We started off July at my parents' lake house on Lake Cypress Springs in East Texas…lots of boating, swimming, jet skiing (I finally got brave enough to drive, instead of just ride behind Brian! I can not say he is brave enough to ever be my passenger again, however :D) and RELAXING! This is a picture taken in downtown Winnsboro, where we went to check out this amazing new family-run Italian cafe.
Here are some "just hanging out" pictures from the lake house! The most exciting part of the time was when Clara crawled for the FIRST TIME EVER! that was right before July 4th. She did the "army crawl"- she saw something she wanted on the far side of the blanket and before we knew what was going on, she took off after it, pulling herself along on her tummy.
We went into Paris (just an hour away) for July 4th celebrations with Brian's family. We had a good ol' cookout and fireworks show. It has been interesting living "in the city" for the last few years where NO ONE is allowed to have their own fireworks – its just not a part of the "city experience" and is so foreign to people to have your own fireworks in your own backyard. they have no idea what they're missing!! it is something we took for granted growing up in the country, so it was extra-fun to get to do this year…fountains and rockets and buzzing bees and parachute men and roman candles. The Rhea Boys sure do know how to put on a fireworks show! And where we were sitting you could see several neighbors shows all around, so it was a really neat effect. Clara was pretty indifferent to it all, however! Here she is sitting with her (great) Mema and her (great) Grandma while we're waiting on it to get dark – Brian's two grandmothers. What wonderful ladies!
Clara enjoyed sitting with her Mamaw and Sophie, too. Sophie kept trying to hold her hand!
When we got back to the lake, my precious cousin Bonnie was there with her husband Steven and their DARLING kids Caroline and William. William is a year and a week older than Clara. They seriously could not be any cuter or sweeter! We got to play together all day Saturday and it was so great to get to catch up with them. As you can see in the second picture, they wore Clara out! Clara tried so hard to play with them but William was kind of scared of her – CJ was in her walker (which goes REALLY fast on the wood floors there) and so she would tear after William trying to be with him and, since he is just getting the real-walking thing down, couldn't escape the bulldozing-forces of her careening walker. and she can get pretty maniacal in that thing! (think "the abominal snowman" or "King Kong") so everytime he saw her coming, he would run off and hide for safety. I felt so bad! and clara just couldn't understand. it was really cute!
Brian and I left Saturday night for Colorado for a vacation. We had been planning on going to San Antonio because we wanted to save money (gas is so expensive right now!) and SA is so fun. but about 36 hours before we left, we realized…what the heck, if we go camping, gas is pretty much our ONLY expense and would, in fact, be way less expensive than San Antonio, where we would have hotel, eat out every meal, do sea world, museums, etc. And Colorado is where we REALLY REALLY wanted to go anyway!!! this was a VERY happy realization :) So we canceled our hotel, looked up google directions to Colorado, and booked a campsite…and that was pretty much all of the trip planning we did! (VERY not like us…I LOVE trip planning) We did print out a bunch of stuff about Rocky Mountain National Park that we could read on the 16 hour car trip there! Last year, we had stopped in Rocky Mountain NP for about 12 hours while we were on our way to Grand Teton and Yellowstone NPs. We got in a little before midnight, set up camp and slept, then got up, broke camp and did 2 trails – and were back on the road to the Tetons by noon. But that short visit had quite a huge impact -we LOVED it and determined to come back and spend more time soon!
Of course, I didn't think it would be this soon! But it was the best decision we could have made. It was absolutely beautiful! And the weather was soooo nice (I'm noticing this the older I get…hmmm…definitely an adult thing to appreciate) – 70's the whole time. And it just smelled like the mountains – fresh, with the scents of different trees and wildflowers and creeks interspersed! These pictures don't do it any justice at all – but here they are anyway!
Here we are at Dream Lake – our favorite trail! We went with a ranger-naturalist who shared with us the whole time about geology, biology, history – all sorts of incredibly interesting information that made us appreciate where we were and what was there all the more! God is amazing! She was a wonderful guide – so full of enthusiasm and patient with all of our questions.
And here we are at Dream Lake in 2007 – 7 months pregnant!
Here we are at Nymph Lake in 2008 –
and Nymph Lake in 2007. notice the trees in 08 that have been killed by the pine bark beetle – it is changing the landscape of the park and there won't be many pines left in 3-5 years
Here is part of the Dream Lake trail in 2007…we went in early August last year, just a few weeks after we were there this year…
and look at Brian in the same exact spot this year!
