Monday, July 10, 2017


...two and a half years later.

 For the last year that still small voice has been egging me on to write here and I've made poor excuses. (Like binge-watching Poldark instead of updating. Eeeek.) Couldn't shake it today, shouldn't have shook it off before, but nevertheless here's my comeback. Whatever that may look like in days to come. It's worth it, if only for the history of my blot of life and the lives of those I love like crazy.

So, an update seems like a great place to start and then I'll attempt to take off from there. Two and a half years have been jam-packed with lots of good, lots of hard, and LOTS of humbling. "Hard is not the same as bad." I read that on an Instagram account I follow and it stuck.

Hubby: Turned 42 last month and is still in better shape than me, 9 years younger. *eye roll* He has been through some big job related obstacles in the last two years and has weathered it with incredible patience and grace and humility. Man of God for the books, friends. I LOVE his heart. More on that another time since it's a big chunk of our 'glory to God' story the last couple years has unfolded. He's still rocking out on guitar any chance he gets and being the rock star husband to all my DIY house project dreams.

Annabelle: She's approaching double digits! AH! HOW HAS IT BEEN A DECADE SINCE I BECAME A MOM!? She is nothing like I imagined her personality would be and everything I love that it is. She loves dancing and drawing and painting and dress up and breezy walks. She loves babies with a deep devotion I haven't seen in many young people. She loves head-banging music.  (That threw you, didn't it? Yeah, me too.) I find her often with a pair of drum sticks and her long hair flying around. I'm not even kidding a little bit. Skillet is her current go-to. I blame her Dad. ;-)

Bennett: Turned 8 this Summer! Almost two years younger than his big sis and he's the same height and a larger shoe size. My gentle spirit that quakes at injustice. Inquisitive and a perfectionist (blame me for that one). He's a wanna-be professional-anything-sports-related. Which is hilarious because my husband and I know less than zero about most sports. He and Annabelle began piano lessons last Fall and he caught on fast and loved it immediately. One of my favorite parts of the day is bedtime with Bennett when it's just he and I chatting as I tuck him in. Sometimes it's big God questions. Sometimes he has new jokes to tell me. Always he requests a song. Always he's quick to say "I love you too, Mom" and "Thanks for doing that, Mom".

Emmalee: Four going on 14. Completely different from her older siblings and making me realize how much I need Christ in motherhood. No, really. I love her fierce for that though. She's so similar to my own personality and struggles that it seems a spotlight is cast on my own heart during tough life stuff and we often repent together. She's honestly a gift to me. A gift I prayed long and hard for and wept over and had faith for when a vision was granted me of her future. She's my present. My shy, socially awkward girl who loves Doc McStuffins and cooking in the kitchen and books. Lots and lots of books.

Me: 33 is approaching fast. Does anyone else in their 30s when telling their age realize it really feels like it must still be the 20s except these 30s are way better than those 20s so something must be different? Does that even make sense? Anyhow, I'm running. Or attempting to. Isn't that just something most 30 year olds realize? "I should run." Ha! It's hard and I'm slow and only up to 5.5 miles, but it's something. I was finally diagnosed with a kidney disease a couple years ago that has brought it's own roller coaster moments, but that's another story for another time. Through it all, I've learned just how faithful God is to me. How constant He is. How the struggles and victories in our personal lives aren't just for us. They're for His glory; for the world that He loves so dearly.

Easter 2017 visiting family in Charleston, SC

June 2017 Kiddos at home before piano recital 

Heather Dowling at 4:24 PM


Friday, February 13, 2015

Two Years.

On January 12th the baby girl turned two. Though, really not a baby if you ask her. Two is big girl status now. She'll let you know in many words (and in length) her preferences, feelings, doings, and thoughts on just about everything and anyone. Phew! The running joke around here is I wasn't a veteran mom, even after two previous children, until Em arrived. Emmalee is my curve-ball. My whole-new-ballgame. My throw-the-book-out-the-window-and-get-on-your-knees-and-pray kind of kid. My "there's one in every family". You get the idea.

She's feisty, and determined. She's expressive, and spirited, She's aggressive, and strong. Her toddler mouth spouting lengthy sentences and detailed stories often dumbfounds me. I really just sit and stare at her wondering. Wondering how someone so marvelous could have been gifted to me. Someone so spectacular was thought of even before she was in my womb. Wondering all the great plans God has for her. Wondering how this 28 lbs of person is going to shape me as we grow together.

