Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First Swim - Summer is Here!

      One of the reasons we wanted to move to our neighborhood is the pool.  It is fantastic for young children, with a long, beachy shallow area with fun fountains, and it never gets deeper than 4 1/2 feet.  This past weekend it opened, and after working around the house, we were ready to hit the pool.

(I wonder when we will start getting pictures with our children looking at the camera.  I tell myself that this really does capture the moment.)

I am sort of a sucker for matching the girls, and little matching ruffle swim suits were too much to pass up.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage

Oh what fun we had at the pool.  Lily loved it.  She loved it last summer, but now she really loves it.  And, John loves playing with her there.

Picnik collage

Bella was transfixed by it all.  She giggled and splashed and panted.  She pants when she gets excited - she must have gotten that from me.  Her enjoyment was precious, and her cheeks are legendary.

Picnik collage

We are looking forward to a summer of swimming - though I must say that loading two babies up for a trip to the pool is not for the faint of heart.  You have to want it.  Thank God for spray-on sunscreen, swim diapers and a toddler who did not kick and scream when it was time to leave, this time.  In fact, she wanted to take a picture with me and actually smiled at the camera.  I love this picture.


On Thursday, I will link up with

Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekend: Community, among other things

      We don't usually take a long Memorial Day weekend.  The store is open Monday, and the way it works out, John usually works.  He definitely makes up for it other times, so I don't really mind.  But that means that we just had two days to soak up the ceremonial start of summer weekend.  We kicked it off with a bang by doing a service project with our community group.  We have been enormously blessed with a community group full of people that truly desire to serve the Lord and want to find practical ways to do that here in Little Rock.  We have gotten involved with our church's missions department to help serve missionaries who are here on furlough or getting extra training by updating the places that the church has for them to stay, and in some cases, helping to move them.  This weekend, everyone was able to help out, and most of us worked to move a family who is preparing to start a church in Hong Kong, while two very brave women stayed back with our 11 children 4 and under.  Here are a few of the guys unloading boxes - thankfully this project actually went much faster than we imagined it - which almost never happens.

Picnik collage

We went to pick up the kids, who it sounds like did pretty great, except for a poop explosion in the ball pit. Yes, you read that correctly.  What an unfortunate, albeit hilarious, happening.  It is easy for me to say that, because I was not there - the moms who did stay with the kids should get a major badge of honor.  We did let all the kids play in the yard once there were more people to corral them.  It was controlled chaos.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage
Picnik collage

Seriously, it is such a privilege to live life with these people.  So much fun and so encouraging.  ♥

The rest of the weekend, we have been doing projects around the house - the bottom kids' deck is almost finished.  We are loving it.  Here's John working on some of the final touches, and the girls as we watched from the top deck.

Picnik collage

We walked and ran at the River, taking in these scenes.

Picnik collage

After church and lunch and naps, I found the girls on the couch like this.  I hadn't realized that Lily could break into a case of Puffs from Sam's.  She can - to the delight of both girls.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage

All in all, we had a fabulous weekend.  We even got to see our friends who have moved to Birmingham, and it was such a joy to spend time with them.  I marvel at the way the Lord provides community in our lives - we are richly blessed.  We also went swimming - it was Bella's first time ever, and those pictures will be in tomorrow's post - they deserve their own post entirely.  Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thoughts on Tragedy (I know, super cheery.)

      This week I have been a little honed in on the coverage of the Joplin tornado.  Disasters are like that for me - it is hard to look away.  And this one is close to home and hit friends who are now dealing with the fall-out.  This is the inside of the Chick-fil-A in Joplin.

That is Bad News Bears.  Seriously.  I can't even fathom.  When lightning struck our transformer, and we were out of power for a day and a half, it was bad.  This is beyond awful, and their house is also destroyed.  They are rebuilding everything.  And, they are looking for ways to generate income for all of their employees in the meantime as well - it is a huge responsibility, and our prayers go out to them.  (We are also coordinating next Thursday as a day where we give 10% of our sales to Joplin Tornado Relief.  It feels like the very least we can do.)

