What do these seemingly random things have to do with how
Him + Me = Us?

{Originally posted at Take Heart

I love love.  I also think that God writes the best love stories in the world.
I am so humbled to be part of one of them.
I'm not going to lie.  I had a crush on Jason since junior high.  Not like I had ever talked to him, or that he knew I was alive.  But at thirteen you don't think of such things.  You just think, oh, that boy is cute...

We grew up less than a mile apart, yet were in different school districts.  I was on swim team with his sister and I always referred to him as "Katrina's cute brother."  But I am so glad we didn't start dating then, because he was a heart breaker, and I was a hot mess.  I'd have given us two weeks, tops.  Then I would have probably had one of my friends break up with him for me over the phone.  Like I said, junior high.

Fast forward to college... I spent my freshman year out of state, but then decided to come home.  All I wanted upon graduation was to get out of California.  Nine months away, and all I wanted was to go back.  Jason and I ended up at the same school, and even had a class together.  Marine science.  At 7:30 am.  Which was not about marine mammals, as I had hoped, but about the chemistry of the ocean.  Bore to the ing.  But, he was in there with two of his friends, and they needed a fourth for their lab partner.  Luckily for them, nerdy, bookish, responsible me was there to rescue them from their slacker ways.  I probably ended up doing all of the work, but they entertained me each and every day.  We survived the early morning boredom, passed the class, and became great friends.

Friends.  Just friends.  At the time I was working two jobs and going to school full time.  I was convinced that I didn't have room in my life for much more.  Even if it came in the form of a cute boy.  One night his best friend's band was playing at a local restaurant, and I was there with my friend.  I had the following day off, and all I wanted to do was go snowboarding.  My friend bailed on me at the last minute, and I was soooo bummed.  It was going to be my first day off in 37 days.  A big, big, big deal.  On a whim, and not exactly wanting to head up the mountain alone, I asked Jason and his bestie to join me.  They surprisingly said yes and right before midnight, a 5:30 a.m. meet up time was arranged.  Until his friend bailed.  Then he wanted to bail.  Somehow I convinced him to go anyway, and promised it would be fun.

It was fun.  So very fun.  No awkwardness, no weird silences.  Just happy, comfortable conversation.  Over the next few weeks we began to spend more time together.  He would even come visit me during my breaks at work.  I was sad the semester was ending, that the torture that was marine science was over.  He invited me to college group, and to a couple of his hardcore band, Unashamed, shows.  For this Dave Matthews Band loving girl, that was a whole different world, to put it mildly.

On Christmas day he was preparing to leave on tour.  He came over to say goodbye and promised to write.  How cute is that?  But him being the gentleman, and me being the clueless girl, I had no idea he thought of me as anything as more than a good friend.  Two days later, while I was at work he called me.  From Arkansas.  In the days before cell phones, this was a big deal.  It meant he had to go get coins and find a pay phone.  That phone call was the first time I realized that there could be something more than I originally thought.  Trouble is, I had plans to work and move to the local ski resort for the season.  I wasn't sure how I would be able to juggle a semi- long distance relationship and school.

Fast forward a few weeks... he came home from tour and invited me to dinner at his house with his family.  On the very short drive to his house, my little truck was hit head on by an uninsured drunk driver.  I emerged from the crash unscathed, but my truck was totaled.  As I waited for the police to arrive, I tried to call Jason to tell him what happened, but I couldn't remember his phone number.  He sat at home thinking that I had stood him up!  How did we ever survive without cell phones????  Eventually my brother called him and he met me at the accident scene.  His care and concern for me in that moment made me realize how special he was, how much he meant to me.  How much more than just a friend he had become. Because I was suddenly without an automobile, there was no way I could go work at the ski resort, but then and there I knew that there was no way that I wanted to leave him.

From that night on we began dating, survived college together, saw his other band The Supertones, get signed and record an album, grew up, and three years later got engaged.  The following year we were married, bought our first house, toured, traveled and marveled at how a boring college class and a scary car accident brought us together.
Ten years ago he put down his drumsticks and we packed away our suitcases for the crazy that is full time youth ministry.  Our adventures are much different, but still amazing and beautiful.  During that time we have experienced great happiness and great loss.  Through it all, our deep love for God and our enduring friendship has carried us through.
Our lives together are full of fun and sunshine and our sweet, silly, daughters.  I never saw this coming all those years ago, but I am so glad that God's plans are so much bigger and more perfect than we could ever imagine.
Come summer our adventure is going to get a little crazier when we add another little one to the beauty that is our family.  We can't wait!

