Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Camp & 'Que

Day 2 of football camp was just as awesome!
[Hiking drill - Will: white shirt, pre-hike]

Just an example of the fun attitude these coaches have: as everyone was assembling, Will gave his a hard high-five and the coach stopped. He immediately made the whole squad take a knee around him & Will and said, "You have to tell us, what are you drinking? What are you drinking at home that makes you so strong? Whole milk? 2%?" Will said, "Skim milk & water." The coach cheered, "Skim milk, team! Skim milk & water! OK, what times of the day do you drink it? Let's get everyone on this plan!" It. Was. Adorable. (I know, there's that non-manly word, again, but seriously - the way this guy interacts with his charges *is* adorable!) They even did a hands-in cheer for skim milk before joining everyone else. :-)

When Annelise & I came back for pick-up, it was hothothot (get used to it now, boys! ;-))
[Photo credit: Princess Pumpkin Peach...in b/t cheers]

but everyone was still drilling with seemingly-good attitudes. Will was all smiles!!! I felt like I was at a party - they had fun music playing over the PA, and then they closed camp for the day with awesome spirit: they all lined back up in the tunnel & came tearing out to Metallica. :-P Then they circled up & jumped to House of Pain's "Jump Around" (impossible to sit still to!) before clapping & cheering "Trojans!" (the county mascot.)

Walking back into our house this afternoon, I was hit by a wave of amazing deliciousness:
My famous slow-cooker pulled pork barbeque! [And yes! That's my beloved pineapple luminary behind! ;-)] I CANNOT WAIT to dig in!!! Reciplease? OK! It's soooooo hard:

* Place a pork roast (1-4 lbs. depending on how much you want; it can be anything: a Boston Butt, or I always use a pork loin roast, b/c the crock pot makes it SO MOIST, you don't miss the fat) in a crock pot, and pour a can or two of any carbonated beverage over the roast.
* Season with a few dashes of your favorite seasonings, (salt, pepper, etc. I just use Lawry's Seasoned Salt,) and cover the exposed pork with a layer of your favorite barbeque sauce. (Drench the whole thing, if you like, but just make sure the sides not covered by the beverage are coated, so they don't get tough & dried out.)
* Cover and cook on high 6-7 hours.
* After cooking, remove and shred the pork.
* Either pour your favorite barbeque sauce over the meat, or use it for dipping, if you want a less saucy taste.

We're also having the fresh tomatoes we just picked out back:
and fresh green beans. OK, I have to go now, b/c I cannot wait to eat any longer. *DINNER BELL!!!*

Encouragement & Perspective

It's been awhile since I did a post of things that have inspired me, so here you go! :-)

My friend Jamie shared this:

***

From 411God:

Sometimes we feel like a pile of incompetent, poor, and useless humanity. Pretty cheery right? Well, this should cheer you up.
Isaiah 61:3 (New Living Translation)

3 To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the LORD has planted for his own glory.
Instead of thinking of yourself as inadequate, remember that you are holy because of Jesus.

*

Have you ever had a nightmare that you think about for days? Like, you're afraid to sleep because you don't want to have it again? Well, Daniel understood. The only difference was that his nightmare was something that would actually happen. Daniel was freaking out, but listen:
Daniel 10:4-6, 12 (New Living Translation)
4 On April 23, as I was standing on the bank of the great Tigris River, 5 I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. 6 His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people.
...12 Then he said, "Don't be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.'"
God gives peace even when you are living a nightmare. You just have to ask.

*

Hey, you got something heavy weighing on your shoulders? Why don't you give it to God?
Matthew 11:29-30 (New Living Translation)
29 "Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."
See, God doesn't require more than His grace can cover. If you need rest, just ask for it.

*

We've all felt angry, irrational, fearful, controlling or resentful. The question is: What do we do with those feelings? How about a Psalm?
Psalm 91:1-7 (New Living Translation)
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the LORD:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
God's truth can disinfect your baggage.

***

From MOPS:

VIP
by Shelley Byrne

The kids and I were leaving to go halfway across the country to visit my parents. Unfortunately, our trip did not get off to a good start. With a scheduled 6:30 a.m. departure time, we had risen well before the sun to make it to the airport on time. After getting the kids up, eating a quick breakfast and loading up the car, my husband suggested that I double-check our flight status one more time before we left. Delayed. And not just delayed, but delayed by several hours. How frustrating!