      As I think about this tragedy and so many like it, I am always left with a lot of questions.  Mainly questions for God.  "Why, God?"  "Why do so many people have to suffer like this?" "Why do mothers have to have children literally ripped from their arms and be searching for them, maybe to never find their remains?" "Why do people who are already poor have to suffer the worst in these situations?"
      It is funny, because it times like these, people always say that it makes you think about what really matters.  Which is true.  Buildings can be rebuilt.  Stuff can be replaced.  Lives are what matter.  But what about all the lives that are lost?  They mattered.  They mattered to their loved ones, and more importantly, they matter to our loving God who says that not even a sparrow falls from the sky without his notice.
      And, that is where it gets really hard for me.  I know that I serve a loving God.  He loves us so much that he made a way for us to spend eternity with him through his Son, away from all pain and delighting in his presence.  But the devastation of lives and people is hard to see.  He made that powerful tornado, too.  And he has a plan for it - one that will ultimately bring him more glory.  Which is the point.  His glory is the point.  I have such limited, finite vision.  I can only see the pain and heartache, and when I stretch very, very hard, sometimes, I can get glimpses of the glory.  We deserve destruction, and anything good we get is out of his mercy and love.  But, I have to believe that sometimes the destruction is out of his love as well.  He knows what is best, and I have to trust him, even though it makes my heart hurt.
      I am sitting here crying, because I know that I could lose every single thing and person in my life and that could be exactly what he has for me, because he knows what will bring him the most glory.  What a terrifying thought.  But, it can be a wonderful thought as well.  It can make me cling to him, first and foremost.  It can make me hold things with an open hand, since they are all his anyway.  I pray that he gives me the strength to do this, especially as a mother.  It is hard to hold those babies loosely.
      And, I continue to pray for the people of Joplin and all those affected by some horrible natural disaster.  I pray that God grants peace and joy in the midst of the tragedy, and that more people come to know him and his grace because of it.

Isaiah 55:8-11
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, " declares the Lord.  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;  It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sometimes, We Get It Right

      This week has been a bit on the crazy side for John.  My week has been sort of uncrazy, but I have realized that there are crazy times ahead, and I need to plan like crazy to help them to be a little less crazy.  So, tonight, we knew a good frozen yogurt break was in order.  The weather was beautiful, and we know we need to savor these moments before the true humidity has set in to attack our faces all summer long.  I know that sounds dramatic.  Until you have lived here, you cannot say anything against it.
      Off we went to TCBY.  For about 20 minutes, it was one of those perfect family evenings where everyone is happy and content.

(Check out the chocolate dripping off of John's chin.  That was for the picture.  He is a great dad.)

And here is "Chocolate Face" herself - that is what I called her, and she quickly adopted the name.  And, the other one loved laughing at little miss mess.

Picnik collage

John did eventually abandon the seat next to Lily in an attempt to come away with a little less chocolate all over himself.  I said, "Hey, let's take a picture together.  We can just turn your phone around."  Here is what we got to start with.

Picnik collage

And, sometimes I try sappy things, like getting a cute "kissing" picture.  Other people have them.  We even have some good ones, but, tonight, that was asking too much.  I would not describe this as cute.  You can look away as soon as you need to.


In the end, we did come out of the ordeal with a cute picture to show for it.  Which is what matters in life, as everyone knows.

      As we were sitting there, we talked about what a fun time we got to have with our little family.  I want to treasure these times, because it is not always fun with frozen yogurt around here.  There have been many moments this week when I felt like I was getting it wrong with Lily.  Like she was winning - at least, I know she was whining, which was about to drive me mad.  And, John and I have had some hard moments this week as well, where I was getting it wrong.  Our biggest struggle as a couple is work-life balance, and we have had some long conversations this week trying to figure it all out.  Which, of course, we can't.  We need more of God in our marriage and our lives, because being selfless and godly does not come naturally to us.
      So, it is nice to soak in the nice weather and the nice moments.  Especially since you never really know what will be right around the corner when you have a two-year-old in the mix ready to make your life a little less fun as soon as you get in the car.  Like she did right after these pictures.

