A Perfect, Summer Day!

We were gifted a perfect day today and I thought I'd share it while it's still fresh in my memory!  So many times I write about how hard a season is or what we're struggling through, but I want to be intentional about sharing the good stuff too!  Because there are so many days that are sweet and today was one of them.  God just gave us a fantastic day from start to finish, and we are grateful.  We will take as many of these kinds of days as He's willing to give us! 

Our perfect Friday began with our kids climbing in our bed this morning!  It is SO fun to hear them giggle down the hall and into our room to greet us, especially when they've slept in at a reasonable hour!  Carter's newest thing is to say, "Hi, Mommy!!  Hi, Daddy!!" before he climbs all over us for hugs and kisses.  He's very affectionate right now and we are eating that up!  Ava is always good for some kisses and dialogue, so we enjoyed them greatly before we all had breakfast.  When we woke up this morning, my weather app said it 64 outside!!!  Yes, I said 64!! I wasted NO time making myself a little haven on the porch and the kids played happily for 2 hours all around us while Trav and I got to drink our coffee and read.  A-mazing! Mornings like this just do not happen everyday and we know how to take full advantage of them and not waste them, ha ha!  We turned the air off, opened the sliders to the porch and drank in the cool air and sunny skies. 
I enjoyed every sip from my new, favorite coffee mug.  My friend Lisa gave this to me before she moved to California and I use it constantly.  It makes me think of her but I also just really like it.  It seems like a happy mug to start my day with :) :) :)
After we drank our coffee, we took the kids to the park.  It was just too nice not to be outside today!  We had the whole park to ourselves which was totally fun. 
The kids showed off all of their skills for us.  It really is amazing what they each can do compared to the start of the summer.  Carter is always going 100 miles an hour when we're at the park.  I'm usually telling him to "slow down!" a million times :)
And Miss Ava does her own thing, at her own pace, in her own way.  She can't be bothered by our suggestions or help, ha ha!  She'll have fun the way she wants to do it!
Which involves running around and gathering sticks, always.  Sticks are to Ava, what nuts are to squirrels.  She's crazy about them and feels a need to gather as many as she can when we're at a park.  It's so weird, but she loves it! 
After we enjoyed the great outdoors together, we took the kids home for lunch and to get ready to go to some friends' of ours, home.  A sweet family from our Church unexpectedly gifted us with an afternoon and evening out, while they took our kids.  It was so great and very timely.  We were itching to get some time together, especially considering our Anniversary is next week! 
So after we dropped our babes off to have tons of fun without us, we ventured out to a spot we often talk about but rarely go.  One thing we love about Minnesota are all the lakes!  All 10,000 + of them!  Life really does happen all year long around the lake and there are endless trails and bikes paths and things to do on or near the lake.  So we went to a gorgeous neighborhood, enjoyed some treats and then found a perfect spot here...
 On the lake!
Lake Harriet, to be exact. 
We watched hundreds of people sail, paddle board, canoe, swim, bike, run, walk and just enjoy every second of this perfect weather!  After all the humidity and heat we've had this summer, today was just Heavenly. 
We watched tons of planes take off over us and kept thinking about how much the kids would have loved that!  When Carter hears a plane now, he immediately stops and says "UP!!" while he points like a wild man toward the sky until we acknowledge the airplane he's laid eyes on.  Definitely going to bring them back here soon!
 My favorite part of the afternoon was simply hanging out with my best friend, kicked back on a blanket and talking about anything and everything.  We're celebrating 9 years of marriage on Wednesday and after 10 years of being together, I can honestly say we have more to talk about than ever, more history to draw upon and a future that we love to dream about.  I don't need exotic vacations or shopping sprees to feel loved.  Just give us a blanket in the grass and uninterrupted time to catch up and laugh and we're good! 
 Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon!
After we got our fill of sunshine and conversation, we went Uptown to another spot we love!
We have decided this quirky and trendy restaurant is quickly becoming one of our favorite spots.  It's so quirky it has no sign, although it's widely known and very popular.  The people watching is FANTASTIC and yet, kind of sad too.  SO many desperate and lonely people, looking for love in all the wrong places!
It's Chino Latino.  We once got our credit card denied here, but not because of a cash flow problem.  When I called our bank to figure out the problem, they said the name was so unusual and it seemed to be outside of our normal neighborhood and pattern, so they thought it must be a fraudulent purchase!  Ha ha!  It us definitely unusual, but we love it :)
We chose to eat outside, which was a given on a night like this one.
There was so much happening all around us, we were highly entertained all night! 
The food is amazing, so different.  It's a crazy menu of international street food, sort of an east meets west kind of place.  These are Korean lettuce wraps with Kobe beef and they did not disappoint!
Chicken curry skewers with a peanut sauce and rice...Isn't this exciting?? 
Are you enjoying every detail of our evening so far?? 
I aim to please :)  
Now this is worth sharing with you!  It's hard to tell in this pic, but it's a flaming platter to build your own smores!  Marshmallows, chocolate, caramel, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut, bananas, and cinnamon cookies. 
THIS is my kind of camping!
We enjoyed every bite and got the perfect roast by the last one.
Yes, that was as good as it looks! 
Bananas, chocolate and marshmallows. 
A perfect combination!

