Saturday, July 21, 2012


The tragedy in Aurora, CO. You all know the details.

My heart goes out to the families of the victims, the witnesses, and the community of Aurora. Words almost seem useless in light of the true pain these people are feeling, and I know many others share in my prayers for the families. But my mind and heart are especially hurting tonight for the family of James Holmes as well. I can't imagine what it would feel like to know that your son caused the amount of destruction that he did, and would venture to say that they are hurting nearly or equally as much as those who lost family or friends in the shooting. I pray for peace and comfort for them during this time as well, and I can only hope that their community in California will give them the respect and privacy they deserve during this time. Also, I don't know the state of mind of the victim, but I know that God loves him just as much as He loves each of us. I hope you'll join me in praying for every individual involved in this tragedy, not just the obvious victims for which we are all hurting.

A few verses that come to mind right now:

In response to a man being born blind from birth, Jesus said that "this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." -John 9:2-3.
        While we can see Satan's influence during tragedies like these, it's also important to be watching for how God is working even through the hurt, anger, and sadness. I have already heard and look forward to hearing more stories emerge about the generosity and acts of love and kindness among the victims of the tragedy. I challenge you to be watching for how God will work and show his love through this tragedy, since he is the God of All Comfort! So glad that we serve and are loved by Him.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Cor. 4:18
     Again, while it is normal for us to focus on the here and now, we can find comfort in that fact that all of this pain and hurt is temporary. I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to heaven where all the heartache of this life will be no more! I hope that you share that hope with me as well.

Please join in me continued prayers for all those involved.
Many blessings,

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Goodbye 325.

Hey friends out there. Long time no see!

We said our official "goodbye" to our first little apartment today. Apartment 325 was our happy little home for our first 2 years of marriage and life here in MD. Brent, Pumpkin, and I arrived in July of 2010 with a moving truck full of wedding gifts and new furniture that barely fit in the apartment. We decided to paint a few walls to enliven the stark walls with some color, and then began to unpack and decorate. By our first family visit in October, the apartment was set up and filled with family photos and quite cozy!

With no friends (yet!), 2 new jobs ahead, and a brand new state, it was quite an adjustment, but we quickly found our way. God blessed us with this apartment being within 10 minutes of our jobs so that we could easily carpool to work together each day. We love getting to start and end our work days together. We both started jobs that we still love. We found an awesome grocery store (Harris Teeter for the win!) and an incredible church family at Arundel Christian Church where we are now involved with the best lifegroup.
Another fun culture shock when we moved was living so close to DC and being within driving distance of some big cities! I have loved every trip to DC that I have taken with family, friends, and school field trips (I'm still amazed that we go on field trips to Washington, D.C.).

The thing I loved most about our apartment was the layout of the space so that the living room and office were connected with sliding doors that we left open all the time. That meant that if I was in the kitchen cooking, working at the table, grading papers, or watching TV, we were always within close enough proximity to have a conversation. I guess that's the newlywed in me still... I love just hanging out with Brent all the time! After 4 long years of long distance, the apartment, and living together, and being in close proximity, was and still is a dream come true!

I was a bit sad as we were packing, moving, cleaning, and repainting the apartment. We slowly turned our sweet little first home back into the boring white box that it was prior to our arrival. We had so many fun memories there with friends, family, each other, and Pumpkin that we will never forget. There are things that I won't miss about the apartment either, but why write about them here?

As I have been getting nostalgic about moving, I was reflecting on what I really loved about the apartment: spending time being married to Brent, having family come visit us here, watching our favorite shows together on the couch, cooking together in our tiny kitchen, and coming home together to our place. It was where we became "the McLaughlins." But ya know what? I have all of those things to look forward to at our new house. Every single one. I still get to be happily married to my best friend and spend time with him. I get to have family visit and have somewhere to stay with us. I get to cook in our amazing new kitchen. Brent gets to smoke meat since we have a deck. We still get to ride to and from work together and come home to our place together every night. I'm a pretty lucky gal to have been blessed with all of those things at the apartment and to have all of those same blessings follow me to the new house. I can name so many blessings that have come to us since we've lived in MD, and I will remember many of those happening at the apartment. But God continues to guide and bless us as we settle into this new home, and I am so excited to see the plans he has in store for us while we live here for this season of life!

This was the first day we arrived at our apartment in July 2010. Our first family photo!

The first day of owning our house on Ellen Way! Can't wait to see what the next few years will bring! Don't worry, Pumpkin is still with us, she just didn't make it into this photo. :)
God bless!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Feelin' the autumn love.

Oh, October. One of my most favorite months of the whole year. I love that October is all about autumn. By far the most beautiful season of the year, there are not many things I don't love about this season and this month. Things that are making my heart happy during this fall of 2011:

1. Brent is back from his work trip to Colorado. While Pumpkin and I had some fun girls' nights this week, I was sure glad to sit down and eat dinner with my best friend again tonight.

