Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaptastic, Lily Funnies and Learning to Listen

      Today is that extra special bonus day that we get once every four years.  As I got to thinking about it, I wish it could be a bonus day - like, not a day of the week like normal, but its very own special bonus day that doesn't really exist as a part of our lives.  Instead of leap day falling on a Wednesday, it would maybe be sandwiched between a Sunday and Monday and be called Leapday.  Leapday could be a holiday of epic proportion, because everyone's routines would be nullified and maybe we could all dance and sing and have world peace and probably a lot of chocolate.  A girl can dream.
      Instead, today was leap day and Wednesday, and it was full of urgent-ish things that needed to be done.  Sometimes life feels like that, like I am trying to stretch the fibers of it to wring out just a tiny bit more time for everything and everyone that I love.  I heard a radio story all about how to find more time in your life, and I am realizing the humor and irony in that approach.  God gives us each 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  It is our choices, each and every one of them, that determines how much "time" we think we have.  The other thing that I am starting to see and trying to learn is understanding how every moment really is God's time.  Who am I to dictate my schedule?
      Right now, John and I are trying to pare back some of the inputs into our life.  We are hoping to be able to see and hear more clearly, and I am humbled to see that God is honoring that and working in our hearts.  However, there is still so much clamor.  Life is clamor, and maturity is being able to hear through it.  Because God whispers.  I am immature, and I am sick of missing it.  I am also sick of not even realizing that I am missing it.  There is so much more to God than I even give him credit for as the Almighty Savior of the World.  I am glad to worship a God like that.
      Moving on . . . Lily is becoming quite the little comic.  As we were cleaning up from dinner this weekend while Ellen was here, Lily was rolling a napkin up.  She started to hold it with the tip down, and then she said, "Look!  I am frosting a cake.  I am making the grass."  And, she certainly was doing a bang-up job of frosting her invisible cake with her napkin pastry bag.  We may just have a pasty chef in the making.  She went on to inform me that she was making "Panda Cupcakes" all reminiscent of her Panda Birthday Party.  The day before, when John and I were talking about what we wanted to plant in our container gardens (okay, let's be honest.  I was telling John what I wanted to plant, and he was still wondering if he really had to do this garden thing.  He is getting on board.  Little by little.), Lily said that she wanted to plant some "Bobs" and "Larrys."  It took me a while to realize that she was talking about cucumbers and tomatoes.  We clearly watch a lot of VeggieTales around these parts.
      And, because every post needs a picture - here is sweet Lily's Oreo covered face at CFA last Friday night, courtesy of Aunt Ellen.


Happy Leap Day!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend: Baby Dedication and More

      This weekend, Aunt Ellen came to town, partially for work, partially for fun.  It was great to have extra hands for the weekend and be able to see her ever-growing baby bump - so excited for April!  On Saturday, we went to a birthday party hosted by my dear friend, Courtney, for her son.  It was a Thomas the Train party, and it was adorable.  (You can read more about it on her blog, as well as the other parties she threw this weekend, all while preggo with #4.  Simply amazing.)


There was a trackless train that took the kids and adults on rides up and down the street.  So fun!   There was fun coloring, or as Bella saw it - a great chance to throw crayons down and say, "Uh Oh."

Picnik collage

The bounce house proved to be quite a hit for Bella.  She was borderline delirious with excitement.


After all that fun, we ate dinner at Big Orange.  The girls loved having John play with them by the fountain while we waited.


On Sunday morning, we had the privilege of dedicating Bella at our church, and as it turns out, two other couples from our community group were dedicating babies at the same time.  It really is amazing to stand before our church body and see so many people who are invested in our lives and the lives of our children.  I hope and pray that Bella comes to know the Lord at an early age and that God continues to provide wisdom and guidance for us as her parents.  We sure need it.


After church, we headed to Cracker Barrel for lunch.  Here is our post dedication picture.


Then, the girls got into the rocking chairs, which proved to be more delightful than one might imagine.

