Monday, August 29, 2011

Riley Here...

Hi, Peeps. Riley the blog dog here.

I've been waiting for three years to take over this place and I finally have the chance.

IMG_7204 wassup

Sara is running a bit slow these days, and her lungs seem to be running even slower, so I told her she has to take a break this week and see if she can get some energy back. I promised her I'd let her check back in next week and get back to writing.

Don't worry... I'm the expert in taking care of her, and I plan on leading by example.

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Wishing you all good days and chewy treats,

Riley DD_MW_DoggieDoodles_paw_Print

Friday, August 26, 2011

5 minutes: unknown

I can't tell you how great it was to read all of your answers yesterday... with the thought that went into some of them, I know you all are going to love the gist of this book and what it makes you ponder.

The winner of Holley Gerth's My Heart for You is:

Zoshadelonghi {side note: I would love to know if that is a last name or if it stands for something...}

Congrats! Email your mailing address to and we'll get your book sent off to you! :)

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Today I'm linking up to Lisa-Jo, aka gypsy mama, who chooses a topic every Friday and writes for five minutes.

Only five minutes.

And the rule is that whatever she writes about in that five minutes is what she posts. No editing her thoughts.

*** Actually, when I checked Lisa-Jo's site, there was no prompt put up, so I'm going to improvise. Since the prompt is - literally - unknown, that's what I'll write about. :) ***

So I'm going to set the timer, write some thoughts, and then I'm going to stop.

Ready? Set. Go.



The unknown can be our biggest enemy sometimes… the thing we put most of our focus on and what we spend most of our energy trying to control.

I sometimes wonder if it's actually more comforting for us to look ahead and live in the future and all of the unknown simply because we feel a desperate need to avoid the present we're in.

Because, let's face it, the present can be hard. We can be broke or we can be sick or we can be abandoned. We can be living in limbo in our marriages or in crisis with our jobs or aching for our children and their needs. The right now can hurt so badly that the only escape is to get lost into the unknown of those "what ifs" that give us the illusion of control.

What if I take this job, or what if we lose the house, or what if we make that move, or what if I get the raise, or what if I try this treatment.

We can live in fear and dread the unknown, assuring ourselves of the worst - or we can live in hope and see happiness ahead with Pollyanna eyes.

But neither of them are truly right.

Both are still guessing games of the unknown.

I'm learning how to fully live right in the middle of the hard, in the here and KNOWN, because if this is my life - if this is where I am at - then this is where God is at, too. And if I’m wasting all of my time and energy trying to control the unknown of the future rather than fulfilling what He may be needing from me right now, then I’m wasting God’s time as well.

It all boils down to this:
none of it is unknown to Him.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In God's Heart, I Am...

When I was a little girl, I thought I would be a poet.

{I also thought I would be the next Mary Lou Retton and the next Olivia Newton John and the next Bionic Woman, but those are stories you can go back and read...}

The first poem I remember showing to Mom, she didn't believe I wrote. I was little and out of nowhere my head came up with this:

God gives Himself to each of us,
To each a special part.
But I am the luckiest one of them all
For unto me He gave a piece of His heart.

After awhile I convinced her I hadn't copied it from one of my children's books so it went on the fridge, which was enough for me to consider myself published.

I was little and wanted to make sure I always had God's heart in me, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was in His.

It's easy to believe as a child.

But then we grow older.

And we see our flaws.

And we hide more than we show.

And instead of believing we are in His heart we shift our thinking and we start trying to earn our way in. Into a place where He already holds us as a precious gift.

My friend and (in)courage sister, Holley Gerth, saw that in herself and women all around her, and listened to a prompting that caused her to write God's Heart for You: Embracing Your True Worth as a Woman.

And girls, we need this book.

It's a tiny little book, but it is powerful. I've had so many little daily devotionals over the years that have been nice, and I read them and put them away and went about my day. But this one is different.

God's Heart for You by Holley Gerth

This one has made me pause.

