Sunday, July 31, 2011

Little Bits: Owning Up

We have been road tripping a lot lately and just a weekend ago we made another small one to celebrate an adorable friend as she turned two. Her mama put on a watermelon day at the grandparents' lake house, which is only about an hour from us.

What a delicious lot of fun!

By the end of the night as we got home and tucked the realllll-y worn out girls into their beds Hope woke up just enough to say, "There's nothing like being cozy in your own bed in your own house, Mom." Then she shut her little eyes and drifted off before I could barely laugh and say, "I agree."

With that we have taken the last week to settle in, to just be. To be in our own house, in our own element, in our own town. To own up to this being home now and treating it less like a weird extended vacation. It was a rich week of being pretty normal, and it did us all good.

I am so thankful every day, even on the challenging days, to be home with these my girls.

Some little bits from here to there:

Spaghetti night. Really that bib was a bit of overkill, don't you think?
I love walking in on this. Sisters reading to each other? Yes, please.
Our back deck is proving to be a favorite spot. Grandpa and Grandma Martins got the girls a sand and water table, which is especially fun when filled with soap suds for a giant Little People bathtub. Play doh in a house Auntie Brooke got for Hope's first birthday can bring a solid hour or more of enjoyment. And smoothies, as Alysse's once again splattered face proves, are best when underneath the huge magnolia tree that welcomingly shades the side they play on.

Speaking of solid hours on end... my children love coloring books. They color the characters, however, and then cut them all out. After that they spend forever playing with these new paper friends. This is one of their absolute favorite things to do, and I love hearing the dialogue and plots they come up with! Even if someone inevitably narrates something that makes me wonder how they can sound like me sounding like my mother, even though I said I'd never say any of that.
Dancing. Thanks to me finally joining Joe in enjoying the iPod my brother got us, oh, about two Christmases or so ago. A playlist that reads, "Jamming with the Kids" gives us this...

And this, right out of the gate and first thing in the morning.
Well, for some of us. Alysse, I feel you baby girl.
Peach ice-cream topped with nutella and fruit chews and sprinkles. Someone finally did some big business in the potty, a major and l-o-n-g coming accomplishment! So proud, even if she told a fib two days later to try and get a repeat treat. Nice try, Maddie Girl.

A yard sale to celebrate the last of the boxes being put by the curb on trash day and to help fill up piggy banks running dry. Our lemonade stand made it to Virginia, much to the girls' delight.
That sounded like a lovely thing. In reality the Friday by myself part of the yard sale was pretty chaotic and sent us inside for middle of the day baths, puzzles, and an extra long rest time. That, indeed, was lovely.
Their faces when Julie Andrews finally makes her debut after that long introduction in "The Sound of Music" during another after lunch rest time.
M: "Here she comes, Hope!!!"
H: "Oh, yeah!"
We finished decorating Joe's office and the girls are over the moon when we visit him working hard to prepare for the coming semester. We had the second of playdates with some neighbors down the street who, amazingly, have three girls similar in ages to ours. I baked a french toast concoction, put out some fresh fruit and veggies, and enjoyed our very first houseguests. That all felt kind of normal, actually.

Especially when the houseguests came back during the yard sale crazy and there was no yummy smelling french toast, candles lit, shiny floors, or toys tucked perfectly into their designated crates. Because, honestly, that's where real and good friendship comes from anyway.

These little bits are the stuff life is made of, the stuff that lays the foundation for the bigger stuff that is to come. I still have to stop periodically to quiet the ache that moving here left behind, yet I'm encouraged to say that we're owning up to life around here.

That truly does feel pretty groovy .

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Maddie Days

Sweet, sensitive, snuggly, spunky... seriously hilarious. So glad she's mine.

Maddie Girl turned three this month. She wanted herself a cowgirl party in the worst way. No coincidence to us that she especially loves that sweet and spunky red head, Jessie.

Panning for gold... otherwise known as spraypainted pebbles from the driveway.

These boots? A grandparent gift that may go down in the most cherished gifts hall of fame.

There's a snake in my boot!

And so a cowgirl party in the mountains she had (With a big thanks to PopPop and Nana for their creative touches and help, along with Uncle Billy and Aunt Andrea!)

In keeping with turning three and birthday traditions, Maddie got to plan her own special day once we got home. Thinking back to both my girls this past year, my heart just swells. I throw out a wide open opportunity for them to pick anything in the world they would like to do. Similar to Hope's simple request of books and puzzles on her day, Maddie asked for a family walk please. What a reminder that it truly is the little things that catch their hearts and minds.

Well then, a family walk we did.
Threw in a little sidewalk chalking just for fun.
Before that I did make a suggestion, though, in knowing our girl. Just a teeny weenie wondering if maybe she'd like to go to the great little spray park down the road from our house.
She did.
Fearless on two feet... skipping the tiny water features for the big sprayers and buckets!

We rounded out the evening with some Chick-Fil-A for dinner. Do you know this child will rarely eat a fry? If there wasn't so much DNA proof, I might sometimes have to wonder on that one.

Helping a messy sister out.

When we finally got home, splash bathed in the sink, and jammied up-- we were all pretty beat. Those little hazel eyes of hers could barely make it through a few pages of her baby book before I took her off to bed and whispered an I love you as I tucked her in.

Another birthday passed, another year of getting so big behind us.