Linking up at

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Old House: Lily's Nursery

      As I was going through old pictures, I stumbled upon pictures of Lily's nursery.  Since I didn't really keep up with our little blog then, I decided to post the pics of what Lily's nursery looked like in our old house.  I had such a great time doing this room and was sad to leave it.

(I just noticed that baby Lily is in that last pic.  Time does fly.)

So, I wanted to do a Butterfly mural in tone on tone colors.  I liked this bluish lavender color, and I painted the whole room the middle color on the color strip.  Then, I got smaller quantities of the colors on either side of the base color.  I got the lighter purple in a glossy sheen, and I got the darker purple in a flatter sheen to add even more dimension to the mural.  John helped me ghetto-rig a flash light with a cut out of a butterfly shape to project onto the wall.  I traced the shapes in pencil, and then painted them the different colors.  (The butterfly shapes were tattoo outlines that I printed off of some random website.)

Picnik collage

Most of the rest of the stuff in the room has been brought to our new house and used in Bella's Nursery and Lily's Room, but this is what it looked like all put together in this room.  I used a smaller version of the same applique that I used on the bedding to line the curtains and go around the lampshade.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Lily's baby nursery.  It was so fun to put together!  Also, I have figured out how to add a reply feature to my comments, so if you leave me a comment - now I can reply to it more directly in the comment section.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Organizing Photos

      In the last week or so, I have been working on our pictures, so, I thought I would blog about it.  I have always been a little neurotic about pictures, because I have always assumed that if I was going to take them, I should do something with them.  I never wanted to have them sitting around.  At one point, I even went back and organized all my pictures from high school into a big book, so they would not float loosely around my life.
      Now that I am a mom, I find there are more pictures than ever.  And, I would like to be able to keep them together so that they will be accessible and able to be enjoyed for years.  I feel like by taking a picture of something, you can hold on to a part of that moment forever.  It is wonderful, but only if you know what to do with them.  I realize that this can be a very overwhelming topic for some - especially if you have lots of old pictures sitting around.  So, I am going to break this post into a couple of sections.
Section 1: How I Organize My Photos
  -  When I upload them to my computer, I immediately organize them into categories, mostly by date, but sometimes by event.  As a general rule, I do a folder for each month titled "May 2011" or whatever month it is.  I make separate folders for any professional pictures that Uncle Luke takes for us, and I also make separate folders for big trips that we take.  I feel like this makes it easier to locate specific pictures if I need to.  I use iPhoto for everything, because it came with our computer, and I have loved it.
  -  I delete photos from my camera as soon as I upload them, so that I avoid uploading duplicates and creating chaos and confusion with my pictures.

Picnik collage

 -  Currently, I make Shutterfly albums out of all of our photos.  I do not try to scrapbook, because my goal is to get them all finished, and I know that is something that I could not keep up with.  I make albums that are for John and I to keep, and I make albums for each of the girls.

Picnik collage

  -  My Thoughts and Tips about Shutterfly
      -  Upload regularly, which means it will take less time, and you will have your favorite pictures backed up electronically.
      -  Use the same folder system on Shutterfly that you do on your computer - it will make it easier to keep track of and locate things.
      -  I use backgrounds that are pretty tame, because I want the pictures to be the star - not the random page I may have picked.
      -  Once you have done an album or so, it becomes a quicker process, because you are familiar with page layouts and backgrounds that you like.  I makes it easy to drop stuff in and know what you want.
      -  I do separate books for vacations, because I like the novelty of looking through a vacation specific book.
      -  Grouping your photos by event will help your pages make sense.

