3/4 of a year

I'm having a hard time truly grasping this, but somehow our tiny 6-lb baby girl is now 9 months old!

She turned 9 months this past Sunday, but between both kids being sick (for about a week and a half - yuck!) and the internet not working for several days, I'm just now getting a chance to post about the big girl.

 We haven't gone for her 9-month check up since she's been sick, but I did take her to the doctor last week and found out she's 18.9 lbs!

As you can tell from the picture below, she still adores her big brother. In fact, they are pretty much best buds. Her face lights up when he walks in the room and vice versa.

 I definitely think she had a virus, but I also know that some of her runny nose and fussiness from the past 2 weeks has been due to teething. A couple of weeks ago a sweet friend gave Ella this fun teething toy. Apparently, Sophie the Giraffe is the latest craze in teethers. Not only is it rubber all over, but it also squeaks any time you squeeze it. She's a pretty big fan!

She has also begun showing interest in electronic items. The other day I was working on the computer on the floor and left the room for just a couple of seconds. I came back to find this. :)

And just like big brother, Ella loves a cell phone.

Also similar to big brother, she is still not crawling or pulling up. Just this week she's started to show signs of possibly moving towards crawling (scooting around in a circle while sitting up, turning her legs as if she's going to move from a sitting stance to a crawling stance, etc). So, we'll see! Just as with Riley, I'm not rushing her! 

Who says you need to be able to crawl or stand to play with this?!

 The funny thing is Riley did the exact same thing!
Note to self: It's not a great idea to do a photo shoot with 2 sick children - even if Ella is turning 9-months! See the red around her eyes? Yeah, she wasn't happy about wearing a dress/bow OR taking pictures!

That's better! 

This girl still LOVES her thumb! I think we may be in trouble one day!

"Okay, mama. This isn't too much fun anymore." (according to Ella) Riley was just chillin'!

The crying is getting a little more intense

Is it cruel that I'm still taking pictures at this point?!

Close-up of the crocodile tears...poor girl gets a red nose and red all around her eyes when she gets upset.

And then it was time to attempt the shots of her adorable little bloomers.

Another fit ensued as I was attempting this

Almost got it!


So it may not have been the happiest of monthly mile-markers, but we all survived and memories were made - good and bad. :) I was writing in my mommy journal this morning, and wrote, "We had no clue our family needed Ella, but God did, and I am so thankful!" This is so true! She is the best surprise that ever happened to us!


Can I be in charge?

This poor guy wants to be in charge so badly! I shouldn't be surprised that the Lord gave me a strong-willed child since both my husband and I are quite strong-willed. My mom said she read The Strong-Willed Child twice when I was little. I cannot tell you how many times in his short lifetime Riley has heard the words, "Riley, who is in charge?"

So for the past few months Riley has walked around saying, "Mama, can I be in charge one day?" When I respond with, "Yes, one day when you're much older and a daddy, you can be in charge!" Just the thought of this "being in charge" being somewhat within his grasp satisfies him for a while. I've overheard him talking to himself saying, "one day I'll be in charge!" Poor fella!

And then this past week he found some headphones his daddy got on a flight to Peru. He had the best time playing with them, and in the middle of it, he looked at me and said, "Mama, can I be in charge of these headphones?!"

I wish you could have seen his face when I said, "Yes, Riley! You sure can!"

So now when I remind him who is in charge, he follows it up with, "but I'm in charge of the headphones, Mama!"

Yes, son, yes you are! And if that's all it takes to appease your need to be in charge, I'll take it!

As a side note: When I was putting the kids to bed tonight Riley was praying. He prayed for Ella and then said, "And Father thank you for Mama and thank you for her good heart." This kid blows me away! I don't know why the Lord chose to bless us with Riley, but I am SO THANKFUL!

Soccer girl?