Each day is only a few pages long, but Holley doesn't mess around. She starts with an idea, tells you her thoughts and then asks you three questions that stop you dead in your tracks.

Not the questions that you do two minutes before faith sharing because you're running late and they are typical ones you don't have to think about. {Not that I ever did that. Ahem.}

These are questions that dive into your heart, so that you can see yourself more clearly in His.

And after you ponder and pray and realize something new, she gives you a few lines of a prayer you think she pulled right out of your own heart, and then she gives you a pep talk that leaves your ready to face your day with a new readiness you didn't know you needed.

Can you tell I like this little treasure?

Would you like a copy, too?

Good. Because I'm giving one away. :)

If you want to be entered in, all you have to do is leave me a comment finishing this statement:

In God's Heart, I am...

Here's a video with some other people's answers if you need help getting started:

Please, only one comment per person, and the contest will go until 11:00 pm Thursday night. I'll announce the winner on Friday.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gitz Bits: Week 33

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Monday, August 15, 2011


This poor robin was in a tizzy trying to get some food on Monday. The feeder s/he was standing on is supposed to be safe against animals like raccoons and chipmunks, so when they stand on the little ledges their weight pulls the cage down and the food opening is covered by the leaves.

Well, apparently the robin had eaten a worm too many and was too heavy to actually get any of the birdseed.

If only the same was true for fast food windows...

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I did a little food experimenting myself, which is almost unheard of in my world, but it turned out great! I was looking through a blog that had a recipe that filled all of my requirements:

1. I had all the ingredients in my house.
2. It required absolutely no effort on my part.

Because I love you all, here's what you do:

Mix 12oz. of your favorite barbeque sauce, 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing and 1/4 cup brown sugar and put it over 6 frozen chicken breasts in a crock pot.

{I only had three frozen chicken breasts and it seemed perfect to me because I liked the extra sauciness.}

You leave it on high in the crockpot for four hours and then pull the chicken apart with two forks. It is YUMMY. You're welcome.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This is what Riley and I look like when we're not making great things in crockpots.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011


I was so happy that my little yellow flower started to get blooms on it again! I was afraid with all this dry hot weather that the time for flowers was over. I love it when I'm proven wrong.

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Friday, August 19, 2011


I was so grateful it was such a beautiful day out for my Uncle Barney's family to have his funeral and celebrate his life. I took a picture of this gorgeous blue sky because I know the gray days of winter are coming soon enough and we need to enjoy these fluffy cloud moments. 

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Saturday, August 20, 2011


My sweet sister Laura texted me a picture of her and Jeff getting my nephew Thomas settled in the dorm for his first year of college.

I'm so incredibly proud of him and can't believe it's time for him to be on his own already. And right now I'm just hoping his roommate doesn't mind Iowa Hawkeye apparel. :) 

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Sunday, August 21, 2011


My darling seven-year-old Yodi got to borrow her big sister's cell phone on Sunday and we spent hours – literally hours – texting back and forth. It was so sweet to go over everything from how much we love each other to how sad she is I live so far away to how the pop rocks she was eating feel when they explode in her mouth.

I loved every single minute of finding out everything there was to know about her day on Sunday. I am a lucky, lucky girl.

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well:

Monday, August 22, 2011

For Alex, Anna & Thomas

Dear Alex, Anna and Thomas:


I remember riding in the car with your Uncle Steve the summer before I was heading to college. He looked at me, his naïve little sister, and said something important.

"When you get to college, there are going to be people who do things in front of you that will shock you. There will be people who admit to doing things that are against everything you believe in. It doesn't make them bad people. It just makes them people who've done things."

He proceeded to list some of the things he'd seen, some of the things he'd done, some of the things that people had told him. And then he told me something else. He said that when he got done with his first year of college he went home and thanked Mom and Dad, telling them, "I may not have always chosen to do the right thing, but at least I always knew right from wrong. That's a lot more than some other kids at college had."

