Friday, November 17, 2017

Cheers to the Weekend: Giving Thanks Edition

Another Friday has rolled around - yippee!  No beating around the bush today - here are some things we're saying CHEERS to this week/end:

God's timing. Somethings just aren't coincidence. About a month ago, the sweetest, kindest girl from our church, who is currently spending a semester in South America, sent me a message letting me know that she had sent a gift back to the States for me and that her sister would give it to me at church. Several weeks went by where I didn't cross paths with her sister, but this past Sunday, I did. And she handed me an envelope. I immediately opened it and began to read her beautiful words as I walked back toward the sanctuary. By the time I got to the entrance, where my hub was waiting, my tears were falling. Her letter is something I will treasure forever. And the necklace she included, which has incredibly important meaning behind it, I now wear every day, proudly, until it is my time to pass it on. So where's the coincidence? For weeks, I looked for her sister, and she for me, and we didn't see each other. And then, we finally find each other and she gives me this gift - which has everything to do with our Bella and adoption - and it just so happens to be...Orphan Sunday. Of all the Sundays for this exchange to happen, with those words that I so needed to read, it was Orphan Sunday. Thank you for that little wink, God. And thank you, Brielle, for being exactly who you are. <3

Family visits. We have been so touched by so many of our family members who have traveled to meet our sweet Bella. It has been so special to introduce them to our littlest girl. Last week, my sister and brother "in law," and my niece and nephew made the trip up to get to know their newest niece, and we just had the best time. Football was playing all day long (so many great games that day!), there was a nice Fall chill in the air, and we snacked on tailgate food all day while getting in some good time together. It was perfect. <3

LifeGroups. We have been with our LifeGroup for over four years now, and it has truly been amazing to see our families grow and change over time. It is so special to do life alongside these people who we love so much and are some of our closest friends - we know each others stories, struggles, and triumphs. We encourage and pray for one another, and I honestly don't know what I'd do without them. Last Sunday, we gathered together, with all 11 of our kiddos in tow, and filled 14 boxes for Operation Christmas Child. It was so fun to watch our littles fill the boxes and include the sweetest handwritten notes. We enjoyed pizza, a fire, and even some nighttime swimming for some. It was a great night for an awesome cause and a visible reminder of how blessed we are to have one another. 

Healthy kiddos. Our week included a couple doctor appointments, with one more quick one happening later this morning when I take Rals to get her flu shot. One of the appointments from earlier in the week was for Banks' 8-year well-check. He continues to be long and lean, clocking in at 4'6" and 65 pounds. Before we left the pediatrician's office, he, Harrison, and Bella got their flu shots, and I was so proud of each of them for being so brave. 

The following day, I took Bella for an(other) audiology appointment. The details are too much for me to type out at this point in the week #mommaistired, but long story short, per our (awesome! Love you, Dr. Block aka Kim) audiologist's recommendation, we are seeking a second opinion from another ENT about whether or not there is fluid in Bella's ears. So, we'll be headed to that appointment in about a week and a half. Once we finally solve the mystery of her hearing, I'll share about next steps so we can (again) ask for your prayers. <3

Sports end and begin. Whelp, we closed out Banks' fifth season of flag football last Saturday morning. Although his team lost in the semis, he ended on a great personal game, scoring a touchdown, getting an interception, and catching a ball in the end zone for an extra point. It was freeeeezing that morning, so my hub and I, and our Uncle Tim and Aunt Betsy, bundled up to cheer for our baller while the three other kiddos stayed home with a sitter. {Side note: Bella did great! I honestly think having her big sister around just makes her feel so much more comfortable. In fact, I was able to take her back to the childcare area at Barre3 earlier this week, and she did great this time (again, with Raleigh being), despite struggling the week before (when Raleigh wasn't there)}. ANYWHO. We closed out flag football just in time for basketball to begin. Wheeeeeeew. No rest for the weary, I suppose. 

Etc. Let's see...what else has been happening? We've had the carpets cleaned, I got a little haircut, we've gotten in lots of outside play this week, we hit up Costco, and I have been knocking out some serious Christmas shopping!

