Nella turns 3!

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This is actually the first birthday post I’ve done for Nella. Ever. In fact, I have the draft from her 1st birthday party sitting in my queue that I never got around to actually posting…and here we are on her 3rd birthday.

I recently did a post about what motherhood looked like at 2 years old going into her 3rd year of life but even from that post, she has been changing and growing right in front of me. It’s truly amazing to watch her take in the world through her eyes, observing and soaking life up like a sponge.

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Here are a few things she’s accomplished, gone through, and experienced in the last year:

  • First off, her birthday cake experience from her 2nd birthday was MUCH more successful 🙂
  • We were fortunate to spend a few days in a cabin with the whole Williams family in the summer, and that was truly the first time Nella had really been around her cousins Gideon, Asa, and Ellis.
  • She went to the zoo for the first time and enjoyed looking at all the animals!
  • She has still not warmed up to the idea of Santa…but maybe this year.
  • She’s been officially off a bottle, paci, and completely potty trained

She currently:

  • LOVES swimming, so we try to be at Nana Banana and Baba David’s pool any weekend we can
  • DOES NOT like any kind of bug
  • is tapping into her girly side – prefers dresses and skirts over shorts, loves to have her toe nails painted and loves accessories
  • understands instructions, responds back, and most of the time follows through
  • loves to be in the kitchen watching us cook or bake and always wants to help
  • loves noodles, pizza, bread, any kind of fruit, broccoli, bacon, donuts, and green beans
  • is mildly obsessed with Frozen, Moana, and Trolls
  • does not like when I sing along in the car, especially to her favorite songs. I’m just going with the fact that she just loves to listen to the songs as she immediately stops me and says “Mommy, don’t sing, you have to be quiet”
  • follows up with questions like “is it yummy?” after I’ve taken a bite of something, “what was that?” when she hears a strange noise, “are you okay?” if she thinks we hurt ourselves
  • is still quite independent…“by myself” is a popular ending phrase in our house

We had her 3rd birthday party at Anna and David’s again this year, complete with hot dogs and donuts instead of a birthday cake. She didn’t like being sung Happy Birthday to but she gladly dove into the pile of gifts and opened every single one with anticipation. It was even more special as her Tennessee cousins were in town for a whole week and she got to spend a lot of time with them.

Every day I’m truly amazed that the Lord gifted me with motherhood, and even more amazed that I get to be HER mother. She challenges me at the same time she sweetens life and I am so excited to watch her life continue to unfold.

We love you, our Nella Rosalie!

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Motherhood: The 2 Year Old Edition

Nella turns 3 this summer and she has no doubt taught me more about myself and being a mother in only these three short years than I could have ever imagined. Motherhood is different at this toddler stage than it is at the newborn stage. Humor me while I roll off some of the lessons I have learned about motherhood so far and what I have learned about my almost 3 year old..Processed with VSCO with kk1 preset

THEY ARE SPONGES. Nella learns so much in such a short amount of time. I feel like her mind is constantly going and trying to observe and process everything she sees and hears in her big world. Sometimes I love just looking at her watching the world around her. I feel like I can just see her wheels turning when she tries to figure a puzzle out, or that sparkle of excitement when she sees something entertaining. Information is just thrown at their little brains visually and verbally and they try their best to take it all in. She has taught me that she can understand a lot more than I think she can. She has taught me to repeat things so she can try to understand what I’m saying and to use words that she can store in her memory so when she hears it again, she knows what it means. Motherhood has taught me to slow down and to get down on her level and have a conversation.

THEY LOVE TO MIMIC. They say imitation or copying is the highest form of flattery. Well..we are definitely in the stage where Nella will most likely repeat what we have said or copy any gesture, action or face we make. It’s mostly adorable, hilarious and entertaining but really has us watching what we say or do. We don’t cuss at all, but I am definitely aware of the words I use, how I use it and how my attitude is. She doesn’t understand complex situations, and why we choose the words we do but she understands more than I think she does. The other day, she came into the room and stopped to literally stare at the hydrangeas on the table and she called out, “The flowers are so pretty! Aww, I love them!” and came over to give me a hug. She said that whole phrase like she truly meant it, like someone has just given her flowers out of the blue, with that adored reaction. The day before that, she was playing with the Mother’s Day card “she” got me, and I told her that daddy helped pick it out and she said, “Aww, my daddy’s so sweet”. I mean really? Who teaches her this?! It felt like she was 2 going on 25. I try to make it a point to talk to her with meaning and purpose, explaining the situation because she learns so much and tries to reenact it later. Motherhood has taught me not only to watch what I say but why I say it and how I say it, and I truly believe when you stop to think about that, you can’t help but let it affect your feelings in that moment..and hopefully for the better.

