new year.


Happy New Year, dear readers!

The kids and I started our week break from school on December 22, so we’re still enjoying our vacation. It’s been lovely. David, Judah, and I woke up the day after Christmas with fevers and sore throats, which was disappointing, but also nice in a way, because we just rested.

During this break I’ve done a lot of sleeping in, lounging around in sweats, drinking hot tea, and watching movies with my kids. I introduced them to a childhood favorite of mine, Hook, last week, the boys are on a Star Wars kick (they’re watching all the old ones), and we also watched the first and second Nanny McPhee movies, which are so much fun.

This was my favorite December yet with our family. I noticed a huge difference in the kids last month compared with other years. I think in the past, the excitement of Christmas-time manifested itself in lots of big emotions and acting out and general holiday fatigue on my part.

But this year felt different.


I purposely planned a very low-key holiday season for us, and for the first time, we also followed our school routine right up until Christmas weekend. I realized it helped tremendously not to be part of Classical Conversations, which ends for the semester at Thanksgiving, and always seemed to result in the kids’ mentally checking out after that point–even though we have more school days to finish.

This year we stuck it out through most of December, and the structure helped to pass the time so that everyone could bear all the Christmas-gift-anticipation. And this is the second year we drove to Home Depot the first weekend in December and schlepped home a real, live Christmas tree.

After seeing David put together our artificial tree from the attic that first Christmas together, the little boys never fail to be astonished by the wonder of a real tree that smells like December, needs water, and rains pine needs across the hardwoods. I think Noah loved it more than his Christmas presents, and we had to explain to him that it’s rude to march into someone’s home and ask them whether their Christmas tree is “real or fake!”


Of course when we brought ours home from the store and screwed the trunk into its stand and pulled out the ornaments, we discovered only one strand of lights was working. Too exhausted to head back out into traffic, we decorated the entire tree with that one strand, and later in the week I picked up a few more from Target. Amie and I proceeded to take every ornament off the tree, rehang the lights, and decorate it again.

It was worth it!

A well-lit Christmas tree is a must.

I found myself enjoying my home and my kids and our lovely, live Christmas tree, and wondering what made the difference.

Having the kids a year older helps. Feeling less busy helps. Also I realized: having some space. 400 sq. ft. more space, to be exact. There was a whole big closet in which to tuck the console table and lamp, and another bathroom, and Judah and Amie weren’t tripping all over one another to make space in their shared room for Christmas presents.

Yes, our addition is a wonderful, wonderful gift.

Other Christmas gift themes this year were Star Wars, board games, Calico Critters, a kids’ cookbook, and lots and lots of Legos. I got cozy Smartwool winter socks and a kerosene lamp, which are both very hygge.


We enjoyed Christmas day with our family, then celebrated Christmas and Noah’s birthday with the boys’ birth family late in the week, and had a fun time opening more presents, putting together toys, and eating dinner and cake together.

I was still recovering from being sick, and did something I’ve never done: rather than make my child his birthday cinnamon rolls and cupcakes, I took Noah to Publix and let him pick out any box of cereal he wanted for breakfast (chocolate Lucky Charms, in case you wondered), and his own cake (chocolate with chocolate icing).¬† It was very liberating for me, and Noah didn’t seem to feel one bit let down.

We asked him what he wanted for his birthday, and he said, “A Dark Vader costume.”

So that’s what he got!


Can you believe our youngest is five? I feel old.

I love five.

Actually, to be super honest, five is the first age I loved with all of my kids. And it just gets better from there, folks. It’s so much fun having older kids! Everyone in our home can now officially take a shower, wipe their own bottom, and buckle themselves into the van.

My work here is done.

Noah’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve, and David performed a wedding ceremony for some friends from church that night.



It was a beautiful wedding, and I got to spend the evening with friends I haven’t seen in awhile. We laughed a lot and danced until 11:00 (my friends and I, that is, not David, he’s not a dancer. Actually I’m not either, but I pretend to be at weddings), and then headed home and were asleep by midnight. That’s what 35 feels like, friends. I don’t mind it one bit.

Happy 2018!

charleston at christmas.


Merry Christmas, friends!

Charleston is a two-hour drive away and some friends take their kids every year to see the Christmas decorations. Last week we decided to take a spontaneous day trip to check it out.