With a wide vocabulary and sharp mind tucked in that sweet face, you can imagine some of the battle days we have. But, oh!, the adventure. And the laughs. So. Much. Laughing. She is our entertainment. No, really. For hours at a time some evenings. And her prayers! I've never heard a two-year-old pray so detailed and consistent. So specific. With such fervor. It's hard not to chuckle a bit, and sometimes tear up a bit, too.

With a personality like that you can't really expect one to settle down into one hobby or a few favorites. Emmalee currently enjoys: singing (loudly), dancing (wacky),"reading" ( long.) , dress-up, fairies, Minnie Mouse, Elsa & Anna, baby dolls, & Face Time with far away family (which she asks to do each hour of the day).

Her utmost favorite? Us. Her Daddy. Her  Mama. Her siblings. Emmalee has so much love tucked in that little heart for us. She surprises us with lots of spontaneous hugs and kisses, and "oh i love you so so much!" little speeches. She oozes with adoration for the two she follows so closely in step behind. Content to sit in laps and tell stories and read books or cuddle in arms to just be held. She's happiest there.

She is valuable to our family. She makes us rich! She has stretched me (already) in ways I didn't know were needed. Turned my face to God for weaknesses in me only He could strengthen. Cast a fresh vision and a fight in me for the spiritual battles that will be and are now being fought for my children. She is radiant! We love this 2-year-old Emmalee Mae. She's a lot of fun!

Heather Dowling at 10:15 PM


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On seasons, and sweetness, and SEVEN

Fall entered so gracefully. With wisps of leaves falling here and there and a little blonde girl tooting her horn on how Fall means her celebration. September came in tiptoes of school starts and lost teeth and simple party planning. Her big day, done in her  style. A FROZEN party (mostly) planned herself and (mostly) decorated herself. FROZEN, because she's a committed Elsa fan. Fiercely loving all thing Elsa colored, Elsa drawn, Elsa sung, Elsa Elsa Elsa.

Life is sweeter and richer with this girl in it. 

So, I obliged and she took to the wind with plans. 
In seven years of loving this one, she's taught me as much, probably more, as I've passed on to her. Like creativity. And loving even when you're wronged. And seeing the best in people. And, in recent days, how my actions as a mama are reflected in her nurturing. Wow. I don't write this lightly- Annabelle has a LOVE for babies and toddlers that is fierce and strong and gentle and constant. She takes care of Emmalee in my stead, often, and I watch with wonder sometimes. Her gentle disciplining. Her kind hand in teaching. Her mama-heart. Annabelle draws out in me the desire for God's hand in every single moment of my mothering. Because, folks, in the end I'm not just having fun being her mom and planning Frozen birthday parties with her, I'm shaping a mother of the future. An arrow to be shot and used to further The Kingdom of God in her own family. And that's huge. It's everything. I can't do it on my own. It's just too big. I need God daily, no - hourly as I walk this high calling as a mom.
As gentle and sweet as Fall came in, it got booted out with a kick and a shove. 
Over a week away from Thanksgiving and it looks like January in our backyard. And we are loving it. True North Country children, we are. The snow welcomes the quiet and the clean. It ushers in coziness and rest. It means watching with wonder as the snow falls, building an igloo in our backyard, and drinking hot cocoa. We are thankful for each season in this rich community. Each time we venture into another season I can't help but think how much I love raising my children here. So, on this eve of Thanksgiving week we're living in the sweetness of God's richness, thanking Him for seven years with the firstborn, spunky girl, five with the imaginative boy (the heir to this Dowling throne), the approaching 2nd birthday with the lively baby girl, and in awe of each season He has fashioned. 

Heather Dowling at 9:09 PM


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The boy is FIVE!

[Running late, per usual.] Our one and only Bennett-boy turned FIVE-YEARS-OLD on June 15th! The Heir to the Dowling throne is the usual joke around here. The Alpha-Male's offspring; boy wonder. Being the only boy sure has it's perks. Lots of one on one time with Dad. You're own room. You're (mostly-if you don't count the toddler stealing EVERYTHING) own boyish toys. He's a happy kid. 
Time never went this fast before babies. It's just not fair. I study this boy's face lots. All. The. Time. It changes daily. It really does. If I don't take the time to study then we'll open our eyes one morning and he'll be a man. *Sigh* He's no longer creeping his way to that title of 'man', but it seems he's flying to it. It's fitting that he enjoys flying into everything since his big 5th birthday party celebration was none other than the great Peter Pan, per his request. 

