Monday, September 27, 2010

Vacay Bliss, Oprah's Favorite Things Theory, & Eel Love

I don't quite know how to blog about our ideal vacay spot (and please-Lord-future-home) any better than I did the one day we got to come down in May. There's just no way to include or describe all of the little sights, sounds, & smells that make my heart sparkle & make this place all that to us, so I'm not even going to try to be completely comprehensive. I'll offer tidbits w/o feeling guilty for leaving out stuff. :-)

First off, *HUGE thanks* to Grandma & Grandpa Blake for taking care of sweet Bonnie Blue beagle & everything back at our house!!! They went straight to our house after being there Saturday for both Will & Annelise's football/cheer games, so we could leave straight from the football field to get on the road. Priceless peace of mind!

We made the trip down to CLT in RECORD TIME: 9½ hours including 2 stops! We went a different way, and it shaved off well over an hour! We don't stop for anything but gas, (yes - we potty & get food then, too) and our kids are great travelers. They know that's what gets us there faster. (And we were only subjected to two kids' movies - Ratatouille & Nat Geo Swinging Safari along the way! ;-))

Second thanks to LaLa & Grandaddo for keeping the kids in CLT, letting JB & me come on down to IOP by ourselves yesterday for some time alone, and bringing them w/ this morning. Yesterday. Was. Wonderful. I took both a bath and a shower, b/c I could. We went over to our fave beach bar to watch all the NFL games, (you could have seen us here on the Club Cam!) and then we came back, got dressed up, and went out to our favorite special dinner spot, High Cotton. It's one of our most treasured traditions!

This morning, we woke up ON OUR OWN and went over to Coconut Joe's for breakfast on their open oceanfront porch. Very little can top breakfast literally on the beach, esp. when that breakfast includes grits cakes. Afterwards, we walked the beach until the storms rolled in (storms at the beach = gorgeous!!!) when we then decided to take our singular drive through one-of-our-hopefully-future-neighborhoods.

A few years ago we really spent a lot of time going over the different neighborhoods and real estate in Mt. Pleasant, SC. We looked at so many homes...and it ended up breaking my heart. JB & my mom are happy to dream, but I have a hard time focusing on amazing things I can't really have right now. I call it my "Oprah's Favorite Things Theory" - I don't watch Oprah, but I caught her annual fave things episode once, and I found myself obsessing over all this stuff that I had been completely content w/o an hour earlier. Suddenly I *needed* this & that and felt an actual void b/c I couldn't have them = ridiculous!!! Why would I do that to myself on purpose??? Soooo, I don't let myself "just check" on realtor.com for this area anymore; I'll save that for when God really sends us. :-) We did use the kid-free time to take a spin through a few of our fave neighborhoods really quickly this morning. (But no sales brochures! ;-))

Our family was reunited midday, the kids went swimming, and we went to dinner at one of our standards, Locklear's. They've had a big aquarium for as long as we've come, and the kids LOVELOVELOVE it! The zebra eel apparently only comes out for them, according to the hostess:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blood & Southern Women of Faith

In titling this entry, I considered "Nails & Southern Women of Faith" but if I were reading that, I'd assume the author had just gotten a blissful mani/pedi. I thought about "A Bloody Nail & Southern Women of Faith" but that sounds like I'm going to talk about Jesus sacrificing His life for us on the cross.

Nope. I'm talking about the blood of a 4 year old and a good old nail from Home Depot. Yesterday after school I made Annelise start cleaning the playroom. [She really trashed it this week (she's a big box-dumper) and Will ALWAYS gets stuck doing the majority of the clean-up, b/c she is sooooo bad & stubborn about not doing it. I wanted her to do the bulk of it this time, and I was going to sit there & monitor her while finishing my book.] She is painfully slow picking things up - the way she cleans is the reason I could never pack our house personally to move: picking up each piece, pausing to think about its significance/wanting to play with it, and wondering for a bit where I really want it to go. Mind-numbing. I finally barked at her to pick up the pace and told her what to grab and where to put it w/o thinking about it. 5 seconds later: a scream. Apparently, she & Will had broken apart the wooden box they had built at the Liberty Fest Home Depot craft tent, and b/c the floor was so covered with junk, she didn't see the block of wood with the exposed nails. It went DEEP into her foot. I was filled with sympathy & rage: my poor girl, but DAGUMMIT!!!!! *THIS* is why you keep the playroom clean!!! So you can see what's around you! And so broken stuff doesn't stay in there!!!

I cleaned the puncture, (PRAISE GOD for up-to-date vaccinations!) bandaged it up w/ the perfect Ariel band-aid, snuggled her a moment, and yes: it was back to cleaning. I kid you not - barely 5 minutes later the playroom was filled with more wailing: she had sliced her hand on a broken water glass.

SIDEBAR FOR THE DEFENSE: we would NEVER purposely allow nails or glasses in the playroom! This story is being retold purely for the commiseration of other precious parents who have also fallen victim to Perfect Storm days.