Both of my kids are sick. It's been a long day. Tonight when I put Ella down on her play mat she flipped out because she thought I was leaving her. Normally she doesn't mind, but when a girl's sick, she just wants her mama! So I grabbed a ball and we played for about 30 minutes before bedtime. I'm no athlete, but I feel as though this little girl's got some skill!

Jiggety Jig

It's no secret that Riley has always loved music and dancing. I'm thinking his sister may follow very closely in his footsteps...


Interview with Riley

I decided to interview little man this morning. Some of his answers were pretty predictable (favorite friend, favorite thing to do, favorite toy). Others, though, surprised me a bit (what he wants to be when he grows up, favorite food right now). I'm going to try to do this every year around his birthday so one day we can look back and see how the answers changed over the years. :)


The Pea

Last week a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how her young daughter put a piece of a chicken nugget up her nose and had to be sedated at the hospital for it to be removed. This wasn't the first time I'd heard of a child sticking something up their nose, but I never imagined I would experience such a thing with my own child.

And then there was the pea.

Peas were part of our dinner last night. We've eaten peas a lot at our house and never had a problem. We were all enjoying our meal and good conversation when I looked over at little man and saw his finger up his nose. I didn't think much of it. I just asked him to remove his finger and not do that again. He finished his meal and went to go play.

About 5 minutes later he came back to the table, tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Mama, can you get the pea out of my nose?"

"The pea? What pea?"

And then I had that sinking feeling of, "please tell me this isn't happening!" I had him lean his head back and looked up his nose. Sure enough, the little green pea was resting comfortably in his nostril. I, of course, started to freak out a bit. I just knew we were going to be making a trip to the E.R. - on a Saturday night. Saturday nights are pretty sacred in a pastor's home. We don't do much. We go to bed early. An E.R. visit just wouldn't fit into the normal schedule too well!

How thankful I am that Leah - not only a missionary, but also a registered NURSE - was here visiting! She very calmly went to her room, grabbed her tweezers and a flashlight, and came back asking for an alcohol swab. And then the minor surgery began...

Riley was such a big boy through all of it. He never once cried, and within a few seconds the pea was out and his nostril was clear again!

Once again, hooray for Leah being here!

Sweet Reunion

I'll never forget meeting her at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary the first day of orientation in January 2005. We were grouped together by degrees, so all of the missions majors were placed together. There were only a handful of us, so we quickly introduced ourselves and found out where everyone had been and what our plans (assuming they were God's plans as well!) were for the future. I was there to pursue a Master of Divinity with a specialization in People Group Strategies. Just typing that wears me out - it was a long 95-hour degree that would prepare me for international missions. She told us she had come to take 20 hours (the International Mission Board requirement) and head overseas as quickly as possible. I remember thinking, "Wow, this girl has it together and knows what she's headed for!" You see, part of the reason I had chosen such a long degree was so I'd have time - time to recover a little from the 2 previous years I'd spent in South Africa, and time to figure out what in the world God wanted me to do next. Not Leah, though. She knew!

Meet my precious friend, Leah Brown.

There are some people I meet and immediately feel a connection to. Leah is one of those people. I knew right after meeting her that I wanted to get to know her. Our first semester in seminary we saw each other around, but really didn't hang out or spend much time together. And then Hurricane Katrina happened...

I'll spare you all of the gory details from that year away from New Orleans, but fast forward to August 2006. I returned to New Orleans literally kicking and screaming. To say I didn't want to be there is an understatement. I really wasn't sure if any of my friends were returning, so when I saw Leah on campus soon after moving back, I felt so relieved. Like I said earlier, we really weren't friends the first semester, but just seeing the familiar face of someone I thought with whom there might be a potential friendship was comforting.

We started hanging out some and she introduced me to her roommates. One of those would end up being in our wedding in 2008 (although I was clueless of that at the time!). Since I was living in temporary housing while the dorm was still under construction, Leah and her roommates were gracious enough to let me hang out at their apartment some. What a blessing they were!

