Friday, June 23, 2017

MAGICAL TIDYING: CRAFT ROOM

So, I know it has been about 40 billion years since I wrote about magical tidying.  Life sort of keeps marching on, and I keep doing other things.  Mostly our home has stayed pretty tidy.  My laundry room still becomes a crazy catch all, but it is easier to get it back to square one now that everything has an actual place.

A couple of weeks before we left for Aruba, I was bemoaning some un-done projects on the phone to my sister.  She super graciously invited herself to come help me with those.  In my head, we were going to tackle some of the re-decorating I've been hoping to finish this year.  In reality, when she got here, we realized that her giftedness would be most helpful in cleaning out some desperate spaces in my home.  She is awesome at that, and I get paralyzed and listless in the face of big mess.

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(I want to be more like her.)

We wisely outsourced most childcare to a local VBS πŸ™ŒπŸ», so we were able to accomplish quite a bit in the couple of days that she was here.  We spent all of a Monday in the girls' room.  They have some hoarder tendencies, and I hadn't exactly put away all of their Christmas gifts. 🀦🏻‍♀️ #itsonlyjune
We also destickered every surface, which was badly needed and doctored all the broken books.

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I did a good job taking pictures of her doing a good job. 🀷🏻‍♀️😜

The craziest room in my home has long been my craft room, which John has lovingly referred to as my "Crap Room."  Just imagine if all of the birthday parties that I've thrown in the last five years threw up all over a space.  Then throw in some fabric from sewing projects, spare pieces of clothing that I've been meaning to mend or use for craft projects (?) and some actual dried cat vomit, and you can pretty much get the gist of the space.  I did a bad job taking pictures, but I can fully describe that the closet had two solid feet of junk on the floor, making it impossible to walk in or use. 😳

This is what it looked like in the middle of the madness.

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The transformation is unbelievable.  The entire back of John's Sequoia was full with the seats down.  Between the two rooms, we filled four contractor bags with trash and gave away a ton of stuff.  Feels so good.

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Gigantic thanks to my sister Ellen for walking me through this soul-sucking process that I never could have tackled on my own.  I'm forever grateful.  And John is even more grateful.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

FATHER'S DAY THOUGHTS

Another Father's Day has come and is on its way out.  I've often had bittersweet feelings on this day, seeing as my father has gone on.  And I miss him, as always - that never goes away.  I ran across a picture of he and my mother while cleaning out a closet and was stopped in my tracks at the kindness of his smile and the twinkle in his eyes.  He was one of a kind, truly.

Today, however, I've been overwhelmed with gratitude that it was he who was my father, ever.  Sure, he's gone now, but I had him for 22 years.  So many people don't get 22 months with a great father, and I had a fantastic dad for 22 whole years.  He loved me so well and instilled such a sense of self inside of me, as well as each of my siblings.  When I look at my brother and sisters, though we have many differences, there are so many things we share thanks to our parents.

Our dad made us think that we hung the moon and could do anything we set our minds to.  He laughed at our jokes.  He wanted to hang out with us, and we believed it was because we were awesome - not realizing that it was he who was the most awesome for spending time with us when we were probably fairly annoying.  Honestly, we sort of all expect our mothers to always love us, but when a dad goes above and beyond, it really sets children up to soar.

He loved God and taught us to do the same by his example.  He was in no way perfect, and he was clear to apologize and ask for forgiveness from each of us - another amazing gift a parent can give.  To this day, when I run into someone that knew him, they often go out of their way to tell me how amazing my father was.  And I never tire of hearing it, because it's the truth.

I'll take this all a step further, because I'm married to the father of my children.  He's not perfect either, but he loves me and Lily, Bella, William and Violet so well.  John loves the Lord and is seeking to serve him.  He looks for ways to connect with each child individually, and he speaks words of truth and encouragement into their lives every chance he gets.  He plays with them, and laughter trickles through the hallways in our home. (not every moment, obviously ... but so many)  Our children will never doubt that their father adores them and will be cheering them on in any endeavor.

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Today, we were eating lunch out, and a guest that regularly eats at our CFA came up to tell me what a wonderful and amazing husband I have.  She wanted to make sure that I knew it.

In that moment, it hit me.  I've been blessed far beyond what I could ever deserve in both the father and the husband departments, and today I choose to honor them both and thank God for his overwhelming graciousness to me, my siblings and my children.  I don't take for granted these gifts and the way these men have forever impacted my life for the better.

I've also been enormously blessed with a fantastic step-father and father-in-law who love John and I and our children so well.  More of God's graciousness to us.  Happy Father's Day to each of the fathers out there making the world a sweeter place for their kids and pointing them to Christ, and thanks be to God for being the one who fills all the gaps and then some.

Monday, June 12, 2017

ARUBA: EVEN MORE FUN

Yesterday I posted about time on the beach and eating at fun restaurants while we were in Aruba with CFA.  Today, I'm sharing pics from our excursions and a couple of other fun meals.  Truly, it was a beautiful, relaxing and fun trip, for which we are so grateful.

