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I have been on a quest lately to find my youngest son almonds processed in a peanut free facility, because he is allergic to peanuts and I don’t want to take a chance with cross contamination. During my search, I became seriously discouraged by what I found. Because of two minor outbreaks of salmonella from almonds, the FDA mandated that all almonds from the US be pasteurized. Pasteurization in theory is good…it kills all of the bad bacteria…but unfortunately in getting rid of the bad, it also kills the good stuff.  When pasteurizing almonds, the two most common methods are using a high temp steam on the almonds or spraying the almonds with a nasty chemical called propylene oxide or PPO (which is a highly flammable, carcinogenic toxin…sounds tasty). Many almond growers can’t afford the steam method, so they are forced to spray this crap on your “raw” almonds….thanks FDA.  So now, not only do I have to make sure the almonds I buy are peanut free, I have to try and find ones that aren’t sprayed with PPO…and they aren’t cheap, but what is these days? And wouldn’t you know it, God would take my research about almonds and lay on my heart an area in my life that needs some work: How I talk to my children.

I want my children to be “good”, to be respectful and to listen. If you are a parent, you know this can be a daunting task, especially when they have siblings to fight with. When they don’t make wise choices, I tell them how they should behave…in a sense, like pasteurization, I want to wipe out their bad behavior…I mean, who wants to have spoiled nuts kids?!  But, there are times that I don’t talk to them in love….I talk AT them…showing no patience, no peace…just frustration and anger. Sometimes I say things I don’t mean and I’m ashamed of myself… it’s like word puke coming out of my mouth and I can’t stop once I start. So, in my attempt to make them “better” behaved, I’ve actually been making them worse by not showing them the grace that God shows me everyday.  I never imagined parenting would be so hard….that these beautiful little beings could make me laugh with indescribable joy and cry with my face in a pillow all in one day. They are my everything, and I want to build them up, to give their sweet souls peace..not tear them down because they didn’t brush their teeth long enough or pick up their ten million Lego’s on the floor. 

God, please forgive me for not taking every opportunity to show them your love and mercy. Help me to daily speak love into their lives and be an example of patience and grace. I don’t want to just  focus on their outward actions; I want to focus on the state of their hearts. Amen.

For as much as I want to be…I’m not a planner. So why wouldn’t I decide to do a last minute Valentine’s Day shoot with my kiddos?  I don’t have a studio and a bunch of cute backdrops, and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money or time trying to make something…so I came up with this simple backdrop for a total of $17…I know it could have been cheaper, but I didn’t feel like cutting out hearts. I bought a pack of scrapbook paper at Michael’s for ten bucks and then bought some red hearts at Target from their dollar spot.  My boys ripped out the scrapbook paper for me and we just taped it to a white backdrop that I had (you could use a wall as well).  It doesn’t look so pretty up close, but I knew it wasn’t going to be in sharp focus and it would give me the look I was going for.  I placed the backdrop in my dining room across from three windows and there you go…I had a quick, inexpensive Valentine set up.  Now go take some pics of your kiddos!!

Every January 1st, it stares me in the face….the not so anticipated new year’s resolution. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan.  I don’t really need one more thing to put pressure on me…especially the pressure of failing that shiny new year goal…whatever it may be.  I think to myself, if I couldn’t do it last year, what makes me think I can do it this year?…because undoubtedly it’s probably the same resolution/s I’ve had every year…And when I do fail, because no one is perfect (no matter how hard I try), I kick myself over and over again because I couldn’t maintain the level of expectations I set for myself.  So, are resolutions bad?..No, absolutely not.  But, how I respond to myself when I can’t maintain my (often times unrealistic) resolutions is bad. What am I going to do about it? If I say I will change, doesn’t that sound like a new year’s resolution?! I guess what I am hoping to accomplish is to live this next year with goals in mind, but not putting so much pressure on myself if (and when) I don’t live up to them……For example:

I would like to spend more time alone with God, but I will not condemn myself if I only read a page from a devotional book

while sitting in the bathroom. 

I would like to feed my family more clean meals (yes, I’ve jumped on that wagon), but I will not condemn myself when I take them to McDonald’s on occasion….because a kid needs a happy meal every once in awhile even if the chicken isn’t real. 

I would like to actually “enjoy” cooking, and if I ever get into a nice dinner making groove,  I will not condemn myself for using store bought meat and tomatoes from a CAN…because I just know if I eat too much chili using canned tomatoes, I will surely kill us all….

I would like to spend more time connecting with my children, but I will not condemn myself if I can’t give them my full attention every second of the day. 

I would like to be a better photographer, but I won’t condemn myself when I can’t devote as much time to it as I used to because I want to have more time with my family. 

I would like to learn to play the guitar with my son, but I won’t condemn myself if I only learn the basic “g” and “c” chords and never get beyond the “smelly cat” song talent. 

I would like to be more patient, but I will not condemn myself when I have moments of yelling…because let’s face it, I have four children and my patience was near gone after two. 

I would like to be an all around better person, but I will not condemn myself when I don’t live up to my expectations of being that “better person”……

My hope for you and for me this year is to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves and to be happier knowing that we are perfectly imperfect!  

What do you hope for this year?

photo by Ashley Sommer Photography

At 11:45 tonight my baby girl will be one! I simply cannot believe it.  I waited for nine long months to find out if we were going to be blessed with boy number four or a girl…and sure enough, we had a you..Adley Rose. You have changed our lives so much, I can’t imagine it without you. 

(some emotional images captured by my friend Janelle at Happinest)
I couldn’t even look at you because I was crying so hard. I kept saying, “it’s a girl? no way, are you sure?!”

And just like that, we celebrated your first birthday this past Sunday. You were so adorable when you opened your presents. You were excited about everything. 

 Today, I followed  you around a bit and took your picture to remember your big day of turning was exhausting for you. 

I love you so much moo moo!

When I turned 21, one of my college roommates gave me a children’s book, ‘If you Give A Moose A Muffin’, which is about a Moose who goes from one thing to the next and is always wanting something.  Inside the cover she wrote, “Contentment. Period.” I never knew thirteen years later I would still be reading that very book and still be struggling with contentment. I always wanted more…. to do more, to be more, to travel more, to be liked more, to have more….more, more, more. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting more for yourself, to be driven is a wonderful thing, but when you are never happy with where you are and what you have, it’s pretty sad. I have dreams and aspirations and I get so overwhelmed with wanting to “be” more, that I lose sight of what I already have and what is important.  Just a few days ago I was on the verge of spending a large chunk of change to do something for my business that I’ve always wanted to do….(the hubs vetoed it down), and in desperation I looked at my husband and cried, “I just want to do something amazing!”, to which he pointed at my daughter and my sons and said, “Isn’t she amazing? Aren’t they amazing?”.  Ouch, truth hurts when it hits you in the head. I’m so grateful for a husband who helps me put things into perspective. Why can’t I ever be satisfied?  When I was growing up,  my grandma Webster always told me the best part about saving up money to get something new was saving up the money and having the feeling of anticipation, because once you put down the money and had the new toy in your hand, you would be happy for five minutes and then move on to the next shiny toy. She was right. I need to be intentional with my thought life, and thank God for what He’s given me. To look around and breathe in all of my blessings, because they are truly endless. I need to be more content. Period.

 Thanks J for loving me!