Later that morning, as we finally walked down the jet way to our rescheduled flight, I quietly thanked God for bringing us this far. Upon boarding the plane, one of the airline workers told my kids that the governor of our state was traveling on our plane. Wow – the governor! My first thought as I wearily sank into my seat was, “I bet this flight takes off on time. We have someone really important on the plane!” Sure enough, the captain soon announced that not only was our flight on schedule but we were actually going to arrive ahead of time.

As a mom, it is easy to feel insignificant at times. The title of “mother” doesn’t get us any special privileges with airlines. If anything, we get the look that says “Oh please don’t sit by me!” However, as I deplaned a few minutes early, I held out my hands to my most precious gifts from God, knowing in my heart that I have a title greater than the governor’s: Mom!

Dear God, thank you for the privilege of raising my children. Remind me of just how important and wonderful a job it is.

*

Growing Season
by Melodi Leih

Last fall, my family and I planted bulbs around our home for the first time. I anticipated their arrival all through the winter months. And sure enough, this spring, small green plants began to shoot up out of the ground, and shortly after, beautiful flowers bloomed. Such a fascinating process! It seems odd that something planted in the fall and cultivated through the freezing winter produces flowers in spring.

And yet, I experience similar seasons in my mothering. In the winter of my soul, God feels distant and I am unfruitful. My kids seem more rowdy and my patience more thin. But as I consistently stay rooted in him, he continues to nurture the soil of my heart, bringing forth blossoms for others to see.

Sometimes it takes many cycles of winter to see new growth. And it can be hard to let go of the disappointment that arises when flowers don’t bloom. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t at work, cultivating me into the woman he wants me to be. Time spent on the floor in a pile of Legos or on the couch with books is an eternal investment that will bear long-term fruit. It may not seem like much now, but bulbs buried under winter’s barren landscape don’t look like much either. God will bless my faithfulness. He will bless yours. And our flowers will be beautiful—no doubt about it!

Dear God, remind me that you’re growing me everyday. Lend me your big-picture perspective as I mother my child.

*

The God of Sometimes
by Christa Hogan

I love being a mom; I love caring for my family. I can’t think of anything more important, anything more worthy of my life. It feels good to be needed.

Most of the time.

But sometimes I wake up and think, “Do I really have to do yesterday all over again?” I want to shout, “Can’t you just do it yourself for once?” A voice whispers, “It’s all up to you. You don’t ever get to rest, because if you did this would all fall apart.”

Inevitably, these are also the days that someone comes down sick. The cat coughs up a hairball on the carpet. The dishwasher breaks. Life starts to resemble a country music song. “It isn’t fair,” I cry. “Life wasn’t supposed to be like this!”

Then I hear another voice calling. My Savior. My Rock. He asks me to stop squirming beneath the weight of my life and give it to him. He reminds me that I have been trying to do it all again, and to do it all by myself. But he made me to need him even more than my family needs me, except that he never rests. He never tires of being needed. He loves my “sometimes” when I come to the end of my rope because then I remember that I need to rely on him at all times.

Dear God, thank you that you are strong in my weakness. Forgive me for trying to do it on my own. Help me give my family and my life to you.

***

On our drive home from NC, NEEDTOBREATHE (such an awesomeawesomeawesome band!!! "Something Beautiful" was my anthem for last year!) had their new single played. When it came on, Will said, "Now this is what I'm talking about! I like this!"

Monday, June 27, 2011

FOOTBALL CAMP!

Will started his very first football camp this morning. It's run by our high school coaching staff and is only three days (M-W), but this is a BIG DEAL. JB played football through college, and you ALL know it is hands down my most favorite sport evereverever. This fall will be his first season of true tackle, and this whole house is about to burst at the seams with excitement. (Sis, too - she'll be cheering!)

Can you believe we are in official "exceptional drought" stage (worst of the worst measurements)...and the first rainy morning since the first week of April was TODAY? :-P I wasn't a wuss enough to think camp would be canceled, except for thunder; but we stayed storm-free, and it was probably the best weather you could actually have for an athletic camp in the Southern summer - no sun, occasional drizzle. Will's brand new cleats, courtesy of Daddy on Saturday, got a marathon break-in session with the wet field:

I only stayed for the first 10 minutes, b/c all the other moms left, and I didn't want the coaches to think I was "that" mom who was afraid her baby was going to get hurt. (I just wanted to watch!!!) Their opening huddle was ADORABLE (sorry - I know that's not a manly description, but IT WAS!) and I saw their first drill - high kicks walking across the field, touching the opposite hand to the raised foot:
- before tearing myself out of the stands. When Sis & I got home, JB called & asked if I was still there; when I said no & why, he said, "Awww! Well, I would've stayed!!!" That was it - I went back 30 minutes early before pick-up. ;-)


[Far left: just threw the ball]


[Just caught the ball & ready to run past...]


