For the Love of Books

I've been meaning to post about some of my recent reads and this morning I am up with the birds because I can't sleep.  Perhaps that has something to do with taking two naps yesterday?  When Trav is home on the weekends I take full advantage of another adult to run the show and I don't miss the chance to disappear into our bed for some extra sleep!  That's just how I roll right now with 4 weeks left to go in this pregnancy :) 

In addition to napping, I have also given myself permission to put my feet up and read for the last few months.  I am married to a ferocious reader and over the last 10 years, that has rubbed off on me too.  We've both begun the switch from hard copy reading to buying books for our kindle app.  It's not easy for me to give up the feel of a real book in my hands or the ability to write in it, but I'm being won over by the immediate purchasing ability of kindle and mostly, the cheaper price tag!  However there are a few books on my nightstand in hard copy form and I love those too.  I've finished most of these, but not all.  I've always got 2 or 3 going at once and right now, due to this season of my life, motherhood is a topic that is near and dear to me.  Getting ready for another little guy to grace our family and essentially going back to square one again with a little life had me in need of a little inspiration.  So I threw myself a pep rally and ordered some books to help my mind adjust to the thought of three as I prepare for the chaos a newborn and their demands can bring, and to just be encouraged that a messy life is a full life!  Sometimes we just need that reminder from another voice, right??    I often post something on Instagram about what I'm reading or enjoying and then say that one of these days I'll post a list of all the books I've been reading lately.  

Well friends, today is that day! In no particular order, here are some recommendations from my heart to yours! 
I picked this up last summer after a friend raved about it and my goodness was she ever right.  This is a GREAT book if you are a woman with feelings and emotions of any sort!!  I have enjoyed Lysa Terkeurst's writing online but had never read one of her books.  I know, I'm late to her party.  But this one was a game changer for me.  I started reading an Unglued devotional series on YouVersion (Bible reading app) that was excellent and I knew I wanted to read more so I bought the book.  She has written some very wise advice about how to deal with the emotions that often take us over as women and seriously cloud our judgement.  She walks through the meaning of our God-given emotions and how to filter them in their proper place and purpose.  One thing she addresses so well is how to handle conflict.  So much our of conflict (esp as women) comes from emotions that are wrongly in control or out of control and can drive us to really lose it or make snap choices that don't reflect who we are or what God has rescued us from.  At least that's what typically happens to me.  She gives very helpful and practical ways to stop the train before it derails and builds her advice from scripture and what God has to say about it in His Word.  

This is a book that will be a permanent fixture on my shelf because it is one to pull out and reference or refresh my mind with time and time again.  The line that I've quoted most from this book, because it's been so helpful for my own emotional health, is:  "Emotions are meant to be our indicators, not our dictators!"  That one concept alone has helped me filter some feelings this year under God's authority and helped drive me to the root of what is really going on in my heart. Instead of being enslaved or controlled by how I feel, I have been pushed to go deeper and examine the cause of those feelings and then go from there in seeking the Lord for a remedy.  This book flies in the face of what modern thinking tell us in our very feelings-driven world.  Emotions are healthy and God-given but they often lie to us and lead us down false pursuits if they aren't constantly weighed in light of the truth of God's Word and not our own hearts.  I can't recommend this book enough!  It's been extremely valuable to me.  
I bought this book a few years ago when it first came out.  Angie Smith is someone I've followed online since she began blogging about the fatal diagnosis of her unborn daughter and their families' journey through that.  I really adore her heart and feel like I (along with many other readers) have been able to see the Lord heal her and transform her right before our eyes.  She is a talented writer and now a sought after speaker, but her real-life honesty and her humility in her walk with the Lord is what drew her to me.  There is something about watching someone wrestle with deep pain in a raw and unfiltered way, still clinging to Jesus with what faith they have left, that makes a profound impact.  I love her willingness to share her doubts and her fears and her struggle, while pointing so clearly to the ways the Lord has met her and healed her from the inside out.  When I bought this book I didn't get around to reading it right way and it's been sitting on a shelf ever since.  

