September 4, 2015

La Dolce Vita!


You guys. Dave has this reward program set up with his lumber supplier (point of clarification: he builds homes) and the offerings are completely random and somewhat all encompassing. We actually "bought" the computer I'm typing on with rewards. Anyhoo, on a crazy-off-the-wall-whackado chance, I sent a "special request" for flights to Italy.

Oh my gosh. Who does that?

While we're at it, who goes for a walk with their chickadees and gets a call from the reward travel agent and BOOKS A FLIGHT TO ITALY as they just push a stroller casually along?!?

This girl. 
That's who.


Italy is quite possibly my favorite place on earth. Yes, the entire country.

THE FOOD! THE WINE! THE GELATO!

We had dreamt of going for our 10th anniversary, but, babies. So, the 11th it is!

Look at those crazy kids! They BELONG in Italia...



I am already searching through the piles in my closet to dust off my old Rosetta Stone Italian disks so that I can {terribly} pretend to speak the gorgeous language. I am obnoxious right now. I have called Dave no less than 25 times in the past hour to remind him that we are actually going back to ITALY. As my friend Chandra would say, bless his bones. He is going to have to deal with my insanity for the next 7ish months.

Eeee! So, I had to share this fun news because I CANNOT. CONTAIN. MY. EXCITEMENT.


Be warned: an onslaught of obnoxious trip planning posts are surely to come.

Happy Labor day weekend, friends! Rest, jump in the lake, laugh and sit around the table with your people. Soak it up. {Oh. And, Fall? Bring it. I'm ready}.





August 31, 2015

real community.


Sunday nights have been set aside. We have stumbled through two years of finding sitters, preparing meals, and rushing {the Marrs' are perpetually running late, it's our thing} to show up by 5 o'clock.

Each week, one of us opens our home and the others arrive bearing salad or bread or brownies. The kitchen becomes a flurry of activity and lighthearted chatter as we work around one another reaching for plates, stirring pots of soup, or pouring drinks. We share a meal while catching up on the new home or the teething baby or the teen going off to college in a few weeks.

These evenings have become sacred. We have walked through the storms of life together, we have celebrated together, we have prayed mightily for one another. Within the safety of four walls and these people, tender stories have been shared. We have laughed and cried and sang and rejoiced. These evenings can't be manufactured. The deep well of friendship that exists among these people, my people, is as real as anything I've ever experienced.

This is a portion of a guest post written for AWB. Hop on over to the Arkansas Women Bloggers' site in order to read this post in it's entirely. 



August 26, 2015

lately.


I've been quiet around here lately. Words floated around in my head without ever reaching the keyboard. Days slowly turned into weeks and, it turns out, I found a bit of freedom from not powering up this old laptop.

I had to step away from this space to figure out what I was doing here. This blog started as a chronicle of our adoption journey. Since, it's become somewhat of a family journal {I adore looking back at old posts to see what we were up to at a particular point in time} and even a community of sorts. A gathering of people seeking joy and grace when the deafening clanging of this world becomes too much for our heads and our hearts.

I love this space and each one of you who read the words here. I think I'll just continue writing and recording our moments. I realized that I tend to overcomplicate things, this little online space included. It's simple really - I want this to be a space that my children can read through and understand the heart of their mama. I want my grown babies to know that they have always been treasured and loved fiercely. I want them to know how much their mama values their daddy and this family. I want them to know that their mama battles fear with faith and fights for justice for the ones who can't. I want them to know that our days are full of laughter and dance parties and joy, all of the good stuff right alongside the fights and tears and brokenness. 

... And, I should add, cranky faces. :)

I felt a little nudge this morning to sit and type. There is just so much to share from this past month...

The routines of kindergarten...packing lunches, early mornings, drop-off, car line, un-packing lunches, homework, folders, worksheets {so many worksheets and papers!}... have filled our days lately. We are starting to get the hang of this new rhythm of ours. The boys are thriving at school {Nathan was even chosen to be a school "ambassador" based on his kind behavior - I could not possibly be more proud}. Weekends are for rest and memory making and laughter. Those precious forty-eight hours have become even more valuable.



