They love each other

When we found out we were pregnant with Ella, I immediately began praying about Riley and his sibling's (didn't know it was a girl at the time!) relationship. I did not want there to be any jealousy or ill-feelings between the two. I prayed over and over that Riley would love his little brother/sister with his whole heart and be thankful he/she was added to our family. When we found out the baby in my belly would be named Ella, my prayers became even more specific and focused. I prayed that he would be a protective big brother and love on his sister every chance he got. I prayed he would know just how much Daniel and I loved him, and that we weren't trying to replace him by bringing another child into the family. I prayed that he would never look at me and say, "When can we take her back?!" :)

All I can say is that God is faithful and He answered all of those prayers! Riley absolutely adores his sister. It is the most precious thing to watch the two of them interact. He loves to help me feed and burp her. I think he'd try and change her diaper if I'd let him! If she begins to cry, he's the first one at her side saying, "It's ok, Ella!" The other day I was getting ready for church when Ella began to cry while sitting in her baby papasan chair. Riley walked over to her, knelt down and said, "It's ok, Ella! Nothing is going to hurt you!" Talk about melting a mama's heart! He's so sweet with her now, and I can't wait to see how their friendship grows in the next couple of years. I think they're going to have so much fun together once she starts walking and talking (if he'll let her get a word in!).

Here's a timeline in pictures of the sweet brother/sister love going on in our house...

1st time holding his sister

Helping Grandma burp Ella

Pushing the swing for her

Chatting on the floor

One morning I was getting ready in the bathroom beside Ella's room. I walked into her room to find Riley laying beside her on the bed.

Feeling safe beside big brother

Fun times on the playmat

Riley serenading Ella with his guitar. Pretty sure the song of choice was "Jesus Loves Me."

So very thankful for the blessing of raising these two precious children!


2 months

Ella Grace is 2 months old today! 
What a joy she is, and I can't imagine our family without her in it. We all love her so much - Riley is one of her biggest fans. (another post on that soon)
In honor of her 2-month birthday, she discovered her right hand today. :)

She is also very much like her brother in that she is extremely expressive.

This one is my absolute favorite. She is the queen of pooching out her lower lip. Kills me every time!

Thank you, Lord, for precious Ella-boo. What an honor it is to be her mama. Thank you for knowing our family needed her. Please continue growing her into the beautiful girl You've created her to be. Guide us as we strive to raise her to honor You.

A boy and his dog

Ever since I became Mrs. Bramlett, I've heard from my husband, "Oh, I can't wait for the day when we'll live somewhere that we can have a dog." I'm not a huge dog person, so I'd usually just smile and go on about my business. Then, once we had a little boy, it became, "Laura, every little boy needs a dog. We've got to get Riley a dog." Hmm...we've got to get little boy Riley a dog, or little boy Daniel a dog?! So last spring I caved in and we bought a brother and sister - Molly and McCoy. Long story short, they didn't work out so well with our family so we got rid of them.

Fast forward to this past Friday. Daniel had been researching online for several days looking for "good" house dogs in our area that needed a home. Friday he found a cocker spaniel puppy in Marshall (about 45 minutes away). "Laura, let's just go look (famous last words, right?!)." So, we loaded up the car and headed to Marshall. I was so tired from being a mommy of an infant that I begged to stop on the way out of town and get a dr. pepper. You need to understand that I don't ever drink sodas. However, a few times since Ella's been born, my body has NEEDED a pick-me-up, and a soda seems to do the trick. Friday was one of "those" days. So keep in mind later in the story that I was severely sleep-deprived. :) Anyway, we made it to Marshall (both kiddos napped on the way...how wonderful!) and went in to see this puppy. 30 minutes later we were walking out with an 8-week-old cocker spaniel. Yes, that's right...my daughter and my dog are the same age. Am I absolutely crazy??? Yes, I believe I am. Or wait, remember I said earlier how sleep deprived I was? I think that played a major role in my lack of discernment.

So, I am now a mother of 3...Riley, Ella and Mac. What a crazy week it has been! I think know once this pup learns where he should and shouldn't relieve himself life will get much better. Until then, though, it's a bit hectic around the Bramlett house. But, both of my boys got their dog, so all is well with the world.

Daniel was convinced we could take Mac into WalMart with us right after we got him...the Greeter thought otherwise, so Ella & I got to shop while the boys played outside.

Ignore our son's fashion statement - at home we go for comfort over looks :)

His cuteness helps his cause when I'm cleaning up the mess he's made on the kitchen floor!

