Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Manger

The manger is a symbol of what can happen when Jesus Christ resides inside us.  The ordinary suddenly becomes extraordinary.  ~Billy Hybels
The manger scene.  I just love the manger scene!  We have several around our house right now.  And, for some reason, manger scenes always capture my attention.  My favorite Christmas cartoon is A Charlie Brown Christmas.  And it's all because of that manger scene, the point in the cartoon when Linus reads the beloved Christmas story from Luke 2.  It's so sweet, so simple.  Yet so profound . . . the Jesus was God in the flesh, God with skin on.  That Jesus was born so He could die.  For me.  For you. 

This morning at church we presented the Christmas musical we've been working on since September.  Several of our children dressed up to portray the manger scene.  Year after year, I never get tired of it!  It never gets old!

This year Hannah Kate was an angel.  Mason was a shepherd.  Abbie was Mary.  And do you see that big red bow that baby Jesus is wearing?!  I forgot to take Ellie's bow out before her acting debut!

Little baby on the hay,
soon there'll be another day
when nails shall pierce Your hands and feet
as You provide our sin's defeat.
Risen Jesus on the throne,
we lift our praise to You along -
for You're the gift that we receive
the moment that our hearts believe.
~Roy Lessin

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A (not so) Gentle Reminder

With Christmas only three days away, I found myself burdened this morning with gifts that have yet to be wrapped, a Sunday School lesson that had yet to be finished, a long list of groceries that needed to be purchased, the desire to get in my kitchen and begin baking the holiday's favorite goodies and a lot of last minute preparations for tomorrow's musical and living nativity at church.

I also found out today that the United States Postal Service has "lost" the Christmas gift I ordered for Abbie over a month ago.  I have a tracking number for it, but it seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth somewhere in North Carolina as of last Wednesday.  And, of course, customer service really was of no help today except to tell me that they will "look into it" and contact me again by the end of the business day on Monday.  So I was a little LOT frustrated with that today, too.

And my baby girl Ellie is sick.  It's nothing major.  Just a case of the sniffles and congestion, all of the things that make a baby very uncomfortable.  She ran a low grade fever a bit yesterday but none today.  Since we spent our Thanksgiving with a sick little boy, I am hoping and praying that all of us will be well during the Christmas holiday.

So, with all of that, yes, I was not necessarily full of the holiday spirit today.  But then the Lord sent me a (not so) gentle reminder.  I "just so happened" to run across this quote from Ann Voskamp:

Whenever Christmas begins to burden, it's a sign that I've taken on something of the world and not of Christ.


Dear Lord, please forgive me!  And strip me of the world and fill me with You!  It's all about You, Jesus.  It's not about me.  In Your name I pray.

O, come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ellie: 5 Months in Pictures

As promised, here are a few of Ellie's five month pictures.

Ellie still loves to sleep on her back with her arms up over her head most of them time.
Ellie loves to play now, loves her floor gym and loves to reach out an grab whatever she can get her hands on.
Even though our Thanksgiving didn't seem like Thnksgiving, here are a couple of pictures of Ellie on Thanksgiving Day, her first Thanksgiving.  She wants to sit up like a big girl but still needs a little help.
And everything goes in the mouth now!  It's nearly impossible to keep socks and shoes on those sweet feet.
Ellie began eating cereal from her spoon this month.  She did really well during her first feeding and now looks forward to her cereal each day.  I think she likes it!
There were lots of arms to hold Ellie at Hannah Kate's birthday party.  I love this picture of her and Abbie.
And here she is practicing her rolling over skills.
Ellie doesn't fall asleep as easily as she used to for her morning and afternoon naps.  On this particular day, I was trying to cook supper, but she was just not happy and fighting every second of her nap.  So I stopped and sat down on the floor beside her bouncer and laid my hand on her tummy.  She grabbed my hand (she loves to hold hands!) and immediately went to sleep.
I can't wait to celebrate Ellie's first Christmas!  Here she is with the Christmas ornament that Mimi got for her.  Mimi gets the kids an ornament every year, and they are all on the family Christmas tree we have in the playroom.
Here's another picture from the day I tried to capture all three for our annual Christmas card.  This one didn't make the card either, but I thought it was cute nonetheless.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ellie: 5 Months Old

