Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thankful Thursday: In-laws

Today I just want to share how thankful I am for my in-laws.  I know many people do not have a good relationship with their parents-in-law, but I feel very blessed to have gained another set of parents when I married Ben.  Visiting them isn’t something I dread, but something I enjoy.

My in-laws live the perfect distance away.  Three hours is an easy trip, even with kiddos.  We can visit fairly often.  But…they aren’t on my doorstep every day.  (Just kidding, Sissy!)

Mom & Dad Hamilton have been a particular blessing as we have started deputation.  We have dropped in numerous times to split the distance between a meeting and home.  We have used them as a “base of operations” as we visit New England churches.  Sometimes we call the day of and say, “Can we stop by for supper?”  They are always glad to have us, even on short notice.

In fact, the sheets in the guest room are ours, and the pack n plays have remained set up, just waiting for our arrival! 

We got to stop by last Friday to celebrate Elaine’s birthday with Grandma & Grampa.  We then left all four kids with them so Ben and I could go to our NH meeting alone (which also happened to be our anniversary).  Before departing we enjoyed a lovely fall hike at Ashuwillticook Trail. 

Fall Walk in MA
I got them all looking!

Fall Walk in MA
Liberty enjoyed walking with Grampa – and then she decided to turn into a collector.  She actually tried to pick up every leaf from the trail.  When she got too many, she shoved them in Grampa’s hands while she collected more.  She does like to clean up the toys at home, but I had never seen her like this!  She’s going to have a clean house one day!

Fall Walk in MA

Fall Walk in MA

Fall Walk in MA

Fall Walk in MA

Fall Walk in MA
The “bigs” with Grandma. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Overall, They're the Best!

For the Campout to celebrate Elaine's birthday, all the boys donned their finest...

Dad Hamilton, Nolan, Nehemiah, and Ben


It's a Campout!

...A backyard campout, that is!  In order to include Grandma & Grandpa in Elaine's birthday celebration, we had to do it a couple of weeks early while we are here this weekend  Something Elaine has mentioned wanting to do for her birthday is camping.  But since she's a November birthday, it's usually too cold.  Ben came up with the idea of camping out in the backyard at Grandma's house.  It's not too cold yet, and the house is right there if things do get too cold during the night.  We opted to keep the babies inside, so it was a Grandpa-Daddy-Elaine-Nolan campout.
The birthday girl and her gifts & balloons
 Grandma did the menu and the cake, and it was fabulous!  The kids got to roast their hotdogs over the fire pit (pictures did not come out well), and then we finished it off with an amazing ice cream cake and mini cupcakes!
blow, baby, blow!
best combination ever - mint chocolate chip and moose tracks ice cream with oreo cookie crust!

Nehemiah could NOT wait to get at those cupcakes!
A couple of months ago Ben pulled a giant doll house out of someone's trash pile.  It was in great condition!  But...we had no doll house furniture.  It's been populated with giraffes, dinosaurs, and Little People, but Elaine has been asking for doll house stuff for her birthday.  She hit the jackpot!  My mom sent the Family, Grandma got her a Living Room set, and we gave her the Dining Room.  Even Nolan got a brother!
And kind of as a joke, but also a lot of seriousness, Elaine's siblings got her this:
Here's the background...I buy the super cheap, 1000 sheets-per-roll, basic toilet paper.  Elaine has often complained, "EVERYONE has softer toilet paper than we do!"  So I bought her the softest, squishiest kind I could find.  3-ply even!  And she loved it.  And vowed not to share!
And off to bed they went...
Happy Birthday Elaine!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Elaine's 5th

