Monday, January 26, 2015

Celebrating 4 Years

This year we decided to do a combined birthday for Emerson and JoJo since they are just four weeks apart. With their birthdays smack dab in the middle of winter its hard to plan a home party for lots of kiddos since the weather is always a gamble, so we chose to do a Jumpzone inflatable party. I think the boys had a great time! Trying to get two excited kiddos to look at the camera just didn't happen, this was the best shot of the two of them that I could get in their kingly birthday chair.

The boys loved bouncing and running all over that place!


Some of the slides are quite high but that did not deter them one bit!


There was some crawling, walking, jumping and of course lots of bouncing--fun was had by all.





This is what a head full of two year old hair looks like in mid-jump motion! She was Miss Independent the entire party.  Keeping up with this chick was a full time job!

Once again, I couldn't have pulled it all off without the help of my parents, they always are ready to jump in however I need them and for that I'm so thankful!  Lawson unfortunately started running fever while we were at church so my Dad volunteered to stay home with him while we did the party.  And Mom saved the cupcakes from some little girl (who wasn't a party guest) who thought it'd be fun to run her fingers across the icing, lick her said fingers and then proceed to do it again. Really?!  (Thankfully she only got to three of the cupcakes!)

The boys enjoyed blowing out their "4" candles but poor JoJo's cupcake did a little acrobatics off the plate so he got to have "Happy Birthday" sung to him twice.  I love how both boys are blowing their candle out with such gusto, that's pretty cute!



And these sweet boys, oh how I hope that they'll be life long friends! The faces are priceless, there's the goofy face, the no smile and then the fake squinty-eyed smile--I'll just take what I can get!

We had fun partying with lots of friends and family. The cupcakes and ice cream were a hit with everyone, even a few parents jumped in on the sugary goodness. I don't think Ava Jane enjoyed hers at all!



Thanks to all who came out and helped us celebrate these two boys. I'm pretty sure our little cowboy had a terrific time! It looks like JoJo did too!  It's hard to believe four years (with Emerson) have come and gone.  Though JoJo still has a few days until he's officially four, we're all so grateful for the time we've been given with these little guys!  We sure love these kiddos and are glad that they get to grow up near one another.



Monday, January 12, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Survivor Gallery Photo Shoot

A few months ago Ava Jane was asked to be apart of the 2015 Go Red For Women Survivor Gallery with the American Heart Association. The Survivor's Gallery is a traveling photo exhibit celebrating the personal stories of local women (and in her case children) who have experienced heart disease or stroke. Each survivor will have a story board that will be unveiled in a few weeks at the Arkansas State Capital during a national Wear Red Day press conference. The story boards will be displayed throughout Central Arkansas, at the Go Red For Women's luncheon and featured in Arkansas Life.

I hope the photographer was able to get at least one good picture, this sweet thing was quite the stinker the day of the photo shoot! She wanted to hide and climb up all the stairs, run around the halls and climb up to see down into the rotunda. Thankfully I had my Mom with me to help.






Did you know:
-Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined
-Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute
-An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease
-Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease
-Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease
-While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease

Because Mom came, I was actually able to hear most of the women share their courageous stories of different types of heart disease they've struggled with.   It's amazing just how many women have experienced some type of heart problem and to hear how modern medicine and new procedures have been able to help each one of them was pretty remarkable.  (Here's a very blurry shot of some of the ladies from the 2015 Survivors Gallery.)

So join with us, help celebrate National Wear Red Day with Go Red For Women on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 to raise awareness of how heart disease effects women---you just might help save a women’s life!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Treasured Friends, God's Blessings

I've always known that God blessed me with great friends. Even from the early years of elementary school God blessed me with good, solid friendships. Honestly, most of those friendships have stood the test of time and lasted over many decades now. Though life has taken us in different directions and we've not always been in the same city, state or even the same country (at times), somehow we have managed to remain dear friends. It's not something that "just happens", its really not even something that can be "created", its honestly more of a divinely appointed relationship that truly was orchestrated totally by God. As many of us have moved and had to start over with friendships in new places we've realized how special this group of women is.   Over the last decade and a half, I don't think any of us have been able to "recreate" the depth of friendship, spiritual encouragement and mutually challenging accountability.

