Our family

Our family

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Summer Reading and All Time Favorites

My neighborhood book club is starting back up this week and the leaves are starting to turn so I thought it was about time to recap this summer's reading.  There are so many fabulous new books out, I just can't keep up.
Two of my favorite reads were Melanie Shankle's The Antelope in the Living Room and Sparkly Green Earrings.  I literally laughed out loud with both of these books but also found myself underlining thought provoking and life inspiring words of wisdom.  The Antelope in the Living Room recaps Melanie's journey through Marriage and Sparkly Green Earrings is her experiences as a mother. She intertwines her faith, humor and real life stories to make an unforgettable story.

What Alice Forgot is one of those books you will fly through in just a few sittings.  Its a thought provoking story of what happens when a woman looses her memory of the past ten years.  It challenges us to examine our own life: what would the me of 10 years ago think of me now?
The Orphans of Race Point is a bit longer read that intertwines many story lines following a childhood friendship throughout many generations.  Its an engaging novel that explores what we will do for love.
Love Idol is a nonfiction, Christian novel that exposes our need for approval in a world full of comparison, criticism, perfectionism and ultimately sin.  It explains how we are pre-approved in God's eyes, we are enough in Him.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown was by far one of the most life changing (and life challenging) books I've read in a while.  I won't do justice trying to recap it so just do yourself a favor and go buy it (so you can highlight it, re-read it and pass it on).  All I'll say is we (men, women, faith or no faith) need to be gentle to ourselves and let go of trying to be perfect, its the only way we can live wholeheartedly.

These are my two picks for good old fashioned beach reads.  You'll finish them in a day or two and be entertained every moment.
I loved Wonder.  It may make its way to an all time favorite list.  Every student and parent should read this book and cherish it.  Wonder is the type of story made for curling up and sharing, for talking and connecting.  Its one of the best nonfiction books I've read recently.

And because I'm a book fanatic (and I've seen people posting their favorite books on facebook) I thought I'd share my all-time favorite/inspiring books.  I tried to come up with just my top 10 but ultimately had to break it up so I could share a few more. In no particular order....

Top 10 Non-Fiction
1. The Emperor of All Maladies
2. Love, Medicine and Miracles
3. The Irresistible Revolution
4.  Tuesdays with Morrie
5. The Last Lecture
6. Marley and Me
7.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
8.  The Omnivore's Dilemma
9. Cutting for Stone
10.  Still Alice

Top 10 Fiction
1.  Water for Elephants
2.  Room
3. My Sister's Keeper
4.  The Alchemist
5.  Redeeming Love
6. The Shack
7. The Art of Racing in the Rain
8. The Husband's Secret
9. A Thousand Splendid Suns
10.  I'll Love You Forever

Saturday, September 6, 2014


It's amazing how much can happen in a short span of our lives.
About four years ago Braydon and I stood on the shore of Smith Mountain Lake and announced our marriage vows.
Now our two year old is enjoying the same lake, the same dock, the same sacred space as we shared on that special day.  I love that we re-visit our place of "I do's"multiple times each year and that we share this special place with our growing family
As the extended Andrews family evolves (welcoming its 8th grandchild in October!), Shiloh (Braydon's parent's home) has transformed into a child's dream come true.
Braydon and I are convinced we don't need passes to Disneyland or Six Flags any time in the next 10 years.  Shiloh has everything from water sports, a mini roller coaster, and sandy beaches to home cooked food, endless toys, wooded trails and, most of all, two amazing grandparents.
This was our first visit to Shiloh without any other visitors; while we certainly missed all the cousins, brothers and sisters, it was special to have precious one on one time with Mama Boo and Papa Deke.
Traveling with the two kids had its challenges but it was so worth it.  We loved spending our days outside and our nights relaxing by the fire. 
Lucy was also blessed to meet her Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather.  She showered her Great Grandma with so many smiles and giggles....it was a time I will always remember.
The theme and highlight of our trip was cows.
Yes, cows.  
Our boy has an incredible obsession with cows.  So much so we actually had to be careful when mentioning the C-O-W (there were major tears when we arrived at a hardware store and he was expecting to see a cow there).
It just didn't get old for this little guy.
Kip could have sat and watched the cows and goats for hours and hours.  I think he still associates putting on his muck boots with feeding farm animals.
And he still carries his cow figurine all around the house (its even made its way to the dinner table...while eating his favorite food, hamburgers, oh the irony).
We had the unique privilege to watch cows being milked at a local dairy farm.  This was an incredible process and was fascinating to watch for both the adults and the toddler.
Did you know that one dairy cow produces about 7 galloons of milk per day?
We love spending time and making memories with Mama Boo and Papa Deke, we only wish we all lived just a bit closer.
Thank you for an amazing weekend away and a time we will always cherish.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why I Love the Challenge