We had a great time together today and our kids had so much fun without us!  We are grateful for this day, it was a gift from beginning to end! 

Thank you Lord for a perfect, summer day.  We did not take it for granted!!


His Mercies are New!

It was fun to share our bunk bed move with you this week, thank you so much for your kind comments about their room. We are so happy with the results, it's given us fresh wind in our tired-of-this-condo sails! So far, it's been a good couple of days and as of tonight we're now officially one week into the move.  Bedtimes have been the easiest transition so far.  They take a little bit longer to settle down at night, we hear lots of "Hi!" and giggling going on for a few minutes, but they eventually stop chatting and have been sleeping very well together.  Nap times are a little bit harder.  They are usually more wound up and it takes a few escalating threats to keep everyone under control, but we get there, ha ha!  We've got some sensitivity training to do with Ava.  We're fairly certain Carter was dead asleep this afternoon until she woke him up to play in his bed...Not an event we'd like repeated!  I definitely need to train her to get out of her bed quietly and leave the room like a mouse while he's still sleeping :) We had a crabby boy this afternoon due to his lack of sleep! 
Our favorite thing about this move however, is the little partnership these two are building.  Ava has been able to "fly the coup" out of her big girl bed for almost 2 years now and she wastes no time when she's awake to come waltzing into the living room or our bedroom to let us know she's up.  Carter has not had the same luxury.  He's been confined to his crib for all of his short little life, so the idea of escaping is still pretty new.  When he wakes up he's so used to us coming to get him, I don't think he really knows what to do with his new found freedom!  So now that he's got a big sister to show him the ropes, we are greeted in the morning or after their naps with two little buddies holding onto their blankies, grinning as they walk down our hallway to find us.  It's precious.  Ava is always the one in front and Carter is two steps behind her.  This morning they couldn't find me, I was reading on our porch and I heard her say to him, "Dare's Mama, Carter!  Come dis way!"  And sure enough, two little faces were soon peeking around the sliders to say good morning.  Believe me, they're not always up to good, often they are partners in crime not peace!  But we love that they are growing in their relationship and learning to get along.  It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a work in progress that shows signs of promise every now and then...
Ava is a proud, big sister.  Classic in every sense of the word.  She's bossy, nurturing, concerned, loving, instructional, and loyal.  She loves her little brother.  Sometimes a little too much!  We've graduated from praying at the dinner table and announcing all of his "sins against her" for the day, to flat out telling him to "NO! You don't do dat to Ava, Carter! STOP buddy!!"  Followed immediately by, "MOM!! Carty's disobeyin!"  

Then it's Carter's turn to contribute his "NOOOO! ADA! NOOOO!" at which point I proceed to get up from whatever I've been doing so that when I hear the impending screaming or crying coming from their room, I'm already in motion to put out the latest fire.

