May 20, 2015

Happy 2nd Birthday, Lynley Adele!

I can't BELIEVE that our littlest princess is turning 2 years old today!!! May 20, 2013 changed our lives forever in so many ways. It was one of my greatest experiences in learning to trust God (your delivery didn't go as planned, but I learned so much from it), and when you came into our lives, you added the perfect amount of cuteness, spunkiness and adorable personality!

Lynley, you are growing and doing SO MUCH! Here's what you've been up to:

-The number one thing I have to share is your absolute OBSESSION with GLASSES!!! ("Gasses!") It's literally like Where's Waldo. You can find glasses in ANY catalog, book, show, etc.! I have no idea where your obsession came from, but you have to wear glasses or goggles everywhere. It's so adorable!

-You are saying SO many cute things! "Oh my word!" "There you go!" "There it is!" "Oh no!" "Where [Daddy, Sissy, Brother, Mommy, etc.] go?" "I sorry, Mommy!" (This absolutely rips my heart out, and I never know why she thinks she needs to say she's sorry!)

-Your favorite place to be is OUTSIDE! You love to swing and climb and slide. I can't wait to see you play in the water this summer! I have to be diligent with the sunscreen because your little fair skin doesn't take the sun well!

-You LOVE wearing princess dress up shoes! They're never your size - always too big - but you walk around in those like you do it for a living. It's crazy! You get around so quickly in those heels it amazes me.

-You love to cuddle and rock. Evy didn't enjoy that quite as much, which is strange because overall she was a bit more mellow in personality. You're the feisty one, but you love to rock with Mommy. Melts my heart!

-You do great at church! You love your Sunday morning class and go right in. It's so cute to pick you up and see you having a great time!

-You've started singing "There's Just Something About That Name," just like your sister did. :)

- You so enjoy being with your Sissy and Brother! You follow them while they're playing and you feel so big sitting to eat with them at the picnic table. :)

-You've been so adorable during Bible time lately! You squint your little eyes to "pray" and it's just precious!

-You love to watch "Babysongs" (circa 1985 - Mommy watched it at your age!) and the songs are your absolute favorite! It's so cute to see you love the same show I did. You also enjoy the "Good Night, Sleep Tight" Kidsongs (also from the 80s). I've become SO NOSTALGIC about this particular video and I know I'll associate the songs with this exact few months of our lives for years to come. When the families all sing "Our House" I get misty-eyed because it's exactly how I feel.

I'll light the fire, you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me

Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good
Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the evening
Sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you

Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy 'cause of you and our la, la, la...

Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy 'cause of you and our

I'll light the fire, while you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today

I've found myself feeling exactly like that song lately. The life that we have together as a family is everything I dreamed of and more. Not because of things; just the love we have for each other in this season of all three of you being little. It's so meaningful to me. 

Lynley, you are such a joy to our family! I struggle to find the words to describe how I feel, but just know that you are loved so completely and so deeply (just like your sister and brother). We love the dynamic our family has right now; we're definitely in the season of "little ones" but the three of you make our world so beautiful, happy, and complete.

Your Daddy and I are so excited to watch you grow every day! This is such a fun stage, and we can't wait to see you grow into more of who God has created you to be. You are so much fun, so FUNNY, and so precious to us! We love you, our sweet little gift from God! Happy 2nd Birthday!

May 19, 2015

Kindergarten = Complete!

I am so incredibly happy to share that Evy has completed Kindergarten! I can't believe we have reached this milestone, but more importantly, we've reached it TOGETHER. Homeschooling has been such a wonderful experience for us, and there's no doubt in my mind that this was the right decision for our family!

A little recap: I started feeling very strongly that I wanted to homeschool when Evy was still an infant. Of course I was open to anything (public, private, homeschool), because I experienced all of those options in MY schooling (and saw benefits in all of them). However, I just really had a strong feeling that this was what we needed to do. This allowed me a ton of time to pray, research, and figure out which direction we would go in terms of style and curriculum (we ended up using My Father's World Kindergarten and really liked it!).

