Thursday, January 31, 2013


John and I try to squeeze in date nights as often as we can.  Usually this averages out to once a month, maybe slightly more often.  Maybe.  Usually we do dinner and a movie for several reasons - we love to eat out at fun restaurants sans kiddos, and we like to see movies in the theater when we can.  Also, our lives right now take an enormous amount of energy, and it is so nice to be able to relax on a typical date night.

But, last year, this friend posted on her blog about a rock climbing date with her hubby, and it looked like a lot of fun.  Then, this friend and her husband did it last week and posted a pic on Instagram.  Since we had a date night on the horizon I thought this was the week.  We should do something different.  John loves trying new things, so a rock climbing date was right up his alley.

We started with a quick sushi dinner.  Yum.  Sushi is so pretty.  We wanted something light before trying to climb up a wall.


Then, we headed to the Little Rock Climbing Center, which is a couple of miles from our house.  As we drove up, the number of Jeeps and X-Terras in the parking lot could have been a tip-off that we might not fit in real well.  After signing waivers, getting our gear rented and a quick belay lesson, we were ready to climb.  Since we both worked at summer camps, we were familiar with the systems and harnesses, which definitely helped.

I told John right away that I had no interest in climbing anything that slanted towards me.  So, we mostly stayed on walls where it was straight up or at an angle that said, "Yes, I am friendly.  We might get along."


And it was fun!  The challenge of doing something outside of the norm was rewarding.  We didn't worry ourselves with routes or specific rocks, we just climbed in whatever ways worked for us.  There were different places where we got to belay one another, which is always an exercise in good communication, i.e. "If I fall, will you catch me?"  (John did say that to me when he thought I wasn't paying attention.  He was mostly mistaken.)  Several routes were self-belaying so that we could climb at the same time.  There was an extremely romantic kiss at the top of one rock wall.  I'm sure people there thought we were a bit nuts.


It felt like the kind of date we would have gone on while we were dating, and it was fun to be in an unusual environment with one another.  I like sharing new experiences with John.  Climbing is also its own subculture, and watching that play out all around us was fascinating.  Most of the people there spend a lot of time rock climbing;  they seemed to be wearing a uniform of sorts as well - their own specialized gear and chalk bag, slim-fitting racer back tanks and capri pants of some sort or another.  Oh, and muscles.  They have their own community, and it seems to be a kind one - though one I would probably never belong in.  I was a little disappointed with how the rock-climbing affected by gel manicure, and I am not looking for extra excuses to do ab work-outs.  (though I probably should be)

We rounded out our evening with a run to Kroger for dessert.  We also got a lot of sprinkles.  They are for CFA, but they can double as maracas.


Though we will not be joining the climbing center anytime soon, it was a great out of the ordinary date night!

In other, totally unrelated news, I found my prom dress from senior year in my closet while on the hunt for a cocktail dress to wear on our upcoming cruise.  I went ahead and tried it on.  Low and behold, it fits!  Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo!  My mom made it for me, so you might be able to see where I get a bit of my own drive to make stuff, though to be honest, I don't think I could make a dress like this.  Way to go, Mom!


So, now I am scheming how to use this excellent find with two daughters who are somewhat obsessed with Cinderella.  There may be a princess date night in our future!  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I've written posts about how quickly the girls are growing up (you can read one of those here), but it still sneaks up on me every now and again.

Saturday morning, I moseyed out of our bedroom.  I had heard the pitter patter of little feet, so I knew the girls had already been stirring.  When I walked into the living room, Lily was sitting on the couch with her swag surrounding her.
She said, "I am sitting on the couch!"
I said, "I see that."
Lily then went on to say, "Lambie was like, 'I'm ready to go out.'  And I said, 'Sure!'  So we came out and sat on the couch."

Oh, how I laughed.  4 going on 16.  It was like a tiny window into our future.  Some days with Lily have been H.A.R.D., as if every single thing said needs to be wailed about or contradicted.  That is exhausting.  But, there are giant rays of hopefulness shining through the sometimes darkness.  She is becoming so helpful and sweet.  She will get breakfast for her and Bella and then put much of it away.  She is getting herself dressed without overwhelming amounts of drama.  She says "Please" and "Thank You," and she is usually so kind towards Bella.

I really enjoy seeing her personality develop.  She intently watched as the bread machine churned our cinnamon roll dough.  She wants to be in on any baking action, and dumping things into recipes is one of her favorite things to do.