Those two things impacted me more than I can tell you. Because I got out of that car knowing that I did know right from wrong and I could choose right regardless of what everyone else chose, and I knew that I could love people even when they chose wrong.

That they were more than their mistakes.

Just like you will always be more than your mistakes. You will always be loved by me for exactly who you are at any given moment. And I will always be a safe place to turn if you need one.

I have been blessed in my life to have friends from so many different walks of life. I have friends who are so like me I can't believe we're not twins, and I have friends who are so different from me that people don't understand how we can have any kind of relationship. And I love them all the same because every one of them has brought a richness to my life.

So I wanted to write this down as you three start college classes this week. I wanted a place where you could come and read the wise words your Uncle Hoody said to me, because it served me well in college and in all the years of relationships afterward.

Because that's what life is, guys... a series of relationships that shape us and others in profound ways.

Know that while you will learn a lot in college classes and you will shape your future and get your degree, some of the greatest lessons you'll learn in college boil down to this: Be who you are and don't compromise yourself for anyone. But don't shut anyone out just because they are different. Love them. Listen to them. Meet them where they are at and be who God meant you to be ... an extension of Him in the lives of those around you.

And have a lot fun while you do it.

And don't forget your Aunt Sara is here if you need her. For anything. Any time.

I love you. All the way around the world and back.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Flashback Friday: Soul Desire

I have the privilege of "being" at my Uncle Barney's funeral today as he asked that some of my songs be played instead of having a choir sing. I can't tell you how much it means to me that he would want that, and that it's still possible I can give to him in that small way today despite not being able to travel home.

So today, in honor of him, I'm doing a Flashback Friday with a song that speaks to me about the way I want to live out my life.

The same way Barney lived his.

My Soul Desire
{originally posted April 17, 2009}

Tonight I had the girls over for our faith sharing night, and this paragraph from Max Lucado's Traveling Light struck me in a big way:

God hates arrogance. He hates arrogance because we haven't done anything to be arrogant about. Do art critics give awards to the canvas? Is there a Pulitzer for ink? Can you imagine a scalpel growing smug after a successful heart transplant? Of course not. They are only tools, so they get no credit for the accomplishments.

Now, at some point in the discussion I think Susie called me a tool, and didn't mean it in the nicest way, but that's not the point I'm trying to make here. :) In every part of the 23rd Psalm, which this book is based on, it talks about all God does for us:

"He makes me..."

"He leads me..."

"He restores my soul..."

And once again I am reminded that I need to be mindful of having a servant's heart. I have to be intentional in all the actions I take, knowing that all I do needs to point back to Him... the One who gets the praise for writing the story of our lives. The story for which I am blessed enough to be the ink.

And I just happen to have recorded a song back in the day that reminds me of just that.

01 My Soul Desire by gitzengirl

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

(in)courage: overwhelmed.

Hi, friends.

I'm doing my monthly post over at (in)courage today and I would love for you to go over there to read and join in the conversation, but I also have a favor to ask.

My Uncle Barney, who I mentioned in this post, passed away on Monday night and the funeral will be later this week.

My dad came from a big family, he was one of nine children, and until he died they had never experienced a loss in that immediate family. In the past thirteen months we have lost my Dad, my Grandpa Gerald and now my Uncle Barney. If you would say some extra prayers for my family, especially Grandma Rita, as well as Barney's wife Mickey and their kids Cory, Travis, Cristin and Libby, it would mean a lot to me.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all of this was written by God's hand and arranged with His loving embrace, but I know from the past year that it doesn't seem to make the missing them part any simpler. I so appreciate your prayers as all who loved Barney walk that road.


Click here to read my post over at (in)courage today: Overwhelmed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gitz Bits: Week 32

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Monday, August 8, 2011


Monday was my parents' 47th wedding anniversary, so I thought taking a snapshot of their wedding photo was fitting.

