#911 - This Girl

**I didn't get to post this yesterday on her actual birthday because we were so busy!**

I can't believe this girl is 2 today!

I don't even know where to begin when trying to describe the enormous amount of love Daniel and I feel for the beautiful gift God gave us 2 years ago! Ella keeps us laughing, yet she can bring tears to our eyes in mere seconds with her compassionate and loving ways. Her personality is blossoming right now, and it is SO much fun to watch as she learns how to express herself. As you can tell from the picture below, though, she's never really struggled much with outward expressions of what she's feeling on the inside... :)

Our little pouty-lips was not happy to be removed from her Mama's belly!

And there's those furrowed eyebrows that she still displays multiple times a day!

Big brother was so excited to check her out! It was love at first sight.

Best buds from the beginning - now they're just trying to figure out how friends are supposed to treat each other. Oh, what fun it can be training them! ;)

Oh, that face! Thankfully, she no longer sticks out the lower lip. I'm thankful because I would be putty in her hands if she did!

How quickly these two have changed!

There's really no doubt they're brother and sister!

First visit to the beach. She wasn't a big fan of the sand.

Her 1-year photo shoot done by the amateur Laura Bramlett

Here comes little Miss Priss...Easter 2013

My sweet friend, Chelsea Gantt, took this one this past summer. I absolutely love it!

Wonder where she got those curls...

Little by little, she's growing!

Ella looks up to her brother so much. She will do anything he does...good and bad. If I want her to eat something, all I have to say is, "Look at Riley eating _____," and in her mouth it goes! We are currently walking through a competitive/jealous stage between the two. I am praying so hard that they will see one another as friends rather than foes. I'll be honest, though, I can't help but laugh when I hear Ella say, "Riyee (Riley), top it! (stop it)," or when she says with great emphasis, "No way!" I correct her as much as possible and try to diffuse the situations, but there have been several times that I've just had to look away and laugh for a second because her little voice and the way she pronounces words is so stinkin' cute!

She's completed 2 years of life, and I think she's ready to take on this third one. What do you think?!

Here are some fun facts about Ella at this age:
1. We went to the doctor for her check-up, and she's 25.2 lbs and 33.6 inches. She's petite for her age, but she always has been, so he's not worried.
2. Ella is a girly girl. She loves dresses, necklaces, bracelets, fancy shoes, purses, etc. However, she can hang with her brother outside pretty well. She's been known to eat a few tiny rocks at the church playground, and she finds no shame in climbing on her brother's old Lightning McQueen bike (the woes of being the 2nd child!).
3. She sucks her left thumb still, and I don't see the habit breaking anytime soon! I can't fault her, though...I sucked mine until I was 5.
4. Ella is a kisser. She loves to kiss us, kiss her stuffed animals, blow kisses to people, and just yesterday in Walmart she asked me if she could kiss a little boy who passed by in another grocery cart. I can see many a conversation about no kissing boys occurring in the near future!
5. Ella loves to cuddle. Many times throughout the day she'll come to me begging to be held. She then instructs me (in her adorable little language) to go "in dere (in there)" and sit on the "towch (couch)." When I sit down she snuggles up to me and is perfectly content just being held.
6. She adores her daddy! I love watching them interact and love on each other. I pray they will always have a strong relationship.
7. She is a Texan through and through. Her southern accent is hilarious, and she can draw out some words! One of my favorite phrases to hear her say is, "Come on!" It sounds kind of like "c'moan."
8. Ella is unashamedly addicted to whole milk. You better have her sippy cup full of milk when you first walk in her room in the morning, or you (and the rest of the neighborhood) will hear about it!
9. She still wears mostly 18-month clothing - as opposed to her brother who has always worn clothes bigger than the typical child his age (he's in 5T currently).
10. Ella loves God. She loves to pray, and it is absolutely precious to listen to her talk to her Maker. A lot of the words we still can't understand, but that's okay! She even changes her tone of voice when she begins to pray - she gets softer and more gentle. I love it!

I remember before Ella was born being concerned that I couldn't love another child as much as I loved Riley. The Lord set out to prove me wrong on that one! Ella is such a lovable girl - in fact, one of my former youth in South Africa gave her the African name, "Uyathandwa," which means, "she is loved." And yes, she is SO loved! Not just by her family, but more importantly, by her Heavenly Father. I'm thankful for His reminder all of the time that He loves her more than we ever could! She is Yours, Lord! Use her for Your glory alone!


#912 - Operation Christmas Child 2013

I can't remember the first time I packed a shoebox full of helpful items to go overseas through Operation Christmas Child. What I do know is how meaningful it has been throughout the years to share just a little of my resources to bring a smile (and the GOSPEL) to children all around the world. So, when we started having children, I knew this would continue to be a 'tradition' in our family. I think it is SO important for my children (who have SO much) to learn about others who may have no toys, school supplies, hygiene products, etc. I have been to places in the world where this is the case. And to whom much is given, much is required!

