We set aside our winter break to visit one of my favorite NC friends, Ruhi. Our trips usually solely involve family (we fit plenty of that in, too!), so we needed a trip dedicated to friends. She is a teacher so a big ol’ holiday break worked out nicely!

She and I have kept in touch and we all enjoy seeing her adventures via Instagram (we actually pass the phone around when she posts anything). Surprisingly, it wasn’t weird seeing her after SIXTEEN! years.

She treated us to several days of activities – starting with a drive through the Lazy 5 Ranch!

* You can see when we took two and a half-year-old Mae back here.

Mae’s favorite’s were the llamas. So much so, they are now a favorite alongside her most beloved animals – the panda and the horse and the cat.

The deer! They were so timid. Definitely the sweetest of all the animals.

The ostriches? They seemed a bit entitled. But very very pretty.

Our first impression of the buffalos was – docile. They had a real devil-may-care look about them.

Not the case. They got real beggy real quick.

They grossed us out the most but evened the disgust out with the production of the most laughter. Sure, it was nervous laughter, but I think every giggle counts.

This was my favorite bird ^ They had many lovely birds.

So many rainbows showed up for this photo!

In reality, there was a lot of “Stand here. Hmmm, maybe stand on this step. No, Honey, the cactus won’t poke you, scoot on back.” and so on. Ha.

I am so very glad my girls finally met Ruhi – or as Mae and Rae call her, ‘that girl on your phone that goes on adventures.’


Zack’s school board for December. His first chalk drawing of the semester. He doesn’t teach drawing anymore, whatashame, but I think he needs to make the chalk drawings a regular thing again.

Last year, last minute, I decided to let the girls pretend Santa was real, so they put out cookies, and we wrapped matching notebooks and put them under the tree.

The girls decided to pretend to believe in Santa again this year. But more intensely. They know he isn’t real and they know the ends and outs of the myth, the truth behind Saint Nick, and why I think the Santa schtick is rubbish. But I told them I’d play along this year but that I wouldn’t lie to them.

I severely overcompensated with deep discussions about the true story of Christmas.

All that to say! – we began the Santa biz with a visit to him. Har Har.

We were out of town on Christmas day this year, so we celebrated with Grandma a week early. It was wonderful. Movies, music, baking, shopping, games, and our traditional cinnamon rolls.

The girls were in a play at church. They didn’t have lines, but they did sing some songs on stage. We couldn’t see Rae at all so I’m not sure she sang along, but she said she had fun. Her face tells a different story, but I’m going to believe her.

Mae performed in her Christmas recital just before the winter break.

She was incredible and, I believe, thoroughly enjoyed her last recital. I’m so proud of her!!!!

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Charlotte with Zack’s sister, Sarah. She took us all to Micadenville – a Christmas town – on Christmas Eve Eve. We picked up food to eat along the way and watched Home Alone while we waited in the very long line of cars. (We also had time to begin Home Alone 2!) It was so pretty. There isn’t really anywhere to see good lights where we live, so it was a real treat for us.

Christmas morning we found that Sarah Claus had gifted everyone everything they wanted and all the things they never knew they wanted. She has THE. MOST. generous heart. 

She gifted Rae her sole request – a Pimki Pop (she calls it a “pop pop”) and she even found a nutcracker that cracks nuts for Miss Mae!

Daniel kept making us laugh as he took photos for us.

Christmas afternoon, we went down the road a bit to visit my aunt! The girls didn’t call her Grandma Penny at all on this visit. I think they just know her enough on her own now. I like that they’ve seen her so many times in their lives.

We received a double treat when my cousin, Luke, showed up! He lives in the Florida Keys –  and – I haven’t seen him in somewhere around 16 years. He’s so calm and happy.

We LOVE spending time with my aunt and uncle. They’re incredible people. We never seem to get enough time with them. I’m not sure there is a limit that would make us content though…

We ended such a wonderful Christmas with a huge meal full of traditional Christmas food made by Uncle Jonathan and pre-bed story read by the wonderful, incredible, fantastic, most beloved Aunt Sarah.

Thank you, everyone, who helped make this December so full of Christmas memories! I had no expectations for this holiday season and I’m not sure I could have imagined just how great it would be!


