Friday, April 29, 2011

Prince William's Glory, Fall, Redemption...& Some Wedding Notes

I am bursting with pride over Prince William!!!!! ♥ And by that, I mean over *MY* Prince Will's honor at his school's Good Citizen Breakfast this morning!!! :-P It was a really nice ceremony, and I just don't have enough words for how it makes me feel to have random teachers - not even *his* - say how much they love him, how polite & sweet he is in the hallways, and what a great kid he is. *happy tears*

I feel only the slightest bit bad about skipping Zumba this morning, with the excuse that I was already dressed nicely after the watch the DVRed royal wedding. ;-)

My Royal Wedding Thoughts:
*Stellar opening line - "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."
*LOVED singing my alto part of "I was Glad" along with the processional & so thankful for my years in classical concert choirs! (And was the John Rutter *really* new? I swear I've sung it before. I LOVE Rutter, but it does all sound...Rutter. :-P)
*ADORED the trees inside the Abby!
*My Grandmommy & Queen Elizabeth could be twin sisters. Seriously. It's freaky.
*My friend Tamra said it best: "Princess Beatrice's ham-colored fascinator gave Lady Gaga a run for her money." Bea & Eugenie absolutely invoked Cinderella's stepsisters...

I need a *good* fascinator, (or several...)

This was my fave part of the sermon:
"As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practise and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace."

Finally, a la FB, in honor of the big wedding, use your royal wedding guest name. Start with either Lord or Lady. Your first name is one of your grandparents' names. Your surname is the name of your first pet, double-barreled with the name of the street you grew up on.
Lady Louise Elizabeth-Chedworth

From the throngs of joy to the pit of despair - a.k.a. Field Day. Let it be reaffirmed that elementary school Field Day is nothing more than a miserable hot mess. It was just as hot & boring as mine was growing up. :-P (Field Day was always my LEAST fave day of the year! I'd rather take a test. ;-) I was way better at those. :-D) Will did not do his best...and he was super pouty about it, which took the wind out of my usually-├╝ber-cheerleader sails. It just sucked...

...But I got a major teachable moment out of it later...

Fast forward to back the heights of glory: Will's Dixie League Yankees were down against the super tough Braves. After some really bad calls, a win seemed like it would mean even more than usual... and not only did they battle back to lead 23-21, but Will played 3rd base and got the 3rd out to win the game! He earned his 2ND GAME BALL and is over the moon!!!

At bedtime, Will asked me to pray. I thanked God for Will's good behavior & honor at the Good Citizen breakfast and for him winning the game ball. Then I prayed that God would help him make better choices for his attitude when things don't go his way, like at Field Day. Will's eyes got big. I said, "Buddy, this is one of the biggest things you can learn in your whole life. Always remember, when things don't go the way you want, and you get sad & disappointed, just let it go and trust that God has something better coming for you!" He said his game ball is worth 160 Field Day ribbons. :-P I told him to think about that the next time he gets upset b/c he doesn't get his way. Ask God to help you not be sad/mad, trust that He has something better coming up, and thank Him for taking care of you.

Oh, praying so hard this sticks with him...

First Four

My first four Silhouette projects!
I have been dying to monogram my tea pitcher, just for *ME*. Those bags are super cute insulated lunch boxes, originally $21 that my mom & I got for $5 (75% off!) last week at Love Letters Monograms & Gifts! One for her & one for her BFF (who just happens to have the same name as our dog. :-P No, our beagle does *not* get one. :-D)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

*MY* Silhouette SD

Y'all, I could just burst: after months & months of painstaking research on prices, coupons, deals, & bundles, I finally have my very own Silhouette SD. I am ready to COVER THE WORLD in vinyl monograms!!! :-D

It connects to your computer just like a printer, but instead of printing designs, it cuts them with a small blade. It is soooo easy & awesome, and you don't have to buy ANY extra cartridges or accessories for it - it can use any TT font on your computer. (I have HUNDREDS! :-D) [That's the big reason I didn't want a Cricut - after you buy the base machine, you still have to buy all the cartridges to do anything with it.] I waited a long time for this, but it was a well-informed purchase, and it will pay for itself, as I make presents for pennies that I would have spent $20-$50 on in a gift shop!

Here's my very first project! (Pardon the phone pic quality.) I certainly didn't ease into it, choosing a super thin and detailed font, but I wanted to see how intricate this thing would get and how easy it would be on me.

Here's my machine out of the box and all of the extra vinyl sample sheets I got:

I typed my project - "Annelise" - in my [super swirly] font of choice (or you could draw a picture or use one of their designs) in the program. You can change the size, letter spacing, orientation, etc. I really love that you can see the whole cutting area on the screen and manipulate & drag your design anywhere you want, (esp. handy if you're working with a just a small scrap of paper or vinyl, or if you want to move it to an area on the cutting mat you haven't used a lot to extend the mat's life.)

Cutting in action:

Cut vinyl after the background is pulled away:

Using the transfer paper, I stuck it to the final object:
Ta da!!!

Up next? I'm monogramming my tea pitcher and a bag for my mom!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy 5th Bday, Pie!