Our first excursion was an off-roading adventure that took us around the entire island taking in all of the sights.  Aruba is 7 miles by 18 miles, so it really is possible to see almost everything in a morning.  It was windy and bumpy and dusty, but it gave us a great taste of everything Aruba has to offer away from the high-rise beach strip where we stayed.

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We stopped at a place with some really amazing natural bridges over the ocean.

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We also visited the "ruins" of the big Natural Bridge that actually collapsed in September 2005.  The picture of it on the wall of the gift shop was really prettyπŸ˜‚, and the shoreline is still quite stunning, though the major attraction is no longer there. 😳

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We also made baby stops by a chapel and the California Light House.

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(I became mildly fixated on taking pictures of all the cacti.)
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Our second excursion was the "Palm Pleasure Snorkel Adventure."  How can you go wrong with a name like that?  You cannot.  We cruised around on a catamaran and got dropped off to snorkel at several sites including a ship wreck.  The water was so incredibly blue, and it was just a fantastic way to spend a morning.

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(View of our hotel from the water)

In other island eating adventures, we hit up Azzurro with a group of friends.  We especially loved the view and the flaming whisky parmesan cheese wheel.

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(I've been social media friends with this girl for years, and it was such a delight to talk with her and her husband in person! #kindredspirit )

We had an island party farewell dinner with CFA on our last night, and every detail was really beautiful.  It rounded out our time there so well, and it was such a treat to thank Dan Cathy personally for such a great trip.

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In a wonderful surprise treat, we discovered that our flight left late in the day on Friday, so we snuck in one last culinary adventure, after sleeping in.  I went to trusty Trip Advisor and tried to figure out a close-ish, very highly rated lunch option.  We made a snap decision to go to Eduardo's Beach Shack which was the #5 rated restaurant on the whole island.  I didn't read many reviews, and we got dropped off by our taxi and walked around, eventually having to ask people to find the place.

It was literally an overblown kiosk featuring gluten free, dairy free, vegan "bowls" and protein balls.  So, while it was not what we were expecting at all, it did turn out to be delicious and much more healthy than most of what we had consumed, so overall, it was a win.  And it was right on the beach.

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And then it was time to head home!  We had a great trip, and it was such a joy to spend quality time together.

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Peace out, Aruba - until we meet again!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

ARUBA

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, we are so thankful to be partnered with CFA.  Last year, we discovered that we won this trip to Aruba, and we were a bit shocked and very excited.  Because we didn't plan every detail (as I usually do), it sort of snuck up on us, and last Sunday found us winging our way to the island, ready for relaxation but not really sure what all awaited us.

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We arrived at the Ritz Carlton, dazzled by the beauty of our surroundings and the hospitality that both the Ritz and CFA put into our welcome.

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I'll just stop right here and say that even though John and I are working towards less stress in our life, the difference between vacation and our norm is very stark.  There was a certain amount of detox required when we arrived to be able to transition, and this included getting a few last work things done and me breaking down crying. (#cutthedramacarol ) Once we worked through that, we were much more able to enjoy our time, and we were only an hour late to our first event. 😳😜

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(of course I went straight from crying to a sunset photo session.  my eyes match my dress...)

We had very little on our schedule and a gorgeous view at every turn.  Our first couple of days were spent on the beach, with a little time away from the beach to get a massage or to wander into the hospitality lounge where CFA had a continual supply of drinks and snacks at the ready.  Ahhh, vacation life.

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(this pic is just the cold drinks side of the buffet of fun treats for us!)

I read two full books from my phone's Kindle app while John had his always-present-on-vacations, tiny book, Team of Rivals.

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We enjoyed watching the iguanas that were everywhere and seeing the trails their tails left behind in the sand.  John also got close enough to get bitten by an iguana, but he does seem to have survived the flesh wound. 😜

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As always, eating out was one of our favorite activities, and Aruba had a lot to offer as far as restaurants go.  The first night, we ate at Barefoot where we took in the sunset with delicious and unique food.

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We also asked several of the staff members of the Ritz where their favorite place to eat was, and we constantly heard "Zeerovers." So, we paid an exorbitant taxi fee to get to the other side of the tiny island, but it ended up being all worth it for the experience.  Zeerovers serves whatever fish was caught that day, shrimp and a few sides, all fried up fresh for you after you choose.  They pull it out of a cooler and weigh it for you, and then the throw it into the oil right next to the sea.

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We loved taking it all in, as it clearly was full of locals and a smattering of other tourists like us, who had found their way there.  We got to see another gorgeous sunset, and as we were finishing up, a boat pulled up to unload more fresh fish, which was a sight to behold.

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In other spare pockets of time. we walked through downtown to take in what seemed to be the regular island fare, but it's always nice to see someplace new, and Aruba was truly a beautiful, though extremely windy, place to visit.

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I'll do another vacation post with pics from our excursions! Thanks to CFA for such an amazing trip.