I remember it so clearly.
Fifth grade.  Mr. Marshall's class.  His affinity for lavender v-neck sweaters and pink polo shirts.  His love for great literature.  How after lunch he would read from one of the classics to calm our pre-teen fidgets.
Fifth grade is when I first fell in love with Shakespeare.
Fifth grade is when I wished I was something that I was not.

He had each of us take the Myers-Briggs personality test.  Fairly heady material for eleven year olds, but such was his ways.  One by one he had each student read aloud their results.
One by one they nearly all started with 


Mine and only a few others started with


INFP to be exact.

I brought the test home that day and took it again and again, hoping for different results.  Again and again, the I kept reappearing.

In my young mind, I knew that so much of life would be easier for the E crew.  The class presidents, the prom kings, the ringleaders.

Us with the I distinction would be lining the walls, the sidelines.  
Our noses buried in books, wringing our hands when required to give a speech.

The shy kids.

Our social world is made for extroverts.

But now, as an adult, I wear my introvert badge proudly.  
I honestly don't remember the last time I was bored, or even felt lonely.  I love quiet, and yes, dream about going on vacation alone.  Or at least driving an entire day with nothing but music to keep my company.

I do see some pitfalls however.
I am married to the extrovert of all extroverts, who has a very social and public profession.
Although I often crave silence and solitude, I would be quite selfish to constantly choose it over people.

Because I love people.  Noisy, messy, complicated people.

While you will never see me commanding a room, I certainly have pushed myself and my comfort levels  to be able to talk to anyone about anything.
Small talk is an art.  A beautiful art.
It can be learned.
It should be learned.

People have stories.  Wonderful, tragic, amazing stories.

What if I hugged walls, hiding from such stories?
How much would I be missing out on?

Now as a mother, I try my best to never, ever use the word shy to label one of my daughters.  Is she an introvert?  Absolutely.  Have I picked her up from church in a room full of kids and found her reading quietly alone in the corner?  Yes.  But in that corner she was comfortable.  Happy even.

But then do I want her quiet personality to hold her back from life?  Never.  Not ever.  In our family we love people.  We value friendliness.  People are much more important than how outgoing we may or may not feel at the moment.  We are constantly working on eye contact, and proper greetings. It is often really, really hard.

But I know that it will be worth it.  That it is, and will, serve her well.

Which is why, against everything in me, I agreed to speak at Blog Sugar this fall.
Do I want to?
Do I want to throw up just thinking about it?

But it is on a topic that I am passionate about, and how silly and selfish would it be for me to hide behind my fears when there is an opportunity for God to use me.

Shyness is not an excuse.  Do not let it keep you from being a part of this wonderful, noisy, chaotic world.  Morrissey is a wise, wise man.

It's not the gray hairs that suddenly appeared and started mulitiplying last year, because let's be honest, who didn't get grays from the craptacular that was 2010.

It's not the lovely new denotation of advanced maternal age, that was added to my other million and one pregnancy risk factors.

It's this picture of Justin Bieber and his parents at the Grammy's.

Both of which, come to find out, are YOUNGER than me.
Which made me realize I'm old.

Cry cry cry.
Baby baby baby.

*I also realized that my kids are slackers.

The plague of 2011 finally left our house.

Went out to dinner and saw a movie with my man.

It snowed.  

I survived a rainy Saturday afternoon birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese.
Made Salted Caramel Cupcakes which is so much easier thanks to this yummy sauce.

Barely held it together while packing up the last of the 18-24 month clothes.
Performed life saving, and meltdown halting, limb reattachment surgery on a treasured family pet.

Took a nap.
Dropped a piano on my foot.  Yes, it's little, but it HURT.

Installed Apple TV, which I still don't know what it does, but I know I love it.  
By installed, I mean our computer wizard friends installed it for us.  (Thanks Sam and Brandon!)
Grabbed dinner at Cafe Rio, by myself, in the rain, wearing flip flops, at the granny hour of 4:30.  

How was your weekend?

