Monday, May 31, 2010

4 Months Old!!!

She has actually been four months for a little while now, but I wanted to wait for my home schooling saga to come to an end before I got distracted!
My little bug is growing up so fast. This is my infant folks!!! How can she be this big already?
What is she doing these days? Drooling. And putting everything in her mouth. And wiggling. All of which made getting a decent picture of her most difficult!

Let's see, she still sleeps great, eats great and smiles and giggles fabulously! She has also discovered her scream. I was beginning to think that she was going to have her infant whimpering forever, but I shouldn't have been worried! Her lungs are very strong. Thankfully, she is such a joyful and contented baby that she hardly ever uses them. Maybe rarely would be more accurate. Or not too often.

She is the sunshine in our family and we are all delighted in her!

(Don't forget to enter the giveaway! Only 1 more day!!!)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

So What About Mom?

(I was half way through writing this and I just had to come back and start you out with this. Please try and understand how difficult it was for me to write this correctly. I am overwhelmingly passionate about this topic that I feel almost desperate to communicate it clearly. If I somehow offend you or make things unclear to you, please don't hesitate to ask for any clarification! I love you all!)

While this is a topic not often "discussed" it is one almost constantly "vented". What about "My" time? What about the things I like to do? What about being constantly left out of activities? What about a little peace and quiet? These are all legitimate questions, but there are a few things that must be considered before coming to a right conclusion.

What is the heart motivation?

This is something you have to consider for yourself. I can't tell you where you are at. No one can. You may agree with me, but only you know if you truly believe what I'm saying. Let me say this once and for all; I believe parenting to be one of the greatest gifts God has given us. I know it is because I experience it. I've also seen it be an absolute nightmare. Truly terrifying. I don't believe for one second that the difference is in the children. I truly, truly, truly don't. Call me out on it if you want, but I believe this with all of my heart. While the training has a huge impact, I don't believe that even that is the main culprit. I think the most deciding factor about what kind of a parenting experience you will have comes from YOUR heart.

Our convictions about our children play into every area of their lives. From our choice of  how many  children to have, to how we choose to train them, to why we choose to home school them, to why we wanted them in the first place. I firmly believe, if you are going to have children, you must make a choice. Choose a team. Decide which side of the line you are standing on.  What is that choice?

Are you going to raise your children for yourself or for the Lord?

Very few decisions in life will make as big of an eternal impact as this one. And take heed to this, if you do not whole-heartedly choose, you have already chosen. We are fighting against a very real and vicious enemy and we do not win by accident.

Now, if you are purposed to raise your children for yourself, I really don't have any advice for you, but there is plenty of it out there for you. Look anywhere you like. It is so prevalent that you can hardly escape it even if you're trying desperately! In fact it is sneaky too. Much of it is probably ingrained in your mind already as it is in mine.

If you are purposing to raise children to bring glory to the Lord, that is a huge factor you have to give thought to. We live in a sinful world that is a gigantic fan of self-gratification. We are completely immersed in it. It is perfectly natural then, that many of the things that seem completely normal are some of the very things or thoughts that we need to throw out. We may stick out. We may seem strange. Sounds a bit like being an "alien and stranger" of this world. Isn't that what we want?

So now that we've covered what I think is the most important aspect of this question, I have a little secret for you! But instead of saying it quietly so only you can hear, I want to shout it out loud so the whole world can hear!!! God is good! God's ways are good! And He has promised to work everything together for good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose!

Am I envious of moms who have whole days to themselves because their children are in school? Nope. Am I disappointed that I don't get to "hang" with my girl friends as often as I would like. Not really. Do I feel unfulfilled because I'm not earning my own money to spend how I want? Not a chance! I KNOW that I am spending every day doing something of great worth. And I LOVE it!

Having said that I should also add, I love going to candle parties, taking bubble baths, painting my toes, laying in the sun in the back yard, reading, taking naps, scrap booking etc.. And I do all of those things. Sometimes with company, sometimes without. I am not a stressed. home tied, desperate woman! I have joy-filled, peaceful, meaningful days. Why? Because God is good! And living for Him is good!