[...the defensive kid in two-hand touch.]

I was so anxious to see how he liked it! This was his first REAL experience with REAL (not flag) football; and if he hated it, I wanted to know ASAP, so I could get over myself & let this go. ;-) ...But he LOVED IT! As they were dismissed and I came out to meet him, his coach came over, pointed to Will and hailed, "Camper of the day! Camper of the day!" [No one, including Will, really told me what he did to earn Camper of the Day, but hey - we'll take it!]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Letters to Will

All 23 kids in Will's first 1st Grade class in MI (with Ms. Scott) sent him letters that they each wrote on their own, saying how much they miss him. ♥


They all say things like:

Dear Will,

I miss you! We want you with us. You are kind. You are very nice. I hope you can visit. I hope you are having fun in your new house and new school. I will always remember you!

Your Friend,


Talk about blessed to tears! The best part was that Will still remembered each & every child. :-) He said, "Remember, Mom - she was the cupcake at Halloween. He was the funny kid when you were the mystery reader. She rode with us on the apple orchard field trip. He was wearing the black shirt on the tug-of-war team." He is just like his mommy when it comes to never letting go of friends!!!

More Mourning Moore

The more I think about this mourning VBS business, the more I think about why. Well, #1 - last year's was awesome. It made a HUGE impact on my kids, and it was an amazing welcome back into a comfortable home church, just 2 weeks after we'd moved back to MI (after having lived there for 2.5 years before we went to Chicago.) I *never* thought we'd EVER end up back in MI after Chicago and was not very happy about it; but that VBS pressed a major reset on our life there and made our short 8 months back (before getting to move home South to Ga this winter - YAY!) a much better go-round. I keep hearing Pastor Moore's voice in my head - clear as a bell - when I think of it. He baptized our kids the first time we lived there, and he had a big role in VBS last year. During the last day's session, he asked me to give *my* testimony, (relatable to the kids, since I accepted Christ at a young age) and I was so very moved & honored to do so. Getting that responsibility from a man I so respected was a big deal.

I remember the last time I saw Pastor Moore. It was after Zumba (in MI my Zumba class was held at my church) so I was all flushed; it was January 20th - the day we started telling people we were moving to Georgia ASAP - so I'd gone into the church office to tell my sweet friend, Michelle, (who also has a heart for the South. :-)) We were quietly freaking out about it when he sauntered over (he was from Va but spent a ton of time in Texas, so he kind of had a sweet cowboy way about him sometimes :-)) and asked, "What's all this about?" I said I was just giving out hugs. [I don't know why I didn't tell him we were moving, yet, when I told Michelle. I guess I knew he'd be sad - I thought only Michelle would be happy, b/c of our mutual Southern love - so I put it off.] His hug was firm and good...

Two days later, he went into the hospital for some testing, b/c he was feeling really tired & run down. The next weekend, JB & I flew down to Ga for our house hunting trip...and Pastor Moore was flown to the Mayo Clinic where his mystery symptoms were eventually diagnosed as intravascular lymphoma - a fast-growing type of blood cancer that is especially rare and hard to detect. I was in a whirlwind of emotion re: moving, and my church family was in a whirlwind of emotion re: Pastor Moore. I missed his prayer vigil & my last two MI Sundays, b/c I was sick as a dog, so I never felt any closure there. One week after we moved down to Ga for good, barely a month after our last hug, Pastor Moore died.

