Sunday, June 29, 2008

VBS Fun in Nashville

The children and I enjoyed spending several days in Nashville with my sister, Jennifer, and her family. We attended the last night of their church's vacation Bible school, a carnival-style evening of family fun. The children registered in the church foyer before heading outside to the grassy hillside behind the church building. There they found booths for games, face painting and balloon animals. Ice cream cones, popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones were tasty treats when the kids needed a snack break. Inflatable water slides and a jump house were favorites of the group. Jennifer's 6-month-old daughter, Caitlin, watched with interest as Big Brother David showed their cousins around.

Jennifer always loved horses, and growing up she was convinced we had room in our backyard to keep one as a pet. Jennifer took horseback riding lessons in high school and still loves to ride today. So it was especially sweet to see Caitlin getting her first pony ride. If she takes after her mommy, this will be the first of many mother-daughter moments on horseback!

The children had a great time playing outside together! Emma made the evening a little too exciting for me, but for the rest of the group it was a perfect evening of family fun!

Little Lamb Lost

A lot of people turned out for the VBS festivities we attended with my sister's family last week, so I grew concerned when 2-year-old Emma slipped away from me. She played at my side as I was introduced to a friend of Jennifer's. We chatted for a few moments, and when I turned to face Emma she had disappeared into the crowd.

I knew she had probably taken off after her big sister, so I headed in the direction of the big water slide at the top of the hill. I found Mary Ashley standing in line, but there was no sign of Emma. "Have you seen your sister?" I asked. Mary Ashley shook her head no before jumping up and down excitedly. I could hear her giggling in the background as she waited her turn, but I couldn't focus on what she was saying.

I stood in line with Mary Ashley for a few minutes, scanning each booth in the area. My eyes finally settled on the woods at the edge of the church property, and I shuddered thinking Emma could have wandered that far. I knew in my heart that someone would have noticed if a child had broken away from the group to cross the field to the woods, but still my anxiety grew thinking of the possibilities. I watched the trees for a few moments. There was no sign of movement, so I turned to scan the crowd on the hillside below.

The area was mostly enclosed, so I knew that it was unlikely that Emma had left the carnival. But still, as more and more time passed, I grew increasingly uneasy. On the left side of the property, children played on a fenced-in playground. Swings and slides were occupied by boys and girls of all shapes and sizes, but I didn't see Emma in the group. From the playground fence on the left, hugging the church building wall and then spreading up the hill to the right, booths dotted the landscape. Water balloon toss, bean bag toss, ring toss. I surveyed each booth, looking for Emma's blond hair and smocked bathing suit, but I couldn't find her anywhere. People stood in line and milled about on the hill, but there was no sign of my 2-year-old weaving through the crowds.

Jennifer saw my worried look, and quickly found her husband when I told her I couldn't find Emma. David joined the search, and we asked the boys if they had seen her. Carson headed down the hill to look for Emma while the adults spread out to check the jump house, water slides and booths at the top of the hill. We looked for several minutes, then gathered at the top of the hill again. Jennifer, David and I scanned the crowd below, not sure where to look next. I just couldn't understand how she had gotten out of sight so quickly.

Then from the bottom of the hill, breaking through the crowd, was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. There was Emma rising above the crowd, happy as could be, carried on Carson's shoulders. He had found her playing on the playground slide. When he peered into the tunnel, she smiled brightly. "Hi Cah-Cah!" she said.

Emma had no idea in that moment that she was lost. As my worries grew, she remained blissfully unaware of the dangers around her. Giving no thought to strangers or the nearby parking lot and woods, she played happily until her big brother found her.

This incident reminds me of Matthew 18:12-14: "What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish." How beautiful it is to realize that the Good Shepherd loves us so much that He doesn't want any of us to be lost.

In those tense moments when I couldn't find Emma, I would have traded anything to know that my little lamb was safe. All of my worldly goods would have been a small price to pay to see her sweet smile and hold her again. Yet when I was a lost lamb, I was restored to the fold with an even greater price. The Good Shepherd reminds me, "[Y]ou were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19).

