Favorite Things

Note: The post is not entirely about Benjy, but there are just so many cute pictures and so little space to share them... I'm sure you understand!

Here we are. December, that most wonderful time of the year. Excitement is running high in the Martin household! We are trying something different this year with gift giving. Each child is making homemade gifts for the rest of the family. Annika and Casper are using their budding sewing skills and Eliana is measuring and pouring ingredients to make a special gift for each one. I really love the amount of thought, time, and effort that goes into these gifts. Helping Annika and Casper choose the perfect fabric for each family member was just precious.

I'm also keeping the sewing machine busy while the children are away at school. It is my goal to make something for each of the children this year. Skirts for the girls and fleece jackets for the boys. I've made a good start, but have quite a ways to go!

The post title is Favorite Things for a reason. I not only love the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas, but have had a few extra special things happen this month. My birthday was last week and my sweet, sweet family in Texas schemed to surprise me with a box of gifts. I opened the box to find gifts and cards from all of them! My parents, nieces, nephews, sisters, sisters-in-law, brothers... you get the idea. It was so fun! I may have sobbed into the handmade dishcloths for a few minutes, but they were happy tears!

Just look at that little moose booty!

Then on Thursday night we went to the children's Christmas play at school. Casper had a main part in the play, Freeland played in the bucket band, and the girls sang their sweet little hearts out. I love watching these productions!

The bucket band

To top it all off some of my "soul sisters" visited on Saturday and Sunday. The conversation was so refreshing and soul nourishing! They are the laugh-until-you-can't-breathe then share-the-things-closest-to-your-heart type of friends. The kind that you don't meet often in a lifetime. I am so thankful to have them in my life!

Annika made this little hat for Benjy and he seemed to really like it!

And... we can't leave out little Benjy, Benjamin, Baby BB... He is Keely's little 6 month old chunky little hunk of perfection. That boy! He had us all wrapped around his chubby little finger. He especially loved Annika and she has not yet stopped talking about that very important fact.

Mashed potatoes were a big hit!
December is not even half over and we have already had a wonderful one! And there is more come...


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can't let the day pass without a statement of gratitude. Everywhere I turn there are things that I am thankful for. It seems only fitting to pause today, before the festivities of the day begin, to acknowledge these things.

Today my heart is filled with gratitude when I think of...

The way God has worked and moved in my life over the past year. Even after 41 years he has not given up on working in my heart, softening and refining. His grace has been there and carried me continually.

Keith. I don't know that I need to say more. For 21 years now he has been at the top of my list of things I am thankful for. He just keeps on loving me, encouraging me, and listening to the many things I can't find words for.

My children. I have been a mom for 18 years. I loved those early years, the baby years, the toddler years of of exploration and explosion of learning. I loved watching them venture off to school, bright-eyed and eager. By oh my! How I love the tween and teenage years! I love the conversations and the plans. I love seeing them making their own decisions (some good, some not so great) and I love the relationships that I have with each of them. I love the way they are each so different. I love everything about this little tribe of mine and I am grateful beyond words to be their mom.

My parents and brothers and sisters. The older I get the more I cherish these relationships. Life is hard and feels lonely at times. They are always there.

I am also thankful for my J. He is my only remaining grandparent, and what a wonderful grandparent he is and has always been! And I'm thankful that I still miss my Nan-Naw every day. Love like that doesn't happen often.

I can't leave out my work with Superkids and the people I have met through that work. I think if you read this post you will understand. The work has changed as rules change, but the need has not changed.

And, because it is a big part of my life, I am thankful for my camera and the doors it has opened for me. I am thankful for the way I have learned to slow down and see the beautiful, tiny miracles that surround us all everyday through it's lens.

I could continue, but this post is getting too long. To all of my family and friends, I am thankful that each of you are part of my life.


And Just Like That...

And just like that... the last Sams girl has changed her name.

It was a wedding any girl would dream of. From the beautiful, delicious rehearsal dinner...


To the lovely brunch the morning of the wedding, where we talked about the precious memories we share. I am 16 years older than Hannah and she was only 6 when I got married, so our memories are a bit different from the memories of many siblings. We didn't grow up together, but we have shared so many special times. Hannah shared the memory of me putting her to bed the night before my wedding and how I cried telling her goodbye. Naturally I cried over the brunch when she said that.

To the wedding itself, which was just gorgeous and the perfect combination of serious admonition followed by joyous celebration.

Such a lovely bride!

A cupcake bouquet in the bridal room.

