Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Merry Christmas We Had

'Twas the morning of Christmas and all through the room, 
nothing was stirring but my coffee mug spoon.   
The boys were restrained to the top of the stairs, 
in hopes they'd soon be allowed down there. 
Once Momma with her camera and Dad with his mug,
were all braced for impact of giddy boy hugs,
When all down the stairs there arose such a clatter, 
As big boys and babies dove into packaging matter. 
Away to the windows to open them wide, 
Seventy degrees outside, and laughter inside. 
Then what to my wondering eyes did appear, 
were three super heroes, all brave with no fear. 
Then there were whistles and shouting and calling by name, 
Each gift, each surprise, each Lego, each game. 
Their eyes how they twinkled, their laughter so merry, 
Who knew sweet tarts stain like a bowl full of cherries?
But surrounded by messes that are a beautiful sight, 
We stopped to thank Jesus for the first Christmas night. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas on the Hill

Let me just get this out of the way.
I know a lot of people were disappointed over the lack of seasonal weather.
But in our corner of the world we have been more than happy to ditch the winter coats and be outside when otherwise it would be freezing. 
That being said, we've been out exploring and enjoying Christmastime in DC without the seasonal side effect of going numb in the toes. 
And in addition to the lack of freeze, homeschooling also has benefits. Such as, being able to enjoy tourist attractions that will be impossibly crowded once schools let out. 
So with the combination of warm and not being tied to a school schedule, we headed off to Hill favorites. One of our Christmas adventures this year was invading the US Botanic Gardens. 
While this place boasts a several hour long line during Christmas break, we walked right inside to the trains and tropics. 
We could count on one hand how many other people we saw as the kids had free roam of the trains exhibit, scavenger hunts, and waterfalls. 
And when it comes to four kids who haven't had dinner, skipped nap time, and are up past their bedtime, it's always a great thing when we have a place to ourselves. 
After we finished exploring every inch of the trains and gardens we headed across the street to the National Christmas tree. 
It never gets old. Wether we're freezing or warm, hungry or not, it's worth it all to see these faces.
The ones lit up with the magic of Christmastime. 
It goes by so fast. The growing wide eyed faces get more mature each Christmas. So sneaking off for fun adventures as a family, even if some of them are tired and hungry, are priceless. And of course, being comfortable outside while we do them doesn't hurt either ;)

Friday, December 25, 2015

A Very Merry Christmas

Our windows are wide open, coffee is preferred iced, and t-shirts are being worn this 2015 Christmas morning. I thanked Matt for asking God for a warm day for me as a present. :) 
The kids are buried in wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, and new favorite treasures and we probably won't hear from them for at least ten minutes, then someone is bound to be hungry. 
But surrounded in all this paper and celebrating I can't help but be incredibly overwhelmed by the goodness and indescribable grace of our awesome God. For the blessings of being the mother of these four giddy kids, for the privilege of being able to buy them presents to unwrap, for the mercy of my Father for presenting us holy and blameless washed by the blood of His Son. I am speechless. Praising God for this Christmas! 
Merry Christmas, and may God show you himself anew this coming year!
Love, the Clarks

Monday, December 21, 2015

Parade Route Etiquette

When one attends a small hometown parade, there are several rules of etiquette to be considered...
1. Bring camping chairs, picnic blankets, wagons, strollers, coolers, a food truck, a flag for claiming territory and build a small compound for optimal family parade viewing. 
2. Give young children caffeinated sugary drinks before parade in case they won't have access to any sugar or energy producing stimuli during parade. 
3. Forget to bring healthy snack options and ensure that your hungry children will need to stem their hunger with hopeful parade produced sugary products.
4. Ensure parade is scheduled for nap time. This will create an added chaotic element highly compatible to parade atmospheres. 
5. Allow young children to encourage the parade participants to practice throwing out candy before actual start of parade. This wi'll further amp their surge levels and enhance the nap-free, nutritionally void atmosphere. 
6. Once the parade route is officially closed down to traffic, move family compound (refer to 1.) as close to the road as possible. If your toes are resting on asphalt you have achieved this. 
7. Encourage sleep deprived, sugar jacked children to play in the road. 
8. Once the children are comfortable playing in the middle of the road, stage a photo shoot. 
9. For proper parade route closure photo shoots, you must include a jumping shot. 
10. Allow young children to pretend they are in the parade and march down the street waving to confused strangers.
11. Always bring a pink bear, they are a hit among parade goers. 
12. Make sure to keep an eye on the young children playing in the road. They may become overly comfortable in their surroundings. 
13. During parade, encourage the youngest children to take naps. The optimal napping time should be during the cannon fire and marching bands. 
14. Encourage children to consume all the candy they collect from parade participants to ensure not having to bring any home for later, that would truly be improper etiquette. 

Or just soak it in, enjoy every minute, and let your kids make incredible, loud, and sticky memories. :) 

Friday, December 18, 2015

O Little Town

The boys love going to Bethlehem. In fact, we go once a year. 
Not sure what their favorite part is, the funnel cakes or getting yelled at by centurion soldiers. 
But regardless, we keep coming back year after year and each time it opens their little eyes to the reality of God becoming man. 
A church near our hometown built "Bethlehem" on their land and every Christmas season they open the city gates. 
After an hour or more of waiting in lines and a holding tent, yes it's that popular and yes, it's that worth it, you move your bundled frozen self out into the dark and up to the gates of Bethlehem. 
Every year something new stands out to the boys. Harrison loved the Roman soldiers last year, but this year he was not a fan of their intimidating mannerisms and mocking of the travelers. 
He said he understood why people back then lived in fear of the Roman soldiers and government. A neat guy in our group took note of Harrison's uncertainty and promised him his protection from the "soldiers". :) 
Jefferson really got into the whole experience. He listened intently to the inn keeper deny Mary and Joseph a room. And then he was so caught up in the events that he disappeared through city gates to go hang out with the shepherds without our knowing. 
We finally caught up to him as he was standing around the camp fire with the shepherds. Suddenly the angels appeared and Jefferson froze soaking in their every word of where to find the newborn King. 
So we all hurried off with the shepherds to the stable and the boys approached quietly and gently listening to Mary sing to baby Jesus. 
We then followed the life of Jesus. We watched him being presented in the temple and Simeon and Anna praise God. We saw him disciple and speak of his death. We saw the empty tomb and spoke with Nicodemus who told us of his "born again" conversation with Jesus. 
Once the boys' minds and hearts were full and pondering it was time for one of their favorite parts of Bethlehem, cookies and hot chocolate! 
We couldn't feel our feet anymore and our fingers were frozen but it was so worth it to see Jesus come alive in a tangible way to these little guys. 
It's hard to picture Emmanuel and the events surrounding his birthday. But between bites of chocolate chip cookies it's awesome to hear little boys talk about feeling scared like shepherds, feel excited like Simeon, feel worried like the disciples, and feel excited over the empty tomb. I love that they both came home and told me the most important thing on their Christmas wishlist is giving God themselves, just like God gave us himself as a baby, a long time ago, in Bethlehem.