I will always treasure the photo below. I snapped this as Carson carried Emma up the hill to my outstretched arms. I remember the relief and joy I felt as a mother, knowing that my little one was safe. Yet I know that my human emotions pale in comparison to the love of the Good Shepherd, who rejoices when one of His little lambs is returned to the fold. I am so thankful that He is willing to pay the ultimate price to save even a lost little lamb like me.

It's a beautiful sight when a little lamb is returned to the fold.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fighting Words

I walked into the boys' room recently and found them playing a battle game. With his most ominous voice, 6-year-old Christian gave 9-year-old Carson a stern warning.

Christian: Call me a name again, and you'll feel my rash!

Carson: You mean "wrath."

Christian (still the voice of doom): Yes, that too ... .

(Carson rolls his eyes. Mom leaves hastily, stifling a giggle.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Something to Share

The best way to enjoy the fragrance of a flower ...

is to share it with a friend.

Mary Ashley and Emma are wearing smocked shorts sets from Castles and Crowns in this photo. This childrens clothing line is too precious not to share! My dear friend Allison is a C&C rep, and I am hosting a party for her Tuesday. They feature smocked, appliqued, holiday-themed and monogrammable garments for girls and boys up to size 8. You can see the fall line here. Leave a comment here or on Allison's blog by Thursday if you are interested in ordering, and we will hook you up!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Flip-Flops and Belly Flops

Today we had our second Backyard Bible Adventure of the summer, and it was so much fun! Backyard Bible Adventures combine the fun of a birthday party with a spiritual message. Our theme this summer is "Making a Splash," and host Karen Pruitt welcomed us this morning for a pool party. Karen has such a heart for young mothers, and she treated us to a refreshing summer lunch of chicken salad croissants, fruit salad, jello salad, pickles, deviled eggs, chips and an ice cream sandwich dessert. We mommies sipped iced tea and lemonade on the screened-in porch while the children enjoyed picnic lunches by the pool.

At our first BBA this summer, we talked about changing our hearts and being kinder to our families. Our Bible story today came from John 13. As the children sat around the pool, we talked about how we would feel if we all had to walk home from our Backyard Bible Adventure in our flip-flops. The children agreed that we would be really hot, tired and dirty by the end of our journey -- and that it would feel wonderful to dip our fit into cool water when we got home. This gave us an interesting perspective to look at the story of Jesus watching His disciples' feet.

Washing the apostles' dirty, calloused feet was truly an act of service. We learned that we can make a splash in the lives of those around us by developing a servant's heart. And we talked about ways we could show kindness to people in our church and community. Our final thought for the day was Matthew 10:42: "And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward." We all agreed that we want to be as refreshing to those around us as a cool drink of water on a hot summer day!

Scroll down to see more images from our day, including easy cake and craft ideas!

The children flipped for our festive flip-flop cake!

To make this fun summer cake, bake 1 1/2 cake mixes in a standard sheet cake pan. Allow the cake to cool, then release it onto a platter. Use a toothpick to trace the shape of the left flip-flop lengthwise into the cake. You will cut the flip-flop out with a sharp knife and invert it onto the remaining half of the cake to cut the right flip-flop, but first measure the widest part of your first flip-flop to make sure you have enough cake on the other side to make a balanced shoe. Use your toothpick to adjust the first flip-flop if necessary, then cut away the excess cake. This first flip-flop is your pattern for the second one, but be sure to invert it onto the other side of the cake so you will have a left and a right shoe. Position the flip-flops on your serving platter, but make sure you leave enough room between them for decorating the "insoles."

Ice your flip-flop cake, then draw designs into the top of the flip-flops with a toothpick. Use decorating tip 47 to pipe ridged stripes around the cakes. Use round and star tips to fill in the top of the cake. To make the straps, cut a drinking straw into six equal pieces, and cut four lengths of grosgrain ribbon. Thread two straps through a straw piece, and insert this into the flip-flop toe area to make the thong. Stretch the ribbons across the cake, thread each one through a straw piece, trim as needed, and then insert one into each side of the flip-flop. Use the remaining two ribbons to embellish the other flip-flop. Complete the look with graham-cracker crumb "sand" sprinkled around the flip-flops.

These monogrammed sport sippers will remind the children that sometimes being kind is as simple as offering someone a cup of cold water.