Opening a special gift from a nice who couldn't be there.
And I cannot post without recognizing that my Nan-Naw would have loved the wedding so much. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of her passing. She lives on in a different way in each of us. And her passing is still keenly felt by all of us.


Annika's First Volleyball Game

I know this is some type of blogging record for me at this stage of life, 2 posts in one week! But I look back through this blog as a record of important family events and Annika's first ever volleyball game needs to be recorded.

It was a good game and fun to watch her as she is learning all of the appropriate moves and positions. I can't wait to see her confidence grow as the season progresses. I intended to send a t-shirt with her to wear under her shirt since she is so small, but forgot to do so. She borrowed a camisole to at least make it a little more modest. Mom fail there, but we will do better next time.

Her team won the first set, but lost the next 2, so they lost the game, but I was glad they won one of the sets. I expect I will learn a lot about volleyball as the season progresses as well!

Anyway here she is, number 25, the tiniest and cutest volleyball player on the team!


Labor Day 2017

This morning started like most Monday mornings. The children have off school, but Keith headed out to work and we got breakfast and started to do normal Monday chores. It wasn't too much later that Keith called and said he was heading home and we could do something together as a family. Anyone who knows me knows that I was all over that idea!

Last night the boys had a few friends over and had a fire going out in our little fire pit in the picnic area. When Keith got home he went out and resurrected the fire. I'm not sure what he had in mind, but slowly the whole family filtered out that way and it ended up that we were all sitting in the woods on lawn chairs around the fire at 11 AM. Someone mentioned jalapeƱo poppers and that is all it took to get us inspired about cooking over the fire. Douglas ran to one store for jalapeƱos while I ran to another for a few other things.

Before you knew it we were roasting poppers, stuffed mushrooms, corn, and hotdogs over the fire. You know that silly little saying about smoke following beauty? I think we heard some form of it about 30 times. It was smoky and gritty and so amazing in every way to have all of us there together.

We treasure these times more as our children get older. Douglas is going to school and working. He is very busy. We know that will only increase as he gets older. It makes these moments precious and important.

Freeland carving "I love mom" into the bridge at Cold Springs

Today felt like a precious day that almost slipped by without us taking full advantage of it.

Time for a Sun Flare lesson for Casper!

Later in the day, after Douglas went to work, we loaded up and went back to our favorite spot at Cold Springs.

Building a dam in the freezing creek water.

What a way to wrap up the summer!


First Day of School 2017

Well, I think I have felt all the feels today. Elation at the silence of my house. Regret that my health issues cause me to be so exhausted that the elation is so significant. Sorrow that they are a year older, a year closer to independence.

Gratitude and a bit of pride that they are so beautiful and amazing.

This morning started with waking everyone bright and early. Last school year I would wake the girls each morning singing to them, "Good morning to you! Good morning to you!" I haven't done it much over the summer, but this morning I walked in and sang to them. I love their sweet sleepiness as they wake up. They had everything ready to go, so getting ready was a breeze. If only that would last.

Freeland was a bit of a different story. When I woke him up he groaned and said, "I'm dropping out of school!" I just laughed because he is 15 and not dropping out.

The thing that made this morning different from any other back to school mornings was the eldest heading off to his first college class. He is going to school for nursing, planning to be an RN then decide which direction he will go. I'm excited to see him following this calling. But it is such a huge step toward adulthood.

So it has been a day for the books. I have felt all the feels, cried all the tears, and slept. Happy first day of school 2017!



I wish I had a reason, a good sound easily understood reason that I have allowed the summer to slip by without so much as a nod in the direction of the faithful old blog. The only thing I can even come up with is just All.The.Things!

Taking photos of photographers is more fun than taking pictures of popcorn!

Mostly good things like camp for Casper and work for Douglas and Freeland. Like swimming and going fun and interesting places. Like teaching photography classes and going places to take pictures of cute babies. Like birthdays and birthday parties. Like friends and family visiting.

Of course there have also been the not so good things like car trouble and health issues. Like more car trouble, and more car trouble, like driving boys back and worth to work thanks to said car trouble.  Like iron transfusions that unexpectedly caused intense nausea for an entire week. Like needing to re-schedule the birthday party not once, but twice.

Maybe having the school schedule lends a sense of urgency to the summer months. The time is so short and the list of things to do is so long! I want there to be long days of just being, but those days have been swallowed up by the days of doing.

Later this week my parents are visiting from Texas.  Next week Annika goes to camp. And so it goes. Counting down to the days of the big yellow school bus taking them all away each day.

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