I am one of those weirdos that loved high school and who thinks teenagers are awesome.  Not scary, not something to dread, but truly, wholly, amazing.

Good thing that my husband is in youth ministry.  Because our house is constantly filled with teens and I wouldn't have it any other way.

So what is a girl to do, when after church one Sunday, my husband mentions that we are having a pasta night for twenty (which turned out to be more like 30) of our student leaders?  That night.  That for sure he told me about, but me in my scattered A.D.D. I didn't write it down, shop, prepare, much less remember?

I get water boiling.  That is what I do.  Because pizza and bbq's are always nice, but a cozy, home cooked meal is always better.  That is, an easy home cooked meal is always best.

You might not have teenagers yet, but one day you will.  How great would it be your house was the house that they all want to come to?  They don't need much.  A comfy couch, food, Just Dance on the xbox...  They will never leave.  While they are there you will get to see who they are, their hopes, their dreams, their fears.  Then too, you might learn to love instead of fear those the world often dismisses.

 Step one:
Try not to mentally curse the man at the appliance store for talking you out of a double oven.
Because a convection microwave that can bake an 8x8 dish is NOT THE SAME as two full size ovens.
I bet he would have listened to Mrs. Duggar when she said that she would use two ovens ALL THE TIME.  Sigh.  It did work better for the space, but at least once a week I wish we had two.
 Step two:
Lots and lots and lots of food.  More than you think you need.  Way more.  Garlic bread from Costco.  It's ridiculously good.  Impossible to mess up.
 Step three:
My grown up friends always clean my kitchen and do my dishes for me.  Teenagers?  Not so much.  So I am so cool with boring old paper plates.  When the boys want to fight over who gets to do the dishes, my happy fiestaware will come out.  Until then, sorry earth.
(Public service announcement:  if you happen to have teenagers and you really want them to be invited over again and again, brainwash them in to doing other people's dishes.  Who knows, maybe they will realize what a huge blessing it is and start helping with your family's dishes unprompted.)
 Step four:
Two words:  Sonic Ice.  Drive on through and pick up a few bags for only $1.69 each.  Nothing says awesome like rabbit pellet ice.  Nothing.  Except TWO OVENS.
 Step five:
Fun sodas, full of sugar and food coloring.  Lots of kinds.  Combine with Sonic ice and you are suddenly a superstar.
 Step six:
Set everything out and watch it disappear.  Quickly.  Messily.  I made a super easy baked ziti cheater recipe, with penne, red sauce, half & half, ground beef and lots and lots of parmesan and mozzarella.  Just thrown together and then covered with cheese and more cheese.  Easy to prep before hand.  Even easier to cook if YOU HAD TWO OVENS!!!
 Step seven:
Sugar.  A requisite.  These are our version of a local restaurant's Pizookies.  Pie tin.  Cookie dough.  Bake.  Easy and mindless, and again with the TWO OVENS!!!!
Step eight:  Pile on the vanilla bean ice cream, grab spoons and let them attack it family style.  What could be better than that?  I know, TWO OVENS!  Then nobody would have to wait for their batch to cook...

Step nine:  Put your little ones to bed with the lovely soundtrack of Lady Gaga on the Just Dance game downstairs.  Then try scrubbing Lady Gaga out of your mind as your try to head off to sleep hours later. Still be haunted by it for days and days.

Step ten:  Be glad that you had the opportunity to be a part of their lives.  To laugh when they text each other while sitting in the same room.  To know that there is not enough money in the world that would get you to play Just Dance, but the simple fact is, an open door, dinner and a comfy couch is really all they need to let you see into their world.

Want a little peek into the crazy that is youth ministry?
To see one of our students use his gifts and talents in a mighty way?
Ariel Amaro is a name you certainly will hear in the future.  He is sheer brillance with a camera and we are so very, very blessed to have him be a part of our team.
This is why we do what we do.
Each and every one of our student is such a blessing, there is no place we would rather serve.

{from Tuesday Mourning}
Proceeds from this happy, happy print benefit a sweet girl named Davy.
Read more about her here.

Everyone is sick.
Super, super sick.
Except the baby.  Who is the one person who can't pitch in and fix us smoothies, soup, or change her own diapers.  Luckily she got to go play at her grandparents today, and the house got a break from her mischevious boredom-fueled rampage.
In the mean time, we are keeping Redbox in business, wearing out the motor on the blender, waiting to kick these germs to the curb.
But it has been cozy.  Even quiet, underneath the hacking and woes.
Sometimes being sick isn't all that bad.  I mean it is, but it isn't...