For our craft today, I ordered sipper cups in bulk from Oriental Trading. Although they were smaller than I had anticipated, 9-year-old Carson assured me that he would use one, so I felt like the other kids would like them too. These cups come with paper inserts for decorating, which makes them ideal for kids craft projects. And presenting them with personalized liners makes them a great favor for birthday parties, Bible classes and school parties.

You could make laminated paper liners for this project, but I chose to make monogrammed fabric inserts for the children enrolled in our Backyard Bible Adventure program. I found a floral-print fabric in sunny, tropical colors for the girls, and a vibrant blue fabric that looked almost like pool water for the boys. I ironed a fusible backing to the wrong-side of the fabrics to give the liners a little more body. I used a paper insert as a pattern and cut out the fabric liners with pinking shears. I monogrammed the girls' names in a scripty font, and the boys' first initial and names in more masculine selections.

I assembled all the cups ahead of time, and handed them out at the party at the end of the devotional. We had crayons and markers on hand for those who wanted to decorate their own liners as well. I hope using their special cups this summer will remind the children that God gives all of us special opportunities to serve others. And that we will be blessed when we share our cold cup of water with someone who needs it.

Karen's swing set was a great gathering spot at our backyard party. The picture of Carlie (top row, center) reminds me how it felt to swing so high that you touched the sky. Several photos demonstrate the spirit of helpfulness we talked about today. I love all these kids and can't wait to talk with them at our final BBA about making a splash in the world!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Suite Dreams

"A welcoming home is a place of refuge," writes Emilie Barnes in The Spirit of Loveliness. "A place where people worn down by the noise and turmoil and hostility of the outside world can find a safe resting place. A welcoming home is a place that you and others enjoy coming home to" (p. 15). These words speak to the deep need I feel for a serene space that at once relaxes and invigorates me.

The last few weeks of summer vacation have really taken a toll on my house. With our family of six home most of the day, I often feel that my day is consumed with chores. I am not a natural housekeeper, so just trying to stay on top of meal preparation, kitchen clean-up and laundry often leaves me with little time or energy to de-clutter and clean the rest of my house.

I have been focusing most of my attention this summer on maintaining the public spaces in my home, but last week I realized that my bedroom was in need of some attention. Half-empty suitcases stood against the wall as reminders of recent vacations and business trips. The children's toys and shoes littered the walkway, and piles of laundry covered the floor -- some clean and folded, some sorted for washing, and some gradually working their way from the clean to dirty pile. In an effort to take control of the laundry, I had temporarily set up the ironing board in the bedroom, but now it had been there for a week.

Soon I realized how much my neglected bedroom was bringing me down. Rather than providing a nourishing place of refuge, my bedroom was actually draining me of energy and joy. Awaking to the site of my ironing board, my first waking thoughts were of the mountains of housework awaiting me. And I arose already feeling defeated.

So last week I set to the task of creating a personal sanctuary. First I emptied my bedroom of clutter, then I vacuumed, dusted and cleaned every surface. Invigorated by the newly restored sense of order, I remembered the inspiration I have gleaned from my daily visits to The Nester. In her creative blog, she shares design ideas in her trademark witty, unassuming style. Always striving to balance home and family, she reminds moms like me, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

So I thought about the rolls of fabric tucked under my bed. Years ago I fashioned window treatments out of sheets and pillowcases. I played with fabric -- looping, pleating and fluffing it until it looked just right -- then tucking under the selvage edges. But then we bought this house, and somehow I felt the rules had changed. I dutifully lined my curtains, sewed pretty trims on pillows, and invested a lot of time into every home improvement project I tackled. I had intended to make a canopy for the four-poster bed in our master bedroom, but I never could seem to find the time to make all the panels I would need. So I pushed my pretty pink chintz under the bed, and there it sat for more than five years.

Until I visited Nester's site and was reminded how much fun "mistreating" my home could be. Viewing her lovely windows, I realized that in the five years I have waited for a canopy, I never once even pulled the fabric back out from under the bed.

So last week I gave myself permission to let go of perfectionism. I brought the fabric out and played with it. I unrolled it, draped it, gathered it and cut it. As I allowed the fabric to puddle gracefully onto the floor and tucked under the selvage edges, I smiled realizing I had found the place of refuge my restless heart had been yearning for.