Here’s what constitutes a relaxing trip for me: not needing to pack. At all. No lunch. No snacks. Just a pack of wet wipes and a large bottle of water to share. Now that feels spontaneous!


We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather: it was in the low 70’s and sunny.

We had two plans on the agenda: eat lunch at Xiao Bao Biscuit, our current favorite restaurant in Charleston, and see the Christmas decorations in the Charleston Place hotel.


I know I’ve mentioned it before, but you guys, this place is amazing. I want to try everything on the menu. But the Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) is a must. We split three for the table, and added a fried rice with fish and avocado, which was delicious. Judah tolerated the spicy-ish Asian food. The other three gobbled it up!


We left our car by the restaurant, and set out for downtown. The way we prepared our kids for the amount of walking we did was to say, “We always hike as a family — either it’s a forest hike or a city hike. Today we’re doing a city hike!” We walked five miles and the kids were amazing. Hardly a complaint. Noah will be five next week, so we’re ready to start increasing our distance in 2018.


The winter train village in the Charleston Place hotel is magical. We spent a long time walking around and noticing all the details (the ski lift! The ice-skating rink!)



The quiet neighborhoods of Charleston never fail to make me happy. I love the landscaping, the window boxes, the little secret gardens tucked away behind iron gates. I truly cannot imagine being responsible for the upkeep on one of these historic homes; so I’m happy to enjoy them as a tourist.


Notice the holiday fruit arrangement above the door!



We walked through the market in the center of town and stopped at our favorite candy shop on Market Street for free pecan praline samples. We let the kids each pick a snack from the candy counter (the grown-ups might have chosen a praline too) and then walked to the pier to eat.



Yes, those are marshmallows on a stick, dipped in white chocolate and sprinkles.



I love people-watching on the pier because you encounter people from all over the world. The seagulls are pretty great too!

David and I realized during our adventure that this was the first time Gabe and Noah have seen downtown Charleston. Judah and Amie haven’t been in years and hardly remembered it. I’m so glad we waited until now to do it as a family; the kids are at a perfect age to really enjoy it.


We made it back to our car at 3:30, grabbed a cup of coffee/tea for the road, and made it home by 6:00. A perfect day!



thanksgiving 2017.


I told David’s mom that I wanted to take on the challenge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’ve cooked various parts of Thanksgiving in years past, but I’m 35 years old and decided it was time to see if I can do the whole thing myself. Plus I re-read the The Little House series this fall, and felt inspired to channel my inner Caroline Ingalls (she and Almanzo’s mother were always cooking!).

Although my job was decidedly simpler given that I didn’t need to grow all the food, de-feather the turkey, and grind wheat for bread, among other things. How on earth did they manage it all?


I planned out the meal a week early, and did nearly all of the grocery shopping the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This was the best idea, since I missed the crowds. I ran out to Whole Foods on Tuesday for the turkey and a couple of last minute ingredients so I wouldn’t have to put it in the freezer.

My mom helped me lots by supplying recipes and telling me to sit and write out a timeline of when to prep/bake everything, which helped the day go more smoothly. I bought this year’s edition of the Food Network Thanksgiving magazine and had fun choosing a few recipes there.

Here’s our menu:

Dry-brined roast turkey, gravy
Mashed potatoes
Roasted Brussels sprouts salad
Cranberry relish (Linda)
Sweet potato casserole

Pumkpin pie (Linda)
Pecan pie
Homemade whipped cream (Linda)


David and the kids offered to help, but our kitchen is so small, it was easier for David to play with them, and for me to let one kid a time come help me. Amie was up at 7:00 am tearing bread so I could dry it in the oven for dressing (I did not attempt actual stuffing, though I was raised on it!), and I always call upon Gabe to do my scary jobs, like browning the turkey neck in butter for the gravy.


I really, really love baking pies, and come November I start making one a week to practice for the holidays. Homemade pie crust is very easy if you practice it a few times (and especially quick if you have a food processor, though it’s not necessary). I love this all-butter pie crust recipe and have used it for years. If you cut the butter and chill it in the freezer before making the crust, it comes together even better.


