Monday, May 31, 2010

Cashew Clusters

I am officially in love with a new snack food: Kirkland Signature Cashew Clusters with Almonds and Pumpkin Seeds from Costco:

By no means low cal, but sooo yummy & at least healthier than processed junk, (that I already eat my fair share of. ;-))

NC/MI Lists

OK, I am freaking out that we only have a few days left here in NC. There just aren't words for how badly I wish JB could come down here, so we don't have to leave. His absence is the only (albeit MAJOR) flaw here. I want him here, so we don't have to leave the life I've wanted to live for years: close to my mommy & my 98-year-old Grandmommy, my BFFs Wendy & Christa, as well as more people that we went to college with than any other area, (and where people actually *know* what Davidson is,) the best neighbors in the world that we feel comfortable enough with to let them take our kids anywhere & have sleepovers after we've all shared dinner together & made s'mores by their fire pit, my happiest weather climate (no 50's during summer months whatsoever), and my home culture. (There really is a difference. Check out the confirming comments here, and that's only re: one single aspect of life. I don't want to live in a place where the norm is to be reserved & buttoned up; I'm not saying that's "wrong", but it's just not comfortable to me or how I want my kids to be.)

But I know God is sending us right now for a reason, so I need to psyche myself up for this. I'm gonna make some lists.

Southern staples I want to take with me back to exile ;-) up north:
* Duke’s Mayonnaise
* Ariston balsamic vinegar [I am a balsamic connoisseur, and this is the most amazing I've ever had for less than $40 a bottle, (& this is less than $10!) The Meat House here carries it = heaven!]
* The cucumber plant Will already has started & a tomato plant (although it's too late here for planting tomatoes, so I may not be able to find one!) so that I can have summer veggies on a Southern growing timetable instead of the northern (which is a month or two behind - their strawberries haven't even begun, yet, but we've been picking since April!)

Awesome things to look forward to in MI:
* Douglas J Aveda Institute - the cheapest, best quality spa & salon ever!
* Sweet & Sassy - Sissy's FAVE place to get special occasion hair-do's just opened there near 12 Oaks Mall, (and the Charlotte location closed last year)
* Cheap cherries - Mmmm! Most people go on about MI apples, but they don't seem as special as the cherries to me! (NC has great apples, too, but not cherries!)
* Lawash - the most delicious Mediterranean flat bread, like flour tortillas but WAY better! They make the best wraps, panini, & quesadillas ever, and since southeast MI has such a huge Arab population, it's readily available.

Decent start...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

1 Day in Heaven

We took a day trip to my heaven on Earth Thursday - Charleston & Isle of Palms, SC. We will live in that area FOR.EH.VER one day. (It's been our fervent prayer for years now, and although we've moved 3 times in the last 4 years, we have yet to get to settle where we *want* our family to be. One day God will certainly answer this prayer for us; I just pray it's not 30 more years down the road!!!) Our family's heart is there; JB & I both knew that was where we were meant to be the first day we were ever there together years ago...

It wasn't perfectly satisfying w/o JB there :'( but I *knew* I couldn't be thisclose to our heaven for this long and not go! (Plus, it's my mom's utopia, too. :-)) So on Thursday, we got in the car (me, mom, & the kids) at about 7:30 AM, drove 3 hours, and arrived in Charleston. We parked right beside the Market (goodness! their website & pics are wonderful! check it out to get a great, accurate feeling for the place!) for our traditional browse. It's my favorite thing to do in the city - sniff the sweetgrass baskets, sample benne wafers & cinnamon sugar almonds, and see all of the handcrafted wares. I have gotten some of my most complimented casual jewelry & bags there. I also got JB a "Father's Day/new house/missed you/praying for the future" present this trip! (Sorry, you'll have to wait on those details for another week or two. ;-)) Very excited! (And for you Market vets, they really spruced it up over the winter! They added bathrooms on the Bay Street end, they widened the walking areas, and they painted the dark old timbers in the ceiling white! So nice!) We went over to the barns so the kids could pet ALL the horses & mules that pull the carriages around town, and then we ate lunch - fried green tomatoes & stone ground (the only acceptable kind!) grits for me. We had to go past Sissy's bronze statue of a dancing girl in a courtyard on Church St right south off the Market. (Does anyone know the name or details of that statue? I didn't even think to look! We just always have to let her go & pose with it! :-))

We were going to let the kids get a fresh piece of candy - like a praline or chocolate creation at Market Street Sweets - but they wanted Twizzlers and M&Ms; sorry - no way am I paying for something I can get at the grocery store at home in CHARLESTON! So we compromised on ice cream, since we don't have a Ben & Jerry's by us up north. (We were spoiled having one we walked to in Davidson during college!) It's been a long time since I've gotten excited over a flavor, but oh.my.gosh: Bonnaroo Buzz! Aside from it being delish, Will & Sis went nuts b/c of the name - we call Bonnie Blue (our beagle) Bonnaroo sometimes, so it was just meant to be. ;-)

After dessert (about 2 PM) we got back in the car and headed over the bridges to "our" beach at Isle of Palms. IOP feels like home. We parked right behind the place we always stay, and it was hard for the kids to understand why we couldn't use "our" pool and "our" private beach access, just for this time. We had the most perfect afternoon you could ask for on the beach!!! Perfect weather, and honestly, I have NEVER felt the ocean that warm in May in my life! [It made me wish I could dive in, but since we didn't have a place to get cleaned up nicely before dinner, I held back. It was no big deal for the kids to get clean in the outdoor showers afterwards, but that was more than I wanted to deal with for myself, (and my hair!) so I only went in up to my thighs. :-P] We were out there for three hours, and it was simply ideal. My heart is made for the beach. It relaxes me like no other.