Emilie Barnes explains, "A refuge is not a hole where you disappear to eat and sleep and then emerge to go about the business of life. A welcoming home is where real life happens. It's where personalities are nurtured, where growth is stimulated, where people feel free not only to be themselves but also to develop their best selves. That caring, nurturing quality -- not the absence of noise or strife -- is what makes a home a refuge" (p. 16). When I created my bedroom oasis, I worried that my efforts might push the rest of my family out of the space, but instead I have found that the softness and tranquility have actually drawn them in. Our whole family has shared story time, devotional time and snuggle time under our canopy of dreams. And now each morning I awake ready to venture out from my sanctuary, eager to embrace the imperfect beauty that waits to greet me beyond my bedroom doors.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Letters from Daddy

In my first weeks as a college freshman, nothing pleased me more than finding a letter in my mailbox. Several times a day, I would make the trek across campus to the student center, hoping to find a note from a friend or relative. Letters from home helped give me confidence to reach out to new people, even as they helped me feel closer to the ones I had left behind. Eager to keep up with news from my hometown, I opened letters postmarked from Morristown immediately. Unless the letter was from my father.

Recognizing my father’s script on the envelope, I would quickly tuck the letter into my backpack, afraid the tears welling in my eyes would betray my emotions. I was trying to be a mature and independent college girl, after all. But with just a glimpse of my father’s handwriting, I was reduced to a homesick Daddy’s girl.

Growing up, I idolized my dad. He is a minister, and in my mind there was no Bible question that he couldn’t answer. But even more impressive to me, he lived his faith. I knew he was a man devoted to prayer and Bible study because I saw that he communed with God daily. He served and counseled church members with patience and compassion, yet he never forsook his role as husband and father. He served God, church and family with quiet humility. In my young eyes, he was perfect.

Heading back to my dorm room to read a letter from my father, I smiled remembering how Daddy’s letters had helped take the edge off my homesickness during my first trips away from home. When my sister and I spent a week at summer camp together, Daddy wrote that he asked our younger brother if he missed us girls. “If the girls were here,” 3-year-old Nathan responded, “I would put them in the trash can.” Only a brother could make you miss him more with such a statement.

Daddy’s letters could always make me laugh. “I’m sorry I haven’t taken time to write yet,” he once wrote to me at camp. “We have been busy painting your room this week. It looks really nice. I think you’ll like the polka dots and stripes.” Daddy often included comic strips, sometimes jotting notes relating to camp food or new friends.

My father used his letters as teaching tools also. “Thought you might enjoy this good article,” he would casually suggest at the end of a letter. I still have many of the magazine clippings he sent me to encourage purity or strengthen my faith.

Most meaningful to me were Daddy’s heartfelt sentiments. After I served as a counselor during the week he was camp director, he took time to write me a letter. “Dear Melissa,” he began, “I was so proud of you at camp again this year. You got involved, spent time with the campers, and made me proud in every way. I do not often enough tell you that I love you and appreciate you, but I really do. I am so glad to have you as my daughter. I hope this school year will be a great one for you. Learn just as much as you can, because these years will soon be gone. I love you with all my heart. Daddy.” I treasure this letter, and all the others I received from him.

Daddy’s letters taught me the power of putting pen to paper. This is a lesson I try to put into practice today. As my children make their first tentative steps into the world, I hope that a note slipped into their lunch boxes will help them get through a day of kindergarten. As they grow, I hope my letters written along the way will encourage and teach them, but most of all remind them they are loved.

This year for Father’s Day, I’m sending Daddy a letter. I want him to know that after all these years, in my eyes he is still perfect. I hope that when he recognizes his daughter’s familiar script on the envelope, he will know this letter is one to tuck into his heart to keep forever.

Happy Father's Day!

"Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding ..." (Proverbs 4:1).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

25 Reasons I Love My Husband More ...

Now that he is a daddy.

Who knew it would melt my heart to see another girl in his arms? (Joe and Mary Ashley, right corner.)

1. On school mornings, he will often catch the alarm clock before I wake up and quietly get the boys up and off to school so I can rest.