Madison Elise, I just love you. Your little big heart makes your beauty shine. I love that you are a snuggler, that you think about things in your own way, that you are a tactile learner, that you love all things beautiful and say so in the most precious ways, that you constantly amaze us when we least expect it. I hope you never grow too big to slip that little hand in mine or holler, "Come here, Mama, and cuddle up with me!" Happy birthday, Maddie Girl. Daddy and I both thank God for you like you wouldn't believe!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


"She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will..." ~Birdee, Hope Floats

This quote has gone with me each time we've moved. It's message rings even truer with this one. I suspect it has something to do with the little girls who depend on me. So much of their new beginning comes from my influence as we journey through each new day together.

Most of the time I am pretty glass half full... not because I feel like I have to be, but because there is a peace that lives inside of me. One that defies situations and emotions. Even when I want to be down in the dumps there's this small, still voice that starts counting my blessings.

It's fine to have discouraging times, of course. Necessary even. I've found it's how I choose to deal with them, how I decide to recover from them that makes all the difference. Do I stay and linger in the valleys? Do I let darkness or disappointment win knowing that all it takes is one little glimmer of light to overcome?

I'm a pick myself up by the bootstraps kind of girl. I really get the passage about how David strengthened himself in the Lord.

But that's just it.

He strengthened himself in the Lord.

Since the whirlwind of losing, finding, packing, selling, moving, finishing, and starting I have been goal oriented and driven by purpose. But now that the flurry of activity has slowed down, I look around and think-- we're really here, we really did move. I know there is much good to come from this new adventure-- I feel it, I see it. Even so, it's right about now that I have a decision to make. I am tired. I am emotional. I am both thrilled and kind of overwhelmed by the potential that lies ahead.

Yet I choose to get up and climb out of the valley where worry and doubt and fatigue reside. By my own strength, it will never happen. Especially when facing deeper and darker times, inner struggles and harder situations-- I just don't know how it's done alone.

My husband is loving and ever supportive and my children are my joy.

But their strength is not enough either.

I often think that folks, including myself at times, get confused by people in the church versus God himself. During our time in Tennessee, church ended up being a sometimes hard thing. Honestly our feelings were hurt and we saw some situations that amazed us, both for the good and for not. It was a strange time of growth in that way.

We are meant to live in fellowship, in community. We wholeheartedly believe He created us to need one another and to live together, rejoicing and sharing in each other's lives and burdens. In fact, we have had some absolutely wonderful fellowship over the years, and I wouldn't give up church family for anything. Even with the hardships I believe the things we experienced have prepared us for this new season of working with tender college students who may feel lonely or like they've lost their way.

Yet the strength of friends, churched or not, is also not enough.

And so I go to that strength and I make myself a promise. To guard my time, to take my thoughts captive, to dig deeper into His promises every morning on the happy white porch swing He saw fit to give me.

That's the only place where enough can truly begin.

My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. ~Psalm 73:26

After all-- those little girls, their hearts and their beginnings, are watching as I go.

Starting Now,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On a Whim

Sweet vacation.

Whims aren't always easy to entertain with a crew full of little people. Somehow I always think they are and that all I really have to do is throw a few things in a suitcase. Though my packing "needs" have dwindled considerably since the first baby, the pack everything but the kitchen sink baby, it is still never that easy.

Inevitably I end up at the store well past midnight the night before getting must haves. Sunscreen, favorite granola bars, a new sand bucket (Leesie can't be left out!), and of course bread shaped like fishies.
We were headed to the beach, after all.

And somehow that one suitcase full of sundresses and suits spills over a bit until I have added at least a couple extra bags and a few more trips back inside after we've already attempted to roll out once or twice.

Or more. But who's counting?


But those whims? Most of the time they end up being worth the whirlwind that comes with them. And our whim to the beach last weekend was exactly that.

So worth it.

Thanks to the generosity of two sets of friends, who didn't mind our late Wednesday message about coming on Friday, we had it made at their lovely homes. Three beaches on three different days.

Baywatch has nothing on our babes.

We had a little business to attend to, but once that was out of the way, we filled our four day weekend with the stuff memories are made of. Hikes through our old hang out in a state park near the bay, picnics, catching up with friends, learning to hold our breath under water, getting sand in every little girly nook possible, sharing in some delicious garden produce, swimming, going out for the most amazing homemade pizza instead of seafood-- mostly because we know how much our gals love themselves a good slice or six of pie.
Doesn't it always feel the best to shower and get dressed up after a day of playing at the ocean?

I mean, you know it's going to be a good trip when right out of the van you catch the ice-cream truck. Big fat check mark off our summer bucket list.
Thank-you, Mr. Tweetie Bird and Nija Turtle. You caused immeasurable joy.

We really needed this time as a family, to slow down and reflect on all that's happened in the last months. I really needed it, perhaps most of all. To spend our days and nights together just being, no new boxes to unpack or new to us town thing to figure out.

Any thoughts I entertained about our banana, watermelon, zucchini crazy baby not liking the sand or water were quickly dismissed.

It was a special time, all the more special after the pace of the last months. And today I am really grateful for this chance to reflect on it.
Plus if I close my eyes real hard I can't see the mound of laundry in my floor, the stack of dishes in my sink, the workbooks and game pieces and little people scattered all over, the overflowing sand and water table out back on our little deck.

I see this.
Which, I declare, was worth every bit of the whimy whirlwind and the driving back home tuckered out whine or two.

Or more. But who's counting?