I admit, I fussed at her: "What was a glass like this doing in the playroom?!?!?!?! AGAIN, *THIS* is why you HAVE to keep it clean in there!!!" We were both so upset, and after 2 freak accidents in such a short span, we knew we had to give up for a bit. Worn out from crying, she fell asleep for a nap on the couch, and - knowing that I needed to calm down, too, and get some divine help - I sat beside her & FINALLY finished the book my sweet Naperville MOPS girls gave me when I left in April.

What Southern Women Know About Faith by Ronda Rich was just the most perfect book for me! It echoes the things I've always felt (and those which I saw confirmed during our time living at home this year.) I highlighted almost cover-to-cover, but some of the gems that made me want to say, "Yes! Amen!" out loud were the importance of roots and a sense of place to Southerners, (this is an esp. hard one for me with the moving we do); the fact that "rarely will a conversation of any length b/t two Southern women not allude to or outright mention spirituality"; praying for God's will above our own b/c "I'm not smart enough to know what I need to have"; the way Southern women so naturally and w/o hesitation or ANY awkwardness always ask their friends to pray for them for big & small things; that part of our famed Southern Hospitality stems from the way we vivaciously enjoy life, want everyone around us to enjoy it, too, and always thank God for it; that it also comes from the way we are so openly kind - using manners & acts of kindness to make people feel comfortable instead of being closed off & private; the way we openly grieve together, but at the same time, how strong we are: "you can never have too much steel in your magnolias."
 

I just loved this book to bits, and I love my dear friends for seeing my heart in it. That's one of the highest compliments I could receive.

PS - some may think this entry should have been two separate posts, but I wanted to show that I'm not trying to be a perfect preacher when I share my faith or spiritual lessons I've heard. I have my meltdown moments of sheer irritation with the best of them, but I share the things that help me precisely b/c I NEED THEM :-) and if I do, maybe they could help someone else, too! So blessings to everyone who has made it this far reading and prayers of grace for today over all of us! :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tired Praise

I'm tired. Really tired. This new schedule is wearing me out - in a GREAT WAY! I *LOVE* being on-the-go non-stop like this - but home & IOP next week are shining like even brighter beacons than usual. I desperately wanted to finish the book I started in April, so I could read another next week, but my eyes are so heavy, and I can't focus my brain to read [more than a minute at a time, so obviously FB isn't impacted ;-)] when we're at home on the couch. :-P

Weekend highlights: Will scored his FIRST TOUCHDOWN in a football game on Saturday! And I got to sing Sunday morning, which really filled me up. :-)

Weekend lowlights: ...you know, I'm not going to go there. It's nothing earth-shaking, so why dredge it up?

That actually segues nicely into something I wrote down last week & wanted to share here. (Thank you, God, for organizing my thoughts for me w/o me realizing it. :-D)

Y'all know I love Joyce Meyer, and her "Power Thoughts" series last week was great. (Go back & watch an episode, if you have a few minutes! Click here and scroll across the bottom to get to "09/16/2010 - Power Thoughts - Pt 4" or get her free podcasts on iTunes.) I took these notes one day that I wanted to share. We can ALL use them:

* How is complaining different than praising the devil?

* The biggest praise we can give God is being content (emotionally stable despite circumstances while He works them out.)

* "I trust God completely & don't need to worry." (The people who say, "I'm just a worrier. That's just my personality," are burdening themselves for no reason. Your worries do not honor God; you're confirming you don't have your full trust in Him.)



So now that I've hit you, too, with that spiritual baseball bat ;-) I'm going to thankfully have a[nother] Sof'ella Sin-Free Fat Free Brownie that Annelise & I made today :-) and pass out as soon as JB gets home...
 
(Want to share more thanks? Join Gratituesday at
Heavenly Homemakers!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

4½ Year Old 1st Haircut

Annelise & I have a secret. Last Friday after her school, we got her VERY FIRST HAIRCUT! Yes, EVER! She's 4½ and I've never even trimmed her bangs. Truth be told, I didn't even really want to do it now, either; but after spending all summer in the pool, those (poor baby hair) ends really did need to go. I thought I was going to cry, (which is one reason we kept it a secret; the other was that it was *our* special girl thing!) I felt churny & a little sad up until the first cut, but Sis felt like a BIG girl! We went to L'esprit, so she got the full salon experience! :-) Our stylist did a great job, and her hair is still long & luxurious, (not a soul has noticed any length difference!) but her ponytails are cleaner & prettier. I don't think it was as exciting as *she* thought it would be, [no glitter, no nail polish (this time), no fancy up-do, no Sweet & Sassy] but I'm good with that. I'm not up for her begging for trims all the time now. :-P The most exciting part to her? They popped her some fresh popcorn in the waiting area. :-D



Out the Door

I've been praying with Will & Annelise each day before school, after we get our shoes on, before we head to the bus stop. We pray for confidence, safety, great days, (and Annelise ALWAYS throws in her standard: "and we hope that we have a delicious dinner tonight and a delicious dinner tomorrow night." :-)) I am trying to be consistent with this; but yesterday morning as my hand went straight for the doorknob, Will launched right into his own prayer. OH. MY. HEART. All I could think was, "Yes, Lord! Thank you!" :-)

Quoteworthy

These quotes have run across my screen recently, and they speak volumes to me:

"I believe in the separation of church & hate." ~Rick Warren
[Take a cue from Matt Maher's "Hold Us Together"]

"The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been." ~Henry Kissinger
[I've learned a lot about true leadership in various positions over the last year.]