2. He takes the children to school nearly every day and says he feels so proud to hold Mary Ashley's hand as he walks her to her class.

3. He is our protector. When Carson was about 3, he would ask, "Daddy, could you handle a dinosaur?" Joe would say yes, and without missing a beat, would go into a detailed explanation of how he would defeat this dangerous foe. I was amazed that he seemed to already have a plan of attack laid out for every creature and character Carson could think of!

4. He loves coaching the children's athletic teams.

5. He works hard to provide for our family.

6. Spending time with our family figures prominently into his career decisions.

7. He is a great spiritual leader and makes learning the Bible fun.

8. He rough houses with the children. Although sometimes I get fed up with the noise and chaos that ensue when all the children dog pile on Joe, deep down I know that somehow this kind of play is beneficial. The children enjoy bonding with their dad this way, and as he sweeps them into the air, their respect for his strength and authority grows.

9. I appreciate that when Carson, Christian and Emma shriek with laughter as they wrestle with Dad, he will incorporate daintier Mary Ashley into the game by letting her be the princess whose kiss will put the monster to sleep and save her siblings.

10. He did ballet. Joe was not thrilled initially when he learned that Mary Ashley's ballet class would be doing a daddy-daughter dance in the spring recital, but he knew it would mean the world to her and agreed to do it. He said the experience was worth it when the daddies lifted their daughters for the first time at practice, and a chorus of giggling 4-year-olds sang out "Wheee!"

11. Joe is a good disciplinarian. The boys, especially, need his strong influence to keep them on the right path.

12. His Number One rule with the children has always been that they must show me respect in their words, actions and attitudes. And he leads by example.

13. He takes the kids on special outings. I don't like Chuck E. Cheese's. The lights, music and crowds equal too much stimulation for me! And I don't like feeling like I've lost the children when they are roaming the tunnels or playing video games and I can't see them. But Joe takes this all in stride, and he enjoys this special daddy time with them.

14. He can always make the children laugh, even when they are sad, frightened or angry.

15. He appreciates the work I've done around the house during the day and doesn't complain about the mountain of chores that were not accomplished.

16. He understands that I need a break from my responsibilities at home, and encourages me to spend time with my girlfriends.

17. He tucks hair bows into his coat pocket so they won't get lost when Emma pulls them out of her hair at church.

18. Although he still thinks it is ridiculous to buy expensive clothing for the children, Joe has tried to indulge my passion for dressing the girls (within reason). And he can use terms of art like "smocked" in a sentence.

19. He is willing to humble himself to apologize to the children if he wrongs them.

20. He changes diapers.

21. He calls every day before he leaves work to see if there is anything he needs to pick up before he comes home. (In fact, he just called as I am typing this at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and will be picking up milk so we will have it in the morning.)

22. He tells me that I am a great mommy.

23. He sets a high standard for our girls in looking for a husband, and a lofty goal for our boys to aspire to.

24. Through four pregnancies and childbirths; days so busy caring for little ones that I sometimes don't get a shower; frustrations with baby weight I just can't seem to lose; and the toll that age, fatigue and worry can have on a mother's face, he takes me in his arms, looks deeply into my eyes, and tells me, "You are so beautiful."

25. He makes me believe it. And I fall more in love with him every day.

"You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing" (1 Peter 3:7-9 NASB).

Photo by Gigi Hankins

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Prince


I wrote this poem for Joe during our courtship, and my sister read it to loved ones 14 years ago today -- right before the doors opened and I went down the aisle to meet my prince.

Fairy Tale Dreams

"Someday soon my prince will come," she said sipping invisible tea.

"With his strength, courage and bravery, he will rescue me."

Her guests, Teddy and Little Bo Peep, listened silently.

They didn't have to say a word; she knew that they believed.

"He is searching the world to find me, fighting dragons along the way,

"And when I grow up he will make me his princess and take me far away

"On a great white horse to his castle, filled with love and laughter;

"And there we will spend the rest of our lives -- happily ever after ... ."

The little girl grew up as little girls always do.

Her dolls and tea set were packed away -- her little girl dreams were, too.

Her handsome prince was tucked away --a forgotten childhood memory.

The castle soon faded from her thoughts -- replaced by reality.

