Friday, March 29, 2013

Speaking of Plants...

I saw this post over on Honey We're Home and it made me laugh because I have had the same exact post in my head for months and just never took the photos to do it.  You see, she has this plant in her home that seems to survive no matter how poorly it is taken care of, and wanted to know what kind of plant it is. And me? Well, I've been known to have a bit of a "black thumb" and can kill anything that I try to grow, but we, too, have this one plant that was given to us awhile back that can stand up to just about anything.  Meet Laz:

Yeah, poor guy... this is what he looks like most of the time. He goes for weeks without water, even though I see him and think, "gee, I should really water that thing!" And after a couple of pitiful weeks I finally get around to it and without fail, a day or two later, he's back to his perky old self:

Pretty amazing, right? This is probably the only plant we will ever have in our house since I know he can survive my terrible care and has already weathered a move.  After reading the comments on her post I learned that this is a peace lily, which are actually poisonous so I am thankful that I have always had it on top of our china cabinet where no little hands (or mouths) can get to it!

And the name? You might've guessed it... Laz is short for Lazarus, the man that Jesus raised from the dead (which you can read about here). I think ol' Laz can relate.

And speaking of raising from the dead, I wish all of you a very happy Easter. For us who call ourselves Christians, this is far more important than Easter and is the reason behind it all. I am thankful for a God who loved us so much that He sacrificed His one and only son so that my sins could be washed clean, therefore allowing myself to have a relationship with the creator of the universe. If you are in a place where you do not understand the magnitude and wonder of it all, I challenge you to explore this truth this weekend, go to a life-giving church, hear about the love He has for us, and be in the most important and valuable relationship that we are offered. Or if you do know, and know that His love dramatically changes the quality of your life, remember to invite a friend this weekend. Do you know that 1 out of every 4 people invited to church will accept, and the percentage is even higher on Easter weekend? Someone out there is just waiting to be asked, so what are you waiting for?

Happy Easter, friends. I hope you have a blessed, fun-filled weekend!

Bloom Where You Are Planted

This past weekend was one of my best ever since in the "me-time" sense. Once I got married and especially once we had kids, there have not been many days, particularly consecutive days, that have been all about doing things that I want to do. Don't get me wrong, I would not trade my life now for the world and I love being with my family more than anything else, but gosh it feels good to be a little selfish from time to time, right? So on Friday I headed south to Tennessee, did a little shopping (well, a lot of shopping) sans kiddos, and then headed to Gatlinburg for my best friend's bachelorette weekend (more on that to come later). Then on Sunday morning I woke up not-so-bright and very early (after a late night of course!) and drove back to Lexington in the rain to attend Delta Gamma's Founders Day brunch for the University of Kentucky. I was a DG at Tennessee and was so incredibly honored to be asked to be the alumni speaker at UK's event this year. I can still remember thinking how awesome it would be to speak at one of these someday, but I'm not sure that I ever thought it would actually happen. Fast forward to 2012 and a DG alumni from UK began coming to TurningPoint Church and since the theme of this year's event was "Bloom Where You Are Planted," she thought what better than a church planter to speak on the topic?
After sharing a bit of our church planting story, I expanded on the topic of not just growing, but truly blooming throughout your life. I firmly believe that we should all be committed to growing constantly, always bettering ourselves and striving to do more good in this world and in our own personal lives, but to bloom is to find true happiness. People who "bloom" have that extra little something- that thing that you can't quite put your finger on, but it's an outpouring of joy from the overflow in his or her own life. A person who blooms is living on purpose, has generally found the thing he or she was made to do and is pursuing it passionately. I'd like to think that I am that way, or at least on my way there, and I shared a few things that I think help a person acheive this. And to break it down even further, I compared it to what an actual plant needs not only to survive and grow, but to truly bloom:

1.  The Seed - What are you trying to grow?

In order to expect flowering results, you need to know what you're growing, as in, what do you want the final product to look like? Essentially, if you were to set goals for what your life would look like in one, five, and ten years, then that would be the plant that you would want to cultivate. Throughout the days of your life, any decisions that would take you off of the path that would get you to this end-result place would not be worth pursuing. For example, a farmer planting corn does not take care of that crop the way he'd take care of a tulip, or he would not produce fruit. And a gardner planting tulips would not tend to them the way he would tend to corn or he would never see those beautiful blooms. You have to know what you're growing to know where you're going.