(This was the only picture I could find with all of us together and its from 2002, girls we've got to find a time to get everyone back together!)

A lot of these friendships go back to kindergarten and second grade.  All of us definitely knew each other by fourth grade and by the time junior high and high school came along we were together regularly whether it was at school, cheerleading practice, youth group nights, or our weekly Bible studies.  All of us were tremendously blessed to have gotten to "live life" alongside one another.  There is just something truly sweet about friendships that have spanned the decades.  Getting to watch how God turned our dreams into realities, as we prayed for godly young men to date (and eventually marry), as we begged God to show us what our life's "calling" was (and still is), as we prayed through college choices and which sorority's to choose or whether to pledge at all.  As God saw fit, we prayed for wisdom in marriage and then came parenting (we definitely are on our knees in this arena).  We have literally walked the years together and what a blessing to have this deep history with such beloved people.

This was FSM's Beach Blast 1999 or 2000 (not sure which).

It's literally been 14 or 15 years since we were all together around the same table that we met around each Wednesday night before youth group, when Ann Parkinson and Jennie Allen led a Bible study our junior and senior years of high school.  We regularly ate cheese broccoli soup and called Mrs. P's house "the refuge on the hill". We'd meet over dinner and discuss what God was teaching us and how we were growing in our walk with Him.  We shared prayer requests and were truly "iron sharpening iron."

Well the stars aligned and more than half the group was in town last week so we were able to carve out a little time to reconnect and enjoy the deep friendships that God gave us so long ago!  (We certainly missed Jennie, Amanda, Katie and Lindsey, we'll have to try and get a another reunion planned soon!) But what a treasure to sit there and go around the table sharing the good and the bad, praises and sorrows.  Then to spend some time praying specifically for those things really was encouraging and edifying, literally we talked and prayed for more then five hours.  As each of us shared how God is still moving and working in us, I was overwhelmed with how good God is.  Mrs. P's verse for us when we all left for college was Philippians 2:15 which says, "so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life."  As each of us shared, it was pretty amazing to hear all the ways that each of us (by God's grace and in His strength) are doing just that, "holding out the word of life" to those around us---to those in our sphere of influence.  Whether its through a major world wide spiritual awakening and gathering of women through IF; or by using the artistic abilities that God has given another to shine a light into the art community here locally; or through a job at a well known corporation where one gets to share Jesus with vendors who otherwise might never engage in spiritual conversations; or another who interviews people and writes articles for a major social magazine; while another leads many women (young and old) to the throne of Christ as she speaks regularly into the lives of her small group as well as a large gathering of women each week at church; or the others of us who have 17 children between us who are in the trenches every day trying our best to teach God's word to the next generation of believers, trying to show them how to respond and react in a godly way, helping them memorize God's word and giving them a biblical foundation as a grid to live there lives through.  We are all in the battle, we are all engaged with God and doing our best to "work out our faith with fear and trembling".

We all desire to do what God has purposed for our lives and wrestle to do just that every day. We aren't perfect, we've made mistakes, we've doubted and feared, grown cynical at times and then been awed by miracles God's done in our own hearts as well as the hearts of our spouses, our children and others we come in contact with.  If we didn't engage, if we didn't remain in the battle, we'd miss out on the opportunities to see God moving and at work, so we keep the faith, we press on, seeking to "shine like stars in the universe".  I am blessed to call you all friends, I love you deeply!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy 4th Birthday Emerson!

Emerson Clark has been a blessing to our family since God graced us with his presence four years ago today. This morning we celebrated with sprinkle donuts and donut holes which are his all time favorite!

We lovingly called him our "easy going Emerson" for the first year of his life. As he has gotten older and his personality has continued to develop we have begun to use the adjective, "intense" to describe him. He does everything with gusto, with volume, with intensity! He loves to sing at the top of his lungs. His favorite song, as always, has been the "Holy" song. For Christmas we got the boys some Toby Mac CD's and he enjoys singing any and all of those songs, particularly, "Me Without You" (which talks about what we'd be like without God). To hear him singing this song as loud as he can is pretty sweet, though I often have to say, "Em, I love to hear you sing but could you please sing a little softer?"