Their wedding cake had tiny little figurines on it that looked like the bride and groom, as well as groomsmen and bridesmaids that were in matching blue dresses and veils.

You can imagine how happy I was to find that box in the closet when I was a little girl… they were way more fun to play with than Barbies as far as I was concerned.  

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I think I already showed you guys the "JOY" blocks I have in my curio cabinet, so I wanted to show you the ones that spell out HOPE as well. Because we can all use a little hope in our day, can't we? :)

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011


And this shot is the definition of hope from Riley's perspective.

I have a bit of an addiction to Sweetarts and Starbursts, and when a stray one is left on the table by my bed, Riley often does this look of unrequited longing.

Poor guy. He's disappointed every time.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011


This is a public service announcement to all of you who may be wondering what to do with all of those tomatoes in your gardens.

If you are not slicing them up and dousing them with sugar, then you are doing the wrong thing.

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Friday, August 12, 2011


I know Susie is probably less thrilled to be going back to work than I am for her to be there. But her being at work means she's now closer to Sonic, which means my fridge will look like this more often.

I know, I'm a selfish, selfish friend. :)

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Saturday, August 13, 2011


Look! I've gotten really good at growing grass in my flower garden. Aren't you impressed with me?!?! I'm a total green thumb. 

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Sunday, August 14, 2011


So, one of my readers, Donna, sent me this as a surprise package months ago and I felt so bad to have to tell her that it never arrived. But then I thought to have someone check my mailbox in case the mailman forgot and left mail in there instead of in my basket by the door.

And lo and behold… it was there! Can you stand it? If you look closely it not only says "Choose Joy" but it has Riley stamped onto the center stone. Which is fitting, because we all know that Riley is the center of the universe around here. :)

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sweet Mariela.

I'm a girl who considers the idea of vacations to include things like hotels and room service, and I wouldn't mind a spa on premises, if we're getting technical.

Granted, I never went on vacation anywhere that actually had a spa on the premises, but in my mind it seemed like something I would enjoy.

A lot.

So I probably wouldn't be the first one to come to mind when people think missionary. And to be honest it was never on my radar growing up simply because it wasn't something I was exposed to. I remember Fr. Nash, whom my family loved, leaving to go to Africa and become a missionary when I was younger, but all I really knew about it was that he was leaving and we threw him a party and I would miss him not stopping by the house.

The limited sight of a child, you know.

It never affected my life until I was in college and my Aunt Janella, who worked at the college I attended and whom I treasured, decided to learn a new language and travel to Bolivia to serve the people.

It overwhelmed me to think of all she was leaving. It overwhelmed me to imagine the things she would see and the conditions in which she would learn to live. And it overwhelmed me with pride to know she was willing to do that – no, was excited to do that – simply because she felt called.

What overwhelmed me the most was that my eyes were finally opened up to a world beyond my doors. To a world of poverty and need and conditions about which my mind was oblivious. And because I got to hear the stories from Janella's perspective, I learned that these were not just faces and statistics on the evening news.

Bolivia was filled with mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters who love just like we love. Who hurt just like we hurt. And who hope for things that we take for granted in the simplest of moments.

After that, although time made it very clear my life would never allow it, I would wonder if that would ever be my calling. If I would ever have the chance to go and be the hands and feet of Christ in that way. If I would ever kneel down and face a child on a dirt road and gaze into eyes that were filled with a story far beyond their years. If I would ever be able to help.

So you can imagine what came over me when Matthew sent me the videos of him meeting my sweet Mariela, the girl he and Jessica allowed me to choose for them to sponsor in my name. I chose her picture, her story. I wrote her a letter and sent her photos and Jessica helped me shop for gifts for her in preparation for Matthew's mission trip.

My heart was already full of prayers for her and excitement over corresponding with her.

But then I saw her sweet smile.

Her shy nature.

The way she took in my story and felt the words in an understanding beyond her years.

The way she looked at the camera when she realized that's where I was, seeing her.