Annelise is 5!
We had her party Friday afternoon at Wilder's World - an inflatable jumpy place. We had no idea who would show up, b/c out of 34 kids in her class, we only got RSVPs from 6. Yeah. (Hello! Isn't this the South? And DEEP South at that! Where are those manners? :-P Must be all those international Montessori families. ;-)) Along with our t-ball & neighbor friends, we ended up with 24 kids! SUCH a great turn out!!! I made her a castle cake filled with strawberries:
and after that, everyone could jump as long as they wanted. (It was nice to do the cake first, b/c that way, people could leave as they needed for Friday evening events.) The only flaw was that I only got 9 pictures from the ENTIRE party! :'( And they are all of either the kids at the table or Sis sitting in the bday chair before cake. ZERO family pics. :'( [Yes, we had a GREAT party & that's totally not changed by the lack of documentation; but pics are a big deal to me.]

I also must mention some of her gifts! ♥ I don't want this to come out wrong, but she has gotten some really blah stuff before. :-P I don't care about expensive; I'd rather her get a $1 coloring book about animals or princesses (her passions) from the Dollar Tree than a $20 toy set with lots of little pieces that means nothing to her. I worried since we are relatively new here that maybe her friends hadn't gotten to know her well enough, yet... SO WRONG! I don't ever want to make presents the focus, but I just have to gush a little here!!! One friend gave her the Live Butterfly Garden kit I've almost broken down & bought 5 times at Hobby Lobby! I almost burst when she opened it! She also got a Rapunzel doll & blanket, perfect after her Tangled obsession this winter. Our neighbors got her a hat & sunglasses from Love Letters Monograms & Gifts that are - I kid you not! - the EXACT SAME SET my mom walked around holding in the store for almost an hour before setting them down, intending to come back & get them on Saturday!!! :-D Another sweet friend gave her cash, and we all know how obsessed with money my kids are. :-P She used it on Saturday to get the deal-blessing of the month!!!

Backstory: The guy who created VeggieTales has a new DVD series called What's in the Bible? We got the 1st DVD on special sale before Christmas, and while the title didn't initially excite them, once we put that 1st DVD in, they were IN LOVE! (If any of y'all have seen it, they love running around saying, "Ponies!!!" :-D) And I have to say, I am in love, too! *I* learned so much just listening to it, myself! There are 5 DVDs so far, so Annelise wanted to take her bday money to LifeWay to see if they carried the 2nd DVD in the series. As we opened the door, guess what was staring right at us on the special $5 deal table?!?!?! Thank you, God. :-) She even had enough money to get the 3rd DVD, as well!!! Definitely the icing on the bday present cake!

Her actual birthday was Monday, and I got to come be the special reader in her class. ♥
We also made a HUGE science-fair-project-sized tri-fold poster board timeline with 28 pictures from the last 5 years of her life. They will keep it displayed in her class for the week, so everyone can learn more about her. ♥

Eggcellent Easter

We had a fabulous Easter weekend celebration! The kids each had FOUR egg hunts: Friday at their schools, (my mom & I got to help hide the eggs for Will's! It was so good to get to be there & for Mrs. Coley to get to meet LaLa!), a church community hunt Saturday, here Sunday morning from the REAL bunny, and Sunday afternoon at the neighbors' house. (We are rolling in hundreds of eggs!!!)

Saturday night, the kids were as excited as Christmas Eve. They wanted to try to "trap" the Easter bunny, so Daddy actually rigged up a real rope by the front door. :-P (For the record, the rope was moved in the other direction in the morning, b/c the bunny went out the back door. ;-)

At bedtime, I asked Will what Easter was *REALLY* about. The conversation that followed made me "cry happy" - I felt like my heart was going to explode. On his own, he started to talk about how Mary must have felt when Jesus was on the cross...that she probably wanted to go to Heaven then, too. I want to cry, again, just typing that out... I am blessed beyond measure to be their mother...

Back downstairs, the Easter Bunny hid eggs all around our pool & back porch. (And NOT just easily laid out on the ground. Those hunts STINK! Easter morning to me meant scanning the backyard & initially seeing nothing! It's called an egg HUNT, not pick-up. :-P) JB was shocked that the Easter bunny hid them outside - silly Love, he has never had a real Easter with children in the South, (Will was only 18 months when we left ATL,) where it's WARM enough for comfortable outside hiding & hunting. That's the REAL way!!! ;-) :-) [Along with getting to wear Easter dresses WITHOUT turtlenecks underneath! :-D I had to do laundry Saturday night, b/c all of Will's khaki shorts were dirty & it's too hot (record highs! 90°+) to put him in full-length khaki pants! ♥ ♥ ♥]

JB crafted the MOST AMAZING Easter surprise of them ALL while the bunny was hiding eggs. He kept it a secret until it was completely finished, and I honestly had NO CLUE. I was 100% blown away!!! Behold: Peep sushi!