We only had three weeks with them this month and it is our final month with them here at our house.

It went quick.

We tried to fit in a good amount of activities and barely did any formal schooling knowing that our time with them was fleeting.

G helped the girls bake sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies (which we turned into cookie bars because the dough was too crumbly). He also helped us cook every meal and snack. He’s very helpful in the kitchen. I’m sure he’ll be independently cooking oatmeal and eggs before we know it!

At least at our house, he’s not one for toys, but he thoroughly enjoys big people activities including any type of chore and cooking – basically helping around the house in any way. He seems so much like Rae to me, but that is very much a Mae trait.

Baby A slept and grew (in my eyes) so very much!

Isn’t he just the prettiest little sleeper?

G is very interested in sitting on countertops. He helps cook or just watches me cook and does dishes from up there.

In the photo above, “we” were making popcorn, his favorite. He keeps an eye (or four) out for the first POP and then it’s go-time! He repeats the phrase, “Jade, they pop it?” for the entire one to two minutes required for the full batch to pop. Once it’s officially done, he makes sure to alert everyone that the snack is ready.

Quite the helper.


Butalso, he started covering his eyes when he saw the camera out, even if it wasn’t aimed at him. I’m not sure where that came from but, Sweet Little Man, I document all phases of childhood, including your covered eyes phase.

THIS is the G I know! The attention seeker who keeps his hands safely at his side.

I mean, agh. These boys are just so gorgeous.

Mae is his favorite around here. She holds him, she feeds him, and she rolls around on the floor with him. She doesn’t even yelp when he pulls her hair.

I finally restocked our bird feeders over Thanksgiving break, so in December we all stopped frequently to bird watch. Exciting.

Fella! Got! Around! He is crawling now and there’s really no stopping him. (Truly. He crawls over obstacles.)

With the exception of his toys, we tried to keep stuff off of the floor.  That’s a job in itself, letmetellya. We swept and mopped and swept and mopped and swept and…

Tales will be told for generations of the dog fur struggle of 2k18.

On one of A’s many treks across the house, George decided he looked like a friend. He would lie down next to him, and if he crawled too far away, George would get up and move a little closer. Our dog still adores the baby and now George has caught baby fever. I’ve never seen such a gentle little boy!

aaand, here is G with a pet! He was actually photobombing a photo of Maybe. Ha. He’s quick! …until it’s time to put his coat on…

Rae and G were nearly always at odds. But every once in a while I’d see them reading books (She is his favorite teacher), playing with lightsabers, swapping costumes for dress-up, or hiding behind the chair (their favorite game). He bugs her and loves her like a brother and she is going to miss seeing his face every day.

Snuggling with G is like snuggling with a bag of sand. Somehow my bony ribcage pillow doesn’t bother his sweet cheeks (post-nap snuggles are GOLD). He adores hugs, hand holding, and undivided attention. I wish I could’ve given him that direct attention more often.

I was being stretched four (five if you count Maybe) different ways this semester and no one was getting quality Jade time. But, boy, when I found a minute to give some quality minutes, they jolted my heart right on up to FULL real quick.

We’re going to miss our boys (we will see them regularly for field trips and I’ll make sure to bring G a chicken on random afternoons and steal him away for some fun now and again), but I am looking forward to getting back to the homeschool life (and life in general) I dreamed of for my girls and devoting much more of my time to myself (for multiple reasons).

The girls will also no longer participate in gymnastics or dance.

We need to  s l o w  d o w n.

I can’t imagine how the girls are going to handle life without their cousin-brothers underfoot, but I am guessing it will take us all some time to get used to.


Normally November seems like a long month to me, but this year it flew by. I need to go back and see how many months I’ve said that this year…maybe it’s just what getting older feels like.

We stayed very busy – only stopping to slow down when forced,  like on snow days and the holiday weekend.

Busy or not, this month was wonderful!

We began the month celebrating our girls turning six and eight!

Rae turned six this month – there’s a post back here and Mae’s post back here.

We spent plenty of time at doctor appointments, for therapy and regular check-ups. So glad that mad-rush is over!

We had several days of snow – and three snow days / no school for Zack. It was pretty friggin fantastic.