I am not really scared of death; it doesn't freak me out, and talking openly about it doesn't bother my kids, (I am very proud to say!) I know where I'm going, and I know Pastor Moore is there, so it's not something to be upset about... but I think all this VBS stuff just has me really thinking about him and my odd lack of closure. I didn't get to grieve with my church family. It seems just as plausible that he could still be there right now preaching, if we came up for a visit; after all, we moved away once, never intending to come back, but when we did, he was still there - remembering us, remembering me, and using me right off the bat to impact young lives in VBS. I love that I remember his voice so clearly. :-)

So yeah, VBS is a great, big deal - it enriches your kids, it empowers all who volunteer, and it can make memories in less than a week that stick with you for a lifetime. (Don't get me started on my childhood VBS memories! :-P ;-)) I think I'm still looking for that secure home church feeling here that VBS so firmly reiterated last year. I know it will still come in some other way; I'll just keep praying for it. :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

VBS & ABC's

I am really mourning VBS this year. (Just in case you aren't familiar: VBS = Vacation Bible School - a 2 or 3 hour program for 4 or 5 days one week in the summer, hosted by churches of all different denominations.) High Seas Adventure rocked our world last year, (Will & Sis *still* sing that CD all the time!) This year, there just wasn't one that fit our available times and the kids' ages. [The best option was the first week of June, but it was only for children who had FINISHED Kindy through 5th, so Sis couldn't have gone, and THAT would NOT have been OK in this house.] Next year, it totally won't be a problem, since they'll both be old enough to go to ANY VBS... But my heart still aches a bit that they aren't getting that short-but-oh-so-life-shaping 4 or 5 days of teaching. The fact that they STILL talk about God sightings from last year is testament enough to that! (My friend Michelle gets this, too.) And the popular PandaMania curriculum would have been SOOO perfect for them!!! I really need to let this loss go, but I'm having an awfully hard time with it. When I was little, VBS was for ages 3 & up, and they were almost always held during the mornings; now, they are almost all K-5 & in the evenings. (I do understand 6-8:30 PM helps working parents; but that's our dinner & bedtime. Yes - even in the summer. Unless we have guests, bedtime stays pretty standard at 8.) How can I get over this void?

My friend April posted her ABC's and asked us to play along. What are y'all's?

A. Age: 32 & 11/12ths
B. Bed size: king
C. Chore you hate: ALL cleaning & putting clothes away
D: Dogs: 1 beagle, Bonnie Blue
E. Essential start to your day: kids (b/c w/o them, I would stay in bed MUCH longer)
F. Favorite color: purple (& most of my clothes are some shade of blue, pink, &/or purple)
G. Gold or silver: yellow gold ALWAYS!!!
H. Height: 5'5"
I. Instruments you play: just my vocal chords
J. Job: wife, mom, singer, documentarian, webmaster, leader, cheer coach, actress, dance teacher, domestic CEO... [maid does NOT make this list]
K. Kids: two
L. Live: joyfully in Georgia
M. Mom’s name: Anne
N. Nicknames: Pink Mouse (from my parents, b/c I looked like a little pink mouse all curled up in my crib)
P. Pet peeve: NEGATIVITY!!!!!!!!
Q. Quote from a movie: Are you kidding? There's not enough time for me to type out the entire transcripts of Steel Magnolias and Gone with the Wind!
R. Right or left handed: left
S. Siblings: a "little" brother (2 years younger)
T. Time you wake up: 6:45 during the school year (poor Will's bus comes at 7:05) although I usually go back to sleep for 45 minutes after he leaves
U. Umbrella: in the car, but I never use it
V. Vegetables you dislike: peppers & celery = disgusting. I can pick out their taste in ANYTHING.
W. What makes you run late: Being late is unacceptable!!!
X. X-Rays you’ve had: my teeth at the dentist (praise God - never had a broken bone!)
Y. Yummy food you make: granola bars, barbeque, oven-fried green tomatoes, Asian meatloaf, sloppy joes
Z. Zoo – favorite animal: TOO MANY! snakes, lemurs, meerkats, cheetahs

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NC Hodgepodge

I'm closing out my last night at home on vacay in NC with my fam while JB finishes his business trip with a hodgepodge of pics & notes:

My BFF Wendy sent me this shot from her camera of me snuggling on the train with my Princess Pumpkin Peach:

Last year, Annelise spotted & said that she wants flowers like these at Costco for her wedding. :-P [I told her she could have as many flowers as she wants for her wedding!] She apparently remembered all this and said it, again, on Wednesday - and this time wanted me to take a picture to remember. :-)

One of our favorite things to do at my parents' house is to bob around in their backyard hot tub:

My BFF Wendy & me at The Melting Pot on Sunday - our traditional dinner out whenever I'm in town:

Finally [with a language caveat] this is an absolute MUST-READ for all married women!!! In JB's defense - he would NEVER be Victor. (In fact, I might pull a Vic before he would! :-P) But it's STILL the funniest thing I've read re: marital relationships in ages! My mom was unable to catch her breath for over 15 seconds. :-D The two of us might be the ones looking for giant metal chickens for each other now... ;-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Train-O-Rama