Heavenly Mommy

My mom came down to visit for Annelise's birthday weekend, which just happened to coincide with Easter this year! It's so much easier now that we've moved South; the trip is half as long with NO SNOW or WVa mountains. (Plus, it's to a place she actually wants to visit. :-P) We had a *dreamy* time!!! Sample day: on Thursday, after getting the kids to school & JB's car to the repair shop, we had tea & coffee at Elements Coffee Company, fell in love with too much (but at 75% off!) at Love Letters Monograms & Gifts, had the quintessential Southern lunch at Cafe 230:
baked Sissy's bday cake, & went to Will's t-ball game! ♥ This is my heaven...

On Saturday, after the huge church community Easter egg hunt & while JB went to a movie he has been dying to see, the kids *finally* got to ride the train at Chehaw! They then had a ball showing LaLa around the zoo. We got super close to the meerkats:
And it was so special to share with my mom, esp. after last Monday, b/c we both kept saying how my dad would have been going NUTS over this place and how he would have just burst taking the kids around. She said she sees him constantly in Annelise - she looks SO MUCH like him! It is an AMAZING feeling to have that connection and see those genes physically in front of you, again, after a decade...

We came home for the kids to splash in our pool while we grilled:
(Can I tell you how awesome it is not to have all the prep of traveling to the pool? Kids want to swim? It's a very private yard. Strip down & just jump right in! :-D) As they swam, we hung out in the late afternoon sun, and I just soaked in how gorgeous our weather, this home, and this lush, green neighborhood are. So very blessed...

We ate the most amazing grilled chicken, sweet corn on the cob, & LaLa's homemade mac & cheese for dinner. Again, pure heaven...

Only downside was that she had to leave post-bunny but before church on Easter morning. I don't recommend this, unless you want hysterically bawling sugar-glazed children.

New Life

Easter is a time of fresh starts & rebirth, and this last year has been a big one. Two days after Easter last year, we moved home to NC in limbo for a month & a half before getting a Michigan do-over. Our last Sunday in our beloved Naperville church was last Easter, and we sang this song:

It has stayed close to my heart. This time last year, I felt it as something I *knew* was true and had to proclaim, even though I felt like part of me was dying inside. (Yeah, it sounds dramatic, but leaving such a full life in IL on blind faith to go back to a place where we had not been happy was dramatic & scary. I. Was. Terrified.) But as it sings He had trampled death, I would come awake and rise up from my grave of fear & sadness to make a really happy new life in another new neighborhood and *truly* enjoy our time there!

And now, a year later, to have gone through that journey and to be back South, where we prayed for & dreamed of for 5 years? I want to laugh with joy that the things I dreaded did not sting or get victory over me, and I can't get through singing the "Oh, church! Come stand in the light!" part w/o tearing up. He has brought us through with flying colors!

This made me grin:

And thoughts from Ann Voskamp for Easter Monday:
Sun’s rising after Resurrection Sunday on a Monday world where everything’s changed…
Easter Monday faith believes that in impossible darks, impossible light sparks.
Easter Monday faith believes that the tomb places of our life, are but womb places for new life.
Easter Monday faith believes that Christ tenderly takes our doubts — and says touch my scars…
This faith believes in stones that roll, in grave clothes that fall, in an Easter people who sing hard hallelujahs … because we believe in resurrections always coming.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Letter from School

JB & I got a letter addressed to us from Will's school. I have regular, open email communication with his teacher, and she hadn't mentioned any formal notices coming. "What on Earth," I wondered...

It is a pleasure to inform you that Will has been selected as Good Citizen of the Month. The honor is based on:
Good Work
Good Behavior
Respect for Others

You are to be encouraged for providing a good foundation at home for your child. It is our desire to enhance your child's good qualities.

Please join us for a light breakfast on Friday, April 29th to honor our good citizens...

Cue the water works.

There are not words for how this fills me with joy! Talk about a confirmation of a positive transition!!!
Bursting over here...

Junior League: What do you DO?

My transfer into the Junior League of Albany, Georgia is official! I cannot believe that this next year will be my 9TH in JL, although almost half of that has been in non-resident status. [If you move to an area w/o an active League close by, you can stay in your former League as an active non-resident, which means you pay your annual dues, but that's it. It's like a place-holder for when you transfer back to an active area, so you don't have to go through the whole provisional year program, again, and start over from scratch.] I'm often asked, "What actually *IS* Junior League? And what do you really *DO*?"

Most communities have local women's service clubs or charity groups that focus on volunteering in the community, esp. re: women & children's issues. The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. is like the Grande Dame of them all. It's comprised of more than 155,000 women in 292 Junior Leagues throughout Canada, Mexico, the UK and the USA. The bonus to being in this organization, beyond international recognition, is that almost anywhere I move, I can plug into my new community and instantly be in the know about the local area. As soon as we showed up outside Chicago, I felt connected, b/c JLKD got me involved right away. Down South, JL is often an even bigger deal, b/c there's a bigger social element involved - becoming a member is celebrated as an achievement. (There is a lot of work your provisional year to get in!) Today's JL is *NOT* like the shallow organization portrayed in the background of The Help - JL women are serious about volunteer work re: issues like domestic violence, provisions for children with special needs, etc.; their focus isn't on garden parties. [But there are still fundraisers each year that are such a fun excuse to get dressed up & socialize! :-)] I'm excited to meet the girls here and get involved! I'm still friends (yay, FB!) with several girls from my first League, and in fact, I met one of my dearest BFFs when we were both in the same provisional class! (JL is not a sorority, but your provisional year is like a pledge year, where you learn all about how JL works & bond with your class.)