Picnik collage

The weather was mostly gorgeous, I completed my final long run before running the half marathon next weekend and attended a baby shower, to boot.  It was quite a full weekend.  The pictures in the rocking chairs are such a treasure to me.  They remind me to stop and enjoy the simple things, like rocking chairs that are for sale on the porch of Cracker Barrel.  I am usually headed from Point A to Point B, and I am thankful that the girls wanted to stop and that it became such a thrilling fun moment for us all because of it.
      I want to make sure to see these moments and revel in the gratitude that I feel because of them.  I want to learn to turn more things back into praise for the One who made it all.  Thanks be to God.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Confessions of a Sometimes Delinquent Mother

      Yesterday, I took the girls to the doctor's office for their well check-ups.  Here is where I must confess - I missed Bella's one year check-up and apparently, her 15 month check-up as well.  Bella had a really mild ear infection near the one year mark, and I just didn't get around to taking her again til yesterday.  And, I am two months behind on Lily's yearly check-up.  "How did the appointment go?", one might ask.  Welp, apparently, in the year that has lapsed since Lily's last check-up, she has decided that having to do anything at the doctor's office is not for her.

      Kind Nurse:  "Miss Lily, can you step on this scale?"
      Lily:  Lots of screaming and crying
      Me:  "Lily, if you step on the scale I will give you Oreos.  Do you want Oreos?"  (I happened to have some in my purse.)
      Lily:  More screaming, paired with whimpering and edging farther away.
      Me:  "This is not how we act.  You need to pull it together and stop screaming.  Do you understand me?"
      Lily:  "Yes, ma'am."  More screaming.
      Kind Nurse, who is starting to get a little annoyed since it is late in the day:  "Look, Bella wants to get on the scale.  The scale is fun."  When this produces only more wailing from Lily, she turns to me and says, "We are going to have you hold her on the scale and then weigh you separately."

Here's the good news.  Both girls are in excellent health, which I am so grateful for.  Bella was really sweet until her five shots.  The doctor's office was running on schedule, and so things, mercifully, did not take a really long time.  Lily did not need shots, thank God.
Here's the funny news.  Lily weighs 29 lbs.  Bella weighs 27.5 lbs.  Awesome.
Here's the bad news.  Lily looked like this anytime the nurse or doctor touched her or really even spoke to her.


I am shocked that her blood pressure was not through the roof with this kind of reaction.  This picture makes me laugh really hard, especially since it looks like I am laughing through the horror of it all.  I really didn't think it was very funny, but this moment, when I was trying to distract her with anything, did prove to be entertaining.  Then, the nurse went through the check-list of all the things a normal three year old should be able to do.  Lily is a go in all areas.  Except for one.

      Kind Nurse:  "Is she completely potty-trained for both day and night?"
      Me:  "Not even close.  Not even a little bit."
      Kind Nurse, who is now eyeing me skeptically since I clearly was overdue on check-ups for my younger child and cannot get my older child to behave AT ALL:  "Are you working on that?"
      Me, what My Internal Monologue Said:  "Of course I am working on that.  I know that she should be potty-trained.  Clearly, she is smart and capable.  Maybe instead of looking at me so disapprovingly you should give me a few pointers or at least be sympathetic that it might be a difficult thing to do with a stubborn child."
      Me, what I actually said:  "Yes, we are working on it.  Basically the behavior that you have seen here is what we get during potty training."
      Kind Nurse, who is very grateful that she is not the one giving out shots this afternoon, so she is almost done with us:  "Oh."

      As we were wrapping up our session o' fun, Bella had to get a ton of shots, since I had missed a couple of check-ups.  Fortunately, these went quickly, and she stopped crying quickly.  Here's Bella post-shot.  She is mostly upset that I am taking a picture of her and not holding her, but by this point, I knew this was an adventure that needed to be documented.  So, she is self-soothing by rubbing her belly button.


When it was all said and done, I did find out that actually, my delinquency had paid off.  They told us not to come back until Bella's two year check-up, because of the way the shots need to be given (or maybe they just do not want to have to see us again for as long as possible).  I managed to cover three well check-ups with one, which feels like a giant win after how miserable it was.
      As we were leaving, Lily asked if she could have an Oreo.  I said no.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On Becoming a Healthier Version of Me

