Throwback Thursday ~ When They Were All 13

In our house we have tried to mark becoming a teenager in a very specific way. We hate the whole just-wait-until-they’re-a-teenager attitude that is so pervasive even within the church as if we have no choice but to have deep rebellion and bad attitudes from our kids.

Obviously, the teen years are at times tumultuous and emotional because there is a whole lot going on. Growing up and growing pains are par for course but that doesn’t mean it has to look like defiance and sneaking out of windows. We can set an expectation and lay ground work to help our kids know that they are not at the mercy of all the boiling emotion and changes they will experience during this time.

One of the ways Rob and I decided to mark this special time with our girls was to actually carry on a tradition my father did with me and my sisters. The girls are each given a ring as a reminder as the approach the age of boys and relationships that their father is there to guide and help protect their hearts until the right time for them to wear another ring placed on their finger by a young man as they prepare to marry.

We also wait for the girls to get their ears pierced so after a special dinner and getting their ring, Rob takes them to have that done. My part in all of this has been to take some formal portraits of our daughters. We choose to do formal dresses to mark the transition from girlhood to young womanhood in a way that is feminine and special.

Claire turned thirteen in November and it marked the end of this era in our family. It was a bit of a moment as my last child entered into her teen years. She wanted to wait until after her ears were pierced to do her pictures and we finally got the window of time to do them last weekend. Tomorrow I will share more of hers but today I thought it would be fun to look back at all four girls’ 13th birthday pictures.

To say my skills behind the camera have improved through the years is an understatement.

Be that as it may, it was bittersweet to look back at such a significant day in the lives of our girls and remember the innocence between girlhood and womanhood.



Emily loved horses and some dear friends let us come over to their place and include one of their horses in her pictures.



Abby turned thirteen the year that Frozen came out. We were doing her pictures in a local park when this little girl came running across the field with her mother trying to catch her. She was convinced Abby was Elsa and was all starry eyed.




Man, the mix of it being the baby and the official close to a part of life had all the feels.

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Four daughters. Four. Daughters.

Rob gets ribbed a lot about those four daughters…the emotions, the drama, the weddings! And sometimes the weight of raising four women to image God in a world that hates all that God would have for women as good is heavy.

But it is a heavy blessing rich with joy.

Wherever You Are Be All There

She turns twenty-two today.

I’ve got a million things I could say about her.  I could share funny stories or brag about how she lives her life with steadfastness and grace. I could talk about her accomplishments and servants heart. But I think one of her favorite quotes by Jim Elliot sums her up pretty well.

Wherever you are be all there.

You don’t live twenty-two years, however few that may be, without experiencing some kind of disappointment and heart ache. But she has chosen to find her place, to dwell wherever He has lead her…to be all there. Not looking back wishing for what might have been or starring off into wispy day dreams. And if she reaches a closed door then she moves a little slower until the path becomes more clear and then she goes forward with all that is in her, holding nothing back out of fear or uncertainty.

We decided sort of last minute to do birthday pictures yesterday afternoon. Of all things she wanted to go to Graffiti Bridge and leave a mark on it, her mark, if only for a short time. That quote seemed the perfect declaration as she heads into a new year full of more responsibilities and challenges as she starts the nursing program.


After we got started we realized choosing white as a back ground color was probably a mistake. (We’ve tucked that away for future reference.) We were still pretty happy with how it turned out and we gave an extra can of spray paint to a family visiting from Wisconsin so her birthday shenanigans became part of someone’s vacation story.

We enjoyed taking some more casual pictures wandering around Aragon Court.


We chased the sun a little.

We might have gotten a little silly too.

But the real fun came when we got out the balloons.

All of a sudden the breeze that everyone in Pensacola had been longing for all this hot humid day decided to show up.

There was nothing to do but roll with it.

The only thing left was to throw a little glitter and dance.

Happy birthday, sweet Sarah. You are a blessing and a joy.

The will of God is always bigger than we bargain for,
but we must believe that whatever it involves,
it is good, acceptable and perfect.
~ Jim Elliot

He’s Fifteen Now

And I just don’t know what to do with that.

I mean, he’s fifteen! That just seems so grown to me.

He shaves on a regular basis now. He’s right at six feet tall and his feet are huge. Finding pants that are small enough to fit his skinny self and long enough has been just about impossible. And when I come close they are only the right length for about two seconds because he is always growing.
Like most teenage boys he eats a lot. He has also suddenly decided that texting is the coolest thing ever. Usually just to Rob or Sarah though and it is quite fun to go back and read his conversations.
Can you guess from that mischievous grin what his favorite emoji is?
It has been a really interesting year with Sam. He is growing and maturing in ways that are surprisingly typical but because it’s Sam…well, I guess interesting is the best word. Complex? A beautiful struggle? An emotional roller coaster? Hysterically funny at times? Oh, yeah, it’s all that. 
Mario is still a favorite and he never misses the opportunity to make “the jump”.
The most interesting change to come about has been Sam coming to understand appropriate vs inappropriate content in movies and other culture experiences. It’s like a light bulb has gone off and he is understanding things that up to now just kind of passed over his head. Needless to say we are having some interesting conversations around our house.
Despite all of the changes he is experiencing some things are, at the core, the same. His love for Legos has remained steadfast although it different now. For Christmas he got the biggest set he has ever put together. Over 800 pieces and he was so excited! Until he started putting it together and something went wrong. For the first time he was frustrated and not enjoying it. We convinced him to stop and try again the next day. When he woke up he took everything completely apart and started over. A few hours later he had the thing assembled and was pretty pleased with himself. He has since taken it apart again and boxed it up saying that he’ll build it again next Christmas. Not sure what the deal is there but as often is the case we will just have to wait and see.
We surprised him with his very own brand new bike for his birthday and he was thrilled. He asks to ride every single day and will stay out riding for hours at a time.
His since of humor is by turns infectious and obnoxious. I’m guessing that’s the teenage boy thing again.
This boy of ours brings so much richness to our lives. The joy we’ve known in the fifteen years since his birth is beyond words and we’re so grateful for who he is and who he is becoming. I know we will be all the better for the man God is shaping him to be.

Our Man Child

He’s fourteen today, this amazing man child of ours. That just seems so crazy.


Life with Sam is intricate and as full of endless possibility as the Legos he’s so crazy about. We never really know what he’ll construct next.

One of the greatest joys in my life is watching Sam working to keep a straight face when he’s trying not to laugh while telling a joke or a story of some sort.


His beautiful brown eyes sparkle, and his eyebrows come together in a fierce frown for all of two seconds… and then he bursts into laughter.



He is completely mainstreamed at school. He’s doing well grade wise with A’s and B’s except for a C in math. Pre-algebra gives this concrete literal thinker fits. Seventh grade is quite a transition in a classical school, and we weren’t sure how he would do but true to form Samuel surprised us with how well he adjusted. All of the kids in his class are great but there are three boys that go above and beyond to show friendship to a kid who isn’t going to give it back the same way. Community is a big deal to him and he keeps his class picture on his bed shelf. It’s also not unusual for him to have the last seven years worth of yearbooks open to his class’ page laid out in chronological order.

I mentioned his love of Legos. And, oh my, does he ever love them. His floor is usually covered with them and it really isn’t safe to walk in his room barefooted. I tried to separate them all by colors and it just seemed to inhibit his creativity, so now we have two giant flat bins that fit under his bed to house his collection.

He’s made some pretty amazing things…he delights in creating various famous characters that he thinks should have their own Lego set. Olaf, Grumpy Cat, Mario, and Minions are at the top of that list.


He designs and builds his own creatures too and also comes up with these really elaborate stories and scenarios for each one. It’s pretty fascinating to hear him tell you about each one whether it’s their nifty features or the personality he gives them in a story. Please note the little tan Mixel in the background making bunny ears behind his blue friend.


He doesn’t limit his creativity to Legos though. He draws the most amazing cartoons. Like the hilarious cartoon he made illustrating Grandma Got Ran over By a Reindeer and underneath it was a second cartoon of Olaf yelling, “Stop it Sven!” with Kristoff looking rather sheepish next to his pet reindeer. I wasn’t fast enough to grab a picture of it. Or of the time he drew the Marvel comic heroes as Minions – you have not seen funny until you see the Hulk as a Minion.

His sense of humor is hysterical – and somewhat exasperating since something will stay funny to him waaaay longer than it does to the rest of us.