2. As much as I miss Oklahoma, I do love living in the northeast during this time of year. I get all googly-eyed everytime I walk outside or take a drive and see all the amazing fall colors that are around every corner here. Still hoping to get some fall color photos, just haven't made the time to do that yet.

3. OSU football. Undefeated and ranked #3 right now, I am so proud to be an OSU alum! Still so thankful that I have gotten to see almost all of the games here. Also grateful that OSU is doing so well since the Colts are breaking my heart this year... but let's focus on the positive! Goooo Pokes!

4. Cooking, baking, and collecting recipes is become more and more of a hobby for me. My addiction to Pinterest, Pioneer Woman, and my Food Network Magazine subscription are forever making my attempt at healthy eating difficult. I am currently obsessed with all things pumpkin right now. Since Brent is not a fan of breakfast for dinner, I had pumpkin pancakes for dinner twice this week. :) If I could choose another job, it just might be writing a food blog. However, my lack of creativity, perserverance, cooking/baking experience, and time would not warrant many followers. But I can dream. I think if I started a blog, the first recipe I would post would be chocolate chip pancakes. Actually, I might just have a whole website dedicated to pancakes. I might have a slight obsession with pancakes... moving on.

5. I also love pumpkin ice cream. Not proper noun, Pumpkin, as in, our cat, but the delicious pumpkin ice cream that you could only find in the fall at Marble Slab Creamery in Stillwater. Bethany texted me about it the other day and I immediately began searching for some. I was stoked when I saw an ad for "Pilgrim Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream" from Trader Joe's!

6. The Cardinals are currently winning the last World Series game. While I am by no means a baseball fan, this granddaughter-with-grandparents-near-St. Louis is cheering for the Cardinals to pull out a win!

7. We are currently under a winter weather advisory and are expecting 3-5 inches of snow tomorrow. Need I remind you that it's still October? And fall? Very strange. But I'm excited. :)

8. I love my lifegroup. I am so thankful for everything I've learned as we've studied, grown, and laughed together. I feel like I talk about our lifegroup a lot, but I'm just so thankful God placed us with these people. I figure since I talk about them so much, I would introduce you to them. We all went apple-picking a few weeks ago and had a fabulous time!

While this is not our whole group, this is a part of it! I decided to post the photo of us eating our apples instead of just standing there because, well, we love to eat! Our lifegroup is comprised of some truly talented cooks and we seriously have the best dinners every Thursday night!

Brent and I ended up with 25 pounds of apples! Is it bad that we finished off all of them? They were so good!

This is my very dear friend, Jess! She and her husband are wonderful leaders for our lifegroup and I am so lucky to have her as a friend. Our shared affinity for all things PW, Pinterest, cooking, baking, Hobby Lobby, and Christmas makes it pretty much impossible for us not to be friends. :) God has blessed me so much through her friendship!
Brent and I have had a pretty amazing month of October, but we discuss almost daily about how we are definitely ready to go home for Thanksgiving! It's hard to believe that the month of November starts on Tuesday. Only a few more weeks until we head to OK! Until then, I'll be enjoying the weather, reading food blogs, and thanking God for our many blessings! Hope you are counting your blessings as well.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

On this Sunday night.

On this night, 6 years ago, Brent and I were outside on the deck in my backyard when we had the conversation and officially started dating. Right after the conversation, Brent noted, "Only 3 months 'til Christmas!" So, in case you were wondering, it's only 3 months until Christmas. :)

That was the beginning of quite a journey, with 4 years of long distance looming ahead of us, but here we are, 6 years later,we found ourselves married, sharing a small apartment in Maryland, and (at least I am) loving every minute of it. I feel so lucky to get to hang out with my best friend every day.

On this night last year, we were adjusting to a new state, new jobs, and celebrated with dinner at the Melting Pot.

On this Sunday night, Brent and I had the privilege of seeing a dear friend ordained as a minister. It is an honor to have been a part of the celebration, and I even got to taste-test a new recipe in the process (these iced pumpkin cookies are so delicious and easy!). He is however, beating me in our fantasy football match up right now. Hmm.

On this Sunday night, the Colts are winning for the first time this season, against the mighty Steelers, which makes it that much more exciting. We're entering the 4th quarter with a 3 point lead. Hoping we can hold 'em! Can't wait for Peyton to be back though. This Sunday of football is even sweeter considering the Patriots lost to the Bills earlier. I saw a t-shirt the other day that said "I have 2 favorite teams: The Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees." I think I need one that says "I have 2 favorite teams: The Colts and whoever beats the Patriots." Go Bills!

On this Sunday night, I think I have lots for which to be thankful. :)


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Winds of change.

