Tuesday, October 30

::Equal Parts Beautiful & Brutal::

Equal parts beautiful and brutal...that is how my mom recently described this time of year to me...and it is just that.  I look around me and see natural beauty that is hard to reconcile with the painful reminder of our tragedy that it brings.  My favorite time of year is now also my most dreaded time of year.  I want her back so badly - I want to see and know her as an almost three-year-old little girl.  I want to dress her up as a princess for Halloween and take her to our church trunk-or-treat again.  That is the last big event we attended together and I remember that day so clearly.  She was all dolled up in her smocked Halloween dress and her personality was sparkling.  She was waving to everyone, smiling and taking it all in and fascinated with her CC's flashing candy corn necklace.  I loved carrying her around and patting the "boo" monogrammed bloomers on her little bottom.  Each year when I see that event announced in the church bulletin my heart drops.  I haven't been able to go back since.  Amazing how the once happiest times now co-mingle with the saddest times.

A good friend of ours lost his dad last week.  I didn't know his dad, but I did know of his 5 year fight with brain cancer because we had given him a prayer pager in the midst of it.  I remember our friends telling us that he got tears in his eyes when they gave it to him and told him of Olivia's story.  Last week that friend went to see the burial plot his parents had chosen before his dad passed away and it stopped him in his tracks...because as he walked up he saw the garden flag with Olivia's picture on it that we have at her gravesite.  His dad would be buried right next to our sweet girl.  When I heard this my heart tore open.  This news was the very definition of beauty and brutality.  A beautiful message from God that says to us...he's here in heaven with Livy now, but a brutal reminder of that awful time and our still unbelievable loss.  What are the chances that of all the choices in that cemetery our friend's dad would be laid to rest right next to our baby girl?  It is a "God thing" that our friend's parents chose that spot.

My brother left for a 9-month deployment in Afghanistan on Sunday.  Yet another reason to be sad during this otherwise beautiful time of year.  But it is a beautiful thing he is doing...to give his time and his talents to serve his country, but it is also a brutal thing...to put himself in harms way to do so.  His departure and time there weighs heavily on our hearts.  Please pray with us that his time there will pass swiftly and uneventfully....that he will be safe from harm and return to us the same easy-going Hunter we all know and love.

We were able to go and see Hunter in North Carolina before he left and it was a sweet time together with family.  Parrish absolutely adores and looks up to his "army man" uncle Hunter and had a blast flying kites on the dunes of kitty hawk and playing tic-tac-toe with him in the sand.  When we had to say good-bye Parrish said, "I wish he could just stay here with us."  My sentiments exactly.

But God doesn't call us to play it safe.  God calls us to live this life in confident TRUST in Him.  Not only with the little things, but with our whole lives. He asks us not to worry, but to present everything to him and leave it at his feet.  This is hard when we are laying our vary lives and that of our family and loved ones there in faith and in hope.  Strangely, this trust comes easier to me now than it did before Livy went to heaven.  You would think that enduring the worst would harden my heart, but it has done the opposite. I believe more fervently than ever that this life is not all there is.  That is why trusting Him daily with our lives comes more easily than anticipated.  Without that trust I could not get through each day...I seek His face daily and that is what He asks of us.  For us to realize that we can't go it alone...no matter how capable, talented, or independent we are.  We NEED Him, because when we are walking with him we are walking in light and none of the darkness or evil forces of this world can separate us from His love.

At the service celebrating the life of our friend's dad I was reminded of this verse:
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

Only by the grace of God being poured out on us do we survive but also continue to life our lives to the fullest, even in the face of the worst kind of pain there is.  When I was having a particularly bad day over the weekend Cannon sat down on the bed with me and said, "I know, I miss her too.  It's like walking around with a heavy brick in your pocket."  That IS what it is like.  Weighed down by grief at times and at others wanting to talk about and think about anything BUT the grief you are trying to avoid.  There is no rhyme or reason to when or why we feel this way...we just do.  But Cannon also told me something else...Knox is a DIRECT GIFT from Olivia and Jesus.  When I look into Knox's eyes I really do feel as if that is the closest we can get to Olivia while here on earth.  His eyes have seen and known Olivia.  She sent him to us.  He is the answer to so many prayers.  He is a such a special baby.  Parrish in all his 5-year-old wisdom walked in the room when I was upset and said, "Mommy, I don't cry about Olivia because she lives in my heart."  Sometimes we all benefit from the simple, untainted truths from the mouths of babes...

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  James 1:17

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiral forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  Ephesians 6:12

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." Psalm 55:22

Sunday, October 7

:: Halloween Decor, La Paz, Baby Love, Football & A Field Trip ::

Some days are just harder than others and I woke up this morning sad.  The lack of sleep seems to catch up with me about once a week and I am too tired to NOT be sad.  And I think subconsciously the change of the weather and turning of the leaves, although beautiful and welcomed, reminds me of our enormous loss and the fact that the 2 year anniversary is just a month away.  But I went about the day and started to perk up, enjoying time with my family.  Then as we were riding to lunch I just got a feeling that I needed to read my Jesus Calling devotion today and within the body of that devotion was this sentence..."Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, thank me in all circumstances.  Trust me and don't be fearful; thank Me and rest in My sovereignty."  I needed to read that today and I thought one of you might, too.  

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

And let's be honest, even on our rough days, it's pretty easy for us to be thankful when we look into Knox's precious face.

