How did this happen?
This boy.  This giant boy that we have taken to calling The Beast.
This boy that has turned everything that we thought we knew about parenting upside down and inside out.
Intense. Determined.  Hungry.  Serious.  Passionate.  Happiest when he is outside.  Or in my arms.  Arms which are tired because he is GIANT.
Our latest walker (still waiting on that milestone.)  The only pacifier aficionado.  Did I mention he is giant?
He has already had more haircuts than his sisters combined.  In fact he needs one again stat.

Best friends with Lucy.  No one in the world can get him to laugh or smile like she can.  She calls him her twin.  Their relationship is really special.  When she is with him, she is so caring, patient, and still.  He brings out the best in her. She brings out the best in him.

Each day we are trying to figure out this boy thing.  Or maybe this Shane thing.
Each night when I try to hold him quietly in the rocking chair, when nothing in him wants to be held, still, or quiet, I pray that God will equip me be the mother he needs me to be.  Then I pray that God will use his passion and determination for His purposes.

Most days I simply don't know what I am doing.  However, everything in me loves this wild boy, and day by day, little by little, I keep learning,  I keep loving, I keep failing, I keep trying.  I continue to lay down what I cannot do, and know that in my surrender, God comes in to fill in my shortcomings.

Happy year and a half smallest biggest one.
I'm glad you were born.

Each year starts out with grand plans.
Plans that change/ fizzle/ or get ditched all together.
This is the third (maybe fourth) year I have attempted some sort of photo a day project.
I am hoping that this is the year that I see it through with a few new tools and plans.
Easy tools.  Simple plans.  Small chunks of time.
The goal is simple: (two week in, at least it still seems so) take a picture a day.  
That's it.  
No structure.  No set parameters.
Just the small moments that paint of picture of what our life looks like.
Friends, meals, adventures, projects, celebrations, happy kids, crying kids...
A year in the life of the Carsons.
Our noisy, chaotic, ever moving, life.
The life that is moving too quickly, changing rapidly.
It is my feeble attempt to take back what the jerk time is trying to take from us.

I got this little journal to help.
Each night I jot down a highlight from the day.
Sometimes it might just be something as pathetic as
I started AND finished a load of laundry
Because those are the days that are intermingled with the big days.  Those are the days that I want to celebrate too.
It's not all making out in front of the Golden Gate bridge.
It's a whole lot of sweeping floors and changing diapers.
The crumbs and the diapers are part of our little story right now.  The story that slips away as we trudge forward in life.
Too many people much older and wiser than I, have told us over and over again that the day will come when we will miss the mess and noise.  When that day comes, I want something to flip through and reminisce.

There are so many great options to compile a years worth of photos out there.  Many that I wish I had the time and skill to tackle (ahem requiring overcoming my Photoshop fears, or total lack of printing out actual photos).  Taking into consideration the majority of photos I take these days are with my phone, and most are posted via Instagram, Shutterfly seemed the best choice.  I have made (and survived without crying) quite a few books through them, and they have the ability to pull photos directly from your Instagram feed.  Two birds.  One stone.
So far I threw together the beginnings of what will be weeks one and two in just a few minutes.  Now I just need to flip through my little journal, and type out bullet points that correspond to the pictures.  Part of me wants to be lazy, and just keep it clean and simple.  The smarter part of me knows better.  It knows that in years to come, I won't exactly remember why a particular Disney sunset was so bittersweet to our family (our season passes expired that day).  The extra time will be worth it.  So worth it.

So this is my plan.  Each day I will take a picture.  Each night I will jot something down.  Every two weeks I will brew a cup of tea, sit down at the computer, put my headphones on, and put together our small moments.  At the end of the year we will look back at the photos, the memories, the words, and be thankful for the hard days and the beautiful ones.

It's going to be rad.

My friend Lena has a giant heart for the world and she is about to wear some major tread off of her running shoes.  Doing something beautiful.

At the end of this month she will be walking 50 miles in two days to raise money for Acres of Love.
(Two days.  Sort of puts the miles I have been clocking each month into tiny perspective.)

Rad, right?

They even are training in the rain.
Know who stays in bed when it rains?  ME.  Told you Lena and her crew were rad.

Here is a little about what and why Lena is doing this in her own words:

I have recently been impacted by the extraordinary work being done by Acres of Love, an organization whose purpose is to save the lives of children abandoned or orphaned as a result of the AIDS pandemic in Johannesburg, South Africa. 
Babies thrown out with the trash, infants and toddlers abandoned in open fields, some left crying and alone on the side of the road, preemies abandoned in hospitals with no one to touch their tiny hand or stand by their incubator while they fight for life: these have been the beginnings of some of the children Acres of Love has been privileged to welcome into forever families.  Today, over 250 children are living happier, healthier lives in Acres of Love Forever Homes because someone saw the value of a child’s life and chose to act.  Working tirelessly each day, Acres of Love is putting Christ’s love into action.

Lena gave me this beautiful quote to make a little printable with to help raise money.
How could I not?

It is available now along with so many other unique handmade items in her Etsy shop And Be Glad In It.  
100% OF YOUR PURCHASE PRICE will be donated to Acres of Love to fund Forever Homes in South Africa for orphaned and abandoned infants and children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. 

