From the Kitchen Today

I'm blaming it on the cold, maybe the pregnancy too, but I can't stop baking and cooking and thinking about food!  My kiddos were sick over the weekend and we're looking at another week of arctic cold, but what else is new?  Today I stayed home with the troops to rest and make sure we aren't spreading any germs around and because I'm sick of doing laundry or anything else that's responsible, I decided to get back in the kitchen and make us a treat.  The same treat we had last week in fact! I just couldn't help myself, it's so good.  I've been eating this bread my whole life I think, my Mom has been making this forever and today I'm sharing the recipe.  I don't know where she got it but I'm giving her the credit for it on here.  I posted a picture on Facebook today and got some requests to share it, so here you go...

Debby's Almond Poppyseed Bread with a Citrus Glaze
 Directions for the Bread 

Beat together: 
3 eggs
2.5 C sugar
1.5 C milk
1 C + 2T oil

Mix in: 
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp almond extract
1.5 tsp imitation butter extract  
(Butter extract can be very hard to find, if you can't locate in your grocery store then make up the absence by using 2.5 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp almond instead)
3 C flour
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 T poppy seeds

Pour mixture into well greased bundt pan and bake for 50-55 min at 350 degrees.
Be sure to check with a toothpick to see if done, bread will rise well above the pan and will likely need the full 55 minutes to thoroughly bake.
 Directions for the Glaze

In a small bowl, mix together: 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp imitation butter extract OR 1/2 tsp lemon extract if you are a lemon fan
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C orange juice

Pour glaze over bread while still hot.  Pour slowly so that it soaks into the bread and doesn't spill over. 
When bread is totally cool, turn over on to a plate and remove from pan.  
And then pour yourself a cup of coffee, tea or some milk and enjoy!  I promise you this will not disappoint and it serves many.  My Mom makes this about every time we come home, for most holidays and for many parties and I have followed in her footsteps and done the same.  It's always a crowd-pleaser.  In fact, I served it last summer for Trav's soccer team at their pre-season soccer camp and those high school boys went crazy for it!  Ha ha! Even my kids love it! The other nice thing about this bread is that it freezes very well.  I usually slice it, wrap it well and then it's ready to pull out when you need it.  

So there you go, I hope you'll try it and enjoy it as much as we do.  
I am sitting down with a piece tonight to watch the end of Downton.  A perfect treat for a 2 hour finale.  
Happy Sunday friends!  Have a great week! 



Well friends, we all knew this day would come, didn't we?? First the pregnancy announcement, then the gender announcement and now?  As per our previous pregnancies, we are ready and willing to share our new little guy's name with the world!  I *almost* made it a week, but who was I kidding?? I could never keep this secret!  None of us could.  In fact Ava informed me that she spilled the beans to her preschool teachers this morning, ha ha!  I do get it and can respect the decision people make to keep everything baby related a secret but that's not how we roll in this family!  Trav is not big on having to keep it quiet for the next 20ish weeks and neither am I...for me, this is all part of my nesting.  I love knowing who God is sending us and preparing our hearts and home to meet him.  I like praying for our babies specifically and just calling them by name from the beginning.  That's just how I'm wired.

Now that we have older kids too, we wanted to make this fun for them and help them transition and get used to the idea of their newest sibling.  Everybody has had a few days to get used to the idea of a little brother and I'm happy to say, Ava is officially excited and on board with the outnumbering of boys to girls in our family!  She's embracing the female bond she and I now exclusively share and it's been sweet to hear her process it all out loud.  She's not given up hope that "God will give us a baby girl next time" but I don't have the energy to have the "next time" reality check conversation yet :) This may be the last time, but I suppose only God knows that! Carter, by the way is totally on board with a brother.  When he heard the news that more trucks, cars, planes, and trains would be appearing with the birth of his new brother he thought that sounded good to him!  Of course I'm sure we've got some sharing issues and some wake-up calls about someone else loving his vehicles as much as he does, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, right?

It's amazing how little control we really have over the way God shapes our families.  I'm so thankful that HE is in charge and knows what's best for all of us!  It's humbling and awe-inspiring to think that He chose US to parent this little guy and that He chose Ava to be his big sister and Carter to be his big brother.  We love him so dearly already! We also know and believe that even now he is being knit in my womb by our Creator, fearfully and wonderfully in fact, and we can't wait to meet him.