Lady beat me at many a game over the month of November.

Rae wore some fantastic costumes this month. That Santa makes us laugh every time she sneaks up on us wearing it.

We watched It’s a Wonderful Life no less than five times.

Mae’s letter to Santa, a.k.a. “S”

(Notice the P.S.)

Have you seen the Pixar film, Inside Out? Well, Rae made the girl that serves them broccoli pizza out of model magic clay while we worked on their Japan project.

The eight weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (Ha! ..but, I’m not exaggerating…) had been so hectic and we had barely been all together in one place just being. So, we decided to stay home for Thanksgiving this year – and it was perfect.

The girls fill out a thankful journal most mornings as part of our school routine. We read through the entries from this semester as soon as we woke up to get us in a thankful mindset.

For lunch, we had a large meal – which lasted us a week in leftovers. We played all of the Hobbit / LOTR films and watched them as we went about our business, occasionally stopping to snuggle on the couch and watch our favorite scenes.

We also played games, read books, and the girls played outside.

Friday evening (The day after Thanksgiving) our friends, Dennis and Heather came over for supper and games (We saw the new Fantastic Beasts with them the weekend before!). They’re so great!!

The following day, my parents came for a visit. I wrote about our walk with them here.

“Hey, Mom.”

I just put a post up about the boys this month, two days ago, but ya know I can’t help myself. So here are some more photos of them. ‘Cause I like em.

We’ve got big plans to visit one of my all-time favorite people, Ruhi, over Christmas break (I haven’t seen her in fifteen years!) and we will spend Christmas day with the famous, Aunt Sarah!

Before all of that, we’re having our traditional Christmas slumber party weekend with Grandma Shari a week (and a half?) early, so that we don’t miss out on that great time with her.

I don’t like to rush Christmas, but this year, I can’t help but be a little impatient.

But tonight we’re ending the month with homemade sushi. I’m interested to see the result of this experiment…

Happy December, ya’ll.


We didn’t see the boys as often as we normally do, so when we did we tried to have a bit more fun. We let G cook and bake and help around the house more (hand washing dishes is a new favorite for him). He’s still a champ at putting his dishes in the sink, loading and unloading the washer and dryer, and mopping the floor after I sweep. He does everything with joy and is such a bright and happy kid.

A is hitting milestones right and left (more on a few of those below). He slept a bunch and has begun to really master handholding and identifying objects -people, the dog, toys, and ignoring other things – such as he no longer tries to eat the table.

A baby wearing a snowsuit, blowing raspberries, agh! I love that kid.

G met his newest ladies. He is SO! SO! gentle with them despite the excitement that bursts through when he sees them.

A started sitting up for minutes at a time! He also started eating baby rice with the cutest little spoon you ever did see. He really likes it and really wants to help out with the spoon holding – which is not actually all that helpful.

Here is G at one of the many doctor appointments he was dragged to. I’m kidding, he actually enjoys going anywhere and everywhere.  Here he is playing the pretend you’re sleeping game – and what a lovely game that is…

…and here he is playing Look what I shoved behind the fridge!… I don’t like this game nearly as much as the last one, but he sure is proud.

This is the I’m a dog now and I’m going to follow you around smelling the back of your knee for the next eight minutes game.

Also, not a favorite, but it’s better than the last.

…and here he is looking all pretty waiting for his momma outside of the school after one of those doctor appointments.

Mae, guarding her baby while I am taking a photo of them and making him a bottle.

Typically, the second A gets attention, G bombards us with a series of “Look me!” chants or he jumps in front of the camera to photobomb a photo that was intended to be of A. But every once in a blue moon, he sits down to chat with him for a few seconds (his normal attention limit for all things) and every once in a blue-er moon I have the camera in my hand.

We can all just imagine him telling his little brother all about his favorite things in life and that he is filling his head with compliments about how mature his scoot technique has become. That day will come in a year or two, I’m sure. For now, it’s nice just to imagine such a day.

Classic photobomb pose. ^ Tummy, feet up, and hands under his chin.

