Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Get Your Kids to Smile for the Camera

Every mother wants to take cute pictures of her kids with their natural-looking smiles.  Here's my advice on how to take your Halloween photo session from expressions like these...

Zero Excitement

 Smiling at you pains me.

I think I'm stepping on something funny.

Make it stop. genuine childlike happiness!!

Here are my two very important tips to making this happen.

1.  Chocolate is a great motivator.  Offer chocolate for smiles.
2.  In the words of the great Winston Churchill, "Never, never give up."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Recovering + Octobers Past

I like it when autumn arrives, and instead of shutting out the intense heat of summer with my kitchen shades, I open them up and let the light in.  It's really beautiful out there this morning, a faint blue sky and fluffy clouds holding on to a pale pink color.  I can even see hints of autumn color on the trees in the distance! 

Yesterday morning started off just the same, except for around 8:15  Ella woke up unable to breathe in deeply.  She was making horrible noises, so I put her in a hot shower and let the steam open her up a little and calm her down while I hurriedly dressed.  We rushed off to the pediatrician's office by 9 a.m.  

Thankfully, this morning, after 4 days of running a fever, Ella's temperature is normal, and I think the medicine is helping, because her voice doesn't sound quite as hoarse.  It was quite the exciting start to our week.  I'm thankful for my mom who came over to be with James (and washed and folded laundry!).  If by some miracle my little guy can keep from catching Ella's germs, we might be home-free to enjoy fall festivities this week.  I hope so!

Speaking of fall festivities, I started thinking back to the first time Ella went trick-or-treating.  James was less than a month old, and it was one of those things where we just said, "Hey, it's Halloween, I think  Ella would get a big kick out of walking around the neighborhood getting candy."  So we hurriedly dressed her in her favorite attire that year, the Cinderella costume gifted her by Hillary.  I don't think she knew what was going on, but what fun!

She was such a pretty princess, with her fair golden curls.  

For the next two years we never spent any money, just the same, "Hey, Ella, go put on one of your costumes, and we'll get free candy!"


(same costume)

Now last year was another matter entirely.  She knew enough from past years to look forward to planning a costume and wore a different one at every event we attended.  
That picture will remain one of my favorites for all time.  I love those kids, and I'm thankful that it's looking like my little princess/Spider-girl will be up to joining the costumed fun again this year.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On the first week back from a trip

In the wee hours of the morning I pondered trying to pull together enough pictures for a Franco Fridays post, but I abandoned the idea.  I hope next week I'll be able to pay more attention to ye olde blog.

We've been home from our trip for exactly one week, and life has been extremely busy; here are some things we've experienced.
  1. Jet Lag  Of my now three European trips, this trip has had the longest recovery time.  On returning I woke up in the wee hours and have been ready for bed by 6 p.m.  I heard somewhere that on average it takes a day for every hour you've lost, so that put this recovery time at 6 days.  That was pretty accurate.
  2. Mommy Night Duty  I think recovering from the time change was magnified by the horrid habit James picked up while we were away of waking us up at least once a night...for no particular reason, just "Rock me and put me back to bed, Mommy?"  This was okay the first few nights, but the last two my thoughts have kept me awake long after I put him back to bed.  I would really like to nip this habit in the bud.
  3. Attack of the Ragweed  Last Friday and Saturday were fairly relaxing days, settling back in and unpacking suitcases.  KJ was home so I went for a walk both days around the neighborhood.  By Sunday night I had drainage in my throat and congestion in my nose.  I've stayed inside most of the week taking medicine in hopes of curtailing the attack, but it has been such gorgeous weather I may just have to bear it and get out there for some Fall pictures.
  4. Teaching  The education of my children takes up more and more time so that if ever Lady Catherine de Burgh were to ask Ella, "Your mother must have been a slave to your education?"  Ella will be able to reply in the affirmative...unlike Elizabeth Bennet.  Home-educating is a lot of work, but I really enjoy it.  I made my first attempt at introducing "-at" words to James because it came up in his curriculum.  He didn't get it.  Yet. :)
  5. Time with People  I have just really enjoyed and appreciated being with friends and other believers...sharing a meal, running into them at Wal-Mart, at the church house... I'm thankful for the Body of Christ.
  6. Painting  No big paint projects, but I did revive an old outside table with white spray paint to place my pumpkin on this week.  I'm pleased with what a fresh coat of paint can do.
  7. Loving Amazon Prime  Free two-day shipping is so nice when you think of something you need, and there's a 3-day deadline.
  8. Reading Jeremiah  After so many days of his proclamations of judgment, it's so good to read words of restoration.  It's also good to read, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?"
  9. The Generosity of Others  The daughter of a friend has been blessing us with clothes for James for the past two years.  Piles and piles of really good quality clothes.  I just went through a bag last night, and rest assured, you will be seeing James in blazers and corduroy jackets with elbow patches this winter.
  10. A 5 a.m. Fever  James woke us up at 4:15 this morning, and I couldn't go back to sleep.  I got up for a little while, and Ella stumbled out of her room at 5:00 with flushed cheeks and hot skin.  Her temperature was over 100, but after Motrin she woke up at 8:30 fever-free.  We'll see what the rest of the weekend holds.  
P.S.  I'm planning on flu shots next week, because I'm scared silly of getting the flu again.