Then the sweetest, gentlest kiss, and she knew that it was he --

The prince that she had been waiting for in her childhood fantasies.

"Where have you been?" she whispered, as he wiped away her tears.

"I'd almost given up on you, it's been so many years."

Without a word he swept her up as she had known her prince would do --

"To live, to love forever after -- a little girl's dream come true."

Happy Anniversary, Joe Prince!

"Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:33 NASB).

Friday, June 6, 2008

We're "Making a Splash" ...

With Backyard Bible Adventures! One of my goals as a mother is to integrate faith into our daily life, so these birthday-party style get-togethers are a great way to help my children move from playing to praying with ease. We alternate homes, and today we met at the home of Tiffany Johnson for a great morning of outdoor fun. At Backyard Bible Adventures, we do a craft or activity together, share a brief devotional, and enjoy a potluck lunch. And we always allow plenty of time for free play and fellowship!

Our theme this year is "Making a Splash," so we are celebrating the summer with cool pool parties. As we move through the summer, we will be talking about making a splash in our homes, church, community and world. For our devotional today, Rob Lyle told the children about a grumpy man who was dissatisfied with his surroundings. He was very rich, so he decided to change the world. He used lots of money to form committees, but all his work was to no avail. So he tried to make his country change, but failed. So he tried to change his state and then his city, but again he was unsuccessful at every level. Then finally, he began to read God's Word. He learned the Golden Rule in passages like Galatians 5:14: "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' " So the grumpy man's heart began to soften. He looked for ways to serve others and found that his kindness had a ripple effect throughout his community. As time passed, his city, state, and country became better. And soon the rich man discovered that he had changed the world by changing himself.

As the children sat around the pool, dangling their feet into the cool water, they listened attentively to Rob's lesson. Several shared ideas about how they could make a difference in their world by being helpful, kind and obedient. During our devotional time, some of the boys led songs and another led prayer. It was heartwarming to look around at the sky and trees while listening to hymns and prayers right along with the usual backyard sounds of children laughing, playing and splashing.

We did not do a craft at this BBA, but party favors included leis and mini-beach balls. Our sweet snack brought a taste of the tropics. I made orange-flavored cupcakes frosted with blue buttercream icing, then piped shells around the outside of the cupcakes and spooned graham cracker crumbs into the center. Paper umbrellas finished off the cupcakes. I hope sending the children home with these little island cupcakes in their tummies will encourage them to make a splash in their world!

Scroll down for more images from our day. My friend Allison captured the fun in vivid detail, so check out her blog for some truly stunning photos.

With our busy summer schedule, we have worked in two more dates for Backyard Bible Adventures: Friday, June 20th; and Tuesday, July 1st. And we may try to work in a trip to SurfSide Water Park in Auburn, Ala., to close out the summer. If you live in the Montgomery area, we would love for you to join us!

I'm sure the boys will come up with some creative sports variations with these mini-beach balls purchased from Oriental Trading for our BBA, and Emma will enjoy tossing her ball around the pool area. But this afternoon Mary Ashley had them all to herself, so they were her babies. She placed four inside their inflatable raft "crib," and enjoyed strolling Love's Kiss, Sleeping Beauty, Ducky and Ball around the pool.

Lunch is Emma's favorite part of Backyard Bible Adventures! She does her part to clean up by eating food off the plates of children who are too busy playing to stop and eat.

Thank you, Tiffany, Everett and Belle for opening your home to us today!

Play Time

Babies in the Backyard

"I'll meet you in the baby pool!"

Sharing the Love

Thanks to new blogging friend Katy Lin for giving me an Arte Y Pico award. I'm so flattered and glad to know that someone enjoys visiting me here! This sweet newlywed has such enthusiasm for life and marriage. It is a delight to visit her blog, and I look forward to seeing more as she and her husband renovate their Victorian home. The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Choose 5 blogs you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of the language.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented him/her with the award.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the award have to show the Arte Y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show these rules.

I consider myself so blessed to be part of the blogging community and could give this award to so many blogs I enjoy. But as I considered how blogging has widened my circle of friends, I decided to pass this award on to these five special ladies.