Right now, he's still into Cars and all things Lightening McQueen. When I asked his favorite show, its definitely Octonauts. He still has a shoe fetish but these days he's all about his cowboy boots (which he says aren't shoes, so don't make that mistake. He has worn the sole off of his current ones so today he got a new pair. He literally wants to wear them everyday (along with any one of his Razorback shirts) and every once in a while he actually asks to nap in his boots and cowboy hat, to which I lovingly say "yes, as long as you stay in your bed and truly nap".


Out of all of our boys, this little guy loves to tell stories and I must say he's quite creative. Recently he told Adam and I about a "lunger-builder". Have you heard of these? According to him, its an under water crane that has a car but cannot float, though it does have tires. Then there's also these things called "red-gups" and "blue-gups". They are a type of submarine and the red ones can fly while blue ones cannot. See what I mean…flying, underwater submarines? His imagination runs wild and it's often pretty comical to hear him tell a story. As of late he likes to tell us about "when I was old, I used to be in the Army and I went to war." (I think he's just recalling little bits of what he's heard Adam say about his own military experience.) It's pretty cute how when kids say something funny and they get a good laugh from their audience, they keep repeating that line over and over again assuming that they'll get the same reaction each time. Currently the line that Emerson keeps telling us, is from the Ice Age Wii game where Sid says, "Lets do a viiiictoooory dance!" Emerson always jumps up from the kitchen table quoting this line and doing a little wiggly dance, the first time was really quite funny.

This little guy is by far our most polite child, usually easily saying "please" and "thank you" without having to be prompted. He regularly asks me, "Mom are you OK?" patting me on the back or stroking my arm, he seems to genuinely be concerned with how I am and easily offers hugs when I ask him for one.

Earlier this year (in October) we were having a conversation in the car about wanting to go to heaven. I proceeded to re-explain how we get to go to heaven (by recognizing our sin, asking God to forgive us and then by asking Jesus to come into our hearts.) Emerson said he wanted to ask Jesus to come into his heart so we called Daddy and over the speaker phone we prayed together. Adam and I realize that he is quite young, so we will continue to explain what Jesus has done for us and in us and continue to help him memorize scripture and develop a foundation of belief. We hope and pray that the seeds continue to take root and grow in his heart.

We love this sweet boy and are thankful that God chose us to be his parents. We love you Emerson and hope you have a great birthday!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Life With Kids Means Lots of Doctors Visits

Well, today was supposed to be a re-check for the ear infection that Ava Jane had two weeks ago. She's been a little more fussy then usual and not eating well either, so I made an appointment on Monday and Thursday morning was the soonest they could get us in. I actually made a double appointment since Emerson has had his continuous yucky nose so that was nice that I was able to "kill two birds with one stone". The only downside was that this is technically my Mother's Day Out and I had several items on my agenda. But, with having kids comes the responsibility of their care. So instead of dropping them off and running hither and yon, I spent two and a half hours at the pediatricians office. After a chest x-ray Ava Jane ended up having pneumonia and another ear infection which may explain her fussier then usual behavior. As for Emerson, he has yet another sinus infection, so I guess I need to go ahead and schedule his allergy shots, which is a total bummer!

I had everything ready to go (including two dozen cupcakes to celebrate Emerson's birthday that is tomorrow) just in case their appointment went well and they could in fact go to school today, but you must already have inferred that I DID NOT end up dropping them off. We went straight to the pharmacy (and here's a little side note, we love The Drug Store on Green Mountain Drive!) They are so wonderful, they had only had our prescriptions entered in the computers just a few minutes before we walked in the doors but Phillip and his team were quickly filling all our meds so that we could get on home. They have impeccable service, they truly are wonderful; I love shopping locally!


And since lunches were already packed and ready to be eaten, we decided to have a little picnic while watching Sofia the First. I love little moments like these and I would've missed it if I'd been anywhere else.