This child has already changed me more than I will ever affect her, I'm sure of it. Because now my world stretches beyond these walls all the way to Bolivia.

{Mariela's message to me}

{Matthew first meeting Mariela}

If you want to help a community better support each other, a family learn trades to earn income, a child to go to school and have the chance to educate themselves into a better future, consider looking into World Vision. They not only help communities, they set the goal of only having to be in a community for 15 years… at which time the community can run all the services for themselves. It's not just helping a child, it's providing a future for an entire village and the generations that will come.

Because not all of us can go be missionaries.

But that doesn't mean we aren't called to a mission.

Friday, August 12, 2011

5 minutes: beauty

Today I'm linking up to Lisa-Jo, aka gypsy mama, who chooses a topic every Friday and writes for five minutes.

Only five minutes.

And the rule is that whatever she writes about in that five minutes is what she posts. No editing her thoughts.

Today, her topic choice is "Beauty…"

So I'm going to set the timer, write some thoughts, and then I'm going to stop.

Ready? Set. Go.


Beauty has always been a tough subject for me, mostly because for so many years I didn't see what others did when they looked at me.

It's taken me a lot of years to finally really believe that. That what I saw when I looked in the mirror was distorted. The girl who was once 83 pounds and saw fat and ugly in the mirror… that girl didn't see what was really there. But it took until now for me to really realize it.

It took Cushing's - ugly, mean and cruel Cushing's -for me to know that even when I do look in the mirror and see my worst nightmare that I won't break.

I had gained 70 pounds in a short four months. I stretched and pulled in deformed ways. I looked in the mirror every day and couldn't even see my own self in my eyes anymore and I realized that's what I had always done… looked in a mirror not recognizing who was there.

And just like I had no control over gaining it, I've had no control over losing it. I have spent the last year so sick that I lost all of that weight and then some. And now I look in the mirror and I see someone I recognize. But I see more than just me.

I see the real me.

Not the me I was afraid of at 15, and not the one I was searching for a year ago. I see the me with the off-color of illness in my skin and the sometimes red blotchiness of flash rashes and the Cushing's striations on my body that will never leave and still sometimes hurt to touch and I'm not afraid of any of it.

They are my marks of survival.

Friends come and I put on the foundation and I apply the mascara, but it's more so they aren't scared and they don't worry about how sick I am.

For me now, on normal days when I am bare faced and facing the day, I just look in the mirror and see someone who is still surviving and living through it. And there is beauty in that. In surviving.

I get that now.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thought for the Day...

When I first walked through the doors to my new job, I didn't care about anything except that I got that job. The one that made me a writer.

I was at a magazine and I was going to write {eventually}. I started out as low man on the totem pole. I was an administrative assistant to the editor and in the first week I had that man's office reorganized, color coded, and his stack of articles edited and reformatted.

I'm pretty sure he gave me a writing assignment just to get me out of his hair.

So there I was, working for a trade publication about call centers - knowing nothing about the industry -about to do my first official interview for my first official article. And to be honest, I didn't care about the industry at all. Predictive dialers might as well have been calculus for how much I enjoyed reading about them.

But I called my first interviewee and learned something invaluable: It doesn't matter if I know about the subject matter, or if it interests me. I just need to care about the people.

Because that man I interviewed? He was mad about the industry. He was jazzed about predictive dialers. All I had to do was ask him a question and from there on out it was about the conversation. About learning from someone who was thrilled to teach. About adapting my own priorities into caring about his. 

Suddenly it wasn't about trudging through an interview about the most boring subject on earth to me, it was about investing in a man who had a story to tell. And I had the ability to tell it.

In a time when every self help book I read talked about finding groups of like-minded people to further your goals, and being true to who you are over who others may want you to be, I found the opposite to be true. I found that if I went into every situation caring more about what was important to the other person, then who I was grew ten fold.

I learned that it was all about the person, and in order to care about the person I needed to choose to care about what was important to them, and make it important to me.