Don't we ever have bad days? Of course. What about headaches? Absolutely! Do I ever feel like I'm going crazy? Occasionally. I shown you enough of our grubby  and messy  days for you to know that! But I wouldn't change a thing. Only my selfish attitude that loves to take over. I am blessed. If you know the Lord, so are you. If you are married to a godly man, so are you. If God has blessed you with children, you are blessed abundantly. Rid yourself of the world's thoughts, start seeking the Lord's heart and then obey. You will be proclaiming along with me, God is good! His ways are good! I am blessed!

It must be in the air!

Everywhere I turn there are giveaways going on!!! I thought I would let you all know about some others going on.

First, my friend Stacy wrote an excellent post about being good stewards and actually using much of the food that ends up in the trash. I'm certainly guilty here! Her post is filled with practical and insightful ideas and she's giving away a great book called "In God's Garden". Check it out  here.

Next, last week I stumbled across this beautiful family's blog. They have six adorable children and yet they are longing and waiting for their little one waiting in Ethiopia. Without going into it much, just let me say this struck an already tender chord in my heart. They are in the midst of doing several giveaways to spread the word about their adoption and I want to spread the word too! This week they are giving away three beautiful worship CDs. Please, at least go look at  their site and commit to praying for this precious family! Here they are.

Friday, May 28, 2010

It's a GIVEAWAY!!!

So, I've left out two of my favorite "times" that we incorporate into our school days. Signing Time and "reading time"!

I've written about signing time before, but I just had to say once more how much fun we have with it. It made a HUGE difference in Havilah's frustration level as it enabled her to communicate so much better. Watch her with her beginning signs here. It is only 1/2 hour long, so it doesn't feel like they are sitting in front of the TV all day.

Another special time of the day is our reading time. After we've finished lunch, we all snuggle up in the living room with blankets and pillows. We have read Heidi, Elsie Dinsmore, Tales of the Kingdom and we've just started our favorite, Little House in the Big Woods. Some of these were a little beyond their level, but that just required more explanation and teaching time throughout. This time is wonderful for practicing sitting quietly, not distracting each other, paying attention etc., and also for excellent discussion about the characters. 

So, here is your chance to join in our fun!!!!
I am going to be giving away (3) items.

Signing Time Volume One. I would recommend it for 1-8 years olds, although I must admit, I enjoyed learning the signs too!

This book is packed with beautiful, exciting and informational stories. I love this book ( makes me want to butcher a hog!) and it is at a great level for the girls to follow the story.

As I wrote about in my last post, this book was a perfect starter for Bethany. I'm throwing in a maze and dot to dot book as well. These are perfect for the little brother or sister who really wants to do "school " too!

So here's the rules!!!
  • If you are a follower or become a follower = 1 entry
  • If you link this post to your blog = 1 entry                 
  • If you link this to you facebook page = 1 entry          
Just leave a separate comment for each entry and please say what your first and second choice would be. We will draw a winner Tuesday, June 1, just because I LOVE June and it seems like a good time!
This giveaway is open to anyone! If you don't have children, save these until you do or bless another mom around you.

Thanks for joining me through this home schooling marathon. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. One more post on my mommy's attitude towards home schooling and then back to our regular broadcasting!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Home Schooling Part 4~ How (do you keep the little ones occupied?)

This is one of those ever present challenges you face with multiple little ones. How do you accomplish anything worthwhile with the oldest when you have a lonely three year old, a trouble finding two year old and a hungry newborn?

The newborn is easy. always take the time to feed your baby! I still find myself trying to put her off just a little longer. But it always results in a stressful time and I feel like a bad mommy. Now I make sure to give Baby a good feeding, check her diaper and either strap her on, put her in the bouncy seat or simply put her to bed.

Havilah (2) is my precious one that I can't turn my back on. Mom's say to me, "But you don't have boys!". I say,"But you don't have Havilah!".

Do we adore her? Absolutely!!! Does she keep us on our toes every minute of the day? Absolutely! When we figured out this solution for her, it saved me much sanity! That solution was.....

Blanket Time!

I first heard about this idea in the Duggar's book when Havilah was about 14 months old. It is fabulous!

Day 1, I simply placed her on a blanket with a few quiet toys and told her to stay on the blanket. I sat near her. By that age she new perfectly well what I was saying and what she was to do. Being Havilah, she of course had to test it multiple times. When she had stayed on the blanket for a sufficient amount of time, I told her that blanket time was over and we folded up the blanket.

