Tuesday, July 19, 2016

BEING LOCAL TOURISTS WITH KIDDOS

I really love living in Little Rock - it's just the right size with plenty to do and not a lot of traffic.  Not often do we make it downtown with all the kiddos, but today was the day.  Court and I brought our eight children, plus her nephew, to do the Farmer's Market, the Peabody splash pad, a picnic lunch and a trolley ride.

Let me just say that today was HOT.  As in, I drank a ton of liquid on my way down there (a smoothie, a full coffee tumbler, and about 16 oz of water), and I never had to use the bathroom all morning, because I sweated just that much.  Dripping sweat while wrangling children is not my favorite thing, but the children mostly did really well, all things considered.

We started at the Farmer's Market, and I am kicking myself for not picking up some of these beautiful blooms.  I did get some blackberries and okra.

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Next stop was the splash pad, which proved to be a bit of an adventure.  There is a large playground with deep pits that I did not remember from when we visited this particular splash pad about 5 years ago.  Keeping track of all the children was a challenge, but they did really enjoy playing.

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(This girl.  I often end up with a lot of pictures with her, because she wants to be held and to take pictures together.)
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After playing for a while, a huge amount of children showed up with what seemed to be not a lot of adults.  We hightailed it on out of there, because it quickly became overwhelming.  We found a shady table for lunch and got a bit of a breeze before heading back to our cars.

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We did get a lot of looks and comments walking through downtown.  I guess nine kids and two adults also must seem like a poor ratio to some people.  😂 😂 😂  After doing a little presto chango at the cars, we got on to the important business of waiting for the trolley.  In the hot sun.  With almost no shade.  It felt like forever, though it was probably about 15 minutes - max 20.

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(The flowers downtown are 😍)

We did finally get on the trolley and LOVED having air conditioning for the rest of this outing.  Being a tourist in our own city is something I really enjoy, and the kids liked seeing what Little Rock has to offer from a different vantage point.

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The kids moved around A LOT, and William started to be over it towards the end.  He actually started yelling really loudly, so much so that the conductor commented on the "strong lungs" over the speaker.  😳🙈  But mostly, a good time was had and air-conditioning was enjoyed.

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Twice today, I had moments of true gratitude for adoption: our family is so blessed to have the twins in it, and getting to see Lily and Bella love on William and Violet is such a treat.  Lily did a great job catching Violet coming down the huge slide, and Bella held William in her lap for a while on the trolley.  They all love each other so much, and I'm so thankful to see that love manifest in actions.

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While tramping through downtown with nine kids might not be your cup of tea, it turned out to be ours.  We had fun, got to enjoy unique things that our city offers and staved off the TV watching all morning long.  When it is this face-meltingly hot, there aren't a ton of great options, but this one had several good times to get cooled off.  You can catch us by the pool the rest of the week - gotta stay cool somehow!

(Here's Court's take on the day!)

Monday, July 18, 2016

THINGS I'M CRUSHING ON

Obviously, the world is a heavy place right now.  I broke down in sobs last night for lots of reasons - loss of life and racial tensions in our country, my own impending changes and the ways that I feel worn around the edges from the past couple of weeks.  It's been a lot, and thankfully, God is helping me get through it all, cause he is so good like that.

Here are a few other fun things that are brightening my day regularly.  I've blogged about changing our eating habits around here, and though I can barely believe I am writing these words, I've become someone that really loves Kale Chips.  I've started hoarding this variety from Kroger (especially since they were on sale last week), and I'm looking into making my own.  But also, it is easiest to buy them.

There's is a Kool Ranch flavor that I like as well, though I can't quite trick myself into thinking I'm eating Doritos - more's the pity.  Some of my kids will also eat these, and they do fit that snack hole in my life really well.

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This is another "healthy" snack that I found recently at Sam's - it does have sugar, but it has a lot of other good stuff as well and helps satisfy the sweets craving.

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CFA came out with a new Egg White Grill for breakfast that features egg whites, cheese and grilled chicken on an English muffin.  I tried it today, and it is SO. GOOD.  Packed with good protein and delicious.

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I gave up Diet Dr. Pepper (🙌😔#mixedfeelings) months ago and needed some other options to fill that hole.  I started drinking coffee - this, cold and on ice, with a splash of Coconut/Almond milk and Skinny Girl Stevia.  Yummy.

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Since I shouldn't drink coffee all day (bummer), I also found this tasty drink.  I am hesitant to tell you about it, because I am finding that my favorite flavor - the coconut - is regularly sold out in several local locations.  So maybe you should buy a little but leave the rest for me.

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Another thing that I stalk at my local grocery store/Target are these press-on nails.  I still love my Jamberrys, but I haven't made an order recently, and it is very convenient to pick these up at Kroger.  They are hard and stay on in my life and come in fun colors, and they are a very reasonably priced option to have great looking nails that you do at home.  I usually just use the solid colors, but some of the designs are fun too.

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John and I have been collectively crushing on the Tour De France like we do every July.  The scenery is everything, and the intricate race plotting and team dynamics keep us fascinated each year.

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(photo cred to 20 Minutes site)

I imagine that you, like me, have heard of and enjoyed some of James Cordon's Carpool Karaoke with celebrities.  My favorites are Adele and the one with the Broadway stars - so good.  I really enjoy them all.  I also laughed a ton at this mash up with Anna Kendrick - not a carpool, but so fun.



