Monday, August 31, 2009

Up and Running!

Okay, so I'm totally proud of myself! Over the last week I have been doing a lot of playing with html, and I learned enough to figure out how to revamp my blog! No borrowed template here...this one is original! I still have a few widgets to add, and I need to put my blogroll back up on here. But in the meantime, I wanted to get this puppy back online. Here it is! I have superhero day pictures to post and some other ideas to share. hubs is waiting downstairs for me to come down so we can watch something he has recorded on the dvr. Not quite sure what it is. So nighty night! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the new look.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Under Construction

Happy Friday, everyone! Today I begin the reconstruction of my blog. It may be ugly for a while as I work it all out. Bear with me!


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Superhero Supreme

So often I feel like most of my interaction with my kids is discipline and correction. Manners training. Social skills tweaking. Respect reinforcing. Kindness coaching. The list goes on. I have to work hard to be careful not to forget to praise them for the things they do well. Are you tracking with me here? Every now and then we like to celebrate character growth in the kids. I've noticed that making a big deal about growth steps tends to have far more of a lasting impact than the daily discipline grind. Now don't get me wrong...the daily discipline is important--no, critical--in developing Christlike character in my children. But positive reinforcement is crucial, too. When I notice consistent progress, we celebrate. I think the theme of our week this week could be Superheroes! Both my kids have had some very heroic moments. Their acts of heroism are very different, though. I must write them down so as not to forget.

Pepper is my hero. He is a real superhero. Pepper IS Spiderman. Rest easy here...there are no spiders involved in this tale. At some point in the last few weeks, Matt introduced Pepper to his favorite movie: Spiderman. Spiderman was Matt's favorite superhero when he was little, so it seemed logical to start Pepper young. Ever since watching the movie, Pepper has become immersed in all things Spiderman. This means his Spidey underoos are top priority in his underwear drawer. He wears his Spiderman costume as much as I will let him, which is pretty much all the time. He constantly plays Spiderman, insists that his name is Spiderman, and has worked hard to teach his fingers how to hold the web-slinging position. He even understands that Spiderman helps others. Both kitties have been "rescued" multiple times. Of course, they have to be locked in the closet so he can rescue them...but still, he is showing great kindness and compassion by tenderly rescuing "poor, lost Zoe and Pixie" from their distress. Yesterday he came down for breakfast with his Spiderman action figure in one hand and his Spiderman baseball cap in the other hand. Here is what he said.

(Holds up action figure) "Look Mommy, it's ME! Look what I can do!" (proceeds to jump around the living room, making combat noises and flying Spiderman all over the place) Serious cuteness!
(Holds up his ball cap) "This is amazing, Mommy! They even put ME on a hat!"
Can you stand it? I can hardly stand it! I just want to eat him up, he's so cute!

Pepper is my superhero because he has such a wonderful imagination. I am soaking up every moment of Pepper's delightful imaginative play! He is also my hero because he is making a very conscious effort to be kind to the cats. This has been an area of consistent struggle for him, but he is really working on it! I've even heard him verbally coaching himself on how to kindly touch the kitties! So proud of him!

Snapper is a real-life superhero. All summer long, we had an ongoing discussion about bullying. We read books about bullying, talked about why bullies act the way they do, and about how to deal with a bully. We did quite a bit of role playing so she would be prepared to wisely handle bullying whenever she should encounter it. And believe me, bullying is a big problem in the generation our kids are growing up in! Snapper's first confrontation with a bully came in the first 5 minutes of her first day of 2nd grade. I watched the whole thing from the hall, curious to see if our advance preparation would pay off. Snapper was handing out pencils for her teacher when one of the girls in the class--we'll call her Lisa--came over to her. Lisa, who is a good 6 inches taller than Snapper, got right up in Snapper's face and told her in a very mean and domineering manner that she was passing out the pencils wrong. Without missing a beat, Snapper straightened up, looked Lisa square in the eye and said (in the trademark sassy Snapper style), "Hello, I'm in 2nd grade. I think I can handle it!" I think my jaw hit the floor at the courage and boldness of my girl! Lisa backed down and walked away. The next day she asked Snapper to be her friend, and they have enjoyed playing together ever since.

Yesterday a 3rd grade boy started making fun of Snapper's friend Kelly (name changed). Snapper went straight over to that older boy and told him to stop making fun of Kelly, or she would go tell the teacher. She reminded him that words can hurt others. Then she growled at him and chased him away.