"OK, so you join JL, and then what do you do?" Everyone in JL has a job (Placement) for the year, which usually requires around 40+ hours of service. (You can change placements every year, if you want.) There are internal placements, which keep the organization running. (Each League is a chapter of AJLI, and there's a lot that goes into keeping it running as an actual non-profit.) I usually end up here; I especially enjoyed maintaining JLGNF's website for 2 years and doing PR for our cookbook. There are also the external placements, which are working directly with the community programs. Last year in JLKD, I worked with Cinderella's Closet, where we held dress drives all year, collected & sorted HUNDREDS of formals, compiled & delivered informational packets to over 100 schools, and held an event in April for any high school girl who could not afford a prom dress to come pick one out for free. It sounds like a little thing, but these girls had never had anything like this before! JL Albany has major projects that include working with SOWEGA Autism Resources, foster care resources, and the Lily Pad Center, which provides comprehensive care to sexual assault & child abuse victims & their families. Every member, no matter your placement, must work a certain number of hours each year directly with a community project, as well as pay the annual dues, meet the fundraising requirements, and attend a certain number of General Membership Meetings.

It's such a rewarding thing to be a part of, esp. now as a stay-at-home mom. :-) It makes me feel very connected.

"The Help" Movie Trailer

My friend, Michelle, just posted the trailer for the movie version of one of my favorite books from last year, The Help.

I like movies. I love watching movies WAAAY more than reading books. I'm not saying that movies are *better* than books, b/c no - they NEVER are. But I don't enjoy the act of reading for fun as much as I enjoy the act of watching a movie. I generally watch the movie of a book first and then go read the book; that way I'm not disappointed in the film, and then I also feel like I'm getting deeper insider info when I read the book. I'm a bit nervous now, having already read AND *ADORED* The Help, b/c there's more potential than usual for me to feel blah re: the film. (Like with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.) But I am still excited for it!

Monday, April 18, 2011

In Honor & Memoriam

Today is a particular day of note for me, my mom, & my brother: it's my Grandmommy's birthday, and this year she is 99 YEARS OLD! That's no typo: ninety-nine! She still lives on her own at home, and the only thing starting to fail is her hearing. :-P We called her as soon as the kids got home from school, and she was so excited to hear from us. ♥ I think she is more happy about our move back South than almost anyone. Every time we talk, she says over & over, "I'm just so glad you could get back down here." Amen!!! I know *her* prayers gave ours an extra huge boost! ;-) [And I am SO GLAD the kids & I have got her amazing genes coursing through us, as well! :-D]

Today also marks 14 years since my dad passed away. (Ironically, Grandmommy was the one with him when he went.) 14 years sounds soooo long... And it is... I don't *EVER* get upset about him missing the kids' lives or seeing me grow as a parent, b/c I know he is the ONLY grandparent who hasn't missed a SECOND of anything! He's gotten to see all of the secret moments that even JB & I haven't been privy to. ♥ But I *do* wish JB could have met him (we started dating 11 months later) and that the kids didn't have to wait until Heaven to get to know him... I still feel close to him; I know he was grinning from ear to ear over the gator last week! He was the ultimate nature man - avid hunter, strong outdoorsman, Master Gardener, & professionally a nature photographer for the government's SCS - now the Natural Resources Conservation Service, (how my parents met. ♥ My mom was a writer for them. :-)) [See, I come by my nature obsession honestly!

Thanking God today for the tremendous example of a strong woman of faith He has given to help raise me in my Grandmommy, for the incredible "renaissance man" I was blessed to have as a father, and for the confidence He gives me, knowing that they are both still & will forever be a real part of my life. ♥

Sunday, April 17, 2011

T-Ball & Pool Play

My friend, Jamie, brilliantly captured more of Will at t-ball on Friday night during our team's big win over the Cubs:

And Saturday afternoon, the kids finally jumped into our back porch pool for the first time:

Journey to the Cross

Good stuff I want to share from Andy Watts & Amy Dodson-Watts at Journey to the Cross:

Barbara Brown Taylor was invited to speak at a church when her host greeted her with the question, "Tell us what is saving your life now." Taylor, an Episcopal priest, was struck by this question because, as she writes, "most of us know what is killing us." It’s easy to identify the things that suck the life out of us, like worry, deadlines, finances, and even possessions.
But identifying what saves us is a bit more difficult. It’s easy to give a Sunday School answer: "God, of course." But how do we answer the question, "What is saving your life?" How do we identify what feeds our souls; what fills our bodies, like the smell of the fresh ocean breeze? God? Then how? In what ways? Through what people? God? How do we participate in God’s movement in our lives?
When Jesus called, Lazarus still had to walk out of that tomb, from death to life. (John 11:40-44)

We emerge from the wilderness having persevered because God is with us. This Holy Week we are reminded that Jesus is the pioneer and perfector of our friendship with God, enduring the cross for love.
Watch now for how faith will emerge anew in your soul.

