Tuesday, October 21, 2014

THIS CRAZY FALL: HIGHS & LOWS

I'm sitting here letting the girls watch cartoons and letting the babies nap longer than they should after a broken up afternoon.  That's just the kind of life it feels like it is right now.  I'm trying to catch my breath, and it seems there is not enough oxygen.  So much of it is all good stuff, so I quite realize that I cannot complain, but I do have to just acknowledge that I am tired and thankful that the pace of our current life is just a season.  Here are some of the highs and lows of lately.

High:  The girls have decided that every time we come out of the babies' therapy session, they want their picture taken by these large crayons.  I happily oblige all smiley picture taking.

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High:  Having my mom and Wes here a couple of weekends ago for all of Bella's birthday stuff.  Here are the girls wearing the dresses that Mom sewed for them - I love them.  (The dresses and the people more.) (Violet was obviously thrilled about taking this picture.)

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Mom did all of my laundry and put it away.  I haven't done it since, and my laundry room is in desperate straits.  That would be a low.  Come back, Mom.

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Low:  In the past two weeks, this lovely child has started playing in her poopy diapers in her bed.  I have come in to discover several poop crime scenes, with feces smeared everywhere.  So gross.  I've started sleeping her in footed pajamas to restrict her diaper access.  She is a busy girl.

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High:  The twins are getting more fun all the time.  William LOVES to be flipped upside down, sideways, backwards, forwards - whatever.  He keeps coming back for more.

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Low:  Sometimes parenting the newest four-year-old child in our home feels like emotional warfare.  This was one of those moments.

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High:  I've done a lot of cookies lately and have gotten to do lots of fun themes.  Usually when someone books with me, they tell me to do whatever I want to do to match their theme.  I love the freedom and possibilities that come with that.

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(I really liked the cookie cutter window in one of my favorite local stores - Vanness.)

High:  Our church has taken on the ginormous task of packing 5,000 boxes of essentials to go to Nepal and accompany the gospel message.  Our D-Group has helped with a lot of the prep work, and we got to work together and pack several hundred boxes.  I love working with friends.

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(These are boxes of t-shirts that we took home to fold and our children loved playing on the boxes.)

High:  Weekend time with our big girl.  These sisters love "t'each other."  That's the way they say it, and it cracks me up.

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High:  We went to a really fun birthday party at the Pumpkin Patch on Saturday where it felt like I ran into half the people I know from West Little Rock.  The kids had a great time.

They loved eating treats/second breakfast and singing to the birthday boy.

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They loved going to the field to pick pumpkins with friends.

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We all enjoyed the hayride.

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They really loved the corn pit - especially William.

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Low:  William kept eating the corn which then had to be removed from his mouth.  He was not happy about this.  At all.  Not a bit.

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High:  We got another restaurant.  Still amazed about this one.

Low:  As Lily continues to point out to us - "Having two restaurants is a lot of work."  There is a lot that goes into a transition, and we are swimming in the thick of it right now - especially John.  We've gotta buckle in, because this holiday season will certainly be full.

That's us - there is so much good, and I'm so thankful.  It's now much later in the evening, and the laundry is all folded - much in part to John's gracious help.  Maybe I'll be able to put it all away tomorrow and reclaim the laundry room.  We can only hope.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

IT'S A MALL: GETTING ANOTHER CFA

Yesterday brought long-awaited and much anticipated news for our family.  For many months, and in the grand scheme of things, years, we have wanted to own the CFA in the mall across the street from our current restaurant.  It makes sense, since they have almost identical trade areas.  We have been so very blessed to have wonderful fellow operators to work with since we opened up in 2007.  However, when the most recent mall operator got a new opportunity, we thought the time might be right for us to take over the mall.

After an extensive interview and application process that has included 4 visits from various home office staff members, we got word yesterday that they have awarded us the mall store.

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We are thrilled and a little numb.  Much like the time we were awarded our first restaurant, it is a bit overwhelming to start processing through all of the details.  There is a lot of work ahead of us (especially John), as we take over a restaurant heading into its busiest weeks and months.  It will officially become ours on November 1st.

We wanted the team to know right away, so John rushed out and got a large balloon and cake.  He stopped transactions on the front counter for a few moments to make a big announcement that we were adding to our CFA family.  It does feel a bit like getting a new baby.  So much joy, so much work.  Our team cheered and was genuinely delighted.  We owe them so much, because what we do would not be possible without their hard work.  They are excited about the new challenge!

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We are so thankful for this opportunity and are praying that God will continue to use it for good in our lives and the lives of everyone we interact with.  It's also a new reason to depend on him even more, because we often don't feel perfectly capable and equipped to do everything in front of us.

