Easter has become one of my favorite holidays. We keep it pretty low-key, but the kids have such a great time, and we have had some fantastic conversations with Corin this week as we’ve read Bible verses about Jesus’ death and resurrection and talked about what it all really means. He understands so much more every year, and it’s such an amazing thing to watch him take it in.

As a big added bonus, my cousin and her kids are here visiting on spring break. The weather was really pleasant for this first Easter in the new house, so we got to do a real egg hunt in the back yard for the first time. And the final icing on the celebration: Lina’s donor family sent us a box of cascarones (confetti eggs) all the way from Texas. We’re still dropping bits of confetti around the house, like a little party that just keeps going.

It was a fun day.





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Hard to believe that not long ago, this kid could hardly be bothered to look at a coloring book.











“Hey, Corin,” we said, “come take a picture hugging Lina.” She was pretty sure he was trying to strangle her, instead.










She’s coming for you, Chief.



Breakfast with Santa

The kids had their Mother’s Day Out Christmas program on Friday. Corin sang with his class, we had brunch, and Santa made his appearance. It was a fun time, and Corin was especially thrilled that his Mimi made the long trip up just for the morning in order to be there.



I have some bragging to do about a winter backpacking trip we took with the kids last weekend, but I have to get Jon to send me the few pictures we managed to take to provide photographic proof of our derring-do. Stay posted.


Trimming the tree

Christmas is finally in full swing around here. The tree is up, the decorating is (almost) done, and I’m finally in the spirit. (I was beginning to think we’d just have to celebrate in February, because it felt like it should still be October.)

For most of our married life and all of our children’s lives, we’ve had a fake “slim profile” tree, which was the only thing to fit in our tiny living room. This first Christmas in the new house marks the long-awaited return to a real tree. I had idealistic plans for a rooted tree that could be planted outside after the holiday, but our trip to a local nursery yesterday doused that dream in reality. Turns out, we had completely underestimated the size of the root ball for a 6-foot tree. As Jon emphatically pointed out – to my disappointed protests – there was no way we could lift that tree, much less carry it up the stairs and into the living room. I couldn’t reconcile myself to the tiny tree we might be able to lift (with still considerable effort), so we headed to the section with the cut trees and chose the modest (and considerably more maneuverable) Fraser fir which now adorns our living room. I keep breathing deeply; I’d forgotten how lovely that smell is. I even like that it’s a smidge crooked. Our simple tree’s not-perfection is just right.

The “ordaments” (Corin’s rendition) are a mishmash we’ve collected over the years. Some are cheap plastic, some are beautiful, delicate glass (located at the top of the tree these days), and some are rough, hand-made crafts covered in kids’ fingerprints. A big part of the Christmas tree tradition for me has always been unwrapping the same ornaments every December, the protective paper yellowing and eventually having to be replaced, the memories stacking atop one another as the years roll by. It was that way all through my childhood, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the holiday. Decorating the tree is always helter-skelter with small kids, but those ornaments and the attached memories are precious to me.

We are trying to keep things simple this year. There has been very little shopping, save a special outing with my dad. Relatives have been warned: prepare for homemade! It keeps holiday expenses more manageable, but really, I think I prefer it this way. (I can’t speak for how the relatives feel.)

So, here we go. The Christmas whirlwind whirls, and we do what we can to slow it down, grasping fleeting moments to stop and savor.


I’ve discovered the key to taking photos of my son. “Corin, whatever you do, don’t get in this picture.”





Getting a huge kick out of trying to eat the rocks


I mean, people, look at the size of those root balls!




In illustration of the usual state of my sinuses, Corin insisted the delicate tea pot ornament was a neti pot.



Yes, Lina decorated the tree without a shirt. No, I don’t really know why.



A new favorite from last year: father-son hiking boots



“The Night Before Christmas”



Sun-drenched gratitude

Right now in our kitchen, Jon is churning a batch of roasted strawberry-buttermilk ice cream. (Note: I started this post hours ago. We have since made quite a dent in the finished batch.) It’s a Jeni’s recipe. If you are not in one of the six cities with a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, I am sorry. If you are and haven’t been, go. Now. We picked the strawberries fresh this morning at Bottom View Farm. (Actually, everyone else picked the strawberries while I sat in the car with a sleeping Lina.) Fresh picked strawberries are one of the great delights of spring in this area.

It’s been a fantastic weekend, packed with gatherings of friends and family and lots of time outdoors. Jon even took an actual holiday today.  This morning started with rain showers but cleared in time for our berry picking, and I had a moment to marvel at sun-drenched fields. It made me feel suddenly sad on this Memorial Day for the way-too-many who didn’t make it back from hideous wars far from home. In my own family, we are missing Uncle Donald, my mom’s brother, who died in Vietnam. I don’t often think about those sacrifices, but today, I am grateful.











Christmas 2013, Part II

A Christmas Review Well After the Fact, and in Two Parts
(Part I)

Christmas Eve supper is a long-standing traditional feast in my family, with an offering of gourmet cheeses and crackers, fresh fruit and veggies, and the crowning piece de resistance, my dad’s beyond-amazing, almond-filled Christmas wreath bread. The kids played, we feasted, and it was a lovely evening.

(All the photos in this post are courtesy my brother. Thanks, Ry!)
