Dear Ellie:

You were five months old yesterday!  And, let me tell you, it wasn't easy capturing you at five months!  This is why:
Yes, my girl, you are growing up.  You are no longer an infant.  You are a baby.  And I know you won't be a baby for very long.  So I am enjoying this so much, enjoying you so very much!  I'll be honest though.  Content is not a word I would use to describe you this month.  You love to be held and touched, and you want my undivided attention, especially when you are tired.  That just so happens to occur mostly between the afternoon hours of 3 and 7, at which time I am doing homework with Mason, cooking supper and beginning the bath time routine for the three of you.  Those have not been your happiest hours as of late.  You are a morning girl.  You always wake up happy.  When it's time for your morning nap, you do tend to get fussy now.  You love to sleep, but you do not like going to sleep.  You are afraid you are going to miss something!  You love to watch people and figure out what's going on around you.

You still wear a size 2 diaper.  You also still wear size 6 month clothes.  You will soon move up to 9 month sizes in your footed sleepers though.  This was a very busy month!  Your biggest accomplishment this month was learning to eat from a spoon!  That's right . . . you're eating cereal now.  I began feeding you cereal the week after Thanksgiving because I thought that might help you be a little more content throughout the day and in the evening.  It didn't quite work out that way, but you do love your cereal.  You are still nursing, and you are obviously quite attached!  Daddy and I went to his office Christmas party one evening, and you stayed with MawMaw.  I left a bottle for you, but you refused it.  Instead, you waited on me to get back.  We tried a few more times with the bottle, but you've refused it each time. 

And speaking of Thanksgiving . . . your first Thanksgiving was really not at all like Thanksgiving!  Mason had the flu so we stayed here to take care of him and missed all of the festivities.

Your other big accomplishment this month was rolling over!  You rolled over three times for Mrs. Elise and Mrs. Renee at Bible study two weeks ago.  I missed it!  I kept waiting for you to roll over for me, but you wouldn't do it.  Until this morning. You rolled from your back to your stomach.  But then you got stuck, and you got really aggravated since you don't like being on your tummy anyway, and you couldn't roll back over.  Technically, though, that didn't happen during your fifth month since that was yesterday. 

You love to look at the lights on the Christmas tree.  You also love to play with your toys.  It is a must for you to have something in your hands to play with.  It's hard to keep socks and shoes on your feet now because you always pull them off and put them in your mouth.  If you don't have anything in your hands, you are grabbing at the closest thing you can get your hands on.  You aren't quite sitting up by yourself yet, but you are getting very close.

And since you're getting to be such a big girl, you graduated from the cradle to the crib, too.  You looked so big laying in your cradle.  I rather enjoyed laying you down in the crib because it makes you look a little smaller now since you don't fill it up.  You continue to be such a good night time sleeper.  You go to bed around 8:30 or 9:00, and you usually sleep until 3:00 or 4:00 or 5:00 before waking up for a feeding.  Your wake-up time has been less predictable this month, but I don't mind.  After your feeding, you go right back to sleep until 7:00 or so.

I have so many pictures I wanted to share with you today, but my internet connection and my computer just aren't cooperating this evening.  So we'll do that another day.

There is no doubt that you are a special girl!  I look forward to each and every new day with you and your brother and sister.  I love you so very much!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Salt and Light

When Mason got off the bus today, I met him near the end of the driveway as I do everyday.  As I have everyday for the past two and a half years.  Only today was different.  I knew it. And even Mason knew it.