Picnik collage

I used to do larger photo albums with printed pictures, but now the digital albums are just much more simple to do.  I love that they are completely mess-free, and you get a beautiful printed book that arrives at your door.  I know there are other websites that do this, and I think once you find one you like and are comfortable with, then stick with it.  I also think the cost is very comparable to getting all of your pictures printed out and putting them into a nice album or trying to scrapbook them.  I always wait until Shutterfly is running a special of 20% or 30% off before I order books.  I just make them and have them ready to order when the specials are running, which is most of the time.

Section 2:  How I Organize Keepsakes
  -  I do do Baby Books.  I get mine from Aimee J, which I picked because they were cute and scrapbooky, but could be finished in the first year and a half or so.  I liked the pages that came with them, and I bought a little more scrapbook stuff to finish them out.  I felt like this was a good way to have something handmade and written in to pass on, but it can be completed and not a project that lingers indefinitely in my life.

Picnik collage

I keep a folder with stuff that needs to go into it, and then put it in as I make time for it.  Lily's is done, except for the little bit of hair from her first haircut that just happened a couple of months ago.  I am probably half way through Bella's.
  -  I am not sure how I will handle all of the little things that Lily brings home.  So far, I have been tossing the ones that I don't want to keep right away and have a drawer with the cute keepable ones in my entry hall.  I need to either make a book from each year, or possibly take pictures of them all and make a Shutterfly album out of those.  We shall see.  I would love to hear what other people do.

Section 3:  Getting Started
  -  What do you do with a giant box or computer full of pictures that you need to organize?
      -  Start by putting them all in order to the best of your ability.  Group them by month and/or event.
      -  Throw out or even delete duplicates that are not great.  You do not need 20 pictures of the same moment (most likely), and 5 of the best pictures are the ones you want to look at later anyway.
  -  I really believe that what I just described above is the hardest part, because it involves thinking.  Once you have put them into order and decided which ones are worth keeping, then you can much more easily put them into some kind of album.  It will not take a lot of thinking.

So - those are my tips and thoughts on picture organization.  How do you organize yours?  I am always open to new ideas!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend: This is How We Bowl

      My heart is heavy, because I have been watching coverage of the Joplin tornado and have been saddened by the loss of life and destruction.  The free-standing CFA there was mostly destroyed, and we are praying for our friends who own and operate it as they move forward in the days ahead.  The pictures are gut-wrenching, and there are so many things that must happen to return any sense of normalcy to their lives and the lives of all they work with.
      Weekends bring many things to our house.  It brought our regular Saturday morning trip to the LR River Trail, where John does a long run with Lily, and I do a long walk with Bella.  This Saturday, there was water everywhere, and they are doing construction on the trail, so we had to off-road in the strollers a bit.  But, our favorite thing about this weekend was definitely our bowling outing with our fabulous team from Chick-fil-A.  This is how we bowl.


We had a great turn out, and it was so much fun to see everyone enjoying time with their families and each other.  We are blessed beyond measure with a team of people who genuinely care about us and one another (and our guests - hopefully if you have eaten with us, you understand what I mean!).  It was such a privilege to watch them love on our girls.  I never held Bella the whole time we were there, because she was being passed around the loving arms of our sweet staff.  And, Lily had a great time playing with some of the other children there.

Picnik collage

I appliqued a shirt from the Goodwill for John to bowl in.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage
(I polished off those super healthy nachos almost singlehandedly.)

So fun to see all the fun being had.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage

John hosted a contest for the "Best Bowling Shirt."  This was how it went down.  Hilarious - and I was so impressed by all the home-made shirts - especially the one that won.  Congrats, DJ!

Picnik collage

Lily "bowled" for the first time with help from her new friends.  She mostly stared blankly and chewed on a straw while this was going down, but she did seem to enjoy it and give John "knucks" afterwards.

Picnik collage

I was a great team outing.  I am so thankful to the Lord for the dear people that he has brought to us.  We ♥ our wonderful Chick-fil-A family!