Our reasons for homeschooling are both spiritual and logistical. Spiritually, we desired to give our children an education that is centered in our Christian worldview. This does NOT mean that our children will be taught to blindly follow a way of thought or belief. We believe the best gift we can give our kids is the ability to reason and intellectually defend their beliefs and ideas. Naturally, because we are Christians, our kids will be taught from that perspective, but they will never be taught to believe something just because we do. Homeschooling allows us to better cultivate this atmosphere. Logistically, Kurt's schedule can be really weird, and when he's home, we really want to be together as a family. We have said many times to each other during the year that we're really thankful we've been able to go to the zoo together midweek or just play in the backyard together in the middle of a school day.

This decision was right for our family, but homeschooling isn't for everyone! God has different paths for different families, and that's a really good thing. We saw many, MANY benefits in Evy being home, and I only see that continuing in the future.

We did school upstairs in our loft/play room area. Here are some pictures of our homeschool space:

This was our calendar time area, and it's where we started every morning (more on our schedule later).

Evy learned place value, days of the week, months of the year, our address, filling in the order of what day it is, what day tomorrow is, etc.

This ended up being a perfect space for us! Liam and Lynley were able to play near us (or in their rooms close by) and I could still keep an eye and ear on them.

We aren't morning people, so we would get up and have breakfast and take our time waking up downstairs together. Around 10:00 we would start school, but this wasn't a stringent time. We always started with calendar time, and then Evy would sit at the little white table and do her daily sheets (I'll link to resources below). These sheets didn't come with our curriculum, but they were INVALUABLE and one of the best things we did. They were created by a homeschool mom. The one thing I would change is that on the sheets there were months to trace occasionally, based on this particular mom's schedule that she used with her kids. The daily sheets were meant to correspond with My Father's World, but we went by a different schedule, so sometimes the months were off. NOT a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but next year I'm going to make sure I use daily sheets that don't have any dates pre-filled. (Just to clarify, when I say "daily sheet," I just mean a calendar time sheet where Evy filled out the date, place value numbers, drew the weather for the day, etc.) My favorite thing is that I have my binder filled with the daily sheets, and we can visibly see the improvement in her handwriting! It's so cute. :)

Another note: we completed school in 100 days! Normally people have a little ways to go after they reach their 100th day of school, but Evy was flying through the last several units! MFW uses a lot of repetition; the worksheets are almost the same for every unit. This was a good thing for Evy (predictability), but towards the end she became so fast at them that we flew through.

MFW has Kindergarten laid out with each unit lasting 6 days (there are 26 units). We didn't take this long on any of the units. Each day is meant to have a worksheet and then complementary activities. This was a huge surprise for me, but I didn't do NEARLY the amount of activities and art projects like I thought I would! We just got into a groove and Evy really just wanted to play with Liam. :) Free play is something I celebrate, and the worksheets were enough for her. I'll be interested to see how 1st grade is, but overall I'm ready to not feel like there's so many extra "activities" I need to be doing.

Overall, school took us about 30 minutes each day. That's it! Almost exactly halfway through the curriculum, Evy started reading! That was my goal for Kindergarten so I'm very satisfied and happy! It was an incredible experience teaching my little girl to read. I plan on lots of practicing through the summer!

I am so unbelievably proud of Evy and her hard work! She has thrived socially at church and at dance class, and that seems to create the perfect balance for her. One of her sweet little friends at church and dance is home schooled, so it's really fun for them to share that experience. Evy is really articulate and we've been able to enhance her strengths and spend extra time if there's something we need to slow down on. I LOVE having that freedom, and I think Evy feels really confident. My experience in school created a lot of anxiety with math, and watching her already have confidence in herself is a really special thing.

Today was our last day, and I just kept hugging Evy and telling her how proud I was of her. I could tell she was just beaming, and it was so sweet! I feel so honored to be her teacher.

Little sister wanted to join in the picture taking! Evy chose to put on her matching shirt once she saw what Lynley was wearing. :)

We are excited for 1st Grade!

Here's a little comparison shot - first day and last day!

We are SO proud of our sweet, smart girl and so thankful for this homeschooling journey!

Daily Pages can be downloaded HERE
I got great ideas for Calendar Time HERE

May 13, 2015

Will's Graduation Weekend

I just got back from a wonderful weekend in Lynchburg, Virginia watching my little brother graduate from Liberty University!