Clearly there we have a 3 and almost 2 year old living at our house! 
We've got some serious character development to work on :) :) :)  
One minute the two of them are literally yelling in each other's faces and the next minute, I find them snuggled up together watching Curious George or playing with their toys, all smiles and giggles!    In general, these days are just exhausting.  Fun, rewarding, sweet and fleeting...but exhausting.  I was just telling my cousin last night, on one hand I am loving all the new things they can do and they ways that they are showing their independence and desire to do things on their own, but in the same breath, I often find myself barely making it through the day without losing my mind.  It is amazing to me to discover each day anew that I am truly not a patient person.  I'm not nearly as flexible as I long to be or as slow to anger as I wish I was.  I lose it daily, I have to apologize often and I'm always thanking the Lord for new mercies and grace that covers a multitude of sin.  The Lord is not short on material when it comes to my sanctification!  He's got all sorts of areas to refine and weed out! 

But even with all the stress and the work and the lack of peace that my days can hold, I wouldn't trade any of it for the alternative of life without them.  It's joy to my soul to start my day with their little faces searching for mine so that they can say, "Hi Mommy!  Good morning!  I sleeped a long time didn't I??"  Nothing beats sweaty, little hands reaching up to hold mine or tiny arms wrapped tightly around my neck.  I love to be in public and feel the firmness of their grip as they assess the room and draw nearer to their Mommy in insecurity, waiting for me to tell them all is well so they can get down and play.  To think I've got a lifetime ahead of me as their Mom is an overwhelming thought but one that also draws me nearer to the Lord in my own insecurity, waiting for Him to tell me all is well, He's right here with me.  This job is not for the faint of heart, not for those who think they know everything or can handle all that a 2 year old throws at them.  It's the opposite of that in fact.  It takes courage everyday to stay committed, faithful and engaged.  It requires humility to accept that each day and each stage is another opportunity to grow and learn and to seek the wisdom of the Lord and others who have gone before you.  And it's a real insult to your confidence to realize you are being completely dominated by someone who is 1/4th your size and incapable of going to the bathroom on their own.  But that's the beauty of motherhood.  There is this instant camaraderie that comes with being some one's Mommy.  Suddenly you join the ranks of many women who have been there and are doing that.  Mommies who are standing with you, who extend a hand smudged with peanut butter and who bear the weight of motherhood the same way you do, one desperate prayer at a time. 
I love these little people.
I can't get enough of their little haircuts and the fact that they are basically the same size now.
I'm so grateful to be the only one they call Mommy.
And I'm not ashamed to tell you that I'm SO glad they are fast asleep in their beds, giving me a chance to recover and rest for tomorrow's fun, forgetting all the troubles of today! 
Can a I get an amen fellow Mommy friends??

His mercies are new every morning, friends...

...and GREAT is His faithfulness, thank you Jesus! 

Happy (almost) Friday to all of you.
No matter what today or this week has held for you, I truly hope you make the most of tomorrow and enjoy it to the fullest!  New day, new mercies...aren't you glad??


The Bedroom Shuffle (everyone's doing it!)

Annnnnndddd, exhale......

Well, it's Tuesday and it's July 24th.  Why is that significant?  It isn't.  It's just simply the first day of our summer that I don't have a trip, or a big event or more family coming to town!  I took Trav's Mom to the airport this morning and for the first time since late May, we are looking at just the four of us being home, sweet home for the forseeable future.  Ahhhh, that feels nice! 
It's been a great summer so far.  A crazy, busy summer but a fun one too!  We have loved all the time we've had on the road, loved spending time with family here and there, and going on new adventures across the globe, well Travis has enjoyed those adventures!  I'm grateful for the memories we've made and the experiences God has blessed us with.  Travis and I feel the very same way, we are so grateful for our Church and for the many ways his job blesses us and gives us opportunities to be together.  But now we have some time to be home again and to take a deep breath or two before the Fall schedule starts.  (Ok, when I say "some time" I mean 2 weeks, Ha ha!)  It's not long, but we'll take what we can get! 
Everyone is doing well at our house, but the big news of our weekend has been our kids' move to bunk beds!  We've been mulling the idea over for awhile and wondering if it would work, but after we were given a set of bunk beds (a direct answer to prayer!!) we decided to go for it.  And I'm glad we did!  It's going well, the kids love it and are handling the transition better than we hoped they would. 