2.  The Soil - What is surrounding that seed?

We've all heard that there is such thing as "good soil" and "bad soil" for gardnening, and the same is true in this case. For a plant, soil is what surrounds, protects, and nourishes the seed, so for us, the soil is essentially who and what we have surrounding and nourishing us. If we surround ourselves with negative nay-sayers who do not encourage us or challenge us to meet our goals, then chances are we will never accomplish them. Likewise, if we surround ourselves with positive people who lift each other up and motivate one another, it's more likely that we'll find success. Find people who are ambitious, loving, encouraging, and want to help you get where you're going in life. Also, if you meet someone who seems to have what you want in your life, whether it be the career, family, or habits that you would like to see in your future, ask him or her to be a mentor. Mentorship is seriously underrated and underutilized in our culture and chances are that this person could probably give you some great advice on how to get to where you want to be if he or she has already walked that path. As my husband oftens says: show me a picture of your inner circle and I'll show you a picture of your future. Have you ever considered that maybe you need to weed your inner circle?

3.  Water - What are you pouring in?

Everyone knows that a plant needs water to grow, just as our own bodies need nourishment. But not only is taking care of our physical bodies important, which it most certainly is, but being aware of what we're putting into our minds is equally as important. Since graduating college I have pretty much been able to choose what it is that I'm going to study on a day-to-day basis. Sure I can (and have) twiddled away my time by perusing Facebook and celebrity gossip magazines, but at the end of the day I realize that there is really no benefit in it. I may have seen someone's awesome vacation photos, but that still doesn't mean that I got to benefit from that at all and probably just envied it if I was really honest. Or I could use that same amount of time to open up books about being a better wife or parent, a better leader, a better friend, or just to read someone that encourages me. Don't get me wrong... I think there is a time and a place for the "fluff" and I love a good fiction book as much as the next person, but we all need some heartier stuff in our lives to really enrich our minds.

4. Sunlight - Everyone needs a little sunshine!

You will never fully "bloom" to your full potential if you don't believe that you will! If you have a dream for your life, even if it's a big, crazy, scary dream, believe that you can do it! If you know what you're growing and you know what you need to do to get there, don't stop until you accomplish what it is that you set out to do! It won't always be easy, and you should not expect it to be, but being positive and getting back up when life knocks you down is essential to see these things happen. And don't keep that sunshine to yourself... be a friend that is a light to others, reminding them that they can get to where they're going, too. Not only will you spread positive energy, but people want to be around that and will be drawn to you, which certainly helps! Be a person that people want to have around and that company will more likely want to hire you or that person will want to ask you on the date or whatever it may be... it's that extra little something that other people notice.
I cannot tell you how much fun it was to share this stuff this past weekend to a room full of 200 young women. I never really pegged myself as one who was a great public speaker (that's my husband's job) but I get it now- when you're passionate about what you're talking about, it gets easier. I tried to say the things that I wish I had been told when I was in college and share that. Now whether or not I would have listened is a different story entirely, but I wanted to let them know that they can get where they're wanting to go as long as they keep a big picture in mind and work toward that. It takes time, it takes work (lots of work), it takes endurance, and it takes a "can do" attitude, but nothing is out of reach if we don't allow it to be. I hope you get a little something out of this, too. So get out there, refocus on what lies ahead, and get after it! In a world full of people just going through the motions, take the steps to ensure that you will bloom where you are planted!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

He's "OSO" Special

March just seems to be getting away from us this year. Between lots of travels, wedding festivities, and the crazy schedules that can come from pastoring a church, our calendar has been full. Thankfully we had the foresight to just have a small family gathering for Jake's birthday this year rather than a full blown party like in year's past. While they were fun and we'll surely do it again in the future, his best buddy is his cousin anyway, so as long as he was in town, Jake would be one happy boy.
While we did not have a "theme," the one thing I refused to skimp on was the cake. Growing up, my mom made THE BEST cakes for us... she has a gift. As soon as Jake was born I knew that decorating a special cake for my kids each year was one tradition that would continue. Jake really does not request anything in particular yet (and if you asked him, he'll tell you that it's everyone else's birthday but his!), so I just went with what he's been requesting the most on TV lately.

