My Favorite Things

When I told Ed I was doing a “Favorite Things” post, he just shook his head…I guess he wanted me to write about the kindergarten drama we have been having or the massive blowout Blake had yesterday.  If you don’t want to read about those exciting things and would instead like to read about my favorite things, read on.  If you are like him and just shaking your head, feel free to tune out and come back next week 🙂

As a momma of littles, I am all about things that save time, save money, and save my sanity.  My favorite things this month seem to follow that theme.

1 – Target Toy Clearance – I am all about saving money, so I love to shop store sales, consignment sales, and garage sales.  Let me introduce you to the Target Toy Clearance….happening twice a year, it features 50% to 70% markdowns on all types of fun toys.  I love to buy ahead for birthdays, Christmas, and to fill my gift closet.  Because I had a 20% carthwheel coupon, I was able to go when toys were only 50% and get a bunch of great things before other people bought everything. Check out my loot:

Though it may be hard to tell, thats a lot of stuff for a low price.  Birthdays and Christmas almost done for the year…check!

2 – Voice Text – I am all about saving time, so when I discovered the voice to text feature on my phone, I was in love.  Okay, okay, so some of you knew it was there years ago.  Me, however, I lived by old fashioned texting and didn’t know it existed.  It is so great to be able to send a text while sitting at a red light or to jot down to-do’s on my phone as they come to me without having to actually type them out.

The last 3 things are all about saving my sanity.  Chocolate, bug spray, and the Word….what else do you need for sanity?

3 – Ant Spray – Once a year, usually in the summer and after it rains, we get an ant problem.  Apparently, everyone in our neighborhood struggles with them.  We tried hiring an exterminator, but that didn’t make much difference.  So, we have resorted to using ant spray and just making it through those few months.

That being said, can I say that I love, love, love ant spray and that is not only kills them but keeps them from coming back.  That’s not to say they don’t come back in a different spot, but no worries, I have my handy dandy ant spray ready to kill 🙂  We have tried spraying the house, spraying the yard, and much more…so if anyone has any ideas for how to get rid of them long-term, I am all ears.

4 – Sweet Gifts from my husband – When Ed returned from Colorado, I knew he was bringing a gift for the girls to surprise them.  But, I didn’t know he would surprise me too.  I LOVE chocolate, but I am not a big fan of boxed chocolate.  Unless, it is See’s Candies.  I first tried this brand when we were on summer project in California and I fell in love.  So, whenever we see it, we usually try to buy it.  My sweet husband saw it in the airport and thought he would buy it for me…and let me tell you, I enjoyed it almost as much as him coming home. 🙂

5 – “She Reads Truth” Bible study – I kept hearing about this study, so I finally looked it up and decided to dive in.  They have an app you can put on your phone, a study you can order and actually write in, or you can just look at the daily devotional online.  I am currently studying “Women of the Old Testament” and am loving it.  It allows you to study it on your own, but then also gives you a rich nugget of truth.  And, from all I have seen, it seems to be contextually accurate and theologically correct, which is not something you always find these days.

It has been something that I have been able to study in the morning and then continuing meditating and that comes to mind all day.  If you are looking for something to supplement or enrich your time in the Word, check it out.

They are launching a men’s version soon, and I am so excited that a friend of ours, who was previously on staff with Cru, will be directing it.


Another Big Milestone

Well, we hit another big milestone in our family.  Kinsley started KINDERGARTEN!

Why July? Most of the schools around here do year round schooling, which means she will start now, go 9 weeks and then get a 2.5-3 week break, then go another 9 weeks, and so on, and so forth. Totally foreign to me, but we are learning as we go.  Her teacher is on her track, meaning her teacher will break when she breaks, etc., but we didn’t know that the teachers switch classrooms after every break.  I can’t imagine moving everything every 9 weeks, but I guess they get used to it.

She has been so looking forward to starting big girl school and loved getting to meet her teacher during the orientation.  So, when the first day hit, she was beyond ready.  She walked right in her class, found her cubby, hung up her bookbag, and never looked back. Her favorite parts so far are doing centers (where they have different centers to do different things and switch off doing them), having lunch in the cafeteria with the big kids, and riding the school bus.