      I know I mentioned a while back that I read the book Seven, by Jen Hatmaker.  In many ways it has rocked my world, and I believe that God is working inside my heart to bring about more of what he wants to be there.  I am starting to glimpse a bit more each day that maybe, just maybe, the God of the universe really does know best, and that my job is to show up and do what he asks.  I feel like I still have a lot of repenting and heart-cleansing to do, which I am sure will be forever ongoing, but it is nice to see the Lord at work.  I am also starting to see that he can ask an awful lot, and I may not think it is stuff that I need or want to do.  You see, I am used to saying "yes" to myself.  What does Carol want right now?  What does Carol think she needs?  What would best serve Carol and Carol's family?  Those are the wrong questions to be asking, but I feel caught up in them.  Which is a yucky feeling.
      One way this has played out manifested itself at our CFA Seminar.  There was a Wellness booth at Expo, run by the very kind people from CFA Wellness.  (Warning:  If you have seen me in the last week - you have already heard this.)  They do a full-body check up, which includes height/weight, a strength test, flexibility, blood work, heart rate, blood pressure and then they pinch your fat with those horrible caliper things, all while talking sweetly to you and telling you nice things like, "You don't look like you have had two kids."  Once you get through the work-up, they tell you the age of your body and send you a thorough email detailing where you stand on all the metrics.  I body was at age 34, and I am really only 30.  My friend, who is a month older than me, was 23.  (She also did 74 push-ups to my 11, so you can see that she is some kind of amazing.)
      When I looked through my work-up, it got me thinking.  First off, it was sort of depressing.  I have actually gained weight while training for my half marathon, and I fall in the poor categories in almost every area, except cardio-vascular.  This is really not a boo-hoo moment.  I really have a healthy body image, and I know that I am not over-weight or wildly unhealthy.  However, it is a wake-up call.  I need to practice saying "no" to certain things more often, and I need to try to find some healthier alternatives.
      You always hear things about how good you will feel once you really are eating right.  Well, I am aiming to test that out.  By golly, I am going to give healthy eating a go.  But, in a managed, moderate way that I hope will be sustainable.  Honestly, for me, it will mean saying no to some of the sweets I take in and making a few different choices.  I will keep everyone posted.  I want to be a good steward of the body that God has entrusted me with, since it is his anyways.  And, I thought I would blog about it, in case anyone else is in the same boat of always saying "yes" and needing a little inspiration to do something differently.
      So, if you follow me on Pinterest, you may have noticed that I started pinning smoothie recipes like they were going out of style.  I also started a gardening board, and I am hoping to start a very small scale garden in our backyard.  I need to convince John that this is a great plan and that he should build some really cute, useful containers for us to grow herbs and vegetables in.  What do you think, sweetheart?
      I made my first smoothie today, and it was delicious, even with a combination I made up.  I even learned what Flaxseed is and added that to it, as well as Greek Yogurt and spinach.  I think I may even start giving smoothies to the girls for snack time.  That would definitely be better for them than the fruit snacks I currently give.  Our Kroger has an amazing Organic/Health Food section with tons of healthy options to make my smoothies more healthful.  I am looking forward to trying out some fun stuff.
      So, this is a journey to a healthier version of me.

And, because every post needs some pictures - here is where the sun hits our bed every morning around waking up time.  Thankfully, this is only for a short time.  Once the clock-changes over, it doesn't happen, but until then, it is quite the bright light right on my face.

Here are Bella and I enjoying my new phone's camera that turns toward us!  (I think that is snot running down her chin.)

And, lastly, here is Lily (with Bella close behind) playing in the yard enjoying some of the gorgeous weather we have been having.


Peace out, and happy Thursday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

John's Channel: I'm Not Going to Even Try to Change the World

     So I was granted permission to produce a second episode. Still probationary, but a good sign none-the-less. Kristin, thank you for the request, but I'm going to ask you be patient with me. The "Bucket and Sucket List" is more third date material. Kind of like revealing your biological parent has 11 toes and that it is genetically probable that if the dating relationship leads to marriage and you decide to breed, one of your children will share the same toe-bundance (get it, abudance of toes...wait...if I have to explain a joke it's probably not funny...whatever).