I was surprised at how easy it was to get us all presentable enough for a nice dinner in Mt Pleasant directly from the beach! On the way to dinner, we stopped at our beloved Publix bakery (where shopping is ABSOLUTELY my pleasure! ;-)) to get breakfast bread and a mango key lime pie to bring back to Charlotte. We ate dinner around 6:30 PM at another one of our regular restaurants, Locklear's, where Will had his fave shrimp and I had my fave corn fritters with tomato jam. Locklear's has an aquarium that my kids have been obsessed with for years. This visit, while we were waiting for our food, Sissy coaxed the zebra eel all the way out of his usual hiding hole - much to the amazement of the hostess! Ooo, one more special touch - the ladies' room had free "minute manicure" salt scrub/coconut oil hand treatments - just a tiny touch of luxury that capped off our day in a lovely way.

We were home before 11 PM that night, having had the most magical day touching a few highlights in our heaven on Earth. Lord, now if You could please see fit to get us there permanently, so we would want to use our vacay time to actually see other parts of the world... ;-)

Carolina May & TFLF Digiscrapped

Carolina May: we made chocolate marshmallow pretzels May 5th, just for fun. We went to Joe Gibbs Racing & the Carolina Raptor Center on May 12th. We met my friend Cindy (from college; we hadn't seen each other in 8 years since my wedding or really spent time together since college) and her two children at the Charlotte Nature Museum on May 20th. Cavalia was May 22nd.



Here's Taylor's Finish Line Festival last Sunday:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kid-isms

All kids have their own special -isms that only their parents really observe; these are some that I adore:

Will always called bathing suits "babe-ing soups" - I think that is the cutest (and actually hysterically accurate! :-P) thing ever, and now I refuse to call them anything else.

The kids have gotten into knock-knock jokes lately, but they're still really obnoxious, b/c they don't quite get the point, yet. They usually go:
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
Diaper.
Diaper who?
Diaper banana head!
[Followed by shrieking hysterics]

Today was the first time I've *ever* heard anyone say this next part, and I think it is utterly brilliant. After Sis offered a knock-knock dud, Will made a whooshing noise & said: "Shut the door on you." As in, "Your joke tanked. You can knock, but I will shut the door on you." I sat in wonder at him for a minute, just smiling. He cracks me out! ;-)

Every night as I try to leave his room for him to go to sleep, he grabs my neck in a huge embrace and says, "You're just the BEST ever! I just don't want you to leave!" Often I'm in a rush to get out of there, b/c - to be honest - I've put up with them all day & I'm ready for my time; but I don't ever want to *not* treasure how precious he is and how awesome it is that he says that to me and REALLY MEANS IT every.single.night.

Chick-fil-A Cheers

I've already waxed rapturous over Chick-fil-A playing contemporary Christian music in all their stores, but I think this institution needs its own post. We have gotten so much free stuff from them! One day after the kids played on their playground, they brought around free cups of their divine peach milkshakes. Oh.my.heaven! I have gotten FOUR free chicken sandwiches from them, just for filling out the 1-minute online survey on the bottom of my receipts. Last week, they sponsored a Cop On Top event, where a policeman sits up on some scaffolding for 72 hrs to raise money for Special Olympics, and they had all sorts of free stuff all three days. The kids got SIX coloring books, made wooden sailboats from Home Depot, and got 2 free 8-piece nugget cards and 2 free Icedreams. I don't think I can bear to leave Chick-fil-A at the end of next week...

I posted on FB that I'm turning into a life-sized Icedream swirl... (Icedream is their vanilla soft serve & I notoriously *hate* soft serve over regular ice cream, but this is so light & refreshing, I can't contain myself!) One of my friends was saying today how amazing Chick-fil-A's customer service is & how the employees are the nicest people ever. They only hire humble, sweet, serving-hearted people. I said, "I know their jobs actually depend on it, but can you imagine if people in churches acted like Chick-fil-A employees?" Whoa... Too bad I'm not a preacher - now *THAT'S* a sermon topic!!! :-D

Monday, May 24, 2010

Finish Line Festival & tobyMac

We had the most wonderful time yesterday at Taylor's Finish Line Festival! It was a big event put on by Joe Gibbs' family in honor of his 5-year-old grandson Taylor finishing 3 years of chemotherapy and his leukemia officially being in remission with all proceeds going to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Levine Children’s Hospital. Go through the website for all of the details, but they put on a fantastic benefit festival!

