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Our Beautiful Girl is Thirteen {Ruby's Birthday}

I don't think it was an accident that I felt like the Lord put the name, Ruby, on my heart for this girl when I was pregnant. My whole life I doodled lists of favorite girl names, dreaming of the day that I'd have a girl of my own. Swirling in my head were pretty favorites like Avalyn, Stella and Rose.  The day I saw the shadows of her moving around on the ultrasound, I knew I was looking at Ruby.

She is a treasure, this beautiful girl-turning-woman. I feel like we are discovering more and more who God has made her to be and she's full of value and light and love and we adore her. It's been a challenging year (it's hard growing up!) but through those challenges, we've seen her choose to mature and turn on the path of wisdom. We are so proud she's our daughter and always will be. 

Some of the things Iove about her at this stage are her easy, big smile and sparkly eyes. When Theo says something kindergarten-ish, she catches my eye and grins at me. She unwinds with her instruments, particularly her ukelele. She is beautiful, yet not focused just on the outward. She had a smart sense of humor. She has this lovely artsy side and I enjoy seeing what she creates with her handlettering.  She has good friends and cares deeply. She is bright and approaches things in a level headed way. She has confidence and way more boldness walking into new situations than I did at this age. She's grown a ton this year but still comes to sit close with Ben and I. She's discovering her own walk with God.

So happy birthday, Ruby! We are so proud of you and so pleased to watch you grow.

Here are a few birthday portraits. I can't resist the wildflowers each May. If you'd like to see her mini birthday film, click HERE. We had fun trooping around Tacoma for these clips. What I wouldn't do for a glimpse of myself at 13! I hope she'll love to look back at it one day.

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Jasper is Ten! {Personal Post}

One of the most amazing things I've realized as our kids grow is that God knew exactly how they would fit our hearts. 

Jasper fits us so well. He's a talker and is constantly ingesting and sharing information. Sometimes I laugh because he reads these big words in books and fits them into the context of conversation flawlessly but his pronunciation is off because he's never actually heard the word before. He loves to serve others and think of things that will make them happy. He absolutely delights in the culinary arts and dearly loves to comb through recipes and cook with me. He appreciates a great joke and has a bunch in his back pocket for the right opportunity. And since he was little, he's just always dearly loved babies. I often see him pausing at a park or church to go interact with little ones. 

One of my favorite parts of this boy is that he's really comfortable in his own skin and how God made him. He wants to grow and learn and mature. He chooses things to help him grow to be a solid young man. 

It's hard to believe a decade has passed since he was curled up against me and I was smelling that heavenly newborn smell of his sweet little self. I remember that crazy, instant, powerful love.  That love hasn't changed, just become more deeply rooted into who I am. 

I am thankful for our wonderful son. Happy birthday, Jasper!

This year we created a little film for his birthday too. I want to always remember his voice and the way he moves.  You can watch that HERE.

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Our Florida Vacation {Personal Post}

I saved airmiles for a long time and when I had enough for six full flights, Ben and I searched for somewhere far away that we could go to the beach for mid winter break. We discovered Marco Island, Florida and had a glorious vacation. We got out a wee bit in the morning to discover the area and then split our time between the beach and pool. The golden light and white sand were absolutely healing and the kids had raisin toes and fingers from the time they spent in the pool. It was so good for us to have this time together to just play and we're already brainstorming where we can go next.

Besides taking pictures this trip, I also created a film which you can see HERE.

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Best of the Hamilton Holidays {Personal}

I keep my camera on the back of our mantle during the holidays most of the time since there's so much going on and I want to capture it all. This year I was doing a little extra, trying to capture some film which I'm learning.  I do love some good photos to capture the moment, though, and always will!  Like you, we had a calendar jammed with activities. With our advent calendar, we try to prioritize time spent together and we love it!  We hosted plenty too, with a lifegroup party of 45 friends, and then Papa's and Nana's birthdays, and then Christmas with my parents and sister's family also rolling in. In between putting out meals and trying to be present, I grabbed the camera. 

Here's a whack load of some favorites....

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Homemade Costumes...Mostly

Last night I did a session at this location in the gorgeous light and color and was thinking on my way home how I really haven't taken as many pictures of my own kiddos this fall as I usually do.  My day ended up looking very differently than I'd planned and when the sun peeked through this afternoon, I told the kids to grab their scooters and put on their costumes. We headed down to the same park and I look a happy batch of them in the fall golden light.

I told the kids this year that we were going the creative, homemade route and so they dug through closets and supplies and put these creations together: Scarecrow, Mad Scientist, Ninja....and then the supplies ran dry and I picked up Theo a costume at the store...Captain America! They loved getting in character and I love these crazies!