Both Leah and I were in need of an accountability partner, so we began meeting together weekly. We would ask each other the tough questions - how is your prayer life? how much time are you spending in the Word? what sins are you struggling with? We always ended our time praying for one another. Even though it was a hard part of my week (because I knew I had to be honest with myself and her!), I wouldn't trade those Monday meetings for anything! We met faithfully for 2 years.

2 years? No, it doesn't take 2 years to complete 20 hours of seminary classes. Just as I (or should I say, the LORD) changed my plans and I completed a much shorter degree called a Master of Arts in Missiology, Leah also had a change in plans and decided to complete an entire degree (the same one as me) rather than just 20 hours. So, we began on the same day in 2005 and then walked across the stage to receive our diplomas on the same day in 2008. (still can't believe we didn't get a picture together at graduation!)

As we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel (i.e. graduation), we spent many a Monday talking about and praying for what was next for Leah. She knew she was supposed to go overseas, but really had no clue where the Lord wanted her to serve. Through time, counsel from others, and LOTS of prayer, God revealed she was to go to South America and serve in Peru and Bolivia.

Here we are at her going away party in July 2008

So she left for South America in October 2008. I was SO excited for her, yet knew I was going to miss our sweet times together so much! And I did! Thankfully, God provided some other Godly women for me to meet with and hold me accountable.

A year later Leah returned for a short vacation. Riley was 2 months old, and I loved getting to introduce him to Leah! I didn't realize it, but apparently my son began loving my sweet friend then!

When I found out last year that Leah was coming home in May for her Stateside Assignment, I knew I wanted First Baptist Hughes Springs to be on her list of churches to speak to. Not only did I want to spend a weekend with her and show her where we live, but I wanted our church members to hear her because she spent the last 3.5 years working with the same people group our church is currently working with in Peru (the Quechua). Also, when she returns to the mission field in January, she will be going to Peru!

How exciting it was to see her pull into our driveway this past Friday night! We had such a good time catching up over the past 2 days. Of course, as it always does, the time went by way too quickly, but I am thankful she was even able to come! The kiddos adore her - especially a little 3-year-old boy named Riley. I'm pretty sure he experienced his first crush this weekend. :)

On Saturday Leah went for a run, and when she left the house Riley started crying. I asked him what was wrong and he said, "I don't want her to leave! I love her!" Once I explained to him that she was coming back after her run he was okay. Oh the emotions of the little guy!


Saying goodbye...

It may be several more years before we see Leah again on this continent, but we're hoping and praying it will work out for us to see her sometime while we're in Peru. Until then, though, it will be Skype, Facebook and email. :) We love you, Leah, and we're SO thankful you were able to spend the weekend with us! We're praying for you! In fact, Riley prayed for you tonight before bed...


She is Faithful

Along with a group of married couples at our church, Daniel and I have been reading The Resolution for Men and The Resolution for Women. If you haven't heard of or read these books, I highly recommend them. Well, I highly recommend the one for women...I haven't read the one for men, but Daniel says it's really good! :)

Anyway, one of the resolutions is entitled Faithfully His: A resolution to be devoted to Christ and defined by His Word. Within the chapter there is a section devoted to "Faith vs. Faithfulness." We often think that the two are synonyms, but as Priscilla Shirer points out, there is much more to faithfulness than just belief. As James says in chapter 1, verses 22-25, we must be "doers of the word, and not hearers only." One who is faithful puts his/her faith into action.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you may remember this post from December 2010. (if not, go ahead and read it now and then come back here) As long as I've known her, my sweet friend, J.M., has been a woman of faithfulness. She was before she was diagnosed with cancer, she was when she was diagnosed with cancer, and she has continued to be the past year and 8 months since she was diagnosed with cancer. Her desire is for our Faithful Father to receive all of the honor and glory through her life...no matter what that means she must go through! I feel as though Priscilla Shirer was writing about J when she penned these words...