Day 2 went beautifully! Just small amount of testing.

Day 3, I started leaving the room for small amounts of time. She of course tested every opportunity.

Day 4, just a little more testing.

After that I could leave her and know that she would stay. Okay, there were still a few random times of testing, but overall she did great! So when it was time for school, I would lay out her blanket with a few quiet toys, tell her it was blanket time, and then be able to leave her (not far away) on her own until I had finished school with Lydia ( only about 30-45 minutes). She was so cute! After watching me for a few days, whenever I would tell her that blanket time was over, she would begin folding up the blanket .

The great thing about this system is that it travels! I have taken her to baby showers and meetings, put her on blanket time and she's played quietly the whole time! Michelle Duggar calls it a play pen in her purse and it really is.

So how about Bethany......
Lydia and Bethany are attached at the hip. They love to be together and they almost always are. Bethany was quite at a loss when suddenly she found herself with time and no big sister. This has been a wonderful time to draw Bethany and Havilah together. Let's just say, they are not two peas in a pod, but are much closer now than before! But other than playing with Havilah, this is what we do with Bethany.....

I try and spend some time doing "school" with her. It teaches her at this age to sit quietly, to wait patiently while I work with Lydia and to work diligently on the task given t her. Most days I've just come up with my own "school papers" for her. They look something like this,

Obviously nothing too fancy, but it has been good for her and she has made great progress! When Bethany started writing, it was truly painful. It was literally weeks before she could successfully down a "down" line. My sister found these fabulous books from Wal-Mart that she loves.

There are all sorts of these fun activity book ( mazes, hidden pictures, dot to dot etc.) that are bright and colorful and fairly cheap. We have gone through many of these this year. Bethany eats up any "school" that she can do!

Next up: a few of our favorite extras! Sniff! Sniff! Do I smell a give away coming up???

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Home Schooling Part 3~ What

We started our "formal" home schooling this past fall. Why? Simply because Lydia LOVES "school" and we were desperate for a little more structure to our day. Oh, and I suppose I should admit, I've been itching to home school ever since I was pregnant with Lydia! So what do we teach?

We are very basic right now. Our main focus is, and I hope always will be, character training. I highly recommend teaching your child the importance of diligence before you try and tackle any math! Teach them patience (and learn a little yourself!) before coming near a reading book! Teach them to work whole-heartedly before approaching hand writing!

When it came to choosing curriculum, I just went with what I was familiar with. Remember, this is the very beginning of our homeschooling journey and we are just getting started. I promise to write in ten years about my favorite school supplies, but for now this is what we do!

Our school morning starts with Lydia and Bethany saying their verses. As I wrote about here, teaching your children the Word of God is crucial. Teach it! Teach it! Teach it! And as you do, learn it! Learn it! Learn it!

After that we have our Bible time. Right now it is very simple. I read a chapter aloud, pausing for pertinent questions, and then they draw a picture of what we just read. Fabulous questions come out during that time as they try to remember details to draw.

Lydia then goes on to her other subjects while her sisters do other things ( to be addressed on "How" the younger ones are occupied during school!). Right now she is just doing the basics; reading, writing and math.

For reading we have been going through A Beka's  Handbook for Reading.

It is very straight forward. Starting at sort vowels and going all the way through to proficient reading. Lydia is at the beginning stages of long vowels. Would I recommend it? It is very adequate, but requires a very patient and encouraging teacher to just plod through. Will I be looking into more interesting reading programs? Yes.

For hand writing we have been using A Reason For Writing.

I LOVE the Reason For Writing program! I used it growing up and had tons of fun with it. You practice different words through the week and at the end of the work you get to color a cute and fun "border sheet" on which you write your verse. However, I would not recommend the "K" level. All it is doing is teaching individual letters, which of course has some benefit, but isn't worth what it costs! Next time we will move to these books when they are ready to start the later levels.

For math Lydia started with A Beka's Numbers Skills K

For once I can truly say, I LOVE this book! Tons of color and tons of review. She had  blast going through this book! A Beka does progress pretty quickly. I will use it for the younger grades and switch to a different curriculum as they get older. Lydia completed this book rather quickly so my mom picked her up an Evan-Moor Skill Sharpeners book which has been really great too.

