"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Palo Duro Canyon

We are on our way back from beautiful Palo Duro canyon, which is the second largest canyon in the U.S., after the Grand Canyon, and it was stunning. It is safe to say that I am falling in love with west Texas. I love the big skies, kind people and tidy little towns. This trip cemented my feelings. The canyon was gorgeous and Amarillo of the Amarillo-by-morning fame was so nice in a well maintained-retro kind of way. I'd move up there in a heartbeat.

We had talked about visiting Palo Duro canyon for a while, and I had always pictured us staying a hotel and visiting the canyon during the day and maybe picnicking. Then Nick suggested the crazy notion that we camp - with two babies! Now I like to think that I'm a good sport, after a fashion, so after a little complaining and balking, I agreed that we try it out with the proviso that we could leave and go to a hotel if we couldn't sleep or we got too dirty. It was only 2 nights too, so that was also comforting to this non camper.

We drove up Thursday afternoon and set up camp. Our campground was lacking in restrooms, but the views of the canyon made up for it.




We roasted hot dogs and made s'mores of course, and then believe it or not, everyone settled in and slept really well. Even the grown ups, who had forgotten to pack their queen sized air mattresses. I'd also like to point out that I've spent my entire life hating s'mores, but when I bought the ingredients I decided to get dark chocolate. It turns out that s'mores made with dark chocolate is the thing that has been missing from my life for the past 31 years.

The next morning we woke up early, made taquitos and then went for a four hour hike. We started on an easy trail and then moved to a moderate trail. We ended up bringing the wagon, and never had too much trouble using it, even on some of the steeper moderate parts of the trail. At most the girls had to get out and walk once or twice. I had Zoya in the Bjorn.



10 year marriage wisdom - always let Nick be the navigator. Navigation and map reading is just not one of my gifts.





  
We were able to stop off at a cave, which was kind of fun. The girls gave us their best growly bear faces.



I had a blast on the hike, and so did Nick... The little kids had fun, but also spent a fair amount of time tolerating it. Even Isla who I thought would be all over it since she loves bugs, nature walks, new experiences, bonding with her dad, and just going for any reason, gave us a lot of "ah, there's SO many bugs", "I'm tired.", "I'm bored.", "I'm scared! Will there be any bears?"; she was kind of a pill. And Gemma is 2, and a pill most of the time anyway. Thankfully one of Nick's superpowers is making frowns turn upside down. I love that about him, and it's safe to say we all had a lot of fun. PDC's most famous trail is to the lighthouse, which we thought might be too hard with three young kids. We walked over 4 miles and we are thinking, even with little girls being a little less than gung-ho, we might be able to do it with better planning next time. 

We had always planned to get into the car and head into Amarillo in the afternoon to hopefully get the littles to nap in the car and check it out. Once everyone was up, we stopped at CFA for some cold drink and an indoor playground.

Mission accomplished.



PDC is famous for its amphitheater overlooking the canyon and its nightly showings of Texas! In the summertime. We were definitely not going to miss it on our trip so I prebought tickets. We also decided to eat the BBQ dinner offered there before the show. It was nice to have one meal taken care of.

Gemma is really into horses.


Predinner dancing.


Morrrreeeee BBQ, mama!


After dinner we walked to the parking lot where the horses from the show were giving $5 rides. Luckily I had $10 in cash from Nick's Mema in my bag for the girls to do something fun with, so they were able to ride the horses. They were in heaven. Thank you Mema!



Postdinner, preshow dancing :).




The Texas! show didn't even start until 8:30, and we were all exhausted, so we just decided to do the best we could. Zoya started fussing about 30 minutes in and so I was up and walking around with her. Isla and Gemma did shockingly well and really seemed to enjoy it.





It started to rain at about 9:30, and we decided to head back to our tent. I'm so glad that we did because it ended up being a crazy thunder storm, and we had left our tent windows down. The girls were so tired that they fell asleep, "funder" (no longer bunder, sigh) and all very quickly.

Then morning came and we got up, had breakfast, and then a quick hike before we packed up and headed home. 


Both girls' faces crack me up in this one!



We made a quick stop off in Lubbock to have lunch with our friends Heather and Stephen, and we are home now. I can't wait to shower! 

It was just a 48 hour trip, but we loved it and had so much fun. Even the camping was a success and I'm up for trying it again. I'm officially in love with the Texas panhandle and I can't wait to get back! My family agrees.

Happy July Days!