THEY ARE STUBBORN. Or at least Nella is. I feel like Nella has always been pretty strong willed, even from her first few weeks of life. She’s certainly asserting herself these days. She knows what she wants, and she goes after it without deviation. She’s figuring out what she likes and what she doesn’t like and absolutely intends to make her feelings known. She doesn’t understand that we don’t do things or that we do things for a reason; thus, the push back. And we have definitely had our fair share of “selective hearing”, as I like to call her not listening, and our dramatic tantrums when she doesn’t get her way or usually when we tell her it’s time for bed. This is the season of life we’re walking through now, and we still don’t know if we’re handling these sensitive moments the “right” way but it usually involves raised voices, explanations of the why’s of the world (i.e. we need to brush our teeth so they stay healthy!), and tears. But it always ends in hugs and I love you’s. This is also the season in life where parents feel the need to express the right way of discipline. I’ve heard everything from “get on the floor and throw a tantrum so they see how ridiculous they look and won’t do it again”, to “spank them, they’ll learn to listen after a good spanking”, to “get on their level and reason with them” to “take away their toys.” Motherhood has taught me about patience, because I don’t think most kids act out because they are “bad” but because they are these little people trying to figure out what life is all about and with these new found freedoms, they need direction and sometimes very suggested guidance…

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Our days are usually filled with these 3 lesson in life, so it’s no mystery as to why some days we are WIPED out, and I know, that’s only with 1 child. Some days I lose my patience, or I give in, or I don’t take time to explain everything. Some days Nella has no problem listening and I don’t have to repeat things 5 times over. Some days she gets ready for bed without a fight and some days I have to pick her body off the floor, tear soaked face, and carry her up the stairs kicking and screaming. Some days she wants nothing to do with her green beans or chicken and some days she can’t get enough. She days I’m too tired to do anything and we watch T.V. until it’s time for bed and some days we finish up dinner and we draw, read and play for the rest of the night. Some days I have the strength to answer every question she has about every little noise she hears and some days I tell her “Don’t worry about it.” Our days are also filled with several tightly-squeezed hugs and belly laughs. There’s a truckload of compassion in that tiny heart of hers and I see more of it every day, whether it’s asking me if I’m okay after she hears a loud noise in the kitchen, to giving Rhody hugs just because, to sharing some of her coveted favorite foods like seaweed, mango, and chicken.

At 2 months shy of turning 3 years old, Nella constantly has me learning about her, myself and what it means to be a mom in this stage of her life. It can be so trying some days but SO much sweet on others, and I am truly thankful the Lord has chosen me to live this role out.

Show me the money!

Money, money, money

Following my marriage post (a few months ago), I figured I would write about a nice little subject.

Finances.

I haven’t read every single article on marriage that has been posted over the years but I don’t think it’s any secret that one of the reasons, even in the top 5 reasons, marriages or relationships end is because of MONEY. Lack of money. Too much money. Not knowing what to do with money. No money. Idolizing money. Thinking money can buy things and fix problems. Not talking about it.

I just want to be 100% transparent here. We are not millionaires. Phew. Just had to get that out there.

But really! We’re just two 30 something year olds, in a 2017 world, raising a family, on two “normal” incomes. We have learned a lot and are still learning specifically how we deal with our budget and communicate, but I wanted to lay out a few lessons that have stuck out to me, in hopes they help a sista (or brotha) out.

Tony and I attended a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course in our 2nd or 3rd year of marriage. Let me stop there and say, this is ABSOLUTELY recommended by us if you can take this as a single person, dating and getting serious, before you get married, right when you get married, or any time. Tony is more skeptic when it comes to these things (and he’ll admit it) because budgeting should be common sense. We came out of that course with more knowledge, more open communication, and a plan on how to handle our finances and to be on the same page about it.

Tony not only married me, but he married my student loan debt as well. It was a tremendous blessing that our cars were paid off before marriage, and oddly enough both of us did not have a credit card – so my student loans were the only hump we had (and still have) to endure.