Here we are on the Fern Lake hike. This was an 8 mile round trip hike we did the first day. It stayed by the creek for a long time, giving us several wonderful waterfalls as we worked our way up to the lake. It was beautiful and refreshing!
The last third was pretty much just going up and up at a good incline…yuck. not enough bang for the buck in my opinion! Brian messed up his knee pretty bad, too…we bought a brace the next day and lots of icy hot. this is Fern Lake…no ferns. confused us, too. There were LOTS of ferns early on in the trail, as we walked through what looked (and as you can tell from the ponchos, FELT) like a rainforest. That was really neat!
These flowers are called "Little Pink Elephants" – can you guess why? There were wildflowers EVERYWHERE, though our pics don't reflect it. I loved seeing all of the colors and smells, and learning why God made them that way (how their design helps them survive…fascinating).
oh, to be back here!
Look at my mountain man!
Here we are hanging out at our campground making dinner (hot dogs and baked beans – yum!). The people near us were obnoxious, so we moved. Now I know why my dad was always shushing me outside…turns out voices really do travel well outdoors!
saw these guys while driving back to our site…
A couple of nights we went into town (Estes Park) – just outside the park entrance – for dinner…pizza of course! I think we ended up trying four different pizza places through the course of our trip. One was named…Poppy's Pizza! We were so excited because that is my dad's "grandfather" name (only spelled Papi) and he has a great, tremendous, incredible love for Pizza (this is where I get it from). So we had to take a pic for him! (It was also my favorite pizza place on the trip). It was, very appropriately, next to a shop named "The Bean Blossom" – this made us miss our little Bean so much! (pretty much everything on the whole trip reminded us of her and made us miss her! :( )
Brian managed to find a Starbucks, and we had one of his favorite experiences of the trip – sipping a starbucks coffee, sitting by the river as it tumbled down and dusk turned to stars…it was a nice evening.
This is how we spent most evenings, though – back at the tent, making a fire, roasting marshmellows, reading (fighting over "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson – hilarious) and talking, dodging flying insects while squealing like a 9 year-old girl (Brian), getting unexpectedly smacked in the back with all the force a 28 year old male can muster to whack a flying insect (Laura), calling home to check on our little bumbo, looking at stars.
this gets the award for "best breakfast" on the trip…sure beats cereal out of a silo cup and a protein bar!
On Wednesday we drove the Trail Ridge Road -the highest paved road in the country, going over 12,000 feet above sea level! This took us into the tundra, which turned out to be absolutely beautiful. If you get up really close, you see hundreds of different kinds of plants and wildflowers. You have to get close because they're really short – they only have a 40 day growing season each year, and it takes them DECADES to grow just an inch. but they do it! there is such variety and vibrancy, and they endure incredibly harsh conditions (150 mph winds, feet upon feet of snow) – and yet, "life finds a way." Brian was making fun of me because I kept quoting Jurassic Park (there was a lot that was applicable!!).
I am on the exact trail that Native Americans used 10,000 years ago – what an awe-inspiring feeling!
perfect place for a picnic…
the road eventually wound its way down into a valley we had just been looking over from way up. We stopped to visit an old homestead that had been preserved/restored. I LOVE stories about the "old frontier" (the "little house on the prarie" books were a favorite growing up) and imagining how they made it (I would NEVER EVER want to live then, mind you – WOW – that was a hard life!, but I love reading about it and walking where they walked and seeing how they managed to make a rich life out of the little they had- it was exciting and adventurous for sure.) So it was neat to see what they had created there, and how they had lived. Do you think I would have fit in?
We pulled out all along the way of Trail Ridge Road and did a few trails. We had bought this CD that was like a guided tour the whole way (yes, we are dorks).
And we made it to the other side of the park, and the end of Trail Ridge Road. there is a cute little town on the other side called Grand Lake, which has really good chilli burritos and home-brewed beer! A great treat for the end of our day…
saw these guys on our way back…
The next day we packed up and checked out several other areas of the park. Here is our picnic.
A hike in the southern part of the park.
A funny thing about this hike was that it was to go see these falls. We somehow took a wrong turn and wound up on a horse trail on the OTHER side of the river. So when we got to the falls – it is hard to explain- but because of how the river bended and some big rocks and fallen trees – we couldn't see the falls at all! BUT we could see the people on the other side of the river seeing the falls! and they really seemed to like them! it totally stunk! to make matters worse (or comical at this point, which is how we were trying to look at it), Brian REALLY wanted to swim in a river before we left and had hiked in his trunks and everything. There was a perfect little swimming pool on the other side of the river, where the people who were enjoying the falls were happily splashing around. and there was NO good swimming access from our side of the river. so not only did we hike all that way and not get to see what we had gone to see, or swim where we hoped to swim, but because it was the horse trail, we had to dodge manure and smell it the whole way! Here I am seeing the sign on the way out, several miles back, realizing our great misdirection. it was still a beautiful – if misguided – hike!