Like I said, we are very basic right now and are still figuring many things out. But for now, that is "what" we are doing!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Home Schooling Part 2~ When

For us, home schooling is truly more a way of life than a scheduled activity. No, I would not call us "unschoolers", but the formal education we hope to achieve will merely be an extension of a life of learning. One of the biggest concerns of those criticizing home schooling is that the child will not get an adequate education. Yes, it can happen. I've seen it happen. But I've also seen it happen with public and private school graduates as well. There most certainly is a thing as not enough education. But I believe that there is also such a thing as too much education and not enough learning.

Many parents worry that their children haven't learned enough to go to college. I truly believe that anyone who has learned to learn can succeed anywhere. So how young is too young to start learning?
The early years are so amazing. It breaks my heart how many parents completely miss the amazing advantages of using the very beginnings of their child's life to teach and to train. People tell us all the time,"Wow!Your girls are so smart!". While I would love to believe that we are blessed with naturally brilliant children, I really don't think that is the case. How does Bethany know how to spell her name? Because we say it over and over. "B" "E" "T" "H" "A" "N" "Y". How does Lydia know that worms crawling through the dirt make it better dirt? Because we talk about it as we examine the wiggly worms we find. It's incredibly simple.

Do not fall into the habit of lying to your children. That may seem harsh, but it truly is what often happens to children. The classic example of this is Calvin's dad.

I watched a little girl awhile back who believed that she was a little fairy that her daddy had found under a flower petal. She believed in everything from santa clause, the easter bunny, the tooth fairy and Jesus. Now when she learns the truth about the things she believed to be real, what is going to convince her God is not pretend as well? Now this does not mean that we don't play around with our girls! But they always know that they can get a truthful answer out of us.

Teach your children to ask good questions. I know we all struggle through the "why" phases. It is very draining. But that time is precious to develop a mind that is truly eager to learn. I heard it said once that the only truly "bad question" is one that you don't want an answer for. Over and over our children will ask us a question, but instead of answering we make them give us the answer. Example~ "Mommy, why is it rainy today?", "You tell me Lydia." "Because God made it rain. Because we need rain to make the plants grow.".  Now when Bethany asked David what a reflection was he didn't say,"The return of light, heat, sound etc. after striking a surface." He showed her his water glass then explained how she could see a picture of the fan in his water in very understandable language. Children are sponges! They learn so well and are capable of grasping amazing things.

From before our children can talk we are telling them how much God loves them. As soon as they start talking we start asking over and over and over and over. "Who made your hair?" "Gaaaa! (meaning God)" "Who made the stars?" "Gaaaa!" "Who made this flower?" "Gaaaa!". Why? Because even more than not wanting my children to believe lies, I want them to believe truths! When they look at the beautiful world around them, I don't want them for millisecond to not know in their hearts that it was created by a great, awesome and loving God, who not only created the universe, buts loves them personally.

So when to we start teaching our children? From the very beginning. Don't throw away the precious opportunities you have to be filling their minds with truth. You'll quickly see how they grow hungry for more!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Home Schooling Part 1 ~ Why

Well. here I am, getting ready to explain "why" we home school. I've considered blogging about this for a long time. A VERY long time! I think the greatest fear holding me back is that, I want to do it right. I truly want you to understand where I am coming from.

I have very strong beliefs about children. I revolt against the way of thinking that makes them out to be nothing more than accessories for our picture perfect lives. People get married, they decide to have a couple (or even a few) children, they are then tied down by responsibilities, unable to live life how they would choose, suddenly all they want is for their children to grow up, move out and be  "successful and happy" . And the trend starts all over again. I hear it ALL the time. In Christians as often as not.

Let me tell you right now, I REFUSE to aim for "successful and happy" children. Why do I use the word aim? Because that is what we do. When Lydia was a newborn we were given a parenting seminar on CD by Pastor Dee Duke. It made a profound impact on me and I am so thankful to have begun my parenting journey with this mindset. He gave this excellent word picture.

If you have a mutt, you have very clear expectations for him. You want him to not jump up on you or your visitors with muddy paws. You want him to not bark all night long. And you want him to not go to the bathroom on your carpet. As long as you can carry on with your life without him making problems, you're both happy. All is well. Mutt's purpose~ You have a cute dog. Cool.

