Friday, January 20

::To Olivia on Your 2nd Bday::

January 21, 2012

Dear Olivia,

How could it be that we are celebrating your 2nd birthday without you? It seems as strange as it is unbearable. What should be such a happy day is now a day filled with longing for you. For this reason the storms this morning seemed appropriate, although I silently thanked God for the parting of the clouds and shining of the sun as we visited you and released balloons. It seemed to me that heaven was with us at that moment.

I wonder what you would be like at 2. Would your sweet, content spirit still be front and center or would you be entering the "terrible 2's?" Would your hair be long, curly, brown or dark blonde? Do you still have the "angel kiss" on your eyelid? What would your favorite toys be? And your favorite song, book and food? Would you be getting into your brother's things and making him mad or could you still do no wrong in his eyes? Would you love all things girly? Would we be playing dolls and dress up? Or would you prefer to be outside? Do you still twirl your wrists, ankles and toes when you get excited? How I long to see you and hold you! When you were a baby I used to wish you'd stay a baby forever because I was so content to sit and rock you for hours. Now, I just wish I could see you at every stage.

I believe that you are growing with Jesus in heaven. Daddy reminds me that you wouldn't come back to this world even if you could. Things are too perfect there. I hope Jesus throws you the best birthday party ever. Brother wants to put a wrapped toy in a balloon and send it to you in heaven so you can open it when it gets to you. I thought that was pretty smart. Because the toy would be too heavy he settled for releasing balloons with a petit for attached. We'll celebrate you as a family today and blow out your candles and send birthday wishes to you in heaven, where we all can't wait to be with you one day. Until then, my precious girl, please know how much we love you. We wouldn't trade the 9 months we had with you for anything in the world. You are such a blessing to us.

All my heart,

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Tuesday, January 17

:: Rodeo Bday Party ::

Saturday we celebrated Parrish's 5th birthday party with a fun at-home rodeo. I really had a lot of fun putting this party together and decorating our new house for the occassion. The whole thing started with these PRECIOUS invites from LoraLee Lewis on etsy. Doesn't the little cowboy look just like Parrish?
I got a few yards of bandana fabric from Hobby Lobby and cut it down the middle to swag over our dining room chandelier. I was laughing with Cannon that we actually put tack holes in our sheetrock ceiling all for the sake of decorating for a 5-year-old's party. What can I say? When I have a vision I'll do just about anything to carry it out. Toothpaste will fill those holes in, right?
I've officially decided that cookie cakes are the way to go for homemade birthday cakes. I got 2 tubs of the Nestle TollHouse chocolate chip cookie dough, pressed it into a jelly roll pan and baked for about 20-25 minutes. After it cooled on a wire rack I used a serrated knife to cut out the shape of a boot - you can find a template here - and then decorated with icing till my heart was content.
I ordered a set of bottle labels that coordinated with the invites and placed them on bottles of orange crush for the kids.

I had a few left over and they doubled nicely as vase decals for the party flowers. I had some old jelly jars that worked great so I wouldn't have to worry about getting the sticky label off later.

CC, cousin Quinn and Parrish had a good time making signs to decorate with. This one pointed the way to the basement where the rodeo games would take place.
Each kiddo got a vest and cowboy hat. Well, most of them anyway. True to form I kind of forgot about the dress-up clothes until the very end. All the kids showed up already dressed to the nines like cowboys and cowgirls so I totally forgot!
Anyway, they also earned prizes at each of the rodeo games. Sherriff's badges at the stick horse races, pop guns and holsters at the tin can shoot out, and handcuffs at the cattle roping. I ordered these things from a great seller on ebay and they came in these cute burlap favor bags. I tied coordinating tags to them and filled them with candy.
We welcomed the rodeo fans with chalk on the front walk.
My good friend Jen and her sweet hubbie David and rodeo-fabulous girls Maddie Kay and Ryan brought their horses Chester and Spirit to the trail across the street from our house so the kids could ride. We marked the mouth of the trail with balloons, hay bails and a "Parrish Pass" sign.
For the cattle roping we stuck cattle heads and stick ponies into bails of hay then gave the kids ropes with hola-hoops tied to the end to try to "ring" the horse or cattle.
I printed individual letters in "mesquite" font on 8.5x11" red paper then glued them all to craft paper to make a birthday banner.
We covered a table in the basement with a red check tablecloth then sat empty tin cans on top. My friend and sticker-maker extraordinaire Dee printed the cute target and skull stickers for the cans. The kids used nerd guns with foam bullets to shoot the cans down. My sweet neighbor Logan helped Grandaddy run this game and it was wild and crazy. My biggest advice is to have a bucket full of extra ammo right next to you because each gun only holds 10 bullets. That saves you from running back and forth to pick up the ammo to reload!
I had "wanted" posters printed on and the kids loved seeing their pictures on the wall and the various "crimes" they were "wanted" for. I got these for half price and free shipping. Vistaprint is always running some sort of awesome promo. Just search google for vista print promo codes.
Parrish and Mommy.
Trotter and Parrish
Riding Chester...the grin says it all.
Ms. Jen brining in the horses.
Parrish & Kaden
CC & Parrish
Parrish & (Cousin) Ada
The buckaroos enjoying the cookie cake.
A 6-gun shoot out. The truth be told, they probably had as much fun running around in the woods shooting each other as they did with all the other activities I had planned!
Happy Birthday my sweet Peeshie! I can't believe you are 5-years-old!