"We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out." ~Winston Churchill
[This plays well into the study of James we just had.]

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." ~Winston Churchill
[Pessimism *really* irritates me.]

"It's very sad how, in this 'information age', you cannot get information into people's heads. As long as you write something on the internet and do not add 'LOL', it's true." ~Bill Maher
[I hate Bill Maher's anti-faith tirades, but I'm proud not to be so brainwashed one way or the other that I can't glean some truth when it's offered, even if I don't agree with them across the board.]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Scrapper Will

Will got the BEST project assignment from his [*AWESOME*] 1st grade teacher: we had to make two scrapbook pages (one 12x12 page, front & back) all about him - the people who live in his house & all of his favorite things. (We had to use the "My Favorite Things" paper provided on one side, and she also sent home a picture of the example page she did for herself. :-)) You know I was ALL OVER this one!!! :-D Unfortunately (or rather fortunately!) since I don't do paper scrapbooking anymore and the few materials I still have are all packed up in the basement, we had to go super basic. It was definitely for the best, b/c all of these materials were his - not any fancy schmancy embellishments or papers from a craft store. They were all pieces of his stuff, which is the coolest, I think. We cut up an extra Kyle Busch M&M's racing fan card he had, two old Tweetsie brochures, a zoo map, Toys R Us mailer, and VBS bookmark. He had a few of his favorite animal stickers and a ton from his Cars activity book. I had 3 photos printed at Target - our last Christmas card, which had 3 family pics in it, one with him playing his 3 sports, and another with friends & Bonnie Blue - so we cut all those up, too. I think this turned our GREAT! (You can click on the pics to see them bigger, although they won't be as clear as my digital pages are, b/c it's just a photo - not a high-quality file for printing. :-))


Monday, September 13, 2010

Sportacular

What a spectacular sports-slammed weekend! Almost every second was filled with an event of some sort - live or on TV. Friday night we went back to JB's old high school's football game for the very first time since he graduated.

It was awesome, (...but it *did* make me homesick for CHS & Bailey Stadium. Every time their awesome band started up, I expected to hear the Concord fight song. *Sniff, sniff* :-))

Saturday morning, Will has his very first flag football game. The weather was surprisingly nice, and even though they lost, Will played great. He had both big runs & big tackles (chase-down flag-pulls) - very proud!


When we came back from lunch for Annelise's Saturday afternoon game to cheer, it was noticeably cooler, and she only got to cheer for 15 minutes

before a few claps of thunder ushered in rain that didn't stop the rest of the day. I am SO thankful for that thunder, b/c otherwise, we would've had to grin & bear it in the rain. :-P (I *do* love my new "COACH" shirt, though! :-D)

The NASCAR Sprint Cup race Saturday night gave our household cause to cheer some more, as our 3 favorite drivers finished 1, 2, & 4! (Yes, this is a big deal. ;-))

Sunday afternoon was Will's first soccer game, and apparently Thursday night's amazing practice was NOT a fluke: his soccer team won 14-0, he scored 4 of those & assisted several more. I actually *enjoyed* soccer on NFL opening Sunday! :-O So proud!!!



Sunday night topped off the weekend with my BELOVED Redskins BEATING the nasty dallas cowboys to start the regular NFL season. Now, this is a HUGE DEAL!!! :-D The perfect ending to a sportacular weekend! I hope all this winning becomes as normal as this new weekend schedule of ours, which runs through Halloween.
(PS - Spare me the speeches. I *know* winning isn't everything...but it sure makes boring soccer more fun, and it DOES mean everything for the Redskins. ;-))

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11: Where were you?

I was substitute teaching high school, but I got called off that day at the last second. That's the only reason why I was both home and wide awake. I watched the whole thing live as it happened on the Today show. Everyone else was at work, and I remember feeling so isolated, that I had no one to call and say, "Are you seeing this?!" We were planning our wedding, and one of our groomsmen lived & worked in Manhattan along w/ several other college buds - we were so anxious until we heard from them. I was glued to the TV from that morning through the next two weeks, nonstop. I craved information; I remember not ever wanting to turn it off, in case I missed the next development. My friend, Julie, & I actually took JB & her husband to a candlelight vigil in a school park the next night. I don't remember any details, but we all felt numb and like it was all we could do...

9/11 made me feel even more strongly that it is imperative to *WANT* to be an informed world citizen. Living in your own little life bubble in this information age seems like such an ignorant waste. How are we supposed to be good stewards of the world that God has given us, if we don't care what's going on in it? 9/11 is the defining "shared experience" moment of my generation. My sociology student/connection-obsessed-self so values hearing everyone's stories & experiences: where were you?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shuffle Settled & Will Unleashed

WHEW! It's all worked out now: football will start practicing on Saturdays before the games, which leaves Thursdays open for soccer now after tonight. (I *knew* God would work it out!!! THANK YOU, LORD!) Poor Will DID NOT want to leave football early tonight to make it to soccer, though. (Honestly, I didn't either. I hate soccer; football=♥ and I was also having the BEST convo with another parent couple: born & raised in DC, so of course we talked Redskins!!!) We made this soccer commitment, though, so I did my best to talk it up: "Buddy, the running in soccer will make you faster when you run in football!" He stopped fitting, but he was not convinced...until we got there & met the coach. This guy is AWESOME! An army veteran, so super organized, but extremely cheerleader-enthusiastic. He should do motivational training! He's all about learning the game & taking care of business, but with the most pleasant combination of relaxed positivity. Will had us staying after for almost 20 minutes talking; we found out he & his family actually live 2 streets over in our neighborhood, and his son (also on the team) rides Will's bus, so now Will has ANOTHER bus buddy. :-)

During practice, Will tore up that field. I think we had both forgotten a little bit just how *good* he can be at soccer, (if he doesn't get ejected for tackling. ;-) Hysterically enough, football could help with that, since there's no tackling, yet, in flag, either.) He was AWFULLY full of himself, (I actually heard him say, "I am the BEST player!" *trigger sheepish, apologetic Mommy blushing*) but he was just so full of adrenaline with the double-sports night. (And it's not like he didn't back it up! :-P) The last 15 minutes, they scrimmaged the 3rd Grade girls team who practiced beside them. 8 year old girls are way bigger than 6 year old boys, but Will DID.NOT.CARE. My favorite part about the way he plays is no fear. He will run down ANYONE, feeling zero intimidation. Our boys totally lost to the girls 5-2...but guess where the 2 came from? Oh yeah, baby. ;-)

I totally don't mean to make him sound like a lone wolf, (although I did say on the way home, "Buddy, we know you are the best, so let's not say that to other people on our team. Let's say, 'We have the BEST TEAM!'" ;-)) He LOVES his teams! He was freaking out cheering his teammates on when he was waiting to be put back in the scrimmage, and he is all about orchestrating "hands in" at the end of every sports practice:

(He even likes for us to do it at home: hands in and "Go family!" :-))

I love his drive and his loyalty.

School & Sports Shuffle

Have no fear - the bus DID arrive safely Tuesday afternoon (albeit 20 minutes late :-P)

with the correct children aboard and has been perfectly on time (even early yesterday afternoon) ever since. :-)

Will seems to really like school. He's becoming SUCH a "boy", though! When asked what his favorite part of the day was, he replied, "Recess." When asked what else, he replied, "Lunch." (What happened to my little Montessori intellectual?! :-P) I finally asked, "What was your favorite work that you did?" Writing workshop! They write a "3-line story" about whatever they want, and apparently he loves that. He said he wrote one day about the zoo, another about Annelise :-), and I think he'll bring them home Friday. I cannot wait to see what they really look like! On Mondays & Tuesdays they have PE, and on Wednesdays they go to the library, so he was excited to bring home the book he picked out yesterday. Can you guess the topic? Really Wild Life of Snakes: Taipans by Doug Wechsler (He said he also saw a NASCAR book, but he wasn't sure Kyle Busch was in it, so he passed. ;-))

I actually had to WAKE HIM UP for the first time IN HIS LIFE (other than the few times we've had to wake up before dawn for a trip) yesterday morning! He got up on his own today, but yesterday, he was EXHAUSTED. He's got both football and soccer practice tonight, so I bet I'll be waking him up tomorrow, too. (I'm just so glad he doesn't have to be ready for the bus until 8:30. Earlier would stink!)

Sports irritation: yeah, a little perturbed re: practices. Football & soccer both start their 1st games THIS weekend, (football Saturday, soccer Sunday.) Football has been practicing for 2 weeks now = awesome. The first anyone heard from soccer was emailed *last night*. (Not the coaches' fault; the league first met with them night before last.) I don't appreciate that they expect us to drop everything for their schedule at the last minute. Tonight, football is 6-7, soccer is 6:30-7:30. We'll make it work tonight (cutting football short, since it's the first night of soccer, and football is also practicing before their game Saturday, but soccer has no pre-game practice,) but I'm praying God will work out the rest of the practice season for us. (Hopefully more team members on one or the other have conflicts, too!) Will LOVES practice, so I don't want him to get short-changed on anything.