But…that hump is more like a life mountain, and because we didn’t want to pay this down for the next 30 years of our lives – we walked away from that course with a few key points that stuck out to us and that we apply into our lives now:

  • Have an emergency fund and make it a priority to always have a minimum in it. I think $1,000 is the emergency fund suggestion (or strong suggestion) Dave has in his program. It’s a good cushion for any random curveballs life throws at you and it seems like common sense to just have some money or savings but when you put a name on it like Emergency Fund and work to make sure there’s something always in it, I think it sticks more and budgeting money for it becomes natural over time. There were definitely moments where we had to dip into our E Fund, relieved that we had some cash stashed for emergencies. And only EMERGENCIES. Not a “well I had to buy something last minute from Target” emergencies. I know those well. J
  • Using the envelope system. I LOVE this concept and this really stuck out to me, and I still do this today and actually LOVE using the envelope system. This may not work for everyone but I firmly believe in this or something like this system will help a TON. We literally take out cash every pay check for each of our categories i.e. groceries, eating out money, a vacation fund, car savings, etc. I still have the cash holder that comes with the financial peace course that I keep money in for every day type of things – groceries, eating out, misc. and it helps SO much. I love physically seeing that our money goes to a designated area and that we can go back to that envelope and see how much we have in that envelope and are able to use car money if we need something fixed on the car, rather than just pulling it from our bank account and depleting that. It does take some work and patience because the way Tony and I’s paycheck falls and our bills, it’s almost like a puzzle that you have to work to make sure you can take out that money under that paycheck and not be in the red. And then to go to the bank faithfully every pay check and take out the cash you need. But to me, it’s totally worth it.
  • Snowballing. The snowball effect is another key point that we immediately applied to our debt. I think this is a lot more common, and you may already be doing this. I had a total of 4 separate student loans that we were paying equally on. We were able to max out the payment on the lowest amount owed on 1 loan and then paid the minimum payment on the other 3. Once that was paid off, we applied what we were paying on the one loan to the next, and paid that off even faster than what we thought we would had we kept everything even. And we continue to do this til’ we are debt free! (minus our mortgage…). This has made a HUGE difference. I don’t have the exact dates or calculations but if we hadn’t applied the snowball effect, I’m sure we would just be getting into our 2nd loan by now.

There are a few other tips I could probably think of but to not overwhelm you reader, I’ve kept it to those three. Budgeting isn’t a fun topic for most people, but it’s SO important to talk about it and keep communication open. Tony and I have quarterly “budget meetings” where we look at our budget and assess where we are either due to changes or to just keep up to date along with just keeping mindful of our accounts on a daily basis. If you can start this as soon as possible, I highly encourage you to! Whether you’re young, single, old, married, dating, engaged, about to start a family, already have kids. It’s never too early or late to create something that will work for you so that you can plan for the future and its unknowns. It takes planning, discipline, and time but in the end, you come out with a peace of mind of exactly what you’re doing with your money and if you should need it for any of life’s un-expectancies, you can handle it. Get into a routine now, stick it out and it will come naturally! Find someone that can keep you accountable if you don’t already have a very, very disciplined partner (like my husband J). We’ve definitely had times where we didn’t follow our budget plan, or we’ve blown a few categories but we can always get back on it and work through it again. Having a plan, talking about it, and actually applying it always reaps benefits. Through trusting and showing good stewardship with the money Lord has blessed us, He has not fallen back on His promises. His promises don’t look like big fat $20,000 checks that fall from the sky, but they come in the fact that He will provide some way or another, and that we will not go hungry. He’s given us only what we need and when we need it at times, and other times, He has given us a little more, in hopes that we would be wise with it.

So again, I highly encourage you to talk about your money, have a plan, budget, and trust.

The 7 Year Itch

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Tony and I are celebrating our 7 year anniversary of marriage today, January 9th. It’s hard to believe that 7 years will have passed since we said I do on that very cold, January day in the little chapel at First Baptist Dallas. It was a very exciting day full of celebration, love, and anticipation as I waited *patiently* for a little less than 5 years for the day I officially became his wife. The ceremony was at 2:30pm, and we were announced husband and wife, roughly 30 minutes from that minute. We walked down the aisle hand in hand, into marital bliss!

I just looked up “7 year itch” in google, as I’ve heard it many times before but thought it had something to do with boredom, giving up, or staleness. This is what Wikipedia said:

The seven-year itch is a psychological term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage.[1] The phrase originated as a name for irritating and contagious skin complaints of a long duration”

Isn’t that just a beautiful picture of love?!

