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.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Break Staycation

If you have been following our blog for any length of time, you have probably noticed that we love Staycations.  We took our first one when Ella was 3 years old and have continued to have one at least once a year.  We love it!  No packing.  We get to sleep in our own bed.  No time change adjustments.  And we get to do a lot of fun things around DC.

So last week we had our Spring Break Staycation.  Joe was able to take a couple of days off work to hang out with us, so we had some great time together as a family.

Saturday we hit up the new hibachi restaurant down the street.  Our favorite place, Hana Tokyo, closed in January.  We were so sad to see it go, but just a couple of weeks ago a new restaurant opened in its place, Samurai Hibachi.  We were happy to give it a try and discover that the food is just as good as Hana!  After lunch at Samurai we headed to Fort Ward park to take Sabrina for a walk.

Sunday was a typical church day.  We had a great time hanging out with friends and our awesome church family.

Monday we decided to take it easy in the morning.  It was our vacation, after all.  Monday afternoon we had a special treat.  We headed to the movie theatre to see Muppets Most Wanted.  Ella had never seen a Muppets movie before, but she was sure that she would love this.  We all found it really entertaining.  Great humor and awesome cameo appearances!

Tuesday we did something Joe has wanted to do for a long time…we visited Abraham Lincoln’s Summer Cottage.  It was very interesting to see where Abe stayed, stand where Abe stood, and hear stories about his time at the cottage.  It is something I would highly recommend.

Wednesday was “stay at home and do laundry” day.  Nothing too exciting, but definitely necessary.

Thursday Ella and I headed out to the National Harbor to meet up with another EB family.  This family lives in Maryland and has a 7 month old daughter with EB.  Fortunately their older daughter is 6, so she and Ella had a lot of fun playing together.  We got ice cream, walked around the harbor, visited the “dancing water” (as Ella calls it) at the Gaylord, and had a good time visiting with this family.

Friday we cleaned the house in the morning, then headed to the mall for Chick-fil-a and to get Easter clothes for both Joe and me.  I can’t tell you the last time I bought a new dress, so it was fun to actually find something new to wear.  Friday afternoon Grammy and Fred arrived for the weekend.  It is always fun to have them visit.

This was the start of a very exciting weekend with family in town and celebrating our Risen Lord!