Today Snapper's teacher had surgery, so there was a sub in Snapper's class. During a math game, the class got very rowdy. The sub had to discipline the whole class. However, there were a few students who were being quiet and respectful, and were trying to get the others to calm down. Those 4 girls and 2 boys got to pick their favorite books from the shelf and go next door to another teacher's classroom to read while the sub dealt with the naughties. Snapper and Kelly were two of the good kids who enjoyed their reading reward!

Snapper is my superhero because:
1. She courageously (if not the most tactfully) faced the bully.
2. She made friends with the bully.
3. She stood up to a bigger, older boy in defense of her friend, and coached him on using kind words.
4. She is making good behavior choices and is choosing to do what is right, even when it means going against what everyone else is doing.

I am so proud of my kids this week--proud of who they are and the growth I'm seeing in their lives. I'm planning a superhero party for them to celebrate. Our party will happen on Saturday. If the weather cooperates, we'll go for a morning hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain which is about 10 miles west of downtown Little Rock. That is an activity that requires courage and determination, yet has a great reward! In the afternoon, I'll take Snapper to the pottery studio in our town to make a wall hanging for her room--one that reminds her of her favorite Bible verse, Joshua 1:9: "Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." For dinner we will have a superhero meal. Our menu consists of: Hero Burgers (recipe coming soon!), Superpower Smoothies (fruits and veggies to strengthen our bodies), and Powerade to drink. It will be a celebration for both kids to remember!

Has your kiddo been a superhero this week? Please tell me about it! If you have creative ways to celebrate character growth, I'd love to hear about that, too.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Chicken that Tops All Chicken!

After church yesterday, my sis-in-law, Debbie, got in a cooking mood. For those who are new to this blog, Debbie is 19 and she lives with us while she is going to nursing school. She makes a mean Chicken Kiev, and had planned it for the menu yesterday. However, we did not have all the ingredients she needed, so she went with Plan B. Plan B has now moved to the very top of my chicken recipe list. Where did she get this marvelous, culinary masterpiece? Off the back of a bag of Tyson frozen chicken breasts. And oh, was it good! The bag named it Best Lemon Chicken. What a boring name...

Without further ado, here is the recipe for Emily's Favorite Chicken (much better, don't you think)?

Place 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the bottom of a shallow baking dish.

In a bowl, mix together:
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
dash cayenne pepper
2 cloves fresh, minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade
Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Grill over medium heat, turning every few minutes, until juices run clear or meat thermometer reads 170 degrees. Baste the chicken with the remaining marinade each time you turn the chicken.

I recommend serving this with garlic mashed red potatoes and caesar salad. Yummy! Another quick and easy everyone-pleaser (even my picky son devoured it) for your recipe box!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cherish the Lasts

Okay you mommies out there, I have a challenge for you. Each new milestone that your child reaches is wonderful and exciting. I'll bet you can clearly remember the first time your child smiled, laughed, sat up unassisted, said your name, took that first step, used the potty alone, switched into a big-kid bed, went to preschool, etc. But do you remember the lasts? The last time your baby woke for a 2 a.m. feeding, nursed, drank out of a bottle, the last car ride rear facing in the infant carrier, the last nap in the pack and play, the last diaper changed...the list goes on. So this is my challenge to you: Cherish the Lasts.

I did not know when I tucked Pepper into bed last night that it would the the last night he required his "Mimi" (baby blanket) at bedtime. Since he was 6 months old, he has wanted to be wrapped like a burrito in his Mimi. In fact, he is really particular about how you wrap him. This is the most esential bedtime ritual for Pepper, and has been for a long time. Well, Pepper watched Spiderman with Daddy yesterday, and has morphed into Spiderman today. Life is now all about web-slinging, jumping around, "saving" Pixie and Zoe from their comfortable napping places, and wearing his "Pideyman" costume. When I went in to tuck him in tonight, his beloved Mimi was tossed in a corner, and the fleece Spiderman blanket I got for Matt the first Christmas we were married had been pulled out of the hall closet and was on Pepper's bed. He very firmly insisted on being wrapped in the Pideyman blanket. And so he is. And Mimi is still in a lonely, crumpled, forgotten heap on the bedroom floor. And Mommy is sitting at the computer blinking back the tears that are trying with all their might to collapse the floodgates.