So, just who will we be meeting in late June/early July?  I promise I won't keep you in suspense any longer but I will say that we can't wait to introduce you to...

~Walker Cole Armstrong~

We have been throwing boy names back and forth for awhile, we think it's so hard to name boys!  There are a million girl names that we liked or could agree on, but for some reason a boys' name just carries a lot of weight with it.  I always picture a baby boy grown up and leading like an executive meeting, will they appreciate the name given to them in infancy then??  Or as we found out while naming Carter, is this a name we can shout from the sidelines of a sports field and it not sound ridiculous??  Ha ha!!  We feel like Walker passes the test on both fronts!  

This time we don't have a family tie or significance for choosing Walker or Cole, we just liked both names and especially together.  However, we do appreciate the way that God has given us a prayer from scripture for Walker.  His name simply means, "to walk" and that seems so fitting given the season of studying I've just gone through for the last 8 months or so.  I just finished a long study of Colossians in order to teach on chapter 3, which is largely a portion of Paul's letter that encourages believers to take what they know to be true about Jesus and their faith and to then walk it out.  In other words, to actually live it in their daily life and with those whom He places in their life.  It's an exhortation to move beyond simply head knowledge, into a heart knowledge that produces action...steps of faith.  I've immersed myself and talked with Trav at length about this very thought, how to walk out our faith as I've been studying in Colossians.  So it's in that same vein that we are praying over Walker now, that he would not just know about Jesus but that he would believe that Jesus is his Savior and then live his life walking out his faith publicly, chasing hard after the Lord all his days.

Just as we did with Ava and with Carter, we've chosen a portion of scripture to be our prayer for Walker.  We landed on this for the third little member of our family...

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."  Colossians 1: 9-10, ESV  

That is exactly what we hope and pray!  That Walker will walk, in a manner worthy of the Lord from his earliest days to his last.  No matter what his future holds or what his career or family life may or may not be, our greatest desire for him is to know and love his Savior and to live his life in response to his faith so that others will see Jesus in him too.  

The other piece about Walker's name is that we are very happy with the southern and specifically Texan sound of it.  Yes, yes...we know that the first thing you may have thought about was the notorious Chuck Norris character, "Walker, Texas Ranger" and we are ok with that :) Fortunately our Walker (and his friends) will never know or understand that reference enough to tease him about it, but their parents probably will!  We just consider it our nod to Travis' Texas family and his roots from growing up there.  Cole is a name we went back and forth about for a first name, we just liked a lot but ended up liking it more as a middle name with Walker.  We do nicknames in our little family and like the possibility of them so we've been trying to figure out what will we likely call him??  Although Ava's full name is Ava Page, we often call her Pagey and from very early on Carter became Carty to us.  Walker Cole lends itself to "Coley" which we like with Carty but we also thought about Wally, which seems kind of fun and vintage-y too :) You know, like Wally from Leave it to Beaver??  I'm taking great comfort that Wally was often the more mature and less mischievous one, although he was best friends with Eddie Haskell, so there's that!  Ha ha!  We aren't tying ourselves to anything, nicknames sort of just happen and unfold but we did remember that Trav's PawPaw (hello Texas grandparent name, right??) was named Wallace and often he was called Wally too, which we thought that was kind of a sweet discovery.  Who knows, maybe we'll just always call him Walker??  Either way, we're happy about the name we have chosen for this little guy and we are even more excited to welcome him to our world.  

So Walker, someday when you read this or if you read this, I hope you will know the great joy that you are already bringing to our family and especially to your Daddy and I.  We have loved the surprise of knowing God gave you to us, discovering that you were another little boy created to be in our family, and now naming you as a treasured son.  The Lord has been so good to us in bringing us three precious miracles over these last five years and we are honored to parent our sweet Ava, our darling Carter and now our precious Walker to the best of our ability and with all the wisdom and strength we need from Him!  We love you little guy and are counting down the days until we can whisper your name in your little ears and hold you tightly in our arms.  Welcome to our family, Walker Cole!  


The Week That Was

What a week!  It's Sunday afternoon and I'm tucked in my warm bed, relaxing and catching up on a few things.  We are due for some more snow tonight and even more tomorrow...definitely in the thick of winter now!  We had some incredible highs and lows this week, fitting for a post-retreat experience I think :)  I thought I would recap it with some pictures...