Recently I have been processing some things in my life and in my own heart and mind, realizing that at the core of what's causing me anxiety or frustration is really fear.  Fear that the Lord will not come through for me.  Fear that He has forgotten us.  Fear that we'll never _________ (fill in the blank).  Pregnancy and all the extra hormones do not aid in keeping some perspective!  Ha ha!  Anyway, I remembered I had this book sitting in my bookcase and I pulled it out, hoping to be encouraged by it and inspired to turn my fear into faith.  I have really loved it so far, I'm a few chapters in and it's been well worth my time.  She spends every chapter addressing some type of fear alongside an account from the Bible of a person who also displayed a similar kind of fear.  She uses the way that the Lord addresses those fears as a reminder that He's still able and willing to do the same for us.  I think my favorite thing about this book is the way it sends me back to my Bible to re-visit some of these people and their stories, seeing some fresh insight about Jesus along the way.  He does not cause fear or want us to walk in it, but so often I choose it regardless of His promises and His Word.  If you are struggling with a particular fear or just have a heart that is prone to worry, you may benefit from this book too.  It's been a good one for me.  
 I've just recently stumbled on Elyse Fitzpatrick and her writing and I am enjoying two books from her right now.  This first one is called "Comforts From the Cross" and it is a daily devotional book that is excellent.  She is part of a Biblical counseling movement and her goal in her writing and her counseling is to help bring everything back to the Gospel and the power we have there because of Jesus.  This book is a treasure for learning to delight in the Gospel, each day looking at another piece of God's plan and reminding us that we take comfort in Him and in what He's done for us and in us.  Everything we face can be answered or addressed with the Gospel.  It's excellent and I'm really enjoying it.  
I know I've written about this book before but here I am recommending it AGAIN because it's just that good.  And I think it's a totally needed read for anyone on either side of marriage or singlehood.  It's needed because it's a very counter-cultural message that comes straight from God's Word and takes us back to what marriage was intended to be.  Marriage has been under attack for quite some time but now it's so distorted and misunderstood, this is an excellent re-wiring of our thinking.  We are working our way through it with our small group (which is another post for another time, oh how we LOVE our small group!!!) and it's been such a blessing to go through it as couples and encourage one another in this season of life with little kids when our marriages are prone to suffer because we're all just exhausted and stretched thin.  I can't recommend it enough!!  Read this book!!  And don't think you can read it quickly, it's deep and requires some thought.  Each chapter builds on the previous one so it just gets better and better, but some people can't get through the first chapter and give up.  Don't do that!  Keep reading.  It's SO worth it!  
This is a current read on my kindle and it's a must-read if you are a mother but even if you don't have kids or your kids are grown, it's still a great read.  She really writes from the angle of embracing your present reality and not getting so hung up on comparing your life to the outside lives we see in others.  This is totally written for the pinterest and social media generation that we are a part of where comparisons are an ugly bi-product of so much being shared and presented as "reality" when in fact, most of it is cleaned up and not reflective of the whole story.  She addresses perfection as an infection that tells a deeper struggle that is actually going on in our hearts and for someone who is prone to perfectionism like me, it hits very close to home.  She talks about moms, kids, bodies, marriages, homes, homemaking, and other areas where women struggle to embrace their reality instead of longing for someone else's perceived life.  She also digs deep in this book and gets to the root of why we do this, the pride we often stumble over and the antidote for it.  I'm really loving this and taking lots of notes. I have a feeling it will be a book I go back to often.  