We also brought the swings back! (We switch out the swings for each boy – G uses our green Ikea swing)

G loves joining in with the girls when they do their daily stretches. Somethings they wait to work on until he is gone – but yesterday, they worked on their handstands and had him join in (They used the wall so that he knew where he shouldn’t stand. He got kicked a lot less). He learned in one day! It took many tries, but he was able to show his mom a perfect stand when she came to pick him up!

Welp. That’s it! Shortest “boys post” to date! You’re welcome, everyone who isn’t their mother.


My parents came to visit the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We spent most of the day outside in some way, beginning with a walk at our favorite park.

The girls played Pooh Sticks, tried their confidence on the jungle-gym, and Zack even managed to sneak a not-selfie of me.

See! ^ That’s me. Worth the wait, wasn’t it? You’re welcome…

Thanks for visiting on the most perfect day, Mom and Dad. I’m sure you planned it that way. (As if you could plan anything around the weather here…)


This month’s schooling was more unstructured than usual due to snow days, travel, and an abundance of doctor appointments (everyone is fine!).

When we did “have school” (I need a better term for this.) we took our time. We read more, asked more questions, wrote more intentionally, and diligently finished up projects to make way for a fresh start in December.

The rest of this month will be spent just reading, practicing piano and dance / gymnastics biz – while I prep for December.

So, before I move on into the December mindset, let’s see what they’ve been up to. Or rather, what they did that I bothered to photograph. Ha.

This was the big kahuna – or big Koi. (Isn’t Rae’s Sumo wrestler the greatest?)

We’ve been using Little Passports for some guiding where geography / culture studies are concerned. This month they sent us JAPAN.

We have yet to have the girls make, or even just try, sushi. We do, however, have sushi fixin’s in the house, so we’ll get to that this week.

They learned some common phrases (No, they won’t recite for an audience other than Momma, sorry.), as well as how to count from one to ten. They discovered Sumo wrestling, bullet trains, and origami (or “origarmi” as they say. Thanks, BBC.).

They already knew plenty about Japan, so I really focused on things that they might not know. They ate with chopsticks even more than usual…as if Mae needed an excuse…

We also studied (again) the history of the nation, stopping just short of World War II – that will be its own study.

The girls made toilet paper roll Koi fish. Mae really got into this craft!

Zack joined in on the Model Magic portion of craft time. We love this stuff! We (it was all a group effort) made a sushi roll and a Mount Fuji, and they are adorable.

This month for school, we studied the Mayflower (and ships in general) and life of settlers, once again. We will study this every year, getting more in-depth as we go.

We read portions of The Story of the World, Vol. 3 as well as Our America, Grade 2 for our Thanksgiving lessons – using trusted history sites when needed.

For their biographies, they studied William Bradford and Squanto.

Our first assignment for the month was a paper on Katherine Ferguson (as their colonial era person to get away from middle-aged white males). She was incredible, you should look her up!

We spent one afternoon talking about surrealism and the girls drew their own silly animals.

Mae drew a horse bird (not a pegasus).

The girls also wrapped up the Holy Spirit portion of their Trinity project. It will not be like the Japan project but will involve simple paintings and plenty (plenty!) of discussion.

This has been so much fun for all of us.

I think “Son” will be next, as the Christmas season is nigh and we will conclude that study just after the Easter holiday.

*We, of course, continue our usual English lessons, but that just flows so smoothly into our routine. While it is still my favorite subject to teach, I may not continue to mention it. At least until Mae begins writing her own stories, ’cause it will be adorable and I’m totally going to want to share that goodness!


It began snowing here last week while Mae was at dance class. The excitement for the damp, not too pretty snow was comical. As it snowed off and on throughout the weekend the excitement never dwindled. Jump on through to Monday and we woke to a full-blown snow day!!

Zack and the boys’ mom had to work on Monday (but students had off) and thankfully those in charge gave them a half day! The boys got picked up before lunch but G got to play with the girls out in the snow with the girls before he left.

Zack had time to chop some wood while the girls continued to play. We ended the afternoon with a couple of inches of snow and It’s a Wonderful Life – Zack’s favorite!


Starting with the girls’ fifth birthdays we exchanged the idea of gifts for an “experience.” (We also do this for Christmas) They get to choose what they want to do – this year they chose to celebrate together with a fancy supper and a movie, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

While we don’t have parties anymore, Grandma Shari always likes to have a day with them. The celebrations began two days before Mae’s eighth birthday by way of a sleepover with Grandma!