"Mo Spessy Oso, please, Mommy?"
That's "More Special Agent Oso, please, Mommy?" in Jake-talk. Have I told you how much I love Jake-talk? He still uses so many of his own words, even when he knows the real word. I'll be a little sad once he starts speaking in full-on proper sentences. *sigh*
But I digress... what's that you say? You don't know who Special Agent Oso is? Yeah, I would not have either a year ago! You can find him on Disney Jr. and essentially he's the "unique, stuffed bear. He's on a special assignment to help a kid somewhere..." Oh sorry, mom-with-a-toddler, did I get that stuck in your head? My apologies.
If you're still lost, here's a picture:

Cute, eh? And my rock-star mom just so happens to still have the teddy-bear pan that she used for my Care Bear cake back in 1985... who says hanging onto things doesn't pay off? It worked perfectly:

And Jake? The dude absolutely loved it! He knew who is was right off the bat and then immediately said, "can we cut Oso?" Our growing boy has priorities!


Thankfully we made sure it lasted long enough to actually make it to the party where he graciously shared it with his Aunt Mindy who had a birthday last week, too.

I still can't believe this kid is three... to me he'll always be my Little Sweet Baby Jake.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Old, New, Borrowed... and Blue!

I think I've mentioned before, but in April I am going to be in back-to-back weddings. Not only that, but I am the matron of honor in both, so I have double-duty when it comes to making the time leading up to the weddings special for each bride. On the upside, there are a few small details that I have been able to duplicate, such as fun shower games and printables, but because of this I've had to put off the first of my recaps until both showers had been celebrated. So, even though this was back in January, here's a quick look at the fun we had at my best friend's bridal shower!

If you've ever met Elizabeth, you'll somehow learn very early on that her middle name is Blue. It's a family name and she loves it, and I do, too! Many people call her that, and so it seemed appropriate that we use the very appropriate theme of something old, something new, something borrowed, and of course... something Blue!  The I'm not posting a super-great image of the invitations, mainly because I swiped an image from the Internet and used it for my own design, but you could order very simlilar ones here:

We of course had hints of blue everywhere, but also used lace doilies and decorated with Mason jars to give it that vintage, old feel. I personally loved the way it all came together!

And ohhhhh these cupcakes were amazing! They were a chocolate-peanut butter creation from Annie's Eats. The frosting was to die for!  And how fun is the wine bottle in the high heel? The idea was from one of the other bridesmaids and I do believe that heels and wine were made to go together!
As for the food, we kept it simple and purchased finger sandwiches and a vegetable tray from Kroger, served pita chips and hummus, and an easy (yet delicious!) salad made up of field greens and spinach, mandarin oranges, sliced strawberries, sliced almonds, and poppyseed dressing. Delish! And thanks to someone who is much better at mixing beverages than I am, we even had blue sangria! It's hard to tell in the picture though!

After everyone had something to eat and mingled a bit, we passed around a notebook for them to write some advice for the bride-to-be, which will be a fun little keepsake for her. And then we passed out bridal shower Madlibs to do with a friend during the gift opening! I always think it's a good idea to have something for the guests to do while the gifts are being opened. I think it makes the guest of honor feel a little less awkward, too, since it's all eyes on her at that moment!
For the Mad Libs, I once again swiped someone else's brilliant design (are you seeing a pattern here) and customized it to fit my needs. But to give credit where credit is due, you can check out the original here.  Once I tweaked it, mine looked like this:
These were a huge hit, but even funnier was listening to everyone try and remember what a noun, verb, and adjective are! Wow, it's been awhile since we've all been in grammar class!  And as you know, I like to share, so if you ever wanted to use this, just email me and I'll gladly change the groom's name (since I highly doubt she'll be marrying a Dara!) and send you a copy.
All in all, it was a great day! I can't wait to stand next to these gorgeous bridesmaids in just a few weeks as my favorite person gets hitched!