John 12:12-16: Oh, the wonders of a festival! Music, food, crowds, merriment – the smells, sounds, sights and experiences brings excitement to mundane daily routines. But this isn’t just any festival – it’s the Passover celebration, and we find Jesus in the midst of the crowd. He has returned to Jerusalem after being in the wilderness only a short while ago. He’s entered the Holy City. Peoples’ cloaks have been thrown on the ground, palm branches are being waved and cries of hosanna – “save, now” – surround him.
Palm Sunday’s excitement can be intoxicating as we immerse ourselves in the merriment of the festival. But the week is long. At times our voices may be silenced. Yet our hearts, as well as the stones, must still cry out.
In Between Parades, Ann Weems writes, “It's between parades that we don't do so well. From Sunday to Sunday we forget our hosannas. Between parades the stones will have to shout because we don't.”

“Not to advance in the spiritual life is to go back, but those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.” ~Brother Lawrence
May we go now, open to the Holy Spirit’s gale blowing through our lives.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Earth Day & Spring Will

Will's school sent home a sheet on Earth Day last month that included a slip at the bottom to be returned stating what you will do to commemorate the event. Will wrote, "I will research animals," and his was chosen as one of the few from the whole school to be highlighted & sent back out as a suggestion to everyone this month. It seems like a simple little thing, but #1 - it's so cool for him to be singled out of hundreds of kids and #2 - for something that's really *him*. (It wasn't a mommy-influenced & regurgitated answer about picking up trash, recycling, or planting a tree. :-P)

We also got his spring school picture back. (Um, since when do schools take fall AND spring school pics?! I never had that growing up. And while it's nice for Will to get into his new class picture for the 2nd half of this year, it's totally just a ploy by the photo company to make more money! :-D)

We didn't buy any - I just scanned it for posterity - b/c I quite obviously forgot it was "Spring Picture Day" by sending him to school in a warm-up outfit! (*ugh*) School pics = polo shirts, not graphic T's. (Plus, we already have his fall pic that we love.) I'm also not a fan of fake photo cheeseball backgrounds. Hello, Sears. (Not that there's a thing wrong with Sears photos, as long as you go with the neutral backgrounds. Everyone knows it's fake & that you're not really in that faux setting. Barf.) Praying for a neutral background option come fall... :-P

[But he's still soooo cute! ;-)]

Joyce: "Learning From Your Mistakes"

If you have EVER EVER EVER had the slightest inclination to watch an episode of Enjoying Everyday LifeMAKE IT TODAY! (It's less than 30 minutes.) Today's message was sooooo good, so practical for everyone across the board, and so filled with truth!!! I absolutely cannot recommend this enough.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

See Ya Later, Alligator

Charlie has been rescued! ♥ DNR came this morning and fished him out with a special lure. (I wish we could've kept him around, but then we could never let Bonnie out back alone on the leash! :-P)
The Catch:

Meeting him up close:

Prison transport:
[They had to tape him up even more, so he wouldn't escape the back of the truck until he was relocated.]

We're so glad he won't starve to death now!!! He's out on 25 acres of swampland, hopefully eating some big fish!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


What did I find in the lake in our backyard yesterday?
Poor thing - his mouth has been taped shut with red tape. :'( I'm all about a little neighbor gator (until it's big enough to get interested in Bonnie!) but I'm worried this guy will die, b/c he can't eat. :'( He's only 2 or 3 feet long. I would definitely be a little more "ACK!" and less "this is sooo cool! how close can I get?" were this not an obvious prison break. :-P Our neighbor (who is the developer here) has never seen one in the neighborhood before, so I figure savor the unique event! Our neighborhood groundskeeper was going to try to fish him out yesterday, cut the tape, & take him to the river...

But things took a crushing turn. Our neighborhood couldn't catch him; he's too fast & he kept hiding on the bottom of the lake. They called animal control, who WON'T come get him b/c he's LESS THAN FOUR FEET! [Are you kidding!? If his mouth were untaped, he could still eat our pets at 3.5 feet long. Ridiculous.] The zoo & several plantations wouldn't come help get him, either. They all said the most humane thing to do is SHOOT HIM, b/c we don't know how long his mouth has been taped. This may be true if no one can catch him so he doesn't starve a slow death, but my neighbor said this *IN FRONT OF WILL* - the most tenderhearted child on earth, who also happens to fancy himself a herpetologist & rescue conservationist. So beyond NOT COOL. Will kept saying no, that we could get a tranquilizer (like they're only a few dollars at the store :-P) just like on TV. Bless his heart, he wanted me to call "The Animal Extractors" off NatGeoWild. :'( My heart was breaking...for Will & our helpless "pet". I was all ready to make up a fat lie of reptile redemption just in case...