As we arrived, we came into the giant bake sale by Cookies for Kids' Cancer. You talk about utopia: there were so many tables filled with fresh, delicious baked goods - we got M&M cookies, brownies, & molasses ginger cookies = heaven! - and it was "take as much as you want for whatever you feel like donating." How wonderful is that? (I think by human nature, people will always be happier about donating more when they don't *have* to. I hope so, anyway!) The kids also got to decorate their own cookies with icing & sprinkles, and then we got to watch 6 of the real NASCAR pit crews do a cookie-eating relay race, which was really funny. We walked a little further in, and they had more inflatable jumpies and kids' rides than we have ever seen in one place - all free, no extra tickets needed to ride = again, awesome. The Home Depot had a tent set up where the kids got their own personalized work aprons, and they got to build a #20 (Home Depot - Joey Logano) race car. One of his real pit crew was making one with his son beside us, and he signed both of the kids' cars. When we walked further, we actually ran into Joey Logano himself (Sissy's fave NASCAR driver) and he also signed the #20 cars they'd just built.
Will wanted to find his fave, Kyle Busch, and we *did* see him, but he was up on a platform running an r/c car race. Denny Hamiln came down, though, (he's our other fave!) and not only did he sign Will's hat, but he actually waited for us to take a posed pic with him! (It doesn't sound like a big deal, but to wait on 2 squirmy kids when he was waiting to ride off on a golf cart? I appreciated that!)
We were pretty excited that we got to see all 3 of our most favorite drivers in person. :-) We also got a lot of free sponsor stuff, which the kids are so proud of.

After spending all afternoon with baked goods, jumpies, rides, free stuff, & their NASCAR heros, we went into the stadium section and saw a breathtaking motocross exhibition before tobyMac. I don't give a flip about bikes, but the crazy tricks these guys were doing on motorcycles were really impressive! Then it was time for tobyMac. For those of y'all who aren't familiar, he's a hip hop/rap/funk artist who sings really positive, super fun music! He's a Christian artist with mainstream appeal; this was a secular festival, and he was still the headliner - AWESOME!!! He sang EVERY.SINGLE.SONG I wanted him to, even an older one that we used in my first recital teaching at The Studio in Georgia years ago, ("Irene"). I can't explain how awesome it felt to be there singing & dancing to music like "Made to Love", "Lose My Soul", "City on Our Knees", & "Get Back Up" together with my mom & kids. (My mom & I have ALWAYS loved going to concerts together. We used to go see stuff like Dave Matthews together when I was in college. :-)) Will & Annelise had a BLAST dancing & singing the words they recognized.
Will kept standing behind me on the bleacher and holding his arms around my neck - precious beyond words. Then my mom & I were also holding Sis as she balanced on the edge of the bleacher back in front of us - we have GOT to get her into gymnastics! We were floored at how well she danced (& jumped!) on that thin ledge, even with us holding her hands. :-) (Will also had a ball flirting with the young ladies (~13 or 14?) behind us! ;-) He wanted us to all go home together. Seriously. Heaven help me!!!)

Lost Thoughts

***SPOILER ALERT!!!*** If you watch Lost, but haven't watched the finale, yet, stop reading past this paragraph. One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is people spilling the beans & ruining surprises for others. We weren't home last night (more on the AMAZING Taylor's Finish Line Festival & tobyMac coming!) and I was so disappointed that several people posted details on FB for me to read as we rode home, before I could watch this morning. I will never do that w/o warning!

I have had a love/hate relationship with Lost. I almost let it go several times, but JB always kept watching, so he kept me in. (Plus, I am the biggest sucker for pop culture you've ever met; if "everyone is talking about it", I want to be in the know!) Of course, it's just a show, (and not even my favorite!) but it's left a lot on my mind today. I think it's inevitable when you've wondered about a set of characters for 6 years.

Nursing moms spend A LOT of time on the couch, and whenever I think of Lost, I think of Will as an infant. It started the month after he was born, and for whatever reason, I vividly remember nursing him to sleep for the night on the couch while watching Lost with JB each week. It's just a really happy, content memory. :-)

I'm actually glad the show is over. Keeping up with it was about to drive me mad! :-P That said, I was still left rather unfulfilled by the finale.

I got misty with each sweet "awakening" revelation of love, and I would have thought it was a great episode had it not been the very last. I totally appreciate their "love conquers all" point, but I'm a little irritated that all the scientific & logistical details apparently mean nothing, when we've been wracking our brains all this time trying to understand them. Yes, I get that in life, most of the details & logistics we stress over don't matter and what truly matters most is love & faith; but this is *scripted TV* and I wanted more answers, (esp. from a show which prided itself on making a big deal out of these questions!) :-P My friend Lindsay put it well: "We're just left with the fact that nothing mattered except Jack "saving" the island and everyone reconnecting in the afterlife. The rest of the story was apparently just fluff that we weren't supposed to care about. ...If it was only about the relationships, then you have to agree that the following don't matter: time travel, jacob, smokey, walt, aaron, electromagnetism, desmond as a constant, farraday as a variable, course correction, dharma, the big pendulum-in-the-church way of finding the island, why widmore wanted to go back there, where the others came from...the list goes on and on." Exactly - if it's all about the relationships, apparently all that weird stuff I was trying to wrap my brain around & hoping to understand in the finale means nothing.

Since Kate really did get off the island the 1st time with Aaron, why was he a baby in the church, since we know he lived until at least 3 or something? Why wasn't Walt in the church? Why was Vincent (an angel! now HE made me cry!) not in the church, either? What did Widmore ever want with the island?