1. My first award would have to go to my dear friend from church Allison. Her photography is so beautiful! I read her blog faithfully for a long time before starting my own. Always an encourager, she talked me through the process of starting one and has been so sweet to answer my questions about blogging and photography. Her witty, fun-loving nature and love for motherhood really come through on her blog. And I'm always so thrilled to pop over and discover that she has posted new photos!

2. Next, I would highlight Kristi's blog. Kristi is also a friend from church, but I feel like I have gotten to know her family so much better through reading her blog. As a veterinarian and mommy of two, she has such funny stories to share. And I always hear her cheerful voice and zest for life when I read her posts!

3. Nancy is a friend of friends, and although we have never met in person, I now consider her my friend too. I enjoy the daily encouragement I find on her blog, and appreciate how she shares that encouragement on others' blogs in her sweet comments.

4. This next one sounds complicated. I have seen my sister, Jennifer's, sister-in-law Michele's sister, Jennifer, on several occasions through the years. Jennifer and Michele have always said they thought we would be good friends if we lived closer, and I have really enjoyed getting to know her through her blog. Now I call her my Jennifer-once-removed. This homeschooling mom of five has a lot of wisdom about raising children, but she always presents her ideas with humility and kindness.

5. And Melanie is a dear friend whom I've never met. We met in the blog world and share so many common interests. Her blog is a lovely, romantic and inspiring place to visit. Melanie has faced so many challenges on the road of motherhood, but you can tell that the trials she has faced make her savor sweet moments with her beautiful daughters all the more.

So thank you, ladies, for letting me be part of your life through your blogs!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Belly Laughs

Viewing this post, you may wonder if these photos tell the unfortunate story of childhood obesity. Or is this yet another tragic case of babies having babies? No, I'm afraid this is a sad tale of parental neglect.

My curiosity grew right along with Emma's stomach today. During our afternoon swim, it seemed that she was bigger every time I looked at her. After a couple of hours in the pool, she waddled around the pool area for a while before settling on the top step of the pool. There she was content to recline on the steps holding her swollen belly.

Finally, I peaked down her bathing suit to see what had her so bloated, and I was shocked at what I found. It looked like her swimsuit was full of ice chips. No, wait, it was the stuffing from the Pull-Up she was wearing before we went out to the pool.

I think there are two lessons we can learn here. First, if you love your toddler, don't let her swim in Pull-Ups. And second, if you run into me at the grocery store, please remind me to buy more swim diapers!

The Weight of Fear

I was putting laundry away recently when from another room I heard 2-year-old Emma's terrified scream: "Aaaagh!" From the sound of her voice, I knew something was horribly wrong. Afraid she was in imminent danger or already injured, I dropped my laundry basket and rushed to find her. As I rounded the corner into our bedroom, I heard her frightened voice in the bathroom calling out random numbers: "Five, two, fwee, six." At last I found her ... standing on my bathroom scale.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Easy Summer Supper

Our gardenias have been beautiful and fragrant this week.

With Joe's schedule of travel and weeknight classes, I have been all about quick and easy supper solutions this summer. Don't get me wrong. When it's just me and the children, we certainly have our share of fish sticks and party pizzas. But after a few nights of supper that came out of a box, all of us crave something a little more nutritious. We want a meal that packs a flavorful punch, but I don't want to spend all night in the kitchen when there is so much more to enjoy outside.

I am always looking for simple weeknight supper solutions, so I would love to know what's for dinner at your house if you have an easy recipe to share.

You'll find this easy Pecan Chicken on the menu often at our house. Simple yet flavorful, this recipe has become a weeknight staple. Dredge four chicken breasts in a mixture of 2 tablespoons Grey Poupon Country Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon mayonnaise. Place chicken in a square baking dish and top with any remaining sauce. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, and bake at 375 for 35 minutes. We enjoy this dish often with green beans and rolls, but this week a simple salad rounded out our meal.

And before we knew it we were back outside enjoying the gardenias!

Simple yet flavorful Pecan Chicken is a go-to meal at our house.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Blog of Blogs

I just found this fun new blog that promises to make blog hopping easier than ever. Through their list of featured blogs, The Secret Is in the Sauce will connect readers with other mommy bloggers. And they are kicking off the blog launch with a great giveaway. Sounds like fun to me!

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