He obviously escaped from capture or worse - a pet owner didn't want him anymore & tried to get rid of him. :'( There's never been one in this neighborhood before; even though they're in the area, our lake is man-made with no creek/river flowing in, and the whole neighborhood is fenced off. They didn't shoot or catch him last night by nightfall (we were at t-ball) so the neighbors gave up for the night. I am not the least bit nervous about him; with his mouth shut, I would help grab him if we could be fast enough, but that seems impossible.

The kids prayed for him last night, and Will tore me up - he said, "What if God put angels all around the lake and they all said, "Here, gator gator!'" Oh.My.Heart...

I checked back outside this morning - still there. I couldn't stand the thought of doing nothing while he perished. I even prayed for God to tell me what I should do.

Cut to after Zumba & lunch - my friend, Jamie, needed to go to the local bait shop for worms to put in her big, new raised garden beds. It dawned on me as we stood there that these were probably the BEST people to ask about helping the gator! They went above & beyond. I told them the whole story, and they all reacted with, "Oh, no! Who would do that to the poor creature! Yeah, he needs to be relocated." [NOT ONE of them cracked a joke about hunting him for BBQ!] The bait shop owner called a buddy who got the story from me, and then the buddy called DNR (the Dept of Natural Resources) for us. [I guess that was the one option the neighborhood didn't think to call yesterday?] DNR called me back directly that they're sending someone out, either this afternoon or tomorrow morning. PRAISE!!! The DNR lady even said, "How awful! He doesn't deserve that!"

I'm so glad all these serious outdoorsmen & women are just as worked up over it & think our poor gator is as big of a sad deal as I do! :-D

Game Ball & 9 Years

Proud mama over here: Will had a banner t-ball game last night! In addition to the team winning 20-7, when his coach moved Will from the outfield to 3rd base, he made all 3 outs of the inning for his team, holding the other team to no runs! He earned his FIRST GAME BALL, and I could have burst!

Today is my & JB's 9th wedding anniversary! ♥ I blogged the details of our wedding & posted pics here last year. ♥ Together for 13, married 9. ♥ Joyous!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mini Masters

Our household is about as anti-golf-crazed as they come, but we had our *own* Masters Sunday, playing our first ever family round of putt putt! Our local fun park (a major focal point of our children's obsession) gives you one free activity (putt putt, go karts, laser tag, blaster boats, etc.) on Sunday afternoons when you bring in your same-day church bulletin. How awesome is that?!?! It's usually $6 per person per activity, so a $24 family event for free = I think we have just found a new Sunday afternoon tradition, [either before or after the races/Redskins games. ;-)]

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring Break Bliss

This week has just been filled with awesome - lots of tiny joys , and even things that made my stomach churn with stress were resolved without full-blown freak outs. ;-)

We drove up to Americus to have lunch with JB twice this week. :-) The pool guy came & got the bottom of our the pool all cleaned out. :-) We got Bonnie's claws clipped at a great, cheap, new place. :-) The weather is splendidly SUMMERY! :-) We went to lunch, the zoo, and the turtle park with our local BFFs here:

Will had to read EVERY.SINGLE "beware of snakes" sign on the path. (There were about 10!)

Hanging with the cheetahs:

I LOVE how close you can get to the animals! The meerkats are barely two arm-lengths away!

Atop a gargantuan turtle park sculpture:

I have baby tomatoes on our back porch!!!

We set Annelise's birthday party (so it doesn't conflict with a classmate's) for Friday, the 22nd. :-) I designed her invitations, had them printed, and passed them out today. YAY!!! LOOOVE how they turned out! (Details blurred for the public blog; the real ones look so crisp!) :

Tonight: pre-anniversary DATE NIGHT! (Since our 9th wedding anniversary is on Wednesday, and our sitter is out-of-town next weekend, we're celebrating early! ;-)) JB's favorite thing is going to the movies, (we went 2 or 3 times *a week* when we were dating!) so I scheduled everything w/o him asking or suggesting. :-) We went to Riverfront Seafood & Steak for dinner - I had a baked potato stuffed with pulled pork barbeque = mmmmm! We saw The Lincoln Lawyer - loved it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Paula Deen's [old] House

We now live right up the street from Paula Deen's childhood home!!! So being the faux celeb stalkers we are, my friend Jamie & I drove by this afternoon to gawk. It's actually for rent - we wanted to make an appointment to see it, just to go inside & take pics of ourselves in her old kitchen! HA! :-) I need to get her [signed?!?! oh my heart...] book, so I can do my own "Paula Deen's Albany" tour! :-P

Monday, April 4, 2011

God Hugged Me

I just got a hug from God. I've been freaking out a bit in denial the last few weeks since Annelise's vision was tested for school & one of her eyes seems blurry. She's never mentioned anything about it herself at all & obviously doesn't have any learning or headache issues, so we were totally dumbfounded. We don't have vision insurance, and I don't want her to actually have anything wrong. :'( Her annual well-check is in just a few weeks, so I gave myself that as a deadline in the back of my head; but I FINALLY got strong enough last night to get serious about taking her to an OD. I did the local research...and get this: this morning's Groupon was for the exact OD here that we had planned to call today: $35 for a $135 appointment! PRAISE!!!!! It's for the best new place in town, too, and now we don't even have to worry about not being covered! GOD LOVES US SOOOOOO MUCH! In all things, big & small!