Trapped.  That’s the best way to describe someone with ALS.  A fully functioning mind trapped in a body that can’t move a finger or easily breathe on its own.  A disease that overtakes a body, abandoning the soul and mind of movement and independence. 

I’ve always felt called to work with and help people with cancer; it’s my vocation as a nurse and as a person.  However over the past two years as a hospice nurse my heart has transformed, molded and empathized with so many other diseases.  ALS tops the list.

ALS is a degenerative disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.  The break down and subsequent death of nerve cells cause the brain to lose its ability to control and initiate muscle movement. After the disease paralyzes the extremities, it creeps into the respitory systems and robs the ability to breathe.  Individuals and families are faced with the harrowing decision of a life dependent on a ventilator (breathing machine) or a death of respitory failure. At this time there is no cure for ALS and very limited treatment options.  
ALS takes robust, young people and transforms them over the course of years into completely dependent, nonfunctioning bodies.  The disease affects the person, family and support system to their absolute core.  People with ALS require 24 hour caregiving, extensive protection against infections and pressures sores, heavy equipment to assist in mobility, computers to help with communication and relentless love, empathy and grace.
The ALS ice bucket challenge isn’t perfect in explaining the disease and the basis is a little confusing (dumping clean, ice cold water over your head so you don’t have to donate?), but the challenge is spreading awareness and raising money. At this time, ALS always results in death.  The main hope is in research and advancement of medicine.
Awareness is essential to the battle.  Awareness allows people to understand the need, grace and empathy required for the battle.  Awareness stirs our souls and moves our bodies to help those who are truly in need.  Awareness motivates us to donate our time, energy and money to a cause that is desperately in need of help. 

Obviously there are many other awful diseases in our world and many worthy causes in need of money and donations.  The ice bucket movement spreading through our nation and world not only brings hope for awareness and advancement in ALS, it proves we can come together for good, we do have resources to share and we do have hearts that can support and love others.  
Just like Jesus did.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

2 Months

Lucy Lillian 2 Months
Weight: 11lbs 6oz, 53rd percentile
Height: 26 in, 100th percentile 
Apparently Lucy grew 4 inches in 1 month, is that some sort of infant record?  Or perhaps just inaccurate measuring at the doctor's office.

Dear Miss Lulu,
Lucy isn't even a sweet enough name for you.  I've coined you as my little Lulu.  Your dad doesn't love the nickname but its perfect for you.  
You are two months and two weeks old.  You are laid back, easy going, smiley and an incredible blessing.
There are times you remind me so much of your big brother (Kip on the left, Lucy on the right), but there are other times you have your own look and own persona.  
You have given your dad and I so much grace these first two months.  You rarely cry, are so patient and sleep like a beauty.  You love to snooze and only fuss when you want to sleep.  You nap throughout the day and sleep throughout the night. Oh please don't change.
Your brother cannot get enough of you.  He is always wanting to hold, rock and cuddle up to you.  We are still working on being gentle but you're a tough little one and have survived some hearty body slams .  He calls you 'baby' most of the time except in the morning he says, "HI OOO-CEE."  He loves showing you off to his daycare buddies and is always saying, "oh no! baby?!" when he doesn't see you.  
He runs into your room in the morning to watch you sleep.  I often find his pacifiers, toy horses and puzzle pieces hidden in your bassinet.
Your dad and his friends have a lot of little girls on their hands.  I have a feeling God has big plans in store for these daughters and dads.  Something tells me they'll learn just as much from you as you do from them.  
You are wearing size 3-6 month clothes and most of your pants are more like capris.  You are smiling, grasping at objects, kicking up your legs and making the most adorable little laughs.
I am continually humbled by the love that surrounds you.  Little do you know how many people have held you, prayed for you and supported you in just two short months.  From meals and gifts to phone calls, visits and messages, you are one treasured little girl.  
Oh dear Lulu,
thank you for reminding me to praise God in the happy moments, to seek God in the difficult moments, to worship God in the quiet moments, to trust God in the painful moments and to thank God in every moment.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Self care