But even sooner than that, I REALLY can't wait to meet up with them for our Bachelorette Mountain Getaway this weekend! After a week and a half of taking care of sick kids, this girls' weekend could not come at a better time... this mama needs it!  Look out Smoky Mountains, here we come!

Monday, March 18, 2013

An Unwelcome Visitor

If you've wondered what we've been up to these last couple of weeks, wonder no more. The stomach flu hit this family hard... and stayed well past its welcome! Starting two Thursdays ago (March 7th) with this little bug getting sick:

Followed by this one getting sick two days later:

Which resulted in a whole lot of doing this:

 I cannot tell you how many episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse we have watched in the past two weeks, how much laundry was done, how many baths were given, or how few nights of sleep we got. Every time we thought we had it licked it would rear its ugly head, all the way up to yesterday morning when Lilly woke up sick (again!). Ugh. I think it was just her system readjusting to normalcy though since she hasn't acted remotely sick since last Thursday (a week after it started) and neither one of them have had a fever since last Tuesday. Fingers crossed, but I think we're finally in the clear.

No matter how much I hate seeing my babies sick, I think every parent would agree that the extra cuddles, especially from a non-cuddly kid are always a welcome surprise.

So I'm sorry if I haven't returned phone calls or emailed, but I was up to my elbows in bodily fluids... nice, huh? Thankfully we were all clear to celebrate this guy's birthday this past weekend and saw lots of smiles again.

The flu is one guest that we do not want to welcome back any time in the near future. If you've experienced it this season, then my heart goes out to you... it's a brutal virus this year and I wouldn't wish it on anybody. Please say a prayer for my sisters and their families as it seems to be taking them out one by one, hopefully not from being around us! Now if this crazy weather would just finally turn warm rather than changing from warm to cold daily, maybe this thing would go away for good! Here's to hoping!

Hope you had a great weekend!  Happy Monday!

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Mom's Cooler Than Your Mom

Case in point... she got us Bon Jovi tickets for Christmas this year, which we got to finally use last night. Quite possibly the best concert I've ever been to in my life... he played for three straight hours and played every single song we could think of that we wanted to hear. I don't think that man ever ages... and he ran around that stage, danced, and belted out every song and hardly appeared to break a sweat. Plus, the visual effects were quite incredible!

And in case you didn't know, Bon Jovi is Josh's all time favorite band since he was a kid, so to say he was excited is an understatement.  Both of us loved the show, but people watching was just as much, if not more, fun. In Josh's words... "Bon Jovi has aged well. His fans, not so much." I guess 80's rockers die hard and we saw a lot of leather, big hair, neon, and even a pair of leopard-skin spandex pants... on a 40ish year old woman no less. Yes, it was epic.  And for your Friday viewing pleasure, here's a little clip of everyone's favorite classic... with a shaky hand and lots of obnoxious singing... it was way too hard to just video and not sing along:

He's still going strong... we saw fans from about 6-years-old to the cute 70ish year old couple that sat right behind us. It was pretty awesome.

And last but not least, I want to give BIG shout out to my birthday boy today... 

My Jake is THREE !!!!

(where does the time go?)!!!!  I'll do a more "official" birthday post after we celebrate this weekend, but I couldn't post today without giving him a little love. Looks like we're set up for a really great weekend around here!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Birthday Wishes - Part 2

As a continuation to yesterday's post, it's time to wish the second half of the equation a very happy birthday today! My sisters have back-to-back birthdays, which just means double the cake, double the fun. Throw Jake's in on Friday and we'll be in a sugar coma by the weekend! But anyway, here are just a few things I love about my oldest sister...