Some days just don't go as planned…and with kids, most days get high jacked some how. It is a hard season, to be in the stage where the kids are sick almost continually, where someone either has a nasty nose, is running a fever, getting the Flu, Pneumonia or just the wintry cold. I won't lie, it is frustrating at times, but "it is, what it is" and this too shall pass. My older kids rarely get sick anymore so I know better days are just around the corner. Til then, I'm trying to find joy in the journey and not let Satan get the victory when my plans get completely over turned and little to no boxes get marked off my to-do list.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Recap of 2014

It's gonna take me about three months of writing 2014---no scratch that, 2015, before I get used to it. How is it really 2015? I still remember ringing in Y2K, and might initially say that it feels like that was just yesterday, but then I think of all that's really happened over the last 14 years and then it starts to feel like a life time ago.

As I think back on what 2014 has held for us, it's been a really great year. It's held challenges for me and our family at times but it's also held a LOT of wonderful moments too. Something that I've become aware of this past year is how I used to think life had ups and downs, peaks and valleys, but in reality, I think it is more like a train track with the good and the bad running parallel with one another. Which is really a good thing because that means its not all good or all bad, there's the balance of both happening simultaneously. So, here's a little recap of our "train tracks" of 2014.

We had fun birthdays to celebrate as Ava Jane turned 2, Emerson turned 3, Lawson turned 5 and Peyton turned 8.

We discovered that Lawson has severe environmental allergies that caused his nose to be yucky constantly and required lots of breathing treatments so we began the dreaded weekly allergy shot. And as "luck" would have it, I think we'll get to endure taking two little ones (which actually means four kids) to the allergist each week as Emerson is following in his big brothers footsteps.

This was a year of many fun concerts. Adam and I haven't been to a ton of concerts, but this year we some how lucked out and got to attend four. We saw Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in Vegas, we saw James Taylor over our 11 year anniversary, Darius Rucker with friends in Memphis and topped off the year with a Garth Brooks sing along. We had a blast!

There were potty training woes, I honestly thought that I might train both Emerson and Ava Jane in the same year. Unfortunately, she has regressed but thankfully, he is doing great! I do think Emerson gets the gold medal for longest to finally potty train. We tried it for over 10 months and truly worked hard at it for a good solid 6 months, with the everyday challenge of pooping in the potty NOT in his pants. (I've only been a Mom for 8 years so far, but I do believe potty training just might be one of the hardest most difficult things to do as a parent.) I had it down to a five minute window when I knew he would try to do his business everyday and I always, always, always seemed to miss the one moment when I needed to run him to the bathroom. I did everything from leave his bedroom door open at nap time, to sitting on the stairs outside his room to sitting in his room…you name it, I did it. And somehow I didn't ever seem to get him to the bathroom in time. But it finally happened one day, once I left the country and went to China, go figure!

And speaking of Ch!na, I wasn't able to blog much about my trip to the other side of the world, but I did have a wonderful time loving on those sweet babies. I wish I could openly share all that I learned and what God did while our group was there but we'll have to leave it at this, those two weeks overseas certainly opened my eyes to the desperate reality of those precious little ones and my experience there has continued to shape my mindset and daily prayer life to this very day.

And while I'm on the topic of trips, we were able to see many fun places this year. Adam had a cardiovascular conference out in Vegas. It wasn't really on my bucket list of places to visit, but when given the opportunity to travel with my hubby, I jumped right on that! I'd never done a helicopter ride before, so one afternoon after one of his meetings, we took the opportunity to do one and it was super fun flying over the Vegas strip and over the Hoover Damn. All that's in Vegas is big and over the top and pretty much everything you've seen in commercials or movies is exactly how it is in real life.

My Mom, sister and I were able to make a girls trip to Canton, TX. That is such a fun place, with tons of great shopping. We must make this trip an annual event ladies!

Every two years we do a big beach trip with Adam's side of the family. We enjoyed being right on the beach and getting to "do" life together for a full seven days. There is something to be said about precious times of getting away, playing games, singing worship songs out under the stars with the ocean crashing in the background; times where cousins get to play for hours in the sand and then getting to enjoy tasty dinners shared with everyone. It's memories like these that that will last a lifetime.

Adam and I got to get away a few extra days before a healthcare administrator training in Scottsdale, which was a real treat since it fell over my birthday weekend. I'd never really experienced a desert like climate, so that was truly fun! Just having a little down time and quiet, just the two of us, was so refreshing.