This is purely a fun read!  It's written by a blogger I love to read, Big Mama, and it's hilarious.  She writes about marriage and how she and her husband fell in love and manage to stay married, despite their many differences.  She cracks me up, I laughed the whole way through and identified with some of her same sentiments and stories.  Did I mention she's funny??  This is a perfect pool read or a beach read, I think I finished it in two or three sittings, it's very easy to fly through it and it might give you a good dose of "yep, we do that too!"  when you think about your own marriage! If you need a laugh, this is a good place to get one! 
This was from the same author who wrote "Comforts From the Cross" and it's very similar in intent, except that it's not a devotional.  It's a great read for anyone in ministry or who does any type of counseling or mentoring.  She has really helped give me some great perspective when it comes to counseling and giving advice from a Gospel-centered place.  She is very helpful in training you to go to the cross and the Word for answers, although she doesn't dismiss the role of professional counselors or anyone who is struggling with mental health related issues and needs medical intervention.  As a youth pastor's wife who gets asked lots of questions, this has been perfect!  I always want to grow in this area and make sure I'm speaking truth and life into someone, not just my opinion or preference.  Jesus is the source of our hope, our comfort, our motivation, our joy and our counsel.  Add this to your library if you find yourself in this role.  I think it would be extremely helpful to you like it has been for me.  
I had heard of this book forever and I've always enjoyed Rachel Jankovic's blogging, but I finally got around to reading this and it was nothing like I thought it would be!  For one thing it is extremely short and very, very practical.  It's almost like small doses of wisdom in short format when it comes to all things motherhood related, specifically for those with little ones underfoot.  If you ever struggle with the monotony or chaos or seemingly mundane work of raising little people who turn your life upside down, you will appreciate this book!  I expected a lot more theology but it's sort of like Proverbs.  Quick insights and pearls of wisdom that help give perspective and attitude adjustments for us, the Mamas!  Sometimes it's really just our own sin and junk that makes everything seem harder or more personal than it needs to be.  There is a degree of chaos that is to be expected in raising kids and she helps remind us that these years are short but critical too.  She's a big proponent of parenting with grace, just as the Lord extends grace to us.  I really enjoyed this although I could have read more from her.  It was over before I knew it, but with another little guy on the way and a return to all of the training that goes into those first 3-4 years, this did help me prepare my heart and mind to return to that stage with joy and not dread.  I really recommend it and am happy to say she wrote a follow-up to this book called...
This is the book she wrote when her kids were just a little older and the demands of motherhood still great.  She writes from the trenches and yet with lots of humility and pointed words.  It's a challenge to the way we view motherhood and how we often feel and express our discontentedness in it.  It's not a feel-good read but rather a rallying cry for moms to honor Christ in all we do, including our mothering and our attitudes about mothering. This was the deeper read I assumed her first book would be, although it's still written in short chapters which makes it perfect for the woman who is constantly interrupted and stretched thin.  You can pick this up and set it back down without losing steam.  I think this is one of my favorite books on motherhood mostly because it's just incredibly honest and challenging.  She makes a point about how many of us Moms share our "misery" with one another, only to be validated in that and even out done with how hard and how draining motherhood is.  While someone who sympathizes with your sorrow in the moment always feels good, in the end it really leaves us empty and provides no lasting comfort.  It's also a way of us saying to God that we don't want all that goes with this job, as if it's too much for us to deal with.  Scripture shoots that argument down repeatedly by reminding us that the way to be full is to empty yourself and give.  And when we do that, we don't receive sorrow as a reward but fulfillment and joy.  That's what we want to mark our years of mothering and that's what we want to encourage one another to strive for.  She gives honor and value to the job of "mom" and reminds us of the tremendous privilege and blessing of raising children.  I love her writing and I appreciated all that I gained in reading this book! 

