With Grateful Hearts...

Happy Thanksgiving! 

I am kicking back at my parent's house today, full from an incredible meal and surrounded by laughter and family and blessings, too many to count. This day is a sweet one and we are so happy to be here, catching a break from "real life" and just soaking up time with family.  And as many times as I've thought about what I'm thankful for today, I can't help but echo the song of Mary...

Luke 1:46-49
"And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name."  

Our hearts are full on this day of giving thanks.  There are so many reasons we praise the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior...

For His timeless Word, for the gift of Jesus Christ, for the Gospel that reconciles us to God, for the cross, for forgiveness, for grace and second chances, for His patience and His perfect plan...

We give thanks for the sweet days, for the hard days, for the ups and downs and ten years of marriage that have grown us stronger and deeper and closer...for family and our precious kids, gifts from the Lord each of them...for Ava, for Carter and for baby #3...
 Yes, baby #3!!!!!!!!
 We are giving thanks for so many things today and especially for this little one.  
 Coming soon to a baby swing near you, in July of 2014!  
We were surprised to find out that baby #3 was cooking, although it quickly explained why I've been feeling so sick and why I've had zero energy for the last two months.  I'm nine weeks along tomorrow and all is well with the baby and I.  It's been a hard couple of weeks lately as I've been plagued with nausea round the clock, but for all the ginger-ale and cereal I've been surviving on, the joy of knowing another baby is joining our family far outweighs the symptoms.  
We are so thankful God saw fit to bless us with this baby in His perfect timing.  We know and believe that every child is a gift from Him and we consider it a privilege to parent another little person in this world.  
Our kids are just over the moon about the news and have been expert, little secret-keepers for weeks!  Ava in particular has been asking about and praying for a baby in our family for months and months.  All along we've told her that God is the one who gives babies to mommies and daddies and if she's hoping for another sister or brother, she should talk to God about it.  And she has!  We've listened to countless prayers from her sweet heart, asking God to "please give us a baby in Mommy's tummy?"  It's been so fun to hear her innocence and watch as her faith grew week to week.  Before we ever knew or even had any idea I might be pregnant, she suddenly switched her prayers from asking for a baby in Mommy's tummy to telling us that God was going to give us a baby.  We always answered her by telling her that we were trusting God too, knowing that she might be right, but wondering ourselves if He would do this for Ava and bolster her faith in Him?
On the morning we found out and before we ever told the kids, Ava drew this picture for me, OF me, and when I questioned the large stomach she gave me she said "That's the baby that's in your tummy Mommy, the baby that God gave us!"  Oh my, was she ever right!  There was a baby in my tummy and she didn't know it yet, but her Daddy and I had tears in our eyes realizing that God had answered our prayers and this would be a sweet reminder for her about God hearing our prayers.
We are so grateful and thankful for all that the Lord has done for us, all that He is to us and especially for this new adventure in our life.  We are elated and full of joy for baby #3!!

So today and every day, we are giving thanks and enjoying the goodness of God.  Stay tuned for a new journey on the blog, I have lots to share with you and of course many funny stories that have unfolded as the kids have begun processing what's happening, ha ha!  We have full hearts tonight and we echo Mary in saying, 
"...He who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His name!" 

Happy Thanksgiving!!


Ode to October

I think October might be the most glorious month in Minnesota.  It's just Heaven around here.  We were blessed with a very long stretch of sunshine and those perfect temps in the 60's and 70's.  But beyond the weather, all around us the trees were dripping with beauty. Shades of gold and auburn and red filled the landscape and framed every picture just perfectly.  And speaking of pictures, October was the month that I really got to play with my new camera and figure out just what she could do!  I'm sure I'm breaking all kinds of blogging rules with the number of pictures I'm posting today, but consider it my gift to the relatives! Here's our month in review...
This guy and I spent a lot of time playing out side while Ava was in school.  Knowing the opportunity to do that is always short lived in Minnesota, we took advantage of it while we could! 
 Carter is growing like a weed these days but I began noticing just how much he was shooting up in October.  He is a toddler no more, this guy is all boy now!
 Just a few days into the month we moved all of our stuff (again) and got ready for the new carpet to be installed.
It took me a week to get everything packed up and out, but in a matter of hours it was all done! AMAZING! 
 After the last "big" install, we all took a little time to just breathe again and enjoy our upgrades!  We were definitely over all the upheaval.  
Preschool marched on and Miss Ava didn't miss a beat!  She and Daddy love their Wednesday morning routine together and I love that they get this time in the car together this year.  
 Soccer in October means the conference tournament and the state tournament play.  After they came in second for the regular season play, we cheered Trav's team on in the conference championship game... was a cold, drizzly day and a tough game.
 Unfortunately we lost in double overtime after our last minute shot hit the goal post and bounced out.  Killer!  But we love the coach and we're always proud no matter what the scoreboard says!
 The following day we had an exciting day at Church when the Duck Dynasty crew came for a fundraiser!  Thanks to a friend, Trav was able to have Mountain Man in our Junior High group that morning, which was so fun!  I'll share the story and some pics in another post, but it really was awesome!
 Alan and Si came for a fundraiser that a local Christian school held, our Church just happened to host it for them. 
 I loved what they had to say and yes, Si did bring and drink his iced tea the whole time!
 We've been fans for awhile, but this really made us appreciate them even more!
I was working in hospitality for the event so I got to grab a pic with Mountain Man! Ha! Such a sweet man and his accent really is as thick as molasses and his drawl as sloooooowwww in person as it is in the show!  And his real name is Tim.  
 Our dear friends were in town for a wedding that same weekend and we got a great couple of hours with them before they headed back to California!  I miss Lisa and it was so fun to hug her and catch up in person again! 
 We celebrated Carter's big day with our small group and enjoyed the chaos of many small children and lots of sugar!!
 We are so grateful for these families and the friendship we share with them as we parent.  I love this pic because my friend Echo is very pregnant in this picture and the very next morning she gave birth to #4, little Duke!  
 One of the highlights of the month for me was going to the Apple Orchard with Ava and her class.  I had such a sweet time with her and I loved to watch her in her new element!  
 It didn't hurt that we got an amazing day to be there and I had plenty of photo opportunities!  
 I took the kids to the park one night before Awana and happened to catch the most perfect lighting.  I took some of my favorite pictures ever that night, it was just a breathtaking Fall night.