Check out those eye-lashes.  It has been a while since a stranger asked if I put mascara on her, but I can understand why they would ask.  (Sort of.  I mean, really.  Who puts mascara on their 4-yr-old for fun?)


And where Lily is, Thing 2 is sure to follow.


Speaking of Bella - That Girl Be Cray Cray.  Sometimes John and I say this to one another in the intense moments.  It usually lightens our mood.  She has completely given up napping.  Instead, she plays in her crib with the enormous amount of stuff in there.  It recently came to my attention that she takes stuff and sneaks it into her crib when I am not paying attention, just to make sure she has plenty to play with in there.

Then, the yelling begins.  Since Lily doesn't nap either, she can hear Lily playing, so I hear her yelling, "Lily!  Lily!  What you doing, Lily?  Open the door, Lily!"  Since Lily is under instruction to not open Bella's door, this goes unheeded.  Bella then starts in with, "Mom!  Mom!  Open the door!  I'm ready to get out!  Open the door!"  Since this never works, she then yells, "CAROL!  Heeellllooo?!?  CAROL! Open the door!"  If John is home, she will also yell, "JOHN!"  This will eventually subside into playing with all of the aforementioned stuff, but not into sleep.


As you might imagine, I am sad about the lack of sleep happening during nap time.  Especially when Bella regularly says, "I hungry tired" for any biological need she may be feeling.

Yesterday we reached a new milestone with Bella; we bought her her first big girl undies.  She picked Hello Kitty and Angry Birds and was so pleased about it all.  And so adorable.


After all of the "fun" we had potty training Lily (which can be read about here and here), I am more than a little nervous about starting this process.  So, I am easing into it.  Bella has sat on the potty a few times, though nothing has happened.  She is moderately obsessed with her new undies.  Here they are with her breakfast.


Hoping that this go-round is a bit easier.  The good news is it almost has to be.  It would sure be great to have this milestone behind us and be out of diapers in our house - at least for a while.  Since Bella and Lily are 21 months apart, it is strange to think that when Lily was Bella's age, I had a little baby.  It makes me cherish this time with Bella, knowing that she will be little for only a little while longer.  Two years old definitely has low lows, but the highs are so worth it, and I wouldn't trade it.

Monday, January 28, 2013


What if somebody told you what was going to happen in the future?  Or, what if somebody told you who would be important in your life, years before it came to fruition?


This line of questions has hit me several times lately.  It's funny, because I think that God brings people and events into our lives in his timing.  Often, it is not what we would have expected, picked or imagined for ourselves.

How could I have ever known that some of the kids I played with growing up would turn out to be friends in my adulthood? - especially since I moved away for all of high school.  Would I have ever guessed that one of the slightly awkward guys I knew in seventh grade (when I myself was also extremely awkward) would end up being in my community group now?  Or that people that we met at our first 100 event when our CFA opened would become some of our very best friends?


In the moment that I met John in our college cafeteria when he was 18, and I was 19, I had no inkling of what he would mean to me.  Interestingly enough, I do have an impression from the first time we met, but it is fleeting, because we really just interacted in passing and knew each other in that "everyone knows everyone at JBU" kind of way.  It was years before I saw something different with him.  It was years before I stopped annoying him.  (You can read about how we started dating here)

All of these questions have me wondering about the future.  I love the way our life is right now, and I want to be thankful for the gifts that God has given us.  The people in our life are such treasures.  Our children are at such fun (albeit hard) ages.  We enjoy the things we are privileged to be a part of.  I want to stop and be thankful for the ways that God has orchestrated our lives for joys we never would have experienced outside of his plan.


Sometimes I get nervous about what suffering and hardships may be in front of us.  Some I can know - like I know our adoption will have some really hard times.  So many I don't know and can't predict.  I just have to trust.  I have to continue to trust God and his heart.  It all boils down to that.  What do I really believe about God's heart?

I really believe that God's heart is to magnify himself and that he uses things in my life to do that - good and bad.  In the end, I believe those things are all for my good, and I can already see the ways that he has shaped me through things I would never have signed up for.

Here's hoping and praying for more of him and less of me and for his grace to infuse me in the moments when I am too tired and want to only see myself.  For now, I am glad to not know what I don't know.  There's something freeing in that.