So there you have it.  These are some of the books that I've been chewing on this year and my personal thoughts about them.  I'd love to know if you've read any of these too and what you thought of them.  I think several would make wonderful gifts for new Moms and others are just great reads to pass among friends.  I know my days of reading will be coming to a temporary halt very soon, but I also know I will be revisiting many of these on the days that I want to throw my hands in the air and give up!  I hope they are helpful for you.  There are SO many good books out there, it's hard to stay on top of them all but many of my favorite reads are recommendations from other people so that's what I hope these become for you too!  Happy Weekend!  


We Love Preschool!

I can't believe it, but Ava's year of preschool has already come and gone! 
 This was her first day shot, back in September.  What a peanut!!!  Of course back then, I thought she looked like such a big girl but now I'm looking at that face and thinking what a little thing she was.  We were fortunate to send her to the preschool at our Church, which was super handy for me considering Travis was in the building and he sometimes drove her in.  Not to mention that more than once he saved me while I was running late and ran downstairs to pick her up for me!  It was a great fit for us and I am thankful we sent her there.  We didn't have big expectations for preschool and no real goals that we were hoping she'd achieve.  We just wanted this first "school" experience to be fun and for her to enjoy being in a classroom setting with new friends and new teachers.   
 For everything we hoped it would be, it really was much more!  We carpooled with our friends and this is how the two of them looked back in September.  We watched Ava bloom  and grow all year, coming out of her shell with her peers and making some sweet friends along the way.  
To say she loved preschool would be a major understatement!  Every morning she woke up the first question she asked was, "Is this a school day Mom?"  If it was she was delighted and immediately picked out what she wanted to wear and imagined what they'd do that day.  If it wasn't a school day, she was bummed and we'd start our countdown until she could be back at school!  The last day was very bittersweet for us.  It was sweet for us to realize this was now a memory in her childhood and a little bitter for her to realize it was over!  
 She will be just fine though, Kindergarten is an extremely promising reward on the horizon and she can't wait!  I can't believe how much these two have grown and matured this year.  They are good little buddies and had such a fun year carpooling on Mondays and Tuesdays.  I will miss their giggling in my backseat each week and the many hilarious conversations they had, in between singing all of the Frozen songs!  
Ava definitely got a little taller this year and grew into a whole new wardrobe too.  That little backpack was so funny to me this year, it was quirky and darling just like her!  It also seems to have shrunk when I see it in this picture.  When she started school it took up her whole back and now it's just a bit smaller.
We loved going to her two parent-teacher conferences over the year and hearing about our girl from her teachers.  We know what she's like at home and with family and in our world at Church, but it was fun to hear what she was like in a totally different setting with lots of kids she didn't know.  We're proud of her and thankful that she was a good friend and respectful and obedient to her teachers all year.  It was fun to watch her skills develop as we thought they would but more important for us to hear and see her heart grow in love with Jesus and with others.  
 Last weekend I bought a set of the BOB books for her to try and read.  I had a feeling she was ready, she's been sounding words out forever and is always talking about what words "start with" but we hadn't really worked on it together.  
This girl just made us laugh!  After about 20 minutes of helping her sound the words out, the next thing I know she's plowing through the first 4 books reading them!  
She was so proud of herself (and so were we!) and she read them aloud to me, to Trav, to Texie and to my parents on FaceTime.  Seriously, as if my heart could handle one more milestone???  What a fun thing to have a big girl on our hands and obviously we are excited about the whole new world of her reading ahead.  I foresee some read alouds with her brothers in the near future :)   
So last Monday was her last real day and Tuesday was her end of the year program and Graduation!  Now before I had a daughter in preschool I would have rolled my eyes at the sound of preschool graduation.  Seriously.  Do we have to celebrate everything???   But like everything else in parenting,  now that it's my child, it sounded like the most precious thing ever!  ha ha!!  
We were all very excited and Ava had been saving this outfit from her birthday for her big day!  It was an extra special treat to have Texie with us to celebrate.  She painted Ava's toes and fingernails and bought her some new sandals...she was darling! 
We have been hearing so many songs for weeks and weeks as her class practiced and Ava let us in on a few "surprises" we might see that morning!  This girl was SO thrilled to be on stage and to have us there watching.  Even from Christmas time until now, it was fun to see the difference in her confidence level and her excitement.  
And not one to be left out, Carter was just as excited about the morning's activities.  He's been hearing all about it for weeks too and Ava notoriously makes him play "school" with her every afternoon, so he was ready! Ha! 
It would be crazy to not also see how much Carter has grown up over this past year.  He really had a hard time with Ava being at school at the beginning of the year but as he got used to it, we got to spend such fun time together and I watched him really grow in his ability to entertain himself.  Something he hasn't always needed to do because of Ava, but now he does it so well and often even when she's home.  I think that's been a really good thing for both of them and it will help a lot when she's gone all day next Fall.  
I brought my big zoom lens and was so thankful I did!  Ava was hilarious, very serious about each song or verse they said, but SO excited too!

 Her sweet little class.  She enjoyed all her new friends so much and told me all about each of them most days.  
This is Ava saying the "Pledge to the Bible" with her hand on her stomach, apparently! 
Because she was at a Christian preschool, she learned some precious truths this year.  She can name the Fruits of the Spirit, all the books in the New Testament, the Armor of God, and several other verses in addition to many other spiritual truths that the Lord used her teachers to plant deep in her heart.  I think that is my favorite thing about Preschool.  How special and important to have her teachers and the staff feeding her soul, not just her mind.  
 Her expressions and actions were cracking me up! 