As much fun as this party was when it was over, a familiar sadness settled back over us as we look toward what would have been Olivia's 2nd birthday this weekend. I wish I was throwing myself into planning a big, pink, fluffy, party worthy of a princess instead of missing her so badly. I keep telling myself that I couldn't plan a party that would remotely compare to the celebration she's having with Jesus in heaven.

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Thursday, January 12

:: To Parrish On Your 5th ::

Dear Sweet "P",

It is hard to believe you are turning 5 years old today. We are so thankful that God blessed us with you those years ago. Since you joined our family we have had many highs and some lows. I can attribute lots of the highs to you and your sweet and spunky spirit. Starting my day with one of your "tree frog hugs" never fails to put a smile on my face. You are never stingy with your snuggles! And seeing that look of mischief on your face when you're up to no good I can't help but laugh. That twinkle in your eye you get from your Daddy. And that dimple - you get away with a lot when you flash that thing!

Your favorite things are your new beyblades, Power Rangers, your Do-It-Yourself Wood Kit, and your Easy Roller. For your birthday this year you asked for a Beyblade battle stadium. When I went to buy one I couldn't believe that you were already asking for a "big boy" toy. It seems like yesterday we were picking out big wooden puzzles and a pull-along puppy as your birthday toys. Your favorite activities are projects - over the past year we've made bouncy balls, spin art, salt dough ornaments, you name it. If it's messy and creative, you love it! You're taking tae-kwon-do and plan to play tee-ball in the spring. You LOVE to be outside and to go to the hunting camp with Daddy.

I know the past year and a half since Sissy went to heaven has been hard on you, but I want you to know that you were our reason for getting out of bed in the morning and reinvesting in life. I'm so thankful you are our little boy. You are now unfortunately wise beyond your years. I wish you did not have to be, but in many ways I think this has made heaven and Jesus even more real to you. Just the other day out of the blue you said, "Mommy? I can't wait to meet Jesus in heaven and see what he looks like. And see Livia and the pretty streets of gold." You take my breath away with your simple faith and it is an inspiration to me. You are always asking if we'll wear clothes in heaven and if it ever gets dark there. I answer that I don't think it gets dark because we'll have Jesus - the light of the world. As for clothes, I doubt we'll have to worry about those either. Sweetie, I wish I had all the answers...the truth is I don't and never will this side of heaven. What I do know is that you are such a blessing. Mommy, Daddy and Livy love you very, very much....more than the sun, moon, stars and all the peanut butter in the world.


Monday, January 9

:: Prayer Pager #5 ::

One of the things we love most about our neighborhood is the sense of community. There are many friends here we consider to be our Mt Laurel family and Matt and Courtney Cash are two of those people. Matt's dad Bill will undergo his 3rd brain surgery tomorrow morning to remove a recurring, cancerous, brain tumor. He has been bravely fighting this battle over the past four years. Please pray for Mr. Cash and his doctors and then dial his prayer pager at 334-705-9212 to let him know you have done so.

Thanks for lifting this sweet family up!

Thursday, January 5

:: Laundry Room Inspirations ::

1. Removeable silhouette wall decals mark mud room walls above each family member's initial hook {wall decals & initial hooks}

2. Graphic chevron throw rugs add graphic interest to the floors {chevron rug}

3. An old frame is repurposed with a coat of white paint and the removal of the glass, then used to frame a silhouette to use as a family chalkboard message center {ask your local Benjamin Moore dealer for colored paint suitable to be used as a chalkboard}. Benjamin Moore does not sell colored chalkboard paint per se, but they were able to special order a paint for me that can be used as a chalkboard paint AND custom color tinted to my desired shade (which in this case is Benjamin Moore Britannia Blue)

4. 3-4 coats of magnetic paint were used under the chalkboard paint so children's artwork can be proudly displayed. Using multiple coats ensures a stronger magnetic hold. {Lowes}

5. Decorative hooks aren't just for bathrooms. Use your favorite hooks on your laundry or mud room walls to hang clothes, wet umbrellas, or cloth shopping bags as you walk in the door. {Hook from At Home}

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Tuesday, January 3

:: Trust ::

We rang in the New Year with dinner at our neighborhood restaurant, Stone's Throw, with Pop G, Nana P and Parrish, then met up with some friends. I am glad to have the year 2011 in my rear view mirror. It was full of challenges and also full of growth, but I am looking toward the new year with hope for "seeing good in the land of the living."

Several events over the past week have caused me to pause and make the decision to trust God, even when it looked like things weren't going to work out the way I had hoped. This doesn't come naturally, but God has used the events of the last few years to teach me to lean on him. To trust him, even when I am well-aware that He's not always going to work it out the way I had hoped and planned. In a lot of ways, that knowledge makes it even harder to trust. But, I found that when I prayed not just for what I wanted, but for the strength to trust God, His plan, and perfect timing, no matter the outcome, I was much more at peace. Don't get me wrong-I've been clinging to the leg of his throne, asking for specific prayers to be answered, but I've also been blessed by not just asking for what I want, but asking for his Spirit to control my heart and mind, even when I feel like hope is lost.

I pray that each of you get to know Jesus in new and meaningful ways this year!

"Trust God from the bottom of your heart, don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume you know it all." Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

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