Lazy Saturday morning

He adores Daniel and Riley

Right before this picture was taken, Daniel said, "I mean, this is just the perfect dog!"

A boy and his dog...


2.5 today

This handsome boy is 2 1/2 years old today! Can't even believe it! He is such a blessing from the Lord. He brings smiles to our faces and laughter to our mouths every single day - usually multiple times a day! His vocabulary and language skills constantly leave us speechless. I have to remind myself all the time that he's 2, not 5! Of course, when those fun tantrums begin it's a nice, quick reminder! Although, those are thankfully becoming few and far between.

I recently read here about a 5-year journal for mothers where you write a short snippet each day. I love this because I'm able to pick one thing each day to record, and I don't feel pressured to write a lot because there are only a few lines per day. Riley is constantly saying one-liners that we don't want to forget, and this is the perfect way to be able to look back on his funny sayings in 10, 20, 30 years. If you're a mommy, I highly recommend one of these!

Riley-bug, we are so thankful for you! You made our world such a better place when you entered it 30 months ago! You are the best big brother I've ever seen, and I look forward to the years to come when you and Ella will have lots of fun together. I have so much fun watching you learn and grow each day. Your comprehension of what's going on around you absolutely amazes me. I pray you use the brain God has given you for His glory! If you're willing, He will use you in ways none of us could ever imagine! I love you with my whole heart, and I am so proud of the little boy you are! Always, Your Mama


New Years Responsibility

Christmas Day and New Years Day were unique this year in that they fell on a Sunday, which only happens every 7 years. I liked it. I liked that I got to worship with my church family ON Christmas day. I liked that 2012 began on the Lord's day. And I'm a pretty big fan of my husband's preaching, so I'm thankful I was challenged by him from the pulpit (I'm challenged by him at home every day) on the first day of the year.

On January 1, his sermon was not about New Years resolutions, but New Years responsibilities. I loved this perspective. According to dictionary.com, a resolution is: "the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc." Whereas a responsibility is: "the state or fact of being responsible (geez, don't you hate it when a word is used in its own definition??)" and responsible is: "answerable or accountable, as for something within one's power, control, or management." So, if you resolve to do something, there's a determination there, but not necessarily any accountability. This is why every gym in the world - and I can confidently say in the world because I saw it happen in South Africa - is packed in January and then slowly the numbers die down as the year progresses. When you are responsible for something, you are held accountable for your actions. 

Naturally, after hearing his sermon, I began to ask myself what my New Years responsibilities were. It didn't take long for the Lord to jump into the conversation and reveal several areas in need of change. As a way to hold myself accountable for these, I'm going to share the ones I've discovered with you (I'm sure more will be revealed as the days and weeks pass by).

#1 - procrastination
I am the world's worst procrastinator! In little things and in big things! I think the best worst story I have concerning procrastination occurred when I was a seminary student. It was my first semester and I was asked to go on a mission trip to Haiti. However, this trip fell during a school-week, so I had to get all of my schoolwork done ahead of time. Do you see where this would be an issue for a procrastinator?! One project that was due the week I was going to be gone was a 25-page paper for one of my missions classes. I was leaving on a Sunday, thus the paper needed to be finished Saturday night. When did I begin the paper?! Saturday morning! That's right...the day of! 13 hours later (most of that spent in the library) my paper was done and I was ready to begin packing for my trip.

Now that I'm a homemaker and mother, I find that my procrastination involves housework and mommy duties, mostly. It wasn't that big of a deal with just one child, but now that there's a newborn in the mix, I realized very quickly that old habits were going to have to pass away. Now, I certainly don't have it all figured out yet, but I feel like I've made some headway - baby steps, friends! My new motto is if I see or think of something that needs doing, I'm going to do it right then instead of saying, "oh, I can do that later." So far this thinking (and doing) has relieved some unneeded stress. I want to be the best wife and mother I can be, which means I have to work hard! This is my first responsibility this year...and in the years to come.