Lindsay has some more great ones, too: "Dharma had an *ultimate* purpose, but how did they even find the island if Jacob didn't bring them there? Why were they ever hopping through time? What was the point of that? So they could end up in 1977, blow up a statue, so babies could die...etc. Also, babies/moms dying on the island after the statue of Tawaret [BTW - Sues *just* got that connection :-P] blew up - why? Was she the real god of the island and angry that her statue was gone? If she was the real god, what was the deal with Jacob? If you turned Man-in-Black's wheel, why did you end up in the Tunisian desert? If Jacob was island-bound, how did he get off the island to touch people to bring them there? And what was the point of the Temple, Dogen, and the dirty water that Sayid drowned in and then was magically resurrected from? Things just keep popping into my head the more I think about it. And I hate that. I have a headache now."

Amen.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cavalia

We were really blessed today - a friend of mine from church growing up posted on Facebook that she had free tickets for today to Cavalia. (It's a show like Cirque du Soleil with horses!) The kids were enthralled - we all liked the horse stunts better than the acrobatics. Will said, "It was better than a show with knights, b/c there were more horses." Sis said it made her "sooo happy!"
 








Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kids' Faith & Southern Christian Culture

My kids have come up with a few gems lately that have just - as Will says - "cracked me out!" We made Resurrection Rolls on Easter, and boy, did that concept stick with them! I've heard them in the back seat of the car twice now playing with kleenex & saying, "OK, this is how we wrap Jesus' body, and then after 3 days, LOOK! There's nothing there! He has risen!" :-)

Will is also obsessed with asking about heaven & God - what is heaven like? How big is God? How can He be everywhere? Etc., etc. I know those big questions totally freak some parents out, but I *LOVE* them!!! I love explaining my ideas and esp. telling him that sometimes I don't know, either. I always want him to know I am telling him the truth; I don't ever want to make up stuff, just b/c the answer is hard. I want us to talk it out together.

While walking through the mall yesterday, (yes - I pulled the trigger on the Old Navy swim sale; went with that top & board shorts :-)) the kids begged to go into the Christian Book Outlet. Cool, I thought. (I also thought, "How perfectly Southern is this place?" But more on that tangent shortly...) I found two perfect books there for them, (b/c Sis is just as interested; Will just does most of the question initiation.) What Is God Like? and What Is Heaven Like? both by Beverly Lewis
We started with the Heaven one last night, and although we're just curious about heaven in general, it really would be the perfect book to soothe a child's mind after someone has died. Each page has the main child asking someone in his life a question about heaven, and then there's scripture at the bottom of each page to back up the response - very cool. We only read half last night before bed, but I'm really excited for the God one. The premise is: "Before a father leaves for his longest business trip yet, he encourages his son and daughter to remember, 'Even when I'm not here, God is always with you.' After he leaves, the boy and his little sister spend a fun-filled day and star-filled night remembering everything their father told them about their heavenly Father. He is powerful, loving, everywhere, all-knowing, perfect, merciful, unchanging, creator, and a Father who wants to be known, talked to, obeyed and worshiped. With imaginative text, Bible verses and inspiring full-color illustrations, Beverly Lewis and Pam Querin take difficult concepts and bring them to life in the minds of children--and parents too."

So back to Southern Christian culture - having been gone for years and then not just visiting for a week, but living back here for over a month now, it is amazing to me the difference in the openness of Christianity in the South. I MISS IT! It's the entire premise of the book my MOPS girls gave me last month before I left, and I totally took it for granted as the norm growing up; but coming home now I see how really true it is. I know I'm making a very sweeping generalization, and there are certainly exceptions, but faith feels like such a private, personal, *quiet* thing up north. Down South, it's very open. There are like 10 Christian radio stations, everyone's children go to not only their own VBS each summer but to their friends' at other churches, too (& VBS goes from infant up - not just elementary school), and people *love* talking about their church and esp. what God is doing in their lives - not like it's a private thing. We're going to a big NASCAR (yes, I admit - I have completely succumbed after growing up here totally avoiding it; thank you, Will) event on Sunday, and the headliner before the fireworks is a major contemporary Christian artist. (TobyMac!!! I am soooo excited! I'll blog more about this later, too. :-)) I can't see that happening at a secular event up north. Cook-Out is a North Carolina burger chain that has the most divine milkshakes (I am addicted!) and they have Bible verses on all their cups & paper products. Chick-fil-A plays contemporary Christian music in their restaurants; so does the CiCi's Pizza here. It's just so "normal" to constantly have that happy little influence in the background of your life here, almost a constant subconscious reminder. I want that environment for my kids...

I certainly don't mean every Southerner is walking around like a preacher or that it's the only cultural influence by far; I don't think that people here who aren't Christians feel utterly dominated by it. But for those of us who look for & recognize it, the influence is openly everywhere, and I value that.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

State of Us

A lot of sweet people have been asking how we're doing, and since I am the queen of introspection, of course I'm going to blog it in detail. ;-) Honestly, I am SO relishing sharing daily motherhood with *my* mom - so many women & young moms who live with their own mothers near by just completely take it for granted. This is AWESOME! No one understands me (& my emotions) like my mommy.

