Monday, February 17, 2014


My best friend's twin girls just celebrated their first birthday this past weekend, and I had the extreme honor of documenting their big day! Oh. My. Word. Can I just tell you how much I love these two little darlings? And their mommy did an incredible job with the party: a girlie milk and cookies theme, "Because some things are just better together." Adorable, right?

Amy came over today to pick up her photos on CD and stayed for a mini playdate. Maci and my little Riley really took to one another: Maci was patting his shoulder and poking him in the eye and just couldn't quite sit close enough to him as they played. Meanwhile, Liam played big brother to Claire, showing her toys and then snatching them away (we're working on that!), and crawling around after her. I love that our littles will grow up together!

Here are my favorites from the party:

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's Valentine's Day, y'all!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! 

I had a cool stock photo picked out that I was going to use with an inspiring Bible verse about love for today's blog post—something like this: 

Instead, I decided to be real honest about what it's sometimes like—yes, even on holidays—in our household.

I gave the boys a bubble bath this morning—because it's the only bath they've had this week. Then I dressed them in their V Day duds and attempted to take their photo, and the above photo is the best I got. It's a stark contrast to the usual precious smiles I post regularly on social media.

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means that the perpetual internal battle I wage every holiday has reared its ugly head. It’s every holiday that my worth as a mom is challenged as I wring my hands about all of the super special things I should be doing with my kids to celebrate, all of the Pinterest-inspired craft projects and recipes we should sit around giggling and making together, so I can fill their proverbial scrapbooks full of handmade items they’ll treasure for years to come. (Because we all know tons of grown men who sit around gushing over their baby books.)

The first project I attempted was stressful enough, but I was having fun so I ignored the gnawing feeling that something was off. I had decided on an idea for a buddy valentine for Liam to give to his best friend. It involved me setting up a photo shoot in the kitchen of his wooden Thomas and Percy trains. I was so excited, and with my laser-sharp focus I set up a white backdrop against Liam’s anywhere chair, right in front of the kitchen window. I set Percy and Thomas right next to each other, and laid down right in front of them so I could get the perfect shot. I let Liam help, of course. And by help, I mean that I told him to get his trains so we could take a picture. He ran to get them, but then he wanted to play with them. When I set them down on the floor, he wailed. I tried to explain in my best upbeat voice the vision for my our project, but he crumpled over the side of his chair and sobbed. I found this odd and funny and even snapped a couple of photos of his toddler meltdown.

The second project was a Pinterest-inspired valentine for my husband from the boys. I “got the boys involved” by outlining their hands, and then I cut them out, shaped them in the sign language symbol for “I love you” and then glued them onto a piece of paper. I wrote out the words “We love you” in glue and sprinkled glitter over the letters, even making the “o” in love a heart. During this process, Liam asked to hold the cut-out hands, but I snapped them out of his fingers once he tried to put them in his mouth. Liam asked to hold the glue, so I twisted it shut before I let him hold it. 
Right then I had one of those moments where God gently and kindly whispers to me, “This isn't what it's all about.” (Those probably weren’t His exact words, but that’s my translation anyway.) This wasn’t really a valentine from the boys. I wasn’t letting them be involved at all except as bystanders eager to get their hands dirty. This was a valentine from me in hopes of impressing my husband and everyone else with my knack for handmade crafts (which, in all honesty I have NO knack for). Of course, he would love seeing the boys’ handprints, but would he enjoy more seeing something that Liam had colored himself, or glitter that Liam had glued down?  

Sometimes I can get all caught up in what we're supposed to be doing to celebrate a holiday that I miss the point of the day altogether. While today is a day devoted to celebrating love, love rarely looks like flowers and chocolate in our family. Instead, love looks less like heart-shaped cookies and more like me clipping the boys' toenails while they squirm and try to steal the nail clippers from my hand. It looks less like chocolate-covered strawberries and candlelit dinners and more like kissing my husband goodbye as he rushes out the door for work and I, covered in some avocado-banana mixture, try my best to feed Riley his breakfast. It looks like spilled coffee, spit-up on my pajama shirt, and a pile of laundry that my husband and I will tackle together this weekend.

My husband sheepishly presented me with a bouquet of a dozen white roses (my favorite) last night, but when I inquired about his odd demeanor, he explained how he went to two different stores to get them because Liam threw a righteous fit in the first store when he couldn't ride in the racecar buggy. That's real life. It's beautifully messy.