And that's about it for now! Harrison has a Thanksgiving party today but sadly, it's a kids-only shindig. Banks and Rals will be enjoying their school feasts next week (again, no-parents-allowed parties) before we take off to spend Thanksgiving with both "sides" of our family. And y'all, I cannot WAIT to see Bella take in all the amazingness that is Thanksgiving. <3

Before that, though, we'll be co-hosting one of my favorite events of the year this weekend: Friendsgiving! Last year was the first annual, and we co-hosted it with two of our nearest and dearest buddies. And this year, we'll be doing exactly the same! We have 111 guests who have RSVP'd "Yes"; so, it's sure to be a very full, fun, and festive afternoon! I'll share more on that next week before Thanksgiving arrives. 

For now, have a great weekend to all! See y'all back here early next week! :) And GO TIGERS!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids of All Ages

Hi friends! Every year, I have people contact me about children's Christmas gift ideas. Yesterday, it dawned on me that it'd probably just be easier to compile them all into one blog post, rather than sending out email after email or text after text. :) Plus, if anyone comments with additional ideas (on Facebook or below), I can edit this post and add them to the list. 

A few things: (1) I am not going to include links to the items unless they are NOT found on Amazon, as that would make this post 637 times longer than it already is. Just search for the item on Amazon, Prime it, and call it a day. :) (2) My oldest child is 8 years old; so, that's as far as this list extends, as I haven't yet had to brainstorm/compile lists for older kiddos just yet. BUT I'll certainly add any ideas y'all may have for any of the ages below, or older! #teamworkmakesthedreamwork (3) MANY of the items listed under an age bracket work well for other ages, too! So, make sure to look at the other age listings for ideas, regardless if it's the same age as your kiddo.

Alright. Y'all ready? Let's do this thing: 

0 - 1 YEAR
Hohner 4-Piece Baby Band

Oball football

Fisher Price Go Baby Go! Bat and Wobble Penguin


Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube

Munchkin Bobble Bee Suction Toy

First 100 Words board book


Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Workbench

Baby Einstein Octoplush


Manhattan Toy Baby Whoozit

B. Whacky Ball 

Bright Starts Lots of Links Accessory Toy

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Bug Jug Fill and Spill Soft Baby Set

Lamaze Peek-A-Boo Forest soft book

Indestructibles books

Munchkin Numbers and Letters Bath Toys

Fisher Price Little People Lil' Movers Baby School Bus
Little Tykes 2-in-1 Garden Cart and Wheelbarrow

Little Tykes Clearly Sports Hockey
Fisher Price Classic Record Player

Radio Flyer 2-in-1 Wagon

Kidzlane Durable Piano Mat
VTech Touch and Swipe Baby Phone

Diggin Jump Smart Trampoline

V Tech Spin and Learn Color Flashlight

Little Tykes Jump and Slide Bouncer 

Kuuqa Kids Ball Pit

Cool Toys Stacking Rainbow Duck

Stack It Peg Game With Board 

Fisher Price Nesting Balls

Learning Resources Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Set

ToysOpoly Inflatable Bouncer Seat

Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Stroll 'N Trike

Micro Mini Original Kick Scooter 
Hog Wild Toys Airstrike Catapult

Rolimate Magnetic Fishing Puzzle 

Melissa & Doug Latches Wooden Activity Board

Little Tykes Easy Score Soccer Set

Stomp rocket
Coloring books and fat crayons

Dress up clothes (e.g., doctor, police officer, knight, etc.)
My First Crayola Mess-Free Touch Lights:
Little Tikes Sizzle and Serve Grill
Alex Toys Little Hands My Giant Busy Box

Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Dilly Dally Turtle Flying Disc

Crayola Wonder art supplies (any of them! They are all fantastic!)

Crayola Color Wonder Art Supplies:

Baby dolls

Doll accessories (e.g., crib, highchair, etc.)
Fisher Price Classic Doodler
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Mr. Potato Head

Play kitchen (we love the KidKraft one) and kitchen accessories

Skoolzy Jumbo Lacing and Stringing Beads

Disney sets: Give the doll, dress-up clothes and wig, and movie

KidKraft Chelsea Doll Cottage with Furniture

Melissa & Doug 7-Piece Wooden Moveable Dolls

Barbie Styling Head With Hair Accessories

Townley Girl Disney Frozen Beauty Kit

Alex Toys Little Hands First Scribble

ERGO Baby Doll carrier

Alex Toys Little Hands ABC Zoo

Melissa & Doug Dress-Up Reusable Sticker Pad

Shrinky Dinks Jewelry (or any other Shrinky Dinks sets)