The Sunday funnies, Calvin and Hobbs, and Far Side figure regularly in his reading line up. But he’s read The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis and Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea for this nine weeks boni libris, so I guess he’s pretty well rounded.

He enjoys Star Wars, Harry Potter and anything ever made by Pixar. The Lego Movie, of course, is a huge favorite. That sound track was probably the single biggest mistake as a gift that has ever been purchased in the history of the world. Everything is NOT awesome. Especially when it’s on endless repeat at 6:30 in the morning.

He also has the sound tracks for Mama Mia and Shrek, and his taste in music is quite eclectic. Oldies, Bob Marley, Plumb, She and Him, and Jack Johnson are all on his current play list. He doesn’t care for country music, and is all about today’s hits when it comes to the radio.


Oh my goodness, that smile of his. It’s so contagious!

He’s huge and takes great delight in hugging me and tucking my head under his chin. A razor needs to be in his near future and his feet grew two sizes in three months. He eats all.of.the.time.

It is hard to write a post about Sam without any mention of autism. But as he is growing up I am realizing more and more that autism doesn’t define who he is, but rather Sam is defining and redefining what autism is all the time.

I have no idea what the future holds for this wonderful man child we have but I am amazed at how God is shaping and forming him and using him to shape and form us.

I love his sense of humor and way of thinking. I love how he draws mash ups of Pac Man with Little Red Riding Hood. And how he thinks high fives and fist bumps are for the guys and when I try to do it with him he gives me this odd look tinged with pity that I just don’t get it and gives me a hug while patting my shoulder. Usually saying “I love ya, Mama!”  He is a simple complex walking paradox fashioned just as he is to reflect the glory of His creator.

My prayer for you, Samuel David, on this your fourteenth birthday is that you will always be comfortable in who you are and that you will live life savoring every good and perfect gift that God has given you. Because we savor every moment we have with you. You are a blessing and a treasure to us. Happy birthday, sweet boy of mine!

Be of good courage,
and let us be courageous for our people,
and for the cities of our God,
and may the LORD do what seems good to Him.
2 Samuel 10:12

A Dozen Years of Sweetness

It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I was posting birthday pictures of Abby but somehow it’s time to do them again.

She’s an even dozen this year!

Such a splash of joy in our life!

She has started piano lessons.

She’s quick to hear correction and has the most tender of hearts.

She has the soul of a nurturer and seeks to make people comfortable. She is loving the babies at church and is showing herself to be quite helpful.

She is working really hard on crocheting and doing so very well. Especially considering that she is kind of winging it because I certainly can’t help her.

I hate the term “tween” but that is truly where she is…that strange land between childhood and young womanhood. So much of who she will be is still not clearly seen…hidden away in the mind of God as she continues to emerge from the world of babydolls and pretend.
 She has been such a delight and we look forward with great anticipation to all He has in store for her and the woman He is fashioning her into.
Happy birthday sweet Abby Dabby Doodle Bug! We love you!

It’s Her Birthday!

I thought having her become a teenager last year would be hardest but the truth is she kept growing and it hasn’t gotten any easier. And now she’s counting days and weeks and months to milestones that lay ahead of her.

Can I get my drivers book? I’ll be able to take the test next year.

Do you know I am going to be in high school next year?

It won’t be long and I’ll be able to fill in the blank.

My heart cries out for her to slow down and not be in such a rush! It will all happen far faster than what she thinks because just yesterday she was this fat round faced baby sitting in my arms and yet here I am, walking beside this tall slender beautiful girl.

She is growing into herself with a poise and confidence that astounds me.

She is gentle and kind and my goodness, does she love the babies. Some friends at church call her the baby whisperer because she will coax and cajole the babies right out of their mother’s arms and into her own.

She can make her way around the kitchen with ease. And, despite being one of my messiest children, has begun to display some great organizing skills.

She is like the butterfly just coming out of the cocoon. The woman she will be is unfolding before my eyes even if her wings have not fully opened yet. But I’ve no doubt that God is working His grace in her life and that she will soar in the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that He holds so dear.