He came running towards me, which he rarely does.  Usually he takes his sweet time, stopping along the way to grab a stick or kick a rock.  As he ran, I was waiting.  He tried to side step me, but I didn't let him.  Not today.  I grabbed him and hugged him as hard as I could.  I asked him about his day and told him I loved him.  And told him again.  And hugged him again (much to his chagrin, as the bus still hadn't quite pulled away yet, but I didn't care).  I told him I loved him again.  And then I told him I was so glad he was home.  I guessed he noticed something was different.  He finally stopped trying to escape my grasp, looked up at me and asked, "Why, mom?"  I couldn't answer.  I just tousled his hair and then watched as he ran to the house.

As the events at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, unfolded today . . . well, I don't know.  The horror, the grief, the evil . . . children . . . innocent children . . . lives taken . . . lives lost.  It begs the question WHY???  Why, Lord?

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  ~John 16:33

In this world . . . this sin sick world . . . tragedy . . . pain . . . Today is hard.  Today is real hard.  I don't know anyone in Newtown, Connecticut.  I've never personally experienced such . . . hurt, loss.  But my heart grieves.  My heart grieves for those children, those teachers, those first responders, those families.  My heart grieves for the lost, those who are waking up everyday without the assurance of salvation and a Savior, without hope, without the cleansing blood of Christ to wash away the sin and the evil in their hearts.

I don't know why this had to happen the way it did.  I do know that my Lord is sovereign.  I do know that my Lord can be trusted at all times and in all things.  I do know that there is an answer.  There is only one answer.  And that answer is JESUS CHRIST.

DO YOU KNOW HIM?  If you don't, oh, how you need to!

"Jesus answered, 'I am THE way and THE truth and THE life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.'"  ~John 14:6

Today is one of those days when the ugliness and the evil and the DARKNESS of the sin in this world makes me want to beg Jesus to come right now . . . come, Lord Jesus, come.  It's too much.  It's too ugly.  It's too evil.  It's too DARK.

Earlier this week, I was sharing with my mother-in-law about an unexpected, challenging situation I'd found myself in.  She told me I was here to be the LIGHT of Christ.  The next day, I was reading another blog about being the light in this world, being SALT.  Salt and light.  I'd been chewing on that for three days now.  And then today came.

"You (CHRISTIAN) are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  You (CHRISTIAN) are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  ~Matthew 5:13-16

If you know Him, if you are a Christian, if you made the decision to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead . . . you are called to be salt and light in this world full of pitch black darkness.  What are you doing, Christian?  Are you living like it?  Are you acting like it?  Are you talking like it?  Are you walking like it?  Are you sharing like it?  You have the answer.  The answer is Jesus.  And the world needs Him!

Yes.  I am talking to myself, too.

I love my babies.  Today I love them more than I ever have before!  We took Christmas card pictures last weekend.  You know how it goes.  You take about a hundred pictures and hope for one that's pretty good.  The other ninety nine go in the reject pile.  This was one of those.  But, for some reason, I love this picture!  Hannah Kate was looking at her daddy.  Ellie was looking at her big brother.  And Mason was the only one looking at me, but he blinked.  It just brings a smile to my face.  I smother them with hugs and kisses everyday.  Thank you, Lord, for giving me another day, especially when the parents of 20 precious babies in Newtown, Connecticut, don't get another day. 
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child
Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home
Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world
Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born
So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."  ~John 3:16

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baby, it's cold outside!

It finally feels like Christmas in south Louisiana!  There's a chill in the air, and I LOVE IT!  I'm sure it won't last for long so I'm trying to enjoy every last minute of it, including the hot chocolate I'm sipping on right now.

I do not like to get the children out in the cold air, but I absolutely had to go grocery shopping today.  I also finished my Christmas shopping with the exception of three special someones.

