Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2 weeks of fun!



Things have been busy around the Murray house.  A couple of weeks ago Ella attended VBS (Vacation Bible School) at our church.  The theme this year was Agency D3, all about being a secret agent.

Ella had a terrific time!  Every afternoon on the way home we would listen to the music CD and she would show me all of the motions to the songs.  Some of them had to wait until we got home since they were whole body motions and not just the arms.

On Tuesday I asked her if she needed to work on her memory verse for the week.  She informed me that she already had the verse memorized.  Since it was only the second day I just knew that there was no way she had the verse memorized, so I asked her to say it for me (knowing that she wouldn’t know it). Well…much to my surprise Ella quoted the entire verse without a problem.  When I asked her how she remembered it she said, “We read it and I just remember it.”  What I wouldn’t give to have a memory like that!

Needless to say, Ella had a fantastic time at VBS.  She learned so much and would come home every day with questions about their bible story.  Friday night was Family Night, complete with a hot dog dinner and music performance.  All of the kids did fabulous singing their songs.

Last week Ella participated in our church’s Music Camp.  This was the first year she was old enough to participate, so none of us really knew what to expect.  All I knew was that the theme was Agape League (superheroes), which is completely up Ella’s ally, so she definitely had to participate.

She came home on Monday with the CD in hand so every morning and every afternoon she would practice her songs and motions.  Soon she had all of the songs and motions down pat!  On Friday morning when she was getting ready to go to her last day of Music Camp, Ella said, “Mom, I wish Music Camp was 2 weeks.”  She was having so much fun!

Friday night was the big performance.  Each kid had a purple t-shirt and a red cape and mask.  I have to admit that I really didn’t expect much.  I fully expected them to play the CD with singing and the kids from camp would just sing along with the CD.  I expected all of the kids to forget their lines.  I expected someone to stand on stage and cry the entire time.  I expected the motions to be all over the place and not synchronized together.

I am pleased to report that I was completely wrong!  First, the kids did NOT sing along with the voices on the CD.  They had memorized each of the songs and sang loud and strong all on their own.  There were several soloists who all did fantastic and stayed on pitch.  The kids had their motions down perfectly and performed them right on cue.  There were only a couple of lines missed and each time the kid picked up without a hitch and the show went on.  I couldn’t believe it!  They had pulled this whole thing off and did a great job!

Words can’t begin to express how thankful and blessed we are to be a part of such an incredible church.  They welcome our sweet girl into every activity, allow her have an assistant come with her (and even help us find someone to help her for the week) and are willing to make the necessary accommodations so she can fully participate and have a great experience.  God is so good!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What's in a name?



If you’ve been reading our blog long enough, then you’ve read this post about Ella’s name.  In a nutshell, we initially named her after both Joe and my grandmother, Ella.  It wasn’t until after she was born that we learned that the name Joella means “Jehovah is God.”  We both felt like this was incredibly fitting for our sweet girl.

In choosing AJ’s name we had a little different approach.  We decided early on that we would not use the name we had chosen for Ella if she had been a boy.  This was a new baby and a new start, and we wanted a new name.

Joe has always been a big fan of Abraham Lincoln, and at the beginning of the year he finished reading “A Team of Rivals,” a book about Lincoln and his presidency.  Reading this book gave Joe even more respect for Lincoln and the obstacles he overcame not just during his presidency, but during his life.

It was also during this time that Ella started a segment in school on Abraham Lincoln and would come home each day with another interesting fact about his life.  She bought a children’s book about Abe Lincoln and his hat and would read it often.

As soon as we found out we were expecting another baby, Joe made the request that if this baby was a boy, would it be ok if we named him Abraham.  I agreed that Abraham would be a great name.

A few days later I attended our small group bible study and that night Abraham and Sarah happened to come up in the discussion.  During the discussion we talked about Sarah’s age.  She was very old when she found out that she was expecting for the first time.  For years God had promised Abraham that He was going to expand their family.  But year after year passed and yet they were still without a child.  Just when they had completely lost hope and thought that God wasn’t going to uphold his promise, Sarah became pregnant.