"And I just thank you Father for making me, ME!"  
I loved this song and remembered every word from when I sang it at home as a little girl too! 
 These little cuties were cracking up during the "Chicken Song" for a good reason... of their teachers graciously danced in a chicken costume for our benefit! 
 Ava couldn't wait for us to see that! 
 So fun, we loved every minute! 
 Especially this little march down the aisle for all the graduates headed to Kindergarten!  
 Be still my heart....Can't you just see this picture side by side with her Senior graduation someday??
Going on stage for her certificate and handshake!  

Just loved that hat sliding down her little head! 
 What a wonderful year Ava had with her two teachers.  They were a blessing to us and so dear to her. She just talked and talked about them all the time and when she played school most days, I'd hear her mimicking everything they said or did that day! 
 There is something so invaluable about teachers who love Jesus and who take the time and effort to weave Him into their classroom.  I will miss that the most!  I loved leaving her in their care.  
Proof that she grew!  Her little name and height lines are to her left.  She was still one of the shortest in her class but she did shoot up this year! 
 So sweet to have Texie with us!!  Ava was thrilled to share this day with her! 
My big girl.  What a fun year!!  
Next up on the Preschool train is Carter!  We aren't sure if he'll start in the Fall, we may wait until I'm on my feet a little bit with 3 kids and send him in January, but he's got two years he could go until he starts Kindergarten and he's excited to go to "Ava's school" too!  

One year down!  Thirteen to go!!  
Daddy had to go back to work after Ava's ceremony but Texie and I took the kids to Culver's for lunch.  It was a big morning and this is about how we were all feeling that afternoon!  Tired but thankful for a great year and a great end to the year.  
We loved Preschool and I would do it again in a heartbeat for Carter and Walker!  


