On Family Pictures & Waves of Grief

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Hodgson Family ~ Fall 2015

Family pictures are a tricky thing for me. I treasure photos greatly. I enjoy the art of taking pictures, looking and re-looking at pictures and capturing precious moments. However, whenever it comes to family photos, though there is a smile on my face, my heart is divided. I can’t help but think of our precious sons who should be beside us in our family pictures. It almost seems wrong to capture a “family” photo without them! However, this is our family, at present, and I desperately want it captured nonetheless. I even go so far as to think, “What if this is our last family photo together?!?!” Because sometimes it is, and we just never know. On the flip side, I thank God for the family I have here and that gives me reason to smile and capture this moment. I suspect I will always feel the void, the struggle and the pangs of sadness.


Christmas 2011 ~ Our Last “Family” Picture with Andrew

I didn’t anticipate grief flooding in this Christmas season. The waves definitely come fewer and farther between, and this one came unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere. Dear friends were sharing their burdens of loss and pain during Sunday School one morning. Their hearts echoed what was all too familiar to me. I bit my lip and wrestled through class, thinking I could hold it together because I’m typically not much of a crier. I ducked my head and made a beeline for my spot on the pew for service,  I just couldn’t shake this deep sorrow that filled my heart. Images of the day we lost Andrew flashed through my mind. The throbbing ache in my arms, desperate to hold my children close, was there. I wondered and worried about how my surviving children would deal with the deaths of their brothers into their adult years. The memories, thoughts and tears wouldn’t stop. This Christmas a dear friend gifted our kids with Christmas outfits, and I kept thinking, Andrew and Isaiah should have matching outfits too! It just didn’t seem fair. I simply could not hold back the tears that came in torrents down my face. I had to walk out of that service and go home. I felt unable to stand up under the weight of the grief. It felt so bizarre to be feeling these gut wrenching emotions, seemingly out of the blue. I suspect these moments will always come. It’s all part of the journey. I’m still not used to it and am surprised by grief.

Sleigh Family

December 2015

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Four Beautiful Children in Christmas Outfits

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Christmas 2015


Here’s to 2016! Happy New Year!

In 2015, family pictures, Christmastime and ringing in the New Year held another new set of emotions for me. Throughout the festivities, I kept wondering if, perhaps, this was our last Christmas as a family as we now know it. Would we be sharing our celebrations with a new son or daughter next Christmas season? If God would allow us to add to our family in 2016, we would be so grateful. I treasured this season with my family a little bit differently, not knowing what 2016 would hold.

By the grace of God, and with hope, I do know Who holds 2016. I’m thankful for His faithfulness. I’m trusting in His provision and timing, glad that He can see the big picture that I can’t. He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Week In Review ~ February 1


The weather was really mild at the beginning of the week so Ben and the boys worked on their backyard  fort. A friend of ours generously gave the boys several boards to use and they were thrilled!


Lately this girl has been LOVING listening to her Beginner’s Bible on CD. Since she can’t read very well yet, she spends a lot of time just sitting on her bed, looking at the pictures and listening.


My sweet husband has worked very diligently on adoption paperwork this week. Things are progressing faster than we thought and we should be able to submit our dossier VERY soon! Praise God!


Cody wanted to make pumpkin bread this week. He did and it was delicious!


For date day, these two went ice skating. I’m not sure who loved it more. 🙂


I think her love language is “Reading Aloud” and I think Cody is her favorite. 🙂


Hehe! Farm animal sounds. 🙂


It takes a lot to get this guy down. He’s fighting a bad cold.


Daddy and the girls stayed home from church Wednesday night. The boys were excited to visit the James General Store where Mr. Stache gave them mustaches!


Ugh. This was taken early Thursday morning after I found her in her bed with her diaper off. I’ll spare you the details. She sure does make it pretty difficult to stay mad at her though. 🙂


Since we were all tired from rough nights of sleep and fighting colds, we took Thursday off school and spent time with stickers, baby dolls and our new game, Bohnanza. We’ve borrowed it, and it’s a family favorite, so we were excited to get our own!


Her other favorite thing to play with besides books. 🙂 She LOVES her babies!


They discovered the concordance!


Science was taught by my lovely sister this week. Our experiment had us measuring lung capacity.


