30 Week DIY Maternity Photo Shoot

April 22, 2015 at 5:13 pm (Family, Personal, Photography)

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I finally carved out a little time to do a makeshift DIY maternity photo shoot.  It was the perfect day for it.  I so wish my photographer friend still lived in the area!  But as painful as it was to get in front of the camera and do these myself, I’m glad I got some pictures of this pregnancy.  And the kids helped me out!  My son was sweet enough to be my focus stand-in, so I got a bonus adorable shot of him :).

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So here are the pics…

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A yoga pose for my new exercise regimen recommended by my midwife.  I love the yoga, just wish the people narrating the video weren’t so earthly spiritual.  Anyone interested in doing a Christian yoga video?  I’ll be the first to buy it!

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The belly…

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Thirty weeks and already getting the “you are going to pop at any minute comments.”  LOL!  Happy Wednesday!

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Tracking Growth

April 21, 2015 at 12:09 pm (Faith, Personal)

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I know, I know, more plant pictures!  I can’t help it.  I am really in love with spring this year…even as the pollen starts making me all sneezy and watery eyed.  I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped to appreciate watching the various plants and trees come to life.  It seems like they’ve always just been all brown one day and lush greens the next.  But it’s so fun to watch the little green buds grow and turn into gorgeous full trees.  I’m just in awe of all these perfect and intricate systems God created!  How anyone could not see a higher power behind the complexities of life is so far beyond me.  We watched a video of Andy Stanley during my grad class last week, and he talks about the systems of nature and life.  He made a point that really stuck with me.  Without systems, doctors and scientists would be useless.  If every human body and all the complex systems therein didn’t behave consistently, doctors could never diagnose and treat us.  We could never come close to predicting weather if it didn’t operate on certain systems.  We wouldn’t know when the sun would rise or the tide would come in.  Humans wouldn’t work in perfect harmony with plants to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.  The worm wouldn’t serve a vital purpose to a garden.  It’s endless.  So that’s what I’m enjoying so much about growing plants this year and watching all the trees on our new property come to life.

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The thing I love most about our Dogwood is that it doesn’t look like much from a distance.  The flowers just look white and non-descript.  But when you get closer, you can see the Dogwood markings on the blooms and how truly ornate they are.

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Plus I love the trunk and big limbs!

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My kids, hubby and I are really enjoying watching this willow grow.  It sat dormant in a pot in our garage through the winter, and we doubted it would survive.  But it’s thriving!

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I’m sad that we may have to take this little beauty out…

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It’s a Japanese Maple, which can be poisonous to horses depending on what hybrid it is.  Since we don’t know, we aren’t going to take any chances.  Not only are we planning on getting a horse some day, but the neighbor horses occasionally (like yesterday) get out of their pasture and make their way into our yard.  I really don’t want to kill a neighbor horse with our maple…  On a happier note, the Sedum my dad brought this weekend are already thriving!

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Those will one day bless our yard with beautiful coral blossoms!  And, of course, the lilacs…my favorite!

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And finally, inside we’re growing the beginnings of our veggie garden…

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Praising God for so much spring beauty!  May your Tuesday (and mine) be better than your Monday!

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Encouragement for a Monday

April 20, 2015 at 3:34 pm (Faith, Personal)

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Yep, it’s a Monday.  Some Mondays you just dread more than others.  And maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, but those tend to be the worst Mondays.  It’s really hard to stay focused when your work environment is just soul draining.  I’ve found over the years that as a Christian, I have the most difficulty finding joy in my job when times are tough.  I like what I do for a living…just not always the way things run.  Since I work with military and my main boss is military, the people change on a regular basis.  That’s a great thing when you’re stuck with people who are, well to put it at least somewhat kindly, not fun to work for or with.  But it’s also really sad when the people you enjoy working for and with leave.  I had four years working for quite possibly, at least in my humble opinion, one of the best military general officers our generation has known.  It was an awesome four years.  No matter how long my career here drags on, I will always consider myself “his writer”.  He trusted my writing, skill, and knowledge implicitly.  I didn’t have to meet with him every week to make sure we’re on the same page. In fact, I hardly met with him at all.  But any written work that came across his desk for signature, he asked if I had looked it over.  Those years were such a blessing.