P.P.S.  More UK pictures should be forthcoming, because...they deserve it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Put on some music! I wanna dance!"

Mondays can be hard.  I think a couple of minutes of watching James break it down might help anyone suffering from the Monday blues on this chilly Fall morning.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Big Ben, My Friend

Home again and relaxing with pictures while KJ works on a puzzle he bought at the Doctor Who Experience with the kids.  It's fun looking through pictures, but I'm going to have to take lots of breaks to do necessary things like replenish the larder and wash clothes.  At some point I will also figure out what day and time it is.  

As we're settling back in to routine I just thought I'd post a picture here and there that I liked.  This picture wasn't an amazing shot, but when toying with converting it to black and white I ended up with this washed out version I liked it.  I'm not really sure why, but there you have it.


Monday, October 14, 2013


KJ preached in Workington yesterday, and we spent Saturday walking around the town.  If you walk to the coast, you can look out at the Irish Sea and even see Scotland on a clear day.

The little patch of land with the light shining on it is a part of Scotland that I don't know how to spell off the top of my head at the moment.
The Irish Sea
Darcy Street
a little beauty in the city
Sanctuary at Workington
Lots of tea-drinking
"Northern Portions"
a Parish Church
a boat graveyard?

The sun is still peeking through the clouds today, and we have finished our work with churches.  We'll be meandering our way back toward London for the next couple of days, enjoying some of the countryside before we come home. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Hills Around Keswick

Friday was spent driving through parts of the Lake District, meeting and visiting local pastors.  

Retired pastors and their wives, still working hard for the Lord
Cockermouth, William Wordsworth's birthplace
Wordsworth's home
My new favorite pub name
Breathtaking light on the hills

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Wastwater

Thursday we drove from the town of Ulverston through the western part of the Lake District.  Beautiful doesn't quite do it justice.

We drove up to the Wastwater where we could see the highest peak in England.  The weather is cool but feels even colder with the wind.  We picnicked on the rocks, snapped pictures of the sheep, and the dismal pair of boots I was wearing, not knowing what we were doing that day, got wet through at the bottoms, wetting my feet.  You simply  must have the proper footware in the Lake District.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Not everyday is cloudy in England. (but it is windy)

It is late here, and I am headed to bed, but I wanted to post a few pictures from yesterday since I put them together this morning.  It was a really beautiful day in Ulverston, where KJ attended a men's prayer meeting, and we both attended a mid-week prayer service with a church there.  In between we did a lot of walking and admiring of the view.

Ducks swimming in the canal
Laurel and Hardy
The Hoad Monument to Sir James Barrow
A church built in 1111

The Hoad Monument was definitely worth the climb.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oxford and Further Up and Further In

A look at our day yesterday...

Coke Zero with 1 calorie
Hiring a car
Magdalen Bridge, I love it so.
Beautiful Oxford
Magdalen College, where Lewis taught
The place of Latimer and Ridley's death
"The Bird and Baby"
The Rabbit Room
Bodleian Library
Divinity Library window

Monday, October 7, 2013

In London-town

I saw that caption today on a picture of Sherlock and Dr. Watson meeting in the street.  I thought it was apropos  for today.

Just a few bits about our day...

