Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Favorites

Here we are, already in mid-October and the weather is becoming more and more Fall-like each day.  I'm loving it.  We've had windows open and the cool crisp Fall breeze blowing through our home for weeks now, but recently we've had to start closing the windows and turning on the heater because it's getting so chilly outside!   Pumpkin spice coffee has become my morning companion.  Big cozy pillows and nubby crocheted blankets have found a resting place on our couch.  Soups and chili have started showing up on our dinner table. And boots, sweaters, puffy vests, and scarves have entered back into my daily wardrobe.

There are so many reasons to love Fall, but I thought I'd share a few of our family's Fall favorites.

It's been a tradition of ours every year to go pick out a pumpkin for each member of our family (including our dogs!) at a pumpkin patch.  That means seven different pumpkins. The kids love it.  This year, we found a beautiful pumpkin farm with a hillside full of every size, shape, and color pumpkin that you could imagine.  

We had fun hunting for and selecting our favorite pumpkins.  The hardest part was hauling our wagon load of pumpkins back up the hill after picking them!

They look so welcoming and festive sitting on our front porch.

These pumpkin chocolate chip muffins have recently become a Fall favorite.  I just discovered this recipe on Pinterest earlier this year and it's definitely a keeper!  If you're a fan of pumpkins and chocolate chips, you'll love these.  They are delicious!  Go here for the recipe. (Side note: I've never put the full two cups of sugar in that the recipe calls for.  It's plenty sweet with just one cup.)

And if you're a pumpkin pie fan, this pumpkin cheesecake was pretty darn good too!

Another favorite is grabbing a cup of hot coffee (or hot chocolate or hot apple cider) and getting cozy by the fire ... especially if there is a sweet puppy to snuggle up with.

Since our real fireplace is in the basement, we have a fake heater fireplace upstairs so we can stay warm and cozy up there too.  It's kind of the best of both worlds.  If I have the time, I can go downstairs and build a real wood-burning fire to enjoy, but if not, we just push a button and we have an instant faux fire that blows out heat.  So it not only looks real, it feels real too and it's perfect for warming up on cold Fall mornings.

The turning leaves this time of year are definitely a favorite.  I'm from the South and I grew up mostly with just pine trees.  The only thing that happens in the Fall down South is that all the pine needles fall to the ground.  And there's nothing pretty about that.  Fall in the North is sooo much more beautiful.  And we happen to live in a neighborhood that is just full of big gorgeous trees, all changing into a variety of bright reds, oranges, and yellows.  It's so enjoyable to go on walks right now.

A new Fall favorite of ours is taking the kids apple picking.  Last year was the first year that we did this and the kids loved it so much, that it stuck and is now a yearly tradition.  They have so much fun using those long poles to yank down apples that we always end up with way more apples than we could ever eat, because they just don't want to stop picking them.  I guess I just need to find some yummy apple recipes and start baking!

The apple picking poles were so big and heavy that Hudson was happy to let Tyson and Peyton pick the apples and then he would take them out of the little basket and put them in the bag.  But right at the end, he asked if he could try to pick an apple before we left.

It was so cute to watch him try to get those apples with that long pole.

With a little bit of help from Tim, he got his apple!  And boy was he excited!!

And one final favorite of mine is how much the kids are playing outside this time of year.  Every afternoon, they meet outside with the neighborhood kids and just play and play for hours, riding bikes up and down the sidewalks, playing games of hide and seek and tag (with a play bow and arrow that they shoot to "tag" each other), climbing trees, or hitting baseballs.  It's just the way childhood should be...hours spent outside running freely and playing with friends.  My kids have been having so much fun.  And I know in just another few months, winter will set in and they won't be spending as much time outside, so I am loving this season.

Hope you all are having a wonderful Fall.  Stay warm and cozy!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Snippets of Fall

Hooray! It’s officially Fall!
I’m pretty sure I say this every year, but Fall is my absolute favorite time of year.  The cool crispiness in the air, brightly colored leaves, pumpkin spice coffee, cozy blankets, warm fires, boots, sweaters, and scarves… it’s all my favorite.
And pumpkins!!  I’m addicted to pumpkins!  We found a pumpkin patch this year that grows all different kinds and colors of pumpkins, squash, and gourds.  There were so many to choose from that I might have gone a little bit overboard. I just couldn’t help myself.  Honestly, I do this every year now. Growing up, I thought pumpkins came in one shape and color – giant orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins.  There was nothing very exciting about that. Then a few years ago, I discovered that there were so many more colors and sizes and shapes of pumpkins than I ever imagined.  And I couldn’t choose just one pumpkin anymore.  I wanted them all!  But for the sake of my marriage and our bank account, I restrain myself (kind of).

Aren't they so cute sitting on my front porch?!

So when the leaves start changing and the mornings turn chilly, I get the urge to start cozying up the inside of our home.  As much as I usually love bright colors in my home, I am drawn to warm and cozy neutrals and lots of soft textures in the Fall and Winter.  I don’t have a lot of Fall decorations, but I really like using things from nature to create a warm and inviting feeling.  Not to mention, pinecones, acorns, leaves and branches are all free.