Friday, January 25, 2013


High:  I started a new work out class last week with lots of people I know and child-care.  Definitely a win-win.  Mondays is the step-aerobic day, and I say thanks to God and my mother that she took me to step classes in high school so that I am a little less hopelessly lost than I otherwise would be.

Low:  Fridays in this work out class are Boot Camp Day.  All caps, because it feels big and bad like that.  I pulled a muscle in my groin yesterday by sneezing - which makes me sound and feel like a crazy old lady.  Needless to say, I was quivering and slightly nauseous by the end of the class today, and I am dreading the soreness that will follow this weekend.  I can only hope that this class will do something about the jiggle that lives on me.

High:  Taking some afternoon/evening walks this week when the weather has been nice.  Getting outside makes things feel better in life.


Throwing rocks is also great fun.


Low:  Getting hit on by a neighbor when I was walking the girls.  It was definitely more creepy than flattering.  I am obviously not the babysitter.

High:  Seeing Lily love her gymnastics class.  It is one of the highlights of her week.  I also love seeing her stick out her tongue, because it is a chip off of this block.  Seeing yourself in your children is trippy.


Low:  Horse party remnants that still need to be picked up.  Or gotten down.  This horse balloon seems destined to live on our ceiling for a good while to come.


High:  Learning that you can dry your nails the most quickly by sticking them in ice cold water for 3 minutes.  At home manis just got a whole lot better looking!

Low:  Actually putting my hands in ice cold water for 3 minutes.  I am a giant wuss, and I ended up having to do this one hand at a time, because I could not handle freezing finger-tips on both hands at the same time.

High:  Making heart-shaped Egg-in-Toast for the first time.  I heart cute food.


Low:  The girls do not necessarily heart cute food, so they really spent time dipping the bread in the syrup and eating around the egg.  So nutritious.

Low:  Bella has continued to scream each morning when she wakes up, and since I don't want her to wake Lily, I get her and bring her to our bed.  This happened much earlier than I would like for it to several days this week.

High:  Bella does lay quietly in the bed, once she gets there - though wide awake.  I pretend to be asleep, and so does John, if he's still there.  She will sometimes rub John's shoulders and then rub my arm.  When you look at her, she says, "Good morning, Mommy!" or "Good morning, Daddy!" in her slightly husky Bella voice.  It is extremely endearing.

High:  Having the best friends in the world.  I know that other people have nice friends, but I must say that mine are the best.  Community group this week was a barrel of laughs that included so many things that I could never mention on a blog.  I love those people, and I thank God for the privilege of doing life with them right now.

Hope your week and heart was filled with Joy from the giver of all good things.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


This has been a weird week.  I have been recovering from the party, working on stuff for the Walk for the Orphan (more details to come!), and hanging with my ladies, mostly.Yesterday our internet and TV were down, and since I am so flexible, that was great for me.  (sarcasm font)  Moving on.

After about 11 months of not buying clothes, which you can read about here, I have started shopping again.  John and I have tried to be intentional as we have set new guidelines for how we will shop for ourselves from now on.  I think in many ways it is easier to buy nothing than to buy an appropriate amount of new clothing - whatever that is.

So, we have made one new rule that will be a bit revolutionary.  When I am shopping in person (as in, not online), then I have to try the clothing on.  I am one of those people that would just pick up a skirt or a shirt for $15, because it was cute and on sale.  I would hold it up to myself, because really, who has time to try stuff on and make sure it is right for their body type?  Most of the time, I can eyeball things pretty well, but inevitably, there was stuff that didn't fit the greatest.  This not trying on clothes habit also made it so easy to just grab stuff and buy it.

The moral of the story is that I need to be more purposeful about what I buy.  I feel like shopping online, at least for me, is more intentional.  I have to really want something, and it has to be discounted for me to purchase it.  I have to think more about it and see the total and know that it is just from clothing and not also from diapers that I also picked up at Target.

The other thing I have realized is that I need help expanding my wardrobe vision.  I am working on going through my closet and making new combinations from what I already have.  Through not buying clothes last year, I really did appreciate the clothes I had.  I was also constantly amazing (probably a strong word choice) my friends with clothes they had never seen me wear before, prompting them to ask if it was new.  It never was.

In this past year, it has come to my attention that John has a knack for dressing. He has a better eye for layering and creating fun combinations than I do.  All of that said, John and I hit the mall for some shopping today.  John was happy to oblige, though he did point out that he would not want to do it all day every day.  Neither would I.