Elaine will turn five on November 5th.  Just twelve days away!  (I know because I get asked several times a day!) However, fitting in a birthday celebration with our deputation traveling is tricky.  It worked out for us to be with Ben's parents this weekend, so we are taking the opportunity to celebrate her birthday tonight. 
Someone told Elaine that this is her Golden Birthday, and she has been talking about it incessantly.  She wanted to have her hair put in curlers last night and she picked out a fancy dress today.  (We had to change dresses, because the birthday celebration she chose is camping in the back yard and roasting supper over the fire).
Since she was all "duded" up and in a happy spirit, I snapped a few pictures.  I was super pleased with what I got after just a few shots.
I love this shot - the smile, the curly hair, the big bow... so we needed it black and white and color!  {Grandma - click to enlarge and save it to your computer!}
I did my photo editing on my tablet this time, and it was so quick & easy!  I guess technology IS a good thing.  I love this one in black & white!
And of course, we see this face a little too often, too.  She is a first-born, strong-willed, super-smart, likes-to-be-the-mommy, blessing-to-my-heart kind of a girl.
It seems like just yesterday that I was having my first labor pains and excitedly putting things in the car to go to the hospital.  Exictement turned to concern when the doctor couldn't stabilize her heartrate.  We tried several things to help labor speed up, but around 9 p.m. the nurse was told to prep me for a C-section.  Elaine was in distress, and they decided to be on the safe side. 
We had decided to be surprised with the baby's gender.  I heard my baby crying as they lifted her out.  Ben said, "It's a... it's a... it's a girl!"  I was so happy!  (And my mom was right - she had been convinced it was a girl for a while!)
Elaine has been raised in New York City.  Many people have questioned our decision to minister in NYC because of the dangers it presents for our children.  Ben's answer is always that we are safer in God's Will in NYC than anywhere else on earth.  City life has it's draw backs for kids.  I have often wished I had a little patch of grass to call a back yard. 
But to Elaine, all of this is "normal" because it's all she's ever known.  She knows all about traffic lights and rules for crossing the street.  She knows about walking everywhere and which train goes by our house.  She even knows the names of the major bridges in New York City. 
I can't believe she's almost five!  We have been homeschooling for about two months now.  She is doing an excellent job learning to write, reading signs everywhere we go, and discovering new phonics sounds.  She is constantly trying to add numbers together and teach them to Nolan.  She can memorize quickly, and knows many Bible verses.
Elaine loves to help and do everything that Mommy does.  She can make the salads for supper, and she always asks to help clean the bathroom or mop the floor.  Her new chore is folding all of the napkins and washcloths on laundry day (though she wasn't so happy to be assigned a permanent task!)  She loves to help with the twins - changing diapers, picking out clothes, holding their hands.  She is very proud that she taught them to put their napkins in their laps!
Elaine loves dogs and horses right now.  She's all about making friends and having a club.  She has a great imagination and leads her siblings in all kinds of new pretend-play adventures.  Her favorite colors are purple and pink, and she loves "girl 'fume" (perfume) and lip gloss.  Anything that can be dipped in ranch is a favorite food, and she loves Brooklyn bagels and pizza.
We have definitely had the struggles with a very strong will - even at this young age.  I already apologized to my mom, and told her that I have reaped back everything I put my parents through, and more!  I know that once the Lord gets total control of her heart, she will be unstoppable for Him.  Elaine has asked some very good questions about salvation over the last few months, and my Mommy heart is hopeful that soon there will be a new name written down in glory.
Five seems so young, but compared to the twins she is so grown up!  I'm so proud of my little princess, and so blessed to be her Mommy.  God has taught me more through being a parent than through any other life experience.  I love you Elaine!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Missionary Moments

We have just returned from one of our “bigger” or “extended” deputation trips thus far.  We were in three different conferences back to back, taking us from October 8th to October 19th.  I think the Lord is giving me “little” trips like this to practice packing, presenting, and parenting on the road so I know better how to do it when we leave in January for 4-5 months.  {Not yet looking forward to that time, but it’s growing on me}.

There were some funny moments, hard-to-deal-with moments, and exhausting moments (like putting 4,000 miles on our van since October 1st, including round trip from MA to WI in three days).  But all of these make up some very Missionary Moments.  I thought you might want to laugh and experience them along with me.

Missionary moments jpg

In Palmer, MA I gave my testimony for the first time without crying!  That’s a definite improvement! 

I learned that our new van is easier to move around in, but it also takes the bumps a bit harder.  I hit a Brooklyn pothole on the way out of town, and everything in the back in jumped up about 4 inches…including the clothes bar.  No – it did not land back in the same place.  It fell, along with all of the neatly hung dress clothes!

