Bike rides and balance.

LJ and I went for a ride today with her new bike trailer. I think she liked it.

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Mama sure did! I can't wait to go for family bike rides… finally!

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Quality time with this precious girl and her daddy is top on my list of priorities for 2011. I spent 2010 trying to be one of those "do-it-all mamas," and guess what I figured out? That's not me at all! I realized how much more balance I need in my life and I'm seeking it out now. I have no doubt that God has some great things in store, but I need to be more open to what He has planned instead of filling every moment of every day with busyness. That's how I've been feeling lately… and I just need some time to be… still.

“Be still, and know that I am God…"
-Psalm 46:10

I'm also praying for the families of those who were murdered or injured in Tucson on Saturday. My heart is completely broken for them. Life is truly unpredictable and short- may we all make the most of our days.

Thankful.

Today, I am thankful for…

Amazing friends. The real ones… the ones who forgive me for my shortcomings. The ones who I don't connect with for months- years, even- and our friendship doesn't skip a beat. The ones who love me enough to let me be me and who cherish me because of who I am. The ones who encourage. The ones who have been around forever. The ones who just walked into my life. The ones who will never walk away. The ones who show me who they truly are and let me love them. Those who are near and those who are far. I am SO THANKFUL for you.

My family. The time I had with Mum Mum before she died. The new time I get with Amma. The fact that my dad is still here and better than ever. My brother and sister and their endless love and generosity. My mom and her support and her unconditional love. My husband's family. The way that they all love my daughter to the moon and back.

My husband. His patience. His love for the Lord. His encouragement and support to help me follow my dreams. His new role as the most amazing dad I've ever seen. The way he looks at me. The way he looks at our tiny little girl. The joy that's written all over his face when he's with her. That he loves me sacrificially and stands by me through thick and thin. That I love him just as much.

My daughter. The light that dances in her eyes. The way she grasps my index fingers like mini vice-grips signaling that she wants to go walking. Her opinions. That she knows how to sign for "more" and it's so dang cute. The way she dances to music or when I sing… when I sing anything to her. Snuggling her in the mornings. Her excitement over our pups. Putting bows in her long, blonde hair. Making her giggle uncontrollably. The sheer joy and privilege of being her mama. Wondering every day why God decided to bless me with this amazing little creation. Watching her grow… and learning what it is to experience a love so big and vast and wide that I would give up my life and my world to keep her safe.

Photography. Seeing the world in snapshots. Capturing moments in my own life and those that I love that can be cherished long past our expiration dates.

My fur-kids. Those sweet little white fluffs that demonstrate forgiveness and unconditional love in a way that only dogs can. Their wet kisses and black noses. When they cuddle up next to me when I cry because they know that sometimes I just need a hug and a quiet reminder that I am loved.

My job. I work with two amazing women who have become like big sisters to me. They understand, support and give me advice on how to balance my life as a mom and a professional because they've been there. I get to travel and connect and be creative and just be me. A year ago I didn't know what we were going to do to support our soon-to-be family of three… and here I sit, in a better place than I could have ever dreamed up at the time.

The beauty that is there if we just take the time to look for it.

The contentment that can be found in nothing but Jesus and given to us by the Spirit.

This life that I have been given… the moments that have been entrusted to me… the responsibilities that are mine alone and the joy it is to have them. My health, my home, my love, my life. That I am not without knowing Who these things came from.

I am thankful for so much today, and I pray that you are too. May you be given the eyes to see that your blessings do indeed outweigh the hardships in your life. Our God has made it so, for He is good, all the time.

"I thank my God every time I remember you."
-Phillipians 1:3

Happy Thanksgiving, dear ones. You are loved.

Busboom Family Photos.

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of capturing this fun family and can't resist sharing a few of my favorites with you. Dena and I have been friends for a long time and I am so thankful for all the ways she has been a good friend to me over the years. She and her husband, Ryan, are hosting an exchange student from Germany- her name is Jenny and she's quite the supermodel! It was the first time I met her and she is a doll! We got to sneak in a couple of senior-esque photos and head shots for Dena's new business venture.

Dena, Ryan and Jenny, thanks for asking me to capture these moments with you guys- I had a blast and hope you enjoy this preview!

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Jenny truck

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(C) 2010 Andrea Alley

Where it all began.

Cody, LJ and I went up to Flagstaff for a day trip on Monday. It was a lovely day- gorgeous weather, amazing coffee at Macy's, a drive through Oak Creek Canyon, conversation about where our family is headed next and how we will accomplish our goals. While we were there, we decided to take LJ to the very spot where Cody proposed to me: on a rock at Buffalo Park. Here she is at the scene of the crime:

LJ on The Rock
She was very concerned about being out in nature, and didn't have much tolerance for things like sitting in the grass, touching rocks or dealing with the wind (she literally gasps… it's pretty stinkin' cute). See? Very concerned:

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We have come to the conclusion that SHE HATES IT. That being said, we will be turning this around quickly when she begins joining me at the community garden in a couple of weeks!

On another note, today she turns 9 months old, and my dad is 75! Happy birthday to one of the best men I've ever known. Here's a picture of him with a buddy in a boat in Pennsylvania, circa 1941-ish. He's the one on the left:

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Cute li'l guy, wasn't he?

Love you, Dad! You're the BEST!

Mommy’s solo day out.

Ahhh… yes. The loner in me got to breathe a big sigh of relief on Monday when I got my very first "Mommy's solo day out." OMG… how I needed that. My mom and dad were kind enough to take LJ off my hands for the day so I could go out and do… WHATEVER I WANTED. I've forgotten what that felt like! Here's what I did:

Visited Last Chance. What a madhouse. This article sums up the experience nicely. I got two rad pairs of shoes for a fraction of their original price- SCORE!

Went to Macy's where I fell in love with and purchased a new backpack that we will be using as a diaper bag. It's perfect! Waterproof, lightweight, and SOLD OUT EVERYWHERE. Is it back to school season or something? I wasn't super nuts about the pattern initially, but it quickly grew on me. It's by Le Sport Sac, and in my humble opinion, with all the cloth diapers we have to carry around, it works so much better for us than the Petunia Pickle Bottom bag I was eyeing earlier this week… even though I love that pattern with an everlasting love.

Backpack diaper bag

I enjoyed my new favorite treat, fresh mint frozen yogurt with thin mint cookies, at Mojo Yogurt at the Biltmore. I'm slightly obsessed with this combo and think I might die if they ever stop carrying that flavor.

I ended my day by going to see this all by my solo:

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And now… all I want to do is eat pizza and drink red wine. Therefore, to feed this craving, Cody and I will be visiting Pizzeria Bianco for the very first time like… right now. We will need a babysitter for this outing. Any takers?

Pizzeria Bianco

I kind of can't stand the thought of waiting another second to eat their world-famous pizza… heck, if I can't go to Naples for my pizza like Julia Roberts did, this is no doubt a close second!

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{Pizzeria Bianco photos via The Girl Who Ate Everything}

The hubby called and texted during the movie wondering where I was and I got back to him after the movie got out. He was in a tremendously good mood, considering the fact that I had been out having fun doing things like shopping and watching movies all day long while he was at work slaving away. Then I caught on that perhaps HE was enjoying his solo time too. And he was. So I took my time getting home so he could savor it while he could.

Needless to say, as much as I enjoyed my day, I couldn't wait to get back to this face and get home to her daddy.

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Simple living: What would you keep?

This morning there was a feature on the Today Show about a couple in Portland (with a very fun and interesting blog) who gave up all but 100 possessions, downsized to a 400 square foot apartment, and got rid of their car. See below:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Of course it got me thinking. We live in such a materialistic society… would we really be happier with less?

My husband has always said that he wants to live simply. And I love the idea, but to be honest, I also love stuff. How shallow am I? Ha! But for a while I have been wanting to clean house. So here's my top ten list of things that I absolutely would not give up if I were forced to get rid of everything else besides the bare essentials (which includes at least one car- we live in the most sprawling city in the country- not to mention the hottest!- so a car is a must- even more so with a baby!):

1. My iMac. I make my living by this thing- not to mention it houses all of our music and photographs!

2. My camera.

3. My sewing machine.

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4. My Amma's china set. She bought it one piece at a time while she was working hard and living in Iceland. Priceless!

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5. These two Bibles (yes, I'm cheating): the first I carried down the aisle on our wedding day. The second belonged to Mum Mum.

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6. The artwork that our friend Trish painted that was displayed at our wedding.

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7. My Hummell music box… it's beaten up and cracked and worth nothing to anyone but me, but I used to fall asleep to its music every night when I was a kid. It's now in LJ's room.

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8. This photo of Mum Mum and me.

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9. Henry. 

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10. This silhouette of Linnea:

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I'll tell you what, this exercise sure does make you realize how much crap is sitting around in your house that is completely ignored and also makes you realize that perhaps you don't need all this stuff after all. But then again, even though we could get rid of so many things and never miss them, it's hard to imagine a virtually empty house… my head might explode. Is that wrong? Maybe we need a smaller house so it will feel more full with only the things we need… hmmm… I don't know. Either way, I prefer to live in a home that has character because of its decor. Do I need the decor? Nope. But because it's something I personally love- to be surrounded by beauty- it's meaningful enough to me to warrant staying in my home. Cody and I also love entertaining- so that requires a fair amount of kitchen ware and enough place settings for everyone. It's all a matter of what your priorities are- and that's different for everyone.

It's the things sitting in my closet that I haven't seen in ages that I question. And lots of other things.

Stuff isn't what makes me happy ultimately… it isn't what makes anyone happy. My family and friends and the experiences we share together are what bring me joy, and I'm sure you would say the same of your own. I think it's about time to start cleaning out our closets, organizing, and passing along the things we don't really need to others who would appreciate and have a need for them.

So what are your thoughts on this? What are some of the things you would never give up?

p.s. I think I would die without a car in Portland. Have you BEEN there? SO MUCH TO DO AND EXPLORE.

Arizona is home… for now.

Cody and I have been thinking of where we would like to live if we ever left Arizona. Then I take pictures like this and wonder if I could ever leave this kind of beauty.

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There is no sky like an Arizona sky. You can see for MILES.

We're planning a trip to Nashville for our anniversary this year (and keeping our fingers crossed that it actually works out) because we are super intrigued by living there… even though we've never been there before. So call us crazy that it's at the top of our list of places to live- vastly different than this scenery, that much I know.

I think that no matter where I live, Arizona will always be home. I love this place more than words can say. But Cody and I both agree that if we didn't take a chance and move our family somewhere else at some point, we may regret it someday. It would be a huge change and super difficult to leave our family and friends, but it's time for some adventure in our lives!

Maybe we'll just pack our loved ones in our bags and take them along.

Just sayin'.

ENOUGH. With the INCESSANT. SCREAMING.

I used to call Linnea's random vocal exercises "opinions." The kid has opinions on everything. She wakes up with opinions. Very opinionated in the crib every morning, very opinionated. It's cute. But it has evolved. She's become a noisy little monster. Interesting, this has coincided with us introducing solids… hmm… is there something in orange root vegetables that sends kids completely over the edge? I'm really beginning to wonder.

All day long, my child has been screaming. At the top of her lungs. And it makes. my. ears. BLEED. I don't even know when this happened, or FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY, but it is as if the floodgates of Linnea's otherwise innocent vocal cords have been opened and the combined volume of all the choirs in heaven have been concentrated into one shrill sound that now only stops when she is either eating or sleeping or laughing at our dogs. I didn't really notice how bad it was until yesterday when my parents and Amma were over here and my mom was trying to feed Linnea some sweet potato and broccoli and she just started SCREAMING. And my poor mom was plugging her ears and saying "OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP" and I suddenly realized that my eardrums were vibrating and I had no clue what on God's green earth her problem was, but this nonsense needed to stop immediately. As I looked around at the faces of my parents and my dear, sweet grandma, and saw their helpless and expectant and wholly unamused expressions, I knew that when she started doing something that annoyed these three people, that it had to be pretty freaking bad.

Linnea: "eeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

My mom: "OH MY GOD why is she doing this? Make it stop! My ears can't handle this!"

Me: "How should I know? I'm only her mom…………… Um…………… No, Linnea, NOOOOOOOOO screaming. No screaming!"

Linnea: "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE…….. Heh heh heh. Heh."

So she thinks me disciplining her is FUNNY. Great. Not that I thought reasoning with a 7-month-old made any sense to begin with, but it's not like anyone had any better ideas to alleviate the shrieking. Ear plugs, perhaps?

I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure she's not completely doing it out of mockery. Like, "Oh, Mother, you think I have no idea this doesn't annoy the crap out of you, but not only am I fully aware, this is only the beginning of my grand master plan to break you down with annoying behavior followed up with acts so adorable you will never be mad at me." Everything I said would never happen with my child is already happening. It will be a battle of wills to the bitter end, of that I can assure you. I always used to say that I would never be that parent in the restaurant with the screaming child, but now I am the parent in the restaurant with the screaming child, and I see now what a drag it can be because all I want to do sometimes is relax at Starbucks with a latte, reading my new Real Simple magazine, and not be spit up on randomly while holding my daughter who would otherwise be screaming but instead is enamored with ripping up the pages of said magazine or pulling out my hair by the fistful or knocking over any interesting object within her reach, because if it's full of liquid or has buttons on it SHE WANTS IT IN HER MOUTH RIGHT NOW OR ELSE. 