Tony and I started our marriage off in Nashville, TN. I was just finishing up my last semester in school, and since he had just moved up to the area the summer before, he was working at Jersey Mikes (sub shop) just to have some sort of income coming in. He also picked up some sound jobs as he was trying to establish himself all over again in the Tennessee entertainment business. We made simple dinners (mostly of chicken or spam and rice), went on a lot of walks, and our date nights were mostly at home renting a $1 Red Box movie for the weekend. I graduated in May of that year, took a temp job at the music publishing company I had interned at, and the good Lord blessed me with a full time job in June in the music business industry. We went to Chipotle to celebrate.

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Tony started to pick up more sound gigs, dropped Jersey Mikes and was able to focus more on the sound engineer positions. Eventually we moved to downtown Franklin, TN through a Craigslist ad and lived in tiny, yet adorable, loft above a dentist office right on the square. Tony built an island to go in our kitchen area, and shelves for our dishes. We didn’t have a dishwasher so we hand washed everything and had to wait for the hot water to build back up after about 20 minutes, or Tony would have to take a break because the way the roof line was, he was always in an awkward position. We indulged a little more on coffee dates, and trying to new restaurants as Tony started to build his resume in TN, and we were within walking distance of a lot of good stuff. We found a village (small group) through the new church we had been attending (Journey), and found community. Tony mostly worked at the Franklin theater on the square while also picking up out of town corporate or sound gigs, while I moved into a different position with the same company I had started with.

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We moved out of our cozy little loft after about 2 years, and moved back into a regular apartment. It was the nicest places we’ve lived in since we moved to Nashville, and some good friends had moved into the same apartment (that’s how we found it), and were able to walk/drive over for visits. We got a dog! Tony had successfully established himself in the Nashville scene and picked up a lot more gigs, a lot of them out of town tours, or late night shows. I had found an amazing community/family from my work, and we had gotten to know our village group a lot more, enjoying the vulnerability and life sharing.

Just when it seemed like everything was going really well, we decided to make the move back to Dallas to be near family with our little one on the way. We moved in with my parents in January of 2014, and I had no job. Tony toured for 3ish months that Spring, and I cried a lot. We welcomed Nella in July of 2014! Tony had to re-establish himself in the Dallas market, taking more installation jobs. He got back in touch with a company he had worked with before moving out to Dallas and started to pick up more gigs through them. The good Lord, again, blessed me with a full time job that was 15 minutes away from my parents house, with wonderful people to work with. Tony picked up a few more freelance jobs, as well as out of town corporate jobs that allowed him to travel, even internationally. I received a promotion at my job and very happily accepted. We have been blessed again, as we were able to purchase our first home just 2 minutes down the road from my parents, two and half years since we moved back. Tony received a full time position at the company he had been working with since we’ve been back.

And here we are, 7 years later, in our first home, with our 2.5 year old daughter, and silly 4 legged fur baby.

Over these last 7 years, we’ve definitely had our share of arguments, disagreements, and difference of opinions. We don’t see eye to eye on every single thing, and I absolutely try to persuade him to thinking that my way makes completely more sense than his way. I’ve learned that I kind of really like things a certain way around the house (i.e. how to put dishes in the dishwasher, no shoes in the house). I’ve learned that I think it’s OK if I get upset about something with him but it’s just wrong if he gets upset about something with me. I realized I really don’t like when he goes out of town, even if he truly enjoys it and especially gets to travel to cool places…it was hard for me to be completely happy he had this opportunity. I’ve found out that I love eating out, while he loves a good home cooked meal. I’ve learned how to communicate what I was feeling instead of giving the silent treatment.

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I’ve also realized I love going on walks before or after dinner just around our neighborhood. We learned we both really like good coffee and coffee shops. When we travel, chain restaurants are off limits and we love going to local spots to eat and when we are by the ocean, we have a rule of not eating any land animals. Only the freshest fish! We’ve started to read a chapter in Proverbs together at night before we go to bed and pray together. We like to tag team on Saturday morning making breakfast, I make the main meal and he makes the coffee, and other sides. We love watching crime tv shows together! We keep no secrets, no matter how small, big, dumb they are. We’ve learned to communicate in a way that the other person can receive and interpret. We’ve realized each other’s love languages. We love hosting and love to have people over for a meal or dinner party or holiday party. He truly enjoys my cooking and baking! We never go to bed angry. He is the most patient person I have ever known. His style has evolved, which has made it easy and fun for me to shop. We love to travel together and explore new towns/cities together. We’re really proud of our budget and plugging away at our student loans. We’ve encountered Jesus and His people in the most authentic way that we never have before. We’ve learned to be our own family, moving away from Dallas. We’ve learned marriage is WORK but so worth it.