We stayed with a family in MA that had seven grown children.  We had told the kids that they had seven children.  We were sitting at breakfast with Mr. & Mrs. Begley, and one of their sons walked into the room.  Nolan immediately asked “Why does she have two husbands?”  Thankfully, the Begley's were not offended!

At the same conference, I opened Elaine’s Bible as Ben began to preach, and handed it to her.  She pushed it away, whispering, “That’s okay Mommy.  I don’t need it.  Daddy’s done this one before.”  Yes, he certainly has!

IMG_2459Learning to nap in the car

In WI we were supposed to stay with a family that came down with shingles and chicken pox.  Gratefully, we were moved to the home of a faculty member of Maranatha Baptist University (the host for the annual meeting of BWM, our mission board).  But…the new host home was very breakable.  Know what I mean?  Add four kids ages four and under – NOT a good story!  I came in from unloading the van one night to find Nolan standing on the glass coffee table.  Thankfully, our hostess was not home! 

Because of the breakable nature of things in the host home, we opted to spend a lot of time on campus of the college.  This meant naps…in the student center.  Imagine being a college student and coming up to play carpet ball with a friend, only to discover two toddlers napping in the carpet ball thingey, and two pack n plays close at hand with sleeping babies.  Yup, I’d turn around and head back to the dorm too!

First Happy Meals

Last weekend we were in CT.  We were staying in the basement.  Ben was showering on Sunday morning when the tub drain or something went wrong.  The end of the story is that the bathroom was flooded, it seeped under the wall, and I went to church on Sunday without a shower.  Aren’t you glad you weren’t sitting next to me?  Thankful for a curling iron!

Some of the not-quite-so-funny missionary moments include the renewal of regular  chiropractor visits.  Four beds in 10 days has done a number on my back!  I couldn’t even bend over to pick up the babies on Sunday morning.  I woke up this morning in my own bed, completely confused.  I had to ask Ben where I was!  I’m also getting accustomed to being in the nursery – a lot.  Many smaller churches we’re visiting haven’t had kids for a while, so they don’t have a regular nursery staff.

IMG_2512Making new friends…

We are also learning to depend on the Lord in new ways.  For strength to drive and to stay awake.  For gas in the van.  For provision of our needs when we’re not at home.  Like being given postage stamps, laundry soap, and quarters for the laundry mat.  The Lord has been good to us, and I’m sure there are many harder deputation days ahead.

As we came into the City last night, Nolan woke up and immediately was excited.  “Look Mommy!  That’s OUR city!  New York!”  So exciting to see my kids call this place home, and I can’t wait to make things a little more permanent in the Bronx.

OUR City

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Answers to Prayer

My heart is so full as I write this.  Today has been a full day, and I’ve shed quite a few tears.  Some sad ones, many happy ones.
Brother Clark M. at our church has been ill for several weeks.  He had a stroke and has difficulty recovering.  The kids have helped me to pray for him many times a day.  We pray for Brother Clark to be healed, and we pray for Mrs. Linda (his wife).  Today, God answered our prayer.  In the wee hours of the morning, the Lord saw fit to call Brother Clark home to heaven.  We received the news as we were preparing breakfast this morning.
Linda gave such a sweet testimony of the Lord’s work, His grace, and His salvation in the church this morning.  We know of at least one person who trusted the Lord because of the witness of Linda during Clark’s illness.  I am so happy for Clark – he is healed – just not here on earth.  He is in such a better place, in the presence of our Lord.  My heart is heavy for Linda.
We have a good friend named Carol.  We have prayed for Carol’s salvation for several years.  She comes to church often.  My kids love her, and I know she loves them too.  Today, after the services, Carol made the decision to be born again.  I cried again – such happy tears.  I was so thrilled that I got to see her today, on the day when she received new life.  My kids have also prayed often for Miss Carol.  It was with great excitement that I told the kids of her decision.
We have this jar with popsicle sticks in it.  Each one has a prayer request on it.  We let the kids pick one to pray for before bedtime.  It is not often that we get to remove a stick, because the prayer requests are mostly long-term concerns.  Today we got to remove two sticks from our jar: one stick for Brother Clark, and one stick for Miss Carol.
I can’t help but think that Brother Clark is having a grand time rejoicing in heaven today because a "new name was written down in glory".  He was a prayer warrior, and I know he prayed for Carol’s salvation for quite some time.  Today he gets to rejoice over this answer to prayer from the glories of heaven.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Throughout the week I often capture pictures on my phone instead of pulling out the camera.  The pictures aren’t always the best quality, but it’s real life in action.  Here are the “best” shots from last week…