"Faithfulness is born when the outward expressions of your beliefs are lived out over time. Often through difficulty. For difficulty is where faithfulness is honed and brought to life. You'd never classify someone as being faithful unless you'd seen her stand firm during a course of action and decision where it would have been much simpler to throw in the towel. The more consistently a person does this, the more honored she is for her steadfastness and perseverance."

J is still fighting the fight against cancer. J is still joyful. She recognizes that God's ways and timing are perfect and different from hers. She also recognizes that it may take her willingness to fight this awful disease for His glory to spread even further than it would have had she never been diagnosed with it.

While we were in New Orleans in June for the Southern Baptist Convention, I attended the Annual Minister's Wives Luncheon. At this luncheon we were given an awesome goody bag full of books, magazines, and other printed materials. Several weeks after we returned home (think mid-July), I picked up one of the magazines. More Living Magazine is a new publication which targets the Baby Boomer generation (46-64 year olds). I had no clue what type of magazine it was at the time, or I probably would not have sat down to read it. :) But, that was all part of God's plan. You see, on the inside of the front cover, I saw a picture of a middle-aged woman and a short article beside it. I typically would have kept on turning the pages to get to the "meat" of the magazine, but I stopped and read the words. She told about a ministry in her church called Peace*Love*Quilt which began in 2009 when a group of ladies got together and made a quilt for a woman in their church who was diagnosed with cancer. Since then, they've made and distributed over 200 quilts. Soon after reading this, I got online and looked up the blog connected with this ministry. I just knew I needed to find out how to get one for J!

I emailed Sarah, the woman who writes the blog, and told her all about J. She wrote back and said they'd be happy to make her a quilt, but unfortunately she was leaving for vacation the next day and would be gone for a week. She said they normally complete the quilts within a week, but it would take longer this time since she'd be gone. I told her that wasn't a problem. I didn't have a specific date in mind as to when to give J the quilt, so we agreed that she'd just mail the quilt to me when it was complete. So, I may not have had a specific date in mind, but God did! 

Look what showed up at my house yesterday...

I was so excited to get it, but I wasn't sure when I should give it to J. I knew I didn't want to wait too long, obviously, but I did kind of want it to be a special time. So, I put the quilt in our guest room and went to bed. This morning I jumped on facebook for a second, and guess what it said in my top right corner? 

TODAY was J's birthday! 

Y'all, I am horrible at remembering birthdays. If you're not my immediate family member or I haven't known you for many years, I probably don't remember off-hand when your birthday is. Thank goodness Facebook does, though, right?!

After seeing that today was her birthday, I knew when I should give her the quilt! I texted her and we decided that the kids and I (Daniel's out of town or he would've been right there with us!) would take it by tonight. After she opened the gift bag and saw what it was, I was able to share the whole story with her. Not only her, but her mother and sister who were there visiting! We all sat in awe of God and his absolute perfect timing! And in true J fashion, she shared with us how God continues to speak to her about His using this cancer for His glory. I really wish you all could meet this woman face to face because I know she would challenge and encourage you as much as she's done for me and all those who know her.

I am thankful that J is faithful. I am thankful that our God is faithful. And I am thankful that we can cling to His Word, knowing without a doubt that He will accomplish His purpose and plan!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
     giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:8-12


Several times in the past week or two I've thought, "Oh, I want to write about that on the blog," but whatever it is hasn't been long enough to deserve an entire post dedicated to it. So, I decided to do a post of recent random happenings around the Bramlett house.