      Let's go for "I'm Not Even Going to Try to Change the World." I've recently (in the last 5 years) accepted the fact that I, John Spenst, am not going to change the world.  Hand on knees.  Deep breath. Okay.  I, like many of my peers at my small, awesome, private- Christian university, believed I was responsible for creating a new world order of peace, harmony and undying devotion to Jesus.  My plan was to start by building orphanages in Africa (if God has given you the chance to be a part of something like this, that is fantastic, and I pray he blesses the work of your hands).  Orphanage-building would be my rite of passage to "world-changer status."  After all, as Christians we have a similar ranking as the military, right?  Secular employee to non-profit employee to worship leader with tattoo to prove relevance (thank you Northpoint) to pastor to missionary to world changer.  It's a great ladder to climb with promise of great benefits, a mansion and being surrounded by extra-shiny gold for eternity.

      Upon completion of college, I realized I was not a gifted orphanage-builder (again, thank you to those who are gifted orphanage builders, and are using your skills appropriately).  My life was further derailed by a recommendation to pursue the restaurant industry and then blown off the tracks by a sermon I heard on 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12. Quiet life? Work with your hands?

      For the last few years, I've been blessed with the opportunity to return to my alma mater and speak on a panel to a group of seniors in college who are a part of a leadership program I was once involved in. The topic is ExtraORDINARY Leadership.  It is all about leading in every day life.  I love it.  I usually ask the group who in the room knows what they are going to do after college.  Some do, many don't.  When I ask this question, it is like the ceiling collapses.  You can just feel the weight on the shoulders of these poor students.  They feel the need to do something grand, and to do it immediately.  The idea of working doing data entry for an large company is like wearing a scarlet "F" for failure.  The whole night I prime the group for one closing thought.  I tell them I want to take some pressure off of them.  You see we could all count the number of people that "changed the world" on one hand.  Mother Teresa.  A pope.  (Enter nominee for your world-changer here.) Not very good odds.  I simply say, "God does not ask you to change the world, He asks you to change your world."  Even then that is a half truth, He's the one that makes the change.  We are not the Omni-creator.  We are a tool.  The sooner we realize that, the more effective we will be.  

      I am blessed to own a "fast food" restaurant.  Day in, day out, I get to work with 60 team members and interact with guests in the form of 1800 transactions each day.  I rub shoulders every day with real people with real needs and real issues.  Is that becuse I work at a fast food restaurant? No.  If you encounter any other person in any given day, you do the same.  And I am willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone who tries to claim otherwise.  You're not going to change the world.  That's okay. Get over it.  Get over yourself.  

      One word of caution.  This is not permission to sit on your duff and do nothing for your world around you.  If you do that, you have failed.  You have a responsibility to love your coworkers, your actual neighbors and the people you have the chance to interact with daily.  Changing your world is not code for, "feel good about not being a missionary".  It's code for your world may be a cubicle-mate or the kids you're raising.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What Lily and Bella Have Been Up To . . .

      Well, this past week while we were gone, John's parents kindly took care of Lily and Bella at our house.  What a wonderful blessing!  We didn't have to worry about anything, which is so wonderful!  Here are a few snapshots of their week together.

Talking on the phone.  Of course.


Making Valentine's.


Playing, reading and helping - as usual.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage

Eating at All Aboard.


Seriously - such a blessing to have fantastic grandparents - thanks!  They kept the girls up for us the last night when we got in, and it was great to be reunited.  We missed our sweet girls.


The next day, we went to Two Rivers Park here in Little Rock and enjoyed our time outside.

Picnik collage

Such fun to be had by all.  We had a great week, and it is nice to be home and settling back into a routine, though detox from grandparents can be a bit rough.  Also, we left John's phone in a taxi, and it got stolen - that was on our way to Disney World.  So, we had the hassle of handling that this weekend.  Thankfully, it looks like our credit card is going to cover the cost - not such a bad deal after all.
      Now, I just have to deal with laundry, cleaning the house, preparing meals and so forth.  All that stuff I didn't really miss last week.  Since I have posted a lot in the last few days, I am going to give you all a break from me - tomorrow will be John's second episode - get excited!

Days at Disney

      It is no secret that I love Disney World.  Years ago, I thought I might try to go and work there.  Instead, I began a one-year commitment with Chick-fil-A.  That was 8.5 years ago, and I am so thankful for where we are.  But, since Seminar was in Orlando, we decided to take an extra couple of days and go to Disney World, just us, for fun.
      We spent an afternoon at Epcot.  Epcot always makes me wish it was so simple to travel - the tour of the worlds is such fun.