Elaine Cleaning the Fridge   img_2398
Elaine cleaned out the fridge for me :: Uncle Evan gave a tractor ride to the “bigs”

I’m an auntie!  Baby Amelia is a sweetie…


The kids climbed a tree – for the first time – by themselves!  They were playing Hide N Seek with Ben

This picture doesn’t do justice to the amazing fall colors we experienced in Vermont this week.  It was THE week to be there, and the drive on Sunday morning was breathtaking!  We were on state road 58, which isn’t even paved all the way through, but the view was worth it!

Sidewalk chalk at Grandma’s house.  I’ve noticed these two hanging together a lot lately – Libs and Noley.

Nehemiah is a true boy – content with a bike or ball.

Nolan’s heart.  He’s never stuck with it to color anything in completely before!

Elaine’s heart.  And some things she’s been learning in school -
2 3 i t T 3, and the last squiggle was her “s”.  We struggle with those!

This is hard to see, but Libs slept on a giant teddy every night at Grandma’s.

Addressing a letter to a missionary friend whom she’s never met – but will get to meet in a couple of weeks!

Riding the new bull at the pet store.  Simple pleasures, people!

This one is MY FAVORITE!  I let the twins out of the stroller when we got to our street.  And they joined hands with the bigs and walked home.  Most pleasant walk in a long time!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Bigger Van

As we prepare for full time deputation, we have been hashing out ideas for how to travel when the van is “home”.  With all of the baby gear needed for twins, and the addition of homeschooling, the minivan just didn’t seem big enough.  And though it seats 7, it’s more like 5 1/2 when you add in four car seats.

We decided to start looking for a full size van.  Dad found one right away on a government surplus auction site.  Everything seemed good – only 26k miles, maintained every 3500 miles, in Florida near my brother so he could go an inspect it.  The price started right in our budget range, but we didn’t know if it would sit there long.

We watched the van for 10 days.  Finally, on the night before the auction ended, there was a bid.  We waited until a couple hours before the end of the auction to enter our bid.  We had determined our highest possible price, and prayed that if God wanted us to get the van, that He would provide it.

On the afternoon of the bidding, we received a check from my grandparents with an advance toward the purchase of the van.  Then we got a call and told to raise our max bid by $500 if needed, and it would be provided.  We entered a bid, and were immediately outbid by the first bidder.  I had four different alarms set on my phone so that I wouldn’t forget to bid again before the end of the auction!  (It’s amazing how many brain cells are lost on four small children…)

10 minutes before the end of the auction, I entered a new high bid, still not at our “highest possible”.  Now the high bidders, I waited to see if we would need to raise the bid or pass on the van.  The auction ended, and we were the winners!  And for over $1000 less than our highest possible bid based on our budget.

New Van

On the way home from Vermont Monday, I dropped Ben off in Albany to fly to Florida and pick up the van.  We stayed a couple of days with Grandma & Grampa Hamilton while Ben was driving home.  The kids were very excited to get home and see our new van!

New Van

I drove it today for the first time.  I admit – it feels very large!  I only had to park once, but I was able to find a big enough spot.  I have not really driven a vehicle this big before, and certainly not in the City, but I know I will get adjusted.  I can easily fit three kids in one row of seats, which is nice.  We have two empty spaces instead of one.  (And no – there is not another baby on the way).  And we have LOTS of room in the back end!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Cousins!

Baby Amelia – our first cousin (on either side) – was born on July 31st.  I was praying for an August baby, but she came in four minutes too early!  We finally got to meet her on Friday.