So tonight I cherish this Last in Pepper's life. I love that he is growing up. But I hate it too. For the rest of the evening I will cling to the memory of his sweet, little feet poking out from under the end of the too-short Mimi. I might even have the Mimi sleep under my pillow tonight. Can a baby blanket get lonely?

Lest you think I am a pathetic pile of emotional overflow, tomorrow I will move on and celebrate this rite of passage, and be thankful that Pepper will no longer wake up in the middle of the night with cold feet. Why? Because the Pideyman blankie is a full-sized blanket!

What Last do you anticipate cherishing in the near future? What Last has recently occurred for you?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It Came to Me in the Shower...

For the past few days I've had blog on the brain. Ever since deciding to revamp my blog, I've been trying to think of a new name to go along with the new focus. My poor contest was seriously under-attended. Thanks so much, Lori and Sarah, for your entries! They were all great ideas, and I had even selected one of them as my winner...until I did a google search for that name. Unfortunately, there are other brilliant thinkers out there who already snatched up your ideas. Not a single one of the names submitted was available! Other mommy bloggers had already taken them. So it was back to square one for me.

Last night I was out way too late--until around like 1:30ish--scrapbooking with my friends at church. When my charming husband and son woke me up at 7:45 this morning, my brain was a worthless mess of cobwebs. I took a long, hot shower in an attempt to clear the fluff between my ears. Apparently it worked, because as I was combing the conditioner through my hair, it came to me!

A Mother's Masterpiece

For a brief moment I was very excited. And then my brain called it quits. At 9:30 Matt walked me upstairs and put me back to bed, where I recharged my system until 1:30. What a good man! Tonight I've been thinking hard about a tagline. I went back to the most defining written moment of my life for inspiration. That did the trick, along with a little bit of help from Lori's tagline ideas.

So here's the big reveal.....

A Mother's Masterpiece
Delightful details on the canvas of everyday life

So Lori, because your tagline was important in helping me develop mine, you are the winner! I'll get that book in the mail to you this week.

I'd love feedback from my friends. What do you think?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's A Contest!!!

Okay, so I've posted way too many times today. But that's okay, right? Now that school has started, I have quite a bit more time to get caught up on some very important things such as blogging, downloading and editing photos, laundry, one-on-one time with my son, planning healthy meals, etc. Seriously though, here's why I am posting once more today. It is time for some change around here.

I have been blogging for over a year now. My blog has been a journal of my life, a place to display my photo art, and a medium for building relationships. As great as all that is, I want this blog to be more than that. I want to be a help to my readers, and share my experiences and ideas in a way that offers encouragement to others, primarily young moms like myself. If I'm going to do this, I need to narrow my focus a bit. I'll continue to write about my kids because they are currently my biggest teachers and the source of much of my writing material. I also want to focus on what I know well: cooking, crafting, building strong families, establishing traditions, and homemaking tips. So this is already established in my mind. Now comes the part where I need your help.

I need a new name and tagline for my blog. My creative juices are not yet adjusted to the early school mornings, so I need ideas from you. If you have a good idea for a blog title and tagline that will reflect my newly focused content, please post a comment with your idea. I will be keeping the URL that I already have, so if you can incorporate it into the title some way, that would be cool. Not necessary, though. Heck, I'll make this a contest! Submit as many entries as you would like. The creator of the winning blog title and/or tagline will receive a copy of The Minivan Years, by Olivia Bruner. Here is a picture of the book and a brief summary. I think it is an appropriate prize for this contest!

Olivia Bruner shares personal stories to illustrate how you can choose happiness when family life gets hectic and exhausting. She steers you through relieving anxiety, enduring embarrassing moments, teaching good financial habits, and redeeming painful times in your kids' lives in order to build a healthy, joyful home.

The contest will close Saturday night. I will post my winner on Sunday or Monday.

Once I have my new title, I'll get to work remodeling the look of the blog, and hopefully will be ready to make the change by the end of next week. Cool beans! So think creatively for me, y'all! I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Back to School Traditions, Part 5

Okay, so we began a new tradition this year, one that we'll be sure to keep as long as we live in a town with a Sonic. As most of you know, Sonic has Happy Hour from 2-4. All drinks and slushes are half-price! I called my friend Karon, whose kids C, J, and H are Snapper's best friends. In fact, Snapper and J are pretty much least they say so. Ha ha! Karon's kids get out at the same time as Snapper, so we surprised the kids and met at Sonic for drinks. I let them pick whatever they wanted. Of course, Snapper asked for a Route 44 Dr. Pepper. I gave in to the Dr. Pepper, but got a medium instead. The kids were thrilled to see each other, and had fun being very silly while they enjoyed their drinks. Yup, definitely a tradition to keep!