Last week Ellie received a really special gift from my dearest grade school and high school friend.  She crocheted this BEAUTIFUL bonnet!  It is the most precious thing and so soft, too.  It covers Ellie's little head and ears, too, so it's just perfect.  So many people stopped us and commented on Ellie's bonnet.  She'll be wearing it to Bible study tomorrow also. 
I wanted to get a picture of the side of the bonnet so you can see just how intricate the design is and the sweet little rosette, too!  But someone wouldn't be still for me.  I can't crochet a lick (even though my MeMama tried on numerous occasions to teach me how!), and this just absolutely amazes me!  I have no idea how long it took her to do this, but I imagine awhile.  I didn't have a sister, but growing up, she was like a sister to me and my best friend.  While I know that Hannah Kate and Ellie will be best friends, I also pray that the Lord will bless them with a friend like mine.  The Lord blessed me in so many ways through her, and now He has blessed Ellie through her!
The only thing is that now Hannah Kate wants a bonnet, too!  She mentioned more than once today, "I don't have a bonnet to cover MY head."  And then she asked why I couldn't get her one.  So I guess crochet lessons are in my future!

Here are my two best girls after our day of shopping.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Santa's Number

Seth gets aggravated with me every Sunday morning because I'm always the last one to leave the church building because I'm talking, and he's already in the truck waiting on me.  In my defense, after church is the only time I have to talk to anyone.  As soon as I get there, I start up the computer and load the MediaShout script so it can be ready for the morning worship time.  Then I go to my Sunday school class to finish any last minute preparations for my class.  As soon as Sunday School is over, I rush to the sanctuary, gather my music, put my microphone on, pray with the choir and then begin the service.  So there is no time for conversation.  I also tell him that Sunday is the only day of the week that gives me the opportunity for adult conversation, meaning conversation with someone besides a seven year old, five year old and four month old.

But really, that isn't true.  Some of my best conversations are with my seven year old and five year old.  They are honest.  They are inquisitive.  They challenge me and humble me.  Besides, as is the case with most children, you just never know what they're going to say.  Sometimes I want to cry.  And sometimes it's all I can do to stifle the giggle that I don't want them to hear.  I wish I could remember all of our conversations.  There are some that I surely won't forget . . . or, at least I hope I don't.  But since I don't trust that very much, I try to write down the "priceless" ones.  This would be one of those conversations that I want to remember.

It's no secret that we live in a society that inundates us with the commercialism of Christmas.  It begins as early as July when Christmas ornaments and ribbons begin to stock the store shelves.  And then the big box store toy catalogs so conveniently arrive in your mailbox advertising the latest and greatest toys, trying to convince you that they have the biggest selection at the best price.  I remember very vividly when I was a little girl the Sears Wish Book.  That thing was pages and pages!  I would spend hours pouring over the pages.  And I would circle the things I wanted for Christmas.  Most of them I did not get, and I knew I wouldn't get them, but it was still fun none-the-less.  While we no longer get that big Wish Book, there is no end to the toy magazines and catalogs that have arrived in our mailbox this season.

While I absolutely love all of the traditions surrounding Christmas, I have very prayerfully and carefully tried to teach my children and emphasize to them that JESUS is what, or rather Who, Christmas is all about.  We started really early with the Fisher Price nativity scene.  We read the first Christmas story over and over in our Bibles.  We sing the Christmas carols proclaiming the blessed birth of Christ.  And we also make it a point to give to others as generously as we can.  Our children wake up to presents and surprises on Christmas morning, but they know, and have always known, WHO "Santa" really is.  I've had friends question me about this.  While I don't really feel it necessary to defend our decisions or even recommend them to others, I will only say that our children are not missing out on anything at Christmas time.  I promise!  They're having just as much fun as everyone else.  