We made our standard summer pilgrimage to Tweetsie Railroad on Monday - it was as magical as always! I can't ever put my finger on what makes it so amazing, relaxing, and safe...but it always feels like home. :-)

Annelise was thrilled that she's finally tall enough to ride their scrambler on her own:

Will was so excited to be able to reach the gas pedal and steer on his own in the country fair cars:

They love the tilt-a-whirl! (Ugh - it makes me ill! :-P)

Will with the Tweetsie Cowboys:

With our dear friend, Engineer Scott:

On Tuesday, we met up with my hometown BFF Wendy & her son Alex to just hang out. We had kid-friendly lunch at CiCi's (my kids' beloved fave :-P ...and there's not one anywhere near us) and then we headed over to the new Village Park train. Yep - if there's a train in the area, our fam will certainly find it!



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Ours was slightly anti-climactic, since Daddy had to fly out on a business trip early this morning; but we gave him his gifts *last* week, and the kids made & sent him this pic first thing this morning:
I am so thankful for the man who made me a mommy and for the angel in Heaven who gave me life & made me who I am.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day Tripper

Saturday, Mom & I left the kids (who barely acknowledged we left) with Grandaddo & their neighbor BFFs, while we took a day trip to our most beloved Charleston! ♥ My heart actually *ached* to be there - in our future forever home - w/o JB, but it was SUCH a gorgeous day and a PERFECT mother/daughter time for us to do all the stuff that bores the guys & the kids to tears. ;-)

We drove straight into town and parked for the Charleston Farmer's Market in Marion Square. I have been OBSESSING over the Charleston Crêpe Company since I saw them in Southern Living last fall, and they ABSOLUTELY DID live up to the hype! Oh. My. Gosh. I had the most divine BBQ pork crêpe with black beans & pineapple salsa; Mom had the stellar chicken, bacon, mushroom, mozzarella, honey mustard crêpe. Pure heaven. We are never eating anywhere else on a Saturday b/t 8 AM & 2 PM in Charleston ever again. We also got a slice of their famous chocolate crêpe cake (25 delicate crêpe layers *each* lightly filled w/ chocolate pastry crème!) that was just as exquisite as I imagined.

After the Farmer's Market (where we also found a million other things from fascinators to reclaimed wood art that we wanted, but limited ourselves to fresh ginger tea for us & fresh lima beans for Sis & Grandaddo) we headed over to the Charleston City Market. We can wander through that area for hours...and with no short-attention-spanned company, WE DID! We each found cute new bracelets and took our time making sure we got the best - no rushing to placate anyone else. :-)

We couldn't stand being so close to the beach and not seeing the ocean, so we drove over to IOP for a few minutes, just to see what was going on (it was oh so hard to drive right back across that swing bridge!) before grabbing our last bite at Shem Creek. Fried green tomatoes, mmmmmmm...

[Along Shem Creek]

PS - That's my new Lilly top
! And we fell into another consignment shop on the way out of town: more Lilly to come! ;-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fashionista Found

This post is dedicated to Jackie & Kholá! ;-)

I have found some of the most fabulous fashions the last few days! [I feel back to my old self in the South, caring about looking cute, again...b/c people actually SPEAK to you when you're out & about. You make first impressions & new friends at every turn; less than 10 total strangers spoke to me in 5 years up north, and no one could see what I was wearing from October-May, anyway, b/c it was hidden under my omnipresent winter coat. :-P]

I am *thrilled* to pieces that I feel like I live in Lillyland, again. (Lilly Pulitzer, y'all.) I think people would've thought I'd joined the circus wearing Lilly print pants up north. :-D I found the most divine Lilly top in my size at a high-end consignment store for $20 [instead of $120, although I covet this] - excitement abounds!!! All the pants they had were size 4, (I need an 8 in Lilly,) but hopefully one day! Maybe I'll find a fab consignment Lilly dress one day, too!