Right now, our tradition is to send a box to a little girl and a little boy. Here's little miss topping off her box with some candy.

And brother giving candy to his little boy's box

Our boxes are complete!

Without prayer, these boxes are just full of fun stuff. We took some time to dedicate our boxes to the Lord and ask that He use these Christmas presents to make Himself known to the children who receive them. Our prayer ultimately is that they know there is a God who loves them and wants a relationship with them. Here's our sweet oldest praying the most precious prayer!

Our church is a collection site for our area, so this week the Family Room at our church is full of huge boxes full of smaller OCC boxes. The tradition at our church is to kick off collection week by placing all of our boxes on the altar at the front of the church the Sunday before the week of collection. During the service, our children walked their boxes down to the altar from the back. Such a sweet time! Here they are waiting for their chance in the service to walk down.

Just some of the boxes collected

Here they come!

For the first year, Samaritan's Purse opened an OCC processing center in Dallas. Once the boxes leave our church they will head that way. Volunteers there will go through every single box making sure there's nothing in them that would melt or spill, and then they'll box them up to head to various countries. My goal for the near future is to help at the processing center. A long-time goal of mine is to be on a team that actually delivers the boxes to villages in another country. And the icing on the cake would be if our kids could deliver them with us! What a blessing that would be! 

If you have no clue what I'm talking about in this post, please go to the Operation Christmas Child website and find out!


#913 - It's Official!

On Monday we had our final training for foster care. It is now official. As soon as our file makes its way through the CPS (Child Protective Services) system, we'll be cleared to begin receiving children. Part of me is SO relieved to have all of that behind us - it was quite a process! (honestly, it could have gone much quicker, but we allowed time to pass between various steps because life got crazy) And the other part of me is feeling a bit nervous because this is where the rubber meets the road, if you will. We've been saying for the past year or so that we wanted to foster, but now that we're officially official, our words will be forced into actions.

Several people have asked me recently if we have any clue the age and gender of the child we'll bring into our home. No, we don't. But, I know Who does! And for that I am grateful!

I would ask you to pray for a sweet 7-month old baby who will possibly be placed in the foster care system soon. Tomorrow morning is a big court date for the case. As Daniel and I prayed together tonight, our focus was on protection. That wherever this child ends up, the Lord will protect him/her and let him/her know how loved he/she is. Please pray this along with us! I know I haven't shared the name or even the gender of the baby, but again, God knows!

Both of our children are very excited about adding to our family through foster-to-adopt. They are both convinced we'll be adding a boy to our list of Bramlett kiddos. In fact, last night Ella and I were eating dinner together while Daniel and Riley were at a ministry event. I asked her if she would like for us to have a baby in the house. She, of course, said yes, because she adores babies (and a baby to her is any child younger than her - even if it's just a couple of months younger). I then asked if she wanted it to be a boy or girl. She sat and thought for a minute and said, boy! She then said, "Bring boy home?" I told her it wasn't up to me, but God had to decide if we'd get a boy or girl. I asked her if she wanted to pray and ask God for a boy. She said yes. I told her to go ahead and pray. She got quiet for a minute and then said, "BOY!" at the top of her lungs. I couldn't help but laugh! So precious and such the child-like faith that we all need! Again, only God knows! And I'm thankful!

#914 - This Blog

This is my 400th post! That may not seem like a big deal to others, but it reminds me how thankful I am to have an outlet for sharing my thoughts, feelings, updates on our family, pictures, etc. And I say THANK YOU for faithfully following our family as we walk through the journey of life this side of heaven. I'm excited to see where the next step in the journey will take us!

**Ok, so apparently Blogger counts any "drafts" I've written in the number of total posts. I had 5 drafts that I just deleted from several years ago, and my total number dropped to 396. So, maybe this isn't my 400th post, BUT I'm still thankful for this blog :)


#915 - French Bread Pizza

We grew up having French bread pizzas for dinner. Ours came out of the frozen section of the grocery store, though! One day not too long ago I decided I wanted to make my own. I looked on Pinterest to get some baking tips, and I found a site that had clear and simple directions. Basically, it said to put whatever you want on your French bread and then pop it in a 500 degree oven for 5 minutes. I tried it and it was AMAZING! French bread pizza is now one of my quick and easy go-to meals. And it's what was for dinner tonight! The one pictured above had spaghetti sauce, sautéed onions & peppers, sausage, and cheese. But, the beauty of it is that the options are limitless! Today I'm thankful for delicious, quick meals that all family members enjoy!