The following day was filled with our tradition of a new outfit for each of them, a new American Girl (Our Generation Girls) from Grandma and lunch at the new pizza place in town.

(Mae renamed her doll, formerly Peggy, Penny. Rae renamed her’s, formerly Holiday Haven, Holly)

The girls each received a card filled with cash monies in the mail from their Grandma Penny!

With a bit of her money, Mae bought herself her first robot! Daddy helped build it. It’s powered by salt water and boy does that thing fly!

Mae received a phone call on her birthday from Grandpa. Rae got a call from Grandma Penny, who was treated to some caroling!

Rae bought Mae a genuine wooden boomerang and Mae bought Rae a Harry Potter and Hedwig Lego set.

(If we actually called our girls “Mae” and “Rae,” things would get confusing quick around here!!)

For the main event, we brought along Grandma Shari and our cousins – who we just cannot get enough of! All of them are quick to go along with whatever plans we think up and always have just as much fun as we do. It’s so nice to have that kind of friend (mother-in-law included!)

The Nutcracker was delightful! The dance number during the credits had us laughing so so hard! (Rae’s laugh was the best part of the day for me!) It wasn’t intended to be funny, so maybe it won’t be so funny the second time around? I hope it is…

The girls dressed their best – of course. Rae also brought along her American Girl doll but left her in the car. However, Holly was also dressed her best.

For the meal portion of the date, we went to the Fountain on Locust downtown. It is such a charming place! Everyone, aside from myself, got ice cream. I don’t like sweets, but man oh man their ice cream is the greatest. I ordered white chicken chili and it was equally as delicious (according to the non-sweet eater…). It came with homemade cornbread – the greatest cornbread I’ve ever had. I’m hoping we make it back there soon.

On Rae’s actual birthday, the girls baked a cake and cut out some circle slices for individual cakes. We set aside some un-frosted slices for G to enjoy. Mae made some shrinky-dink toppers as a surprise to Rae and by the time they were ready to eat them, they looked pretty good!

I am so thankful for the girls that made me a mom and another beautiful year with both of them!


My sweet Rae,

I spent the better part of my afternoons this week reading past letters I’ve written to you. What joy you bring to our days. It’s been great to see which traits have stuck with you (your infectious head-thrown-back belly laugh) and which traits you’ve sadly grown out of (back pats).

I am in awe of the beautiful qualities that make you our Amelia.

Now! Let us see what your sixth trip around the sun entailed!

You are still shy yet very outspoken when the occasion calls for it.

You, like me, want to be completely surrounded by people who are leaving you well enough alone. Thanks for exempting me from such boundaries and allowing me to share your bubble for snuggles anytime I want.

I love the way you speak. My favorite “Raeism” has to be how you refer to today as, “This day.” and tomorrow as, “The next day after this day.”

Penelope is still your favorite human.

You love the idea of going to Daddy’s classroom but do not actually like being in Daddy’s classroom.

You are entering your seventh year with a consistent love of naps and you still fall asleep during most car rides. It’s the cutest.

You’ve finally caved and decided to move on from your coveted pixie cut and are now aiming for “Mommy’s hair.” I miss the pixie.

You drew me a picture, possibly, every day this past year. Often, several a day. You fold them up and put them in an envelope with a sticker across the seal, and place it / them on my pillow.

I may require that this tradition continues well into your adulthood.

I kid…

But, please, don’t grow out of this phase too fast okay?

You used to be fanatical about things, such as Star Wars and our beloved, Sarah and Duck. Nowadays, you like many things a decent amount – such as! – dinosaurs, comic books, dancing, painting (You would paint all day if I’d let you. Someday, I hope I let you.).

In your sixth year, I do believe your affection for accessories grew to new heights. Maybe it’s the new hair? You adore headbands, clips, braids, earrings (clip-ons), bracelets and of course, watches.

You lost three teeth this year! You were so worried well before you even felt the ‘tweensiest’ wiggle and by the time the third tooth was loose enough, you pulled it yourself. whatagirl.

Happiest of birthdays, Rae. We love you immensely.