I can't believe it was four years ago that I hugged my little brother goodbye (sobbing, I might add) and watched him go to Liberty as a college freshman. Now he's experienced his first job (he was hired a semester before he graduated to work as a music associate at a church in Florida) and has truly grown into such an amazing man. We're so proud of him!

It was such a treat to be able to go with my family on this trip. Kurt took the kids to his parents' for the weekend (so they could be with the whole family for Mother's Day), and they had such a wonderful time. My family really places importance on being together (especially for big life events) and I SO appreciate Kurt being so supportive and encouraging of me to go.

My parents, my sister Alyssa and I split the trip up by stopping in Asheville to see the Biltmore Estate! Kurt and I had been back in 2008 for our first anniversary (CRAZY) and I knew my parents would just love to see it. So we made a stop there overnight and it did NOT disappoint!

I found an INCREDIBLE restaurant online called Vinnie's Neighborhood Italian. It was absolutely delicious, fresh food and we left raving about it!

I snapped the picture below while we were in the hotel room. My dad was studying his Bible so he could thoroughly answer a spiritual question someone asked him. I know I'm biased, but I think he's really special. :)

The Biltmore was just beautiful, just as I remembered! The weather was perfect and we so enjoyed the tour. They have limited-time enhanced audio guides right now with new stories and details from Biltmore historians. So it was almost like going through it for the first time! And - I could NOT believe my good fortune - they had costumes displayed from DOWNTON ABBEY!!!!! The Estate is from that exact period, and they collaborated with the show to enhance the tour with the costumes. There were even pictures of the cast wearing the costumes as they were displayed, and I was just as enthralled with the garments as I was with the house. For the record - Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, is TINY. Her costumes were so little and petite!

It was so fun to be there with my sweet sister!

No photographs are allowed in the home but they displayed one of Maggie Smith's costumes in the gift shop!

Our accommodations for the weekend were beautiful! We have dear family friends who live about 45 minutes from the campus on a lake. We met them here in Missouri while they lived here for several years, and they moved to Virginia to be near family. They are from the country of Colombia and we adore them. We were talking about it on the way home, and it really is like an aunt/uncle/cousin relationship that we have with their family. It's very special, and we were so thankful for them hosting us. Their home is sleek and contemporary, which made it feel like a vacation! :)

FYI, Andersons dominate at pool.

It was so special to finally be all together again!

Amidst the graduation festivities, we also had to pack up Andrea's dorm and get her things loaded up for the trip home. That was a really simple sentence, but it was a CHORE. We crammed packing and loading into the free spots of the day and it was a little nuts, but we did it! Friday evening we went to the Baccalaureate service on campus, which was wonderful!

My brother even showed us how to get to "Narnia" downtown (aka open cellar doors).

The next day was the big one: Commencement! Around 17,000 students were graduating with this class (that included online students as well), and the campus was FULL of people. It was exciting to be amidst all of the festivities!

Only my brother would find out that he was graduating cum laude by looking in his own commencement program. CLASSIC. And yes, that's him dominating the big screen.

My brother made SO MANY close and special friends in the Music and Worship department. They are a GREAT group and I felt like I already knew many of them from how much Will talked about them. It was wonderful to finally meet his friends and watch them together!


Former Governor Jeb Bush was the speaker for Commencement, and he did a great job!

The morning ended with everyone singing "When I Think About the Lord." It was beautiful to watch tens of thousands of people lifting their hands together in praise.

Thankfully, each school had a separate time and location to walk, so we didn't have to sit through 17,000 names - ha! Will's ceremony was in a lecture hall which was a nice environment - we were able to clearly see the stage because the room was small. It was a really special time!

The original six - my people!

Mother's Day was spent driving the 11 hours back. It was really rough to be away from my kids on Mother's Day, but it was also special to be with my own mom and family. I was able to spend great quality time with them (uninterrupted), which is kind of rare nowadays.

When I got home, I was just so thankful for my little family and the life God has called me to. I just love being Mommy to these little three! They bless my life in inexplainable ways!

It was a wonderful weekend celebrating such a special time in my brother's life, and I'm so thankful I was able to be there to support him!
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