We had been warned by quite a few people that she will be exhausted and not quite herself the first few months.  But, man, talk about DRAMA!?!?!  She is naturally dramatic, but we are talking over the top.  Tons of discipline things that we thought we mastered years ago have reared their ugly heads.  Add on to that Ed being gone and my parents coming and going, and we have been s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g.  But, I am hopeful that my child will once again return and things will become more normal once Ed returns.

How has momma handled the transition?  I struggled a lot with letting her ride the school bus, mostly because I never did as a child.  But, with it beating us home, only picking her up 5 minutes before we leave, and allowing me not to have to wait in car pool line for 45 minutes with a toddler and a baby, we decided it was the best route. Their are quite a few kids in our neighborhood that she knows that ride it, which definitely helps, and it has been one of her favorite parts.  Did you know that some schools will tweet out when the bus leaves so you will know better what time it will arrive?  Crazy how technology has evolved!  I also have struggled with feeling like we aren’t getting much time with her anymore, mostly because she goes to school from 8:45 until 4:30, and then its dinner time, bed time, etc. and we are only get a little bit of time in the evenings and weekends (and trackouts of course).  That too has eased a little and days like today, when she is home sick on only her second week, leave me knowing we still have time with her.  Only having two kiddos all day is a nice relief, too 🙂

How has Emerson handled the transition?  She cried the first day or two when she left, but she loves going to meet the school bus and she, of course, loves the extra attention.  We have gotten to do a few fun things with her since Kinsley has been in school, like going shopping and taking her to our town’s new Splash Pad that just opened.  And, she has loved extra snuggling with Bruno boy.

Blake has also enjoyed the extra fun activites.  Check him out at the new Splash Pad.  Yes, he does own a bathing suit, but because their were so many kids at the opening day, they let in 120 kids every 10-15 minutes to play and then rotated in some more.  It takes 10 minutes to squeeze his chunky butt into the bathing suit, so we went the naked route 😉

Ed is at our national bi-annual staff conference in Colorado and has been gone 10 days, but we felt it was really important that I stay here with Kinsley for this big event.  I have tried to watch sessions online and I have really missed being there, but I haven’t regretted the decision to stay home during this important time in her life.  Besides, grandparents shouldn’t have to deal with all that discipline mess, at least not to the extent that I have had to this week.

How have I survived him being gone for 10 days in the midst of all this transition?  Besides the Lord empowering me and giving me patience and strength, three other people have been my heroes.

1 – My parents – they came for a few days at the beginning, left to run their restaurant for the weekend, and then my mom came back.  I survived for 3.5 days without them, but let me tell you, it’s always better they are here (momma makes all things better).  And, not to mention, both Emerson and Kinsley have gotten sick and nights have been ROUGH, so it has been nice to have a extra hand to help this sleep-deprived momma.

2 – My neighbor, Denise – Listen, ya’ll, when you buy a house, make sure you have amazing neighbors.  They invited us over for dinner, watched the kids for me to run to a shop, texted repeatedly, and just hung out with us, providing fun for the girls and human interaction for me.  She is going to kill me for putting this picture up here, but she even let the girls fix her hair 🙂


DIY Update!

From the looks of it, we have been busy cooking and crafting.  Thats not entirely true, given that this is compiled and done over quite a few months.  But, it was fun none the less.  Enjoy!

Wall Canvas – I did this canvas to replace my old one on our kitchen wall.  Our old one was like the first one I had ever done, and after doing quite a few other projects, I wanted to attempt one with different fonts that was a little bigger.  I am very, very pleased with how it turned out.

Water Bottle Decal – I have wanted to do this for a while, but had a hard time finding the right monogram font.  I bought this font off Etsy, and overall, I am very happy with the result.  Totally addicted to this monogramming thing!

Monogrammed Shirts – Didn’t I say I was like the monogram thing?  These shirts were another thing that took me a while to create, mostly because I failed doing the heat transfer vinyl my first time.  Everyone has to fail sometime right?  A very sweet friend walked me through it, showing me I had to alter the blade on my Silhouette…and its not as hard as I thought!  Will be doing way more of this stuff.