EpochAir Hover ball

Cartoon R/C Race Car Radio Control Toy
Adventure Kidz Outdoor Exploration Kit

Black & Decker Junior 14-Piece Toy Tool Belt Set

Black & Decker Junior Power Workbench (or any other workbench)

Aqua Doodle Mat

T-Rex Dinosaur Dig Kit

Jogo Jogo Vet Kit Pet Care Play Set

Do A Dot Art

Leap Frog Scribble and Write
Hot Wheels cars

Kids Carpet Playmat Rug: City Life

Super Hero costumes

Melissa & Doug Creative Play Books with Scissor Skills, Water Wow, and Tape Activity

D-Mcark Take Apart Assembly Plastic Dinosaur Toys

VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX

Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Tootle Turtle Target Toss Game

Plasma Car by PlaSmart

ZOOB RacerZ Car Design

Kaskey Kids Football Guys (or Hockey Guys, Soccer Guys, etc.) 

Franklin Youth Football Goal Post Set
Spy Gear Secret Mission
Crayola Color Wonder Double-Sided Puzzle

Melissa & Doug Stamp and Sort Wooden Mailbox

GeoSafari Jr. Original Talking Microscope


Magnatiles (or other similar brands, like Picasso Tiles)

Super Hero costumes
Leap Frog LeapReader Reading and Writing System

Mermaid Tail blanket 

Shark Tail blanket

Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad

Melissa & Doug Fashion Design Art Activity Kit


Disney sets: Give the doll, dress-up clothes and wig, and movie
Portable ballet bar, beam, mat (check Ikea!)

Shrinky Dinks 

Bike with training wheels  

Kids Karoaoke Machine by Little Pretender

Plasma Car by PlaSmart

Razor RipRider 360 Caster Trike

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Action Figure Set

Any and everything Star Wars (figurines, dress-up, light sabers, etc.)

Any and everything Pokemon

Foam Prince Swords 

Magnatiles (or other similar brands, like Picasso Tiles)

Desk for the bedroom 

Everything Bugs by Cherie Winner

Crayola Dry Erase Activity Center

Diggin Wobble Deck Extreme Balancing Game
Toysmith Monster feet 

Educational Insights Design and Drill Activity Center
Snoopy Sno Cone Machine

Sports jerseys

Just My Style Charming Bangles by Horizon Group (or any jewelry kit)
North American Bear Company Nutcracker Suite Dolls

Little Live Pets

Calico Critters (animals and sets)

Dress up clothes 

Melissa & Doug Mess-Free Glitter Activity Kit

Two-wheeler bike

Magic set (there are several good ones on Amazon)

Osmo Genuis Kit (or any of their games!) 

Spy Gear Video Walkie Talkies

Radio Flyer Ziggle

Calico Critters (animals and sets)

Hasbro Easy Bake Oven

Zhu Zhu Pets

Creativity for Kids Enchanted Fairy Garden Craft Kit

American Girl Doll (or generic brand doll) and clothes/accessories

SmartLab Toys All-Natural Spa Day 

Cool Baker Magic Mixer Maker

VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch DX

Crayola Light Up Tracing Pad
Peaceable Kingdom All About Me diary

Melissa & Doug Mess-Free Glitter Activity Kit

Hatchimals CollEGGtibles 4-Pack

Schylling Volcano kit:

Any and everything Star Wars 

Any and everything Pokemon 

Any and everything Minecraft

Melissa & Doug Family Dinner Box of Questions
Razor A3 Scooter
Crazy Forts

Osmo Genius Kit (or any of their games!)