For us, AJ is a sign of God’s promises.  We had a desire in our hearts to expand our family.  Time passed, I got older, and we wondered if maybe God didn’t want us to expand our family.  We explored numerous options to expanding our family and prayed diligently over each one.  What had been clear as the right answer for others, was not the right decision for our family.  Time passed and we started to lose hope.  Just as I was about to declare Ella as an only child, AJ entered our lives.

AJ is the perfect addition to our family.  He loves his sister so much!  I wish you could hear him belly laugh when she plays with him.  I wish you could see his smile when she walks into the room.  I wish you could see him reach out and grab for her when she passes by him.  He is her answer to prayer.  He’s everything she wanted in a little brother…at least until he starts crawling.

And just to wrap up this post, I have to share why we decided to call him AJ.  I love initial names.  I knew a lot of people growing up who went by their initials and I always thought it was cute.  We just knew that AJ would be an athlete, so we decided that he had to have a name that sounded good being announced over a grand stand.  While I love the name Abe, Abe Murray just didn’t have the necessary ring to it.  AJ Murray, however, sounds awesome when being announced in a loud, welcome him to the field sort of tone.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lucky #7



We have 4 #7’s in our house right now.

Joe is always big #7 because that is his baseball jersey and his birthday is 7-17.

I am the big 37 (WOAH!).

Ella is 7 years old.

And AJ is 7 months old.

This definitely must be a lucky house!

Ella had her birthday party on June 14th.  I have a rule that when we’re having a birthday party and Ella wants to invite some girls from her class, she must invite ALL of the girls.  I don’t want anyone to feel left out.  The problem this creates is that with 10 girls from her class, combined with her 6 best friends from church, we invited 16 girls to her birthday party.  In case you aren’t aware, we live in a townhouse.  Now, imagine 17 7 year old girls in a townhouse.  CRAZY!  Thank heavens it all worked out and we ended up having 13 girls come, and much to my benefit, several parents stayed to help out.

The theme for this year was “cooking.”  Ella decided that she wanted all of the girls to make their own personal pizzas and make their own ice cream.

In preparation I decided it was in my best interest, and the best interest of my furniture, to push everything to the outside of the room and roll up the rug.  This way I didn’t have to worry about the pizza sauce, cheese, flour, fruit, chocolate and caramel that would inevitably end up on the floor.  With children, hard wood floors are a beautiful thing.

I took Ella to the store so she could pick out all of her own birthday decorations.




I bought pre-made pizza dough and gave each girl a ball that she could form into any shape she wanted.  We had several hearts, some circles, some triangles and one cat.  The toppings available were, pepperoni, black olives, green peppers and mushrooms…and of course plenty of cheese.

After the pizzas each girl made their own fruit kabob with strawberries, grapes and blueberries.  Thank heavens we didn’t have any injuries sustained from the wooden skewers.

While the pizzas were cooking (13 pizzas, one oven…I should have asked a neighbor for help cooking) the girls played in our backyard.  We were blessed to have absolutely perfect weather!  Not too hot, not too cool.  It could not have been more perfect!

For dessert Ella decided that she wanted to have an ice cream sundae bar!  But, since this was a cooking party afterall, we knew it would be much more fun to make our own ice cream.  My original plan was to pull out the ice cream maker and put it to work.  Then, in the back, cobweb laden area of my mind, I remembered when I was a teenager and my church youth group made ice cream in bags.  I couldn’t remember all of the details, so I did what any good, 21st Century mom would do…I consulted with Google.  With the additional help of youtube, I came across an easy recipe.

2 freezer bags (must be the freezer bags because they’re thicker and won’t get holes from the ice), 1 quart size and 1 gallon size.

In the quart sized bag put ½ cup half and half, 1 Tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla.  Close tightly.

In the gallon bag fill with ice and add 1/3 cup ice cream salt.

Place the quart bag into the gallon bag and shake.

The girls (and parents) absolutely LOVED this activity!  They had so much fun going outside and finding new and creative ways to shake their ice cream.

I love this picture because you can see on the moms face (in orange on the left) how surprised she was that it was actually making ice cream.  Hysterical!


Within about 15-20 minutes the ice cream was solid and ready to eat.

Knowing that several girls would not be satisfied with plain vanilla ice cream (Ella included) I had purchased 4 flavors of ice cream to be included in the sundae bar.  The tables were loaded with any kind of topping a kid could want; marshmallows, hot fudge, caramel, chocolate chips, coconut, any kind of sprinkles possible, gummy bears, etc.