He is such a sweet baby.  His disposition so similar to Livy.  Content and happy most of the time, laughing and grinning, discovering his hands, tongue, and voice.  Sometimes it's so apparent that he is trying to talk back to you with his little noises and coos.
It's hard to believe that on the 8th he'll be 2 months old already!  He has changed so much.  My favorite addition being those fat rolls on his thighs I love to squeeze.  It seems like overnight he grew these long, beautiful eyelashes.  (As a side note, why does it always seem like the boys get these gorgeous eyelashes they care nothing about while most of us girls do without?)

Here Knox is relaxing at one of Parrish's flag football games with CC.  I told you he was easy going.  The touchdown pose says it all.
Parrish is playing on the cardinals Upward team with some neighborhood and church friends and to my surprise he absolutely LOVES it.  I really thought it would be a little too "close for comfort" for him because he didn't seem to like getting in the fray playing soccer last year, but he has come out strong going after those flags with more gusto with each passing game.
Today we were so proud of him pulling his first flag.  He was pretty excited too, although the most fun of flag football to him may be the fact that he gets to wear eye black.  :)

On October 1st we busted out the boys glow in the dark skeleton pj's.  My sister  Caroline mailed Knox  his so he could match his big brother.  Parrish had a lot of fun that night watching himself glow under the covers.  
I pinned a cute Martha Stewart idea for decorating your front porch with hanging bats on Pinterest a while ago and we decided to do ours this weekend.  You can find the template here.  We just traced and cut ours from black poster board.  
You can't see it in this picture but Parrish was particularly creative and decided to add red electrical tape to a few of their wings so it would look like they (in his word) "blooded."  So funny.
Inside we added some crows and moss to our dining table candelabra.
Outside we decorated the handle of our broom with alternating orange and black duct tape and added another crow.  Our cats have been very interested in these fake birds.  Thankfully after checking them out thoroughly they must have decided they were not real and as of yet, have not attacked them.

The rustic pumpkin is the latest in our Olivia Charles Antiques line and can be purchased at our booth at the Mt Laurel Fall Festival THIS Saturday, October 13th!  We'll have some on stakes for your planters and some to hang on your front doors or fences.  These are so precious and will take you all the way through Thanksgiving!  The festival is going to be a lot of fun...complete with a petting zoo for the kids!

And since we've been on a decorating role this week, Parrish decorated this milk jug with a frankenstein face and we lit it with orange "spooky" lights to put on our front step.  With Parrish in Kindergarten now I've been missing our art projects at home together.  Halloween has given us a good excuse to get creative together again!

It's been a pretty eventful few weeks at our house and one of the main events was finding this little baby squirrel on our front walk.  He had fallen out of his nest and I literally tripped over him one morning. It was too sad to just leave him there so I called my sweet and eternally patient husband and asked him to come home and help me try to save him.  After a few calls to a wildlife expert Cannon fixed him up a box with an old t-shirt and heated rice sock for warmth and placed it off the ground in the tree where the nest was hoping the mom would come and get him.  When that didn't happen and it started getting dark we took him to a volunteer at a local animal clinic who took him home to feed him and care for him until he could be released.  Can you believe we went to all that trouble for a squirrel?  But just look at that sweet face with his eyes not even open!  We didn't have the heart to just leave him there and of course Parrish thought it was all super cool.  He even took his picture into class for show and tell the next day and named him "Spiney."  Never mind that we were busy trying to open a new restaurant that week.

 Despite the squirrel drama Cannon and partners still opened a new Hoover location of La Paz last Thursday and it couldn't have gone better.  I helped with the remodel and redesign of the building and am so pleased with how it turned out.  It's like it was meant to be a Mexican restaurant all along.  We installed a giant chalkboard wall for the kids to play, hung custom iron chili pepper chandeliers, replaced a Bham city scene with a La Paz, Mexico scene on the light board, framed gorgeous antique indian prints in Olivia Charles frames, changed all the lighting and added a fun, new deck onto the front of the building with happy red umbrellas, galvanized trough planters, and cafe lights.  It is a happy place with delicious food, so check it out the next time you're near the Galleria.  It's located in the old Michael's Steaks and Seafood building next to J.Alexander's on Galleria Circle.  Congrats to my sweet Cannon on a job well done!

Also last week I chaperoned Parrish's class on their 1st field trip.  We went to the Birmingham Zoo and he was very excited to ride the school bus with his friends.

After lunch that day it was so cute to see them all gather around in a circle for an impromptu game of "rock, paper, scissors, shoot."  (We never said "shoot" after "rock, paper, scissors" when I was growing up, but apparently things have changed.)
While we were there Parrish fed the birds and I had a few actually land on my head.  I was just praying they didn't use the bathroom while they were there!
This is Parrish's whole class.  Little frogs from Mrs. Henke's pad.  So precious.
Parrish loves to play with these sweet friends, Mia and Jill.
And with his best little buddy Cole.  I hear all about these sweet new friends when he gets home from school each day and it warms my heart to hear how much he loves them and is enjoying school.  It took a little while, but he is really getting into the groove now.
Another shot with his feathered friend...
And every other Sunday it seems we can count on a call from the Great-grands Glorio and E saying they are on their way to see the boys.
They can't go very long without having Knox in their arms, and I can't say I blame them.  They'll drive up and stay for 2 or 3 hours all the way from Andalusia and then turn around and go right back home.  If that's not love I don't know what is!  :)

And speaking of my new little love...he is waking up from his nap and needing his mama...