Friday, March 22, 2013

Our TOP 10 Cruise Memories

Since we were celebrating Sarah's 10th birthday, here's our Top 10 memories from our cruise. (We took a 4 day cruise from New Orleans, down to Cozumel, and back.)

note: the girls did these separate, but I think it's cute how they both had the exact same top 4. :) 

1. Swimming with dolphins
2. Snorkeling
3. Ice Cream
4. Swimming
5. Circle C (camp carnival)
6. Shopping
7. The towel animal making
8. The bunk beds
10. Spending time with family

1. Swimming with dolphins
2. Snorkeling
3. Ice Cream
4. Swimming in the pool (water slide).
5. Sunrise
6. Bunk beds
7. Warm weather
8. $10 Store
9. Towel animals :)
10. Camp Carnival

1. Swimming with dolphins
2. Being on a big boat
3. Seeing how many ice creams the girls could eat in a day and trying to keep up
*yes - he still owes me '7 more' to complete his list! :) 

(I think I scribbled a hundred memories on my paper in the car, but I'll try and condense it to a top 10)
1. Being able to interact with such a sweet animal, Louis, our dolphin friend.
2. Watching the joy on my girl's faces as they interacted with the dolphin.
3. Chankanaab National Park where we got to snorkel for the first time (I'm in love!).
4. Laying in the hammock and looking up at the palm trees while soaking up some sunshine on the white sandy beach and being mesmerized by how blue the water was in Cozumel. Our time in Cozumel was much too short! 
5. My girls gasp when they got their first glance at the ocean when we woke up the first morning on the ship
6. Eating ice cream cones at sunrise one morning.
7. Winning the door decorating contest for St. Patrick's Day (and Sarah getting champagne on stage for it)
8. Trying new foods. Mike, Morgan and I actually tried the alligator fritters!
9. The towel animals -- finding them in our room each night, girls learning to make. (side note: last night when we went to bed at home, we found towel animals on our pillows!) 
10. Getting off the boat at the end, Sarah's first words are, "I couldn't of asked for a better 10th birthday!!"

Swimming with a Dolphin

This journey of a 1000+ miles began with a single double-digit birthday wish: to swim with dolphins!

So... we boarded the boat in New Orleans and set sail for Cozumel...where we got to hold the dolphin's fins while he swam on his back, then get pushed on a boogie board, dance, high five, hug/hold, kiss and get kissed by the dolphin.

One morning truly held a lifetime of memories!!

What a beautiful creature dolphins are! (Morgan now wants to be a marine biologist. I can't blame her.)

Here are the pics of us with Louis (whom we called St. Louis! :))

Thursday, March 21, 2013

JOY: The reasons I want to pursue my God-Sized Dreams

Well I wanted to do this linkup with Holley Gerth on Tuesday, but as you can see I'm running a little bit behind.  Life's just like that at times and I'm reminded to give myself grace. The last two weeks have included Spring Break, my parent's visit from Michigan, Mike's 40th, and a cruise to Cozumel and back. Fun, fun times. I will write more on all that later, right now I want to focus on the linkup.

Holley's linkup is about what brings you joy, especially as it relates to your God-sized dream. You can read so many other encouraging stories by clicking on over here. But my 'joy'...

My first God-sized Dream involves encouraging Family Togetherness.  More laughter, more time interacting, more relationship building  -- continuing to do this in my family, and inspiring other families to do the same.  I'd love to do this through developing some apps, but financially, I'm not sure that is in the near future.  So behind the scenes, I've been asking, how else can I do this?  But Holley's question gets to the heart, why do I want to do this?

Why? Because when I hear that my ideas inspire other families, encourage happiness and promote familes to spend time together -- well it just puts a literal smile on my face! I believe that healthy families are the heart and soul of our society - and yet I see so much brokenness in families in our society. That brokenness makes my heart ache. And sometimes even makes me angry - as in, I want to do something to change this.

I've noticed that I've found various ways to do this throughout my life -- through my brief career as a social worker, mentoring a teen mom, writing newsletters that inspire family togetherness, through sharing of ideas through my own blog, and this past year - writing for The Good Stuff Guide. My ideas add happiness to my own family, and I admit, it brings me joy when I see them 'liked' and 'repinned' and replicated -- because I hope that they are bringing joy to that family too!