Sonic surprise for the kiddos!

Puppy lovebirds. Aren't they adorable?

Snapper was telling the boys a secret. I love how all you can see of her is her hairbow!
Sweet secrets

And the sugar sets in. At this point we say our goodbyes and head for home.

Back to School Traditions, Part 4

Okay, so this tradition is so unoriginal. It seems like most people do it, and for good reason. How fun is it to have a first day of school picture of your child...taken each year in the same place? This is the fourth year I have photographed Snapper on our front porch. You can use the porch post as kind of a marker for her growth from year to year. I think the maturing of her face is really significant, too. This was the first year Pepper got his picture taken, and the first year I photographed them together. tiny and adorable!

K-5...still so little!

1st Grade...our homeschooling year

2nd she has grown!

Little Man, K-3

2nd grade and K-3

Back to School Traditions, Part 3

When I was a kid, my mom had this awesome red plate. The border of the plate said in white letters: "You Are Special Today!" She looked for every opporutnity to use the plate. I found it at my place on my birthday, half-birthday, days when I was receiving an award of some sort, and sometimes the morning after I had done something unusually kind or helpful. It was a great way to make an ordinary day more special, and it built my sister's and my self esteem every time we found that plate at our place. When my mom died, I took the plate to live with me. A few years later, my dad gave my another identical plate. Now I have one for each child!

Each year on the first day of school, I pull out the red plate and serve Snapper's breakfast on it. This is the fourth year for her, and Pepper's first year! Yesterday Matt made waffles and served them to the kids on their red plates. Another fun, special tradition that the kiddos love. The lighting in my dining room is horrible at 6 in the morning, so please forgive the quality of my pictures. Oh, and in case you're wondering, Pepper is wearing a "penglin mathk" (penguin mask) on his head in his picture. Attempting to remove it would have resulted in chaos, and no picture. When you have a feisty 3-year-old, you have to pick your battles, and that one wasn't worth fighting. I'd rather have the "mathk" in the picture than have a picture of a screaming boy...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back to School Traditions, Part 2

Okay, so no pictures for Pepper yesterday, either. But as I predicted, he was super excited this morning and cooperated pretty well. When I picked him up from school, he was peaceful and happy. So when we got home, I asked him if he wanted to go out front and take some fun pictures. I learned something today: when Snapper's away, Pepper will play. The little turkey hammed it up from the camera. I think he was so relaxed because there was no big sister pressuring him! So even though the pics were taken today, they'll count as his before school pictures for this year. It's the first year of school for him, so I don't have any older pictures to share.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to School Traditions, Part 1

My bloggy friend Michelle wrote a great post talking about back-to-school traditions. Since Snapper is starting school tomorrow, I thought I'd use Michelle's post as a jumping off point for a post of my own. I don't remember any back-to-school traditions when I was a kid. That's primarily because I was homeschooled. I was always excited to start school, but there was never any meeting a new teacher, wondering who was in my class, or shopping for supplies and clothes. So I'm a total newbie when it comes to back-to-school traditions. But if you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I'm a sucker for traditions, and look for every way possible to infuse my children's lives with tradition. I believe it helps ground them, gives them security, and strengthens our family's identity.

The first tradition I've started is taking pictures of Snapper within the week before she starts a new grade. We're now on our fourth year of these pre-school pictures, and it is really fun to look at the pictures to see how she has grown and changed each year. I also get a list of her favorite things.

Here are the pictures from the last 4 years!

Second Grade, August 2009

First Grade, August 2008

Kindergarten, August 2007

Pre-K, August 2006

Tomorrow Snapper will start 2nd grade at a new school and Pepper will begin his first year of preschool! I have to get pre-school pictures of Pepper today. He has been so contrary and grumpy recently! I tried to take his pictures yesterday when I did Snapper's, but he would have none of it. Mr. Grumpy Gills! Today I may just have to bribe him with ice cream...