Sissy's activities are going great, though! Last night at cheerleading, I was happily surprised at how much the girls recalled. We gave them 5 cheers last week, and they all really did remember them. We added the famous "Boom, Dynamite" into the mix last night and taught them how to run out into formation. They are the CUTEST! She's also loving her ballet/tap/gymnastics combo class. Not only is her BFF Jocelyn in there with her, but she's also getting really solid instruction which is key.

Her actual first day of school was yesterday, but it really was no big deal. Even though it's technically a new school for her, it's nowhere near the change Will has. We had two open house/parent-stay days there to get acclimated, it's all the exact same Montessori materials she had last year, and it's even the same school Will first went to when we last lived here. It's certainly happy, and she loves going, but it just doesn't seem very dramatic, you know? (That's a GOOD thing, though! ;-)) Montessori has kids ages 3-5 in the same class (so the younger learn from the older) and y'all know how tiny Annelise has always been (barely 10th%), but I cannot.get.over how so many of the kids in her class look like BABIES!!! I'm just not used to her being "the big kid" anywhere! :-P

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bus Stop[?]

Will woke up *SO EXCITED* for his first day of 1st Grade this morning! I had everything ready: clothes laid out, lunch (ham smammich, carrots, apple, & granola bar) packed, & backpack hanging on the closet door. He could not get out of this house fast enough! :-)

Yesterday I had looked up the bus schedule, and last night after dinner we walked to the bus stop together, just for a test run. Our elementary school is right at the front of our subdivision, but since our house is at the back of the sub, our street does actually get bus service! Just our street. :-P So it's kind of a perfect way to start out riding the bus: the whole ride is literally 7 minutes total, including every stop, and we're the first stop both morning & afternoon. His neighbor friend is also in his same classroom, so they can ride together, get to class together, & get back to the bus together each day = perfection. (Thank you, God, AGAIN for orchestrating this!!!)

This goes a loooong way to ease my heart! You ALL know, I have *never* been sad about ANY stage of my children growing up: walking = loved it, preschool = awesome, Kindergarten = no big deal; but 1st grade is getting to me! B/t this and the first lost teeth this summer, it's the first time I've ever felt my baby love boy slipping away! :-P My tummy dropped a little bit figuring out the bus stuff yesterday; I couldn't believe I was going to just let him ride off! :-D I was certainly more nervous than he was until we actually got to the bus stop this morning...

Will wanted to leave 20 minutes early; I got him down to 10. :-P We met all our precious neighbors on the corner, and everyone was so happy! All the moms & dads had cameras & videocameras, the sun was shining, it was great! (We even brought along our beagle, Bonnie Blue!) After we took a ton of cute pics...




one neighbor said, "By the way, the bus never came the first day of school last year, so we all had to drive them." WHAT?!?! They were all laughing about it, like it was no big deal, so I was OK with that. It made me feel better that they "lived through it" last year, their faith in the system wasn't shaken, :-P and everything turned out fine the next day. And sure enough, the bus was late. We waited 10 extra minutes, and then I asked Will, "Do you want to wait for the bus or go on & drive to school?" He did NOT want to be late on day one, so we walked home & got in the car.

I wasn't super jazzed that things were not starting out as planned, but I thought, "Maybe this way I can walk him in!" ;-) I asked what he wanted me to do, and he kept saying "Just drop me off!" :'( We drove the whole minute-an-a-half to school, and there was ZERO parking, so he got what he wanted.




There was a sea of children. Will got about 15 yards away from the car and froze in his tracks. Like he was lost. Like he had no clue where to go or what to do. My momma heart began to freak. You aren't supposed to park in the car line, but I didn't care. I jumped out & yelled, "Will! Ask an adult or one of the kids with the Safely Patrol belts on! It's OK!" [BTW: remember Safety Patrol?!?!?! One of the BEST geeky 5th Grade honors EVER!!! I felt like a rockstar! ;-)]

He heard me, but still just scanned the crowd for someone approachable. I saw a sign that said "K" and another that said "1", so I yelled, "Buddy! See the sign with the 1 on it? That's for 1st Grade! Go there!" About that time, our neighbor (who actually parked on the street in our sub that backs up to the school & walked through the trees :-D) saw us and yelled, "I've got him, Susie!" God bless you, Amy.

I know all of this sounds like I'm making a big deal out of nothing, but in the swirl of all the kids & traffic with everything being BIG and new coming from quaint little Montessori, it *WAS* a big deal! I have no idea, yet, if Will was even worried at all or just trying to assess the large situation; but I know if that had been me, I would have been on the verge of tears to suddenly feel lost, and I could.not.take the thought of Will possibly feeling like that OR him starting his school year out that way. I prayed all last night for confidence & protection for him, and I know he's having a perfectly safe & happy day now...but it just wasn't the way *I* wanted to drop him off, you know?