Now let's say you have a seeing eye dog. You have a goal and purpose for this dog, and it's not just to make you look good! The training is crucial and with specific purpose. "Okay" is never okay. This dog must be perfectly trained because someone else's life will be in their paw. Seeing eye dog's purpose~ to guide, pilot and protect a human who cannot see.

Hopefully you can see throughout this word picture, different dogs~ different goals. Now the great and scary thing about parenting is, we get to choose our goals for our children. Some parents truly have no goals. They want to get through parenting with as little damage done all around. Some say "As long as they make it to kindergarten!". Some say, "As long as I can get them to college!". Some say, "They are headed for a great career that will make them incredibly prosperous with a terrific retirement.".

Our goal is simple. We are endeavouring by the grace of God to raise children who will love the Lord their God with all of their heart, and with all of their soul, and with all of their mind and with all of their strength. And our second goal is like it, that they would love their neighbor as themselves. Why is that our greatest goal? Because that is what Jesus said He wanted from us. This may be of very little value to the world, but I guarantee you, a college degree, a successful job and a hefty retirement are not going to impress the Lord very much when we stand before Him.

Now, in my last post I mentioned several areas that have the ability to drive people apart. While our decisions should never override our love for each other, we are called to be wise in the way we live our lives. I choose to feed my children healthy food (most of the time!) not because being healthy is the end goal, but because it will assist them to serve the Lord in a greater capacity. I choose to train my daughters life skills, not because being the most talented wife or industrious daughter is the end goal, but because the Lord looks very poorly on idleness and someone who has learned diligence can be greatly used. We choose to home school, not because "being home schooled" is the end goal, but because we see it as by far the most efficient way to bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Now, I need to make sure that I impress upon you this fact. I do not think that home schooling is as trivial as using a microwave or not. Nothing anyone could say could convince me to send my children away for 1/3 of their life to be influenced by people who believe contrary to the very foundations of our lives. But home schooling is a means to an end.

So WHY do we home school? There are many reasons. We don't want drugs, dating, evolution, disrespect, and tolerant attitudes to be "normal". We don't believe children should be placed at the front lines of battle without support. We don't want our children to be part of the 75% who walk away from their faith. We don't want to miss 1/3 of our children's lives. But mostly, we want to take full advantage of the time we have with our children to train them in godliness. Home schooling is one of our greatest tools to shoot our "arrows" towards the goal.

Mark 12:28~31 ~ "One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked Him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"  "The most important one," answered Jesus, " Is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Before we get started....

Before I can really go into the "home schooling" area, I had to take the time to explain where I am coming from. This is something that has been greatly on my heart. The Lord has been challenging me, poking me and prodding me these last few years.

I'm a very passionate person. I know what I believe in many areas of life. Despite my deep feelings about things, I am constantly challenged to work on keeping the focus on what is really important. Believe me, it's not always easy. Please allow yourself to really take a good look at yourself and examine what you find.

I personally have seen relationships damaged by differing opinions as trivial as epidural vs. natural birth, dresses only vs. pants, nutrition vs. junk food, hospitals vs. home remedies. Now if I've ruffled your feathers, please hear me out. Some of these issues may be important to you and I'm not meaning to trivialise them. I'm simply trying to make this point. None of these for mentioned issues or any others like them are so important that I should neglect to love those around me.

John 13:34 & 35~  " A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this the world will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Jesus himself tells us that the way the world will know if we truly know Him, is if we love each other. So if my disposable diapering, alfalfa tea drinking, microwave using, and even home schooling ways are getting in the way of loving any of you, then I am in the wrong. Not wrong for believing what I do, but wrong for prioritizing a method or a thing over an eternal being and my testimony for Christ.

As I delve into why we believe what we do, I just want to be very clear. If you feel yourself challenged, praise the Lord! We all should continually be molded and polished to serve the Lord. If you feel yourself judged, know that my choices in life do not affect my love for you. I am not the judge.

2 Corinthians 5:10~  "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

Stay tuned for the "Why" coming up soon!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Coming soon: The "What", "Where", "When", "Why", "How"

I've had some questions about our home schooling plans, thoughts, schedule etc.. This is an area that is very important to me so I want to take the right amount of time and effort to say what I mean effectively. If you have any specific questions pertaining to any area, please ask so that I can address them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lydia is Five!!!