The first day of school has its traditions, too. But I will hold off and save that for tomorrow. I'm always on the hunt for fun ideas I can implement with my family. Please leave me a comment and tell me your favorite back-to-school tradition, whether from your childhood, or something you do with your kids.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Yummy

This morning I had planned on getting my favorite crock pot recipe in the pot before leaving for church. However, when I went to the fridge for the salsa, I discovered that my sweet sister-in-law Debbie had eaten all the salsa. No Crockpot Mexican Chicken for us today. I only had about 3 minutes before we had to leave for church, so there was no time to peruse my recipe box for a recipe I had all the ingredients for. Time to get creative. I peeked through my cupboards, threw some things in the crockpot, and came out with a recipe deemed fabulous by the whole family!

Emily's Crockpot Chicken

Put 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts in the crockpot. (You can put them in frozen)

In a bowl, whisk together:
1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
2 Tbsp. dried, minced onion (or 1/2 of an onion, chopped)
1 small can chopped, drained green chiles
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp salt

Pour over the chicken and cook on high for 4 hours

I served it layered in the following order:
1. Brown rice (better flavor if cooked in chicken broth instead of water)
2. Spoon sauce from the crock pot over the rice
3. Cover rice with steamed, fresh spinach
4. Put chicken on top of spinach
5. Top chicken with finely grated cheddar cheese

Yummy Sunday for us! I hope you enjoy it, too! Oh, and it's very healthy, too!

Of Butterflies and Rodents

I began my phone call to Matt yesterday with this question: "Which do you want first--the good news or the bad news?" Like me, he always prefers to hear bad news first, then chase it with the good news. But not yesterday. Yesterday I gave him the good news first. Here is what I said.

The good news is that our annual termite inspection turned up no evidence of termites.
The bad news is that the termite inspector found a really bad rat infestation in the crawl space under our house. There was evidence of possums there, too.
The good news is that we don't have to pay Terminix $1200 to clean out the crawl space, and that it will only cost us $30.
The bad news is that to get the $30 rate, you will have to clean it out yourself.
The good news is that insulation is easy to remove.
The bad news is that the insulation is so full of rat urine and crap that you'll need to wear a protective body suit, gloves, mask, and goggles in order to clean it all out. Thus, the $30.
The good news is that once the crawl space is cleaned out, we should all be much healthier.
The bad news is that all the respiratory illnesses we've had in our family in the last few months have been caused by bacteria from the rat-crapped crawl space seeping into our air system. It could even be the main, contributing factor in Pepper's chronic croup. (at this point commence the gagging...)

I finished my announcement with a piece of good news: "Guess what Honey? There's nothing on our calendar for this weekend so you can clean out the crawl space tomorrow!" Oh goodie...

When we woke up this morning, we were not yet ready to tackle the rat room. We figured the likelihood of encountering rats was higher during the morning, so we opted to wait for afternoon. Instead, we headed out to the Little Rock Farmer's Market for one more summer morning before school starts. I love the colors, smells, and sounds of the Farmer's Market. I didn't buy anything today because frankly, my spending money has grown wings and flown away. But my camera ate up the fresh produce and flowers just fine for free. We also paid a visit to the park by the Farmer's Market, which has a wonderful fountain for kids to play in. Snapper and Pepper love this park. It was one last splash of summer before school starts on Wednesday. Here are a few pictures from my morning.

This afternoon Matt and I tackled the rat toilet. Lucky Matt got to wear the protective gear and go under the house to rip out the offending insulation. He's my own, personal superhero...Rat Matt to the rescue!

I tied a bandana around my face, wore the oldest clothes I could find, and pulled all the insulation into a pile in the yard as Matt shoved it out from under the house. I can't even begin to describe how GROSS, YUCKY, DISGUSTING, REVOLTING, HORRID, NASTY, and EWWWWWWWW that job was! When all the insulation was out, it made a pile 15 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 6 feet high. It then took us an hour to stuff all that insulation into black trash bags...17 of them, to be exact. I can't tell you the last time my shower was so inviting and wonderful!

The next step will be to put ammonia under the house to drive out any remaining rats. Then we'll seal the pipe they're using as a door, and hope none have stayed behind to die under the house. If that happens, Terminix will come and remove the dead rat. Thank God for Terminix!