In the midst of meltdowns and daily chores, my heart longs to be still and just listen. My soul is aching to sit at the feet of Jesus and absorb the revelation of His love. The love that He generously and selflessly and resolutely pours out on us, not because we deserve it, not because it's expected or earned, but because that's just Who He is. It's a love that covers over all wrongs, breaks through the darkness, brings us freedom, and compels us to pursue Him and His holiness. It's a love that realizes we'll never get it completely right, and chases us down anyway. While flowers wither and chocolate gets eaten devoured, the love of our Heavenly Father endures forever. It's the only love we can count on.

I hope your day is filled with that kind of love!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Riley hit the eight-month mark this past weekend! It's fun for me to look back and see what Liam looked like at this point:

Can you see the resemblance? By the way, oh my word Liam was bald for so long! Bless his heart...

Riley is making all sorts of noises, and has even said "Mama" and "Dada" several times! (For the record, he said Mama first.) He babbles a lot actually, and he has his own signature dance move now (he basically wiggles his body and bobs his head back and forth). His little personality is starting to show, and I can tell he's got a little edge. Riley is our force to be reckoned with!

Thankfully, it seems Liam is over his jealousy phase, and now he just sees Riley as his little companion. They play in Liam's room most mornings, and I frequently hear Liam's continuous one-sided conversation with Riley, in which he discusses his cars, how he will fix his racecar with his hammer...and he'll hold up a toy to Riley and say, "Riley, what's this? Oh, it's a _____." Liam will spontaneously walk over to Riley and pat him on the head or give him a hug, and Riley will grin and let out a squeal. They are becoming the best of friends already!

Riley's second tooth has broken through the gums, so now he has both front bottom teeth. I will miss those gummy smiles so much! (I realize this probably isn't the first time I've said this, and I'll just tell you now, it won't be the last.) He has put those teeth to work on a whole banana and even some pizza crust. This kid will eat ANYTHING. Even paper. (It only happened twice. The second time was with a book page that Liam had torn out of the book, and I'd been meaning to tape it back. This afternoon I found it crumbled up, soaking wet, hanging out of Riley's mouth. Oh well.)

....AND he's had enough of photo time! (By the way, I just noticed the dirty laundry draped over the basket in the background. That's real life happening right there, folks.)

This month has been a growing month for me, too. I have such a tendency to treat Riley as if I'm raising Liam all over again, but the Lord is continually reminding me of the verse that says, "Train up your child in the way he should go." I've been convicted lately about my plans for these boys. Don't we all want our children to follow in our footsteps in one way or another? Since Kelley played soccer his whole life, there has been this understanding that, of course, our boys will play, too. But I can already tell that Liam may be more into art and music than athletics. He has yet to meet a stranger, he will go right up to someone and start a conversation with them, and whenever a song starts playing, he will stop what he's doing and start listening to the music and dancing. While other boys his age are ramming trucks into each other, Liam strategically lines them up in order. (I realize this is strikingly different from my last update about Liam, but you know, I've gained some perspective.) Sometimes I mistake his perpetual energy for roughness, but really he is tenderhearted, sweet, and caring. He wants to give EVERYTHING a hug (even the garbage truck as it rolls down the street. Not even kidding). I had this vision of him being a rough and tumble steamroller of a boy (his name means "strong-willed warrior"), but he may find his strength is in his gentleness.

Riley, on the other hand, doesn't quite know his own strength. He will scratch and pinch and grab and pull and sink his teeth into anything that's put in front of him. He attacks his toys with force; his feet are constantly kicking, his arms always flailing about, fists clenched. He screeches and squeals and grunts and growls. He may need extra discipline, extra structure in order to learn appropriate boundaries. My point is, Riley is not Liam, and I'm having to learn not to treat him as if he's the same person.

I pray that as these boys grow, God will highlight their differences and give me the wisdom to know how to treat them as individuals, unique in their own right; to provide an atmosphere where each can cultivate his own strengths and passions, and to encourage them to search out their own identities in Christ, separate from what I may envision in my own mind.

That's easier said than done, though, right? :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

The documentary that changed my life.

This week. Oh my! This one actually flew by for me. I would like to give a standing ovation to all the work-at-home moms out there. And I thought being a stay-at-home mom was challenging enough! (Can we just agree that being a parent is hard, period? Thanks.) You know what’s hard as a work-at-home mom? BOUNDARIES. I’m still learning about this.  