Monday- When I got home on Sunday night I could tell Carter was dragging a little bit, his cough had gotten stronger over the weekend and I thought a trip to the pediatrician might be in order on Monday morning after we took Ava to school.  Well, it was a good thing I took him in!  As it turned out he had strep and we left with a prescription for an antibiotic, a referral to an Ears, Nose and Throat Specialist to talk tonsil/adenoid removal, and the reminder that he was contagious for 24 hours.  I panicked remembering I had just taken Ava to school, so after we left the doctor, I drove back to the preschool to pick up Ava and bring her in for a strep test too, just in case.  I had her in the office the week before for croup but she had gotten significantly better and had been acting totally normal, with the exception of a cough that was still lingering but not worsening.  
 Her strep test was negative, which made me really grateful for the sake of her teachers and classmates, but before we left I just asked if someone could listen to her lungs and make sure nothing else was happening since she was still coughing.  Again, so glad I asked!!  They couldn't even evaluate her lungs because her breathing was so tight and squeaky, so she got hooked up to a nebulizer for a breathing treatment.  Good grief!!  While her lungs loosened up, they checked her ears and discovered she actually had an ear infection and then re-checked her lungs to diagnose bronchitis with possible pneumonia!!  HAPPY MONDAY TO US!!!!  
So after 2 trips to the pediatrician and 2 trips to the preschool, we left for the pharmacy with 4 prescriptions to pick up on a morning with dangerous wind chills and arctic temps.  Nothing like a restful Monday morning for an exhausted Mommy!  The pharmacy was another fun experience with almost an hour the time we came home and got some lunch, I went to find Carter so I could lay him down for a nap but quickly discovered he had beat me to the punch!  He was already asleep and curled up with his blankies and toys, a SURE sign that Carter Armstrong is NOT feeling well.  The boy who hates naps right now was sound asleep!  
Monday night was full of breathing treatments, antibiotic dosing, and the reality that no one was headed out for school or anything else the next day!  Not the quiet start to the week I was hoping for, but staying in and taking care of my poor kiddos was ok with me too.  I don't know what it is about me going on a retreat, but this is the second time I've come home to sick kids!  Two Februarys ago I came home to both of them sick with pneumonia!  It's a good thing Daddy isn't rattled easily :) 

 Tuesday- We kicked off Tuesday with more meds and some donuts. 
 I think I needed a treat just as much as they did!  We were all happy to consume some sugar at the start of a long day at home! 
Ava really wasn't feeling too badly but I didn't want to risk getting anyone sick at Preschool so we convinced her one day at home was a good idea.  She was not thrilled but I promised her she could go back on Wednesday, which was a special day because it was the day of her Valentine's Day party.  
 We worked on her valentines for her class while Carter took a nap.  She was SO thrilled and excited!!
 I had her sign all of her valentines, which was a big job to stick it out for 15 valentines, but she did a great job! 
And of course she chose Little Mermaid valentines!  The minute she laid her eyes on those she was sold!

Wednesday- The boy woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed and I got my first clue that he was feeling much, much better when he came out of his room dressed in this...
Superhero cape meets pool noodle meets firefighter hat!  Gotta love it!
This little girl also woke up in a great mood, standing at my bedside to tell me, "Mom I am SO ESSCITED about my balentine party today!!  I can't wait!!' 
 She'd been waiting to wear her red and white all week and was dressed and ready to go in about 2 minutes!  Her hair looks so red in this pic, I love it! 
 When I picked her up from school she was oh so happy and talking a mile a minute!  She couldn't wait to get home and show us her surprise, this sweet card she made for us...
 We loved it!!
I got the low down from her all afternoon on every valentine she received from her classmates, it was a good day for Miss Ava! 

Thursday- On Thursday we had Trav home for a little bit in the afternoon and we decided to take the plunge and re-arrange the kids room.  I've been talking about it and planning it for awhile but I needed him to do the heavy lifting before he was out of town for the weekend, so Thursday afternoon it was! 
 For a variety of reasons we decided to move their bunks into the big room and make use of their closet as an actual closet/storage room and if we have, eventually a nursery again.  
They loved the change of scenery and we were very happy with how it all fit and all the floor space that was opened up to them again.  I worked all weekend on tweaking things and making sense of the closet again, but I was very happy to have the beds in place!  Trav and I managed to sneak a date night in that night too.  We knew Valentines day was not going to be possible for us to get any time together so we had a nice dinner out together and let the sitter put the kids to bed.  The best treat of all! 

