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!

Thoughts about television and our (near) decade without it | Part One

Before my husband and I were married, someone gave us the advice to not own a television for the first year of marriage. I don't remember who gave us the advice but I'm glad we followed it. One year turned into two and two into three. And then, somewhere along the line of our fourth year of marriage, a friend handed off an old television to us. It was a welcome distraction that year. My husband was loaded down with work and fourth-year seminary classes and I was pregnant, sick, and tired. I worked two jobs that kept me happy yet busy and by the end of each day, I'd come home to an empty home, with my husband still at work, and I'd watch whatever was on until he came home or I fell asleep, whichever of those options came first. At the end of that year, as we were packing up all of our belongings for our move to Oregon, we decided the television had to go. It's a decision that neither of us has ever really regretted.

And so, for nearly the last decade, we've lived free of a television in our home.  But I'd be lying not to admit I wouldn't be clothed and in my right mind without the help of Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder, and Postman Pat. (I do play the piano by ear but there is a very good reason why I can play all of the theme songs for my boys upon request. Ahem.) Even though we don't own an actual television, we own plenty of paraphernalia that serves the same purpose minus commercials which, in my opinion, are perhaps some of the most harmful parts of television. 

Recently, though, things started spiraling and I knew something needed to change. What had began as a little Fireman Sam here and a little Postman Pat there during the afternoons for Graeme (while Job and Wren were napping) had become a full fledged, all consuming lifestyle for Graeme. As in, he would hurry me in putting Job down for a nap and proudly announce-- now it's the time we watch something! And it didn't stop there. In the mornings, I would crawl up the stairs, weary from the newborn stage, and give in at the drop of a hat if the boys asked to watch a show while eating breakfast. All of this wasn't an every day occurrence but I could feel things slipping farther and farther away from what I knew I wanted for my children. 

Complete viewing abandon seemed impossible and out of reach. But after reading this article, my hope grew substantially. And after talking things over with my husband, we agreed to try it with the addendum of keeping our weekly family movie night. I expected this change to be very difficult. Not so much for the boys but for myself! (How in the world would I be able to take a shower? Or take a nap? I kid, I kid, No, actually, no I'm not.) But it surprised me in that it was quite easy. And not only that, but the rewards have been so much greater than just that of an easy transition. 

Two major changes have taken place in our household and they are so profound that I wanted to take the time to write this entire blog post over them. First, I noticed that my boys began playing together on a more agreeable level. I feel that my boys are pretty good friends to each other but I've noticed that the bickering has slowed down considerably. Of course we still have our problems. Just today I made my boys hug each other until they were giggling and snorting because I had caught them playing tug of war (the push down kind!) with a toy. But on the whole, the whole being key words, I've seen such an improvement in this area. 

Second, I have seen a dramatic improvement in their creative play, their imaginations, their vocabulary. Graeme's drawing skills have all of the sudden taken off. My guess is that their vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds because we are reading even more than before. Also, they are talking to each other, pretending, imagining, and drawing more than ever. 

This change has been a welcomed breath of fresh air. We began this metamorphosis a little over a month ago and I am more determined than ever to keep this change in place. And I'm doubly committed to keeping our home free from a 'big box' telly. I'm writing this out for my own encouragement, a note-to-self sort of thing. But I also wanted to write these words for those who desire this change but are dreading the process. I'm here to tell you-- if I can do it anyone can. I promise you.

Currently, I am working on scheduling out one activity to work on with Graeme each afternoon, whether it's baking, folding laundry, writing thank you notes, or an art project. And aside from that, he has been soaking up the quiet time to play on his own, making up elaborate stories about his Lego figurines, and on and on. I'm not much for the idea of resolutions but I do like the idea of forming new habits. And this particular habit is one I'm very thankful to be forming.

For those of you who are already on this pathway, I'd love to hear your encouraging words, your favorite outcomes of this choice, and anything else you'd like to add. Here's to keeping on!

p.s. Don't forget to read the article that I linked to above. It will light your fire and encourage you.

Holidaying | All our knowledge about doily imprinted clay ornaments

For a while now, beautiful images of doily imprinted pottery have been dancing through my head. I wish I could afford every single piece because they are drop dead gorgeous. (This planter is one of my favorites.) The other day, as I waltzed in and out of the craft store, I caught sight of some white modeling clay and the wheels in my mind began turning. 

I must say, my boys are pretty good sports to play along with mama's ideas of clay + doilies. We each picked out a cookie cutter and got to work. This afternoon project was so delightful. And after Job went down for his nap, Graeme continued molding and sculpting away. With the onset of our dark and dreary days here in the pacific northwest, inside afternoon activities are highly sought after in our home. If you've been dreaming, too, about doily infused pottery, give this little project a try. I'm dreaming about trying out something of this magnitude during, ahem, the next decade. Yes, let's give some wiggle room on that one. (wink) One more thing to mention-- I discovered that I bought the wrong clay for this project. I purchased modeling clay, an oil based clay that isn't intended for baking. I should've purchased a water based clay such as polymer. Also, I was perusing pinterest last week and came across this recipe, which I plan to try out next.)

I hope your weekending is off to a wonderful start. And, if you have any favorite indoor afternoon activities, workbooks, audio books, etc, I surely would love to hear your ideas. Thank you, friends.

p.s. A really big thank you to Winter Water Factory for sponsoring this post and for the beautiful items they gifted to us. Graeme picked out their outer space sweatshirt and Job about died of excitement when I pulled out their traffic jam hoodie. Also, I requested this little ditty for Wren and I cannot wait until she grows into it. Every time I see it, it makes me think of that wonderful children's books, Blueberries for Sal. If you have a few minutes, give their brand a look. I know that organic, American-made clothing is a bit more out of our pockets. But I'm learning that less is more in this area, surprise surprise!, and quality is better than quantity any day.