As summer gave way to fall and Christmas decorations hit the store shelves and those toy magazines arrived in our mailbox, I noticed that Hannah Kate was very much focused on what she wanted, not only for Christmas but her birthday, too.  She had literally hoarded every single toy magazine and sale paper that has come through the door, so much so that I began hiding them from her and throwing them away in the outside garbage so she wouldn't see them.  Not only that, but she went through every magazine, and put an "H" beside every toy she wanted.  That means that nearly every girlie, age appropriate toy was marked with an "H!"  In her defense, she has waited a long time to open a gift since she has a December birthday.  But I began to feel that she was focusing too much on the getting and receiving, and I wondered that perhaps I hadn't done a "good enough job" teaching her the "reason for the season."  In reality though, she's five.  So I realize I need to cut her some slack.  And me, too.

So as Hannah Kate continued to "H" everything in every catalog and remind me day after day after day what she wanted, I would always tell her that we would put that "on her list."  And we finally made a list. Several lists.  About three weeks ago, I sat down with her to pen her final list.  There were two.  One for her birthday and one for Christmas.  The birthday list contained all of the items from the big box stores.  The Christmas list contained only American Girl items for Emily Bennett.  I began to explain to her that she wouldn't be able to get everything on either list because it was just too much.  So we eventually numbered the items on each list in the order of what she most wanted to what she least wanted, as if there was a "least wanted."

Shortly before Thanksgiving, Hannah Kate came into the kitchen one night, and this was the conversation:

Hannah Kate: Mama, I need to write a letter to Santa.
Me: Oh really?
Hannah Kate: Yes.
Me: And why do you need to do that?
Hannah Kate: So I can get what's on my list.
Me (it was the end of a long day, and I just wasn't in the mood to play along): Do you really think that's a good idea?  (as if she's going to give me the "right" answer)
Hannah Kate: Well that's what Abbie did.  She wrote Santa a letter.  And she got everything on her list.  And she told me that if I want everything on my list, I better write a letter to Santa.

At this point, there was nothing else for me to say so I just changed the subject.  She hinted around at it again, but I just let it go.  And then I found out that she told her MawMaw on Thanksgiving day (I wasn't there since I was home taking care of Mason) that she "needed to talk to Aunt Ashley about this Santa Claus thing because she needed to know how to get what she wanted but Mama said that there isn't a Santa."  So, at that point, I knew I had trouble on my hands, and I can only hope she, in fact, did not approach her Aunt Ashley (or Abbie!) with that conversation.

Last Wednesday I was nursing Ellie.  Hannah Kate came in the family room with yet another piece of paper and pencil in hand.  She began asking me how to spell different words so I was spelling them for her so she could write them on her paper.  At first, I wasn't really paying attention to exactly what it was she was writing. Then I realized it was another list, only this time with a complete sentence.  This is how it ended up: 
In translation, Hannah Kate wants a gymnastics outfit for her American Girl doll.  But it's not just any gymnastics outfit.  It's purple with a star in the middle and obviously comes with purple shoes, too.  When I finished nursing Ellie, I went to the kitchen to cook supper.  By this time, Seth was home.  I heard Hannah Kate talking to him, but it was in a hushed tone so I couldn't hear.  A few minutes later she came into the kitchen. The conversation went like this:

Hannah Kate: I just wrote a letter to Santa to tell him about that gymnastics outfit I want for Emily.
Me: You did?
Hannah Kate: Yes. 

And she holds this out for me to see:
With her Daddy's help, she'd written "Dear Santa" on the back of her paper.

And then it went a little something like this:

Hannah Kate: I need to send this to Santa.
Me (thinking I'm going to "play along," but I'm really still giving her a hard time): Well, do you know his address?
Hannah Kate: What?
Me: Do you know his address?  You have to have his address to send it to him?  You know how Mommy writes the address on cards that we send to people?
Hannah Kate (rather despondent at this point): Oh.  I don't know.
Me (beginning to feel like a heel and really wanting to somehow encourage her): Well, why don't you ask Abbie?
Hannah Kate: Abbie?
Me: Yes.  I'm sure she knows the address.  You can ask her on Saturday when she comes over for your party.

And then she runs into the family room where Seth is sitting, who, by the way has already heard this conversation.