Mid year, I got the privilege of helping to plan a big birthday celebration for my wonderful Mother. I was able to pull together 30 of her closest friends and family to celebrate the life that she has lived and continues to live each day. Just a few of the words that were spoken of her were thoughtful, caring, sacrificial, dependable, and helpful. She is all of these things and so much more, she is a huge blessing in my life and I do not know what I would do without her. I'm so glad that we were able to surprise her with so many faces of friends she's had over the years who've walked along side her and been her "iron sharpening iron".

Unfortunately, my Pityriasis Rosea reared its ugly head again. It doesn't usually recur, but mine did, and lasted almost four months. It's extremely itchy and annoying, thankfully it didn't pop up on my face or arms, but it totally took over my torso, legs, scalp and ears…it was a bit miserable. I still have the little white spots to prove that I did in fact have it again. I'm hoping that they will repigment soon.

Then there was the start of my new normal, having two kids in school full time and only having two left at home with me. I was emotional in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year and tried hard to hold back the tears as we dropped Lawson off in the Kindergarten Flex Space. My how those five years went fast! It's hard to believe that we have a second grader and kindergartener. But what a wonderful year we've had so far. Lots of answers to prayers, for friends and teachers both, God has blessed us and we are so thankful!

We enjoyed several extended weekends at the lake with my family which is always super fun. The boys have a blast and I am reminded of many childhood memories there.

We made our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, which happens to be one of my favorite things to do each fall. Who doesn't love swimming in a "pool" of corn kernels and riding the tractor hayride?!

And I try to steer clear of disciplinary choices on the blog. But this next "bad railroad track" has truly been a real battle for us, (and particularly challenging for me since I'm with the kids most of the time.) This has been a year for using what I call "yucky juice" which happens to be vinegar and water in a small spray bottle. We have experienced an exorbitant amount of whining with one child in particular over the past 365 days. It's honestly been one of the most challenging things I've yet to face as a mother, and one of the most difficult things I've had to combat over the past year. It's not been a little here a little there, its been a constant, grating, dreadful experience since the beginning. There's really not a build up to the frustration level of this child, it just kind of goes from zero to a million in one second flat to which an unusual amount of bemoaning, whining, crying, kicking is what we see (and hear) as the reaction. It is enough to make you want to pull your ears off! I most assuredly have not always responded well to these moments of struggle. It has caused me (and Adam) to have to be very consistent, constantly trying to have this child "redo" situations, to restate the need, re-say what the wants is, mostly just a ton of redo's which is exhausting and frustrating. I'm hopeful that 2015 will hold much improvement in this area and pray that another year of maturity will help this issue to subside. I can hear in my head, my Grandmother saying, "this too shall pass"; I sure hope so!!

This fall we went camping with Adam's parents. It really was a perfect weekend, warm during the day and cooler at night. It was definitely a challenging hike that we chose and next time, we'll have to look for a different route. Poppy lovingly volunteered to carry Ava Jane on his back so I didn't have to do it which was so kind. But there were a couple of really steep parts to the trail and one moment in particular that involved a somewhat rickety walking stick snapping in two that required me to grab ahold of the backpack to help steady the two of them. I think all of us were grateful to finally reach the top with all of us still in tact.

In November, instead of doing a birthday party for Peyton, he chose to go on a family trip. So we headed to Dallas to visit Great Wolf Lodge and Lego Land. It was a fantastic trip, everyone had fun and great memories were made. Lawson said even today, "it was my favorite trip, I want to go back again soon!" It was a complete success and I highly recommend it as a doable and affordable family trip.

So 2014, it's had a lot of highs and a few definite lows. But thankfully, they've come simultaneously, not one at a time, so that joy can indeed occur in the midst of the journey. I'm thankful for the route we're on, for the God who is steering us (even when we can't see where) and for the fact that I have so many loving friends and family to walk this road alongside me. As Adam and I have reflected on this past year and look with anticipation to 2015, we feel completely blessed and grateful for all that God has done and is continuing to do in our marriage and in our family. I hope that you and yours have a blessed New Year.
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