Poor Sissy cried as we drove away, ("I want Will!") but luckily we were ready to go straight to her Montessori-parent-stay morning (before her official first day of school, which is tomorrow) and she got happy doing her favorite work in class. :-)





We both can't wait for Will to get home at 4:00, [#1 - yep, all us neighbors are trusting the bus will bring them back home :-) and #2 - I know 4:00 sounds SO LATE, but it's not like they start at 7:30; they don't start until 9 AM] and we're sure it's been an exciting day! I am so thankful for Will's good attitude & enthusiasm for school, for how easy it was to get up this morning even though I had NOT prepped myself with earlier get-ups last week, for the nice weather & sunshine at the bus[no]stop, for great neighbors who instilled confidence in the situation w/o even realizing how much they helped me, for a happy neighborhood with Will's school so close, for the wonderfully sympathetic adult "drop off" attendant who not only didn't fuss at me for parking in the "keep it moving" line but who actually smiled at me and asked which one Will was so she could go walk with him 2 seconds before Amy swooped in. :-)

(Want to share more thanks? Join Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Turkey Call Queen

This morning we met my in-laws and went to a super cute farm center within a local park. It was wonderful! Will & Annelise had an esp. great time petting the Nubian & French Alpine goats,

seeing the hens sit on their fresh eggs in the hen house, [Liz, I wished I knew types! The only one I recognized was Araucana] and watching the Percheron horses get their tack on before they pulled us along in an awesome hayride.

On the hayride, Annelise made a nest (the hay was spread around, not baled) and announced that she was laying eggs. TOO CUTE! They also had the most precious 2-week-old piglets in the barn with their mom. I was amazed at how friendly they were! Their sweet little noses were so soft, and their light fur was still soft, too. Adorable.

I didn't think we'd EVER get Annelise out of there, (not that I was anxious to leave them, either.) Back outside beyond the hen house, I demonstrated a turkey call that would've made my dad proud! :-D It totally drew the gobbler over to me! [My dad was a big turkey hunter, and my brother & I used to listen to him get his turkey calls ready each time before he went. :-) He would've gotten a kick out of much I got the turkeys to talk back! (And nope - no clue *what* I was "saying". :-P I assume it was something like, "Hey, hot stuff!" b/c the hens seemed really jealous.)]

I spent this afternoon (as JB half slept/half watched football and the kids *finally* cleaned the playroom) sipping the BEST chai latte EVER while going over the songs I'm singing on Praise Team tomorrow morning at church (love Bebo Norman's "Nothing Without You") and selecting new cheers for Annelise's squad. Sweet productivity!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tour de Fridge

You can learn a lot about someone by scoping out their fridge. (I admit, I *love* catching a glimpse of my friends' fridges! It's just...interesting!) A friend of mine blogged a tour of hers, and I thought, "Brilliant!"

So I give you: der K├╝hlschrank des Blake-Hauses

Overall, I like an uncluttered fridge. If I can't see the back wall, I freak out. This is so counterintuitive to every other facet of my pack-rat self, but when it comes to the fridge, overload stresses me out. If I can't see it, I won't use it, it will go bad, and that's wasted money, which stresses me out even more. I think a lot of this also stems from us moving so much: we could always be gone in a month's time, and unlike pantry food, (holy pantry! now THAT is cluttered!) the movers can't box & pack fridge food. I like to eat what we have until it's mostly gone and then do a big shopping trip. It's just not practical for us to store up lots & lots. (Although, *one day* it will be! :-)) I do still go to Trader Joe's weekly, but if it's not a big trip along with Costco, we're usually only there for a little produce & cereal.

The two things that are currently missing in this pic are any restaurant leftovers & homemade pizza components. We *looooove* eating out - it is hands down my biggest vice - and it's a rare meal that I don't bring a good bit home. JB also tosses the *perfect* pizza, and we usually have two bags of fresh dough, shredded Italian cheese blend, & sauce all from Trader Joe's on hand for that. (He just made them Tuesday, though. :-))

I got the ground flax to add to several recipes, including Giant Breakfast Cookies. I don't drink coffee, & JB doesn't really at home at all anymore, either. (He'd like a cup sometimes, but never a pot. We want a Keurig for Christmas! They also make chai, hot chocolate, etc.) But I got the fat free half & half to make slightly lower calorie chocolate ganache. :-P I also use unsweetened applesauce in place of oil when I bake cakes/cupcakes/muffins. I have to have my baked goods SUPER MOIST! (It's also delicious just to eat. :-)) One of my fave dinners is a Costco rotisserie chicken; we had that last night, so I picked the rest of it off the bone & wrapped it up to add in either pasta salad or quesadillas today. We like eggs, and I checked to make sure these are safe. I *love* cheese, and fresh mozzarella di bufala is at the top of my favorites list! My mom also brought me up some Palmetto pimento cheese a few weeks ago (mmmmm! South in my mouth!) and then, even though I don't like parm, Annelise is OBSESSED with it, so we have a little of that, too. Caffeine-free diet coke is my favorite beverage (other than bubble tea. :-))

I've never kept bread in the fridge until this year. After years of wanting nothing to do with sandwiches (smammiches), Will has decided ham smammiches are the greatest ever, so I'm getting bread at Costco (a couple loaves together) and keeping the reserve loaf fresher in the fridge until the active one in the counter bread box is gone. Costco also has awesome ham, which we just stocked up on (at the bottom).