Seth: Hannah Kate, tell Mama to google it.

(Yes, he's going to get my goat, now.)

Hannah Kate (clearly very confused): What?
Seth: Tell Mama to google it.  Look it up on the computer.  She can look it up on the computer.
Hannah Kate (definitely thinking this isn't going to work): Mama, Daddy said it's on your computer.
Seth (now yelling at me from the other room to be sure I hear him): You know you can google it.  Just look it up on your phone.

At this point, Hannah Kate is beside herself.  And so am I!

And then he takes it too far.

Seth: Hannah Kate, I know what you need to do.  Give it to MawMaw.  Take it to MawMaw's.  SHE KNOWS what Santa's address is!

In other words, Santa lives on Highway 77 in Grosse Tete, Louisiana!

By this time, Hannah Kate is thoroughly confused so she just drops the conversation entirely.  I was surprised that she didn't bring it up again during the next couple of days.  I was also surprised that I didn't see her Dear Santa letter laying around anywhere.

Last Friday I rearranged the furniture in the family room so I would have a better vantage point of seeing our Christmas tree.  When I moved the end tables, I found the letter underneath one of them.  I was excited, thinking I'd done something that would make Hannah Kate really proud.  I whipped out the letter and excitedly proclaimed that I'd found it under the table.  Her response? 

I know.  I put it there on purpose.  I wanted to hide it from you to be sure nothing happened to it.

And what could I say to that?  Nothing.

After Hannah Kate's birthday party on Saturday, she was discussing the things she'd received that were on her list, the things she received that weren't on her list and the things on her list she didn't receive.  So I explained again that we probably won't always get everything on our list.  I also took the opportunity (a teachable moment, right?) to discuss the boys and girls around the world who don't even have a list and who never get presents . . . and that it's great to get birthday presents and Christmas presents but that we should also want to give to others who don't have presents.  Her response?

Yeah.  I already did that.  We made those shoeboxes.  Remember? (referencing our Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts)

Well.  I guess she thinks she's learned that lesson.

And then today there was another conversation.  Again, I was in the kitchen fixing supper.  Hannah Kate walked up to me, the Dear Santa letter in hand.

Hannah Kate: I wonder what Santa's number is.
Me (thinking she was now talking about his phone number): Santa's number?  I don't know.
Hannah Kate: Yeah, Santa's number.

And then I realized she meant his address.

Hannah Kate: I asked Abbie at my party.
Me: You did?
Hannah Kate: Yeah, I asked Abbie if she knew Santa's number.
Me: And what did Abbie tell you?
Hannah Kate: Nothing.
Me: Nothing?
Hannah Kate: Yeah.  Nothing.  She just said, "Santa's number."  And she said it just like this: "Santa's NUMBER??"

And then she sighed and walked out of the kitchen, letter in hand.  I smiled as I realized Abbie didn't know that Hannah Kate was really meaning to ask for Santa's address and not his number.

At this point, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to handle this one or how it's going to end.  I only know one thing.  I'm fairly certain it's not over yet!  And I guess I need to google Santa's number!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday, Hannah Kate!