Well it is a school night once again. Tomorrow marks Day 4 of our school year (I know, we started so late!) and while I am not looking forward to a the early mornings that school days bring, I must say that I am really excited about this school year. It is such a relief to be coming back to the same school and teaching the same grade again. After jumping into brand new environments the last 2 years, it is an incredibly nice change to begin a school year with some idea of what is to come (not that you can ever truly know what's going to happen with a classroom full of kids!).

This year I have a class of 16 and I am the only 3rd grade teacher. While that definitely presents some challenges to not have a partner in the same grade, I can't deny that I am a bit excited about the autonomy presented in having a grade of my own. I can set my own timelines and schedules, and set up a structure that suits me and my kids without having to make sure that I am matching up with someone else. After taking an absolutely fabulous summer course in Responsive Classroom, I am uber excited to implement new ideas in my classroom. In just these 3 days we've had so far, as I've already put into practice some of the training we got, I can already tell a difference in my classroom. Compared to how my year started last year, it is truly refreshing to feel like things are a bit more under control. It's also crazy to admit that I'm now in my 3rd year of teaching. Most days I still feel like a newbie. :)

As I begin this school year, my prayer is that God's light is shining through me every single day. I hope that I create an atmosphere in my room where my kids know they are respected and loved. I pray that I can be patient with them and meet their needs for this time that they are in my care. I am so thankful that God has placed me in a career where I have the opportunity to impact young lives. I just pray that I am able to make the most of that opportunity.

On another note . . .


While the sting of the Colts' score today is quite painful, I have hope that the Colts can still make history as the first team to ever host the Super Bowl with home field advantage! Peyton Manning needs to heal quickly and the rest of those boys have got to hold themselves together in the meantime! But it's early in the season . . . so don't bury them yet!

P.S. I have a new pastime . . . fantasy football.

Happy school year, work week, football season, or wherever you find yourself! God bless.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Alaska in pictures.

First of all, I am lucky to say that Brent and I have survived Hurricane Irene (we are some of the few with electricity) and also survived the earthquake earlier this week. 2 new experiences for me, and I think that's enough natural disasters for awhile. At least until school starts next week. ;)

So, a few weeks ago, we were so blessed to go on a cruise to Alaska with my family. The whole group included Brent and I, Mom, Dad, Nick, Steven, and both sets of grandparents. I had a friend point out that I am in a lucky place in life right now, where I am able to spend quality time with my husband, immediate family, and grandparents. What a blessing! There will be lots of pictures here, simply because it's a trip with stories that I don't want to forget. This is just a small glimpse of the incredible trip we had!

We flew to Seattle, Washington, where we had an evening and morning to spend in Seattle before the ship left.
Saturday night we walked to the Space Needle

Sunday morning we walked to the Seattle Public Market. It's a huuuuuge local market with so much fresh food! Such a cool place! We also had the most delicious fresh fruit smoothies ever while we were there.
Seattle was such a neat town. I read on this list that Seattle is America's most active city. With all the hills you have to walk up and down, I can see why! Sadly, Tulsa, OK City, and Baltimore are all on the top 100 least active cities... not so good!

We set sail to Alaska on the Norwegian Pearl
 I've said this many times when people have asked how the cruise was, and it was just beautiful. There is no way that words or pictures can do justice to the vast, beautiful, and untouched landscape of Alaska and the coast of Canada along which we sailed. Definitely reminded of God's workmanship! Again, I have to say that my pictures just don't do it justice.

We saw lots of waterfalls along the coast!
 Our first stop was in Juneau, AK. I found out that it is only accessible by water or air. There are no roads leading into Juneau because of the surrounding, harsh (though gorgeous) landscape. While there, we toured a salmon hatchery, hiked to Mendenhall Glacier and a waterfall, and enjoyed an absolutely delicious, fresh Alaskan salmon bake, complete with a friendly bear!

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, AK
The gorgeous waterfall next to the glacier
It was chilly!
There were even icebergs floating near the glacier! And they were all an amazing turquoise blue since they came from the glacier (it has something to do with the crystalline structure, I think).
This friendly bear cub is apparently a regular at the salmon bakes. He was after the marshmallows!
Toasting marshmallows . . . yum!
I wish I had gotten a picture of the whole family, but Brent did catch part of us while we were sipping hot chocolate! 
Grandpa also found a new friend in this giant Alaskan husky. This picture is priceless. :)
 After we left Juneau, our next stop was in Scagway, AK. It was such a tiny little town, but really cute. While we were there, my brothers did a zipline while the rest of us got a tour of the town, a train ride along the Yukon trail into Canada, ate some more yummy salmon, and got to pan for gold in "Liarsville, AK." It was quite a day!