Everyone should have a big sister like Angie. I'm not sure what it is about her, but she just embodies that "big sister" title. I can literally go to her about anything, and even if she doesn't have any advice, she's a great listener. And talk about a big heart... she will stay after school to help friends in their classrooms, drive an hour and a half to help watch a friend's kids, run races in honor and memory of loved ones, works to help her husband balance their uber-crazy schedule, and takes care of her home and two kiddos on top of it. She is a sports-fanatic, UK basketball lovin', 49er's cheering crazy, but her favorite seats are those at the baseball field watching her sons play- she rarely misses a game, much less a practice. I sometimes feel like she sacrifices her summer for her boys' ball schedules, but there is actually no place she'd rather be, nor is there anything she'd rather do to spend that time off. Ask any student at the elementary school where she teaches, and you bet that they'll tell you that Ms. V is her favorite teacher. Granted, she teaches PE and who doesn't love PE, but based on her fun personality, I can only imagine that her class truly is the most fun. And my most favorite thing? My sister Mindy will not get upset when I call Angie the world's greatest aunt... in fact, Mindy agrees! The two of us cannot live up to her! When my kiddos (or Mindy's kiddos) are around, she's on the floor playing with them, rough housing with the boys, playing peek-a-boo with Lil, cleaning up spit-up and cooing at baby Sam, and is always so fully engaged with their needs. It's a nice break for me sometimes and she never makes me feel bad for sitting back and letting her do the entertaining so that I can get a little break... and she loves it. We've always had a special relationship with our aunts, and Angie will definitely have that with our little ones, and I know it will only grow as they get into sports. She can teach them far more than I will ever be able to!

If you had the three of us girls in one room, you might never guess that we're sisters. We don't look much alike, and we're all incredibly different in personality. But as different as we all are, we're like a perfect combination of personality traits to balance each other out and when you throw in our spouses, it's a party. I've always wanted a big, fun-loving family and I love more than anything that I am a part of one... it's such a blessing. I think we've all grown closer over the past ten years, and have learned how to encourage one another, lift up one another, and support one another when going through hard times. We each know that we can call at any time, no questions asked, if we need something and we'll be there. We sometimes disagree with one another as all people do, but I think at the end of the day we can look past the little stuff and know that love and friendship is much more important than always being right. I looked up to Angie so much growing up, always thinking that she was super cool and wanting to hang with her and her friends, so it's an honor to know that she considers me one now. Growing up can be fun in many, many ways.

We moved to the Bluegrass state in part to be closer to family, and the odd part is that now that she lives fifteen minutes down the road, I miss her more! It's like I need a bi-weekly Angie fix or else it feels like forever since I've seen her, even though we used to go months without seeing one another. Funny how that works. 
Angie, I hope you know how much you're loved and appreciated. Have a fantastic day and I'm wishing you the best year that you and your family have experienced yet! Love you!
Oh yeah, and just in case you haven't realized how awesome she is at this point, did I mention she has finished a half Ironman? Yeah, she's a rockstar!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Birthday Wishes - part I

Happy Monday! I hope your weekend was better than ours... we spent a few days with two very sick kiddos and did a lot of laundry, changed a lot of sheets, used a lot of Clorox wipes... you get the picture. I'm not even sure if both kids are fully on the mend yet, but we're crossing our fingers that we've seen the last of this bug. More importantly, I'm double crossing my fingers that Josh and I will steer clear... it doesn't look good and those poor kiddos have seemed so pitiful here lately. But anyway...
It's been awhile since I did a birthday post and I used to do one for just about everyone in the family when their birthday rolled around. Oh yeah, I didn't have kids back then. But anyway, today and tomorrow are two very special birthdays as I have two very special sisters, so I wanted to take the time to give them a little bit of love on each of their days.

First up... sister Mindy's is today! She's three years older than me and although we have always been friends, I'd say we've become best friends over the past eight years. We lived down the street from each other in Florida for five of those years, had the same great group of girlfriends, did Disney trips and Bachelor nights together, celebrated many birthdays, weddings, showers, bachelorette parties, etc. together, have run a marathon (and many halves) together, and then when I moved away, we ended up pregnant at the same time and got to share that together (from afar). Her son Adam is only seven weeks older than our Jake and they are the best of friends, too.... it just doesn't get much better. And three months ago, she added baby Sam to the family, for which I am thankful so that I can get my baby fix without having another one any time soon! This family is not quite ready to handle three!