As is always the case, pretty pictures tell only part of the story. Christmas Day was long for the kids (but certainly not for the adults), dinner was late, and it turned out Grandma Titus was not well (which resulted in most of the rest of us coming down with a thoroughly unpleasant stomach bug within a few days). But our family was together (even if we were trying to keep the kids away from poor great-grandma), the food was fantastic, and there was great delight over wonderfully thoughtful gifts. Ultimately, Christmas for us will always be celebrating the most important gift ever given with the people we love the most. At its core, it’s really that simple – and that deep.

















Christmas 2013, Part I

A Christmas Review Well After the Fact, and in Two Parts

It took eight ages for a variety of reasons, one of which was the transition to my new computer (a laptop! I can blog from the living room couch!), but finally, I have our Christmas pictures ready for sharing. There are so many of them, in fact, that I have crashed Word Press multiple times trying to fit them into a single post. So, a two-parter it is.



We had an early celebration with Jon’s family the weekend before Christmas, with presents Saturday night and brunch with both sets of parents at the Opryland Hotel Sunday morning.













Christmas Eve supper and most of Christmas Day were spent at my parents’ house with my family, which will be in the next post. But to finish out this one, here is our quiet Christmas morning at home.
















(Part II)

To the year ahead

Happy New Year, friends.

We rang it in by… Okay, we didn’t ring it in at all. We were sound asleep. I’m still recovering from a nasty stomach bug and Jon worked until 3 a.m. the night before and was toast. Party animals we were not.

I love the start of a new year, that sense of a fresh start and the expectation of things to come. A new year makes me feel optimistic, with its wide open possibilities.

Our family has some big decisions ahead of us in the next few months. There’s a lot of unknown in our 2014. Uncertainty is typically not my favorite thing, but I am learning in these situations to take it one step at a time and trust the One who knows the future. And whatever this new year holds, I know exactly how blessed I am. I look at my tired, overworked husband and my perpetually snotty-nosed kids, and I know that this life – this messy, imperfect, uncertain life – is more than I could have asked.

So for all of us, here’s to 2014, with its inevitable highs and lows, disappointments and joys. May we know God better and be a little more like Him, may we find His strength when we need it, and may we find the beauty He has for us here in the nitty-gritty everyday.


Finding the oxygen

The holidays around here are a mixture of delight and insanity. I spend the last week or so before Christmas totally under water. This year, my cards are likely to be post-Christmas greetings for a fair portion of my list. I paid someone to deep clean my house on Wednesday, but by today, my floors were already gross again. There is an extensive list of items I was supposed to complete today that never happened. Half the string of lights beautifying my living room burned out, just in time for our first family event here tomorrow. 

It’s 6:10 p.m. My sweet husband is preparing supper, because I have had zero time for food prep. Lina is sitting in my lap, wheezing with every breath, thanks to a nasty cold she got from yours truly, who got it from Corin, who is still coughing. Someone in this house has been sick since September. I don’t understand it, but I will tell you that after the holiday, we will be purging this house of sugar, going to bed early and avoiding anyone who appears to be thinking about sneezing. (As if that last one is possible.)

So yeah – when we have a moment to surface for air, we find ourselves wondering, like so many of you, how this became the pace of our lives. I don’t exactly know the answer. I am finding some ways to start simplifying, thanks to girlfriends who are reminding me to lower my expectations. Like, really lower them. I’m trying.

And also, there really are so many moments of magic crammed into these crazy days. It’s how I can still love this time of year. There was making gingerbread cookies with Corin yesterday (admittedly followed by over-tired tantrums). There are the repeated readings of favorite versions of the Christmas story. (Mortimer’s Christmas Manger is currently Corin’s favorite, while Humphrey’s First Christmas continues to be mine.) There was Corin’s excitement about delivering packages of cookies to the neighbors earlier this evening. There is Lina tangling herself up in Christmas lights and exploring the ornaments on the bottom of the tree. There is the music, which I love so truly. Those moments are the deep breaths of oxygen in these underwater days.

So, here we go: The Christmas home stretch. I’m going to try to find a little more of this kind of wonder.


Christmas time is here


The decorations are (mostly) up and the Christmas season is in full swing around here. Every year, Corin understands more and gets more into the anticipation and joy of the season. Now we get to watch that process unfold with Lina, too, who I know is going to totally dig the wrapping paper this year. I look at our holiday traditions and decorations in a new way, hoping that I am creating for my kids the kind of magic I remember from my childhood Christmases.

We have daily conversations with Corin about why we celebrate Christmas, and it’s awesome to see how much he absorbs. Truthfully, every year I absorb more of that greatest story, the shocking truth of God in helpless, newborn form. I know there is a lot about modern Christmas to lament – rampant commercialism, hectic schedules, extra stress… But this past week or so, as I’ve talked to Corin and read him various versions of the Christmas story, I’ve thought a lot about what that night in the stable must have been like. Teaching it to Corin has made it so real to me. Omnipotent God became one of us, purest love from first division of cells to ultimate sacrifice. You could easily spend a lifetime trying to wrap your head around that one. I dislike “reason for the season” cliches, and really, I don’t have the words for what the Christmas story means to me. I can say that I love this time of year.

I owe Thanksgiving pictures, but they are a bit sparse this year. My camera battery ran low and I forgot to pack the charger. We are left with Thanksgiving 2013 via iPhone and Instagram. There was a mild stomach bug for Corin and me, but it was still a very enjoyable holiday weekend with family in North Georgia. My mother-in-law puts on an enormous feast, and I pitched in where I could. It was lovely.