A new addition to the menu this year was the roasted Brussels sprout salad, which my friend Liz told me about. It was a big hit, and is a nice side salad for any occasion. Here’s the recipe:

Several handfuls brussels sprouts, washed, ends and outer leaves removed, quartered
Toss brussels sprouts in olive oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, roast at 350 for 20 minutes, stir, continue roasting until you can pierce with a fork
Cool and toss with mixed greens, toasted pecans, feta cheese, and Tessamae’s Lemon Garlic salad dressing

The salad with lemon brightened up all that heavy, (delicious) food. I won’t even tell you how many sticks of butter I used for Thanksgiving dinner.



I chose a spiced cider and bourbon cocktail from the Food Network magazine, and David was in charge of assembling the drinks before his parents came over with appetizers in the afternoon. The kids had their own fancy apple cider drinks. I should also add that David grew the sweet potatoes for our sweet potato casserole!

We roasted the turkey at Linda’s, so she did the actual cooking and whisked up the gravy for me while I was finishing things in our oven. She also made the appetizer, a pie, homemade whipped cream, and cranberry relish, so I certainly can’t take all the credit! What I would’ve done if I actually had to make the entire meal on my own, I don’t know.

I scurried around all day, but had plenty of time to sit with a book and a cup of tea before finishing things up in the afternoon. We’re almost finished with season 4 of the Great British Baking Show, so Amie and I felt compelled to stage a photo cooking with our cups of tea in hand, like the bakers.


We started with a fire pit, drinks, and appetizers here at 3:30. Along with the Brie baked in puff pastry, Grandpa and Mum-Mum brought a host gift of a baby frog.



We moved around the corner to Steve and Linda’s for another fire pits (can you tell our family is fond of fire pits?) and dinner on their newly-completed screened back porch

We had only one small catastrophe: the marshmallows on our sweet potatoes caught fire under the broiler! Thankfully they were easily scraped off and replaced.


I was really pleased with all the recipes, and sat down the next day and made notes in my bullet journal of what worked and what I’d change in the future.

It was a Thanksgiving challenge I very much enjoyed, but I’m certainly thankful that we do pot-luck most years!





easter 2017.


My parents are selling their house in Blythewood and hoping to buy a house a little closer to downtown. So yesterday we celebrated one last family holiday there. It was also my brother Danny’s 30th birthday! We had fun eating fried chicken and chocolate cake, hunting for Easter eggs, and enjoying this lovely spring weather.





















with the hurting and with aleppo.

Hello dear friends,

It’s a gray, cold December afternoon here in Columbia. After a brisk walk to their grandparents’ for a fire pit and some back yard Advent projects, the kids and I have holed up at home, with new Christmas pj’s and soup and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I’m going to be honest: I almost never, ever read the news. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter, and not often on Instagram, so the way I find out about current events is typically from my husband or from blogs.

It’s not that I don’t care what’s going on in our country or in the world. But when it comes to current events, sometimes news and social media feel to me like a massive number of voices bombarding me, like the pulsing roar of a football game. It’s hard to strain my ears and discern what anyone’s actually saying in the midst of the deafening noise. It’s hard to know what’s really true and whom to believe, and what exactly, at the end of the day, I’m supposed to do about it.

But for whatever reason, recently I’ve heard two clear calls in my life that stand out from the noise. I’ve decided to lift my head and listen hard.

One is the book David put in my hands a couple of months ago, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond.

Another comes in the form of some of the bloggers I respect, who tell me this week that there is a crisis of epic proportions in Aleppo, Syria. There is terror and bombing and starvation. I won’t attempt to summarize this situation for you because Ann and Shannan are two people who have done it well.

I’ve been known to avoid educating myself about things that feel too painful, but with Evicted and with learning about the war in Syria, I decided not to toss aside the book for lighter reading or to quickly skip ahead to the next blog post. Instead, I wiped away tears and pressed on to the next chapter, clicked the next link and then the next that told me about the deprivation and horrors people are experiencing this December.

And here I’m sitting here in my favorite gold reading chair on a Friday afternoon, and I’m wondering what difference this knowledge makes in my life, other than to make me feel a bit guilty and very sad. While I know warmth and safety and a fully belly this Christmas, many know cold and fear and hunger.

How can I possibly have been born to such privilege? Why am I here right now and not there? What could I possibly do to help provide housing for America’s poor or peace for refugees of war-torn nations?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer yet.