So in honor of the move and because I wanted to relive the memories for fun, I thought I'd walk you through the history of the Armstrong's bedrooms.  Just for the record, there are only 2, but in 5 years of living here we've had 7 combinations.  SEVEN.  Yes, everyone observe a collective moment of silence to commemorate that.  In 5 years there have been 7 instances of moving furniture, 7 design schemes, 7 space plans, 7 bedding combinations, 7 conversations between Travis and I, and if I'm honest 77 disagreements about how it was all going to work out!  Seriously.  If someone deserves to be the Queen of Re-Purposing and Re-Arranging, I'd like to nominate myself.  In true humility of course :) For better or for worse, Travis inherited a wife who misses the mark in many areas but is never out of a new design idea!!
Here is where I insert my classic warning, *many pictures ahead* but if you're willing to waste 10 minutes of your life, enjoy this little stroll down our bedroom memory lane...
This was the master bedroom when we moved in.  We enjoyed all the space for approximately 3 years!  Attached is a very large walk in closet and a large 3/4 bath.  We loved calling this space our own!
 We had white walls in here for awhile, but eventually painted them a warm brown, the same color they are today.
This was our guest room when we moved in, bedroom #2.  We loved this extra room when our families came to visit.  It was a cozy place for guests and it became our golden retrievers perch of choice :)
This seriously feels like a lifetime ago when I look at these pictures!  I loved this room.  That was my bedding from my first apartment in Naples, when Travis and I met. 
 But, after the Lord answered our prayers and gave us Ava, it was time to turn the guest room into a nursery.  And oh how I LOVED that nursery! 
It was a darling room for our precious Ava and we spent lots of time in there for the first 18 months of her life.
 This also feels like a time I barely remember.  I swear we just did that room, but amazingly it's already been 2 years since we moved her out of there...
...and into a big girl bed... a big girl room!
Yes, we moved out of our master bedroom and gave it up for Miss Ava.  We debated and debated and debated some more about that decision, but ultimately we needed more room for her, for the toys and for...
 ...the baby boy God surprised us with!!!  What a blessing to get that surprise, but what a challenge when we found ourselves in a position that required us to stay put in our condo, due to a market that was crashing and an economy that was falling apart.  We couldn't move so we had to get really creative.  I spent SOOO much time dreaming this scenario up and convincing Travis that it would work.  When we moved out of the master bedroom so that Ava could move in, we also moved out of our (my) beloved walk in closet so that it could become a nursery! 
It sounded so crazy at the time and it still makes me laugh, but I really grew to love that little nursery.  The Lord gave me lots of creativity and incredible deals to pull that little room together!
It was cozy, quiet and perfect.  I spent many a night holding my sweet Carter in that rocker.
Every nook and cranny had to be used for storage and it was!  It worked so well and I loved the way it all came together.
 After all the pink in our world, I had the best time working with browns and blue!  By the time we moved Carter out last week, this little nursery went through several changes, but we are so glad we made the decision to give the kids all this space.  It has made a big difference in handling all their stuff and giving them each a space that was their own.
It seemed so silly to many people, but it was really important to me that they have their own personalized "rooms", even if that meant converting a closet!
 So that pink crib got some brown and blue the second time around and we had 2 places for the kids to sleep and play. 
Weren't they precious???
After we gave up our master for the smaller bedroom and the (MUCH) smaller closet, Travis let me lick my wounds by redecorating our room a little bit...He's a wise man and a sweet husband!
I have to admit, that helped.  I found this adorable dresser at a garage sale of all places and it was the best addition!  Not to mention it gave us some much needed storage after we endured the loss of closet space!