And then the sun hit the lake and I got these shots that are my favorite so far! 
Nothing like an October sky in Minnesota.
 On the 10th this little cutie turned 3 years old!
 We had a little breakfast party in the morning together and then we went to cheer Trav's team on for the district championship game.  It was a game that would have made school history had we won, but sadly we didn't.  
 Thankfully the game was next to an amazing park and the birthday boy was not suffering!
 Loving that squeeze of death right there! 
Carty has been such a joy to our family and it's hard to believe 3 years have already come and gone!  We love you buddy!
 With soccer over, our evenings opened up and we had Daddy to ourselves again!
 We took advantage of the warm nights and got in some play time every night that we could.
 Hard to believe we were in shorts and sleeveless dresses in mid-October but we weren't arguing!  
 Later that weekend we got out the birthday cake and had a little family party at home. 
The candle was blown out and who knows if any wishes were made?? 
 We promised the kids a family movie night and due to his birthday, Carter got to pick the movie!  
So we watched Cars 2 and no one was surprised about that!!
 Later in the month, we went to a good-bye party for my sweet friend Darla and her family.  It was a very bittersweet goodbye, so happy to see them move closer to family and back home, but very sad to send them off!  
 Clara and Carter were born just a few days apart and we have enjoyed embracing motherhood together these last years! I love this pic of Clara all snuggled up with Trav!  So funny :) 
These little girls are too cute, my friend Nicole's daughter Brooke and little Clara are two girls that Ava adores.  We will miss Clara and her little sister Wendy so much!!  Not to mention Darla and Brian.  Thankful for blogs and smart phones that make life apart a lot easier.  
 Out for another walk in our neighborhood again...
 Gorgeous, right??
 Fall leaves, nothing like it!
 Little beauty

 My hard-working man, so deserving of some downtime after working round the clock during soccer season.  
 Teaching Carty to skip rocks!
 Love those big eyes, full of wonder...
 Yay for fun daddies!
 My favorite bushes every year.  I just love to watch them turn electric pink in the height of the Fall color.  They are right outside the kids' window so we always have a perfect view.  
 Somewhere in October we passed around a respiratory infection and in true form, I got the worst of it.  The kids only had a few days of feeling bad but I ended up with 2 weeks worth.  Unbelievably Travis avoided it all together, but thankfully he was a great nurse!
 Despite all the sickness, we managed to sneak in a trip to the pumpkin patch for some pumpkins!
 My Dad and his longtime friend were in town to play golf so we got an extra treat when then spent a few days with us!
 It was very sweet to have Daddy freed up again and soft carpet to play on!  While I recovered on the couch these three had a grand time too.  
Ava continued her routine of waking up and immediately figuring out what dress she could wear to school that day??  She's got quite an opinion and no hesitation about expressing it.  Wonder who she gets that from??
 Travis was really hoping we could get out of town for a few days but we couldn't find a string of days that really worked so we settled for an in-town getaway that was great for the kids! 
 Lots of giggling...
... and splashing! 
But I'm thinking room service was the highlight for me! 
 We managed to carve some pumpkins for the kids, Belle for Ava and Pluto for Carter! 
They loved them but Travis and I are glad that only happens once a year.  It's a lot of work!!
 Travis and Carter and I got to experience a real treat when Ava's preschool had their annual Harvest Party and Costume parade! 
 Oh my, what a parade it was!!  Each class sang a few songs and said their class verse.  Ariel didn't disappoint in her participation, we got such a kick out of her!!  
 Especially that wig!  
For Awana that night we joined in the "dress like a Biblical character" fun and these two went as Mary and Joseph.  It was a very last minute decision but we were able to piece some outfits together, complete with an authentic dress that Trav brought home for Ava last summer from Israel!  Carter was more than happy to bring his tools with him that night as well.  They were so cute!! 
And finally, Happy Halloween!!
 We donned our Halloween wear on the last day of the month and Daddy took these two out for lunch at one of our new Chik-Fil-A's in the metro.
 Ava was still keen on a head-scarf from her Mary costume so she requested another one on Halloween, ha!
We were proud to hit the streets that night with our brave Fireman...
...and beautiful Princess Ariel! 
 October was a fun month for the four of us and full of great memories! I'm always amazed at all that we've done when I look at pictures.  In my head it seems like we haven't been up to much lately but I guess that's not true!  I think kids give you millions of opportunities for making memories, the key is just stopping long enough to recognize it and document it. 
I'm very thankful for all that we shared together this month and especially for Mr. Fun by my side!! 
Life really is better together, isn't it??  

And that friends, was my Ode to October...