It feels like the biggest hug!!! [And soooo tangible, esp. after my post-midnight read!] I almost cried when I opened that email this morning. This eye thing has hit a crazy raw nerve in me that makes me want to curl up & hide. [Neither JB nor I have ever had glasses; and not only it is uncharted territory for us, but I have also gotten very personally sensitive this last year, b/c I've noticed a little nearsightedness in myself for the first time. :'( ] But now to get a confirmation like this right after I suck it up & get serious? Even though it sounds a little silly, that Groupon was such a big hug from God that He's got this under control, so I'm going to relax now...

Heaven is for Real

I bought Heaven is for Real two weeks ago, but it's no secret that I have a hard time actually committing to starting the books I get. Last night, I just couldn't sleep. I don't have any regular sleep issues; but last night, I was wide awake. I got up at midnight, came out to the couch, and opened the book. I read it in ONE SITTING in LESS THAN 3 HOURS. This is a HUGE DEAL, if you know how slowly I read. I devoured it. I loved it. I felt God's love pouring off the pages.

I actually never read books about faith; I don't know why I am completely uninterested. But this book kept popping up all over in my life - on the radio, on TV, the day a hometown friend of mine's 5-week-old son died. I felt drawn to it, most of all to get in on the sense of "shared experience" I felt swirling around it. It does seem to be a very "trendy" topic these days, with books like Don Piper's 90 Minutes in Heaven. Maybe if you've read any of those other books on this same topic, this one will seem blah; but since I hadn't, I found it encouraging, & it just filled me up with love! I don't believe any *more* sincerely now than I did before I read it - not just b/c of a toddler's testimony of "proof" - but I personally don't have a very vivid imagination for abstract things, so it was neat for me to mull over some of the ideas Colton "came back" with. I think it would be easy to dismiss this book as trendy, banal, & even possibly a total sham; but honestly - if so many people are getting encouragement & hope out of it, who cares? I think God can use ANYTHING (even if this is a book of lies, which - BTW - I do not think is the case) as something that works for His purpose & His good. I think the key is, with ANYTHING on faith that isn't purely Biblical, take it with a grain of salt; pray about it, and ask God to show you what He wants you to get out of it. It's totally not the Gospel, so as long as no one "worships" it as such, I say enjoy! Even though the writing was very 9th grade English class, (this man is so not a professional writer,) I still loved reading it as a parent - I could totally put myself in the parents' places. (And I actually *could* imagine some of this coming out of Will.) Fabricated or not, I cried openly several times after reading some of what Colton said and actually paused to pray about the words. It just truly spoke to me. I personally don't care whether he really went to Heaven or not; I'd get just as much out of this book if it were classified as fiction. I've heard tons of inspirational stories & watched fictional movies with inspirational messages which have also touched my heart and got me praying & talking to God about them, so how would this be different? In the end, I am all about being open to God speaking to us and believing that He is so amazing, He COULD do this & grant comfort this way, if He wants. I don't think this family wrote Heaven is for Real as any kind of scam or gimmick. (I don't sense "Balloon Boy" from them. :-P ;-)) I'm pretty sure they whole-heartedly believe in what they've written, but either way, the point is EXACTLY what Paul said in Phillipians 1:18 - "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached." :-)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Technological Church

We tried another church this morning. I was nervous, b/c the kids said they didn't want to, that they wanted to go back to the one we had been visiting; I really felt the weight & responsibility of providing them with stability & comfort and didn't want them to feel like they were being ripped away from anything else. But our neighbors here invited us for the 3rd time to theirs, it sounded like a church we'd be receptive to, and I sold the kids by saying, "It's Walker & Lacy's [neighbor BFFs] church."

The most fascinating aspect of this one was the technological connectivity! The pastor uploads his sermon notes to YouVersion, so everyone can follow along with (& save) on our smartphones his scripture references, notes, and even an opinion poll using the YouVersion mobile Bible app. How cool is that? I've been using that app for a Bible for two years now, and I've always made a big deal of holding my phone during services so that everyone can see I'm not texting or FBing; and here? The app is standard. A very young, hip congregation, but that's who we are right now, too. :-)

The kids came out saying, "This one is 100% better!" Ha! I mean, really - I didn't see a big difference at all in the children's program, but hey - whatever anxiety I had felt for them evaporated.

I'm not sure if "this is it" - but quite honestly, I almost think, "Why not?" I understand the search for a home church being a bigger deal if you are in your "forever" (or at least long-term foreseeable future) home; but we're going to be here probably 18 months. What does being nit-picky get us, other than wasted time we could have felt connected? I feel like we can find happiness & opportunities to serve in every church we've checked out; I guess I don't see what the big choice is b/t them - pick one, plug in, & be happy. :-)

I'm also still loving thoughts on being in the wilderness with God during this Lenten season on Journey to the Cross:

When we look in the mirror, sometimes we’re looking at our clothes, or the expressions on our faces. Other times, we’re just saying hello to ourselves.
Sometimes we avoid the mirror because we don’t want to face ourselves. In the Bible, the wilderness acts like a mirror where the people of God learn to look at themselves from God’s perspective.
Think of these upcoming quiet moments as a kind of mirror, an opportunity for learning and growing.