My mom and I went to the Talbot's OUTLET (yes, outlet!) Thursday. [Site of the infamous "Come on in flies!" debacle. I am pleased to announce that their apparent demon possession was short-lived. They woke up sweet as angels the next day, on their best behavior, without any fussing or trying to change my mind about the day's continued revoked sweets & treats - a tough punishment on vacay at LaLa's! They did NOT want that punishment extended, and I'm extra pleased they recognize what a hard@$$ their Mommy is when it comes to not giving in on a punishment I've doled out. ;-) I love sweet, apologetic cherub children! :-P] There I found a pair of awesome black jeans, regularly $70 for $8. They fit like a glove, without being trashy tight. I also scored a fuchsia sequined twin set, usually $230 for under $40. I am sooo ready for JB's work conference in Savannah that I get to tag along to in August. ;-)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What the What?!?!?!

What the what got into my kids today?!?! I purposely use my blog to help magnify the positivity in our lives...but lest anyone think we're ever charmed beyond normalcy, let me share with you how my children manifested the most horrifyingly unacceptable behavior today. [And rest assured, repercussions are being enforced.]

In the grand scheme of things, some people might not find this as reprehensible as I do, but b/c they *ARE* so amazingly awesome when we're here & esp. ALWAYS in public, this was completely out-of-control: Will wouldn't get over pouting that I'm making him wait until his bday (less than 2 months!) for ANOTHER Monopoly game, (he has 3,) so he wouldn't smile at Grandmommy the simple 15 minutes we saw her today = ultimate in rude. He gave me attitude at lunch & thought he was making a statement by refusing to order anything; that doesn't punish me, Bud - it just saves me $. Finally, when Mom & I went to an outlet store (which I had pre-warned them that we were doing last night, that it would be super boring for them, but I expected them to act right so we could do happy things afterwards,) it was like they were on crack. Loud, cackling, crawling through the racks = totally unacceptable & embarrassing for kids who are NOT toddlers. They wouldn't even settle when MOM told them to calm down, which is a total first. Usually LaLa = Gospel. The final straw: as we left the store, Will opened the doors and shouted, "Come on in flies! Get in the store flies!" [which I 100% admit is totally freaking hysterical!!!!! But] it was said with a mean spirit & rude intent *in front* of the saleslady, so I jerked him aside and growled, "How dare you!!! How dare you say in front of that lady that you want her store to get messed up?!?!?" Grrrrr...

All treats are gone for the rest of today & tomorrow, and Will & Annelise will both be writing letters/cards to LaLa apologizing for disrespecting her and to Grandmommy saying how much they love her.

Mom & I had to escape after the tumult, and my feet were in desperate need of attention, (I hadn't had a pedicure since we were together here at Christmas = not cool when I've lived in sandals now since February!) so we hid out for a bit at the salon. ;-) Best. Pedis. Ever. And I even tried a new product: Gelish. It's the latest UV-cured polish for natural nails that wears as long as fake nails, like Axxium. The color I got is shockingly sheer for my normally flashy self, but it's super shimmery & glittery in the sun. I'll let you know how it wears!

Yay for finding peace in even the craziest days! [And it wasn't even just b/c of the pedis...although those helped! ;-) The kids have settled down and are out in the backyard right now hunting lightning bugs - pure magic. :-)]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tons O' Cousins

We had a family get-together (why we baked the cake ;-)) today at my aunt & uncle's house in my hometown for Grandmommy & her sister, Aunt Frances, and for all of the cousins to swim & play together. We hadn't seen most of the cousins in AGES. It's hard for me being the only grandkid out of 5 families who isn't local - the others can see each other all the time, so family days like this are almost passé & no big deal...but to me & my kids? It means the world!

Almost all of my first cousins and our kids:

Aunt Frances & Grandmommy covered in her grands & greats!

Annelise, their cousin (my brother's son) Matthew, & Will with my first cousin Jennifer:

So thankful for these happy family times!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Tradition Tastes Like

Tomorrow, we are having a huge family get-together for my Grandmommy with all the cousins we haven't seen in years. Our household's only obligation: make & bring Grandmommy's chocolate butter rum cake.

This thing is sacred. And divine. And transports me directly back to being a child at any number of family celebrations. This is what tradition tastes like.