I think it’s pretty safe to say there are no signs of a 7 year itch here. There’s a lot that we have gone through and learned in just a few years, and as we move forward into our 7th year I cannot wait to see how our lives unfold. As we are now responsible for a human (and animal) life, our lives have been changed once again and we are not the same as when we first got married. And our love for each other has truly grown since that moment in ways we didn’t know was possible. We absolutely still go through our struggles and differences, but WOW, the Lord is so good to us and to our marriage.

There is truly nothing better than being married to your best friend. So, my love, cheers to 7 years and here’s to 77 more!

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So what are you guyses hopes and dreams?

That’s one of my favorite movie lines from “Never Been Kissed” and it’s not even a super memorable or witty line. It’s just the way Drew asks the girls that, so full of hope herself.

But 2017..what do I hope for 2017?

What I hope for 2017 is world peace.

I’m just kidding…sort of. Because honestly, this world needs peace and a good shaking.

But I don’t plan on making New Years resolutions, mostly for fear of failing them, but hopefully they are just “lifestyle changes” that are not temporary. Here are a few lifestyle changes I hope to make:

To stop comparing myself and my life to others. We live in a world where we are glued to our glowing screens, scrolling through picture after picture, post after post. I am completely and fully aware and absolutely admit that sometimes I get immediately jealous of either a perfectly staged picture of someone’s fresh new house décor or their perfectly toned arms or beautifully baked pie. But WOW, how unhealthy is it to live against the glass screen attached to our hands. I don’t think it’s wrong to have Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. I don’t think it’s wrong to post pictures, like pictures, or admire pictures. I do think it’s wrong to decrease the value of our life based on what we scroll through. Each of our lives has its’ own struggles and trials, but it also has its’ own wonderful aspects that don’t need to be compared to. We’re all in different stages of life and a mom of 3 trying kids, can’t look at her single friend partying all night and sleeping in the morning thinking “HER LIFE IS AMAZING”. Because it’s simply not true. I mean her life might be amazing, but not in the way you’re thinking because she’s literally just in a different stage of life. God has placed certain people, certain circumstances, certain situations in each of our lives for a specific reason and we go through life with our own ups and downs and blessings and curses. We cannot compare what we have or don’t have to others. And this is something I constantly have to remind myself of. Our worth should not be compared to others. We all have our own, individual strengths and weaknesses that beautifully make up who we are and that is something SO incredible that we tend to overlook. And side note..I realize this is not a problem for everyone. And I truly admire you all, and hope to get to that place sometime soon! Now..does that mean I’ll never let the green monster of jealousy get the best of me? No. I’m human. But I do want to be aware of my thoughts the next time I scroll through social media. To remember that my identity does not rely on what I see or what I imagine. And that who I am, is ME, wonderfully and beautifully made by the Lord.

To be healthy and active. Tony loves being outdoors. If we could, he would probably choose his home of choice as somewhere that has endless access to bike paths, hiking trails, grass. He loves being active and doing, and moving. He could camp for days on end. Or..well..maybe at least a few nights, because his ole’ back does love his own bed. And while I enjoy a nice walk here and there and love to be out in the beautiful scenery…I also love binge watching my favorite show on Netflix or could be completely content being indoors for more like two days straight. So to compromise in our marriage, I hope to be more active. To take Rhody on more walks with Nella, and if Tony’s schedule allows..having him come with us. I hope to chose a bike ride over TV show. And to go along with that, to be more cautious of what we eat. I’m not saying going out and buying only organic ingredients but to eat with intent and not out of boredom. To indulge in things that are good for our body, along with things that aren’t necessarily good for you BUT OH SO GOOD (all in moderation, right?!). But I think above all just to know what we eat, especially with Nella. It really is truth that if you eat awful, you won’t feel like being active. But if you fuel your body with good and healthy stuff, you’ll want to go on that walk after dinner, or play outside for that extra hour. It’s also a great chance to connect with another human being when you take a walk around the neighborhood, or when you travel and explore new paths in new cities. To chose dates or family days that have some sort of activity and not just trying out a new restaurant. 🙂 Gotta keep moving, right?!