It’s a question I’d like to explore in the coming weeks, but for now, trite as it may sound, it starts with a little paper ornament hung on our Christmas tree. It starts with standing there in the early-morning darkness of our living room, next to the sparkling white lights, looking at that heart-breaking photo and praying for people I don’t know — people across the world in Syria and people right here in my own country.

And there are others too — not just those in physical danger, but those for whom the holidays are a painful time of year. The friends who have lost loved ones. The friends who are sick in body or sick in spirit. The friends who want to be married and aren’t. The friends whose marriage is in tatters. The friends who are looking at a negative pregnancy test, again.

I won’t fool myself into thinking that hanging a print-out ornament changes anything or makes me a better person, I know it’s not even close to enough. But I guess it’s a very small way to say, “I won’t turn a blind eye. I will think of you. I will remember that I have much to be thankful for, and also that it’s not all about me and my family memories. I’ll remember that many people are sad right now.”

Don’t get me wrong, I will be very happy in the days to come. I will continue to delight in many aspects of our month, which I’ve already deemed my favorite December yet. I’ll enjoy wrapping gifts and making a third batch of fudge and listening to Christmas music from dawn ’til dusk. I’m so thankful that, as Shannan reminds us, “Gratitude and sorrow aren’t, as I once believed, mutually exclusive. They actually pair quite well together, one in each hand.”

The very heart of the Christmas story is both sorrow at the brokenness of our hearts and our world, and surging joy, at the victory of Christ.

I guess I’m just saying, in this very roundabout way, that I want to have eyes to see what’s real this Christmas and not what’s on Pinterest. I want to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. More than chasing after happiness, which is in the end very fleeting, I want to chase hard after Jesus, who is the hope for our weary world.




last week in photos (or: thanksgiving gratitude).


Hello friends!

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was full of people and lots of really yummy food.

Here’s what we’ve been up to lately!


Judah and Amelie had their first swim meet last weekend at USC. Judah has been swimming with Columbia Swimming for 15 months, and Amelie for nearly a year. We wanted them to have a good year under their belts before starting swim meets, and I feel like this is the perfect time.

They swam Saturday and Sunday: I’d say the first day was super overwhelming and a bit traumatic and we definitely had some tears, but the second day went way better. Navigating the crowds, noise, and constant commotion is not for the faint of heart. Amelie swam freestyle and backstroke, Judah swam freestyle, backstroke, and breast stroke.

We’re so proud of how hard they worked. Their¬† next meet is December 10th in Rock Hill, SC, and they said they’re ready! We love our swim team!


We had a lovely Thanksgiving.

David took the kids hiking in the morning so I could bake (baking in a quiet house is one of my favorite things in the world), then we had a pot-luck dinner at Barb’s (my sister-in-law’s mom). I love that we do holidays with my family, Shari’s family, and David’s family. It keeps things simple!

After dinner Judah, Owen, and Amelie read Psalm 100 and we all sang a couple of hymns. Then, we broke out the dessert and poker (because what goes better together than family worship, pie, and poker?).

This is the first year in forever that I took ONE measly photo on Thanksgiving, but I guess you could say I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot!


On Friday some friends that we lived in India with came for an overnight visit. They’re in the States for a few months, and it was so, so good to see them — it’s been nearly three years. They got to meet Gabe and Noah. Our big kids got to reconnect. It took them about an hour, and then they chattered non-stop as if they’d never been apart.



We drank coffee and wine, ate chocolate pecan pie with mounds of whipped cream, and hiked and had a fire pit. We talked about ministry and homeschooling and travel and cooking. The kids played outside a whole lot. Seeing them was good for my very soul.

I’d never trade our life here in Columbia, but I miss our friends.


Finally, a very sweet couple from church gave David and I an overnight at Whispering Willows, a B&B about 20 miles north of Columbia. We packed up and headed out Sunday after church. We stopped for coffee and then a leisurely dinner downtown, then drove to the B&B. It was a truly wonderful getaway, so good for our marriage.

And now it’s Tuesday and nearly December already!

Can you believe it?

I’m very thankful we resisted decorating for Christmas until this week and have that tradition to look forward to (although I have not resisted turning on the Christmas music). The kids and I started an Advent unit in our homeschool for the first time, and we are loving it.