1. First off, this little boy is looking way too old in this picture, which was taken yesterday. Anyone else agree??
But also, he wants to be a butterfly. Huh? You may be asking. Riley is currently addicted to several of the Hermie and Friends dvd's by Max Lucado. We introduced them to him a couple of months ago, and then he received 2 more for his birthday. One of his favorites right now (he changes favorites every week pretty much) is Hermie: A Common Caterpillar. Hermie looks around at all of the other creatures in the garden (ladybug, ant, snail, etc) and asks God why He made him so common. So, for several days Riley would look at me and say, "Why did God make me so common?" Well, he understands now that he's "anique" (how he says unique), and because Hermie becomes a beautiful butterfly at the end of the dvd, Riley wants to know when he can be a butterfly. This comes after his saying several months ago that he was going to one day be a dog. I promise we're not teaching our child reincarnation! :) So the other day when Riley asked about being a butterfly, I said, "You're going to have to talk to God about that one!" A little while later he said, "Mama, I need to go outside!" I asked him why, and he said, "Because I need to look up in the sky and ask God when I can be a butterfly." Oh, I love this kid! I wish I could record all of our conversations throughout the day!

2. We came across this picture the other night. When Daniel asked Riley who the little boy was, he said matter-of-factly, "It's me!" If I ever wonder what Riley is going to look like when he's 30, all I have to do is look at my handsome husband. :)
Daniel and his dad - Easter 1983
3. Little Miss Ella has become a clapper! And, she does it on command! Daniel even saw it for himself last night. I was able to get it on video yesterday afternoon, but please ignore the voice in the background which sounds familiarly like a 3-year-old who is searching for some attention.

4. We are currently planning a family vacation to Florida at the end of October. Our original plan was to drive, but we came to our senses and decided that was not such a great idea with a 3-year-old and an almost 1-year-old. So, we're going to fly and borrow a car my aunt has graciously offered for us to use. We'll be staying at a house in Ormond Beach and traveling to Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Southern Georgia. I'm super excited about seeing family, old friends, and taking Riley to several theme parks. I'm also wondering, though, if we're insane for attempting this with a 3-year-old and an almost 1-year-old. :)

5. You may be wondering where we are in the foster-to-adopt process. Well, I'm embarrassed to say (but need to so it's out there and we're held accountable) that we have not completed the application yet. Yes, it is very long and detailed, but we've simply allowed life and the craziness of the summer to take over and remove our focus from completing the paperwork. The rest of the year is going to be even busier, so we're just going to have to stop making excuses and get it done. Please help us by asking (in person or through the internet!) if we're working on it or if it's still sitting on my desk!

We both know this is what God's called us to, and a couple of days ago I found out about a retreat I am so excited about the possibility of attending. It's called Created for Care and it's for women who have adopted or are in the process of adopting - domestically and internationally. My friend, Cole, went this past year, and she said it was so amazing she will definitely be going back next year. Yesterday I read about some of the breakout sessions, and even though it's not until next March, I am ready to go! I think it will be an incredible time of connecting with other moms who are at similar places in life. I love how the Lord never asks us to walk through this journey called 'life' alone, and retreats like this help us to meet those who are walking parallel roads but we may have never met otherwise. Can you tell I'm just a little excited?!

6. Poor Riley has been so confused the past few weeks after waking up from his nap. His young brain doesn't understand that when he wakes up from a nap it's the same day it was when he went down for a nap. He thinks every time he wakes up it's a new day, and therefore, breakfast should be the first item on the agenda. Every day this week he's gotten up from his nap and asked, "Are we going to eat bretfess?" (we're working on saying 'breakfast'). When I tell him no, it's the same day and remind him he's already eaten breakfast, he gets really upset. Any ideas as to how to help him understand it's all one day?!

7. I took Riley and Ella to the doctor last week because they were both sick. It was my first time to take them to be seen at the same time. He's gone with me to her check-ups before, and vice versa, but they've never both been sick enough to see the doctor together. Therefore, it was my first time to pay a double co-pay - bleh! The lady at the desk said, "Well, it's two separate patients." And my response was, "Yes, but they're in the same room, sick with the same thing, and seeing the doctor at the same time." She then proceeded to tell me she had 5 kids and they would always get sick at the same time (i.e. she didn't feel sorry for me). Anyway, I digress. The point of this #6 was to say that Riley is a whopping 37 pounds (90th percentile) and 3 feet 3 inches (didn't find out that percentile, but he's tall for his age). Ella girl is now 17.10 lbs. They didn't measure her, but we'll find out her length in a couple of weeks at her 9-month appt.