1) Happy Birthday USA! Some days it's hard to be proud of my country when so many people only focus on the bad in our history, and I start to feel like I should be ashamed to be an American or that it isn't ok to be proud. Sometimes it is hard to be proud to be from a place where 9 of my brothers and sisters in Christ can be gunned down inside their own church just because they are black. Church is a place where my family spends hours each week, and that I associate with perfect safety. When something like that happens, I start to think the critics might be right. That really shook me. I try to remember this, the USA might not be a perfect place, but I can be proud and thankful that we've had 200+ years of being a people that believes that anyone from anywhere can achieve what others think are impossible. In Russia, I cannot tell you how many times I heard "nevozmozhno" which is Russian for "impossible". It's a fairly common response to even the simplest requests. Some days I feel like it's impossible that we will ever be a nation of people who stick together or just plain like each other instead of constantly trying to tear each other down. But I am clinging to hope that the Lord brings about a serious revival in the hearts of Americans, and that we can one day be reunited in true unity and equality as a people who aknowledge God as sovereign. 

2) July 1 marked our 2 year anniversary in Midland! We've had such turnaround from where we were two years ago. We
were coming off several very stressful health scares and an international move, and I did NOT want move anywhere but back home to Houston. Now here I am singing Midland's praises. My husband was right to bring us here! (There it is, in writing - Nick was right, I was wrong.) There's enough to do to keep us busy, we are excited about Isla's school, we have an amazing babysitter, and I love that it has a small town Mayberry feel. Don't forget that we added a little Midland baby to our family :). For the first time ever I feel like I belong to a community because I run into someone I know every where we go! I have friends and a wonderful church. This is an amazing place to raise a family. I'm just happy, happy and although I think I'll always have restless moments, I can say that I'm the most content I've ever been. I'm so thankful for our time here and whether we stay or go or go and come back, I'm so glad we have lived here!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Home Tour: Updated Living / Dining Room

We really didn't update much, but we received a new rug a few days a go and rearranged the furniture since last time I took pictures, and this room has gone back to being my favorite room!

Last year after we bought our console, I started to feel like maybe I was using too much green and I started to get sick of it; with the green rug it felt like a little much. However all the furniture and accessories were ok and my life is not an episode of HGTV where perfectly fine home items are thrown out in pursuit of perfect design.

Unfortunately the rug did not hold up well at all. It wore very badly and showed dirt in the worse way. Even though it was only two years old, it just became grosser and grosser in spite of three professional cleanings. With all the Texas rains we have been having lately, Frodo, who will be 13 this summer has decided that he is too old to deal with wet feet when going potty, and did unspeakable things on my rug three days in a row. This is on top of other unspeakable things both he and my children have done on this rug over the past two years! Finally I texted Nick a picture of Frodo's business and told Nick I was burning the rug AND the dog! It was time to throw that thing out - the rug - not the dog. I was only kidding about burning the dog.

After that I set about finding the perfect rug, and I think I did. It's bigger than my old rug, a natural fiber and a more neutral color so it doesn't overpower the room. I love it. Everything looks much lighter and brighter, and I no longer want to throw out every green thing I own and start over!

I apologize in advance for my iPhone quality photos.


Also I love my new throw pillow!


Dirty, cute, stinky old dog!


Upcoming improvements (over the next year so don't look for them anytime soon) include:
- restaining the mantle
- barstools
- getting rid of the white desk and replacing it with a piano
- updated photo wall with our new family photos

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Buggin'

This Summer, Isla has been super into bugs! I don't remember going through this phase, but I am excited that she's taking an interest in the outdoors and is conducting her own little science experiments. We have one rule though - no bugs in the house, which being my kids they follow without any protestations (NOT!).

Isla spends a lot of time studying ants, and trying to figure out what they do and what they like to eat! We tried several different foods outdoors before we discovered that ants LOVE honey more than anything else. 



I also bought several hundred lady bugs from our local nursery, and it was the best $12 I ever spent! The girls had so much fun turning them loose and letting them crawl all over everything. And somehow, several of these ladybugs did end up flying away into MY home!


I hope Zoya wasn't eating a ladybug!

We've also been blessed with a lot of butterflies this season. Isla has a book on butterfly transformations with species listed in the back and she has memorized them all. I'm always so impressed when she busts out with an official name
for a random butterfly. She's also become an expert at catching them.


:) Hopefully we will find more buggy adventures as the summer progresses!

Summer Buggin'

This Summer, Isla has been super into bugs! I don't remember going through this phase, but I am excited that she's taking an interest in the outdoors and is conducting her own little science experiments. We have one rule though - no bugs in the house, which being my kids they follow without any protestations (NOT!).

Isla spends a lot of time studying ants, and trying to figure out what they do and what they like to eat! We tried several different foods outdoors before we discovered that ants LOVE honey more than anything else. 



I also bought several hundred lady bugs from our local nursery, and it was the best $12 I ever spent! The girls had so much fun turning them loose and letting them crawl all over everything. And somehow, several of these ladybugs did end up flying away into MY home!


I hope Zoya wasn't eating a ladybug!

We've also been blessed with a lot of butterflies this season. Isla has a book on butterfly transformations with species listed in the back and she has memorized them all. I'm always so impressed when she busts out with an official name
for a random butterfly. She's also become an expert at catching them.


:) Hopefully we will find more buggy adventures as the summer progresses!

Pure and Undefiled Religion

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