Friday- Friday morning was of course our big ultrasound and the discovery of another little guy joining our family!  But soon after we got home from that, Travis had to prepare to leave for a winter retreat and I needed to get Ava's kindergarten registration papers turned in!  What a day!!  After all of our running around I settled in with the kids and we stayed home for the night to celebrate together :) 

Saturday- With Daddy gone yesterday and Ava at a birthday party, Carter and I made a trip to the mall for a MUCH needed haircut.  Finally I think we've turned the corner and we can survive these now without tears!  Yay for that!!  Carter got a cute new cut and we picked up Ava from a fun party, only to drive home in a virtual blizzard!  Another afternoon/evening in, but for this tired Mama, I was not complaining.  

Today we got Daddy back after a great retreat and now we have a quiet day tomorrow planned to rest and stay in for yet another big snowfall that is coming tonight and in the morning.  

It's been a week full of events but one that I'm glad is over!  I'm anxious to blog a little bit more about the baby and some other things too, but tonight I'm just happy to have Trav home and my kiddos feeling so much better.  I think we're all back to normal, with the exception of me.  
I just keep getting more pregnant every day :) 

I hope you had a great week and weekend!  Ready or not, Monday (and more snow for us) is on it's way!  


Our New Little Valentine...

So, it's Valentine's Day!!  And we have been anticipating this day for months!!  Not only are we embracing hearts and candy and all things pink and red today, but today is our 20 week ultrasound for baby #3!!  I love the timing, so appropriate as we celebrate one more little heart to love around here.

This morning actually, bright and early, we woke our kiddos up and dropped them off at my cousin's house.  Trav leaves for a JH winter retreat this afternoon, so we had to take the earliest appt. we could get so we could find out what this little one was up to, but more importantly, WHO they are??? 
 Here we are at 20 weeks today, half-way already!  Nothing says Happy Valentine's Day like getting up at 6am when it's 4 degrees out!  And P.S., I'm wearing pink for Valentine's day, not because I was hoping for a girl more than a boy!  Which is a good thing because...
Yep, Baby #3 is in fact a little BOY!!!!
Another round of blue for us and more cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes in our future!  
 We brought some balloons to surprise the kids when we picked them up.
 Aaaannnndddd, this about sums it up!  Carter was thrilled when he figured it out, Ava...hmm, not quite there yet! She had her little heart set on a girl, but this is why we are letting them know now.  Lots of time to fall in love with her newest little brother! 
 Oh man, if I thought Carter wore me out now, I can only imagine what the next few years are going to hold!!!  Praising the Lord for an adventurous Daddy with LOTS of energy who loves to RUN!!  Because that's what life with a couple little boys is going to be all about for a few years, RUNNING!!!  
 And then there's this sweet girl...She's already informed us that maybe when the baby comes, God will give us a girl??  OR that she will be excited NEXT TIME when God gives us a girl!  Ha ha!!  Oh dear, we have LOTS to talk through!  I am suddenly very thankful that we've indulged her in all things pink and princess, she's going to need more and more of that in the years to come!  We girls are going to have to stick together now and bring all things "girly and feminine" to our little family!
 We are blessed beyond measure!  What a sweet day this is for our little family of 5!!!
My heart could explode over how much we love and adore both of our kids.  I can't even imagine the joy ahead as we add another little guy to the mix and welcome another Valentine into our hearts!  We are thankful that this little one is healthy and measuring right on track.  What a relief to see all those important organs and body parts and to hear that everything looks perfect.  Thank you LORD!!  
 We are SO thankful and grateful for you Baby BOY!!!  I will always remember seeing your face and knowing who you are on this day!  Twelve years ago today, your Daddy told me he loved me and now here we are... "Meeting" YOU, surprising your big brother and sister with the news of YOU and dropping off Kindergarten registration papers all on the same day!!  We are excited and anxious to meet you on the outside soon, to hold you in our arms and bring you home!!  
Welcome to our family, little guy!!  
You are SO loved and adored already.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!