5-year old Bennett (a.k.a. Peter Pan)

Along with Peter Pan , this boy loves any and all adventures. Bennett treks along in everything with his Dad (and lots of outings with Poppy Dowling)
. Whether it's a hike on Bear Mountain, fishing all over the north country, chopping wood with Poppy & Dad, rock climbing in the foothills of the Adirondacks, or simply doing some backyard projects, he is all hands on deck. He owns his first knife, handed down from his Dad. And while I'm holding my breath, he's beaming with lessons from R.Jay on the proper techniques and safety. He asks for bonfires nightly and can throw down a pretty good argument when it comes to having to come indoors at night.
He's a builder. Tinker toys and legos and pretty much anything in the backyard he can find. 
He's a  fighter. Wrestling and swords and kung-fu moves. 
He's a lover. Dances with big sister and cuddles with little sister and never missing an "I love you, too" for mama. 
He's a thinker. How does this work? and why does God this? and when? and how? and why? You get the idea.
He's a student! Officially starting Kindergarten at home and CFA this year. He tries his backpack on a few times a week in earnest and asks often when his own school books will arrive. 
He's a quick learner. In everything said above but in his heart as well. So much like his Daddy, his heart is soft and shape-able clay and I'm constantly reminded of my actions and words and my impact on his sweet soul. 
He's my boy. The one and only here. 'Somethin' about boys & their mamas.' I hear it all the time but I feel it in my heart. We are so proud of this boy. So blessed to have him in our care. So amazed at the deep love and big heart in his 5 years of life already. So excited to see all the things God has for his life in the years to come. So thankful for Rushton Bennett! 

Heather Dowling at 1:32 PM


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Happy 1st birthday, Emmalee Mae.

On Sunday our girl, Emmalee, turned an entire year old. A whole year. 365 days of snuggling this baby-woman. I'm still baffled at where all those days went. I have bursts of memories of her at different stages of one year, but honestly, I have no idea where all those days went so quickly. I do know that even though I can't remember each of those days that blinked by, I know they were spent well. They were spent nursing. Lots. They were spent studying her hands and toes. Spent on taking turns letting big kids hold her and watch her with awe. Treasured in watching her feisty personality take shape. Our 'new baby' became part of home-school and we were in love. Instantly. I sometimes think, 'just one year ago we didn't even know her', and I'm shocked because it seems she's been part of us all along. 

This big, blue-eyed girl is crazy. I mean that in the most loving way. Her personality (which I'm still figuring out day to day) is big. And strong. She's all over the map. And I love every bit of her. 
She adores Annabelle and Bennett. Annabelle will tote her around and do crazy tricks with her, while Bennett lets her beastly self tackle him and love  maul on him. Yeah. Annabelle is still floating on air that she has her very own sister. 
She finally found her freedom in crawling at 11 months old and now speeds through the house chasing everyone. I'm bracing myself for when she finds her footing. 
She flabbergasts me every time I put hand-me-downs of Annabelle's on her and recall Annabelle being much older when wearing it. She's a tall girl. 20lbs. 9oz to date. 
She hates sleeping alone. She'll sleep peacefully all night long as long as she can be sandwiched between mom and dad. We soak up her small little frame between us each night with hearts that are all too familiar with how soon this will be a thing of the past. 
In her first 8 months of life she refused to be held by anyone but me, and then one day she blossomed into my most social baby. Her Poppy Dowling is her very best friend and favorite person. Hands down. At church I'm usually at a loss for where she is. She'll go to anyone. Charming everyone

She's a gift to me, and to her siblings and Daddy. We know God has amazing things planned for this girl. We are thrilled that He has chosen us to be her mama and daddy and lead her to His call, His great plans. 
Happy 1st birthday, Emmalee Mae. 
We look forward to another year of watching you love and be loved, sweet girl!

Heather Dowling at 9:27 PM


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A 6-year-old Princess Annabelle.

On Sunday the 15th, our big girl turned a whopping 6 years old! We celebrated in true Annabelle-fashion in Alexandria Bay, NY at the beautiful Boldt Castle. A real castle for our very own princess.

For weeks, Annabelle would tell every soul she came into contact with her big birthday plans. The best part (according to her)? The staircase! Every princess deserves to walk down a grand set of stairs with all eyes on her. 

She practically floated through the entire castle. Each room she entered she beamed over details and lovely accessories and even adored the unfinished, seemingly spooky, rooms with all their adventure had and to be had. Her little brother gave her about 2 whole minutes of ballroom dance time and she couldn't have been more happy. (He preferred break dancing [or some Bennett-version of this], which we spent at least 20 more minutes just watching that craziness take place.)