Because we couldn't leave without Brian getting his swim, we found another place along the road on the way out where he could get his experience…swimming in SNOW RUN OFF. He called it exhilerating – I called it asking-for-it. I was trying to remember what I learned in First Aid in college on hypothermia. We had asked at a Ranger station where a good place to swim in the park might be, and they looked at us like we were crazy. After consulting each other (there were three of them) and not coming up with any answer, they called the main park headquarters, who also said they weren't sure where a good place to swim would be. Now, this probably should have been a big red flag to not go swimming, but frankly, I was a little more worried at the state of our park system that they couldn't come up with an answer on where to swim, because I'm sure we're not the first ones to ask! and swim he did…for a good minute or so! What a man!
I could barely get a toe in!
After that, we went to a guided wildflower walk with a park ranger at Lily Lake. It was great! We learned all of these names and about all of these plants that I already forget…sigh… but it was very interesting at the time!
We had been planning on spending the night there, then waking up and making the drive back to Paris, but we were missing Clara so much that we hopped in the car about 4 pm and drove straight through the night, taking turns driving. Here is the sunrise in Oklahoma (this one is for you Ellen).
And we made it home around 10:30 a.m. We showered at my parents and then went to pick up Clara just in time to get up from her nap! What a happy reunion!! I wasn't at a point where I just HAD to have a BREAK from her, but it was nice to be able to do a lot of things that we wouldn't have been able to do if she had been with us, and it was very sweet to reconnect with Brian and just have that time together the two of us. But we missed her like crazy!! We were so grateful to our parents for taking care of her. And I was so glad that she got that special time with them. What great memories for all! She came right back to us like no time had passed at all, which I was relieved about (I had been praying for that, especially since I am still nursing her). It was crazy how much she had grown in just five days!
We ate at TaMolly's (of course) and then headed out to the lake to get ready for…Brian's family and a birthday party for Aidan! I can't believe it…our precious nephew turning FOUR!! Being there for his birth was one of the most special, amazing moments in my life. I was outside in the hallway with the rest of the family when we heard the first sounds he made in this world – a beautiful cry announcing he was here! It was truly a powerful moment. I can't believe it was four years ago! We weren't going to be able to come to his birthday party the next weekend, so we invited everyone out to the lake on Saturday to celebrate early, before the real party. Here is Clara with her Aunt Chris!
The brothers cooking out on the deck…
Uncle Larr with the cousins.
Aunt Kari holding the sun-bonneted beauty…sigh…I liked those days when she didn't rip hats off her head.
We took the boat out into the middle of the lake to swim…Clara helped man the boat with ol' Dad.
Everyone was jumping in off the boat – even Mamaw! Aidan thought it was fun…kind of.
Here is the birthday boy blowing out his candles!
I've totally become one of those aunts that is like, "We need to put a brick on your head so you'll quit growing!" File that one under, "Things I Said I would never Say". Even as a 6 year old you know that sounds stupid, but there you are…22 years later…saying it.
Aidan was soooooo tired this is how he fell asleep on the boat!
The Rhea girls!
The fun finally had to come to an end, and Brian and I came back to Grapevine, content and happy to be in our own home again…and anticipating Monday in a BIG way since it was the first day of BOTH of our new jobs!
That's right…Brian isn't the only one in the family in a new position. Mine isn't quite the drastic change his is – I'm still at IBC and still on our children's staff. But I am now the "Early Childhood Shepherd and Creative Programming Director". Essentially, I am now overseeing the Comfort Zone (nursery), Adventure Zone (younger preschool) and Zone, Jr. (older preschool) ministry areas but not as involved in the week-to-week operations of making it happen that I was as the AZ Director, as we all seek to engage the hearts, minds, souls and bodies of these precious tiny people with God's truths and His story. Our mission in the AZ has been to give preschoolers a first impression of God in such a way that it makes a lasting impression in their hearts. This is what I have been passionate about for the last 4.5 years, and this new position gives me an even greater opportunity to help make that a reality. I'm more focused on the "big picture" of what we're doing in early childhood and helping lead those ministries so that together we're having the greatest impact possible on that generation for God and what HE wants to do in their lives. I also am leading the creative programming experiences for those ministries – storytelling, worship, etc. which I LOVE. I am SUPER SUPER excited about my new position and already having so much fun! It was kinda (ok, not kinda, but REALLY really crazy doing two jobs for a while there, as we were interviewing candidates for and hiring a new Adventure Zone director) but totally worth it, since I was so re-energized by what I was doing and having a blast doing it.