To read more. And journal. Reading is always on my new years list. I actually have a huge stack of books that I have acquired over the year(s) that I can’t wait to read but I’m much slower than I’d like in getting through my books. And it’s not because I’m a slow reader but I tend to do something else than dive into the book at times. Like browse on my phone or something random. I LOVE reading, and I would love to read all the books that are stacked up! A lot of my books now are more non-fiction/study/think-outside-the box books. Since I’ve finished up my Twilight and Hunger Games series (don’t judge..) I’ve gone in the direction of the more life-application, brain food path of reading. I’m still trying to finish up the last book in the Divergent series, so I still love a good story..but also very much appreciate the real, nitty-gritty, thought -provoking reads as well.

I am currently reading these books and I loving them so far!:

“Allegiant” – Veronica Roth (trying to finish this up considering the movie is already out)

“A Kingdom Called Desire: Confronted by the Love of a Risen King” – Rick McKinley (I am loving this so far. It’s not an intense read where I feel live I’ve stepped into a theological class at seminary but every chapter I ended up with those OK THAT’S GOOD moments. Highly recommend)

These three I alternate between, as they’re not totally connected chapter books:

“One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are – Ann Voskamp; “On Becoming Toddler Wise – Gary Ezzo, Robert Bucknam (Note: I do not base my parenting on books, but this one has a few good points, as their other book “On Becoming Baby Wise”); “My Utmost for His Highest” – Oswald Chambers (a daily 1 pg devo)

I currently have these, among a few others, waiting to be read:

“Audacious” – Beth Moore (I actually just got this for Christmas a few days ago but I’ve heard so many good things about it so it’s at the top of my stack)

“Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” – Elizabeth Gilbert

“The Meaning of Marriage” – Tim Keller

“Chasing Francis” – Ian Cron

And of course…I have quite a few more books still on my wish that I’ll need to acquire..but I guess I should “crack open a book” of mine that I have now.

I have also always loved journaling. I’ve written in a diary since elementary school, that mostly went into online blogging in high school, and now back to writing in an actual journal from college till now. Writing out my thoughts, fears, hopes, prayers, and dreams is so therapeutic and helpful! It clears my mind and gets it in the right mindset. It’s also nice to go back through my past entries and see what I’ve been through and how much I’ve grown and stretched. The past year or more than that I haven’t been as diligent in my journaling and I want to make it my goal to journal more as it also is part of my quiet time with the Lord.

Try new recipes. So this could be considered my “New Years Resolution” if I wanted to make one, because this could be a fun one. Since I have my own kitchen again, and a couple of new cook books, I’m SO excited to try out new recipes throughout the year. I also look forward to practicing a lot of my baking methods and hopefully making more scratch-made items (i.e. crusts, breads, sauces..)

So cheers to 2016 and I pray your 2017 is a year of love, growth, and beautiful things. May you be healthy, stay safe, and do good.

 

 

New York, New York!

On the first day of November, my mom and I took a quick little trip to the Big Apple. Fall in New York City is beautiful, and busy. The leaves have turned, shops are in between their Autumn décor into Christmas window displays, and the streets are full of Manhattanites. Southwest Airlines had an AMAZING sale that was too good to pass up – $39 one way from Dallas to New York. So with the blessing of our spouses, we were able to make it a mother and daughter trip!

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We boarded the plane on a very warm Tuesday in Dallas and arrived to New York with a refreshing wind to greet us. We were also able to find a great deal on a clean, and convenient hotel located in Manhattan about a few blocks from Times Square and a block from Grand Central Station. The day we got in, we wasted no time after checking in and dropping off our luggage. The first stop we hit was food – Shake Shack. And then to Bryant Park for the magical winter village they just started setting up. It was a beautiful night for watching families ice skate outside, with Christmas music in the air. This was THE SCENE I always had in my head whenever I thought of the holidays in New York. The last time I went to New York it was the beginning of December and it was MUCH colder, so this time it was nice to enjoy being outside without freezing our butts off. We ended the night with a quick walk through the New York Public library and headed over to the Top of the Rock to take in the beautiful city lights at night. The library was absolutely gorgeous with all the detailed architecture and design. I’ve seen it in a lot of movies and it was every bit beautiful seeing all of it in person. My only regret is that I didn’t think to do Top of the Rock during the day time since it’s known for its gorgeous Central Park views…especially with the leaves changing!! I guess we can leave that for next time 🙂

 

 