Teacher Gift for Kinsley’s preschool teacher – I saw this idea on Pinterest (of course!), and loved that it was easy and something Kinsley could help me put together for her teachers.  She loved doing it and I think they loved receiving it (who doesn’t love cookies, right?).

Next, come the recipes.  We did the 21 Day Fix back in May, so we tried quite a few new recipes with that.  As you can see, we weren’t on the 21 Day Fix the whole time, as the M&M Brownies aren’t healthy at all!

Chicken Fajita Quesadillas – This recipe is delicious!!  We have cooked this several times even after the Fix ended, and everyone in our family (well, everyone except Kinsley who is SUPER picky) loves them!

Zucchini Noodles and Grilled Shrimp – My neighbor had a shredder tool that she used to shred zucchinis into noodles, and it was SO easy!  I wasn’t sure how everyone would like these, and the girls weren’t wild, but Ed and I enjoyed them and will do them again.  Such a great way to get in your veggies and kick the carbs.

Banana Pancakes – This was another clean eating/21 day fix recipe.  While it was okay, don’t know that this will replace our normal pancake recipe.  It was nice that it was healthier, but I think this is one recipe where I will opt for the carbs and the fat.

Japanese Steakhouse Mayo Sauce – okay, yall, something to know about me – I love Hibachi food.  Like love, love.  And even more, I love the Mayo Sauce/Yum,Yum Sauce/Shrimp Sauce they serve.  When we were in Kentucky, no one served it (such a travesty!).  So, I set out on a mission to make it on my own.  I couldn’t find any recipe that was close until….this one.  Yes, my friends, this is really, really, really close.  So, do yourself a favor, and try it now.

Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken – This recipe wasn’t all that I expected and more.  Lets just be honest.  I think it may have been because I used leg quarters instead of thighs, but regardless, I was disappointed with the flavor.

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken – This recipe was good and something I will keep.  Not the best I have ever had, but good enough to keep.  Pair this was some vegetables and the Japanese mayo sauce, and you have heaven on a plate. And, gotta love the slow cooker recipes…best thing ever for busy moms.

Last, but definitely not least:  Loaded M&M Oreo Cookie Bars – These were delicious!  But lets be real…how can you ever go wrong with M&M and Oreo?  They were definitely a hit with the rest of my family too!

Have you tried any good recipes lately that you would pass on?  Would love to keep expanding my collection with easy, few ingredient recipes!


Pirates, Fireworks, and lots in between

Even in the midst of sabbatical, we have managed to have lots of fun this summer.  What have we been up to?

-Swimming Lessons – we signed the girls up for swimming lessons at Raleigh Swim Association with a lady named Mrs. Ann.  After a disappointing swim lesson experience at a YMCA a few years ago, I knew that if we were going to pay, we wanted someone good.  I heard rave reviews about Mrs. Ann and decided it was worth the gamble.  She is no nonsense and doesn’t baby the kids, but yet teaches them really well.  We had heard that kids would be swimming after just 4 days with her, and while it was true with Kinsley, Emerson isn’t swimming completely but she is pretty close.  The first day, she had Emerson’s class diving for rings.  We will definitely use her again!

-Upgrading our Bikes – Emerson graduated from riding a tricycle to riding a big girl bike with training wheels.  We taught Kinsley how to ride a bike without training wheels and man, was it a job.  It didn’t help that we picked one of the hottest weeks of the year to do it.  Let me tell you, there was more drama involved than at a Broadway play.  I didn’t think it would ever happen, but she kept trying and finally caught on.  So proud of her!

-Vacation Bible School – Kinsley attended a week of Vacation Bible School with the church that she went to for preschool.  The theme was Mount Everest and she had a blast making crafts, singing songs, and learning about Jesus.  We are still listening to the CD they sent home with them – EVERY DAY, as a matter of fact.

-Pool Time – and lots of it!  The girls have loved going to the pool at our gym, the pool at our church friend’s farm, and of course, Gammy and Pop Pop’s pool.  We are almost pooled out…almost.