I finally got some colored skinny pants, which I coveted slightly all of last year when they became so popular.  As I was drawn to stripes, John guided me away, reminding me of all the stripes I already own.  We found some really cute polka dots, though none were on sale and therefore not purchased.  As I was trying things on, he gave me pointers about getting different camis to wear under certain shirts, showing me where I was creating more bulk than necessary.

I felt like I was with Clinton on What Not to Wear.

And I loved it.  I love that my husband cares about what I wear enough to help me with it.  I love bouncing things off of someone else and getting different input.  Also, it should be noted that quick middle of the morning dates with no children are always welcome on a Thursday.

Be on the look out - cute outfits in my future - maybe from my own closet!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


So, after two party posts recounting every detail of the latest party at my house, I feel compelled to write the other side of it all and some of the misgivings in my own heart as it relates to parties.  Here goes nothing.

I love throwing birthday parties for my girls (and look forward to hopefully doing it for our boys too!).  I feel gifted in this area.  I revel in the little details, and my brain whirs with new possibilities to match the theme and spins ideas around almost frenetically.  I explained it to someone this way, "I think in craft."  Which means that when I have a cute theme, a little cash and a fair amount of time, the sky is the limit on party mayhem.  I often start months in advance, because I have realized that to be able to execute the details, I need to space them out - especially anything I plan to make myself.

And, I have to make choices about what to do.  Last week, as I was preparing for the party, I really didn't do laundry or clean our house.  That meant a lot of catching up yesterday, but that is the give and take.  During the holiday season when we were hosting quite a bit, I hired someone to clean my house, because I knew that I would not be able to do everything.  And to be really honest, there are places in my house that have not been cleaned since that house cleaner came in December, because I have made choices to do other stuff - like make sugar cookies.  I let things slide in order to do other things.

I also had a lot of help with this particular party.  John was a life-saver.  He made horse shoe rings, runs to the store and he set up all the outdoor stuff the day of the event.  He was also really gracious about all the time I spent doing party stuff.  My family was also a big help on the day of.  I had a few gals I know help me with party stuff ahead of time.  One of them cut out all of the printable stuff, which was a huge help, and then both girls came over on Wednesday to help make some of the treats.


So, it takes a lot of time and energy and help to do a party.  But, I do believe it is largely a labor of love.  I get to make my child feel special by creating an event where her friends and family can come and celebrate her life.  Lily loved helping to do stuff for her party, and I could tell that it mattered to her that I would spend time doing stuff for her horse party.  She felt cherished.

That said, I am not sure where it crosses the line from a labor of love to the art of showing off.  See how good I am at this?  See how many things I can pull together?  See how beautiful the whole effect can be?  I would be lying to say that I didn't want it all to look good and be as close to perfect as I can imagine it, even when my four year old may not notice or necessarily care.  I have always had these perfectionistic tendencies, and I like for people to think that I am great at stuff.  Who doesn't like that?

One of my biggest areas of struggle is thinking that I am a big deal and hoping that other people think that too.  (I know I am not really a big deal at all.)  I spend far too much time thinking of myself, and I find myself needing to repent of this repeatedly.  I am asking the Lord to continually work more of himself in me and less of me.

More of him, less of me.

I want my life to mirror his image and not my own.  I want to make his name bigger - not my own.  That is what is real inside my heart, but it can get clouded so easily and often does.

I plan big parties and then blog about them, because I love doing it.  I really do.  That is not for everyone.  In fact, I would go as far as to venture that it is not for most people.  So - I wanted to spill the real deal on how parties go down around here.  I don't want it to look like I am doing everything - I assure you - I am not.  I don't want to contribute to other women feeling like they can never measure up.  I don't measure up - none of us ever does when held against the Law.  Thankfully, we are held up in God's grace and love.  That is where I want to be, party-planning or not.

Monday, January 21, 2013


If you are looking to throw a horse party, this blog post should be very helpful.  Otherwise, it may be a bit boring - fair warning.  For most of the party pics - click here for that blog post.

When I am planning a party - actually, when I am planning just about anything, I use Evernote.  It's an app for your computer and phone that syncs up and keeps all your notes in place.  I love it, and it definitely helps me stay organized with all the little details.