 

 

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Our Theo is Six

I remember sitting in the Target parking lot about a week after I found out that I was having another boy and not a girl like I'd hoped for our last baby. I was in my van, wondering if I'd ever not feel disappointed.  I so wanted Ruby to have a sister and I wanted one more chance to buy dresses and brush soft hair into pigtails. And then, of course, I was disappointed with myself for feeling that way, because I adored my boys and of course I should have been happy to have another one.

I was puddling through name sites, looking at boys names a few days later and I felt my heart squeeze tightly as I read the name, Theo.  When I read the meaning "gift from God" I remember that sadness in my heart melted away and I cried a river.  A few days later, someone I didn't know very well at church prayed for me and then added that this baby would be a "gift from God."

Oh my goodness, is he ever. Six years old now and a gift to our family every day. His warm and engaging smile, his magnetic and loving personality, his spunky sense of humor is just what we need.  He's a lego building, bike riding, friend loving, snack eating sweetheart. He sings and loves to make up songs, he reads Elephant and Piggie books and gasps for air when he's laughing so hard and he's the one that's always trying to sneak in bed for a cuddle with us in the morning.

It doesn't hurt that he has a soft spot for his mama and he definitely knows I have a soft spot for him. He is truly a reminder to me that God is so amazing in the good gifts that He gives and that I can trust him to absolutely know best.

Happy birthday, Theo! You will forever be a gift to us!

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Seaside or Bust {Our Family Vacation 2016!}

We spent a week in the surf and sand and sunshine last week.  We packed the van with Trader Joe snacks and swimwear and headed south for Seaside and Cannon Beach and had some great family time together.  Tillamook factory, Arcadia Beach, the promenade, shops, Ft. Stevens, Hug Pt., a surrey bike ride, Ecola beach, scooter rides and plenty of ice cream.  We ate at some fabulous restaurants: Pizza A'Fetta, Mo's, The Lazy Susan and a few others. We are all beach people and the huge expanse of water was the best.  Of course there were some crazy moments (picture wrestling brothers wake parents at 6:30 am the first day!) and a sibling tussle or two  ("sorry, if you are rude, you'll miss out on the next ice cream stop!") but thankfully the sunshine covered it all with grace.

Here are a few of my favorite photos of the week.

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Whistler Fun with The Cousins

Sometimes it's hard to find time with all of our schedules to be together so last Christmas, Kelly and I got out our calendars and blocked out four days in the summer to hang out  and let The Cousins play to their hearts' content.  We took the trip up to meet my parents and sister's family in Whistler at Kelly and Dano's vacation home and had some good times.  The kids played in the pool until they were shriveled like raisins and saturated with chlorine.  We hiked through the woods to a cool spot with old railway cars that had graffiti art for the kids to climb.  We went to the village where Oma and Opa treated the kids to anything they wanted in the candy store....whoa!  The biggest excitement was when my sister, the doctor, couldn't handle her daughter's super wiggly tooth anymore and convinced her to let mummy pull it.  And of course, there was lots of Olympic viewing at night and with the kids all piled on a bed. Good times and happy memories!

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The Boy I've Always Wanted

From my friend, Susan (an incredible mama), I took this idea. I regularly tell Jasper. "If I lined up all the boys in the world, the tall ones and short ones, the ones with brown skin or white skin, the ones with grey eyes or green eyes,  I'd walk up and down the rows and see the boys who were good at different things. Some would be good as reading or singing, some would be great jokesters, some would be amazing soccer players, some would be quiet and some would talk all the time. There would be some wonderful boys there with a lot of wonderful hearts ....but the one I'd pick would be you. I'm so glad God picked you for me."

He is the boy I've always wanted.  Sometimes it's hard as he can be really high or really low.  He can wear me out with his intensity but his love and excitement and compassion outweigh the challenges by far. He adores little kids and spends his allowance on me and Ruby. He digs a good joke and clever writing. Nothing pleases him more than having the opportunity to bless another person. He digs in his heels about wanting to stay inside but when I kick him outdoors with his brothers, he can play and race around for hours. He loves to sing and really enjoys artsy stuff and baking. He's Mr. Hospitality, wanting to massage all our visitors.

I can hardly believe it's been nine years since he was born, without crying but licking his lips and scrunching up his face, while Ben, my mum,  and friend, Lenore and I all squealed over him. He was a little lump of love with a big pumpkin head and I was instantly in love. 

We headed out last weekend right before the rain hit to do some birthday portraits.  He obviously was having a good time. This kid LOVES one on one time and attention and was cracking me up almost the whole time with jokes. He's a ham.

Happy birthday, Jasper. I'd pick you every time. 