Gizmo Gadget (Available from Verizon wireless, even if not a Verizon customer)
Any and everything Pokemon

Razor E100 Electric Scooter

Little Live Pets

Word search books

Uno or other card games

Gamewright Little Hands Playing Card Holder Set


Diggin Active Dodge Tag

Sports jerseys

Electronic Battleship game

Moose Toys Chocolate Bar Maker (or any other fun baking kits)

Nerf Laser Tag Phoenix LTX Tagger 2-Pack 

Spider Laser Tag 

Any and everything Pokemon 

Pokemon Trainer Guess

Word search books
Luwint Children LED Finger Light Gloves

Holy Stone HS160 Shadow FPV RC Drone

Faux Bow 3
Packgout 3D Pen

Sports jerseys

Turbot Book Light

Toysmith Mineral Science Kit

Shark bite game

Pac-Man Mini Arcade Game
Crystal Growing Kit

Melissa & Doug On The Go Secret Decoder Deluxe

Shark Tooth Dig Kit

Pusheen toys

Make-up kits 

Jojo Siwa stuff 

Jewelry (especially with their name/monogram)

Reversible Sequin Mermaid Pillows

Gift cards for jewelry (e.g., Claire's) or clothes

Bath & Body Works sets 

Bluetooth Wireless Karaoke Microphone 

Bath bombs

Eye sleeper mask

Monogrammed water bottle

Mermaid make-up brushes

DIY Lip Balm Kit

Nepal bracelets

GREAT FOR ALL (well, most) AGES

Melissa & Doug Smarty Pants Card sets

Brain Quest workbooks

Lego sets

"Office supplies" (paper; pens; notebooks; binders; stickers; staplers; glue sticks; etc.)

Monogrammed items (e.g., Pottery Barn Kids Anywhere chairs, Pottery Barn Kids sleeping bags, travel bags from Lands End)

Bibles appropriate for age (My Jesus Storybook Bible; The Action Bible; etc.)

Devotionals for appropriate ages

Games for appropriate ages

Fun (but safe!) bike helmets

Books, books, and more books

Arts and crafts kits (e.g., we LOVE the cardboard structures you build, color, and play in)

Experiences! Season tickets to fun places (like Carowinds, Six Flags, etc.), summer camps, movie passes, etc.

Whew! That's all I've got in me, y'all! And THAT was a real labor of love for each of you, my dear family and friends. I hope it helps as you start, continue, or finish up your holiday shopping. Now...what'd I miss? I'd love to add any suggestions you may have to the list. :) Happy shopping to all and to all a good buy!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

They Are Listening

For as long as I can remember, every time I have heard an ambulance with it's sirens blaring, I have said a prayer: I pray for the person in need of help; I pray for the family of that person, who will soon be getting a call that will rock their world; I pray for the medical professionals working so hard to help that person.

I say this prayer aloud and then go about my day, often thinking nothing more of it. 

A few times this has happened, my kiddos have been in the car with me. Not breaking the habit, I continued in my purposeful prayer for those who would be affected by that siren's wail, again thinking nothing more of it just moments later.

Maybe it should come as no surprise, what happened a couple weeks ago. But. It did. 

I was driving home with Banks from his orthodontist appointment. As we approached the road that would lead to our neighborhood, we came upon the scene of an accident. The firetrucks were already there as was the ambulance, lights flashing. We saw the overturned truck and the police officer assisting the driver. It was then, in that exact moment that the scene came into sight, that I heard from the back seat,

"Momma? Can we pray for them, please?"

My sweet, sweet boy. 

And it struck me: They are listening. These babies of mine, they are always listening. Even when they don't immediately acknowledge the things I say in passing, the advice I offer in times of need, the tidbits of insight I throw their way, they are listening. 

Sometimes, this manifests as it did that day, as we were driving along and happened upon that accident: it shows up as sweet little boys who innocently ask to pray for those in need, because he has heard his momma do it before. 

Sometimes, it reveals itself in more unfortunate ways, when sweet little voices are raised and phrases are mimicked, those that have been said in the heat of stressful, exhausted, anxiety-filled moments.

It is all too clear: These little ears, they are listening. They are always listening.

That car ride was an incredibly impactful reminder for me: the words and the tone and the wisdom and the guidance I impart are being absorbed. And I want the messages to be nurturing, purposeful, and life-giving.

Because there will be a phase when my advice is met with disregard. There will be days when hands wanting to be held will be replaced with eye rolls, when requests for snuggles will be replaced with closed doors, when family time will be overlooked by friend time. When little ears no longer want to listen to big advice.

But those days have not yet arrived for my family.

So, for today, I will do my best to remember that they are always listening. And I will recognize it for the privilege that it is.

But also, I will remember that I need to do more of the same: Listening. Listening to little voices that can have a big impact on a momma's heart.

 ...Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James 1:19.