And I think that's about all of the randomness I have for now. If I think of more, I may do some more random postings in the days to come. You never know! Until then, have a blessed weekend!


Train cake & more

**I started this post last night while watching the US women's gymnastics team go for the gold. I was so focused on their tumbling and Michael Phelps' swimming that I couldn't concentrate on writing! So proud of our athletes!! And now (wednesday night) I will finish writing the post :)

When I first heard of Pinterest, I told myself to stay away. You see, I know myself, and I have a tendency to lose all track of time and an awareness of my surroundings when I focus on certain websites. Everyone was talking about how much they loved Pinterest, and I couldn't afford (nor could my family!) to get lost in such a 'wonderful' site. So, for a long time I stayed away.

And then one day I broke and asked a friend at church to send me an invitation to Pinterest. I joined, and (not to toot my own horn, but...) I've been very proud of myself so far. I've spent very little time perusing the site, yet I've found some really great ideas and recipes!

Several months ago, as I was thinking about Riley's upcoming birthday, I asked him what kind of party he wanted. He said, "A cake party!" Okay. So I asked what kind of cake. "A chocolate cake!" Got it! I can do that! And then I knew it was up to me to come up with a creative idea for his birthday celebration. There is so much that he loves right now (the movie CARS, hot wheels, trains, dinosaurs, football, baseball, razorbacks, and the list goes on). So I went to Pinterest. I began by looking at CARS stuff. And then I thought, what about trains? Maybe I could find a train cake that I could make?!

Pinterest pulled through, again!

Now, I am definitely not a professional cake-maker, but I thought, I can do this! It's a Betty Crocker recipe, and thankfully, they included construction of the train in the directions!

So on July 19 (the day before his birthday), I got to work and made the cake.

Chocolate, of course! 
I baked the train cars in 4 mini loaf pans and the engine in a regular loaf pan.

And the next day, his actual birthday, Daniel (love my husband!) agreed to help me decorate the cake.

This isn't a great picture, but I was cutting the rounded tops off of each loaf and then creating the engine.

Riley watched us as he ate his lunch

Concentrating and holding my breath as I iced the different cars

Riley's getting excited!

I bought this little frame on clearance several years ago and didn't know when I'd use it...it was just perfect for holding a picture of the train conductor! :)

The recipe called for putting candy on top of each of the cars, but we veered from that a bit. We don't allow Riley to eat a whole lot of sugar, so we didn't want to give him a piece of cake and then take off all of the candy on top. So, we filled the cars with snacks he loves and eats on a regular basis - whole grain cheerios, honey nut shredded wheat, organic chocolate cookies, and Target's version of goldfish (chickadee's).

Needless to say, the train cake was a hit! Riley still talks about it. Pinterest success!

I've had a couple of other Pinterest successes within the last week. I found a yummy-looking cinnamon swirl banana bread that I thought we'd love. I make a lot of banana bread at our house (we're not quick enough in eating our bananas before they get too ripe!), so I was glad to find a variation to my normal recipe. Not only was the bread delicious, but it was an easier recipe than I've been using! Yay! Riley and Daniel devoured it and within 2 days, there was no evidence of a loaf of banana bread in our house.

And then last night I made another recipe found on Pinterest - Layered Enchilada Casserole. Super easy and, once again, delicious! What I love about this is you can make several at once and freeze them for a later date. I will definitely be doing this in the future! While I was reading the recipe, I scrolled down to the comments section (highly recommend doing this!) and found some new tips for the kitchen. For instance, I learned how to shred cooked chicken (that cooked in the crockpot all day, so I had to do nothing!) in my Kitchenaid blender! I was so impressed by this that I had to take a picture to share the outcome...

So, although I was skeptical at first, I am a huge fan of Pinterest now. It's such a great tool! As with everything else in life, it just has to be used in moderation!