So, for the last 2 years we've lived like this.  Ava in the master/playroom, Carter in the closet/nursery, and Travis and I in the guest room.  It's been a perfect fit and we've all survived just fine :) However, as our children keep growing, so do their toys and their needs.  We talked about bunk beds last Fall in a "someday" kind of way but after Carter's 18 mo. well check, the discussion got a little more real when his Pediatrician told us he was officially too tall for his crib and she thought bunk beds were a great idea!  So, I've been scouring Craig's List and garage sales for awhile, hoping to land a great deal and trying to figure out the best way to make use of our space.  I had ideas, but I wasn't sure how it would work out.  When Trav was in Israel and I was in Iowa, my friend's Mom called my Mom and offered her some bunk beds she picked up, if we were interested.  That was a direct answer to prayer and the push we needed to make the move. 
I was looking for white bunk beds and I considered a million types of styles, but when I saw these I thought they were darling :) They would look cute painted white, but honestly I'm out of energy and just decided that it was close enough to our woodwork for me to just go with it.  But, the real clincher was that they are older and therefore shorter than most bunk beds.  I knew they were going to work in the spot I had in mind!  We are so thankful to our friends who blessed us with these and to the Lord for providing for us again! 
So after we got home last weekend, I spent the last week on the hunt for the things I needed to pull this move off.  Starting with some big boy bedding for Carter!  I had my eye on this set for awhile and finally pulled the trigger.  I found that cute pillow at Homegoods this week, which matched perfectly and tied the green color in.  I was looking for some bedding that coordinated with Ava's existing bedding, but wasn't too "matchy" and still looked like a little boy.  I'm so happy I went with this nautical set! 
I took Ava's bedding from her daybed and moved it to the top bunk.  She loved it!
She has a bedrail that we use, it's just not in this picture :) The bunks fit perfectly against this wall and under that the closet!  We were hoping their beds and a dresser would fit in the closet so that we could use that space for sleeping and napping.  It's cozy but it's super cute in person.  I put some of Ava's favorite books on that shelf by her bed and it's her new reading spot. 
Carter has the cave on the bottom, which is also a fun little spot for him!  I put Ava's old bedrail up to help keep him in there and so far it's working.  He can get out and he has, but only when Ava wakes up and they leave the room together.  We are so thankful that they are sleeping so well, especially Carter.  He looks so cute in that big bed and hasn't missed a beat leaving his crib behind. 
So now, this is the view into the "closet" or their new bunk room :)
It's a work in progress as I begin to blend all things girl and boy.  So far green is my favorite color :) It seems to be the link between both worlds!
I couldn't bear to take down their baby pictures, so for now they are across from the beds.
Newborn pics, birth announcements... all feels like yesterday.
I need to tone down the girl stuff, but I can't help it :) I still like it!
Our basket of Bibles :)
I replaced the brown curtain with a pink one we had, but again I'm looking for a green one.
Do the animals at your house multiply like ours do??  I even weeded ours out recently.  Good grief!
So with those two bunking together now, this is our new playroom!  And we all love it!

Lots of room for toys now and space to play all day.  Most of Carter's toys have found a home in the living room, but with his birthday in just a few months, he'll get some more real estate in here and I'll get some time to figure out where it will go! 
We decided to leave the crib up for now, mostly because we have no place to store it!  It's turned into a bed for Ava's babies, which is fun :) She was thrilled to have the option!
So that's what we've been up to while Trav's Mom was here this past week!  I'm so thankful she was here to help me, it's been a lot of work to shuffle everyone around again, but at least we're used to it!! 

It's amazing what we've been able to do with just two bedrooms and a closet!  I wish I could tell you that I've always had a good attitude about it, but I haven't.  Somedays I struggle not to complain or resent our lack of space but other days I love this little condo and all that it's held for us.  It's not ideal or what we ever envisioned but it's home and we truly love it.  I would give my right arm for my kids and I've already proven I would give up prime real estate in a great closet!! Ha ha!!   If the Lord blesses us with another little Armstrong, I have no idea what we'll do.  But for now, we are grateful for what He's given us and choosing to remember that He's always been faithful to provide exactly what we need, when we need it.   

It's an adventure being married to me when it comes to decorating and re-arranging!  But please, no one tell Travis that some of you don't move your furniture for like 20 years, he might ground me or something!  Hope you've enjoyed the history of our bedrooms.  Who really knows what the future holds or what they'll look like tomorrow, but for now this is our plan and we're rolling with it.  Sometimes the very best thing you can do for your home is dream a little bit and get creative, it costs nothing to dream!  But if that doesn't do it, you could hire someone like me to get creative for you!  Ha ha!  I'm pretty sure Travis will happily send me your way if it means no more moving or money spent for him :) :) :)