Happy birthday, Emily Grace! Remember, sweet girl, that who you practice to be now is setting a foundation for who you will be next year, and the year after that and so on. Live fully in this day, savor these moments, even as you look ahead. What comes next will be all the sweeter for the life you live for Him now.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
~Micah 6:8

It’s Official

I didn’t think it would be this hard to write this post. It’s a birthday…a celebration of our second born…but I just can’t find the right words to express what it’s like having her leave girlhood behind as she becomes a teenager. By His design something magical is beginning to happen to Emily Grace. It hasn’t happened over night…it isn’t as if she went to bed a twelve year old and woke up suddenly as a thirteen year old who no longer wants to play  pretend with baby dolls. Thankfully, He has considered our hearts in this matter and it has been a gradual change…a gentle letting go of one thing while reaching forward to something else. How precious is this time in her life…I loved every moment of her childhood and I am filled with joyous expectation as she begins this new chapter of the story He has written for her.
She’s my farm girl. This child who has always loved sleeping, once spent a summer getting up at 5:30 in the morning so she could go work on a goat farm. She likes goats better than cows, since apparently cows stink. She loves horses too.

Our regular birthday shoot tradition kicks it up a notch when the girls turn thirteen. We want to mark the occasion in a special way so we do some sort of formal session. Emily’s day was helped by the generosity of friends, first in the loaning of the gown she wore and second, the sweet friends that let us include their beautiful horse in her pictures. It made her day and the images are extra special to her.

She loves to cook and is always flipping through cookbooks and recipe magazines. She’ll cook as often as we’ll let her and has already been put in charge of dinner on several occasions.

Of all the children she is the quietest and also the most like Rob in temperament. She even has his sense of humor. Which means she can be super funny at the most unexpected times. She’s also sneaky. Once, over the span of several weeks, she was hiding her sister’s underwear a pair at a time until finally Sarah was complaining because she could hardly find any. Emily thought this was uproariously funny.

A friend nicknamed her the baby whisperer. She has a knack for getting even the shyest little one off their mother’s hip and onto her own. She loves babies. Her mothering streak is strong and so is her cuddle gene.

She’s smart. And a wee bit lazy with a strong tendency toward messy. It adds to her charm.
She’s not a girly girl but she is feminine and good gracious does she enjoy playing with hair! She always wants to look on pinterest for different ways to braid or curl hair and even enjoys messing with her brother’s hair. And let’s just say that Sam is not a fan of spiking his hair but that doesn’t deter Em from trying to convince him he should.

She’s crafty too. She gets that from my mother in law…this ability to try new things and do them well . Sewing, knitting, cooking, etc. She’s willing to try it all.
This past year she played on the school volleyball team and really enjoyed it. She likes to ride her bike and wants to start running. She swims like a fish and during the summer we call her our brown girl because she tans so well.
Most importantly, she has a tender heart. She accepts correction and is quick to seek forgiveness. Family and friends are important to her. I am sure that as she continues to mature and grow up that she is going to be an amazing woman whose worth is far above rubies. She is certainly a treasure to us already. 
Happy 13th birthday, sweeter Weeters!

Simple Things, The Weekend Brew, and Scripture and a Snapshot.

Mr. B turned Three

Years ago when my children were young it seemed we were surrounded by girls. All of our friends had girls, our homeschooling circles were full of girls, our church even had more girls than boys. (Poor Sam. Not only was he outnumbered at with with four sisters but everywhere we went he was overwhelmed with ruffles and bows.)

Then in the not so distant past the landscape of our social circle shifted and suddenly there were boys everywhere. Sarah’s class at school has five girls and something like fourteen boys. All the babies at church lately have been boys. My sweet friend Lauren has four boys. Our friends, the Culbertson’s had one daughter and six boys before they had another girl. It’s crazy really but the thing that is truly crazy is how cute all these little fellas are.
Case in point: Mr. B.
Not only is he just too cute for words he has got this really deep voice and the funniest personality. Last year as he was learning to talk more he couldn’t say “Pastor Hadding” so it came out as “Passor Heiney”. Which as you can image caused much amusement at my poor husband’s good natured expense. 
He turned three a little while back and yesterday he came and spent the morning with me so we could do his birthday session. He has this thing about apples so I had to use them in his pictures. 

He actually was excited about having his picture taken and had requested a picture be taken with the rabbit statue in my backyard. They’re buds I guess. 

Happy birthday, Mr. B! “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
1 Corinthians 16:13-14