May 6, was Lydia's fifth birthday. We were taking off for California that day so I didn't get a chance to write about her. Sitting here now I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to imagine how I can explain to you what a tremendous blessing she is to us!

Lydia is our oldest. I remember the day I found out I was expecting. September 1, 2004. We had only been married for three months but I was sooooo anxious for a baby. As soon as that pink line appeared I burst into tears. I was going to have my own baby! We decided not to find out what we were having, but were both 100% positive that we were having a boy. Seeing my baby girl for the first time was the biggest surprise of my entire life. But oh was I happy!! Laying in the hospital bed that night with my baby girl in my arms and my amazing husband on the couch beside me, I knew I was the most blessed of all women!

The name Benjamin means "Son of my right hand". Lydia should have been named the feminine version of that! She truly is my right hand. I don't know what I would do without her. From her cheerful smile to her comforting embraces. From her silly playfulness to her amazing wisdom. From her childlike dancing to her motherly comfort. From her goofy sense of humor to her heart for the lost. She is an absolute gift from the Lord, perfectly created with amazing purpose!

Every now and then, a post comes along that fills me with emotion. This is one of them. I'm so thankful that God's plans are not our plans. I'm so thankful that He in His wisdom gave me my Lydia Grace. I'm so thankful for every moment I have with her. To God be the glory! 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We're Home!!!

Last Thursday we took off for David's brother Benjamin's graduation. Three of his brothers have attended Shasta Bible College in Redding, CA, so we used to travel down there quite a bit. Somehow life has gotten a little more busy and we hadn't gone down since Jonathan's graduation two years ago. I was super excited about the trip and especially the time spent with dear family members.

All packed up and ready to go!

Our sweet Ella's first road trip!

The handsome driver. Nothing like spending the whole day driving with your very best friend! I'm so blessed!

We left on Lydia's 5th birthday so we stopped in Weed for some birthday ice cream.

Despite all the bad said about Weed, you can't dispute how amazing it would be to look at that mountain (Mt. Shasta) every day!
Our trip down went great! The girls had fun looking at everything around them, Ella slept almost the whole way and Havi only fussed for about ten minutes when it was an hour past her bedtime and she couldn't fall asleep! The only major bump along the way was..............

Yup. A flat. But God was so gracious to us and landed us at a huge pull out and just enough light to get it changed easily. Thanks again David! You were amazing!
It had been a very long day, but finally we arrived at...........................

(Picture wasn't taken that night as it was pitch black when we arrived!)
Kathy's (David's mom) uncle owns this beautiful house up in the hills outside of Redding. They are such generous people and have offered for us to use it whenever we need.

David's family has eight sons and one daughter. Two are married and one is in the works. When we all get together, it is a BLAST!!!

Talia ( on the right) is our only niece and cousin so we were sooooooo excited about spending some time with her. Talia and Ella are two and a half months apart.

Saturday was the graduation. We are so proud of you Benjamin!!! Here he is with his beautiful Melissa. Aren't they so cute?!?

(Ella getting to know two of her great-grandmas)
Many family and friends came up after graduation. It was such a special time.

This dear, dear lady is Aunt Millie. She is Ella's great-great aunt and is one of the most precious people I have ever met. Every moment spent with her is a treasure. Ella was named after her mother.

I had to add this picture because I just love it! Two of my very favorite people. Miss Mary ( who lived with us for nine months) and Laura, my amazing sister-in-law.

I ate up every moment I could have with my precious niece. They live five hours away and while that is much closer than many aunties get to be, it is much too far for me! I love that girl!!!

My girls had a fun time with Lilly. Lilly and Bethany were babies together, then her family moved back down to Redding. It was so fun to see the girls playing together!

Laura and I were confusing everyone the whole time as we traded babies back and forth.
On Sunday we headed up to Dairy, OR ( near Klamath Falls) where we spent two days at Jonathan and Laura's house. That was such a special time. Laura really is a sister to me and I came away so encouraged by the time spent with her. Plus, she is an AMAZING cook! Yum!

The uncles made a great fort for the girls!

(Talia, 6 months old. Ella Joy, 3 1/2 months old)

Talia did so good with her cousins. They adored her!!!
We had such a fabulous time the entire trip, but I am so thankful to be home. My blog will come back to life now, I promise!