Hello,  dear blog friends!  Happy Wednesday night...I've been waiting to share this post for months, expectantly waiting for this event on my calendar to come and go.  I had the privilege of spending this past weekend on a retreat with so many women from our Church whom I love! I got to meet some new faces and enjoy the sight of many familiar ones, it was such a great weekend!! Our Church does retreats, more than any other Church I've ever been involved with, all year round.  If you've followed my blog for even just a little while, you know how often we are packing and re-packing for another retreat of some sort!  However, it's been like 7 years or something since we've had a Women's Retreat and at the start of last summer I began joining the conversation regarding this one.
Since July I started meeting with the women leading this vision and we began really brainstorming and seeking the Lord for what it was that He wanted us to plan.  I share this because I am so stunned, now that we're on the other side, at how those conversations and stirrings unfolded into something we never could have anticipated.  This whole process has been a walk of faith for all of us, but the Lord has also reminded me personally of His faithfulness and His promise to complete in us the work that He begins.  

From my years of being married to a ministry leader, I know the hard work and the planning that goes into a retreat.  I know the million decisions that have to get made, the step of faith required to plan something, never sure if people will respond to your vision or not, the long meetings and all the prayers that proceed the whole thing.  They are always WORK to plan but it never ceases to amaze me when the Lord takes over and delivers what He intends.  I have loved being involved in this particular retreat, it's fun to be outside the student ministry world and into a world I know and am living in myself.  

I signed up to help however I could, but I didn't have any idea that the Lord would take me on an adventure like He did.  In the Fall I agreed to take a major step of faith, nerves and all, to be one of the speakers.  For weeks I told no one, in fact it took me days to even tell Trav I'd been asked. Every time it ran through my head, I thought I might throw up, even though I simultaneously had such a peace knowing that God was asking me to trust Him and say yes.  But it really took me aback when I began mentioning to friends and family that I was going to be a speaker, just how insecure I felt about the way people *might* react.  This was a seriously public risk for me, and I often felt like I was so far out on a limb, surely they made a mistake to ask me??  I love writing about this particular part of the journey because I realize now that the Lord did a major work in me, even through this.  I love to teach, I love to study God's Word and go through it with someone else, I really do.  Women's Bible Study is always a highlight in my schedule and with the exception of this year, I love signing up to be in it.  I know God has given me some gifts in that area of teaching, but I would NEVER assert myself or even ask for the opportunity.  I have just prayed for awhile that if this was ever something to pursue (speaking, teaching, etc) that He would pursue me and bring the opportunities whenever He saw fit.  So while I was excited and very honored serve like this at our women's retreat, I was also appropriately terrified!  
I'm so thankful that the Lord sent me just the right encouragers when I needed them and more importantly, that He allowed me to struggle so I could know and learn what it meant to really rest in Him and let go of the fears that gripped me.  And He did. There was a point when He helped lay down my need for approval or validation, I knew He called me to this and I was majorly trusting Him to come through.  I will admit, there were still times when I was rattled by the sight of SO many qualified teachers and women who do this all the time, wondering what on earth I was doing???  But I've learned to believe God and look to Him, not comparing myself to other people or disqualifying myself because I'm intimidated.  There will always be other people who could do it or who are more talented, more qualified, more seasoned, etc...But when the Lord asked for a step of faith in this, I am thankful that He gave me the courage to obey Him.  I would have missed out on an incredible ride of blessing.