At the end of the party my house was a disaster, the swing set was broken, the kids were on a sugar high, and I was exhausted.  But…it was all worth it when several (yes, more than just 2 or 3…SEVERAL) of the girls declared, “This is the best birthday party I have ever been to!”  SUCCESS!!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Very belated Easter post




Sorry it has taken me several weeks to update you on Easter 2014.  It was a very special time in the Murray house.

Right after Easter 2013 we learned that our family would be expanding by 1.  The next 9 months were filled with excitement and anticipation, but also fear.  They were also filled with a lot of prayer.

What a better way to celebrate that anniversary than with a baby dedication!  On Easter Sunday Joe, Ella and I stood in front of our church family and gave our sweet boy to Christ.  The Lord blessed our lives with him, and it’s only fitting that we return the favor.  The event was made even more special with the presence of all of AJ and Ella’s grandparents.

Easter Sunday is an incredible event at First Baptist Church, and this service did not disappoint.  The music was phenomenal.  The preaching was inspired.  The people were loving.  We are so blessed to be a part of this congregation.  Presenting our precious baby to the Lord on Easter Sunday was icing on the cake.

The life verse we have chosen for AJ is:

Isaiah 40:31

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

All during my pregnancy we had one main prayer…strength.  Strength physically.  Strength in conviction.  Strength in character.  Strength in courage.  This verse was placed on our hearts because of the use of the word strength, and the symbol of the eagle.  We continue to pray that as AJ grows, that he will grow in strength.



You can't see it in this picture, but AJ has an awesome navy blue bow tie on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tuesday morning



It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning here in Alexandria, VA.  I woke up to the sun shining and the birds singing.  I was going about my morning in bliss (ok, not complete bliss since I do have 2 kids that have a lot of needs in the morning) when I grabbed a couple of minutes to check facebook.  That is when the wind got knocked out of me.

Last night the EB world lost another warrior.  This time it was an 11 year old girl.  Her name was Hannah.

I hate EB.  I rarely express it with words, but I do.  I hate this dreadful disease.  I hate what EB does to precious kids.  I hate what EB looks like.  I hate how EB feels to my sweet daughter.  I hate the toll it has taken on her little body.  I hate that it has forced her to grow up way too fast.  I hate that, because of EB, too many children leave this world long before they should.

But on the other hand, I love how EB has opened hearts.  I love how EB has given our family a chance to share Christ and his mercy.  I love how EB has brought our family closer together.  I love how EB has allowed Christ to use his strength in us.  I love how EB has taught me never to take a day for granted...to love and cherish each day and not waste time stressing about things that aren't important.

I rarely post about people with EB who pass away, mainly because if I did then I would be posting nearly every week.  I can’t handle the emotion of that.  But this girl, something about her struck me.  I didn’t know her.  I have never talked to her parents.  Honestly, I hadn’t even seen her picture until she was already gone.  What stabbed me right in the heart was her age.  11 years old.  Only 5 years older than my sweet Ella.

At 11 years old I was in 6th grade.  Caught in the middle of childhood and adolescence.  Anticipating Jr. High and all that it would entail.  Just starting to notice boys.  Yet, still playing with Barbie’s and enjoying a good ice cream sundae.  I spent my mornings at school, my afternoons playing with my friends, and my nights at home with my loving family.  That is how 6th grade is supposed to be.  It is not supposed to be filled with surgeries and hospital stays, bandage changes and narcotic pain medicines.  You are supposed to eat dinner with your family around the kitchen table.  Not eat carry-out over your hospital bed while your parents take shifts staying with you.

Today I will pick Ella up from school and squeeze her a little tighter.  I will cuddle her a bit longer, and I will cover her face with a few more kisses.  I will, once again, pray my way through her bath and bandage change.  I will try my best to comfort her when she cries in pain from the bath water.  I will try to be sympathetic when she’s moving slower than usual and I’m in a hurry.  I will do all of this and more, because there is nothing in the books that says Ella isn’t next on the list.



**This was actually written on Tuesday April 22nd, but posted today, Wednesday April 23rd.