The experiment turned out to be a disaster and quite soggy. 😦 We had some good laughs though!


On Saturday, our kids spent the day with my sister’s family so we could take an all-day membership class at our church. We LOVED the class and are so thankful for our church! We got to go grocery shopping and have dinner together before picking the kids up for bed. It was a wonderful date day!


On Sunday we woke up to quite a bit of snow and it kept coming!


The weather didn’t stop us from going to a super bowl party!


This is what the Super Bowl is all about, right?!?!


It’s such a joy to have my oldest sister living close by these days. We enjoyed chatting (even though with 8 kids there are LOTS of interruptions), playing Bananagrams and she spoiled me with this delicious latte. So thankful for her!

Operation Christmas Child…One Week Left!

“What goes in a shoebox gift is fun…what comes out is eternal.”
~ Samaritan’s Purse

  We had our annual shopping and packing parties!

Shopping! Packing! A box for a girl. A box for a boy. Little packer. Excited!

It is such an honor to be able to share Jesus’ love through a box of trinkets. As a family we cherish these opportunities to serve others and pray for kids who are the same ages as our own children. It’s amazing when we imagine how much our box will mean to a child on the other side of the world.

All you need is a box…

A box.

…some stuff…

Some stuff.

notes to make it personal…

Writing notes. Making it personal. Our notes.

…some prayer…

Praying together for the children who receive our boxes.

…and a shipping label.

Shipping labels. Attached label.

Just like that, they’re ready to deliver to a nearby drop-off location!

A stack of boxes.

It’s that fun and easy!

I want to encourage you to pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child if you haven’t already. You can read more about it here. This has been a wonderful tradition for our family for the last few years and it’s one we’ve all come to enjoy and look forward to. It has opened our eyes to the needs of these children and hopefully has impacted our world in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. These families are hearing about Jesus, some for the very first time! National Collection Week is November 17th-24th, 2014 so pack a box while you still can. You won’t regret it.

Excited about packed boxes!

Date Day

It’s Tuesday, and at our house, that means “Date Day”. Today, Ethan had some money he wanted to spend so he requested we spend our time this afternoon at Meijer. He was especially interested in looking at the HexBugs but we spent a fair amount of time looking at and talking about Legos. In the end, he purchased a new HexBug and some bands for his Rainbow Loom. He is so much fun to be with and, what a gentleman! He opened my van door for me when we were heading out. Be still my heart.


Date Day is a favorite tradition in our house. In 2012, in an effort to spend more quality time with each of our children, we implemented Date Day. Every week (for awhile it was Monday afternoons, now it is every Tuesday) we take turns having one-on-one time with each of our older children. When Lillyanna graduates from afternoon naps she’ll get in the rotation too, but for now it’s just Cody, Ethan and Allie. It is very systematic: Ben & Cody, Me & Ethan, Ben & Allie, Me & Cody, Ben & Ethan, Me & Allie, and so forth and so on. While everyone else is having rest time in the afternoon the pair heads off for time alone together, usually 1-2 hours.

This time looks different every week but our goal is to make it cost little to no money. We have done things such as a bike ride, a trip to the library, a visit to the zoo, playing at the children’s museum, time at the park, building things in the garage, a spa party in the bathroom, the play area at the mall, games or crafts in the basement, Lego building, ice cream, soccer in the backyard, shopping, errands and one time even snuggling on our bed and listening to the Frozen soundtrack.

I realize that none of these things are super spectacular in and of themselves, and often times we selfishly don’t want to give up that time in the afternoon. However, it is incredibly important and awesome for our kids, and therefore, it has become an increasingly important time for us. Life is busy and noisy and when four children are clamoring for our time and attention, inevitably someone gets neglected or pushed aside. As long as we are able, we want to fight for this special time with our kids. We don’t want to lose them in the hustle and bustle, and this is our little way of showing them how important they are to us. We treasure these little ones and these times we have together.

Here are a few pictures of date days gone by…

01-IMG_2977 02-IMG_3682 03-IMG_3793 04-IMG_3954 05-IMG_4910 06-IMG_5305 07-IMG_0539 08-IMG_1885 09-IMG_2492 10-IMG_2697 11-IMG_5012So thankful for these times and these memories. May we strive to be intentional and purposeful with our time here on earth. We are only here for a little while.