Lately, on Instagram

Oh my, it's been awhile since I've spent some time on here.  Life has just gotten in the way lately and all the things I've meant to document in real time are getting chronicled in my mind instead, which is a scary substitution these days as my mind is unbelievably scattered!  We have had quite a month around here, full of big and fun things, but also lots of ordinary and mundane things too.  I am so thankful for Instagram these days, it's such a quick and helpful way for me to post some daily snapshots of life in our world, so that I can remember what we've been up to.  Today, I'm using some of my recent Instagram pics to fill in the missing details from this last month, as that seems the best way to catch up and fill you in!  Not a lot of co-herenece to this post but here we go anyway...
 The earliest weeks of May were spent surviving around here.  I can't remember when this all started but I caught some kind of virus that was making it's way around the area here and naturally, I got the worst of it.  I had a full 16 days of headaches, sinus pressure, cold symptoms, body aches, and a sore throat that sent me in for a strep test, twice.  It was miserable to say the least and of course it made every day life just a little more challenging.  Unfortunately everybody caught some version of this virus, although each a little different.  Carter started a few days behind me and also had about 2 weeks of symptoms.  It's a safe bet these days that if Carter is sleeping late and/or napping, something is wrong!  He operates on full speed now and doesn't ever slow down for much, but this thing wiped him out too and I've spent so much time resting with him lately, which has been delightful actually.  I just wish he felt better!  Thankfully he's back to normal today but he's certainly been through it in May.  Ironically we had a previously scheduled appt with the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist to talk about his tonsils.  We've decided to wait on that for now and see what this summer and fall bring for him.  He's borderline for the surgery but doesn't have all of the classic symptoms so we are in a holding pattern for him.  The virus he caught didn't turn into strep, which was a good sign, but this has definitely been a record month for most doctor visits and ER trips so far!  Do I get some kind of medal for coordinating all of them??
This is so random, but here's a helpful little list my Mom found online and thought to send me.  She has quite a sense of humor and thought this was a troubling sign for us!  After these last few months I'm not sure this isn't too far from from the truth??
Yes, you can begin fearing for our children now!  Ha! 
 In the midst of limping through this month I decided to read through the book of Psalms.  I love the Psalms and appreciate David, Solomon, and the other authors' expressions of their raw emotions and feelings as they write and sing and lament before the Lord.  I could identify with some of that lately, but maybe the best part of the Psalms is the way that being in the presence of the Lord and hearing from Him begins to change us from the inside out.  Pouring our thoughts and crying out is good for us and very healthy but the perspective and the truth we gain from going to the Lord with our "stuff" is healing and life giving.  Over and over the Psalms have been a balm for my soul this month.  I have been doing the "add 30" plan to work my way through the book but I think I'm going to linger here until the baby is born.  There is so much good stuff to work through!  So much for my soul to be commanded by.  It's so true that we are apt to follow our feelings and the inclinations of our hearts and certainly, that is preached heavily in our culture.  But the Bible is very clear that our hearts are prone to sin and they will lead us astray.  Feelings are fickle and unreliable, as I've reminded myself a lot this year, they are my indicators, NOT my dictators!  The Psalms teach us how to speak truth to our hearts, how to bring our souls back under the authority of God and in line with His Word.  He is unchanging and constant and His truth stands firm for Eternity.  I'd rather my soul cling to Him and His thoughts instead of my own!  
 Yes, the pregnancy cravings have ruled in the month of May.  With a sore throat I consumed many popsicles and lots of ice-cream, which also sparked a return of our ice-cream maker just in time for summer!  I LOVE making homemade ice-cream and coming up with some yummy combos.  On this particular night we made chocolate from William's & Sonoma (I LOVE their ice-cream starters, so good!!) and topped it with bananas and some cinnamon granola I recently made.  I think I may have shed a tear it was so delicious!  The kids always vote for vanilla, just plain vanilla with no added anything.  I love vanilla too but I need a little more variety!  I was thankful to talk them into chocolate, which they ended up liking!  
 One morning I decided I needed a picture of our bed to remember this crazy pregnancy and all my sleeping woes that Travis has had to endure.  We have a queen sized bed and yes there are 7 pillows in there every night!  5 for me and 2 for Trav.  I seriously don't know how he is sleeping through the night with the 10 inches left over for him, but I do know that after months of agony I finally found the perfect arrangement weeks ago that has helped me re-gain my ability to sleep and bless his heart, he's been wise not to argue with it!  We will both be glad when at least 3 of these can be eliminated after the baby is born.  We have to keep our room as cold as a meat locker right now just because of all the extra heat coming from those pillows!  
 As the month wore on and Carter and I could begin returning to the land of the living again, we soaked up our opportunities to spend a little time together at our favorite coffee shop while we waited for Ava to be done at preschool.  The sunshine and warm weather has been hit or miss until this past week, but we jumped at any chance to be outside together and on this morning we played a little bingo to pass the time. What a fun year we've had together!  Next year I'll still get lots of time with Carter, although Walker will be in the mix too.  It's been a sweet gift for the two of us to have this time and I've loved it. I'm all of a sudden very aware of how fleeting these days at home are before school begins to dictate our lives.  I love being a stay at home Mom for moments like these!  