When we find ourselves alone with God in the wilderness, it’s natural to fear the process of erosion that works on our hearts and minds. Erosion is not just a powerful force that washes away, it is also a life-sustaining force that deposits and rebuilds. Being friends with God is a gift of rejuvenation and reconciliation.
Watch for the ways God might build you up; open yourself to the gift of God’s friendship.

Clay is often a metaphor for being human, like when Paul compares God’s people to clay jars. This Lent, remember that you are at the same time fragile and sturdy, breakable and repairable.
Go, seek the trusting hands of Jesus – the potter – who will unearth and shape God’s treasure within you.

Dear God, fill me with a hospitality that I have not known before. Open the doors of my soul to abundant life. Amen.

May it be Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Amen.
~From St. Patrick’s Breastplate, 5th century

I got an email from our MI church that they're doing these 2-word "What's Your Story?" shirts. These are the options, and I really got a lot out of just reading down the list and thinking about how each applies to me:

Loved? Loved.
Satisfied? Satisfied.
Accepted? Accepted.
Free? Free.
Secure? Secure.
Purpose? Purpose.
Peace? Peace.
Forgiven? Forgiven.
Empowered? Empowered.
Hope? Hope.
Confident? Confident.
Significant? Significant.
Joy? Joy.
Fulfilled? Fulfilled.
Valued? Valued.
Strong? Strong.
Rescued? Rescued.
Alive? Alive.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Southern Flavor

What a quintessentially Southern day full of Southern flavor! Annelise has been on Spring Break, so we joined our BFFs here, Jamie & her son, and her mom, visiting from our mutual hometown, for lunch at our local staple: The Cookie Shoppe. Annelise & I split a giant egg salad sandwich on their homemade, buttery soft sub rolls. The lady who runs TCS queried re: Annelise, "She's going to eat egg salad? I've got to see this." :-P I guess egg salad isn't huge with most kids, but it is with my girl! :-) She even went up front on her own after finishing to claim her peanut butter cookie prize.

After lunch, we headed over to Mark's Melon Patch. I have been dying for some good peach salsa - not one that just tastes like ketchup - and some local raw honey. I've been obsessing over local raw honey lately: my dear Liz shared her remedy for sore throats & coughs - crushed garlic (one clove per tsp local raw honey) served by the teaspoonful twice a day - and another friend shared that she takes a little local raw honey for her allergies, that it keeps her from blowing up like a blowfish from tree & plant pollen. None of us are having any throat/cough/allergy issues, but how can you deny the benefits of local raw foods? I also saw that Mark's has tomato preserves! I don't need any more, yet, (I stocked up in Charleston,) but that's the only other place I've ever found them!

(What do you do with tomato preserves? I've spread a little on my bread for grilled cheese - mmmm, salty sweet! Amazing on crackers or however you'd use pepper jelly. I also first fell in love with them at High Cotton, when I got an upscale ham & egg dish with tomato preserves.)

This afternoon, I checked on my plants on the back porch. I have a black thumb for EVERY-THING, except cherry tomatoes. And I'm giving cucumbers another try this year, b/c Will loves them so dearly. I actually hate gardening & plants - I never remember to water, and I don't weed. No interest whatsoever. But my 'maters are the one thing I actually *love* to grow every year. And after several years of pathetic northern "summers" (if you could even call them that!) I am THRILLED to get a good, early Southern start! I planted these two weekends ago, and they have already more than doubled in size. They look now like mine did in JULY in MI.

I then snapped this pic this afternoon in our shady side yard:
How beautiful! I was really missing the purple wisteria that faded over a week ago, but the azaleas are beginning to compensate. :-)

For supper tonight, I made my FAVORITE *healthier* faux-fried green tomatoes. Fried green tomatoes are one of my most fave things on earth, but I HATE grease, (a Southern sin? Perhaps...) so whenever I find a healthier version of traditional Southern staples, I get excited. I found this recipe in Southern Living two years ago, and it's become one of my most treasured. I didn't have any buttermilk, so I just thinned out some plain Greek yogurt with a little milk = perfect. I ate them ALL.

Dessert? OK, this one isn't exclusively Southern, but it was divine: I used our very last Sof’ella Sin-Free Fat Free all natural Brownie Mix to make brownies (again with the plain Greek yogurt! YAY!!!) in my mini muffin tins (we need portion control, people! ;-)) with two mini marshmallows stuck down on top. That experiment was AWESOME! They toasted to perfection in the 12 minutes of bake time.

And for one last bit of Southern ATL flavor - Top Chef All-Stars SPOILER ALERT: I adored BOTH Richard & Mike, along with the 2 fan faves, Carla & Fabio...but Blais had me at first bite years ago with Peach Taleggio Pizza...