Sylvie absolutely LOVES fishing. Can you tell??!!?

We have a new puppy. Did I tell y'all this? She is adorable and chews on everything. Her name is Maddie. She and her two brothers were dumped at the end of our little dirt road. Our neighbors found them while out on a walk. We couldn't say no to her sad eyes and now she is our wild, clumsy, hilarious little gal. Go big or go home: four kids, three dogs, 15 chickens, and three goats {our cat has disowned us and has taken up residence at the neighbor's. It may have something to do with the aforementioned three dogs}.


Oh, yes. And, my parents are moving here. You guys. This is the most insane news ever. Ever. I will have to share more about this soon. It's a crazy story and still doesn't quite feel real.

I've been knee-deep in planning an upcoming trip for Dave and a team to visit our kiddos in Congo {clarify: we are not adopting again, I am referring to the children we love in our feeding program}. We are also preparing to launch a new season of the Bentonville Sessions next month {local friends, please plan to join us!}. This work has been somewhat all-consuming. I do not have enough hours in the day. Yet, I have made a conscious effort to put away all work after school hours. That time is spent focused on my people.

I have this girl all by her lonesome two FULL days a week now that school has started. I've never had one baby before. This is ah-mazing. One baby at a time? Highly recommend it. :)

With that, I'm off to straighten up the house in preparation for our post placement visit with our social worker. One more visit after this one and then we are done. I can't believe it. We have been meeting with our sweet social worker for almost four years. It will be strange not having her drop by our home anymore.

Happiest of Wednesdays to you all, friends.



August 17, 2015

Permission to Shine. {Guest Post on AWB}



We all have a unique voice. We all have a noteworthy story to tell. Yet, somewhere in all of the noise of this world, our story is often pushed aside. Our voice muffled.

There are countless blogs and storytellers out there. I don't know about any of you but I often fear insignificance in this space. I believe we all want our words to matter. We all desire to make a difference within our sphere of influence.

And, the beautiful, hope-restoring, simple truth is this: we all matter.

We each have distinct gifts and there is room enough for us all. When one of us succeeds, we can cheer her on knowing that her success does not take away from our own. We can lift one another up without fearing our own demise. We can be vulnerable and brave. We can hit publish and send our words out into the world.

Read this post in it's entirety over at Arkansas Women Blogger's site.





August 10, 2015

when your well runs dry. {Guest Post on AWB}

There are seasons when schedules are packed and laundry is piled high and to-do lists continually multiply regardless of the effort exerted to check off tasks.

In these seasons, work feels uninspired and overwhelming.

Copious amounts of coffee are consumed. Self-care is buried under responsibilities. Exhaustion settles in like a morning fog, desiring rest in order to lift.


Read this post in it's entirety over at Arkansas Women Bloggers today. I'm honored to be their guest blogger this month and am sharing today about the importance of intentionally seeking gratitude. 

Come on over and join in the conversation. 


Happy Monday, friends!



August 5, 2015

Ethiopia Creative Trip {Guest Post}

I fell in love with the country, the people and the culture of Ethiopia years ago, without ever stepping foot on the soil of this beautiful land {I hope to go next summer but that's another story for another time}.

Today, I want to introduce you to a friend who has faithfully served in Ethiopia and continues to use her gifts and talents to advocate for the vulnerable children and families there. Alyssa is looking for fellow creatives ready to serve in a unique way on her upcoming Ethiopia Creative Trip for One Child Campaign. Read her post below for all of the details and prayerfully consider joining her on this life-changing trip. I can't wait to follow along on this journey!


I've watched medics go on medical trip or teachers go to work with students and secretly wished I possessed a "useful" skill that I could contribute. As I traveled with One Child Campaign and did humanitarian photography, I simply thought of it as a tool I could use to advocate. 