My second God-sized Dream involves possibly publishing my story of healing and knowing joy again, as it relates to the dark journey I had to take with the murder of Mike's mom and sister and the injustice of the trial that followed.  Why does this bring me joy? Through this tragedy and journey I have had to take -- I have discovered joy again, something I didn't know if I'd ever feel again.  And I know others who are in these dark places wonder the same thing.  And it brings me joy knowing that I might be able to encourage them to keep on walking on down their dark path, that perhaps my story may offer them hope to take one more step. Perhaps God can use my story to help them heal, to move on, and to know joy again. This is joy giving to me. This is why I want to pursue this dream.

Also, since I'm speaking on joy, I have to mention, I'm reading an amazing book right now by Kay Warren, called Choosing Joy. Oh, so, so good! I will have to do a separate post on that book too! (Oh, so much I want to write, so little time!)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mike Through The Years

40 Years ago today the world became a better place.  Here's a picture walk, through the years...

1973 - 3 Days Old

1983 - 4th Grade ?
1993 - San Diego/Tijuana Mission Trip
2003 - 30th Birthday - Happy Papa - Lucky Girls
2013- Galveston, TX

So much my heart feels...mostly I just want you to know that I think your parents are looking down from Heaven and are so very proud of the man you are!!  The girls and I feel so incredibly lucky to be sharing life's journey with you! You fill our home with unconditional love, unending stability and lots of laughter! We love you! I know the next 40 years will be amazing!!  Happy 40th!! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Heard Around the Baker House

First, I won Jill Savage's newest book, No More Perfect Moms from 152 Insights to My Soul!! How exciting is that!?! This book just came out in January and I've been wanting to get a copy and just hadn't yet. The first book I read by her, Professionalizing Motherhood, was (and has been) a huge encouragement to me on this journey of motherhood, especially those early years!

So, when I got the book in the mail, I told the girls about it 'cuz I was excited. And they are like, what does that mean?! (I guess it would sound a bit strange to them). And I said something like, "Well, it means that moms can make mistakes and that it's okay, we don't have to be perfect." To which my sweet Sarah responds non-nonchalantly, "Well of course moms make mistakes, sometimes they make LOTS of mistakes!"

So for anyone who reads my blog and ever thinks I have it all together...just talk to my children...I am far from perfect and make lots of mistakes! This is a journey and I don't have it all figured out. 

Conversation #2 (I overheard):
Morgan: Sarah pick 3, no pick 4, jobs you want to do when you get older.
Sarah: Teacher, Counselor, Doctor, Stay-At-Home Mom
M: A Stay-at-Home-Mom is NOT a real job.
S: Yes, it is.
S: What are your 4?
M: Teacher, lifeguard, Artist, Marine Biologist
S: ok
M: Well do you want to know why I want to be a Marine Biologist?
S: Why?
M: So I can swim with dolphins all the time!

So I told Mike about this conversation and so he tells them later, "You think being a Stay-at-home-mom is not a real job?  I think it's the hardest job in the whole world! And you know what else - do you know how much money mom has saved our family over the years by being here to take care of you and not having to pay for childcare?"

I love his support of our decision for me to stay home with the girls! I hope one day the girls will value it too. I know if I had to do it again, I'd do the same thing!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"You're Made for A God-Sized Dream"

If you have a dream in your heart - I HIGHLY recommend this book, "You're Made for A God-Sized Dream" by Holley Gerth!! It is like eating a decadent dessert you don't really want to finish -- I sit down to read several chapters - and I have to stop because the truth, the encouragement, the practical exercises, the beauty of her words causes my soul to simply pause, reflect and soak it all in. Her book is giving me momentum and so much encouragement towards my dreams! You won't be disappointed! :) I think I have dog-eared and highlighted more pages in this book than not! Oh, and warning - you will find yourself smiling to yourself as you read this book - it's like a hug from your BFF! I'm so glad I was able to get an advanced copy!