Then came four years of the next boss.  Although it got off to a rocky start, I built a level of trust with him, too.  And by the end, he would sign anything with my name on it.  Six months ago, his time was up.  When his successor was named, I was elated.  I had prayed for this officer to take the role.  He was rumored to be the protégé of my favorite boss, and I was looking forward to working with him.  Be careful what you pray for!  It’s been a nightmare now for six months.  This was the first transition where the entire military staff changed over at the same time.  The level of incompetence is mind blowing, even though I will acknowledge it’s not entirely the new staff’s fault.  There was no continuity.  But it’s painful.  Every work day is a struggle.  I like when things run smoothly at work…let’s face it, most of us do. No matter how much you like what you do, work is just that, work.  It’s what pays the bills.  And most of us would rather things run like clockwork and cause as little extra stress as possible.  I thought about this a lot during my grad class residency last week.  We were discussing leaders and how important change is in a work environment.  Many respected writers on corporate culture view change as a necessity and cite some workers who have been with an organization for a while as a stumbling block for progress.  I agree with this to some extent.  Sometimes the old ways don’t work in the new situations and we have to learn to let go and let things change.  But sometimes, when I look back on the years I’ve been at this job, all I see is how things ran smoothly at one point or another.  I’ve seen processes that work, and I recognize when those processes are broken.  I’m not opposed to change if it makes sense and makes things better.  I’m opposed to change that makes things worse and kills the morale of the entire staff.

So anyway, I’ll end that rant.  But I did want to share some verses that remind me from where my help and strength comes and encourage me with the knowledge that I am not working for someone else, only for God.

“Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.  Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”

~Ephesians 6:6-7

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

~Joshua 1:9

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

~Psalm 34:18

And an anonymous quote from the September 2012 “Our Daily Bread”…

“Be not always wanting

Some other work to do;

But gratefully perform the task

The Lord has given you.”

I needed these reminders today and hope they will help anyone else who is struggling on this Monday!

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Spring Planting and Pinecar Derby

April 19, 2015 at 8:00 pm (Cakes, Family, Personal, Photography)

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This was one of those uber-busy weeks when I have work and grad school residency days.  We also had our women’s breakfast Bible study and the pinecar derby at church yesterday.  So I am just wiped out…to the extent that my eyes were fighting to stay open at church today even though the sermon was amazing.  But it’s nice to take a little breather as I get ready to dive right into another crazy week and just get some pictures and a blog post in.  My dad came down yesterday and brought some fun plants for my front garden!  He stayed for the pinecar derby with the kids, too.  It was great! Here are some pics of the new plants.  More lilacs!!

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A Rose of Sharon (that stick in the middle) and some hostas…

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And some of the plants I got from American Meadows online…

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The garden doesn’t look like much yet, but one day it is going to be full of color three quarters of the year…I can’t wait!  The lilac we already had here is starting to really bloom…and let off that wonderful lilac scent!

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My dad also let me know what some of the other trees on our property are, and I am thrilled that we have a beautiful Dogwood in the front yard!  It’s starting to really bloom!

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And the kids had a fun time at the Awana Grand Prix pinecar derby.  My daughter won first place in her age group for speed…

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And my son took third in his age group…

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And really they just enjoyed having their Popple there!

I also had a cake order for today…Captain America…

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Today, I took a break from laundry, cleaning and homeschool planning to get outside with the kids for a little bit and take some pictures.  My daughter looked so cute picking Dandelions that I had to get some portraits.  Hoping to get into Photoshop with these and have some fun!

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I did play with one in Photoshop!  Original…

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With a black and white adjustment layer set to “screen”…

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And black and white with a pop of color.  I didn’t have time for all of the many steps you’ll find in most tutorials, so I just made a B&W adjustment layer set to “normal” and used the eraser tool to bring the Dandelion color back.

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Enjoy this beautiful Sunday and have a very blessed week!

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My Cherry Blossom Tribute

April 13, 2015 at 10:04 pm (Personal, Photography)

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Well, it’s not looking good for a visit to the cherry blossoms in D.C. before they lose their blooms.  This week is far too busy, and I’m thinking the blossoms will be withering after the rain that’s predicted.  So I’m contenting myself with pictures of our little cherry in the front yard.  It would be so much more awesome with the backdrop of the capitol or the TJ memorial, but hey, I’ll take what I can get :).  So here is my tribute to the cherry blossoms…

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And a sunset shot of the neighbors’ tree (dogwood maybe? – I have to learn my trees!).

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Have a blessed week enjoying the spring weather!

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Planting Day – Round One

April 11, 2015 at 1:54 pm (Family, Personal, Photography)

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These little beauties arrived in the mail this week!  They’re boxwood bush seedlings we bought through Evergreen Nursery at only $5.50 a piece.  Eventually, they will grow about 3-4 feet tall and make a gorgeous evergreen hedge along the front of our house.  But for now, they’re just super cute little plants.  So we got out yesterday, tilled up the front and put these babies in the ground.  The kids had a blast…and I am so submitting the pictures for their homeschooling review.  They learned a lot about plants yesterday!

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They loved the little seedlings…

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And putting them in the ground…

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My baby girl got all kinds of dirty and she loved it!  She’s definitely enjoying gardening!