Ten on Ten: Take a photo every hour for ten consecutive hours on the tenth of each month. Document a day of your life and find beauty among the ordinary moments.

Today was weird.
I was... off.
When I plan my day to go one way and it goes sideways, sometimes it takes me a while to recover.
So dramatic. I am not terribly structured.  But also not very flexible.
The dichotomies of my personality are exhausting.
I'm working on it.
Our neighbor's beautiful tree grew over our shared wall and rested on top of our house, damaging the roof.  It had to come down.  I hate to see a healthy tree go to waste.  But, surprisingly enough, our side yard which was once too shady to grow really anything, now sees a tiny bit of the sun.  Spring time will mean planting in the newly liberated dirt.  Hello hydrangeas!
Play date with a friend and her little one at Chick-fil-a.
Love, love, love the sparkly clean play place.
Love my fiesty bald-ish (still a little greasy) baby getting her wiggles out.
School pickup.
The little ones earned a pajama day.
She has been looking forward to debuting her Rapunzel jammies for months.
The second I walked back in the door, I got a call from the school.
Isn't that how it always is?
Seems my big girl was running a fever.
Back in the swagger wagon I went.
Do you have those days, when you can't take another minute of noise?
Today was that day.
With a sick husband, sick daughter and whole household sleeping, I snuck out to someplace I normally would dread.  But I was so in need of silence.  The silence of a drive.  The silence of a lab waiting room.
Hear that?
It's awesome.
How obnoxiously giant do my sunglasses look?
How adorable is my favey Allora necklace?  It alone should have kicked me out of my mood.
Only six vials today.
But one she drew by mistake, then threw it in the biohazard bin.
Why would anyone EVER want to become a phlebotomist?  EVER?
Unless they were vampires.
I don't get it.
Nobody is excited to be there.  
Nobody likes getting blood drawn.
Except vampires.
So weird.
I snuck back home to stitch up some sunshine for someone who has had one too many snow days this winter.  
Thinking I need to make myself a matching set.
Then was pleasantly surprised by this special delivery on my doorstep by a sweet friend.
Yes.  They are exactly what they look like.
and they are just as good as you could imagine.
How I wish that this was for me.
Alas, a chilled and feverish family member took precedence.
Next time I am first in line.
Warm quilt.  Cozy chair.  Hot tea.  Soothing, challenging, encouraging words.
This is what should have started my day instead of finishing it.
I have a feeling that everything would have been much, much different.
Maybe read it in the bath.  With the Oreos, the tea, and the quiet.
That is a morning that I could look forward to.

Tomorrow will be better.
I will do better.
Come what may.

I love football season.
Because it means one of two things, we either have a house full of people, or I have an afternoon off to do whatever in the world I want.
Shop aimlessly?  Nap?  Hide in the craft room?  Yes, yes and yes.
Our girls watch football.  Or they run loose with their little friends and destroy the house while the grown-ups watch football.
Football always means good, good, good food.
I am a little sad when the season is over.
To bad we aren't as passionate about baseball.  That season is loooooooong.

As for the Superbowl, we usually host a little party.  This year, I was pretty meh on both of the teams.  But I was excited for one thing... an excuse to make The Best Cheesecake in the History of All Cheesecake.
Girl food?  Maybe.  But I am a girl.  I think guys secretly like cheesecake too.

{have some cheesecake with your whipped cream?}

Was it as good as I remembered from my first introduction at Meg's house?
Was it surprisingly easy to make?
Do I want to have people over tonight just so I can make it again?
Yes.  Want to come over?

As for my favorite part of the Superbowl?
This commericial.  Brilliant.  Make me want a Volkswagen a tiny little bit.
Star Wars gets me every single time.
Want me to buy something?  Add Vader.
But not Jar Jar Binks.  That dork isn't getting a single dime from me.

What was your favorite part of Superbowl Sunday?
Care for a piece of cheesecake?