And OF COURSE we miss JB sooooooooo much...but - this guts me to admit - it doesn't feel like such a dramatic separation. He has worked such long hours for 4+ years, it doesn't feel that strange not to have him around; esp. when we have both LaLa & Grandaddo home with us EVERY night, it actually feels like we have more family around than ever.

But GOOD NEWS: JB's hours - at this point - are "normal"!!! Like out of there by 5:00!!!!! I am praying SO HARD this is how it stays; I told him he better fight to preserve this. :-) My biggest prayer is that this move gives us our complete family unit back. (Annelise has never known what it's like to have him not work most weekdays until after 10 PM; Will probably doesn't remember, either - he was 18 months when we left Georgia, which was the last time JB had reliable hours.) I want to get back to the point where time apart like this would *kill* me. :-) [Let me be clear: this is NOT an issue of love or devotion!!! It's just a question of what "normal" time together has devolved into.]

Having the kids out of school so early is weird and less than ideal. I want us to keep busy here and do as many interesting things as we can, b/c I won't take the "I'm bored!" song and dance ramping up early, before school is technically even out! :-P We are keeping up with Will's phonics workbooks, (he uses the "Explode the Code" series,) and his Montessori we just left is sending the next workbook he would have gotten had we stayed, so he can keep going. I want him to be ├╝berconfident starting 1st grade! Sis will go back into Montessori, so I'm really not worried about her at all.

It still doesn't feel very real to me that we're moving; it just feels like we're on a looong vacay while JB works. I haven't even seen our new house in person, you know? (I went in another house with the same floor plan in the same sub, but not the house we got.)

I'm scared next month is going to be gut-wrenching, when it sinks in that we've really had to leave Naperville AND North Carolina. I am scared of loneliness & isolation there, again. (Although if JB's hours stay changed, that will remedy SO MUCH of the sadness I felt last time there.) I did make more friends my first 3 months in Naperville than I did in 3 years in MI, though, and leaving that feels insane. Plus, here the kids are virtually living with the next-door neighbors, and they will both be crushed when they can't just go back-and-forth all day. (They even had another sleepover Friday night, and Sissy stayed over there all night, too!)

I have no clue what this new season is supposed to draw out of us... In typing this post out, I think maybe I've realized one of our big goals is to majorly focus on our family unit of four. As always, I'm sure that we're supposed to lean on God until we "get it", but it sure does hurt to think of leaving our "real life" in Naperville and our "dream life" in NC in 3 weeks...

So I'm NOT thinking about it! :-P And hopefully "real life" in MI will have a better definition with us actually being together more than just Saturday & Sunday b/t naps. :-) We are still so excited for all the adventures we want to have while we're here, too! So, yeah - we're really missing JB, but loving life here, and praying for an awesome future. See, I told you I was an open book!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bathing Beauty?

I did the most dreaded thing a girl can do today: bathing suit shopping. It was half-hearted for a myriad of reasons: #1 - UGH! It's *bathing suit* shopping! #2 - My cheapness didn't want to buy one, even though they are over 50% off this week at Old Navy, b/c I have one at home that actually makes me feel like a sun goddess. The problem is, it's not *here* - it's packed in a moving box in storage somewhere.

The positives: their suits were really cute and WAAAAAAY cheaper than my awesome-but-$$$ Land's End one. Plus, since our new neighborhood has a pool (that it BETTER be warm enough to use come June!!! I am NOT doing another cold summer like last year!) hopefully I'd need the use of another one.

Despite living on milkshakes and huge homecooked-by-my-mommy dinners for the last month, I still fit into the same size. (NOT that it isn't tighter, but yay that I didn't actually have to go up a whole letter. ;-)) And I LOVE the tanktini tops. LOVELOVELOVE them!



But honestly - what is up with the tiny tiny tiny bottoms these days?!?!?! I mean, they are so low-rise, high-cut, and stringy, why even wear any bottom at all? Is it a conspiracy b/t bathing suit manufacturers and estheticians: the tinier the bottoms, the more (& more often) waxing is needed? My super sensitive skin & I are so not on board. And I am not going walk around with my lady business almost exposed, either. (Does that make me sound "old"? I don't care!)

Plus, I understand there are some skinny girls out there, I but couldn't find a single style of bottom that didn't make me look HUGE, and I have a pretty good self-image. I know I'm not "fat". But holy muffin top! I've always had a tummy pooch; I had it before I had kids, and it's certainly not going anywhere now, but GEEZE! I just can't get over how awful those bottoms looked.

So, of course, I didn't buy one. And I'm not sure if I'll keep shopping around, slink back to Old Navy for one more desperate search (maybe pairing a tanktini top w/ board shorts?), or just avoid the things I'd usually wear one to down here, (we want to go to the beach for a day, our neighbor's pool opens this weekend, etc.) We'll see... but I do feel better having gotten that off my chest. ;-)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Race Cars & Raptors

Today I took the kids to the Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters and to the Carolina Raptor Center. They were SO excited to see the race cars of our favorite drivers being built, again
and I actually got a Joe Gibbs autograph (he'd been in earlier, signed a few cards for people, & left them at the front desk) so of course, I was over the moon, too. :-) What an amazing and bold man of faith he is! (I can't wait for JB to read his Game Plan for Life book; it's packed in some moving box right now - argh!) ♫♪Hail to the Redskins!♪♫

