fall birthdays (part 2), she's mine, and a rare sight

Our October birthday celebrations continued through the weekend to Rob's birthday on Sunday. We went to church, went to eat buffet pizza (his fave), and then went to another sporting goods store to pick up a heavy dumbbell for mid-workday lifting. Of course, he picked out a 50 lb. dumbbell that I can hardly lift. :D That one is all his!

Ivy-loo must be my daughter because I feel exactly like this when I get new weights:  :P

Then it was off to a fantastic Christian play with the whole fam:

I can't believe how big these oldest boys and girls are getting. They enjoyed all the sword-fighting and singing as much as we did. :D

Rob's parents surprised us by joining us at the play and then took us all out for dinner afterward. Rob's mom snapped one of our very few pictures of all 8 of us together (and hey, we're ALL looking!!!):

And after the flurry of birthdays it was back to real life on Monday with homeschool, a big certification test on Tuesday for me, CC on Wednesday, and major kitchen/living area renovations happening in the midst of it all..... :)

Phew. Someday we just might finish this one. :D It takes days and days to get things done when you live in the middle of it. But we're making progress, and it's good! And plus, after painting four houses, we should be professionals by this point, right? :)

Maybe someday with all this great experience we'll finally remember to get the coffee out of the coffee drawer before we tape it down, because we all know no coffee = no painting. :D

birthday celebrations + serious cake fails: part 1

At our house, we have three big birthdays in a single October week: mine, Elijah's, and Rob's. It's always 6+ days of cake, yummy food, and partying. :D 

This year's celebration all started when my mom came down and watched the kiddos for us a week ago Saturday, while I went shopping solo (Rob worked, good man!), and ate this gorgeous salad in complete silence: (!!!!!)

He gave me some birthday money to go shopping, and though I didn't end up finding much, I really enjoyed the alone time without everyone waiting anxiously for my return. :D It's the little things these days. You never know how much you take an easy day without deadlines for granted until you have 8 million things to do all the time. :D 

That Saturday night we went on a date and as hard as we tried to stay out late, we came back at like 8:30 or 9 p.m. :D We're old people now and I think we will happily accept the status. :D 

Then my real birthday began last week with one of my favorite parts of being a mama:

My dad watched the kids that day while Rob whisked me away for lunch and the chance to visit the sporting goods store to pick up a new water bottle! :)

It was perfect, just perfect. The entire day I was just overwhelmed at how wonderful it all was.

Of course, with school keeping us busy the rest of the week, Thursday came lightning fast. On that momentous day I became the proud mother of a teen: :D

I'm hoping I get this mother-of-a-teenage-boy thing. :D I tried to speak his love language of oddly-flavored junk food (cajun pickle chips and his favorite, jalapeno):

I think it worked. :D

Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, barbecue out for lunch...

Three pans of lasagna for dinner (we only ate one, surprise!):

And one massive chocolate cake wreck for dessert, and I think he was finally full. 😂

(psssss: you know I must love you dearly to show you that cake. 😂)

It was a lovely week of... eating merriment, and I still have so much left to share from Thursday until Monday! We partied so hard for Rob's birthday we hardly had time to stop, and I have to break it all up into two posts. :P

Obviously reaching middle age is an event worth celebrating around here. ;)

our very first teenager


My sweet firstborn is a teenager today. I really don't know how we arrived here so quickly, but here we are, entering new and unfamiliar territory. 

It's awesome. 

What a gift from God he is. Almost 14 years ago, we were young, newly married, and felt the Lord pulling at our hearts to welcome children instead of preventing them. Right away, God blessed us with this strong yet tender-hearted boy:

I am in awe of God's plan. Through these little babies, God changed the trajectory of our selfish hearts and helped us realize that life was actually about more than us. That there were more important things to do with this life than to make big salaries and have two brand new cars and take all the luxury vacations we wanted.

God showed us over the years that there were bigger, eternal things to do, and one of them the Lord granted to us was to raise this baby disciple and teach him about Jesus and why we are on this earth.

But as it always seems to turn out, God has been using him to teach us too.

My heart bursts when he gives so generously, without any compulsion. Like my birthday card he made and the coffee he bought me with his brother just this week:

And oh how it aches with love too when I realize he's becoming a man already, caring for even the smallest of his siblings:

And then how delighted it feels when he tells witty jokes. :) 

This whole growing up thing is entirely bittersweet.

I wish time could stand still for a little while, but that's not what God gave us. Maturing into manhood is a good thing, and I am thankful for this opportunity to love him and that the Lord is revealing some of ourselves in who he is for both our joy and sanctification. :)

What a gift that I get to see my tiny baby grow up into adulthood.

Elijah, you are a precious blessing to me. I am so grateful to God for you and the man you are becoming.

a song I didn't know I needed in my life

I'm pretty sure someone told me about it a while back, but I'm just now truly discovering this album. This is my all-time favorite psalm made into a song!! Oh, my heart. You absolutely have to listen to it. :D

The Word of God is so alive and so powerful! Can you even imagine the day we get to worship all the day long?? I am only speaking for myself, but I'm pretty sure there is nothing on the entire earth more wholly satisfying than worshipping the Lord our God. My soul feels like it is going to absolutely burst at the seams when I sing praise to Him with Scripture! I don't know how much better it could possibly be, but I can only imagine it will be even better in Heaven. :)

the happiest of fall breaks

So this was my crazy-back-to-school-holding-two-crying-babies-why-is-a-knee-on-my-desk view today:  :D

It was a tough one. :) But hey, it's always a little chaotic getting back to school after a full 10 days off, and even more so with sickness and incoming molars. :) It was okay though, I had lots and lots of good memories from the last week to remind me that it isn't always crazy like today. :D 

Things like flowers from our date:

Memories of giant forts they built:

Times like these when they all got along for hours and hours reading on the porch:

Getting to share FREE bundt cake from an early birthday email:

Free birthday Starbucks too, and delightful discoveries like they have STEVIA now!! :D

Precious moments watching sweet little babies enamored with falling leaves, and listening to a 14-month-old saying "cheees" for trees: (ahhhhh my heart)

Leisurely daytime dates enjoying Zoe's pesto hummus with our little angry bird: 😂

Basking in the sunshine with a place to sit at the hardware store while the husband shopped:

Holding my youngest girls:

And taking silly pics with all my girls:

It's a sweet, sweet life. 

Even in the chaos and crazy, I'm so blessed to live it. :)

the ballards: who we are (the first episode)

So we went and did something crazy: Rob and I made a video together! (he's never done one, can you believe it?) Here's a little of who we are, our story, and more about when we first met. :D