So these last few months? They've been a constant push through the book of Colossians.  In my quiet time and most of my spare time I've been reading and studying and writing my way through the book.  My kids have gotten so used to me surrounded by books and my Bible and my laptop, while they played all around me and at my feet.  We decided at the beginning we were going to teach the book over the weekend of the retreat and at some point, chapter 3 landed in my lap.  I had the great honor of teaching after our Senior Pastor's wife (also my sweet friend), and after another dear friend, who is a BSF teaching leader and has been a mentor in my own life.  They would be teaching chapters 1 and 2 and then I'd be closing out the weekend with chapter 3 and the beginning of 4.  No pressure, right??  
It was such a joy to follow them and to learn from both of them as we all prepped and studied.  It is not easy to teach a whole book in a weekend's time OR to be the one who goes last!  I had such a fun weekend but never was my session far from my mind.  I got to speak on Sunday morning and I'm so thankful to say that it went well and that I even enjoyed it!  The Lord calmed my nerves before I ever got to the hotel and I just kept believing that He would show up and speak through me.  It was also such a privilege to have so many people praying for me and over me all weekend...People via text, email, voicemail, and so many friends there.  I could not go 5 minutes on Sunday without someone putting their arms around me and letting me know they were praying for me, or their room had prayed for me, or asking me if they could pray for me?  That alone was so humbling.  It's a huge responsibility to teach God's Word and the weight of handling it correctly was never far from my mind throughout this whole thing.  There is such a pouring out that happens when you teach...all that studying and prepping, it's impossible to not have your heart wrapped up in all of it!  Colossians has become SO dear to me, it's truths constantly impacting my heart and mind in a million situations.  Convicting me like crazy.  Like I shared earlier, we've known Colossians would be our text since this Summer, so I've read and re-read, and read it again for months!  These last two days, post-retreat, I've had such a hard time letting this book close.  My Bible practically falls open to Colossians now and it feels so familiar to me.  But, I'm excited to move on to another passage or book and let the Lord re-work me all over again!  
I had the extra blessing of my Mom coming with me and sharing a room together.  We had a great time, it was very special to have her there and also very calming for me.  So nice to retreat to our room at night and do what I needed to do without having to "connect" with someone or stay up super late talking.  I didn't ask her to come but months ago when she and my Dad knew I was speaking, she said she wanted to be there and my Dad really wanted her to come.  That was so special for me.  Fittingly, in the middle of our weekend the Hawkeyes played on Saturday and they won in huge game against Michigan.  The game was on during our afternoon break, so my Mom watched it and texted me the whole time while I sat in the lobby prepping for my session and leading a breakout.  It was such a funny thing and so calming too!!  I was not expecting us to win that game and I had no plans to get myself all wrapped up in it mentally, but when she started sending me texts with our giant lead, it was such a fun distraction :) Ha!  Only we could share excitement over a college basketball game in the middle of a women's retreat! I'm glad we got to spend a weekend together, I don't get this one on one time with my Mom hardly ever, so it was a treat.  We also enjoyed being able to see my cousins who were there all weekend too.  I was a blessed girl to have family with me!  
My Dad came up too and spent the weekend with Trav and the kids.  Looks like they had great supervision, right??  Ha ha!  I snapped this after my parents got to our house and my Dad was a little sleepy from their drive :) They had a great time over the weekend and we got some hilarious text updates.  The best one of the whole weekend however was about Miss Ava.  My sweet, tenderhearted first born...I learned a valuable lesson about her!  Before my Mom and I left, I jokingly said to her that she would have to be the Mommy of the house while Grammy and I were gone.  I teased her and asked her what she was going to make for dinner and breakfast until she told me, "But I don't know how to cook Mama? I'm just little still."  We laughed and I said that's ok, I knew she'd take good care of all the boys.  Well my girl apparently took that to heart and within minutes of us leaving, my Dad said she announced "Ok, I am the Mommy of this house now, and I want some dessert!"  Haha haha!!!!  She then proceeded to get out bowls and spoons for everyone while she dished up some cool whip, granola and raspberries for them to enjoy!!  Classic!!  We laughed and laughed about that, imagining what else she'd come up with over the weekend, but then my Dad sent us another text about an hour later that topped the first one.  He said she was in the kitchen, chair pulled up to the counter with an open cookbook in front of her, sobbing.  She was crying because she wanted to make "soup" and Trav broke it to her that she didn't need to make dinner and that actually the "soup" she chose was really a breakfast casserole!!  Isn't that funny???  Sweet girl!! I about died over that and of course immediately called home to let her off the hook of being "the Mom" and reassure her that we could make soup together after I got home.  But you know, I learned an important lesson about my Ava too.  Being a classic firstborn like me, she is obviously a girl that I've got to be careful not to put extra responsibilities or expectations on that are beyond her.  She is determined enough to try, but I can crush her little heart if I stretch her farther than she should be stretched.  She was doing her best to fill my shoes and my heart melted over that.  Plus the image of her in my kitchen with one of my open cookbooks in front of her???  That alone made me proud!  