Looking forward to an exciting holiday season!

(Also, if you do life near midtown Little Rock and are looking for a job opportunity - come see us!  We are always on the look-out for great people.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

CAMP BELLA PARTY

As I mentioned yesterday, Bella turned four this weekend.  It was one of those years where the stars aligned, and we got to have her party on her actual birthday.  This spring, after a weekend where we did a little faux camping, Bella decided that she wanted a camping themed party.  I'm sure attending her cousin's Camp True party back in April didn't hurt either.  It's such a fun theme, and I knew I could use lots of stuff from my sis's party, so I ran with it.

My sis graciously redid the exact same invitation from Camp True to fit Camp Bella's color scheme and info.

Bella's Invite

I freezer paper stenciled shirts for the first time and love the results.  Happy Camper shirts for my Happy Campers.  They were much happier for this picture, because they all had Smarties in their mouths.

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By Saturday afternoon, we were ready to host Camp Bella.  I had my birthday elves hard at work much of the day making treats and helping decorate and kid wrangle.  A big shout out goes to my Mom and Wes who helped make this all possible.

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I really did use a lot of stuff from Camp True - this giant sign being one of my favorite things.  This is also the first time I've put cookies on a cake, and I really like the way it looks - also, it makes putting together the cake much easier.

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We served dinner, and since almost everyone invited was able to come, it all got eaten up!  Pigs in the Blanket and CFA Nuggets provided the most protein.  I overdid the sweets by a mile, and dried fruit was one of the only healthier options, so it is probably good that we don't often eat like this.

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I ordered camping fabric that matched everything.  Check out the adorable sleeping bags!

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Because the weather looked menacing, we set up tents in our garage instead of the yard and filled them with balloons.  It was the first thing kids got to do as they arrived and proved to be a hit.

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After everyone was there, we did a "scavenger hunt" in the woods behind our house.  I use this term very loosely, because right up until the party, I really thought it was going to be rained out.  So, I didn't have a lot planned.  Each kid was directed to find a flashlight and two pine cones and two acorns.  This would earn them a "badge" at the end of the party.  (i.e., their cookie party favor)  It was not elaborate, but it was fun.

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We came inside for dinner.  I really just invited our community group and family, but that is a ton of people and kiddos.  It is a bit chaotic, but really really fun.  I love these people.

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We sang Happy Birthday to Bella, and she blew out her fire.

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Last on the agenda was a S'Mores Bar.  I really did overdo the sweets.  I was so thankful the weather did cooperate, and we had a fire pit set up in our driveway.

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It was so fun to have so many friends and family celebrate our sweet girl!  We sent everyone on their way with their badges.

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I do love doing a fun party.  It is a lot of work, but I reminded myself that it is fun work that I enjoy doing and am thankful to have the time and energy to do for now.  I know parties will not always look like this, but this one was a lot of fun.  And, as we were getting everything set up, Bella looked around and then looked at me and said, "Thanks, Mom, for all the fun stuff."  Made it totally worth it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

BELLA TURNS FOUR

As of Saturday, we have a new four year old in the house.  We celebrated her several times this past week.  Last Monday, John and I got some time with just her, and we went to pick out her new birthday bike.  She was pretty pleased with the whole affair.

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And, thankfully, the weather was vastly better than today.  Bella as a new four year old is a marvel of extremes - sort of like when she was three.  She is one of the most affectionate people I know and will randomly give hugs/kisses/cuddles and say that she loves you.  I relish those moments.  She is an amazing big and little sister, as her role in our family has her plum in the middle of it all.  She anxiously awaits Lily coming home from school each day so they can play together, and she cheers on the babies' every accomplishment with much hurraying and many high fives.  So sweet.

I won't sugar coat the fact that the past couple of weeks have had some hard moments.  I think she needs to know that we really are in charge, and she is looking for every loop hole or contingency to change our decisions or behavior.  This is quite wearing, and I wish I could say that I always handle it well - I don't.

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However, most of the time, Bella is a true delight, and even in the hard moments, if I ask her if she knows how much we love her, she grudgingly says, "Yes."  She is spunky and funny and loves to imagine out scenarios and draw/color and read books.  Dressing up in princess dresses is a very regular occurrence.

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We went out for donuts on Saturday morning to kick off the day of celebration that was her actual birthday.  I think we are all still on a sugar high.

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Bella is truly a gift from the Lord, and we are so thankful she was born to us.  Looking forward to seeing what being four holds for her!

Bella Turns Three
Bella Turns Two
Bella Turns One (Includes birth story)