I am pretty jekyll-and-hyde when it comes to health consciousness. I'm all about eating out, and I looooove dessert; but when we're at home, I try to make healthier choices. I am the biggest sugar addict on earth, (I got that BBQ chicken from Costco, b/c I tasted it on sample and fell in love with the sauce, which is even sweeter than my own homemade BBQ sauce I pride myself on! I choose everything sweet - even my salsa has to be mango peach!) But I think b/c I *am* such a sugar fiend, I know what I want to guard my kids against falling into, so I am a massive hypocrite & always trying to limit their intake. We get this plain yogurt, b/c my kids like to eat 2-3 servings worth at a time, this is WAY cheaper, WAY healthier, and I can also use it in other recipes. (For the kids, I'll top it with fruit or a drizzle of honey or blue agave.)

I'll step off my soapbox now, (oh - one more thing: no juice in our fridge! Only milk or water for Will & Sis. I totally won't embarrass them at a friend's house and deny them if that mom is only offering juice, but it counts as a sugar snack for the day. Such a huge personal pet peeve! They know if they have juice, they better not ask me for one of the cookies I'll be eating later. Our pediatrician went off on this, too, and I agreed: "Preaching to the choir!" Whole fruit is so much more important than sugar-water juice. It's not that juice is evil, but why have it when they're fine w/ milk or water, and then I don't feel as bad about the other inevitable sugar we're going to eat. OK, I might really be stepping down now. :-P)

I love lawash flatbread for quesadillas, and I know that our fridge has a crisper, but when it comes to produce in our house: out of sight, out of mind. None of us will remember to eat it, if it's not in plain sight.

In the door:



Smart Balance butter (more jekyll-and-hyde-ness: at least it's got omega-3's, so the cookies are "healthier" right? ;-)) Our condiments include the most delicious Trader Joe's Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette; JB's faves: mustard, pickles, & spray butter; and Will's fave: Duke's Light Mayonnaise from NC. He has proclaimed himself "The King of Mayonnaise" :-D

I got buttermilk for the Giant Breakfast Cookies and b/c I *reallyreallyreally* want to make my fave Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes, but I haven't stopped to find any big green maters around here. :'( I need to get on that. Anyway, we ALWAYS have skim milk. I have no idea what's up with those two random bottles, b/c we don't regularly keep bottled water around, and I drink my Kirkland Diet Citrus Green Tea (super yummy alternative to too much coke) at room temp. At the bottom are the last 3 bottles of JB's case of San Pellegrino he bought back in Naperville and my one bottle of rose spumante that I also bought back in Naperville. (Every night I think I might want it, I always end up choosing cookies/cake/etc. instead. :-P)

Consider the peek into our freezer my personal gift to make you feel awesome about your own: we're using the fridge that came with this house, (the movers put our super nice one in the basement for the next move,) and all of the shelves in this freezer have fallen apart! All of our stuff is just stacked in a pile. Thankfully since I'm not a perishable-food pack-rat, it's not crisis enough to switch fridges - just annoying.



JB & I *love* having a fresh piece of bread with some meals, esp. soup. But if I buy a whole full-sized loaf, I will certainly eat it all myself, and there's no guarantee JB will always make it home for dinner, so these little frozen-until-you-bake individual baguettes are perfect! Peas are my & the kids' favorite veggie - I put them in everything I can, esp. every pasta dish. Trader Joe's has the BEST frozen gnocchi ever! I could live on their Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, while JB loves their Gnocchi Gorgonzola. Costco has the best individually-portioned lean ground beef. (Yay, sloppy joes & my Asian meatloaf!) Finally, our whole family is absolutely obsessed with Ling Ling All Natural Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers! These things are unfreakingbelieveable!!! Everyone agrees they are better than any they've ever had in ANY Asian restaurant! They are out-of-control fantastic. (We buy the giant bags at - where else? - Costco.)

*Edited to add* I was reminded, "What about out on the kitchen counter?" Bread box, protein shake powder canister, tomatoes and bananas. Please, don't ever, ever put your maters (unless they're green) in the fridge!

So there's a big glimpse into my psyche through my shopping habits & food preferences. (My sociology minor is rearing it's head!) Now, show me what's in YOUR fridge!!! :-D

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Praise & Practice Pics

The good news & confirmations that we're making the right decisions keep on coming: two boys on Will's football team are IN HIS 1ST GRADE CLASS! Not just the same school - the same teacher! Along with his friend around the corner from our house that he just started playing with last week, too. This is incredible: to be totally new here, not really knowing anyone, and now finding out he will instantly have 3 familiar faces right off the bat on Tuesday? Super praise!