This are a few of the things that have become my new favorites - maybe you'll find something you like too!

Friday, July 15, 2016

THE GOOD SPRINKLED IN BETWEEN

I've been a little heavy lately, and it should be known that not everything is heavy.  There is always a mix in our life, and I'm thankful for the good that is sprinkled into all the hard.  And I'm thankful that the hard shapes us into better people who hopefully love God more, even though I don't always feel that way in hard moments.  Here are a few things I've been grateful for recently:

We had a great family night at the pool last weekend.  Everyone was happy and sweet, and we enjoyed pizza by the pool, and it was an evening that both John and I were profoundly glad to have all together.  We shot off a few more fireworks when we got home to round out the night.

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Lily got to help celebrate one of her great friend's birthdays by mini-golfing and having lunch at CFA.

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I am really thankful for the ability to laugh.  After I dropped Lily off at this party at a place I had never been, I was headed to go to another friend's house for lunch and visiting with their adorable puppy.  They live out a ways, and I've driven out there many, many times, but I was coming from a totally new direction.  I typed the country address into my phone and turned off my brain as I drove with Bella, William and Violet in the car.  I didn't recognize any of the roads, but then, I didn't really think that I would, given where I was starting from.

After a while, Bella started to get very concerned, and she was sick of driving and thus whining.  I kept explaining that we were just taking a new way and would be there soon.  My worry really began when we drove 4 miles on a dirt road that I didn't recognize.  I knew we were going the wrong way when the directions on my phone said, "Prepare to park and walk the rest of the way."  I kid you not - that is what it said. 😳

Bella started crying, "This is the worst drive ever!  We are going to be SO late!  Worst day ever!"

Nothing like a five year old's doomsday perspective to really keep the situation in check.  At that point, I came upon a creek across the road and drove on through it.

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There was a locked gate up the hill and around the curve, and that is where I was supposed to park and walk.  We were in the middle of nowhere, and I had no more cell service.  I did start laughing so hard that I had tears running down my cheeks.  I worked to calm down Bella who had begun proclaiming, "We are SO lost!  We will never find our way back!  This is all your fault!"  I did a 50 point turn and drove back through the creek and towards civilization and paved roads.  20 minutes later, I did make it to my friend's house once I started using my brain again.  Lunch and the puppy were worth it, but I will never try to use Google maps to find their house again. 😂😂😂

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One of our super sweet babysitters was participating in the Miss Arkansas pageant, so Courtney and I took an evening to head to Hot Springs and see her compete.  It was a fascinating and fun experience, and Abby did an amazing job!  The night was a wonderful respite in the middle of everything else.

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The girls started piano lessons, though we have no piano in our home.  So, I've been scrambling to get books and an instrument.  After debating the merits of a keyboard vs. a piano, we decided to get a weighted keyboard for the time-being simply because it will be delivered by Amazon and we can plug headphones into it.  We really value ease and quiet at this current life juncture.  Lily and Bella are both super excited, and since I took piano lessons for 10 years, I am looking forward to being able to help out a bit and play some myself.

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I've had a babysitter coming usually one day a week this summer which has been hugely beneficial to my mental well-being.  It allowed me to spend a little time with John in his "corner office" (actually a storage unit thing at the mall that he's tricked out), and I realized that there will be some great things about having the kids all in school in the fall.  Though I am still grieving the major change ahead, I am starting to see the light for the good it will also bring - like being able to have full conversations with my spouse during the day.

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I've also been shopping for Christmas PJs for my children and all of their cousins so that everyone can match at the holidays.  This has involved having pretty great text threads with my mom and sisters and sisters-in-love.  👊  Love knocking out Christmas tasks in July.

I'm so thankful for the sweet moments and the ability to see them as they come.  The Lord is so gracious to us, even when life feels sort of rough.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

TAKE THIS WORLD & GIVE ME JESUS

This past week or so has done a number on us, topped off by a tornado warning in the middle of dinner tonight while we were at a restaurant.  Nothing is quite so disconcerting as an entire dining room full of phone alarms going off.

Between the mess that our entire country experienced last week, theft at the restaurant, normal family drama and encountering W & V's birthmother again, it has felt like one hit after another.  We've had kids up in the night (mercifully rare in our home), and I tried to start potty training the twins (a horrible idea).  Life feels heavy and hard.  Anger, exhaustion and sadness have taken center stage in the midst of every day life.

This summer, I've been going through Priscilla Shirer's Armor of God study with a group of women.  Each week, we've honed in on one piece of the armor from Ephesians 6:10-18 and what it means to our everyday life.  Most recently, we focused on the shield of faith that will extinguish the flaming arrows from the enemies.  Priscilla wrote that these flaming arrows are meant to distract us from the purposes that God has for us.

I can say with certainty that we feel under attack.  The flaming arrows keep coming, and I feel like cowering and crawling into a hole to hide.  Instead, I'm working to take up my shield of faith.  To be reminded of God's faithfulness and the ultimate reality that this world is not my home.  When we live with the end in mind, the things that happen here begin to diminish in gravity.  They shrink in light of who God is and what he promises.

There have been moments of levity throughout it all, because children do not let you sit around and wallow, which is definitely for the best.  Though there was a torrential downpour that afternoon, we were still able to enjoy snow cones after an all team meeting at CFA.

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I'm hoping and praying for God to continue to work in and through us.  To remind us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces.  I'm really out of words.  Take this world and give me Jesus.