Pretty light coming through the trees walking through a park
an unconventional London phone booth
Pictures of Big Ben from all angles because it's just so lovely to look at
The River Thames
The London Eye
A conventional London phone booth
Great Scotland Yard!!
Sherlock Holmes
Fish and Chips (I swallowed a bone!)
King's Cross
The National Gallery
Lots of Walking
Lots of Tube-Riding

It's been just wonderful to be here again, to walk in some of the same places as our last visit and feel a little more confident about where we're going.  KJ had some really good conversation with a young pastor, and I enjoyed listening.  The weather is perfect.  My feet hurt, and the 20,000 steps we walked made my small toenail bleed, but other than that all is very well tonight. Tomorrow  morning we will head north to Cumbria.  It was a fun day in London, and we are thankful for many providences along the way, including actually making our flight here!  Sadly, I think a lot of other people missed the flight with all the rain in Atlanta yesterday, but we benefited by getting to lie down across the empty rows to sleep, and we know adequate sleep made this day better than it would have been otherwise.

Also of note, I realized today how much KJ truly loved me when he paid 2 pounds 10 pence for a refill on my Diet Coke, free refills at the pub.

Friday, October 4, 2013

We interrupt Franco Fridays with an Anglo Announcement

You can thank my husband for that post title.  

Our mission trip to Paris, followed by our anniversary trip was so good on many levels.  Travel pictures are surreal because looking at that picture, I think, "How could I have really been there?"  I loved Paris.  I loved the few months I spent immersing myself in French culture, and I loved that I was able to see the city first through the eyes of those who love her for the sake of the gospel, of those who want to see people come to know God through Jesus Christ.  I loved being with the church there.  It was an unexpected blessing and joy to make that trip. 

And through an unforeseen turn of events, it's going to be a blessing and a joy to travel back to a place that looks something like this.

KJ and I were invited by the Grace Baptist Partnership in England to come see the work they are doing in Cumbria.  We wanted to make the trip before the holidays and the coldest part of the year came, so plans came together rather quickly, and we will be leaving this Sunday night.  It is no secret of how much we love the UK, and we are excited about meeting churches and pastors there.

2013:  The Year of Unexpected Travels

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Mario Party

James' 4th birthday began the way his mornings usually do.  He wakes up before the sun is fully awake around 6:20 and wants to play "Luigi Mario Game."  I originally let him play in the early mornings because I was too sleepy to do anything else, and now it's just his habit.

After an early lunch we drove to the library to return books, and Ella and I read for a little bit while James played computer games.

We left the library at James' naptime, but we still had to go by Publix and grab a few things, and most importantly, get our party balloons blown up.  It really is such a pleasure to shop at Publix.  You get free cookies, and if it's your birthday, they may even put your initial on it in icing.  What a treat.

We rushed home so James could nap, and I put together party favor bags and printed off some last minute details I forgot I'd found on the internet.  We had Ella's 5th birthday party at McDonald's, and it was really perfect for James this year.  He ran and climbed with his friends.  It was a loud, fast and furious kind of birthday party.

The "Mario Water" was a last-minute thing I pulled together yesterday afternoon.  I realized that I really didn't want to buy everyone cokes, and then I remembered I'd downloaded a ton of free Mario party printables from Peonies and Poppyseeds.  Check them out.  They have a lot of free birthday party themes.  I'm thankful for free things (except now my printer ink is low), and I remembered there were some water bottle wraps in the Mario party pack.

When I first saw the trend of water bottle covers I thought it was a little over the top, but these totally dressed up the table, and James guzzled water like nobody's business, so maybe I should keep some of these on hand.  They make water cool.

Yes, we need help in the proper mode of bottle-drinking.

The super-cute Mario party hat also came with the free download.  Thankfully I had cardstock on hand, as well as some stretchy twine Ella and I used to make bead bracelets.  It actually worked a lot better than regular party hats, because the elastic on those usually cut into your skin, but the string I had was really soft.
One last look at the cake...
We lost the top of our castle when the plastic came off, but we replaced it with candles.

 I'm not really sure why James has the long face.

Blake is James' sweet neighborhood pal.

This picture completely captures the chaos that was James' birthday party.

It was a happy chaos, though, and my boy had a good time.  That's all that matters.

He made super-short work of his slice of cake.

Present-opening was crazy-town.  Kids love presents.

One thing I forgot to do at Ella's party was grab pictures of James with all his family there, so I tried to be intentional about it Tuesday night.

 I think he was trying to hold up 4 fingers on each hand but had a little trouble.

And then it was party favors and good nights to all.

We came home and James opened all of his toys and went to bed late, asking, "Please leave the big mess in the living room so I can play in the morning."

We're only just now getting around to cleaning that big mess up today.  Thank heaven for KJ's day off.