We rode most of the rides, because there was hardly anyone there.  Go to Disney World in February - it is worth it!  (I know this now more than ever, after our last trip to Disney,)  We had a leisurely, delicious dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco.  It was so nice to just be able to let down.


The next day we did the Magic Kingdom, which is definitely one of my favorite places on the planet.



The weather was perfection, and the lines were mostly short.  What I realized, all over again, is how bad I am at waiting in lines.  Like, I have a serious problem in my heart.  I have this problem in all lines - at the grocery store, in traffic, at theme parks, at the DMV.  I am constantly checking whether or not I am getting ahead or falling behind in comparison to those around me.  Since we didn't have the girls with us on this trip, I had more time to dwell on where we fell in lines, which did not serve me well.
      We also realized that at this stage in our lives, going to a theme park by ourselves may not be what we want to do a lot of.  We had a fantastically fun time - I mean, it is Disney.  However, we realized when it was all over that it may not have been the kind of time we needed.  I don't say this is downplay the time we had, but more as a learn for our future - we only get so much time, especially without kiddos, and we want to make sure we make the most of it.  Four years ago, spending time at Disney suited us really well, but where we are in life now, it may make more sense for us to do something more low-key in the future.  Which seems a bit no-brainer as I write it out - sometimes I am surprised at the things I can't see, but I am glad that we get to learn as we go.
      All of that said, I am so glad I got to see the fireworks over the castle.


The last day we were there, we decided to take it easy at our resort.  We stayed on Disney property at The Wilderness Lodge, which was beautiful and perfectly themey.  We rented bikes and saw a lot of the Disney Wildnerness, which is well-maintained and attended by helpful Cast Members.  I love it there.


Even the Disney Wilderness is magical - we came across the pine cones just like this.  I am sure they fell that way.


And, here is the obligatory picture of me with a Mickey-shaped treat.  Those Buffalo topiaries wanted a bite.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Harry Potter World: Awesomeness

      Chick-fil-A kindly gave us time and tickets to go to Universal Studios, which now hosts Harry Potter World, a place I have been dying to see since it opened up last year.  As you know, I love Harry Potter.  There was a group of six of us that went to the park together, which turned out to be a great group.  I love these friends - thanks for joining us, Richardsons and Flowers!


Harry Potter World is very well done and delightful on many fronts.  It feels like you just walked into the books, which is literally like a dream come true for me.  (I have a bad habit of dreaming that I am in books while I read them, which is slightly crazy.  I guess I can't really help it.)  This is the picture John took of me as we were entering the park.  I think I was seeing the Hogwart's Express.


I didn't get many pictures, but here is what I did capture.

Picnik collage
John drinking Butterbeer.  It was a little too sweet for me.
Entrance to the Three Broomsticks and Ron's flying Ford Anglia.
Picnik collage
Castle and inside the castle.
Picnik collage
Greenhouse, and the guys that accidentally dressed the same.  They rocked it.
Picnik collage

We immediately rode the Dragon Roller Coaster, which turns you upside down several times.  Since the lines were super short while we were there, we then rode the ride inside the castle.  It was a simulated broom ride which made everyone quite woozy by the time we had finished both.  The lines to get onto both were amazing, especially inside the castle - there were talking portraits and we got to go through Dumbledore's office.  So fun.
      We went into Ollivander's and Kristen was selected to choose a wand, which was hilarious, since she has only seen one of the movies ever.  He kept asking her to say different spells, none of which she could pronounce.  We also kept running into other CFA peeps, which makes everything more fun.

Picnik collage

      All in all, it was a magical time.  There was a worker who was slightly antagonistic about saying that Slytherin was the best house, and it was clear that she was annoyed with all the people who didn't know as much about Harry Potter as she did.  But other than that, it was so fun.  Truly.
      We did finish up more quickly than we imagined, so we took in more of Universal.  There was a bit of a hooping competition and more roller coasters for the guys.  We girls had had our fill.

Picnik collage

Here's a last shot of the matched sets in our group.


And, when we got back, the guys jumped into more of the "balloon art."


All in all, a fantastic way to spend Valentine's Day.  Harry Potter World is very romantic.