The Holidays are Here | Giveaway to Artifact Uprising

Today, my parents arrive to spend Thanksgiving with us. I am beside myself with happiness because this is the first year we've had the joy of having them with us for Thanksgiving. The boys, as you might guess, are busy making a welcome sign and dreaming about the presents PopPop and Granna are bringing for them. (smile) And I've been busy cleaning my oven and plucking my eyebrows. Because, my mom. (big smile) But also, I've been keeping busy by wrapping up a few gifts and I'm especially loving our Christmas card right on top.

I love that I was able to choose nine favorite memories from this year (mentioned below) to include in our Christmas card. Artifact Uprising has some really beautiful designs this year and because of their generosity one reader will win a set of twenty five holiday cards. (The giveaway is also live on my Instagram feed and you can enter here or there. One winner will be selected and contacted on Friday, November 28th.) To enter, simply comment below with what Artifact Uprising design you would choose. Happy entering and happy Thanksgiving, reading friends.

our Wren Maragaret, one day new // our favorite tree in our yard with its magical changing leaves // our sweet Cal-girl // the boys' first fishing trip with daddy // Job after I created his 'hugs and kisses wall' as he calls it // Graeme and daddy on our Oregon and California coast trip // ice cream with Granna, Aunt Barbie and Uncle Jon at Salt & Straw while on a trip to Portland // Job and daddy at the coast in Florence, Oregon // just the three of us right as we first glimpsed her

House News .

Some of you might've heard our rather crazy news-- that we bought a house, a van, and had a baby-- all in one week. More accurately, I should tell you that we placed an offer on a house, bought a new-to-us vehicle, and birthed our beautiful Wren Margaret all within one week. (smile) I am really looking forward to sharing more details about the house, but for now I'll share a few ideas that I've been dreaming up lately. 

The house was built in 1965, a structural era that I actually love. However, not all nineteen-sixty-fivers were built equally and we'll be wasting no time in ripping out carpeting in the kitchen, a plethora of overhead florescent lights, and of course the popcorn ceilings. What it does have going for it is location, location, location and quite a bit of equity. We plan to add a boatload of sweat and tears and end up with something that we love, that feels like home, and most importantly, is ours! 

And so, I frequently find myself in dream land about the house. With such an extended time in escrow I've had a lot of time to think about details. Here are a few that are on the top of my list...

a beautiful new address stamp // a large bell basket light to hang over our dining room table // the perfect front door color // white walls and above-the-bed shelving (I think the shelving will be my plan until we've saved up for this bedroom purchase) // all-year-round green landscaping // a hanging hat rack // an over sized watercolor like the one Graeme and I created for Wren's room // kitchen shelving and tile // dark stained garage door

*all images via my Pinterest board titled 1965 remodel

Preorders and Past Words | Here + There, A Christmas Collective

November is here and I can hardly believe it! Last year, around this time, I shared a big piece of my heart with you. I told you about a special project that had come to completion, a collection of original piano solos entitled Here + There. Today, I'm sharing the news that preorders for Here + There are available for upcoming holiday gifts. I'm also sharing a bit from last year's initial post in case you'd like to hear a few snippets from the collection and the reasons behind it. Thank you for letting me share!

Two years ago, as I watched my husband wrestle and play with our boys after dinner one night, I sat down to the ricketiest, most unpromising (and most beautiful because of who gave it!) piano and strung together what would be the first few compilations of Here + There. I remember telling my husband how I wanted to do this, this collection of original piano compositions. (Even though, in all honesty, I don't really love just listening to plain old piano music!) But there was a bigger value to it, a bigger picture to all of it in my mind and it was this-- I want my children to have it someday-- want it to remind them of all of these times, my husband taking the time to play with them, and me stringing together their favorite songs while the giggling and banter (and, yes, some wailing every now and again) ensues. A couple days later, as I fingered through a batch of papers on the counter, I spied a note from my husband. On the paper, I had scrawled a hasty list of 'maybe' songs for the Christmas collection. At the very top, his handwriting spelled out the message, "I believe in you. I love you, Sakes." That note meant the world to me and encouraged me to begin what would become a year long process.

That process, my collection of original Christmas compositions, turned into something so much more. I think that sometimes, whether it's note-playing, word-writing, child-loving, God-learning, husband-knowing, or friend-making, I wrestle with the should, would, and could. When, in reality, what I need to do, to borrow words from my sister Barb, is to go out and do the did-- to do S O M E T H I N G, no matter how small or insignificant.  This year long project showed me the value of small and insignificant. (To continue reading more about the process behind the project, read here.)

You can download the album for immediate use here for $7 or you can order an actual CD from my Etsy shop, Cranny, for $9.00 + $2.50 for shipping and handling. (All preorders will be mailed by Monday, November 24, 2014.) Also, thank you in advance for the many of you who have shared or will share this on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media avenues. Please know that my little family appreciates that so much!

Happy Monday to you, reading friends. Thank you for letting me share a big piece of my heart with you today. And so many words. . . Wordy, wordy!

Three .

"I yove you fooooo muktch." (I love you so much.) Yesterday, he came down the stairs and brought me a bright gold leaf and said those five little words as he headed back up. I hear these words from my Job Hudson several times every day. I am incredibly grateful for this little blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy. This sweetheart who, I'm pretty sure, has the biggest heart ever. Today he turns three years old. He lives life to the fullest, lives it loud, and lives it with love. And I'm so incredibly grateful he's ours. He is our constant reminder of God's goodness to us and such a bright light in our lives.

p.s. When my babies are just tiny, I pick out 'their song'. Matt Redman's Blessed Be Your Name is Job's song and I thought I'd share my favorite rendition of it with you today. I hope you press play and breathe in the words.