 Speaking of games, they have been our go-to inside activity lately.  One of my sweet friends gave us a ton of awesome games her boys had outgrown and Ava received a slew for her birthday too.  I've been trying to teach them how to play many of them while encouraging them to play together.  The familiar refrain goes something like, "This will be great for you guys to do when I'm busy feeding Walker or taking care of him.  You can always get a game out and play together, let me show you how this one works!"  They have eaten up the newness of all these games and are loving all the choices.  Right now their favorites are: Zingo, Spot It, Bingo, Candyland, A Princess Trivia game, I Spy Bingo, and Busytown.  I am loving them playing together and all the discussion that goes with learning how to take turns, play by the rules, be a good sport, etc.  This feels like such a grown-up stage to me!  
 This is the month my housework really started to slide.  And by slide I mean, reach levels of chaos we haven't known for awhile.  Between pregnancy challenges and all of us being sick, it's just fallen by the wayside but in order to stay sane Trav and I decided, who cares??
 We let it reach our breaking point more than once and then we managed to claw our way out of it and maintain some order.  But we are both realizing that in this season and the season to come, cleaning the house isn't the most important way to spend our time.  I've been especially blessed however, to have a few friends who have stepped in to love us with meals they've cooked for us and one of my dear friends spent several hours cleaning my bathrooms and the kitchen floor for me!  What a gift!  I have chosen rest and time with Trav and the kids more than being enslaved to my house, which is indicative of the ways the Lord is growing me too.  Housework will always be there but our kids and this season won't.  
 It's been such a helpful thing for me to let them take over and play together wherever and however they dream something up.  This is how I get naps taken or even just steal some time to unload the dishwasher or fold a basket of laundry.  They love to get everything out and come up with some elaborate idea that stretches their imaginations, which always means an epic clean-up to follow, but it's good for all of us to just go with it!  On this particular day I believe the princesses and the big trucks were lined up to watch some sort of parade that passed them by!  ha! 
 Finally, about two weeks ago, this sweet smile returned and Carter turned a corner!  I began feeling better and a few days later so did he.  When I took this picture we were all waking up from a great afternoon nap, something the 3 of us haven't done at the same time for a long time!  
 One of Ava's go-to activities this year has been coloring.  She could (and sometimes does) color from morning to night!  With all of us feeling sick especially, she has had plenty of time to work her way through some coloring books and she is doing such a great job!  I loved her picture of Jasmine :) 
 The weekend of Mother's Day, Trav officiated a wedding and in true Armstrong form, the day before his throat began hurting!  We did some hard core treatment to just get him through the ceremony, which thankfully worked!  But he had a few days of sinus pressure and headaches too that he had to work through.  No house has ever been so happy to see winter and a cold, wet Spring pass us by!  My poor husband has also been fighting his own illness for a few months now.  He turned 40 and things went south quick!  ha ha!  His stomach has been acting up and not handling his normal diet well at all.  He's been in twice to consult his doctor about and we've had to change up what he eats, drinks and what meds he can take for it.  I've felt so badly for him but in all reality, he's sort of had to fend for himself while I deal with all of my own pregnancy woes in addition to the sickness both kids have had.  We were not a healthy crew!  Thankfully he seems to be turning a corner as of late, and I am hopeful that he will continue to feel more and more like himself.  I hate it when he's not feeling good! 
I posted about Mother's Day already, but this was one of the first weekends where we all remained (mostly) healthy!  It was chilly outside but we were just thankful to be outside, even for little stretches at a time.  
 This was my favorite picture of the day!  Ava looks *just* like I did as a little girl and the way Carter is "smiling" in this picture looks just like Trav as a little boy!  Wonder who Walker will favor??  
 Speaking of Walker, I decided I could not wait any longer to get his nursery ready.  My nesting instincts have kicked in strong for the last couple of weeks and I've been in an organizing/purging/re-arranging/re-purposing mood over here.  This has created lots of chaos as I work from room to room but I've made great progress too!  I've never been more aware of all my aches and pains however, I'm having to be very careful about how much I do.  Which kills me.  I'm so used to doing this kind of thing full boar, and so having to stop and rest or wait for Trav to get home to do the heavy lifting, is killing me.  But I'm trying to be good because I'm the one who pays for it when I'm not! 
 Wouldn't you know that just as we were all starting to feel better, Carter was running inside at dinner time from our little balcony and he tripped.  Somehow he managed to hit his head on the sliding door track and split his ear open!!??!! Of course.  So while we tried to stop the bleeding and investigate, we called the pediatrician and determined that we needed to take him to the ER because he did split it open on the top of his ear, it actually looked like it was clipped with scissors, poor guy!  So back to the ER we went, one week after we were there for strep tests.  Good grief!  After a long wait and two doctor's opinions, they decided not to try and stitch it up in order to not make the tear worse.  We were thankful because Carter is NOT a good patient when there is any kind of pain involved!  He will definitely have a little scar there but oh well.  At least he's a boy and as the doctor said, he won't be able to be an ear model someday!  Ha!  I think we should get a frequent flyer card or something at the local ER, maybe a punch card with rewards???  A girl can dream!  
