hurried to a seat at the beginning of the Sunday school hour and landed next to Evelyn. She introduced herself and I took out a piece of paper to begin recording names in hopes of saving myself from afore mentioned embarrassing situations. And, I decided to tell Evelyn about my brilliant plan. The problem was that I hadn't yet written her name down and, by this time, couldn't remember it! At the end of the Sunday school hour Evelyn leaned over and said, with a twinkle in her eye, "and do you remember my name?" (smile) I would never again forget her name.

A few weeks ago I received a call from Cleone, one of Evelyn's best friends, who lives just down the street from us. The news was shocking and grim. Evelyn had been diagnosed with a very progressive stomach cancer and was in the hospital in Portland. My husband and I had a trip to Portland planned the very next day and in a matter of moments we arranged to stop and see her before Stephen's board meeting. I caught sight of her before she saw us coming in. She looked beautiful. So elegant and regal as always, sitting up in the hospital chair and talking with her son and husband. Wren came with us. I hoped that her sweetness would bring a smile to Evelyn's face. And it did. She hadn't met Wren yet and she was so delighted to see her. Here she was, starving from the cancer in her body, able only to swab her mouth with water, yet focused entirely on us and our lives. It felt wrong. This beautiful lady, full of sweetness and spunk, with only weeks left to live. She was thin and she told us it would go quickly. "I can feel the cancer growing. It will be fast." She asked us not to forget Paul. My husband prayed for her, for her family, for Paul. I hugged her and told her I loved her and that I would see her-- "if not here, I'll see you there."

And now she's gone. Life is so precious. Seeing Evelyn that day has reminded me in a very poignant way that life is incredibly precious. People are incredibly precious. I am so thankful for the opportunity my family had of knowing Evelyn Gallaway. Her love for people and for the gospel and how she lived that love out in practical and intentional ways are lessons I hope to carry with me for a very long time. 

It was Evelyn that asked us if we would ever consider moving to a small, country church. "Would you mind if I passed your name on to my friend Cleone?" I am ever so grateful she did.

Evelyn, I love you. I will never forget you.
p.s. Stephen now drinks his coffee black. But he will never forget the time you asked him if he liked a little coffee with his creamer. (wink) 

On Motherhood. Onward and Forward.

Motherhood. There's just been nothing like it in my life. It's wrecked me, broken me, healed me, grown me. In mothering, in growing my children, my own soul has grown up. In a sense, my children and I are growing up together. I have miles to go. More love to be rooted and grounded, pushed deep into the souls of my babies, a moment by moment need for the outpouring of grace over my heart, and an uprooting of the selfishness that is a constant companion.

As I sank down into our leather sofa, my eyes fixed on the glass door across the room. Fingerprints were thick and everywhere. It didn't bother me. My eyes took them in and my thoughts wandered to our three babies. The house was quiet. All of our babies tucked in for the night. I looked at my husband and blurted out something about Mother's Day being a difficult day over the last couple of years. He looked at me understandingly.

I've heard it said, "expectations ruin relationships." And I believe it. It's a lesson that God has been stirring into my life over the last couple of years. And it's been a good stirring. I'm learning, day by day, that there is good in every moment of motherhood. My motherhood holidays might look very different from what they looked like just a couple of years ago, but there is sweetness and tears of joy to be found here. Now.

From those first sweet and beautiful days of motherhood to the ones I'm facing now-- the ones where the fight for joy is thick but the grace is thicker-- all of these moments have been measured out for my good. I want to be a mother that looks back on my life and realizes that, yes!, it's true! God is the giver of grace and grace enough for each moment. If you find yourself in the sweet and beautiful care-free days of motherhood, enjoy every moment. If you find yourself next to me in the trenches of motherhood where days seem more of a fight for beauty and everything feels like it might unravel, remember this-- "grace holds you when everything else falls apart and whispers that everything is really falling together." (Voskamp)

p.s. I'm incredibly thankful that, each year for a gift, my husband takes photographs of me and my little ones. Believe me, it is no easy task. (smile) But these are such a gift to me year after year. And, this year, we took them underneath our beautiful redwood tree in our new back yard. 

Half of a year .

Every time I try to write this post I get finger tied. Nothing comes out right. And no matter how hard I try, I really can't explain how thankful I am for my Wrennie Meg. Lately, Instagram has become my journal. Recently I saw a friend use the hashtag #instagramatemyblog. I completely relate! I find myself posting miniature blog posts via Instagram and last week I posted a blurb about how much I've learned through my little Wren's life, how much she has taught me about life. 

There's so much I want to say and so much that I simply can't formulate here. I guess the main thing is this-- God's grace is big, his mercy is real, his good for us is life changing and life giving (Romans 8:28). With each step, each life change, I've seen the freeing work of the Spirit I cannot see. And it leaves me quiet and confident in the work of Jesus in my life and the lives of others.