 This silly girl, who can be seen quite frequently in her blue doctor spectacles, had a little mischief party this weekend.
She found her way into a little vat of BabyRub and played beauty parlor.
With the entire thing.
Apparently she has much, much, much more hair than we had previously believed.
That, or this makes a great body building hair product.
So I turned to Google, with a eucalyptus scented, very greasy headed baby, sitting in my lap.

I came upon a suggestion to use cornstarch to bind the Vaseline base, and then a clarifying shampoo to dissolve the ick.
Nearly a dozen rounds of this torture fest later, I have a slightly less greasy, less scented, super angry baby on my hands.

Good times.  Really good times.

Lock up your Vicks.  With like ten padlocks.
You're welcome.

In sixth grade we had to write a career report on what we wanted to be when we grew up.
I was absolutely positive that I would attend Auburn and become a veterinarian.
I got an A+ on the report.  Which may or may not have had something to do with the calligraphy and decoupage on the cover.  But my vet plans easily evaporated as I realized the vast amounts of science and math that would be required.

 Life takes funny turns.  What we are so very sure of, can change so dramatically.  If I could write a new report about my dream job, it would involve working with a brilliant photographer and helping them style their shoots.
Funny how that wasn't really an option as I rode my bike to the local library to research careers on the microfiche machine.  No Google in my day, friends.
 But now, I actually have my dream job.  Planning our family pictures is one of my favorite things to do all year.  And, yes, it fills my mind all 365 days.  Normal?  Perhaps not.  Fun?  Absolutely.
I love the process.  The brainstorming.  Planning with Drew on what would work, what we could do that is new, fun, original.  Chatting colors, locations, shoes, details.  Those are a few of my favorite things.
Seeing it all come together, when it was almost falling apart?  
Happiness.  Just happiness.
Do I make my husband a little crazy? 
With a van full of stuff that has to be dragged through a field or down a sandy beach?
Maybe a little.  But he indulges (tolerates) me, because he is just that amazing.

In the moment, when it is crazy and chaotic and we are racing against the sunset.
When I am forcefully whispering through a smile and gritted teeth to my kids to NOT BE SO CRAZY!!!!
When we sneak alone to take some pictures of just us together as the girls collect shells, we look at each other and smile.
It was worth it.  All of it.
 That is why I'd so rather be a stylist than a photographer.  The entire shoot, I teetered on the edge of a panic attack, trying not to sweat, because sweaty pictures are not pretty pictures.
Drew on the other hand was a case study in serenity.
She calmly, quietly corralled my band of wild ones exactly where they need to be without them even knowing it.  Then she let them be who they are.  Who we are.  Nothing stresses her.  Nothing worries her.  She switches cameras, lenses, locations, and light with ease.  She knows the exact perfect moment to bring out the gummi bears.
Somehow through all of her peace and grace, she keeps snapping away and gives us these forever moments.  Bathed in sunshine, love and pretty light.

Like I said.  This right here?  My dream job.  Pretty fun that I get to do it for those I love the most.

Now what should we do next year?

In case you are nerdy like me, and want to know where things came from, here is a list of the rainbow goodness.
Hello Sunshine bunting- Tidbit.
Rainbow quilt- Target clearance, last summer.  $12.97.  Don't hate.
Janey's patchwork dress- Peace of Cake Kids.
Lulu's apron dress- Matilda Jane, with a new apron made by my sweet mom.
Halley's skirt- Darla's Clothing Boutique.
Janey & Halley's leggings- made with fabric from Ruffle Fabric using No Big Dill's tutorial.
Headbands- made by me using Haute Blue B's rosette tutorial.
Yellow coat- found on Ebay, shipped from Hong Kong.  That could have gone badly.  So glad it didn't.
Aqua mum earrings-  Angel Face Designs
Shoes- Converse
Table- from our old kitchen, legs cut down and spray painted.

Snowed in?
 Here is some sunny happiness to warm up your day.
I can't stop smiling when I see each one of these pictures.
I can't express what a gift and blessing Drew gave our family.
They are a million billion times better than I could have ever hoped or imagined.

Her words, her heart, her talents amaze me.
Please click over to Drew's blog and see the rest.
Don't feel bad if the slideshow makes you cry.
Because happy tears are the best tears.
I have cried so many myself.

I love my family.
I love that Drew gets us so perfectly.
I love that I will always be able to vividly remember this very special day.

The Carson's love you Drew!!!

(All of the details from the shoot coming tomorrow.)