Our first full day in New York started at 6:30 the next morning. We were able to reserve tickets to The Chew. The weather, by the way, was absolutely wonderful the entire time we were there. I think it was a tad bit warm for that time of year and to me, but it was sunny clear skies pretty much the entire time. So when we got to ABC studios, we had no problem waiting outside for a little bit before they escorted everyone inside. There was another 15 minutes in the audience holding room and then we were all ushered into the actual studio. It was so much fun! There is a coordinator that really does tell us when to laugh, clap, OOOO and Ahhhh. He was probably one of the most energetic people I have ever met. I guess you need that energy for that job! But wow..I was exhausted when it was all said and done. I heard that we did get a little bit of screen time when the episode aired the next day 😉 After the taping, we walked to a nice little brunch place. What I love about New York is trying all the local eateries and coffee shops around the city. I truly love eating and drinking my way around the City just because I love finding places that are different, not a chain, and places that locals love. We enjoyed brunch in the warmth before we ventured off to our next adventure. A walk through Central Park.

 

 

Central Park is one of those places you could absolutely spend the whole day at. Not only because of its’ size but because of the beauty and peacefulness of it smack dab in the middle of the bustling city. We walked through the park and made it to The Mall and Literary Walk. It’s one of those iconic areas that we see a lot in the movies and tv shows. Park benches lined up on both sides of the pathway, perfect for a moment to rest and listen to the sax player delivering classic tunes, echoing up and down the path. While my mom rested, I walked around the area, taking in all the vendors and people and the fountain at the end of the path that overlooks the boathouse restaurant I’ve seen in so many movies. It was the perfect little rest stop to just enjoy the beauty.

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After that we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the night. On our way to Times Square, we walked past and through the St. Patricks Cathedral. I’m always amazed at the architecture and design and detail of these beautiful, majestic churches. It’s another landmark where pictures don’t do it justice (unless you have a very nice, very expensive camera). From there we went ahead and headed to Times Square to do some shopping and find a dinner spot before the show. We found a sushi spot that we caught the tail end of Happy Hour for and was seated right away. As the hour went on, the restaurant started filling up with hungry patrons and it was nice to be able to enjoy our meal in the corner and people watch.

That night we went to see “Something Rotten!” at the St. James Theater. We got a couple of good seats for a great price and it was a pretty good show! It was witty and cute and a great end to the day, with a quick stroll through Time Square at night. It’s hard to believe thousands and thousands of people will be packed in for the New Years festivities!

For our last full day, we ventured out to the south part of Manhattan. It was a gloomy and cold start as we headed out to the 9/11 Memorial. The somber tone actually felt a little fitting to remember those who’s lives were lost on that day. But through tragedy, hope and strength eventually follow, and that day I was reminded of that.

We warmed up inside while we took a tour through Eately! Soooo much good food and treats and what not. After that, we took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge..because in my opinion, no NY trip is complete without a stroll on that Bridge. And then of course to reward our good walking, we had lunch at Lombardi’s pizza. PERFECT way to fuel up, warm up, and rest. The rest of the time we strolled through Little Italy, Chinatown, and made our way back up to Union Square where we found a delicious Thai and Vietnamese place for dinner for our last night in the city. Afterwards, we stopped by an adorable and delicious dessert shop and happened upon a little BEATBOX show in Union Square. Seriously…#lifegoals.

The weather was so great for a nice stroll after dinner!

For our last morning in NYC, we went back to Central Park. It was such a beautiful morning and we just had to go through the Park one last time. We took the subway to Madison Ave and walked by all the cute little shops we couldn’t afford on the way to the park. And surprise! My mom treated us to a pedi cab ride through the park. It was so fun and a great way to get around the Park in a short amount of time. They were also getting ready for the NY Marathon that weekend, so it was fun to see everyone out and about. After that, we took cab to ABC Kitchen where we were meeting one of my classmates from ELEMENTARY and JUNIOR HIGH from SAIPAN! WOW. What a blast from the past. We met Steve (or Byung is how I knew him) for lunch and we had so much fun catching up on life from the last 15 years and reminiscing on memories. I was so happy we were able to meet for a little bit!

 

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel, got on the blue shuttle and headed to the airport.

Wheewww! What a trip! We packed a LOT into the little time we had in NYC and the best part was being able to make it a mother/daughter trip and explore the city with my mom. We had a lot of laughs and I’ll always remember this trip as a special one! Maybe we can make it a yearly tradition? J If not, it will always be a special memory in my book of life. So thankful to our supporting husbands and loving us well by letting us go on this trip. It was SUCH a blast and can’t wait to be back! There’s so much to do in New York, we’ll have to go a few times to do everything we want 😉

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Another year in the books

As I start to write, I don’t really know where I’m going with this post. All I know is that I haven’t written in about a year and 2016 is on the very edge of being over. In six-ish weeks, we will be bringing in 2017. Can you believe it?! I can’t.