I was thinking about this because you all saw this photo and said you weren't sure who was more the kid, me or Elias:


And the truth is that I couldn't have cared less about a car zooming off the bed. But I cared that Elias did. His interest became my interest and his excitement became my excitement, and before I knew it I was filled up with contagious joy.

We all do that for children. Imagine if we did that for other adults as well.

Imagine if we cared more about them feeling happy than us feeling right.

Imagine if we cared more about them feeling known than us feeling superior.

Imagine if we cared more about them feeling accepted than us feeling righteous.

Imagine if we cared more about them feeling joy than us feeling envy.

Imagine if we cared more about them feeling abundance than us feeling security.

Maybe sometimes it's not so much about being who we are at all costs. Maybe sometimes it's about letting go of who we are to see who we might become.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gitz Bits: Week 31

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Monday, August 1, 2011


What a perfect day. :) Every time Adeline was hungry, Jess came and got her to feed her. And every time she was done, she walked back over to the bed and put her in my arms.

Pretty much the perfect arrangement, if you ask me. 

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Riley didn't think ANY of this was a perfect arrangement, however. I had decided early on that mixing Elias, a brand new baby and Riley was probably not going to be the smoothest option for the visit. Because I REALLY wanted to hold Adeline, and I knew that would never happen safely with Riley around.

So I shaved his hair as short as I could to help with my reacting to him and sent him off on a play date with Susie for the day. He did *great* with Susie… behaving way better than he does here at home. Heck, I was on the phone with her at one point when someone came to her door and Riley didn't make a peep.

We decided he's definitely more protective of me. But when he came home we also decided he was definitely not happy with me just giving him away like that.

I got the cold shoulder. BIG TIME.

I'm still not sure if he was mad because I sent him away, or because he discovered there's a whole world out there that I've been keeping him from...

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I'm cheating and posting another Monday photo, simply because there's a cute baby involved. But the photo is actually to point out the cute pillow.

Shannon found this pillow in a Christian book store and snatched it up for me as a surprise... not only do the colors match my duvet EXACTLY, but it has my blog theme of Choose Joy front and center.  I thought at first she had it made, but she swears it was just sitting there already perfectly designed.

I love when that kind of thing happens. I love even more that my sweet friend saw it and thought of me. And I especially love the baby it's sitting next to.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011


Speaking of sweet and thoughtful gifts, when Jessica and her parents came, they brought me this amazing bird bath! Doesn't it look beautiful by the hasta?

I think the birds were a little afraid of the fake cardinal at first, but they have been dipping their beaks and feathers quite often the past few days. On Thursday there were three of them hanging out, but they saw the motion of me grabbing the camera and flew away before I could catch them in action.

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Friday, August 5, 2011


Have you ever seen a sweeter face?

My Yodi girl turned seven on Saturday, and on Friday afternoon she got her ears pierced to celebrate. It was a BIG day, so we skyped that night so I could see the sparklers in her ears. Which she said, by the way, didn't hurt at all.

Brave girl.

I had mailed her gift earlier in the week, so she got to open it that night while we were on skype. I had sent her some special earrings and that's the look on her face as she opened them. You would have thought I pulled stars right out of the sky and put them in box for her.

She's just the sweetest thing.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011


Would you look at that? I FINALLY got two goldfinches at once. Elvis must have told Priscilla about his hangout so she could join him. 

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Sunday, August 7, 2011


I cheated again with another Monday photo. But I couldn't let this picture go without showing it to you, because this little stinker could work that iPhone like a pro. There is no doubt Elias takes in everything around him because he not only looked big playing games on the phone, he sounded big as he kissed Adeline's head every time she woke up and said in his cutest three-year-old voice, "Hey there, pretty girl."

I so love him.

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Thanks for once again sharing my week with me! Click on the button below if you want to go to Jessica’s site and check out the other participants showing off their weekly photos as well: