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:

LJ concerned

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'.