Shopping the house is another free way to switch things up.  It’s always a bit of a creative challenge to make do with the things we already have. I found neutral colored books, a candle, and a cozy fur for the hanging chair just by looking through different rooms in our house. And if need be, I’ll break out the white spray paint and spray paint something… like that vase holding the branches.

I had some leftover birthday money so I did splurge on this birch wreath from Target because I loved it so much.  And I picked up those two acorns at HomeGoods.

That little white candle needed a pick-me-up and I’ve had that fabric flower sitting around for months and months because it fell off of a pillow and I never sewed it back on, so I just decided to hot glue it to the candle.  Instant cuteness.

I found this little wooden potato crate the other day at an antique market and thought it would be fun to use on my table or coffee table to create a centerpiece.  At first I didn’t even think about putting pumpkins in it, but the lady checking me out said, “Wouldn’t this be cute filled up with pumpkins?!”  And I totally agreed with her. Genius!

I had some leftover chalkboard paint, so I painted a small chalkboard spot on my pumpkin.


Happy Fall!!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A new season

Labor Day was our official last day of summer around here and we wanted to send summer out with a fun goodbye.  There were a few slightly threatening rain clouds in the sky that day, but we took the hardtop off the jeep anyway (Have I even mentioned on the blog that Tim got a jeep for his birthday back in July?), cranked up the country music station, and went for a scenic drive through the Shenandoah mountains.  And it ended up being a perfectly beautiful day for it. 



We had packed a lunch, so we pulled over on the side of the mountain to enjoy a picnic with a pretty view. 




(Don’t worry… the side of the mountain was not steep, so although it looks like one misstep and she could just tumble down the mountain, she couldn’t.)

Then we stopped for ice cream on the way home.  It was a pretty great way to end the summer.




The next day was our first day of school. If you follow me over on Instagram, then you already know that we decided to enroll the kids in public school this year.  It wasn’t an easy decision by any means and I literally bounced back and forth all summer feeling torn between the two, trying desperately to hear what the Lord was saying, but not having any peace or clarity at all.  Finally at the end of July (there was an August deadline to tell the school system), Tim and I took a week to really pray for the Lord to speak to us and line up our hearts together. We decided that we would pray separately and then discuss it at the end of that week.  We desired for the Lord to line up our hearts and we didn’t really want to influence each other by talking about it all week, we just wanted to hear the Lord and allow Him to do His thing. We cheated one night and talked a little bit about it, but otherwise, we stuck to our agreement of just praying and being open to what the Lord was saying to each of us. And by the end of that week, we both felt that the Lord was clearly leading us in the direction of public school. There were many reasons He laid on each of our hearts for our kids in this new season and it was neat to see how much our hearts had lined up on all those specific things.  It was very confirming for us.

I also felt like the Lord told me that the reason I was feeling so torn all summer was because He was leading my heart in a new direction (public school) and I needed to let go of the old thing (homeschooling).  I had been trying so hard to hold on to homeschooling even though it was feeling more like a burden lately than a joy because I thought that’s what He wanted me to do.  And I was feeling guilty for feeling worn out and overwhelmed instead of excited about homeschooling like I had felt in the past. Since He called me to homeschooling a few years ago, I didn’t feel free to let go of it until He told me clearly it was time.  So when He told me that all that conflict and tugging going on in my heart all summer was really just Him changing my heart and guiding us in a new direction, I felt so free and relieved and it was easy to let go and move forward with public school.  Granted, I still cried, because I knew I would miss my kids, but I also knew His plans are good and we can trust Him and so I had peace and excitement.  Don’t you just love that He leads us through our hearts?  That instead of Him just demanding our obedience, He changes our hearts to want to do His will and then He gives us the grace to obey.  I love that.  It’s so freeing. 

First Day of School picture:




We all walked down to the bus stop, but Peyton asked us to drive her to school for her first day, so after Tyson got on the bus, we took Peyton to school and walked her to her class.




The transition into school has not been as smooth as I had hoped for Peyton.  Many mornings, she is just in tears and it breaks my heart to see her struggling.  I’m so thankful for the teachers and staff that have been working hard to help her through this adjustment though. The guidance counselor has been a huge help.  As we were walking home from the bus stop the other day, Peyton told me that when she was sad that day the guidance counselor took her to give Tyson a hug. It’s sweet to me that Peyton wanted a hug from Tyson. But it also tickled me knowing that Tyson would not have been thrilled when his little sister showed up in his classroom needing a hug.  I’m sure he could have just crawled into a hole.  I asked Tyson about it and we all had a good laugh when he said, “She hugged me, but I didn’t hug her.”  Brothers.

And although the mornings are rough, she’s usually all smiles by the time she gets off the bus in the afternoons.






This guy is loving having me all to himself.  As we prayed through the decision on whether or not to send Tyson and Peyton to school, one of the things we felt for Hudson was that it would benefit him to have my undivided time and attention without always feeling the need to compete with the other two.  And it really has been good for him.  I’ve noticed a big (positive) change in his behavior during our days together.  I don’t think he’s even missed them at all while they’re in school.