Whether a new mom, a retired grandparent, a single parent or a student, no matter our stage of life we all need to take care of ourselves.  And I don't mean just brushing our teeth in the morning and going to the doctor every 5 years.  We need to be thoughtful, intentional and deliberate about caring for ourselves everyday.  Our society is quick to point to the self-centered and egotistical traits of our culture and we can easily fall into the trap of neglecting our self in pursuit of avoiding guilt and criticism.  But we need to stop and ask ourselves, "Have I taken time for myself today? Am I being thoughtful to myself?  What am I doing to take care of this one and only body and soul?"  

I'll confess I went a whole year without buying much of anything for myself.  Well technically, that's not true.  I would buy things, feel guilty then return them, over and over again. I'm learning its okay to buy a few nice things for myself (not every day or even every week, but at least once in a while).  I don't always have to give, I can wear a new shirt feeling confident and beautiful rather than guilty and full of regret (and I won't drive my husband crazy with the number of returns on our credit care bill).  

There are little things that turn into big things over time.  Like taking your vitamins every morning or flossing your teeth twice a day.  If we take the extra minutes to care for ourselves throughout our day, we experience big results over time.  

 I drink a lot of water each day, I take vitamins and a few supplements, I find quiet time, I enjoy a good book, I spend time cuddling with my family, I take a break in a stressful situation to pray, I evaluate how I feel, how I respond and how I act, I reflect and I make changes.  There's a lot of I's in that sentence and slowly I'm learning that's okay.  Sometimes saying I before you is about about filling your cup so you can fill others.  

Everyone has their own unique way to find restoration and renewal, I challenge you to reflect and find your own.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Confessions of a second time mom

We feel incredibly fortunate to have two amazing, healthy children; they sleep consistently, are cheerful most of the time and melt our hearts always.  But I won't disillusion you, life with two little ones is challenging and we are not perfect by any means.  I've done two installments of Confessions of Kip's mom, found here and here.  So its time to be real and honest for a third time:

1.  I don't change my newborn's diaper at night.  It wakes her up and let's be honest, we all need to go back to bed at 3am.
2.  We kept our oldest in daycare.  Three days a week, its just Lucy and I. We eat, sleep and relax, we miss Kip but its beautiful to have "just us" time.  
3.  I want to hand out chocolate to all moms with 2 or more kids in their cart Target.  You are amazing and I want to be like you.
4.  Our oldest brushes his teeth only a few times each week.  No good excuses, we often forget about it.
5.  I only bathe my newborn about every 5 days. They say natural body oils are good for you, right?
7.  I let her nap on her tummy.  She sleeps so much better that way. 

8.  Not every picture is perfect.  See below.  If that face doesn't say, "I'm all done,"  I don't know what does.

9.  We're petrified to travel with two.  And we are doing it soon with full intentions of buying new ipad apps for the plane ride, Curious George fruit snacks for the car ride and cookies for the people around us.