We picnicked on the castle grounds with our closest friends and sang 'Happy Birthday' to the birthday girl over giant brownies from our local bakery. Her favorite. 

At the end of our visit, she wanted to do it all over again. Or, couldn't we just live there? A true princess at heart. 
She is all things girly and princess. She picks pink over any other color, any day. She prefers her hair down to flow in the wind. (And loves wind! She's disappointed on rainy days when we can't roll the windows down in the van.) Jeans are a travesty when I make her wear them. Skirts and dresses are much better, so she says. 
Six years old just seems so grown now. A first grader, reading sight words and whizzing through math books. Her first wiggly tooth. Helping me cook in the kitchen, and actually helping rather than it all being a "learning process" (for me and for her!). Caring for baby Emmalee with such a mama's heart that I'm constantly reminded of the 'big picture' of training a child. A lady. A woman. Someday, a mama. 
She is artistic. And goofy. And dramatic.
She oozes with colorful life and the epitome of a carefree childhood.
This girl has her heart locked with her Daddy's. She is the princess, and he is her prince. Don't ask him to talk on his love for Annabelle, unless you're prepared for his waterworks. 
'Blessed' doesn't even seem big enough a word for the amount of love and gratefulness we have for this bright girl.  Having Annabelle for a daughter makes life so very rich

"To mother a daughter, to look you in the eye

To know that I had everything, to walk with you in life

To give you to Jesus that He would impart
The wisdom that I'm longing for to mother your heart"

Heather Dowling at 8:44 PM


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Emmalee's story

Our dearest baby Emmalee turned six months old yesterday. Already a half of one year and it dawned on me I hadn't written her birth story down for memory's sake. Two big kids, first year homeschooling, house projects too numerous to count. Add another baby to the mix, and we've got a busy life on our hands. A great life. Better late than never, here's Emmalee's story:

Baby girl was due December 31st, 2012. Write on the line. It was fun playing 'guessing games' to what year this baby would come. Christmas came and went with family by our sides. New Year's came and went with remaining family still visiting and anxious to see a new baby. Then January started inching by. 12 days after her 'due date' and we were still waiting. [I'm still amazed that the last six months with her has seemed like mere moments, while those 12 days felt like YEARS.] Saturday morning, January 12th, I woke up to what seemed like 'leaking'. My water had never broken with the first two babies, so even after a somewhat seasoned birthing history I still had no idea what was happening. No labor action in sight, but my (wonderful) doctor wanted to see me nonetheless. I obliged. Slowly. It took us the entire morning and into the afternoon to finally get to the hospital since I knew if it was my water leaking, there was no turning back. (And sitting in the hospital with nothing happening is not my idea of a fun day.) Sure enough, it was as I expected. I was told to change and get ready for induction. Blah. Coming out of hospital room's bathroom my water broke, which immediately spurred an intense contraction that felt more like the end of labor then the very beginning. I remember looking at my mom in that moment and when our eyes met we both seemed to be thinking, 'Oh boy! This is going to be a crazy ride!'. R.Jay hadn't expected a baby on this day when my mom drove me to the hospital that afternoon, so he had stayed back with the 'big kids'.
The contractions were immediate, constant, and unbelievably intense from there on out. In a matter of moments after that initial contraction I was in the throws of late labor. Just like that. R.Jay was told to rush to the hospital. Two long, solid pushes and less than two hours after we had arrived to the hospital, Emmalee Mae Dowling arrived in the world at 4:20pm. My biggest baby, 8lbs. 8oz. 20.5 in. long, and I did not tear! (I had torn pretty significantly with the first two.) She barely cried and when laid on my chest her big eyes opened and looked directly at me. She soothed and while her daddy cut the cord and things were tidied she stayed fixed on me with such a gentleness. She knew me well!
My best girlfriend, who is an amazing photographer, whisked in the room shortly after her birth and snapped some beautiful photos of Emmalee's first moments. She nursed like a champ and I spent the next few hours holding her close to my chest and studying her every feature. I had only known her moments, hours, and I was in love so deeply with this blue-eyed beauty.
Emmalee Mae is named after R.Jay's father's mother, Emily May Dowling. We left the hospital the next evening and came home to a house full and two big siblings that were over the moon for this baby. Emmalee had her first photo shoot within the week:
I fell in love. We all fell in love. Everyday of her new life we love her more and more. She is truly a treasure to this little family. 

Heather Dowling at 1:31 PM