After a late night for all of us following the ER visit, we hit another big milestone when we went in to Ava's new school for next year and did a little Kindergarten preview day.  It was more traumatic for me than it was for her!  She loved it and loved seeing one of the classrooms and getting a tour of the school.  I was not as taken with the whole ordeal, I just want to pretend she's not old enough to be leaving and me and certainly not headed for the big, scary public school!  It is not helping that my hormones are raging right now, everything in me wants to hunker down in the country and keep her at home with me forever!   This Mama is going through some big lessons in trusting the Lord and releasing Ava to Him.  It hurts and I don't like it, but I'm trying to work through this new season we are embarking on while not squashing her excitement for school.  
 Have you ever seen a sweeter kindergartener-to-be???  Me either!  I did realize as she sat on my lap that morning that her breathing was sounding a little labored to me, so after she finished at preschool that morning we drove straight to the pediatrician's office and sure enough, she had croup.  In case you're losing count, that's 3 ER visits, 2 pediatrician visits, 1 specialist visit, and 2 primary care visits, and 2 OB visits for the 4 of us in about 4 weeks.  I've totally lost track of the trips to the pharmacy for all of this.  I'm going to say it was somewhere around 10??  I really don't think I'm exaggerating at all.  Can I just tell you how thankful I am for health insurance?? 
 Switching gears from the state of our health, one of the best books I'm reading is this one!  I love Elyse Fitzpatrick and am in the middle of reading two of her books right now.  I'm slowly working my way through "Counsel From the Cross" which is EXCELLENT and my dear friend gave me this one, "Comforts From the Cross" which is also SO good!  The second one is more of a devotional and I just love it.  The one thing I have been taking time to do lately is read.  While my feet are up I've taken the opportunity to soak up lots of great books, knowing that I won't have much time for this in the near future.  Ava and Carter are great about letting me do this while they play but a newborn isn't always as understanding :)  One of these days I'll share the list of what I've been enjoying! 
 The baby bump has grown to new proportions, now enabling me to "shelf" my food and preventing me from seeing my toes when I'm standing!  Yogurt parfaits are one of my go-to snacks these days, I'm so happy to have fresh berries in the stores again.  Not only do they remind me of summer but they taste so good on ice-cream, on yogurt, or just by themselves.  
 Just last week while Trav's Mom was visiting, we got to have a little shopping and errand date with Carter while Ava and Texie did some shopping of their own.  We were close to the Carter's store and Trav let us make a stop because I was dying to look for an outfit for Walker to come home from the hospital in!  Not only did I find something so cute for him, but I also picked up some great deals for Carter too.  He was enamored with the store being named after him and asked us, "where is the store with Ava's name on it?"  He looked so old to me in this picture.  Lately Trav and I have been marveling at how much the kids seem to be growing and changing.   
For example this little girl is not looking little to me at all anymore!  More and more I get glimpses of her and think, "how can she be 15 already??"  The world is her oyster right now and we keep hearing "I can do that now Mom, because I'm 5!"  Suddenly she has lots of courage and independence, all motived by turning 5.  It's perfect timing for bringing a baby home and we are getting a kick out of it for the most part.  We do occasionally have to bring her back to reality and remind her that while 5 is very big, it's not exactly a license for everything ! 
Here's an extremely blurry and risky belly shot that I snapped quickly in a public bathroom recently!  I just couldn't stop laughing at how pronounced my stomach has become and how I am definitely unable to hide anything these days.  I've hit the stage of everything swelling and expanding.  My clothes are starting to hang on for dear life!  This is the fun part as far as looking pregnant, but not exactly the fun part as far as feeling very, very pregnant!  Travis and I got a chance to sneak out for a much needed night out together while the kids got time with their Texie.  We have been managing so much sickness it felt so nice to be out and feeling a little "normal" again!  And lucky us, we went to one of our favorite restaurants where some families from our Church spotted us and sent us a delicious appetizer and then as I was coming back from the bathroom to say thank you, I ran into a table full of my Bible study girls from last year whom I hadn't seen in months!  They were all just home from their freshmen year of college and it was such a sweet treat to get to hug on them and catch up a little bit!  What a fun night we had.  

I've got a few more posts coming on some of the big fun we had last week!  But in case you've been wondering what happened to me, this is a little of what has kept me busy and sidelined from the world!  
I've been managing prescriptions, running back and forth to doctors of all kinds, and just trying to get us all back to normal!  I'm crossing my fingers and knocking on wood, but I think we're finally there.  Life is not dull with little ones and this is the season of life that is often marked by sickness and accidents.  As crazy as it gets sometimes, I really am thankful for the gift of a family and for everything that comes with it.  Yes life was calmer and easier to manage when it was just Trav and I but it wasn't nearly as full and fulfilling as it is now!  You wouldn't waste a prayer on us as we try to stay very healthy before and after Walker arrives.  Thankfully the weather has turned into perfection here and not a moment too soon.  Here's to a great last week in May!!