Because this post has been so nasty, I'd better leave you with something lovely to dwell on, something that won't give you the heebie-jeebies, but will fill your mind with visions of rainbows, flowers, and butterflies. Here's my favorite photo of the weekend, taken in my neighbor's zinnia bed. It might even be my favorite nature photo I have ever taken! Have I mentioned I love my camera?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Emily Flies Solo

I'm home!!! And yes, I had a wonderful time away. The purpose of my trip was to scan pictures from my childhood so I can make a scrapbook to preserve my memories for my kids. Mission accomplished! In the course of 18 hours over 3 days, I scanned 1200 pictures from 1979-2000! I still have a few albums at home to work through, and I will get to them soon. When the scanning was finished, I still had a good bit of time to spend with my family. My dad and step-mom hosted a croquet tournament at their house for my sis and me, my aunt, uncle, and cousins. My sister's best friend came, too. We had a great lunch together, and shared much laughter and hilarity. My sis and I also got an invitation to go up to my Uncle Jack and Aunt Marianne's lake house in central California. We jumped on the opportunity! The setting of their home is so serene and peaceful. I loved the time I had to catch up with my family. The lake was clean and clear, and the water temperature was perfect. The best part of the trip, though, was the concentrated, one-on-one time with my sister. I came home last night very full inside, and excited to make this scrapbook. Here are some pictures to better tell the story. computer woes continue. I got a brand new computer 6 weeks ago, and it hasn't been right from the beginning. Matt took it in yesterday and found out that it had 19 viruses. How do you get 19 computer viruses when you only visit a few websites and never download anything? Anyhoo, I only have the laptop for now. Once I get my computer back I will post some of my favorite childhood pics. Ooooh, I'm excited to get to look through all of them and share!

All photographs are the property of Life Art by Emily and may not be reproduced in any form.

Dinner at Del Taco (my favorite fast food) with my brother, Brandon

Clowning around

Dinner in downtown Santa Cruz with my sister, Jenny

One of Jenny's gorgeous roses at her house

My photo scanning set-up at Jenny's house

At home by my beloved Santa Cruz ocean

Do you play croquet?

My little cousins C and L show their Grampy (my Uncle Dave) the lizard they found

L plays with her Grammy (my Auntie Maggie) on the lawn during a lull in the croquet

This picture of L was too cute not to share!

Chillin' in the lake with my Aunt Marianne and another little cousin C

I love my cousin Katie

Uncle Jack's dock...isn't it a gorgeous setting?

Finished off the trip with a visit to my Granny

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Many Travels

Well hello there, strangers! That's how I feel. It has been so long since I had the time to sit down and write. There has been much going on and many miles covered. Thanks to those of you who emailed to check on me. Yes, I am fine. All is well now that I'm sleeping in my own bed again.

In the last two weeks Matt and I covered a lot of miles in our trusty, teal minivan. I'll let this photo collage I made give you an idea of how many miles!

Every other year our sending agency holds a staff conference in Colorado. We gathered for 9 days with the many other U.S. staff for a wonderful schedule of speakers, worship, prayer, and seminars on practical topics. Matt and I had many quiet hours together. We took advantage of the kid-free time to re-evaluate where we are as a married couple, as parents, and in our ministry. We did a lot of laughing, plenty of crying, and even more dreaming. We asked God to show up and reveal His plan for our family, and He did just that. I have some exciting things to tell you, but that will have to wait for another week or two. I don't have the time to do justice to what I want to say. Anyway, the conference was absolutely fantastic. We have come home refreshed in every way, and ready to tackle life again. The kids had a great time at home with the friend who stayed with them. They did lots of fun things together, and didn't even want to talk to us on the phone until the last few days of our trip!

Two weeks ago I blogged about all the food we ate along the road, and I promised some pictures. Here are a few.

Chicken fried steak in Oklahoma

Steak in Texas

Waffle...obviously in Texas!

Sushi with friends Gary and Michelle in Colorado

Every Christmas I make a photo calendar for the people who support us. In the past it has all been Arkansas scenery. This year it will include some photos from our travels. Here are a few favorites, a sneak peek for those who will get that calendar!









Well, that pretty much sums it up for now. I leave on Thursday for California. I'm going to spend 6 days there with my sister going through photo albums and scanning pictures of my childhood. I'm looking forward to some time with my dad and step-mom, and my auntie, uncle, and cousins, too! Matt and the kids are staying home this time. I'll try to blog from CA, but I doubt I'll get to it. So until I return, adios!