-Beach time – We traveled to my parent’s house one last time before starting school.  The girls had a blast playing in the creek and the ocean, and we built a sandcastle.  Okay, seriously, this is a huge feat.  We try every time and one of the kids ends up smashing the sandcastles before we can even get three up.  So, this momentous occasion deserved a picture.  And what’s a castle without Ariel in the middle?

-Pirate’s Voyage – While at my parents, we went to the Pirates Voyage dinner show.  The girls LOVED it (like couldn’t take their eyes off the show long enough to eat), but the best part for them was dressing up like pirates and mermaids.  They are still talking about it to this day.  Thanks Gammy and Pop Pop for such a fun time!

-4th of July fun – the kids had a blast celebrating the holiday at my parents!  We had a fun pool party with our family (including Blake getting to meet an aunt and cousins for the first time!) and topped the night off lighting sparklers (sprinklers, as Emerson called them) and watching the fireworks.  We put Blake to bed, but he didn’t want to miss the fireworks either, so we let him wake up and watch them.  He was too cute “talking” to them…he was amazed and not scared one bit.

-Watching Little Man grow up – Blake will be 6 months old this week and he is growing so fast!  He is sitting up (pretty well, anyways), blowing bubbles, eating solid foods, “talking” like crazy, laughing lots and lots, and is such a sweet chunk of love!  I can’t wait to see how big he is at his 6 month appointment.

-Visiting Ministry Partners – we have had the opportunity this summer to visit with quite a few ministry partners, both individual and churches.  We snapped these pictures this past weekend as we were visiting a partnering church.

Love these sweet little ones the Lord has blessed us with.  Its not always easy, but it is rewarding.

Thank you!

My husband is not a writer.  Like, doesn’t like it, avoids it, is not great at it (he will absolutely admit this fact to you).  He has written on this blog only once in the many years we have had it.  So, when he said he wanted to write a post for the blog, it was a BIG deal.  So, without further ado (and because it is pretty long), here goes:

“This last month was a month of rest.  April and I were able to take a sabbatical with Cru.  It is crazy to think that we have been on this journey with the Lord for 8 years. After the last couple years and especially this last semester, it was a much needed time of rest.  As April shared, It was an adjustment to move into this time of rest and to figure out what it means to rest.  During this time, I had the opportunity to fumble my way through and figure out what rest looks like for me – stopping to listen, pray, to just take in the sights and sounds around me, to enjoy the world that the Lord has made and not take it for granted.

I read a book called “The Rest of God”.  One of the key takeaways for me is that I needed to find out what is restful for me and to just have fun.  Not working does not mean you are “wasting time.”  I really enjoy being outside and being active. It was good to get back outside, going camping, biking, running, playing disc golf.  Even as I write this, I realize it is okay to do these things with my family and share with them the things that I love to do.  Don’t worry, April, l I will not take the family camping when it is 100 degrees outside.  I love going on long bike rides and to see Emerson start to learn to ride her “big girl” bike and Kinsley start riding without training wheels, I am hopeful that we will have some family bike rides in the future.

As I spent time reflecting and praying, I was reminded of all the different people God has put in my path to really point me to Christ.  As I am still in touch with a majority of these people, and quite a few of them read this blog, I just wanted to say thank you to those people.  This list by no means is exhaustive but just a short list of those who had a significant part in where I am today.

First one is Josh Mallory.  I have no idea where he is today, but he was my neighbor for 6.5 years when I was in elementary school.  Every summer, he invited us to his church vacation bible school.  The summer after my 4th grade year, I was sitting in the sanctuary of his church when one of the pastors got up front and shared about this guy named Jesus.  God sent Jesus to live a perfect life here on earth and to die for all the crap I have done so that this little crazy imperfect kid can know the perfect and true God who created everything.  They showed a music video that reenacted the crucifixion of Christ and seeing and really hearing what God did for me led me to pray to receive Christ into my life that very day.  As I dropped Kinsley at VBS the other day, I couldn’t help but think of the impact vacation bible school’s can still have today.