God is good to me. And I'm so glad that his good for me included this sweet gal. I love you Wren Margaret.

Friendship and Beauty .

Recently, God brought a new friend into my life and I am so grateful for her eager friendship, her joyfulness, and her love for others. Joy and love for others are areas that I feel the need to grow in, in my own life. Backing up a bit, several months ago, my husband and I were made aware of a woman who was fighting cancer. Her pastor had recently befriended my husband and we soon found ourselves following Amanda's written account of her journey and praying for her and her husband. 

A couple of months ago, Amanda passed into life everlasting with Jesus. And about that same time, I was introduced to Sarah. We felt like we knew each other from somewhere but couldn't quite place where. We finally figured out that we had seen each other at a concert of a mutual friend the summer before. 

Tonight, I came across the video above. Sarah is the second woman getting her head shaved in the video and Amanda, who is now with Jesus, is the third. I cried watching this, for many reasons. I'm praying tonight for Amanda's widow. And I'm thanking God for bringing the gift of Sarah's friendship into my life. 

I'm posting this because so many of you have been sacrificial friends to me over the years. Not that I've faced cancer or that you've needed to shave your head to support me. But you've been there. Even today, as I texted a complete epistle to one of you, I sat for a while thinking how thankful I am for the different life-giving friends God has brought into my life over the years and how sad I am that I haven't kept up with those friendships as much as I would like. 

One of my dreams for  2 0 1 5  is to reconnect and to also keep pursuing new friendships. This video makes me thankful, again, for past and present friends. Love to you wherever this little blog post finds you today......

It's February, I know, but let's talk about Christmas .

We took down our Christmas tree and the whole nine yards during the second week of January. But I've just now gone through my favorite photographs from our December and I wanted to share them here. A few months ago, we realized that nearly all of my husband's family would be in California for Christmas. We decided to drive down and join them and I'm so glad we did. We had a wonderful time. My husband's sister has three delightful and beautiful girls that are nearly the exact ages of our children. Needless to say, our boys had a marvelous time with their cousins and we adults had such a good and needed time catching up with each other.
I came across the quote "attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure" and it became our mantra for our California road trip. Normally, I don't care to put a lot of stock in the chanting of a quote to change my outlook on life. But I have to say, choosing to focus on the good-- spending time with family, the beautiful scenery, the treat of a hotel pool for the boys, venti-sized chais, and loads of time to talk with my husband-- made the long hours in the car seem like such a gift. (Also, our ban on iPad television and games had already been in full effect for a few weeks prior to this trip and the boys were very content to imagine and chat most of the time.)

Each time we drive through California, since moving away, I fall in love a little bit more with it. Its beauty is vast and I'm thankful for another opportunity we had to share this beautiful world with our boys. (And Wren! But her eyes were closed for nearly all of the drive time!) And I'm so happy I could share it here with you, too.

What a wonderful gift we were given this past December. (Also, I realize there's a shocking lack of Wren Margaret photographs in this batch and I plan to solve that problem with my next post. Scout's honor.) We thought that surely this Christmas was the one where the boys would wake up before us but they surprised us yet again with their sleeping-in-ness. Maybe next year? Here's to many more years of animal and match-box car parades from their bedroom door to the Christmas tree. . .

p.s. I wanted to share that Job's bow tie and my fur boot cuffs were made by my friend Victoria of Royal Scout and Co.  There are so many things I want to say about Victoria. If you have an opportunity, read her about page and finger through her creations via her site. But what I'd really wish for you is the opportunity to talk with her and hear about her life and creativity. To give you a glimpse, she raised three biological babies and then adopted three more little ones from China. A few years ago, through the encouragement of her husband and friends, she dove into her gifting with interior and textile design, a gifting that had grown over the years through her keen eye and love for beauty. She is such an example to me of a woman who has not stopped dreaming and creating and loving. 

Eleven Necessities for Newborns + a Giveaway with 4moms .

The interwebs and googles are filled with millions of blog posts stating exactly what I'm claiming today-- here are the necessities for life with a newborn. I've put together this list with as much honesty as I can with the hope that it will be a help to those of you facing motherhood for the very first time. These things were helpful to me. It doesn't mean that if they aren't helpful to you something is wrong with you. Or me. (wink) But these things, most of them, have been the most helpful items for me with all three of my babies and if I can be of help to a new-to-motherhood woman, well, that's what I want to do. This list is obviously not exhaustive, as I've thought of another thing or two while just writing this paragraph. And so, if you have anything to add to the list that has been helpful to you and your newborn, please do so in the comment section. And allllll the mamas will thank you! And, don't forget to enter the generous giveaway made possible by 4moms! Such a good one! 