But anyway, I mainly just wanted to take a minute in the blog world to tell her how much I love her and how much I look up to her. I feel like we live in a society where we don't tell each other positive things enough... everyone focuses so much on critiques and criticisms, but why not tell the people you care about the most just how special they are? And this chick is so special! She's a wonderful (and very patient) mom, an incredibly supportive wife (her husband had one three Ironman races, which require 20+ hours of training a week for months!), a friend you can tell anything to and know that it won't be gossiped about ever, she's incredibly creative and crafty, she can design anything you need her to (invitations, save the dates, odds and ends for a party, you name it!), and would give you the shirt off of your back if you needed it. Oh, and have I mentioned that she's gorgeous???

We chat on the phone multiple times a week about nothing at all, and I know she'd make the drive down here in a heartbeat if I ever needed her. She balances a full-time career and the family and the house and makes people ask, how does she do it? Yes, we see you like that, even if you don't see yourself in that light. I could go on and on, but I'll just get to it... without further ado I'd just like to say a big Happy Happy Birthday to my big sister, Mindy! I love you more than you know and I am so lucky that God put us in the same family. Have a great day... can't wait to celebrate with you this weekend!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Freebie

I have a couple of friends going through tough times right now. It seems like bad news has hit the people I love left and right, and even though we all know it's part of a bigger plan, it's hard to see that when you're in the midst of it. I know one of these fine friends in particular reads my blog from time to time, so this one is for you:
There may be more of you out there that needed to see that today. Just remember that no matter what you're going through, if you keep your eyes fixed on the Almighty, He'll make sure to bring you through it. I wish we could know what His plans are, but just know that they are far greater than yours or mine. Just put one foot in front of the other and He'll keep pushing you forward and holding you up until you overcome this bump in the road.

And just like my last creation, if you want a digital copy, I'm happy to share, so just email me or leave a comment.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mommy's Home!

For those of you who keep up with me via Twitter or Instagram, you're probably aware that I spent the weekend sitting in an airport. I had a quick business trip to Miami, and what should have been a relatively quick and easy trip turned into a complete headache getting home. My connecting flight to Lexington was delayed, then cancelled, then rebooked, then delayed (several times), then we got on the plane and taxi'ed, only to find out that there was a mechanical issue, and so we were delayed again, and finally they cancelled my last and final shot at getting home around 7pm on Saturday night (after getting in on my first flight at 9am). And then I got to sit and wait for my baggage to be pulled, only to find out two hours later than it was already loaded on a plane that was Kentucky-bound. Fun times. I'm beginning to realize that my trips to Miami never seem to be uneventful. But alas, at least I made it here safely.

And the best part of coming home after being away is... the kiddos of course! Josh was bummed that he wouldn't get to see their reactions, so I recorded it for him, and now I'm happy I have this:

As frustrating as having two little ones can be sometimes, I have to admit that from the minute I kissed them goodbye all I really wanted was to be home. This chaos is my world, and my world just ain't right without it. These three days away made me yearn for my "normal" life with every fiber in my being, which tells me that I should never complain... life is so good and I'm where I'm supposed to be. It's a healthy perspective to get, and I think going away once or twice a year is a super healthy (and necessary) reminder of that.

And as a cute little side note, Jake thought I spent the entire three four days on an airplane. Every time we talked he'd ask, "Mommy, are you on an airplane? and I would just say that yes, I went away on an airplane and that seemed to suffice. And thankfully my husband knew not to tell me this until after I got home, but several times while I was gone he'd go look out the window and ask, "Daddy, do you see mommy's airplane anywhere?" Oh he steals my heart, that one. I was teary enough while I was gone, so that story would've probably sent me over the edge. I am thankful for a husband who totally gets me.
All in all, it was a productive trip, but I have never been so happy to be back where I belong. It's true that there really is no place like home.