The Lord was so good to me this weekend.  I will not forget this retreat for a long while and the personal journey that led me here.  I loved being away from reality for a weekend, with so many women I enjoy...I learned so much and the Lord spoke some great truths through Cheri and Bev's teaching on chapters 1-2.  I love the book of Colossians and I highly recommend it!  I will admit, I have been catching up on my sleep again and enjoying the freedom to not study with my extra time :) My kids are  also happy to have their coloring/lego/play-dough partner back!  Oh, and also, I am ready to begin really shifting my focus to this baby.  That's the next big event in my world and I'm thankful to have these next few months open prepare and enjoy it. I love retreats!  If you have the chance to go on one with your Church or the chance to plan one, I hope you are able to do it!  And if you're looking for a new book of the Bible to read?  Pick Colossians!  I spent months and months in it and I just feel like I scratched the surface.  It's a beautiful letter from Paul, full of rich truth about Jesus and so much practical wisdom about living a life in Christ!  Lots of gold to mine from that book!  

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the next adventure waiting for me when I got home from the retreat...Oh boy, never a dull moment around here! 


Winter Wonderland

Now that, is a snow drift!  On Saturday we finally had a warm (read: above 0 degrees) day and after Trav got home from ice-fishing with some friends, he asked Ava and Carter if they wanted to go sledding in our backyard.  
 He's such a great Daddy, always up for taking them out as long as it's not dangerously cold.  This time it was even warm enough for me to grab my camera and follow them down so I could get a few shots.
 We are really blessed with a big yard and a pretty nice hill that spills right onto a little pond.  This year has been SO cold that the pond is frozen over with some thick ice and we have plenty of snow to sled in.
 Our neighbors have a little guy close to Carter's age and they let us know that they had made a little sledding path if we wanted to join them.  The kids had a blast together a few weeks ago but the latest cold snap kept us from going out again until this weekend. 
 Another addition for my list of things to be thankful for in this condo?  A great backyard; neighbors with little kids; a perfectly sized pond to play on; and lots of property to explore! 
 I told Carter I wanted to take a picture of him and he said, "I can't Mom.  I'm golfin right now!" 
 Minnesota hockey might just get in his blood after all...
 Ava and Trav were sporting their hats from Peru that Trav brought back 3 years ago.  
 He's headed there again this summer, this time we'll have to make sure he picks one up for Carter too!
 I love these next few pics...
 ...down they go!!
 Look at that face!!  Do you think she loved it??
 My little snow angels!
 Ava was all about me watching her sled, again and again, each time squealing and giggling!
 Carter was all about doing his own thing!  He didn't really want to stop "golfin" or let anyone else help him sled down the hill.  He lugged his sled all by himself, up and down that hill for an hour! 
 We love snow!
 I thought maybe the baby should make a winter appearance too!  18 weeks and counting here...I am very thankful that at this point, I can still zip up my winter coat.  I know those days are fleeting, but so far, so good! 
 We had some shoveling to do before any hockey could happen...
 ...but as the sun began to drop, I decided I was a little too cold to stick it out and I headed back inside. 
 The snow was SO deep!  Before I discovered the little path leading to the hill, I took one step in the snow and it was up to my shins.  Trav said the kids were almost waist deep in it!
 When it's not arctic outside, winter really is so beautiful.  
 But the warmth of inside was calling my name !
 As I was waiting for the 3 amigos to make their way back, one of our sweet neighbors came to knock on our door and told me I had to come over and watch the kids!  She has a perfect view of the backyard and the pond and she was getting such a kick out of watching them play.  I was so grateful she asked and I grabbed my camera to get some shots from her balcony.  We can't see the back at all, so I had no idea what they were up to, I was so happy to see that our neighbors had come out to join them too! 
She and I watched them for a long time, laughing at the kids and marveling at how sweet it was to see two Daddies playing with their kids...something not very common in her generation of parenting.  Our kids had so much fun with their little playmate, Jonah and I think they would have stayed out there in the dark if we'd let them!  

Such a fun way to end our Saturday and so great to have wonderful neighbors!  We are so hoping to make a move in the future but this reminded me again not to miss the gifts of grace that God has for us right here, right now in hopes of something better.  We have much to be thankful for and on this day, all that snow really was such a gift!  One of the rules for surviving winter in Minnesota is to embrace winter and if you can't beat it, then find a way to enjoy it!  Ask me how I feel about that in March, I'm sure I'll have a different story, but for now it was the perfect way to wrap up the month of January!