Lena's Shop HERE
Print available HERE
More information about Acres of Love HERE

I would love to introduce you to my friend Emmy.  Years ago we both had booths at a local holiday boutique and she swooped in and basically bought me out as I was setting up.  Since then she has been such a bit of encouragement and sunshine, and is always up for a lunch date at Cafe Rio.  She has a passion and heart for women struggling with infertility, and hoping to grow their families through adoption.  This heart has led her to host the Choose Joy conference next month.  I am humbled to be able to speak and share my story there.

Here is how it all began for Emmy:

I'm Emmy, I'm 35, and I'm infertile.

Wait, let me back up.  I'm Emmy.  Julie has been so sweet to allow me to invade her space for the day.  I own Much Ado About You {where I used to sell printed day planners, and now I just sell printables}, I occasionally blog {Confesstions of a Paper Freak}, and I incessantly Instagram {@itsjustemmy}.  I am married to my high school sweetheart and as of this year we have been together for more than half our lives.

Almost 11 years ago I got pregnant for the first time.  Nathan and I were so excited, and immediately started planning that child's future.  We were thinking of names... wondering if it would be a boy or a girl... hoping its due date of December 26th would not mean we were going to have a Christmas baby.

But just a few days later I started bleeding heavily, and knew in an instant that that baby was gone.

We had only just begun trying to get pregnant, but I had so many friends experiencing infertility and I begged God to spare us from that roller coaster.

Our doctor told us that since we were so early in the pregnancy I would not need a D & C, and that technically I could get pregnant as soon as my next cycle.

Which I did.

That pregnancy was such a relief, and I vividly remember thanking God that I was never going to have to walk that long and painful road of infertility.

A year after Beau was born we decided to start trying for a second baby.  We wanted four, so we thought we'd better get going!

God had different plans for our family. 

The next six years were spent going from one doctor's appointment to the next... from one surgery to the next... all in an effort to figure out why my young and seemingly healthy body was not working.

I have Endometriosis, a condition that basically destroys your body from the inside out.  During my final surgery my doctor made the painful decision to remove both of my non-functioning fallopian tubes, hoping it would increase the chance of my third and final IVF {invitro-fertilization} treatment being successful.

The next month we had our final IVF procedure.  It failed.  We were done.

We were physically {well mostly me on that one}, emotionally, and financially spent.  The chance of a natural pregnancy was eliminated with the removal of my tubes.  I was officially STERILE.  It is still strange to say those words.  I am a woman that cannot do what I was created to do... bear children.  That is a very strange reality to be faced with.

I spent seven dark years in the thick of my infertility {I say "my" infertility because the issues were mine... with another woman my husband could have had more children... more salt in the wounds}.  For some of those years Nathan and I were not on the same page.  He didn't understand my desperation for a child when I already was a mom.  Those years I struggled with a deep loneliness that I had never known.  It is so hard to explain what infertility feels like to someone that has never experienced it, but the bottom line is... IT SUCKS.

However, God also used those seven years to challenge my character and bring me to a place of total trust and reliance on His plan for my life.  I came to a point where I had to say, "God, I love you and I trust you, and I know that {while very different from mine} Your plan is the best plan for my life.  So even if I never have another baby I will praise you and be thankful for whatever it is that you call me to do."

And I really was at peace.  Without tubes I no longer had to live in two week cycles, wondering if each late period was the one.  I had an incredible eight year old that was the joy of my life, a loving, supportive husband, a thriving business... life was good.

Now since I have already babbled on for quite some time {and probably lost most of you} I will leave this next part of the story short and sweet {if you would like to read the whole story, you can find it here}.  Through miraculous circumstances, in March of 2011 we brought home the most beautiful baby girl that looks nothing like us.

And in the instant that I met her I understood every no that God had placed in my path. 

If you are in a season of not understanding the circumstances of your life, please be encouraged that someday you may understand and even appreciate the painful path that you are walking. 

Since experiencing infertility and adoption I have a heart for encouraging hurting women.  Several months ago I felt a calling on my life to do something to help other women that are experiencing similar trials, and the Choose Joy event was born.

Choose Joy is a one-day conference in Southern California for women and couples that are experiencing infertility and/or desire to grow their families through adoption.  I have somehow convinced several other women from all over the country to come and be a part of this event.  We have speakers on topics such as "God's Heart for the Hurting; Waiting Hurts, Waiting Perfects", "Having a Heart of Hope: Overcoming the Hurt of Infertility", "The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly of International Adoption", and much, much more.  Julie is one of our speakers, and if she doesn't have violent flashbacks from her PTSD after speaking at Blog Sugar, then we will be all good.  My desire is for this to be a day of connection and community, and for women to open their minds to the plan that God has for their family.     

The event will include a luncheon and a dessert, and at the end we will be raffling off a cash prize to help someone grow their family.

Tickets are on sale for $30 through the 25th of January.  {After that the price goes up to $40, so don't delay!}  Please visit the website for all the details on the location and schedule, bios on each speaker, and to register for the event. 

If you aren't experiencing infertility, statistics say that someone you know is.  Please pass this website on to your friends or family that could use some support. 

Thanks for reading my story.



2012 was so hard and so beautiful.
Are not all the best parts of life like that?

Walking into the unknown of 2013, we are trusting The One to which there is no unknown.
There is so much peace in that.

As well as kicking the year off with a little family road trip to visit some of our favorite people, and adventure in some of their favorite places.

So far I really like 2013.  A lot a lot a a lot.  Then some more.