We then headed over to the Carolina Raptor Center, also in Huntersville, for their awesome 3/4 mile nature walk through their outdoor aviaries. Here's the map & details. It was gorgeous, and the surprise hit of the tour was not the 6 massive bald eagles...but the common barn owl. They were excited to see a "Moonface" like on Zoboomafoo in person. :-)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Mother's Day has been quiet: no [Daddy-prompted] kid-made cards or gifts (although they color pics & cards for me regularly all the time!) and no special also-Daddy-initiated pampering, (but that's only b/c Daddy isn't here with us. He said I should keep an eye out for the mail tomorrow, though! :-D) But even without the tremendous fanfare, this Mother's Day has been such a blessing! This is the first Mother's Day that I've gotten to spend with my mom in *YEARS*!!! (Like 10, not just 2 or 3!) We relaxed this morning on the couch together, her with the paper, me digiscrapping on my laptop. This afternoon, we took the kids to Concord to pick up my Grandmommy & her sister to go for ice cream - one of their favorite things. Four generations together - again, such a blessing. :-) Getting to be here and see Grandmommy (she's 98!) so much is just priceless.

Thank you to my awesome husband for giving me my dream job of being a stay-at-home mom!
(And to my mother-in-law & friend Karen for sending me sweet cards!)

And here's the present I gave myself, in a morning of catching up on digiscrapping:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Swagger Wagon

What is a Swagger Wagon? Check out this video by my friend Jody from high school who is now a big time Hollywood feature film director!!! (You mommy friends are gonna LOVE this!!!)


[The video is widescreen, so it's a little cut off here; if you want to see it full-out, click on the title in the video box.]

How awesome is that?

So, my swagger wagon & I had some issues this morning. I went to get in, (b/c mom & Hershel were gone all day, & I wanted to do something fun with the kids,) and it was dead as a doornail. We got it jumped long enough to get it to the repair shop; the battery was shot, (and it was also in need of a transmission fluid flush & the right outer tie rod needed to be replaced, (don't I sound like I know exactly what I'm talking about? :-P) so we went ahead on those, too, since they needed to be done before we head back north in June.) So, I got to juggle two antsy kids in the boring waiting room for 2+ hours. Yay. Will brought his train book, and Sissy played make-believe beauty parlor, giving us special hair do's. There was also a gas station next door, so we walked over, and it was one of those good old places in the South that serves hot lunch like a restaurant. They also had Mayfield Ice Cream (we used to live down the road from the Mayfield Dairy when we lived in Georgia!) but I made the kids eat the Friday Special with me first: pulled pork barbeque, mac & cheese, and broccoli (that just happened to also be smothered in cheese with bits of BACON!!! Mmmm...) We also picked up two NC map postcards for the kids to write & send to their Montessori school they just left. The service guys finally said they'd give us a ride home & call when it was finished - thank goodness!!! We arrived home right as the school bus holding the kids' neighbor playmate did, so the kids have been in 7th heaven. Definitely an inconvenience, and certainly NOT the $500+ we wanted to have to spend; but it turned out to be a not-so-bad day otherwise! :-P

A House

So, soon we will no longer be homeless. We signed a lease and will move in the first weekend in June. We actually ended up getting another house in the same subdivision where we first looked last month and found that first house that fell through. It's even the same floor plan, so super praise that we didn't have to spend the money to fly me up to check it out. (I'm also excited that we don't have to head up there right away; there are still so many things we want to do while we're here, and knowing that we have all of May makes me sigh with major relief!)


I really didn't think that we would end up with newer construction. Everything in our price range was fairly old, and not that that's bad; but we are just new construction people, if we have a choice. We've always lived in new, except for the house we just left. It was 20+ years old and certainly had the issues that come with age and - quite honestly - neglect from the owner. (I don't mean to sound snobby - we'd happily be all about fixing them up, if we were buying these homes; but since we're renting, b/c we don't want to get stuck where we don't want to settle, we just have to deal with all of the little problems, which actually makes it more irritating.) But this house is fairly new (2008) in a young subdivision that is just finishing being built-out, (quite a feat in MI - most new subs have just been left unfinished in the bad economy.) People *want* to live there! They're still choosing to build, which is just mind-boggling for that area. It's a neighborhood a lot like our beloved one in Georgia, that I wasn't sure we'd be able to get back into anytime soon. It has a neighborhood pool, (a reach feature I had only dreamed about for MI; they're just not as standard as they are down South b/c of the weather,) clubhouse, playground, and scenic walking trails that wrap around cool ponds.