The first thing I found for this party was the invitation and printable pack, from 3 Little Monkeys Studio.  I decided to purchase it all, because I liked it so much and didn't think I could make anything better.  It was exactly the look I wanted.


I ended up using almost all of the printables for something or another.  They were so cute!

Here they are wrapped around the invites.


And on the water bottles.


For other decorations, I mainly used balloons.  I usually buy a helium tank from Hobby Lobby for 40% off for parties.  I found the giant horse balloon online from Amazon, and the pink and white pearlized balloons are from Hobby Lobby.  We also bought some flowers at Sam's, but totally forgot about them, so they graced the inside of John's car for the party.  I also used burlap on all the tables.


I found a tutorial to make Hobby Horses on this blog, and it was excellent.  Very easy to follow, and it included a printable pattern.  If you can do basic sewing, you could do this.  I got the idea for bean bag horse shoes from this blog, but I didn't follow the instructions.  I should have, because I would have made the bean bags bigger and flatter for the kids to throw.


The horses will be fun toys to have around for a long time, so that feels like a win.  I went out on a limb and did a "Paint Your Own Horse" station with paint pens and plastic horses.  I ordered the horses through the Dollar Tree, and they were delivered to the store for free.  I didn't want little tiny horses or horses that I had to pay $6.99 a pop for, and these were $1 each, which seemed like a great deal.  The only catch is that you have to order by the case, which is a lot of horses.


Then, I spray painted (and by I, I mean that I did one round of the spray-painting and John did the rest, because he is amazing) them cream and a few pink to be decorations.  This took a couple of good coats, but went pretty quickly.  Though, you might want to double-check those facts with John.

The Menu for the Party was as follows:

Pink Lemonade
Mini Water Bottles
Pigs in a Blanket
Mac n Cheese Bites
CFA Nuggets
Almond Bark covered Ritz/Peanut Butter
Marshmallows/covered in chocolate
Trail Mix

For the favors, I wanted to keep it simple.  I didn't even get a picture of what was inside - it was Cracker Jack's and a strip of horse stickers that I ordered from Amazon.  I made the cookies using cookie cutters I also ordered from Amazon.  (The Horse Shoe, the Horse Head, and the Horse)

I made the cake - I found this cake through Pinterest and found this tutorial for icing it.  After a buttercream disaster the night before the party, I was able to mix up the Wilton Buttercream Recipe and frost the cake the morning of the event.  I do love the way it turned out.


That about sums it up.  It was fun, but I am glad it is over and that I have a long time til another birthday party.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


The long anticipated Horse Party finally arrived at our house.  It turned out to be such fun.  I would never have thought of a horse theme, but since this is what Lily asked for, several months ago no less, then I was bound to execute.  We had it in the afternoon, and the weather turned out to be beautiful, especially for January.  Lots of friends came to celebrate, and Lily was so pleased with it all.

Here's the birthday girl - she was so excited.  I mean bouncing around the house excited.


There was a lot of food.


Horse cake and cupcakes.


We had drink options and balloons and lots of horsey decor.


Kids got to paint their own horse.


I didn't want to have actual pony rides at our house for many reasons, so, we did hobby horse races.  Actually we did hobby horse time trials, which was pretty hilarious.  The kids took this sort of seriously.  The two dads in charge took it much more seriously.


John actually timed each kid, and another dad wrote down all the times.  I love that he disqualified a kid and used descriptors for other kids.


Kids also got to play horse shoes, which turned into hurling the horseshoe shaped bean bags wherever their fancy struck.


Lily was really so excited about everything, which made it really fun.  Also, her shoes are perpetually on the wrong feet, so I am glad we captured that.


After the games, it was time for cutting the cake.  Lily actually blew out her candles this year!  Most kids wanted cake - not cupcakes, so I was a little swarmed while cutting.


The kids then played in our playroom and continued to enjoy the weather by playing outside.  Who knew a January Saturday would be so lovely.  It was.


We gave out treat bags and cookies and sent everyone on their way.


My sister and nephew came, along with my mom and step-dad.  I was so glad to have their help and have them help celebrate Lily.  You know you have a great step-dad when you say, "Hey, could you fetch 40 spray-painted horses and some chargers from the basement shop?"  And he says, "Sure!  Anything else you need?"  I was so grateful they came and sorry to see them go, as usual.


Tomorrow I'll post more details and sources for some of the fun.  It was a great day.

Happy 4th Birthday, Lily!