Hannah Kate is FIVE YEARS OLD today!  I know . . . it just doesn't seem possible.  We've had a lot of fun celebrating her birthday.  Of course, it was hard to find her in the midst of all her birthday balloons!
We celebrated Hannah Kate's birthday last Saturday with a painting party.  She loves to draw and paint and cut with scissors and do all things crafty (she told me today at lunch that she has the PERFECT idea for her NEXT birthday party - a crafting party . . . but we just got finished with this one!) so when I gave her the choice of a painting party or a spa party (my personal favorite), she chose a painting party.  And, of course, I had all of these fabulous ideas for her painting party, but that was before Mason and I got the flu during Thanksgiving break, and I wasn't able to accomplish what I needed to in order to pull it off.  But, none the less, Hannah Kate enjoyed her party, which is really the most important thing, and I think everyone had fun.  Here she is at her party.
I decided to use the foyer as the art studio so we set up the little tables and chairs in there and covered the tables with white bulletin board paper.  As everyone was arriving, I asked them to grab the crayons (in the mason jars) and decorate the table cloth.
After everyone arrived, I began sketching the canvases for them to paint.  The girls had a choice between a flower and a butterfly.  And since I can not draw at all, not even a stick figure, the boys were simply given a baseball and bat.  Then each child got to pick his / her paint pallette.
I love this picture of Brooklyn and Abbie.  Brooklyn painted a beautiful flower, and Abbie did a great job on her butterfly.  She and Hannah Kate both share a love of painting and all things artsy.  I'm sure they get that from their MawMaw.  Hannah Kate certainly doesn't get it from me! 
 And here's my favorite little artist painting her butterfly.  After she finished, she wanted to write an "H" on the bottom of her canvas.  She painted an uppercase H and a lower case H.
Hannah Kate was so excited that the twins from her dance class were able to come to her party.  Izzy painted a beautiful butterfly, too. 
 Here is Mason and his baseball and bat.  Again, did I mention I can't even draw stick people?  So you just have to use your imagination a bit when it comes to this bat and ball.  Mason did a great job with what he was given!
Our sweet friends, the Slayton's, also came.  We haven't seen them in awhile, and Mason and Hannah Kate were both excited to see Anna, David, James, Abby and Joshua again.  They all created some wonderful masterpieces to take home. 
And the food . . . this would be where several of my pinterest projects just didn't turn out like the picture!  We had sandwiches that I cut in the shape of flowers, several dips and chips, chocolate covered pretzel rods, rice krispies treats, chocolate bark and cupcakes.
Using popsicle sticks and melted colored chocolates, I made these paintbrush rice krispie treats. 
And this was our paint splatter bark.  I did a very thin layer of dark chocolate with a thicker layer of white chocolate over the top.  Then Hannah Kate put sprinkles on top to resemble paint splatter.  It may not look like paint splatter, but they sure were yummy! 
And the chocolate covered pretzel rods . . . well, those were supposed to be pretzel paintbrushes.  After I dipped them in chocolate, I attempted to dip the tips in melted pink chocolates to look like the end of a paintbrush that had been dipped in pink paint (the pinterest picture of this was the cutest thing ever!), but when I dipped them in the pink chocolates, it was still warm, and it melted the brown chocolate, thus causing quite a pinky brown smeared mess.  Instead of working with it to fix it, I just gave up and served the chocolate covered pretzel rods as they were.  And they were good!