Then one day, in the middle of yoga class of all places, enough blood had flowed to my brain for me to have an epiphany. The photos were ending up in my hands; and unless a ministry specifically contact me to use them, that's where they stayed. While I may be able to make a small difference by using them, how much more could be done if the photos were tailored to the needs of the ministry and then given to them to use for advocating and fundraising?!

One Child Campaign was all over the idea and has asked me to lead Ethiopia: Creative 2016 trip from February 12-22. We are in need of videographers, writers, web designers, and photographers. We want to gather team of artists who want to learn how to hone their skills in the area of humanitarianism while also creating beautiful content and telling stories for partner organizations of One Child Campaign, while engaging their areas of influence to be a part of the solution.nDuring this trip we will be traveling to Addis Ababa and Awassa and coming alongside four different organizations that have my mad respect for their work with street kids, poverty, at risk families and women, and child trafficking. We will be providing them with tools and art to use for their websites and social media. 

 But hear me on this- whether or not this is up your alley, YOU have skills and talents. Pray, seek, and ask our multi-faceted God how He can connect your passions and His work. 

If you are interested in more information on this trip, please contact me at alyssa@alyssaannephotography.com



August 4, 2015

a big day.

Y'all. They were babies. Oh my heart. 


Fast forward to yesterday... my Kindergarteners!!!!!!!!!!! Holy smokes. It really happened.



Nate. Oh, this boy was excited. His enthusiasm was literally contagious.

He confidently walked right in to his room and started chatting with his classmates. He was ready for this day and my instinct to scoop him up and carry him back home dissipated when I saw him in the classroom - he was in his element.

On the way to school, Nate said a prayer: "God let us have an awesome day and help us to be kind and nice today at school. Amen." That boy. He has my heart.


Random side note: I don't know what's happening with Ben's smile lately. The concept of "smile naturally!" is lost on him these days. {See left photo below for evidence}.

Ben was a characteristically shy and reserved yet he walked right in, put his backpack and lunchbox in his cubby and then found his seat. He gave me multiple hugs and kisses and then said he was ready. My momma heart burst with pride and love and sorrow and excitement all at once. After I walked out the door to join Dave and the girls waiting in the hall, Ben ran back out to give us all another hug and kiss. Oh, that boy. Sweetness all wrapped up in an adorable, silly smiling package. 


As we walked to the car, the tears came. It hit me: this is it. This is what we do as parents: we prepare them as best we can, we encourage their hearts, we soak up the moments, and then we send them off into the world.

After bringing Sylvie to pre-school, I spent the morning with other moms from our school having brunch at a friend's house. It was a sweet start to the day {and an awesome distraction}. Then, Charlotte and I came home and had a calm, quiet, super fun day together. This was my first day alone with Charlotte in a long time. ONE child. All day long. Glory!

By 2:30, I was anxious to pick the boys up and hear all about their first day. After enduring my first experience with the dreaded car line, I finally made it to the front and saw my little guys running toward me with broad smiles shouting out, "mama!" They both starting talking at once, excitedly telling me all about their day. RELIEF washed over me. They both had a "great" day and "love" their teachers.

Favorite part of the day?
Ben: "seeing Nate in the hall and on the playground!"
Nate: "seeing Ben in the hall and on the playground!"

Well, there you go.

I'm thankful that they loved their time in separate classes. I was so worried about the fact that they would be apart for the first time. If this one day is an indicator, they will thrive {and appreciate their time together even more}!



We came home and celebrated an awesome day with chocolate chip cookies and Sonic slushes. Smiles all around.


I walked them to their classrooms again this morning and loved seeing their confidence as they entered. Ben did hesitate briefly at the door when he realized he didn't say goodbye to Nathan. We walked across the hall to Nathan's classroom and caught his attention as he was placing his backpack on it's hook. Nate ran over and gave Ben a huge hug. They both said "bye, buddy!" and "I love you!" Obviously, I melted. I love these two guys with everything I am.

Kindergarten, we like you. A lot. Well done.