Brian has also been really enjoying his new job from the get-go. It truly fits him like a glove. He is already getting to be creative and produce things that are meaningful and beneficial and comes home so excited every day to tell me all about it. It makes me so happy to see him so excited about what he is doing!
One Saturday, we decided to make baby food. This was quite the affair! and I can quite confidently say that this was the LAST time we will be doing that! Because after EIGHT hours of TWO people washing and peeling and cutting and steaming and pureeing and scooping into ice trays…I did the math and money-wise we broke even. If you include the cost of extra ice-cube trays, we didn't break even…actually spent more, but that is so depressing I can't let meyself include them in the cost. Now that you can buy organic baby food that doesn't contain additives or preservatives and costs as much as making organic baby food yourself, I really don't see a point! We did make a TON of food though, that should last about two months. It was quite a fun and bonding experience for mom and dad…though definitely a one-time deal!
Here is the beginning, after a trip to Central Market.
Brian peeling FIVE pounds of carrotts!
Here is Clara in her playpen. She has quite the time in there!
In her walker…
Using a sippy cup for the first time…
This month she went from rolling like crazy (that girl could GET AROUND with just a roll) to crawling to pulling herself up. She is eating all sorts of foods now! She doesn't seem to have any super-favorites or super-unfavorites, she just contentedly eat whatever we spoon out. She doesn't much care for reading (just eating the books), which I'm trying not to let worry me. She LOVES exploring anything or anywhere new. She has TWO bottom teeth coming in!! It doesn't seem to bother her – I stuck my finger in there one day and BOOM there they were! She is getting great at using her fingers as "pincers" and can really manipulate things with them. My mom taught her to flip off light switches, so anywhere I carry her now she reaches out for any lightswitch she sees. She doesn't even reach out for me! but the light switches…oh, she WANTS those! She is a world-class tongue-roller – she can do so many crazy twists and flips and folds with her tongue, and loves doing it. She LOVES swimming, and for the first time, will cry when you take something away from her or away from something she is enjoying. She gets over it pretty quick, but it is a dark shadow of what is to come! :O Clara loves "zerberts" and playing peek-a-boo. She lights up and bounces when Brian or I get home or see her after being away (the greatest feeling in the world). She really loves climbing up the stairs, and can get up them pretty fast. We're looking into gates right now…!
Here are some pictures of Clara at church, taken by my sweet friend Jen-Jen. Jen-Jen and her mom Michelle ("Meme" as all the kids call her) are two of the most amazing people I've ever known. I love them so much and am constantly inspired by their generosity and compassion. They are currently adopting two little ones who needed a good home – and they couldn't have gotten a better one. Devon was born on Clara's due date – October 31st, so he is just 2 weeks older than her. They are great friends! Here they are when they were just 3 months old. not real aware of each other quite yet!
Here they are when they are about 6 months old, holding hands in the stroller! Devon is also a little chunk – it is hard to keep up with Clara, but he does a good job!
JenJen taking care of CJ at church…
Since my dad's (Papi's) corporate office is in Las Colinas, he works here usually 1-3 days a week (and from home the rest of the week). They stay with us and my mom (Mimi), who recently retired, comes along and takes care of Clara during the day. It works out wonderfully! Mom gets to spend special, sweet time with Clara, and it allows me to work uninteruppted. It has been a HUGE blessing. Plus, we get to spend time with them, too! It is so important to me that Clara know both sets of her grandparents well, and so I'm ecstatic that they've gotten to spend that kind of time together. She and Mimi play all day, and Mimi is great about taking her outside and singing songs to her and teaching her developmental skills. Seriously, mom is like her personal physical therapist/montesorri teacher. We have her to thank for Clara for most of her skills! They always have a grand time! We also use that opportunity for a "date night" from time to time and I surprised Brian with tickets to see "Batman: Dark Knight" on the IMAX screen — that was pretty amazing (although I must admit I shut my eyes a lot)! She also has a grand time with Papi when he gets home in the evenings – he is always good for a chase and tickles or a massage!
Clara is soooooo tired here.
wow…if you made it to the end of this post, you deserve a huge Congratulations!!