The area elementary school is on the corner and backs right up to the neighborhood. It's one of the best elementary schools in the state, (super key for us!!! We would choose to live in a less-than-ideal home right now to get Will into the best school possible. He's starting 1st grade this fall, and the kids' education is way more important to us than any other location factor.) Just down from the school is a little shopping center that *is* over half empty, but what they *do* have in there sent me over the moon: a coffee/tea/soup/sandwich shop!!! It is adorable, and they even have relatively cheap prices. I asked if they served bubble tea when we were there last month, and the girl behind the counter said they were hoping to start this summer!!! Of course, I flipped into enthusiasm overload & told them if we moved there & they got bubble tea that I'd be in 3 times a week and would advertise all over for them. :-P

The house itself is great - same size we last owned (plenty big, although not as big as our 80's mansion we just left ;-)) with 4 bedrooms, (awesome, b/c we were fully ready to sink down to 3 to get into this school district; so yay for all you guests!) From the listing: 2-1/2 bath. Living & dining. Family room w/ fireplace. Master suite w/ huge walk-in master closet. Spacious open floor plan, 2 story foyer, kitchen w/ island and nook overlooking family room. Plenty of windows, great natural light. Granite countertops in kitchen. Large unfinished basement. [To store all of the boxes that we probably won't unpack at this house, either! Ha!]

So yeah, yay for having an address, and also yay that we don't have to go right this second. :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jonah

I have to be honest. I really felt like Jonah today. I can't shake wanting to run away from where God's telling us we should go. :'( We settled on a house (details about it in an upcoming post) and I had to sign & fax the lease back up north. I think I was just so hoping something else would come up South before we had to pull the trigger on this. Don't get me wrong - the house (although it's more than we wanted to spend) is exactly what we wanted: in a great neighborhood and with a perfect elementary school for Will, which was our #1 priority this whole time & why we had so much trouble finding something, b/c we wouldn't settle for anything but the best for him. It's also not that I don't appreciate the sweet friends we already have there. It just feels like we're going backwards instead of moving forward toward our family's personal goals.

I know that I know that I know God is sending us there for a reason, and He will bless us through this; I also know it's totally not forever, so we'll deal. And at least we're not being transferred to Nineveh! ;-)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Will's Future

Will decided when he grows up that he wants "to be a guy who finds money for people who need it." JB & I were excited: "Oh, Buddy! That's a great idea. That's called a fundraiser, and they do great things for people. That would be a great job for you, b/c you love talking to people, and you're so sociable. Will you invite Mommy & Daddy to come to some of your big fundraising events?"

"No, that's not what I mean. I want to be a money explorer!"

"You want to search for treasure?"

"No, no. I want to help people who have lost their money find it. Like if they had $20 and it's gone, I can help them search their house & find it...and then they could give me some for helping."

Silly Mommy & Daddy. What were we thinking?

He's also shown quite an interest in politics lately. NC held primaries yesterday, and since we're not residents, I couldn't vote; but Will has been highly engaged in our neighbor's support of one of the District Attorney candidates. It has been hysterical to hear him point out his signs as we drive around town, and apparently he was chatting up people in the stands about the candidate when he went to our neighbor's baseball game with their family last week.

Maybe he really could be POTUS after the 2040 election...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sissy's 4th Bday Digiscrapped

I know these pages are busy & cluttered, but this *IS* me editing the number of photos down significantly! :-P

Devotional Snippets

Here are a few devotionals I've received over the last two weeks that have stuck with me.

From 411God:

I endeavor to be a Proverbs 31 mom, who is:
Proverbs 31:25-27 (New Living Translation)
25 ...clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.

and

Do you remember Leah from the Bible?
Genesis 29:31-35 (New Living Translation)
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children.... 32 So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "The Lord has noticed my misery...."
33 She soon became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She named him Simeon...."
34 Then she became pregnant a third time and gave birth to another son. She named him Levi...."
35 Once again Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, "Now I will praise the Lord!" And then she stopped having children.

Do you recognize those names Levi and Judah? Well, you probably recognize the names of some of their distant ancestors: Moses, David, Jesus. When you think of Leah from now on, remember, you are never forgotten. And you, just like this tiny story in the Bible, paint a beautiful line to something bigger.


From my friend Amy, by David Jeremiah:

The Predictable: God's Love
"Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." ~Romans 5:5

Our God is full of surprises. He tailor-makes every miracle; He individually designs every life. Every day is different, and His every deliverance is unique. Yet He is never capricious, changeable, erratic, or unstable. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amid the complexity of His manifold ways, there is the solid foundation of His love.

We can always count on that. The Bible longs for us to understand "what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge" (Ephesians 3:18-19). According to the apostle John, the more we understand the shoreless ocean of God's love, the less we'll fear the choppy waters of life, for "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

If you feel your life is unpredictable and unstable right now, focus on His steady, unchanging love. Thank Him for "the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us" (Romans 5:5, Phillips). Resting in the predictable and perfect security of God's love will bring revival to our souls.


And finally, a passage I saw on FB:
Psalm 73:21-26
21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Horses & Strawberries

Yesterday we took the kids around the corner to the Marvin Area Recreational Equine Show (MARES) that was almost in my parents' backyard. It was really cute! There were 8 craft & game stations for the kids, face painting (my kids are obsessed!), dressage & hunter/jumper demos, miniature horses, and a hayride over to a petting zoo that had all the usual suspects, as well as camels and a zebra!


Will & Annelise also took their first trail rides! Smaller horses were offered, but both of my kids asked to ride the two biggest - bursting with pride over here! (My mom was a hunter/jumper competition rider growing up, and I rode some in high school.) I was so excited that the kids weren't the least bit intimidated. (Just b/c they think they love something doesn't mean it can't scare them; we thought Will would be all over every animal at Sissy's bday, but he was crazy anxious over a number of them. Surprised! But so after that, I wasn't sure what he'd think of the horses.) I showed him which foot to put in the stirrup, and that was it - he hiked his other leg over & pulled himself up w/o another word from me and was ready to go! (They used Engilsh saddles, too, instead of Westerns with pommels - extra awesome! I wanted them to be able to feel close to their horses.)