So after the rush of waking up, getting lunches packed, kids dressed with breakfast in their tummies and teeth brushed, we all walk down to the bus.  Then after the older two are on their way to school, Hudson and I come home, I get my coffee, and we relax for a little while.  If he sits quietly nearby and looks at books or goes off to play alone, I get a chance to spend some time with the Lord, but then there are days when he just wants me to snuggle him and read books with him. This time with just him is nice.  It’s relaxed and (mostly) peaceful.  I’m less stressed and I feel like I can actually take time to read or play or go on a bike ride with him without feeling rushed. He needed this time with me and I’m cherishing it. 



We signed Tyson up for baseball this year.  We tried baseball back when he was five years old (I’m not sure what we were thinking!), but quickly realized everyone was way more serious about five year olds playing baseball than we were.  We took a few years off and then Tyson showed some interest in it this year, so we decided to give it another shot.  And again, I’m finding out that the time commitment is more than any of us really want to make at this point. I definitely won’t be sad when it’s over and neither will Tyson.  He doesn’t particularly love baseball, but he is pretty good at it.



During his game this weekend, his team was losing the entire game.  Then in the last inning, with two outs, they rallied and scored several runs.  They were still down by one run when Tyson got up to bat.  The bases were loaded and then on the first pitch, he smacked a double, scoring two runs and winning the game 5-4.  It was pretty awesome.

Doubles are hard to come by in little league because you have to hit the ball in the air all the way to the outfield (if it bounces in the infield, then it’s only a single no matter how far it rolls into the outfield), so it was a good hard hit. And I was one proud momma.




It’s so fun to watch Peyton and Hudson clapping and cheering for Tyson and his team.  Hudson is especially into it and really wants Tyson’s team to win.  He was so excited when Tyson hit the double and won the game for his team.  During one game, a kid on the other team got a hit and I said, “Good hit!” and Hudson looked at me and told me not to cheer for the other team.  Haha!  He is serious about baseball and winning and only cheering for our team. 

While we’re discussing sports and extra curricular activities, Hudson is playing soccer now.  He’s been begging to play for quite a while, but I wasn’t ready to commit to weeknight practices and weekend games, so I kept putting him off.  Then I found a little toddler soccer league through our county that plays on Monday mornings while the big kids are in school, so I signed him up. The coach has them playing all kinds of fun soccer games and Hudson absolutely loves it, so it’s pretty perfect for us right now.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Beachin it

I’m falling so far behind here on the blog…  I started this post weeks ago and I’m just now sitting back down to (hopefully) finish it up and get it posted.

At the end of August, we squeezed in a quick trip down to Florida to see our families before the summer ended. 



Much of our time there was spent swimming and splashing in Mimi and Pop Pop’s pool.  The kids are getting so much more comfortable in the water and it was fun to see their confidence and swimming skills improve just over the few days were were there.





One day, we visited a small inlet that had plenty of hermit crabs for the kids to catch.



Tim was convinced he saw a shark swimming around out there.



We also went to the beach and played in the white powder sand and crashing waves.



I prefer lounging to playing.




We don’t typically do a lot of touristy things while we’re there, but this time, we were determined to make our trip feel more like a real vacation for the kids, with plenty of fun memories.  We called it our Summer Bash and we splurged on things like sno-cones, ice cream, go-cart riding, and putt-putt golf.

We had some nervous kids before riding the go-carts, but afterwards, they all agreed it was the highlight of their entire vacation.



And since there are only two of us and we have three kids (Hudson rode with me), we persuaded Uncle Jared to come along and be a go-cart driver too. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mind.  He and Tim got pretty competitive out there on the track and they gave the two bigger kids quite an exciting ride.  (Hudson was content to NOT have such an exciting ride, so we set our own pace!)



Putt-putt was high up on the kid’s fun meter too.  Guess who was the ONLY one to get a hole-in-one?!  ….  H-man!  He was so excited.  We celebrated afterwards with sno-cones.



One evening, Tim and I and Jared and his girlfriend, Megan all got away for a night out while the grandparents watched our kiddos.  We drove over to Seaside to eat dinner and then went out on the beach to watch the sky turn pink and orange while the sun sunk down below the horizon.  I miss those sunsets over the water!  Afterwards, we ended up reminiscing, laughing, and talking while we wandered through the backstreets and quiet neighborhoods of Seaside as the last of the evening light faded into night.  Then Tim’s internal gps failed us all when he thought he knew a short cut to get us back to our car.  All of a sudden, we found ourselves lost in the dark woods and stumbling over tree roots in our flip-flops with only our measly cell phone flashlights to light our path. We eventually found our way out, but it was one of those funny mishaps that ends up making the best memories.





And before we knew it, it was time to load up, give big hugs goodbye and get back on the road for the long drive home.



On the way home, we made a quick stop near Atlanta to eat donuts with one of my best and longest friends, Becca and her kids.  So fun to see them!  It’s been years since we’ve seen them last, which is just completely too long.



Somehow, we made it through our entire vacation without getting any pictures with my side of the family, but we did get to see and spend a few days with them too.  So glad to see everyone all in one trip!