I did bring my camera to practice tonight, too:

Will playing QB


Will making a faux tackle (ripping a flag)


Will actually shook these two here & went on to score a touchdown!


Random funny:

We always look to see where the family of swans is in the lake around the corner from our house as we drive through our neighborhood. Tonight when I asked, "Do you see the swan family?" Annelise said matter-of-factly, "They're making babies."
(BTW - they were *not* making babies. She just likes babies. :-P)

Random happy:

I got the best compliment at Costco: the cashier had me repeat myself b/c of my "big Southern accent!" YAY!!! I feel like I have no accent, anymore, unless I'm at home in the South, talking to my mom on the phone, or watching Friday Night Lights, Paula Deen, or NASCAR. :-P

Speaking of Friday Night Lights, a friend of mine said I am "so Connie Britton" which just lit up my day all over again. :-D

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Open House

This evening (before cheer) we had Will's new elementary school open house. He got to meet his teacher, and I actually LOVE her! (Sometimes I feel ridiculously picky re: whom I like personality-wise when it comes to teachers. They have all been absolutely competent, but I need a spark of joie de vivre. I wasn't bowled over by Will's first two, but I've loved his assistants, and Annelise's main teacher last year is the most wonderful woman ever! I wish we'd win the lottery & could pay her to follow us around & tutor the kids well into middle school! ;-) :-P) But honestly, I couldn't imagine being more excited for Will's 1st grade teacher right now. :-D

I couldn't get over the room - it is so colorful, comfortable, & cozy! There are wonderful window treatments, lamps, & comfy chairs in the corners. There's a reading nook exactly like in Montessori! (Will went right over, found a book about snakes, & read for 5 minutes. :-)) We found his cubby and box for his work, also just like Montessori. He got excited when he looked around the room: she has every single shelf & ledge decorated with gorgeous children's books & stuffed animals of their characters, and many are Will's faves: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Good Boy, Fergus, Guess How Much I Love You, etc. They have fish and two big frogs that they'll take care of, and they'll sit at little tables of 4. Will was so excited to find his seat:

We're new here, so we don't know anything really about any of the teachers...except for *THIS* one that he got: a couple families at the pool this summer went on & on about how she's the best, and she sets up a bank with them the 2nd half of the year where the kids can earn her special "bucks" and use them in a treasure box. Will - being the money-obsessed possible future banker - latched onto this and would not let go. All summer I tried to play it waaaaaay down, b/c we weren't even sure where we wanted to send him at first, and even after we did decide, there are at least four 1st grades - he had less than a 25% chance of getting this lady...but, as always, God worked it out for his best! :-D

JB couldn't make it from work :'( but he did break away for an hour to go to Annelise's Montessori parents' meeting (which was the same time as cheer practice & at which children were not allowed, anyway, so it worked for me to have the kids & him just go.) He's excited about her new teacher, too, which is always a good feeling! Excited for school to FINALLY start next week!!!

Rainbow Cheer

Tonight was Annelise's first cheerleading practice and my first coaching. Our squad is small, but they are so sweet! We practiced: "Defense!" "T-A-K-E Take that ball away!" "Go! Go! G-O! Go, team, go!" and my personal favorite "Roll it! Shake it! Victory! Let's take it!"

It hasn't rained here in a month, (and it still didn't over at our house,) but we got dumped on for 5 minutes in the middle of practice. As soon as it cleared, though, we cheered under a rainbow!

Surrender

OK - I give in. Pillow Pets are about the cutest stuffed animals ever. This gator is AWESOME! His pic online looked so blah, but he has great pointy teeth, a ridge down his back, & lots of character. Will was actually more excited that this was on the front porch today than the fact that he played with his BFF all afternoon or that we visited his school tonight. :-P

Gym Mom

We started our gargantuan day with Sissy's first dance/gymnastics combo class. It's beyond perfect for us, b/c we all love her taking dance, but she wants to try gymnastics, too, and I know *nothing* about that. I want her to go ahead & start before she's old enough to get scared, like I was! I want her to be able to tumble, if she wants to, (and I don't want her to feel envious of those who can, like I do!) This covers all the bases, and the quality of instruction is solid. (Whew!) This combo class is also less than half the cost of what it would be for her to take these classes individually. (I'm still in sticker shock over the average price of dance classes around here. We paid $150 for ALL of January-May last year including recital & recital costume. The lowest I've found here is $100 for one 45-minute class every 8 weeks. Excuse me while I throw up a little bit in my mouth...)

ANYWAY, she LOVED it today, and I loved watching her! I watch Make It Or Break It, and I couldn't help but feel like I was one of those gym moms now. :-P