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Hamilton Highlights of the Christmas Season

Not going to lie....I was jumping up and down on the inside as I dropped the boys off in the carpool lane this morning!  Mama needs some quiet and to get Mt. Laundry under control. However, I feel so happy with our Christmas break and all the special things that we were able to do.  For us, Jesus is the center of the season and opportunities to give and be together are things that we cherish. Once again, Auntie Meghan made an advent calendar full of activities that we brainstormed together and we loved it.  Here are some of the highlights!

Choosing our Christmas tree at the Red Barn Tree Farm, decorating the tree, Journey to Bethlehem, shopping date with Ruby, baking, Theo's program, games and hot chocolate, church trip to Krispy Kreme with the children's ministry staff, Snowflake Lane date with Ben, Garden D'Lights, Christmas movies, baking mugs of chocolate cake, decorating ice cream cone trees, Papa's birthday dinner, Nana's birthday brunch and spa morning, our lifegroup party, telecaroling, Christmas Eve before service pictures and book unwrapping, Christmas Day, night hike and sledding in Vancouver, Pike Street with the kids, Sheraton Gingerbread Village, Tymen's date with Mom and Dad, sledding with lifegroup friends and taking the grandparents to The Sound of Music, their Christmas presents!

Whew! No wonder I'm loving the quiet. Pouring another coffee STAT.

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Our Sweet Theo is Five

He's funny and likes to joke around.

He cuddles and makes dinosaur sounds as he nuzzles into me in the morning.

He does chores like the big kids and hauls laundry up and down stairs for me.

He likes to be the leader when we take bike rides around the neighbourhood. 

He tells me he wants all the people in the world to come to his birthday party...except for the bad guys.

He loves to get new clothes and gets squeaky happy about new shirts and the fact that his new fleece has "fum holes " (thumb holes).

He'll lick as many bowls as I'll give him when we bake.

He loves to make people laugh and he has a laugh that makes everyone smile.

He will talk to strangers every where we go.

He's learning letters and sounds and exults when he gets a word in the Flip-A-Word books.

He's daddy's big boy and mama's baby.

He's the icing on the cake.

He's our gift from God, just like his name means and just like the Lord told me he would be when I was expecting him.

Happy birthday, Theo. We are so glad we get to love you every day. What would we do without you?

He and I popped out to do a few portraits the other evening. Love this boy's smile.

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The Hamilton Family Roadtrip to Disney and Santa Cruz 2015!

It had been a few moons since we'd been away for a family trip and we were ready for a break and some together time!  We'd never been to Disneyland as a family and we figured the kids were at a good age.  We caffeinated up, stocked the car organizers with legos, coloring books, and new novels, and implemented snack stop quarters (someone's genius idea that I LOVED!).  Six quarters at each full gas up per kid that they could spend at the next fuel up if they hadn't lost any for fighting or disobeying.  It was a big incentive as they never get to roam the snack aisle with cash like that.

Disney was hot, busy, happy, exciting, exhausting, thrilling.  We started out at a low on our first day (insert screaming headache, disappearing husband with cell phones and backpacks while I was in line to see Mickey with kids, and anxious crowds running in at opening....you'll see us looking less than thrilled in those pictures!).  However, it definitely got better from there.  We stuck with the plan in the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland and it sure helped prioritize us and we got to do a huge majority of things in the parks.  We were glad Theo was 40 inches as it meant he could go with us on the big rides, though for many, he'd look at the attendant frantically and say, "I don't want to do dis!!!" Then he was exulting at the end.  It was h.o.t. so we took our breaks at the hotel pool each day.  We ate fantastic gourmet pizza right outside the park at Pizza Press each night.  We really loved the World of Color show (and did get soaked) and so enjoyed the parade at Disneyland.

We packed up our souvenirs  and headed north six hours to Santa Cruz, where Ben grew up and we spent our first year of marriage.  It was fun to visit friends, go boogieboarding, travel the boardwalk, eat Pacific Company Cookie Company treats and work hard in the sand and tidepools. Lots of great memories there!

Then we powered back up to home, sweet home, doling out quarters as we went.

I have a boatload of pictures to share so if you want to see a peek of what we did, grab a coffee and start scrolling!

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My Golden Girl

My golden girl is 

growing

shining

maturing

igniting

glowing

changing

lighting up my world.

Ruby came with me when I did a couple mini sessions last week.  At the end we shot a few of her into the sunset. I'm so glad she came along.

On the way home, I told her that I think she is really lovely and that it's her beautiful heart that truly shines through.


She responded with this quote:
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” Roald Dahl.


Right on...makes my mama heart so happy

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Around the Campfire

We haven't camped in a couple of summers.  It was a lot of fun, but when I found Tymen licking his fruit rollup hands as he was coming out of the camping potties, I knew we needed to grow up a little more for my own camping sanity.