This year has gone by so fast. I actually have a draft of Nella’s 1st birthday that I never got around to posting. So that’s a testament to how fast time truly does fly. So before the end of 2016 gets the best of me, maybe this post will be a recap of life since then…

Yeah, sounds good.

Life since the end of 2015…

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January 2016, we were very fortunate and blessed to take a trip to Hawaii to visit family. It was particularly special because my mom came along with us. We took off on a Wednesday, and Tony, Nella, and I came back a week and a half later. It was SUCH a fun trip. We came back with a little one that the Aunties hoped we would have. A family gathering was planned for everyone to get together to eat, talk story, and visit. Nella got to meet so much family that it could’ve been overwhelming. She took it all in though! And warmed up to a few family members that were more her size. The rest of the Hilo trip was filled with beach time, day trips, family visits and hanging out in the sun. Towards the end of our trip, Tony and I were able to leave Nella with my mom and her sister/family, while we jumped on a plane to the island of Kauai. We had about 2 ½ days on the island, just the two of us! And to this day, I don’t take that time or the ability to do that for granted. It was a time to reconnect as just the two of us, enjoy each others’ company, enjoy food without having to entertain a certain little eater, and just be US. We left Hawaii relaxed, rested, and not ready but willing to head back to reality in Texas.

Spring 2016, we bought our first house! When we got back to Texas, our next adventure was house hunting. We called up a realtor that was related to a good friend back in TN and started the house hunting process. I didn’t know how ridiculous it would be. Ridiculous as in the price of a house increased QUITE a bit since we last looked. Ridiculous as in, if you found something you like, you put a bid in it THAT DAY for way more than it was. Ridiculous as in…our offer was finally accepted on a house about 2 miles down from my parents, in the area we wanted, and had a lot of features that we really liked. We closed in April, painted, cleaned, tore down a wall, and renovated for 4 months before we officially moved in the first weekend in August. So far, we have already experienced a few hiccups but hey! That’s home ownership. And we are very, very happy to have our home and extremely thankful to be a home owner.

Summer 2016, we went on our first annual(?) Williams family vacation! We all loaded up across Texas, and from TN and met in the middle in Heber Springs, Arkansas. 10 adults and 4 kids in a big ol’ cabin in the woods for 3 full days. We ate, ate, ate, played games, went on walks, went to the ‘beach’, and most of all, enjoyed an ample amount of family time all together. We all don’t get together as one whole family very often at all since we are spread across 3 different states, currently (Texas, Utah, and Tennessee). It was especially fun for me to see Nella play with her cousins. I look forward to these vacations year after year, as we continue to add to the Williams clan (no, I’m not pregnant), and make new memories.

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So here it is..fall into winter of 2016. Two of my best girl friends have also gotten engaged recently, so the weekends are filling fast with bridal showers, bachelorette parties, dress fittings, and other various wedding festivities. I also know a few lovely ladies who will be bringing in a bundle of joy either for their 1st or 2nd time within the next several months. So I would say life right now is busy but oh SO fun and exciting!

The one constant? The Lord is steadfast, and He remains unchanged. Through lifes ups and downs. He remains a rock. Through all the joy and celebration, and through all the sorrow and pain. He does not let go. And through another presidential election…He is unshakeable (And that is about the extent of my political discussion). Month after month, year after year, I am constantly reminded and thankful for a God that HEARS me, that He does not shutter in fear or the unknown…but that HE knows all. I cling to hope for friends who have trudged through a loss, that out of deep heartache, grows beauty and hope. I pray to a God who has risen and defeated death and is ALIVE and who truly desires a relationship with little old me. I lift my voice and hands and worship a Father who pours out unconditional love. Who knows I am far, far, FAR from perfect, yet accepts, welcomes, LOVES me through my imperfections.

So as we close out 2016 and enter 2017. I pray that you know this too. That you ARE loved and you ARE cherished. I also pray that we be kind to one another. There will always be disagreements. There will always be opinionated arguments. There will always be tragedy. Because the world does not stop turning and no matter how hard we try, evil seeps in sometimes. But…what can keep us going is showing love. Serving one another. Encouraging. Reaching across the dividing line and extending that hand to others.

One common denominator for sure between all of us? We’re all human. How amazing would it be to unite in that fact for the good, for the positive, for the sake of our children who grow up in this world…

So I pray that 2017 is good to you, and that you are good to it.