Just another initiation into motherhood, I suppose. If I ever come up with a solution to her new need for screaming, I will let you know. If you have a solution, PLEASE SAVE ME. I miss the days when people used to say, "She has such a sweet, quiet cry!" Now all I get are eye darts thrown in my direction because I am That Mom with the Obnoxious Screamer Who Needs to Get Out Before the Angry Mob Attacks.

Sigh. I know. I'm leaving. Enjoy your quiet time, you dart-throwing, coffee-sucking DILL HOLES.

On that note, here's a photo of my dad and his sweet li'l screaming baby girl:

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As if the screaming matters. You could just never be mad at that face.

My rainbow 30th birthday bash!

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In case this picture doesn't say it all…

I had a totally fabulous 30th birthday party! It was so wonderful having my family and many of my friends there to celebrate with me. It meant so much to have everyone there, and I missed everyone who couldn't make it.

It was a lot of fun putting together all the details! Because I have always loved rainbows, and my favorite collection at the TomKat Studio is the Rainbow Party theme, I researched colorful inspiration and decor, and here's what I came up with. I only had my point-and-shoot, so please pardon the less-than-worthy quality of these photos! 

The dessert table:

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Rainbow Twizzlers and the Cake Pops I made a la Bakerella. I switched up the red velvet for a rich devil's food instead.
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This is my Amma's wine cake: AMAZINGNESS ON A PLATE and my special request for my birthday. It's my favorite cake by far and it was a huge hit at the party! I dressed it up with a rainbow of handmade tissue paper flowers, a craft I found in the Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts:
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Inspired by Amy Atlas's InStyle feature– which was a super exciting time for us at TKS as it included some labels designed by Kim– as well as the 107-degree weather, I included a sundae bar on the dessert table. My favorite combo? Chocolate ice cream with caramel sauce and sea salt.
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I fell in love with this rainbow of glass bottles my mom and I found at HomeGoods:
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Made a whole rainbow of poms- these will come in handy for future parties as well! Have a color theme? There's a pom for that.
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Made a rainbow tutu for Linnea. Somehow it ended up on Hanalei halfway through the evening:
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I couldn't resist these silly moustaches… and neither could Ryan and Alex. How much do you love her skirt? We went on a little thrift shopping excursion a few weeks ago and she found it at Goodwill. It was originally a dress and she turned it into a skirt- fabulous!
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My goofy husband: who needs a moustache when you can have ridiculous eyebrows instead?
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My dad made it to my party. That made my whole night.
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We asked people to bring either their favorite beer or their favorite pot luck item, so we provided our family's all-time favorite sandwiches: Mum Mum's ham buns. It's a secret family recipe, so no, you can't have it! 😉
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The vuvuzelas… ha!
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And, of course, who can forget my favorite part of the entire party? Linnea dressed up in her rainbow tutu and bow! She couldn't possibly be any cuter, just FYI.
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Thanks to my hubby, my mom and my Amma for helping put everything together. And thanks to everyone who came from near and far. It was such a blessing getting to celebrate with you!

Now that the house is back to normal, I'll begin planning Cody and Linnea's birthday party… 99% sure I have the theme for that one picked out! But I have nearly six months to plan this one, so I think I'll relax for a little while 🙂

Heh heh heh… Heh.

The other day, Cody and I bought the cutest little stuffed monkey for our little monkey. I just couldn't resist. My Amma yells at me every time I call Linnea a little monkey- "She's not a little monkey!"- but I can't help it, it just comes out of my mouth like verbal vomit all the time now. Little monkey this, little monkey that. For instance, you know that song by the Cardigans that goes, "Love me, love me, SAY that you looove me… fool me, fool me, go on and fool me"? I don't even know what it's called but I sing, "Monkey, monkey, say you're a monkey, monkey, monkey, go on my monkey, monkey monkey, pretend you're my monkey, monkey, monkey, you are my monkey, I don't care 'bout anything but yooooooouu!" and EVERY TIME without fail, if Linnea is having a fit, she breaks out in a huge smile and I love it so much I don't care how ridiculous it is that I'm singing the word "monkey" over and over to her in the tune of some random Swedish one-hit-wonder's song from 1996. And you're welcome for getting it stuck in your head for the rest of the day. It's a gem, that one.

ANYWAY. Yesterday my mom started monkeying around with Linnea and we got her laughing up a storm on camera. I guarantee you will smile bigger than you have in a while. And since it's a little bit more cuteness than I can handle, I'm gonna step outside for a minute and take a few deep breaths in a paper bag, splash my face with the garden hose on full blast and then come back and resume normal life. Enjoy.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12386280&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=ff0179&fullscreen=1

And here's a picture of some AWESOME hair for good measure:

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I'm not really sure where her neck went.