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And one of our little boxwoods in the ground…

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It will be a while before they’re full grown, but I’m so excited to see them grow!  The trees on the property are also starting to bud and bloom.  It’s so insanely exciting to experience spring at a new house!  I love watching the trees comes to life and guessing what they are.  This one has started blooming, and the flowers are beautiful…

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It looked like just a scrawny stick all winter, and I think hubby had plans to take it down.  But seeing the pretty flowers, he decided to try to nurse it to full health.  I couldn’t be happier!  I think it’s a cherry tree of some sort…not sure though…maybe a weeping cherry?  If anyone knows, feel free to leave a comment and share!  We’d love to find out for sure.  Here are some more pics…

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Hubby tilled up the ground around it and we laid some mulch.  Working hard…

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The kids were thrilled that God has been watering our plants for us the past few days :).  I just really like the look of raindrops on the plants!  Rose bushes…

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And the willow coming to life!

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The lilacs beginning to blossom…

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And finally, a few bonus pics of my little goofball daughter in daddy’s hat and the neighbor horses…

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We also got some seeds started for the veggie garden yesterday.  Plenty more planting to come!  Love, love, love this time of year and all the beauty and newness!  Have a blessed weekend!!

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Easter Memories

April 7, 2015 at 4:17 pm (Family, Personal, Photography)

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A belated Happy Easter to everyone!  I’m just getting around to posting some pictures from the weekend.  We had an Easter egg hunt at the church on Saturday and then went up to my parents’ for Easter day.  It was a great weekend that went by in a whirlwind.  But here are some of the highlights.  Face painting at the church egg hunt…

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One of the ladies did a beautiful job painting butterflies for my kiddos…

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They were both devastated when the butterflies washed off in the bath that night.

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Hunting eggs…

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When we got home, my daughter made sure the willow had a drink :).

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A picture from Easter morning by my current favorite tree!

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I made some deviled eggs from the one we decorated at our Easter tea.  To get the color, you just add some food coloring to a small bowl of water and let the eggs sit in it until they reach the shade you like.  Sadly, I forgot my cake decorating tip and bags to make the yolk part look prettier, but they still turned out perfect for Easter!

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The kids all got a fun basket of goodies from my parents. And a little treat for the new baby…

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Time for the egg hunt…

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My son loves the egg hunts at my parents’ house more than any other hunt.  He’s not much for frantically searching for eggs, so he rarely gets many at the hunts with a lot of other kids.  At my parents’ hunt, there are only two other kids plus the eggs are color coded so each kid gets the same amount.  It’s perfect for him!

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He also had a blast trying to “beat” my sister to his eggs.  He was running around like a mad man!

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Hubby trying to snatch one of my daughter’s eggs…

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The cousins…

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My son was such a character that day!  He kept putting his basket over his head and walking in and out of the picture!

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A portrait of my sister and niece!

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My son swinging with his Amma…

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He also has decided he likes to help with dishes, so he helped my sister load the dishwasher.  And this is how that turned out…

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I caught a couple of shots of the gorgeous sunset out the car window on the way home from my parents’.

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Such a beautiful end to the day that celebrates our risen Lord and Savior.

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And some pictures of the horses next door with Photoshop edits…  And our dog didn’t make the horses run this time :).  The white and brown horse is fairly new to the stable and he causes quite a ruckus!  He’s always nipping, wrestling and chasing the other horses.  Makes it fun for me!

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Annual Easter Tea

April 4, 2015 at 1:36 pm (Crafts, Family, Personal, Photography)

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Our annual Easter tea at my parents’ house was wonderful!  We kind of threw it together last minute this year, but it still turned out really fun.  And the kids are always thrilled to spend time together and do fun activities.  We started out with tea, little ham and egg salad tea sandwiches (when I asked my son if he wanted ham or egg salad, he replied “hammer”…a hammer sandwich?…silly bub), Panera Bread scones, fruit, and brownies.  Then came the egg dying.  Dear son enjoyed dipping the wax crayon in the colors before drawing with it…not sure that was entirely effective, but he had a good time :).

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My adorable niece…

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And the pretty finished eggs…

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After the eggs, we started a few easy crafts.  The kids painted small cardstock eggs using Q-tips…

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Then we made tombs out of paper plates with a risen Jesus…an idea I saw on Pinterest, of course!

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Our final project was Resurrection Rolls from a recipe my friend shared with me.  Now, I have tried several “resurrection” recipes over the past few years, and most of them either don’t work well or are not entirely edible and end up in the trash.  But this one is delicious and works like a charm!  The original recipe is found here.  The kids just put a large marshmallow in the center of premade crescent roll dough and wrap the marshmallow up in the dough.  Then they dip the roll in melted butter and then in a sugar/cinnamon mixture.

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Set the rolls in greased muffin tins and pop them in an oven preheated to 350 degrees.  Bake for 15 minutes and…

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…voila!  An empty tomb!  Worked beautifully for showing the resurrection…and tasted really yummy!  I also took the opportunity to get a few pictures of my dad’s daffodils!  Flowers are starting to bloom, and it feels like spring!!!