We had a great time away this past week!  We drove up to Kalaloch and were blissfully happy at the beach in the beautiful light.  The kids worked hard at building and digging and it was fun seeing them crash through the waves.  We had a wee visit with Kate Densmore and her family.  It was talking to her as she did our "Day in the Life" in April which twigged our interest in heading to that neck of the woods.  We roasted marshmallows, the kids build fires with Ben, and I got to preside over the campfire popcorn popper which I've had since I was little and had to get the knack of again! The kids were ecstatic to help with everything and having Auntie Meghan there made it all the sweeter.


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Fourth of July Happiness

This was the third year that we've done the fourth with friends from our lifegroup (small group from church!).  We started out the day a little slowly as we're all trying to slog through this unseasonable heat but it didn't take the kids long before they were biking around the loop, digging in bags of chips with friends and blowing off the water bottle rocket.  We had a groaning table of really good food, plenty of bbq everything and did a little family flag waving. As the sun went down we dashed up to the hill for a last minute patriotic silhouette and then headed back to our house.  I'd been concerned about the family fireworks show with the dry grass and had asked Ben for just sparklers. Welllllll, there were a few more things involved but the dad-pyros were cautious and had soaked down the front lawn and had buckets of water ready to go if needed.  It was a fun day! Makes me happy to see our kids growing up with friends like these.

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Evening Walk

It feels like it's been a long stretch through this last bit of school.  There's been a ton of good things going on: end of year parties, talent shows, field days, band concerts,spelling bees, field trips, plays, graduations ...but we are cooked (like every other family we know, especially the ones with teachers!).  There's just  a few days to go. 

Even though tonight we needed to go to bed, we walked to the park in the sunshine instead.  Our friends were there and the kids were thrilled to play together.  Looking forward to many golden nights at the park this summer.

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Mother’s Day Portraits with My Crazies

If you’ve been around me for 10 minutes when I talk about family photography, you know I beat the drum pretty hard about parents being in pictures with their kids.  My kids don’t care if I don’t look like I did when I was 25, if my hair is a mess or I have a few extra pounds on me.  They care about ME being with THEM. I can’t even tell you how much I value the pictures of us together.

On Mother’s Day, after eating a wonderful dinner, we ran to the fields for 20 minutes of light.  All I wanted was a few simple portraits of me with each kid and all of us together.  My sweet sister-in-law shot these portraits for me which I LOVE.  So worth the crazy drive over.

There’s no gift like the gift of being a mama.

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Our March 2015

I have a stack of 12 by 12 albums on a table in our family room.  It pleases me to no end to see our kids picking these up and paging through them.  I do it fairly frequently too and find myself savouring the details of every day life, the stuff that feels so ordinary and yet as the years go by, mark these seasons so distinctly. Here’s a peek at our March.

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Our Tymen Christian is Seven

Maybe because he’s my busiest one during the day, he’s also my sleepiest one in the mornings. Often when I go to get him out of bed he tucks his blanket right over his head and if I have time, I crawl in bed beside him, smell his sleepy, little boys smell and savour that even though he’s growing, he’s still my little boy. He’s loud and kind of ricochets around the house at full speed. He makes animal howls and wrestles his brothers, flashes grins at goofy jokes and likes to play with his buddies. He prefers books like Geronimo Stilton and loves to be read to when we cuddle together.  He has about a dozen stray socks under his bed and builds legos. He’s generous and quick to respond,enjoys a good laugh, and runs fast when I try to pinch his skinny bum when I walk up the stairs behind him.  He’s easily content and got a happy heart.  He loves his family and knows that God has made him special.

He’s our gift. Seven years of loving this boy, and a lifetime ahead of us…how blessed are we?

Tymie and I headed off the other night for some birthday pictures, the kind that require rubber boots so I could let him just play and muck around, climb things, get in the mud and throw a few rocks. I love that in these pictures I can see the monkey, wild child, and sweetheart that he is.

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Lenore

I made the seven hour drive to Montana to see my friend, Lenore.  I arrived at her darling apartment, curled up on her couch and we talked for hours.  There was the weave of easy conversation, gasping for air because we were laughing so hard, and digging into the heart stuff. We finally peeled ourselves off to bed at 2 a.m. and for the rest of the weekend, the ongoing conversation continued, between eating, driving, walking.  It was what I needed, to be with an old friend who’s walked many,many miles with me.  To know and be known is a great gift. She’s a beauty, clearly.  Her inner light clearly shines and she’s a magnet.  I pestered her to take some pictures as we did our hanging out, and she laughed and let me.  I got a couple of us together too, though I forgot my darn remote and had to do the old set-the-timer-and-run-like-crazy-into-the-picture routine.

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