Moving on, though. Is it weird that I consider my biggest accomplishment this week to be that I have consumed a very large amount of kale? Actually, I think my biggest feat was getting Liam to eat some. At any rate, my mother-in-law gave me a juicer she won during a Dirty Santa game, and she swore she’d never use it. So I was like, Oooh, gimme. A possibly pretentious activity, I know. But y’all! I can put GINORMOUS pieces of fruit and WHOLE vegetables into the machine, and it COMPLETELY PULVERIZES them! It’s so much fun. And, drinking kale and cucumber is not nearly as dry-heave-inducing as I thought it would be. Even Liam guzzled a juice this morning with apple, carrot, celery, lime, pear, cucumber, and loads of kale. But, being the novice juicer that I am, I turned to a more experienced friend of mine for some resources, and he pointed me toward this guy. His story is changing my life! 

Joe Cross was overweight and living a very unhealthy lifestyle when he was diagnosed with a terrible autoimmune disease at a not-much-older age than me. He was spending a fortune on prescription drugs that enabled him to get through each day, until one day he had an epiphany: 

If the human body is capable of healing itself on the outside, (whenever we get a cut or scratch), then surely it is capable of healing itself on the inside, given the right tools. 

So he made a drastic decision. And 60 days later, he was off his medicine, at a much healthier weight, and his disease was in remission. He had basically none of the symptoms he was experiencing on a daily basis!

You can watch his unbelievable documentary here, and let me tell you, it’s well worth it! His story is incredible, really. And the big kick in the pants for me is that it makes SO MUCH SENSE. Why WOULDN’T we feed ourselves the very foods that were created to maintain every part of our bodies? Seriously, every single fruit and vegetable was designed to meet a specific need that our bodies have.

So it got me thinking about my own health and my goal to be good to my body this year. What kind of a difference would it make for my own health if I focused more on feeding my body the micronutrients it was designed to run on instead of junk food that slows it down?

Quitting sweets or junk food cold turkey has never worked for me, and if I feel like I’m depriving myself or restricting my diet, I’ll last half a day and then bake something with chocolate. Instead of my focus being on what I can’t eat, my husband and I both just been more purposeful on what we add to our diets, more fruits and vegetables. And not just blueberry muffins or vegetables that have been cooked to death, but fresh fruits and vegetables in salads or homemade smoothies or juice.

Now, I’ll just put this out there: juicing is messy. And it takes a lot of work. You have to scrub the produce and cut it up in pieces that will fit through the shoot. Afterwards, you end up with a TON of pulp that is as hard to clean up as glitter. The juicer has several separate pieces that I typically wash by hand with a toothbrush. It can get expensive to buy all the produce. And, I get a little nervous when the juice turns orange on green on brown with particles in the bottom, and I just imagine that it’s going to taste like freshly cut grass. But I have yet to gag when I drink any of the recipes I’ve made; they’re actually quite good! (It helps if the glass isn’t see-through.)

Even with its darker side, after this week, I can tell I have more energy. I’ve cut my caffeine intake by half and still have the energy I would if I’d sustained my regular coffee habit. I feel better all around, which makes me excited to see the long-term benefits.

At first, juicing seemed like a waste to me. All that work, all that money, all that food, and you get that little bit of juice? And isn’t the actually food much better than just the juice? But after watching Joe’s documentary, I learned that juicing still retains the soluble fiber of the food (as opposed to the insoluble fiber, which cleans you out but also takes some of the valuable nutrients with it), which helps your body absorb more of the nutrients. And a little goes a long way. It’s quality over quantity. It’s the best way to get the nutrients in a whole apple, a whole pear, two celery stalks and two carrots, half a cucumber, half a lime, and a whole bunch of kale, without actually having to eat all of that in one sitting (because who would, honestly?). And I thought I’d be so hungry just drinking juice, but the juice I had at breakfast held me until lunchtime.

And when we think about it, how much money do we spend on items that dress our outside, or on heavy meals at a restaurant, or on junk food that fills our cabinets and our stomachs but does nothing for our health? Why wouldn’t we invest in the one thing that we need to last us our entire lives, our bodies? I guess you could say I have been seriously convicted about what I put into my body.

So, my plan for now is to have a homemade juice or smoothie several days a week and a salad containing spinach or kale every day. That fits our budget right now, and it’s a realistic place to start, I think. You know, baby steps.

Have you ever tried juicing?