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And now off to the church Easter egg hunt.  Have a very blessed Easter weekend!

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How Many Kings?

April 4, 2015 at 12:45 am (Faith, Personal)

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“And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

He love us.”

~David Crowder Band

Remembering the sacrifice Jesus made for us today.  He didn’t want to suffer the way He did.  He didn’t want to die.  But He did…out of obedience to His Father and an amazing love for us.  He took our punishment that day.  All He asks is that we accept His perfect offering.

“How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me”
~Downhere

How many kings/presidents/leaders have given their lives for you?  To Jesus be all praise and glory and honor for showing the greatest love this world has ever known.

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A Day to Run

April 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm (Family, Personal, Photography)

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Some days, juggling a telecommuting day with kids’ activities, homeschool and school assignments works out nicely.  Other days, it’s a jumbled mess of just trying to squeeze everything in.  Yesterday was one of the latter.  From the moment my alarm went off, my work was needing something fast.  On normal telecommuting days, I have the flexibility to get my work hours in where I can.  As long as I get all of the work done and dedicate the full eight hours, things are good.  On those rare occasions though, tasks have to be done on a very short timeline.  So that’s how yesterday started.  Ten o’clock brought my daughter’s gymnastics class, where I ended up having my son do his homeschool reading assignments while I worked on my laptop and answered frantic emails.  It was kind of fun though because part of my son’s school work was reading aloud from his Bible reader.  So there he was, proudly (and somewhat loudly for him) reading about the parable of the farmer and the seeds.  Side note – my daughter’s new gymnastics place is awesome because all of the other families are Christian homeschoolers.  There’s one family with five kids ranging in age from 4 to about early high school, and they sit in the waiting room working diligently on their school assignments.  I love it!  Anyway, after gymnastics, we headed home and made a quick lunch.  Then I worked while my son did some handwriting on his own.  We were still finishing up work and homeschool as I made dinner.  I didn’t even get to my school assignment until after 8:30.  But we did take a break to water the willow and the wildflowers and pet the neighbor horses.  It was a day to run.  The kids were full of energy and just ran around the yard like crazy!  My daughter is flying one of her Pegasus toys around the front yard in the picture above.  And my son took off running through the back yard…

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Just one of those days.  But the neighbor horses enjoyed a nice visit and some loving.  I’m thinking they would love to come over and be my daughter’s horses…they get a ton of attention and petting when she’s around!

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One in particular really likes her.  Though I think he is scrounging for peppermints or carrots, sticking his nose through the fence and nudging around her pockets.

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You can tell even from the pictures that he’s a little ornery, but he’s so darn cute!

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I love the beauty of horses, especially their eyes.

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My son made reluctant friends with another horse…

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It’s funny because he was first around horses at only a month old.  He’s ridden several and he’s never been afraid of them.  But now he’s gotten to where he’s cautious around dogs and horses.  He eyed this one up for a while before he would pet him.  But that horse really wanted to be pet, and my son finally gave in.

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Magnificent creatures!

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I was also thrilled to see that our plants are doing well.  The willow may not look like much yet, but it’s growing…

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There are tiny green buds on the branches.  It was touch and go and we weren’t sure the willow would survive after spending the winter in a pot and now enduring some frosty nights.  But those little buds are very encouraging!  And this…

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Yep, I’m even more certain this bunch of scrawny branches is a lilac.  The buds have gotten bigger and are looking suspiciously lilac-y!

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Purple or pink, I wonder!  I’m sure it’s purple, but I can’t wait to see (and smell) this one bloom!  Other than that, we are waiting for the plants we ordered to arrive and the last chance of frost to pass (the almanac says April 15th is the magic date for our zone).  Hubby has gotten to work power washing the back deck.  He’s refinishing the back deck and the front porch so they will look nicer and last longer.  Some of the boards had rotted out on the deck and he was getting tired of replacing them :).  I’m so glad he knows about all this stuff…and how to do it cheaply but nicely.  I would be at a loss and surely the deck would end up rotting out beneath me.  I really had no idea that power washing a deck could do this…

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Call me naïve, but I kind of thought once the wood turned that gray color, it was gray forever.  Love seeing it brought back to life!  And finally, a picture of my son at his favorite place in the house, the keyboard…

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He’s been regularly serenading us with his piano playing.  It’s a beautiful thing when he’s actually playing, but he’s also gotten into “DJing” with all the fun (and not so fun) sounds that come with a keyboard.  He’s got a knack for the whole DJ thing, I must say.  But choruses of toilets flushing and gagging noises…yeah, not really what you want to hear when you’re cooking dinner…just saying.  But the boy sure does like to practice, I have to give him that!  Have a blessed Easter weekend!

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