#2 - positive thinking
No, I'm not reading a Joel O'steen book (no offense if you're an O'steen fan - I am not). Unfortunately, I can be a very negative person, and this causes stress in my own brain and in my relationship with others (namely my husband who is SUPER positive!). I go to a Bible study on Thursday mornings called Community Bible Study. Right now we're studying the book of Colossians, and part of the commentary for the first week (which happened to be the first week of the new year) talked about "eliminating the negative by accentuating the positive." I'm definitely going to try and make this a theme in my life this year. I'm tired of immediately finding the negative in a situation or person. When I accepted Christ, I became a new creation. I am to put off the old self and put on the new (Colossians 3). Part of that old self is negative thinking. If I continue to think negatively, then I am not living the victorious life available to me in Christ Jesus. I am choosing to live a defeated life - one that not only affects me, but others around me as well. So, another responsibility for me this year is to be thankful in all circumstances - even when Ella's crying, Riley's whining and dinner is supposed to be ready in 20 minutes. :) 

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." 
Colossians 2:6-7 

#3 - taking care of my temple
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Plain and simple, now that I'm no longer pregnant and can exercise regularly again, I need to do it! Now, I'm not one of those people that loves exercising. I would rather eat toothpaste than run (not sure where eating toothpaste came from - just the first thing that popped into my head!). But, I've found that I LOVE Zumba, and there just happens to be a class offered in our church gym every Tuesday and Thursday nights. Last Friday I was cleared by my doctor to exercise again, so this past Tuesday I was at Zumba, and it felt so good! I'm going again tonight. The class is at 5:30, so it's going to take effort to continue going each week since that's right in the middle of dinner prep time. But, if I don't procrastinate, think positively, and start dinner early, I can do it! :) 
And those, my friends, are my New Years responsibilities...so far. Like I said, the Lord is constantly refining me and showing me areas that are in need of change. I'm sure more responsibilities will be added in the coming weeks, but for now, I'm focusing on these three. Feel free to hold me accountable and ask how I'm doing with each one!


Mohawk Mama

Apparently we make babies with mohawks. I was looking back on previous posts the other day and found this one. I didn't remember Riley having a mohawk, but he did and now we have a daughter to add to the mohawk clan. Thankfully, the rest of his hair grew out, and I'm trusting hers will do the same!

You can already see some hair growing out around the mohawk...yay!

Big brother helping point it out

We also have babies who are ridiculously attached to their umbilical cords. I guess the cords are super thick and securely fastened because Riley didn't lose his until he was 5 weeks old and Ella STILL has hers at 6.5 weeks (no worries...I didn't take any pictures of this. I hate the sight of it, so I certainly didn't feel the need to subject you all to it!). Riley's pediatrician at the time told us not to put alcohol on it to dry it out because it really wouldn't make a difference. After waiting 5 long weeks for it to fall off, I vowed that if I ever had another child, I would douse the cord with alcohol! I have been cleaning Ella's like crazy and it obviously has not made a difference. At her 1-month check-up the Dr. told us the longest he's seen one stay on was 3 months. Oh please, Ella, let's not attempt to break the record! I'm all about having a unique child, but don't really care to win the Guinness Book of World Records for longest time an umbilical cord is attached! I'll keep you updated on if we'll be in the next book. :)


1460 days

1460 days...that's how long I've been married to my best friend. In case you don't want to do the math, that's 4 years. :) So much has happened in our lives in 4 short years. Great things that only God could have planned, but LOTS of them! This morning I looked back at last year's anniversary post, and unfortunately, I don't have the brain power or energy this year to write an involved post. Both kiddos are sleeping right now, and I need to be doing the same! So, just know that I love my husband VERY much, I'm thankful to be his wife, and I look forward to spending the rest of our lives together...especially once I can sleep through the night again. :)


Photo Card

I made Ella's birth announcements tonight! I love Shutterfly! They told me if I posted about it here I'd get a discount on my next  order. If you've never used them, I would highly recommend checking out their website!


Hello Chalkboard Girl Baby Announcements
Announcements for all occasions: graduation, a new baby, or wedding.
View the entire collection of cards.

1 month well-visit

We went this morning for Ella's 1-month check-up. As we knew, our baby girl is growing! About 3 weeks ago she weighed in at 7 lbs 3 oz. This morning she was 9 lbs 2 oz! She's also grown another inch, so she's now 21 inches. It's funny to think that some babies are BORN this size and ours reached it at 5 1/2 weeks! How thankful we are for a healthy girl, though! Speaking of her...time for another bottle! Gotta keep packing on the pounds! :)


A Year in Review

Happy New Year! In preparation for writing this post, I went back through my pictures from each month of 2011. It was fun, yet also very humbling. Fun because I was able to see all of the incredible things we were able to do and how much Riley grew and changed throughout the year. Humbling because as the Psalmist said it so well in Psalm 8,
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
   and the son of man that you care for him?
He has blessed us so much this past year, and we are so unworthy! How thankful I am for God's steadfast love and mercy! And now for a walk down memory lane...