I let Hannah Kate choose her cake (hoping she would go for a cookie cake, but, of course, she didn't), and she wanted cupcakes.  I wasn't surprised.  So we made those to serve at the party. 
We sang Happy Birthday, and she blew out her five candles. 
And then it was time to open gifts.  Hannah Kate LOVES opening presents.  And since she has a December birthday, she has to wait all year to open presents and then gets everything at once.  
Sophie and Izzy (the twins) were so excited for Hannah Kate to open their gift.  And I don't blame them!  What five year old doesn't want a Barbie rockstar doll?! 
Hannah Kate received lots of new art supplies, including pencils, markers, sticker books, coloring books, activity pads and art tablets.  I'm so glad because our crayon and marker boxes were looking shabby.  She has alread spent hours in her new coloring books and sticker books. 
And, I have no idea where this came from . . . a commercial, I guess . . . but Hannah Kate had at the top (yes, the number one item) of her birthday list a Winx doll.  I had no idea what that was, but it seems to be a cross between Barbie and Tinkerbell.  MawMaw had to go to several different stores to even find the right Winx doll (apparantly they have four different Winx chics).  Hannah Kate was very excited when she saw this. 
Pop and Mimi sent several presents from Georgia.  These were a big surprise to Hannah Kate. 
Hannah Kate was so excited when she opened her gift to find a Bitty Baby.  For those of you "not in the know," this is the American Girl baby doll.  And since this baby does not come with a name, I encouraged Hannah Kate to pick a name for her.  She, of course, named her doll Lily. 
 And here they are.  Lily has been to church with us, shopping with us . . . she sleeps with Hannah Kate, she uses Ellie's bouncer and bumbo seat . . . Lily is spoiled rotten!
 I also got Hannah Kate something that was not on her list, something that she hadn't asked for.  She has a very vivid imagination and loves to pretend.  She still plays with her Fisher Price doll house ALL THE TIME.  She's had it since her first birthday, and I really wanted to get her a "big girl" doll house.  So I did.  I also bought her the family to go with it.  The family is absolutely perfect!  It came with Daddy, Mommy, brother, big sister, baby sister, grandma and grandpa.  I wanted to have the doll house assembled before her party, but that didn't happen.  So I just wrapped the box.  I also wrapped the family and made her open them first.  She was excited to see the little dolls because she just loves dolls of all sizes, but it wasn't until Mason blurted out that the big box must be a doll house that she realized what she was getting.  Even at that, she had no idea.
And much to my husband's dismay, we opened the big box to find this.
It took about an hour, but we finally got this:
And she LOVES it!  She has spent many hours just since Saturday playing with it.  I love it, too.  It's a beautiful wooden dollhouse, and the furniture is really nice, too.  One of my favorite things is the swing on the porch.

And that has been Hannah Kate's 5th birthday.

Dearest Hannah Kate,

You are five years old today!  I still remember the very moment you were born, the very first time the nurse placed you in my arms, the very first time I heard your cry.  You are MY GIRL.  

You are so very smart!  You can count to probably 1,000 at least.  You love to write your letters and know how to spell several words.  You really want to learn how to read so maybe we'll work on that after the holidays.  You love love LOVE baby dolls, your doll house, coloring and drawing, playing with your kitchen, DANCING, pink, going to Bible study and church, swimming and cooking.  You are always asking me what I'm going to cook or bake, and you slide the chair around so you can help me stir and pour.  Your favorite thing to bake is cupcakes.  Your favorite food is spaghetti and meatballs.  You eat most anything, but that's what you ask for the most.  Your favorite color is pink, but you like purple, too.  You are an early riser and a night owl.  You are very particular about what you wear and how you want your hair each day.  You love to wear my lip gloss and my fancy lotions.

You keep me on my toes.  I never know what you are going to say, and you come up with some doozies sometimes.  You make me laugh harder than I've ever laughed.  One of my most favorite memories is, "Done changing.  Oopsie!  Forgot!"  Only you, me and Abbie know what that means.  You love to dance, and you dance everywhere!  You love music, and you love to sing while we're driving.  But if you know I'm listening, you stop singing.  But I'm always listening!

You became a big sister this year, and what an awesome big sister you are!  You love Ellie so much, and you can hardly wait for her to be a big girl so she can really play with you.  You like to help bathe her and pick out her clothes each day.  You like to pick out her diaper.  I know that you and Ellie are going to be the best of friends.  You love Mason, too.  And it makes this Mama so happy that you play together so well.

You have a tender heart, but you are also a little spit fire sometimes.  Your heart is so big for Jesus right now, and I absolutely love listening to your bedtime prayers each night.  I absolutely CAN NOT WAIT to see what the Lord is going to do in your life and what He is going to accomplish through you.  He has great things for you, little girl.  Love Him.  Love Him with your everything.

I love you so much, Hannah Kate!  You wear me out sometimes, but I mean that in the bestest of ways, and I wouldn't have it any other way!  You make my life so much fun.  I love playing with you and pretending with you.  I love reading to you.  I love braiding your hair, even when you want two French braids, and it takes 30 minutes, and Ellie is screaming!  I love cooking along side you.  I love our days together.  You are one of my sweetest blessings!

With love,