Annelise looked so tiny on her horse, (check out how far her feet are from the stirrups! :-P) but she ADORED it!





After MARES, we went around the other corner from my parents' house to pick strawberries. Will & Sis loooove picking berries, and these were so big & gorgeous. We picked 12 lbs. in less than 10 minutes!!! (It was more like 6 or 7 min! We had to cut the kids off, b/c they're not used to getting so many so fast!)






As soon as we got home, we flat out ate half a carton with the sweet neighbors in the driveway.


We're going to dip some in chocolate, and we made a white sangria with some & fresh mint from the garden to sip during the Kentucky Derby. (Yes, we wore our hats and picked 2 of the top 3 horses! Too bad we never bet for real!!!) I also made my super basic & so delish strawberry pie. (Liz Smith gave me this recipe years ago, and it's just my favorite, b/c it's pure berry - no other stuff getting in the way!)

CRUST:
I have no qualms about using a store-bought. (I like the chocolate cookie crust, b/c what's better than chocolate & strawberries?) If you want to make one, kudos! :-)

FILLING:
1 cup crushed berries
3 tbls. cornstarch
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in water and crushed berries, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute. Put aside to cool.

When crust and mixture have cooled, place whole strawberries (de-stemmed and point-up) all around the inside of the pie crust, and then pour the mixture on top. Chill for about three hours.

(This recipe is amazing with raspberries, as well!)

Tweetsie PS

Growing up, our family had a rather fierce car competition on each ride up to Tweetsie. We kept our eyes peeled for Tweetsie billboards, and whenever we saw one, we'd scream as loud & fast as we could, "TWEETSIE SIGN FOR ME!!!!!!!!!" Whoever had accrued the most by the time we hit the parking lot, (b/c there was one last one we always forgot about right before the entrance, which always lifted us to the ultimate pinnacle of excitement,) was the big winner... and yes, we ALL cared. :-P

Ooo, what's that around the bend?



TWEETSIE SIGN FOR ME!!!!!!!!!

:-)

The Fudge Works is another famous part of Tweetsie. (Think Kilwin's, but not a chain. It's just this one candy kitchen!) It was the first place I ever watched fudge being made, and the smell of chocolate is just intoxicating! It's sweet (literally!) to be able to take a taste of Tweetsie home to help the magic last just a little bit longer.



I have become obsessed with the double-dipped candy apples (once in caramel, then in milk chocolate) which are then rolled in M&Ms. Mmmmmmm.

I just finished mine off ...so when are we going back?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tweetsie

Friday, we took the kids to Tweetsie Railroad. Tweetsie is a small theme park in the NC Mountains b/t Boone & Blowing Rock that revolves around a historical full-sized narrow gauge steam engine that really used to run through the area. The park opened in the 1950's; my mom went as a child; my whole family went every year growing up - even into my freshman year of college! And we started taking Will right before his 2nd birthday; Annelise was just 10 weeks old. Tweetsie is such a special place to us. I can't explain *what* it is that is so magical, but that place (& that train) casts a spell over all of us. The park is small, but so safe and clean. We relax there. Yes, relax! At a theme park! In the last few years, we've become friends with one of the engineers, (I can't believe in all those years that we had never done that before!) and now we feel like even bigger VIPs when we show up! :-) It was Opening Day, and the weather was divine: 80° in April in the mountains & not a cloud in the sky! Amazing. For the first time in any of our lives, we also actually got season passes! (They have a discounted special this weekend where season passes pay for themselves in two visits. We *know* we'll go at least once more sometime this year, and since we're here in NC for the time being, and we all love it so much, why not take advantage?!) Will is absolutely bursting over being an "official member" this year. :-P




With our friend, Engineer Scott:


Sooo, Tweetsie has a Wild West theme with cowboys & indians, and they sell cap guns in the gift shop. Will had never asked for one before...until yesterday. I thought I'd avoid it by saying, "We're not buying anything unless it says 'Tweetsie' on it." Then he found a wooden pop gun that did indeed have Tweetsie branded on the stock. :-P (I don't freak out over guns; my dad was a big hunter, and we were always taught to respect them. But no one in our family currently hunts anymore, so I'm just not big on playing with them when there are so many other things they could choose, you know?) Will would not let this pop gun go! He was adamant that this was his choice. It was certainly the most basic, old-school type there, (all carved wood with a colored pvc pipe piece you pump to pop the cork on the end.) So fine.

But then Annelise said that was her choice, too. My initial reaction was, "I don't want to get that for my little girl," ...but then I thought, "How sexist is that?! She deserves to defend herself just as well!" So, I give you Buffalo Will & Annelise Oakley:





(For what it's worth, Annelise is all about hers being a tranquilizer gun and playing Wild Recon in the yard, where she can then collect samples. ;-))

Finally, Annelise may be missing her tap recital this year due to the move, but the Tweetsie cloggers pulled her up onstage, and she was in heaven! She said she "can't wait to get back onstage for real!!!"