We saw the most amazing scenery along this train ride, I can't even describe it! Alaska is gorgeous.
Almost surreal.
Brent made a friend in Liarsville. :)
After our stop in Scagway, we sailed through Glacier Bay National Park, which is in Alaska. It was so crazy to wake up that morning, go out on the deck of the ship, and see icebergs and glaciers. It was so cold we could see our breath! It was incredible to see scenery that is just so different from anything I've ever seen before.
Yep, that's us in front of glacier. Crazy!
Did I mention that it was super cold?
I love this photo. It shows how eerily vast, yet peaceful the landscape was. It was breathtaking.
After Glacier Bay, we headed South to Ketchikan, AK. Nick, Steven, and myself went kayaking while the other folks went on a tour. Unfortunately, Nick got put in a separate group from us while kayaking, so we don't have pictures together. Also, we didn't have the camera out on the water with us because I was afraid I would drop it in the water! I wish I would have had it though. While we were out on the water, there were humpback whales so close to us in the water! There were also eagles, seals, and lots of pretty scenery. What an amazing experience! I'll also show you some neat photos Brent got while on the tour!
I had to steer, since I was in the back. Steven accused me of not paddling though, since he couldn't see me behind him. But I would never do such a thing! ;)
 Here are a few photos that Brent took! I'm jealous they saw so many eagles!
Native meeting house with totem poles
This is a lighthouse. I love how the sky looks in this picture.
Another incredible picture that Brent took. The sky and clouds look simply amazing behind the mountain.
Apparently, Sasquatch makes his home in Ketchikan, AK. Who knew?
One of our favorite pastimes while on the ship was playing Bingo. While we didn't win anything, we still had a fun time! Mom almoooooost won the jackpot on the last day!
Ladies lookin' good! :)
We continued to head south to our last stop of the trip, which was Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada. It was a beautiful city. We didn't have a lot of time so we just walked along the streets admiring everything. 
This is a beautiful, old hotel, called The Empress.
This was so funny. Brent got pulled into a street show! He was throwing pins and juggling right along with this guy! The crowd loved it. In return for his participation, the man gave Brent a lottery ticket. Unfortunately, we are not millionaires. It was fun, though!
I love this photo of the capital building. Doesn't it look almost whimsical with the carriage and lights?
 And that was the last of our cruise stops. The next day, we arrived back in Seattle where we all parted ways and headed back to our neck of the country. Brent and I traveled completely across the country and back! What a memorable trip. :)

If you ever get the chance to go to Alaska, go.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer summary.

I don't quite understand how I've updated less during the summer when I'm not working every day, than during the hectic school year. And now summer is almost over [mixed feelings]. But that's for another post.

Quick recap of the last month:
Lots of reading [I love this aspect of summer].
Not having internet for almost 3 weeks [verrrry long, frustrating story].
Amazing weeklong Responsive Classroom training [one reason I am so excited for school].
Appointments that don't fit in during the school year [eye, teeth, car, internet, internet, internet].
Brittany coming for a quick visit [we witnessed an anime convention together, I'm just sayin'].
PandaMania VBS at church [fun but oh so different from the good ol' days at FCC]
ALASKAN CRUISE [so monumental that it will get a post of its own soon, with pictures].
Passing the one year mark of moving to MD [seriously can't believe it's been 1 year already].
Planning for the school year [trying to get ahead of the game a bit].

At the end of the school year, I remember saying I would post soon about some of my goals for the summer. [Quick check back to the ol' blog . . . yep, never happened]. As the summer draws to a close, I've been reflecting on what I have and have not done over the summer as I had planned. I have: done some lesson planning, made necessary appointments, became more consistent in reading my Bible daily, tried some new recipes, worked out often, visited the farmer's market, read some books just for fun, hung out with Brent lots, and made the bed almost everyday. I have not: done as much school prep and planning as I wanted, updated the blog often, played around with my camera to become more adept with it, lost weight, memorized much scripture, or bought a pair of TOMS.

But I must say that it's been a relaxing, lovely summer. Compared to last summer's events: finishing teaching year 1, watching Brent graduate, planning the wedding, getting married (!), honeymooning in Mexico, moving across the country, and starting a new job . . . it was nice to have a chill summer this year. As always, though, the summer has passed so very quickly. I hope to make the best of these next 1-2 weeks until the school routine sets in again. [School doesn't start until after Labor Day here, so weird!]

I catch myself reflecting so often on how life has changed since we moved over a year ago, and I can say that we truly do like it here in MD. We miss our families dearly, but we are blessed to be here. I love looking back on the people we've met and the situations we've been in that we would be missing out on if we were somewhere else. I love knowing that we have a God with a plan, even when we can't see it yet.

Another post will come soon about our cruise! I can't even begin to describe how beautiful it was. Picture preview [more to come!]:

Glacier Bay National Park, AK

Hoping you are enjoying the end of your summer or beginning of your school year! God bless!