10.  Sometimes I'd rather pump milk than breastfeed.  It's often easier, more convenient and more comfortable.
11.  We haven't taken nearly as many photos of Lucy as Kip.  But she has way cuter clothes.  
12.  Our car seat is 5 years old this year.  That means it's technically expired but it's still in working order, so we're keeping it.
13.  I enjoy a glass of wine.  Not everyday, and not a whole bottle but a couple glasses a week it hits just the spot.
14.  I take time for myself.  I read, write, scrapbook, have a cup of coffee (or two), and enjoy quiet time at least once or twice a day.
15. My oldest watches Elmo, Curious George and Dora the Explorer.  Read #14, sometimes I need a little time to be my introverted self....did I mention I'm raising an extroverted, energetic toddler?
16. The best moment of my weekend: Kip thought the cow at the farm was a horse...All week I had googled "where to find horses for toddlers to pet in Minneapolis." A check off Kip's bucket list.
17. My two year old still sleeps with pacifiers.  About 4 of them to be exact.  One in his mouth, one in each hand and one in the bed just in case it goes missing.
18.  The first month I slept each night with my newborn in my arms.  We both slept better that way.
19.  Sometimes I lay with my toddler while he's sleeping.  He's growing way too fast and sometimes I just need to feel his stillness and hold him in my arms.
20. I need God's grace.  Grace meets us where we are (dirty diapers, unbrushed teeth, greasy hair and all) but doesn't leave us the same.  God's love and favor says, "I love you, you are enough, I'm watching over you," even when we confess we aren't quite perfect.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lucy Lillian 1 Month

Lucy Lillian
 1 Month
Weight: 10 lbs, 65th percentile
Height: 22 inches, 95th percentile
Sleeping Beauty

Oh Lucy, you are the baby everyone dreams about.  You sleep like its your job, you rarely cry and barely whimper, you eat like a champ and cuddle like your life depends on it.

Life with two little ones, dare I say, is peaceful.  Our sweet Lucy is the perfect addition to our family and has graciously given us a smooth transition into the parenthood of two children.

This is a girl after her mother's own heart.  If you know me, you know I love a good nap and an early bedtime, this little lady follows suit.  Even Mama Boo (mother of 7 and grandmother of 5) said little Lucy is the chillest baby she's seen.  Lucy follows a natural sleep, eat, wake pattern, with the wakefulness only lasting 20-30 minutes and the sleeping lasting a few hours.  She sleeps 6-7 hours at night in her crib and wakes only for a brief feeding. 

Lucy loves hanging in her baby bjorn bouncer and laying on her activity mat.  She can kick her legs and wiggle her arms contently for a good half an hour.  She is tracking movement with her eyes and grasping her baby toys.

Clothing and Diapers
0-3 month clothes and size 1 diapers

Favorite time of the day
Post nap stretching.  Melts my heart every time.

How's Mom?
Mom is doing really well, easing back into life at a slower pace than last time and savoring the precious moments of a newborn.  I don't get outside near enough and I rarely venture out in public alone with two kids but life is quiet and peaceful here at home and I can't complain one bit.  Our sleeping beauty has made sleep deprivation minimal and our nights are restful.

How's Dad?
Dad is great.  He keeps Kip busy and often its Kip who can't keep up with Dad.  From going to the park and splash pad multiple times in a day to bouncing in the bounce house, working in the yard, going for walks and running errands, Kip and Dad are constantly on the go.  
Braydon continues to excel at work and is volunteering weekly for the Police Reserves.  He is involved with our church men's ministry and always makes time for our neighbors and church friends.  Fatherhood suits him well.

What's big brother up to?
A lot.  This kid is the sweetest, good natured boy but constantly keeps us on our toes.  He adores his baby sister and is always trying to hold her, wiggle her toes and give her kisses.  He is baffled that she doesn't like his pacifiers and is convinced blankets need to cover her entire head.  He is obsessed with horses and cows, we often find him trying to ride his miniature figurines.  He loves art projects and is notorious for doing body art with markers and nail polish.  He keeps us laughing constantly.
Kip Carlson and Lucy Lillian,
You are here not be chance, but by God's choosing.
His hand formed you and made you the person you are.
He compares you to no one else, you are one of a kind.
You will lack nothing that His grace can't give you.
He has allowed you to be here at this time in history
to fulfill His special purpose for this generation.

Professional Photos by the wonderful Heather Reese Photography, http://www.hreesephotography.com/