S l e e p i n g
moses basket (I ordered this one, removed the gingham, and added several layers of cotton batting to the mattress pad.) This basket has form and function. Take it with you upstairs, downstairs, or to the shower. It's light and it's safe. And it's pretty. Did I already mention that? (wink) // Milk + Honey Down Sleep Sack -- to lay your baby down, knowing that she is safe and warm, this is worth every single penny. This product is beautifully made and is such an essential in my book. Granted, I did not have this product with my boys and they are alive and well, but a recent, very close to home incident left me searching for an answer concerning safety for my baby while she sleeps. Mamas, put this on your wish list. // Lavender Essential Oil -- it's the perfect thing to wind down to after a long day of mothering. But, fair warning, your husband will scoot over to kiss you goodnight, stop, look at you half crazed and say, "did you put some smell good stuff behind your ears?" And you'll want to answer him back with a smarty pants comment but you'll already be half asleep! (wink)

N u r s i n g
My Breast Friend Nursing Pillow -- yikes on the name, but man, this pillow is tops. In reality, it probably truly has been my best friend in the having-a-newborn department. Nursing my little ones has been so comfortable and easy with this pillow. (My chiropractor recommends this product as well.) When Graeme was a newborn, I tried propping him up with a bed pillow and then also tried a boppy but neither were as effective, supportive, and comfortable as this nursing pillow. // Lansinoh Lanolin -- I know this item can be controversial, especially for first time mamas-to-be. But, please let me tell you, you sometimes must put your baby's needs ahead of your own preferences. Of course coconut oil is wonderful and all natural and probably my first choice. But when you are cracked and bleeding and the sole provider for your baby's nutrients, you must think outside of the box of all natural preferences. And that's where this product comes in. And, if you are concerned, simply wipe yourself off with a warm washcloth right before nursing your little one. Also of note, ask your nurse before leaving the hospital for an antibiotic cream for nursing. I brought some home after delivering Wren and did indeed have to use it a couple of times. It worked miraculously fast, as in from one feeding to the next. I was grateful because I literally wouldn't have been able to nurse Wren, without passing on blood to her, if it hadn't been for the antibiotic cream. (I also want to encourage any first time mamas out there with this-- I experienced absolutely no pain or set backs with nursing my first baby. I only faced painful nursing with Job and Wren. I am over here wishing you a pain-free experience, that is for sure!) 

T h e   T i m e s    I n    B e t w e e n
Natursutten pacifier, order the two pack! Because, inevitably, one will get lost in the middle of the night when you dare not turn on the light and you need to find it right! away! I have to admit, I completely ordered this pacifier for the look. But come to find out? It's Wren's jam. Happy mama and happy baby. // Nose Frida -- I can't say enough good things about this product. When our oldest son was hospitalized with double RSV/pneumonia at the age of eighteen months, the Nose Frida literally saved my sanity and maybe even his life. It is extremely gentle yet effective, much more effective than the typical bulb style syringe. Also, the cleanliness factor compared to that of the bulb syringe is something to note with a capital N. // I hesitated to add the Snap-n-Go stroller to this list because I equally love my Ergo. But in thinking back over the last four months, I think it definitely has earned a spot on this list. With my boys, I owned the Chicco stroller that was part of the car seat set. It was so bulky that I literally used the stroller all of five times in four years. The Snap-n-Go is so light and easy. I would highly recommend it to you. Also, check your local resale shops. Brand new, these strollers are in the $100 range but I snagged mine for $25. Just be sure, if you are buying a specific brand of Snap-n-go that is not matching your brand of car seat, that the stroller is compatible! // Ergo Baby Carrier -- I am sensing an expensive trend here in some of these items that I am suggesting. But, it is true-- we get what we pay for and the Ergo is no different. It will be worth every single penny you spend, in my opinion. I have worn my babies for hours at a time without back pain. It is wonderful! // Aiden + Anais swaddlers -- I have owned the same pack of Aiden + Anais swaddlers since Graeme was born. I really love these because they are light enough to use as burp cloths yet heavy enough to cover the baby if you need. They're light and they breathe and they can even be used as a nursing cover if needed. The fact that they are still running strong after three babes is a true testament  to their quality. // 4moms mamaRoo -- my little Wren Margaret takes her afternoon nap in her mamaRoo every.single.day. And she loves it. This, too, is worth every single penny. And the 2015 model, that I'm giving away today!, is so spankin' sharp looking. Sleek and modern and I love that. I love the black interface and the fact that, if I wanted!, I could even operate the mamaRoo from my iPhone. Amazing! (One of my favorite features is the reclining seat. I can lay Wren all the way down or leave her sitting up a bit to watch her brothers. I also love the white noise machine that is built in to the mamaRoo.) Friends and readers, put this mamaRoo on your wish list. You will not regret it!

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Congratulations to Sarah Ortega for winning the 4moms mamaRoo! To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post with your contact information. A winner will be selected and contacted on Monday, January 26th. An additional entry can be earned by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter but please acknowledge that in your comment. Happy entering!