In the first month of the new year we experienced our 2nd snow of the season
 And participated in a snowman contest with some of Daniel's family who live in Arkansas and Tennessee (his uncle in Singapore was the judge)

 In February it snowed yet again and we celebrated our 1-year anniversary at FBC Hughes Springs
 I was also able to travel to Newton, MS (a day late because of the snow, I might add) to see great friends from Seminary, Shannon & Jonathan McDuffie and their new baby, Cole.
 Later in the month I got to chaperone a youth girls' retreat to Lake Charles, LA

  Thanks to a wonderful church member who traveled to New Orleans on business, we were able to enjoy a delicious King Cake
 Gigi also came for a visit!
 And we celebrated my 32nd birthday, but there aren't any pictures of that, for some reason.

 My best friend and college roommate, Kristen, and her boyfriend at the time (husband now), Richard, came for a visit. We drove down to our Alma Mater, Baylor, and had a great time reminiscing about college days.
Riley participated in his first Easter egg hunt. After finding his first egg, he opened it and realized there was candy inside. He was so excited about the candy that he didn't care about looking for more eggs. We had to do some looking for him!
Every April our town and 2 other towns nearby hold the Wildflower Trails celebration. There's always a parade, and this year, Daniel and Riley got to drive a tractor! Riley (and Daniel!) was in heaven!
Much to our surprise, we found out another Bramlett was on the way!
And after Easter we headed to Mountain Air, NC for a much-needed week-long vacation in the mountains with my parents.

Our first glimpse at Baby Bramlett #2
We spent a lot of time outside this month...building a garden (which burned up in the drought), working on the yard, and just having a good time together.

In June we sent our first team from FBC to Peru. Daniel and Riley didn't go, but we were there bright and early in the morning to see them off.
Summer arrived in full force and we spent as much time as possible in the water! Thankfully, several of our church members have pools that we're able to use.
Daniel started to feel a little left out, so he decided to share in the pregnancy fun :)

We attempted to find out whether B.B. #2 was a boy or girl, but he/she would not cooperate! We did find out we had a healthy child, which we were thankful for, but we were a little disappointed we'd have to wait several more weeks before trying to find out again.
On the 20th our big boy turned 2!
And my parents made a trip down from Maryland to help celebrate his birthday.

After many years of praying, I was finally able to go on a mission trip back to the land I love - South Africa and Swaziland

Wildfires broke out close to our town and in our county and the county next to us around 60,000 acres burned
Daniel turned 31 on the 8th and he requested I make an Easy Skillet Apple Pie
We said goodbye to Daniel for 9 days as he led a team of 4 back to Peru
To break up the monotony while Daniel was gone, my friend Shannon & her son Cole (who was now 9 months) came to visit us.
And the greatest excitement we had in September was finding out B.B. #2 was a GIRL! Elizabeth Grace (Ella) Bramlett would be her name.

My best friend, Kristen (on the far right), was getting married in November. Since I would be 36 weeks pregnant on her wedding day and unable to travel, I went to Jacksonville, FL for her wedding shower in the middle of October. I'm so sad I missed the wedding, but I'm very thankful I was able to be there for this special time.
The happy couple
On this same trip I was able to spend one night with two of my best friends from high school, Summer (right) and Liz (left)
And then, of course, there was Halloween! We don't have any good pumpkin patches around us, so Riley and I had to settle for going to the local grocery store to pick out some pumpkins. He still had a blast!
For Halloween we dressed up as an oven with a bun in it (me), a baker (Daniel), and a loaf of bread (lil' man)

Daniel had Veterans Day off, so we took a quick trip to a nearby Christian camp, Sky Ranch, and had one final getaway before welcoming Ella into our family.
Some very sweet ladies in the church gave me an amazing baby shower
I took what would be my last preggo shot (unbeknownst to me at the time!) - 37.5 weeks
We met Daniel's Mom and Grandmother in Texarkana on Black Friday. We walked around the mall for several hours. None of us knew then that the very next day Ella would grace us with her presence!
At 38 weeks, Ella Grace was born! 
November 26, 6 lbs 11 oz, 19 inches
My parents came a couple of days after Ella's birth and were able to stay for 2 weeks. They were such a huge help!

We decorated outside
And inside for Christmas!
Brotherly/Sisterly love and quality time
Family Christmas pic 2011
And Ella turned a month old!

What a year! I never dreamed at the beginning of last year that we'd get to experience even half of these things! I especially didn't think I would be sitting here with a 5-week old! I can't help but wonder what this next year will hold. No matter what it brings, I know the God of the Universe is in control of it all, and He will walk beside us day by day.

...in your book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me...
Psalm 139:16