While I lived in Alabama, I got to know a great family – the Thompsons.  Mr. Thompson was a pastor and Oliver, his son, and I spent many days and nights hanging out.  It was neat to see how their family really lived out the Gospel. Even if I didn’t really know at the time, as I reflect on my times hanging out at their house, God used them to plant seeds.

The next is the one and only Scott Crews. Where do I begin? Scott is someone who I have tons of respect for…he kept me on track and let me know when I was being stupid, he lets me know what he is thinking, and he really genuinely cares for me.  Scott introduced me to great people, great music, and Christ.  As long as I have known Scott, he seemed to never be afraid to admit that he was a follower of Christ and to share that with others.  The Lord really used him to point me to Christ and I honestly don’t know where I would be without his friendship.

Scott introduced me to the next 3 guys that had huge impact on my life.  Matt Sidell, Tagg Wolverton, and Shane Wolverton.  Scott and Matt were always together – you don’t get Scott without Matt and if you know them, you wouldn’t want it any other way.  Matt is someone who is faithful, a great friend, always there for you and someone who knows how to have a great time.  He is someone you can’t help but respect and laugh with and at.  After spending a number of years in a bible study, youth group and on retreats with Scott and Matt, these guys are never replaceable and eternally impactful.

Tagg lead the youth group Scott was in. The first time I met Tagg, he was at their church, Brookwood, about to load up in a rent–a-wreck van on the way to go to the Audio Adrenaline concert with the OC Supertones.  Noticing that something was different about this group of people, I asked my parents if I could be involved with the youth group at Brookwood instead of our church youth group.  One of the things that was hugely impactful was just hanging out with and  learning from Tagg at his house and in his office.  Tagg married April and I and I am so grateful for that privilege.

At Brookwood, I was involved in Shane Wolverton’s D-team (small group bible study). I will never forget how Shane and Ann opened their house to a few crazy high school guys.  Not only did Shane lead this group, but when I went off to college, Shane lead our college times.  He always challenged us and really wanted to see us grow.  To this day, I really enjoy getting to catch up with him when we are back in town.  I am so thankful for the impact Tagg and Shane had in my life as Godly male leaders and mentors.

In college, I had the great privilege of meeting Chad Young.  As I got involved with Cru, Chad, who was on staff with Cru, challenged me in my faith, encouraged/forced me to share my faith, continued to push the importance of spending time in the word, and just had fun with me.  After joining staff, it was a blast to get to lead with him for two years in Charleston on summer project.  I am still able to pick up the phone and give him a call whenever I need to get some perspective on whatever I am going through, and that is a huge blessing.

Dad and Mom, thank you for being willing to let me go to another church when I was in High school for youth, always having us in Vacation bible school (even if it was just to keep us out of trouble), and being supportive when we started working full time with Cru.

April Hetzel, again, not sure where to start.  I am just thankful for you every day with you as you said yes to marry me over 10 years ago.  I am thankful for how you keep me in line and don’t put up with my crap.  I know you love me, but you will always tell me what is really going on, point out sin and not sugar coat it.  Our kids have a great mom to look up to as a role model and for what to look for in a wife.  Thanks for jumping on this crazy ride the Lord is taking us on.  Thankful I get to ride this ride with you.

So what have I learned from Sabbatical?  I have learned how to rest and what that looks like for me.  I am praying I can incorporate that into my daily life once the busyness starts back again.  “Shattered Dreams” is another book I read this summer and even as I look back over this list, most everyone I met only after I faced a shattered dream.  In other words, the Lord is in control and he does have our best interest at hand.  Even as we transition onto a new team at NC State, I know that the Lord is dreaming a bigger dream for me and I am looking forward to seeing what new people He will bring into our lives that will impact us for eternity.  As I reflect on the people above, most of them did a lot of just inviting me as they were going.  It reminds me that I need to continue to invite others just to come along with me in life.  When I go to church, on trips with our church, camp, and just to come over and hang out.  We are all on a spiritual journey and I need to invite them into my life.  The Gospel is powerful in action.  I know I will have more shattered dreams, but with those come a greater vision and greater desire for the one true God who saved me and redeemed me because he loves me so.