I've been granted permission to share this slice of my family with the caveat: "if you can read it, you can make it." ;-) Directly from my (now 99-year-old) Grandmommy's hand:







[OK, I'll share one extra note, only b/c I had to ask my mom today, myself! :-P Sweet milk is regular milk as opposed to buttermilk. :-)]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Driving Mix

I make a mix CD for JB every Christmas of his fave songs from the year, and we listen to it for HOURS on our holiday drives home. The kids love it, but JB's latest is actually stuck in his car's player, so I made another one for the kids & me to take tomorrow with a couple updates:

Firework ~ Katy Perry
Rolling in the Deep ~ Adele
Grenade ~ Bruno Mars
Sparks Fly ~ Taylor Swift
Get Back Up ~ TobyMac
Dynamite ~ Taio Cruz
Hey, Soul Sister ~ Train
Starry Night ~ Chris August
Something Beautiful ~ Needtobreathe
Salina ~ The Avett Brothers
Dog Days Are Over ~ Florence And The Machine
Glitter In The Air ~ Pink
Hold Me Together ~ Royal Tailor
Christ Is Risen ~ Matt Maher
Manifesto ~ The City Harmonic
Set Fire to the Rain ~ Adele
Just The Way You Are ~ Bruno Mars
Mine ~ Taylor Swift
Made To Love ~ TobyMac
The Edge Of Glory ~ Lady GaGa

OF COURSE, as soon as I burned it, I remembered three Zumba songs I wanted to add. :-P
Jump ~ Rupee
Rompe ~ Daddy Yankee
Waka Waka (Time for Africa) ~ Shakira
(I would've nixed the Taylor Swift for them, but JB is a TS fan & we liked those that I put on his Christmas present mix; they have sweet lyrics. Oh well. I don't need to be Zumba dancing in my seat while I drive, anyway. :-D)

What songs or awesome playlists can you recommend for my next whole-family-pleasing mix? (My usual fare is contemporary Christian, JB's is top 40, we both like the occasional country, and upbeat is better. It's just got to be clean for the little ears that learn the words & sing along! :-))

Saturday, June 11, 2011

PRESENTING...

Annelise *finally* started doing big jumps into the pool (with her life vest on, but still...) on Friday, and it INSTANTLY turned into showtime. Per her strict, specific instruction, before each & every jump, someone must boldly announce:

"PRESENTING: Annelise's Jumping Show! And she's HERE!!!"

She really does point her toes & angle her legs so beautifully when she jumps - it's amazing! MUST get back into dance & gymnastics down here... :-)

I got my new Junior League placement for the coming year: webmaster! I'm ready to make jlalbany.org rock this fall. I had my transition meeting Tuesday night with the last webmaster to learn the job; I have a new web design program to learn, but it seems fairly [old school] easy. I was so jazzed after the meeting, I stayed up for 3 hours making my first updates and fixing a problem they never could work out before...which fired me up even more. :-)

I snapped a ton of green beans this week - the fresh veggie of choice in our house lately. I love what my BFF Linds said about them: that's popping bubble wrap, Southern Style. ;-)

I feel silly: we've been wearing shorts & dresses here since February, but I *just* started putting some self-tanning lotion on my legs. What was I waiting for?

TV Stars, Chehaw, & Dentist [Fun?]

So after I posted that we were thus far boredom-free...boredom set in. :-P It was due: we'd only left the house twice in several days, once for a blah storytime at the library (I need to give them "reading with gusto" lessons! geeze!) and then for our biannual dental cleanings - yippee. [Actually, Will & Annelise LOVE going to the dentist! It's like a TREAT for them! :-O I go with it & nurture their enthusiasm...that I have *never* shared. I have the softest teeth ever - I can brush after every meal & still need work. :'( Miraculously, the kids are both still cavity-free (how is that possible with my genes in play??? thank JB!!!) & they had a ball watching "Kung Fu Panda", "Nemo", & "VeggieTales" during their visit. :-D Praising God for dental insurance!]

Thursday, we decided to really get out of the house & go over to our awesome local zoo, Chehaw. This place is just so impressive for our small area, and buying a membership was one of our best investments of the year. We feel so blessed that it's barely 10 minutes from our front door! When we showed up, they had a few Junior Zookeepers by the alligator swamp with a corn snake & a ball python for people to touch. (That alone would have rocked our wannabe-herpetologist-family's day. ;-)) We got to see the red wolves being fed, and then we headed over to the train to use 3 more of our free tickets. (Anywhere there is a train, our family must ride.) The breeze was lovely, and we are officially BFFs with the engineer now, a Mr. Hamm, with whom we chatted for about 30 minutes. [No exaggeration! He's from MS, but lived a good while in NC; he's been awfully anemic, so his wife has been making him chicken livers for lunch rather often; he's a master mechanic & has rebuilt every inch of the train. I love the South! Where else do you trade complete life histories with total strangers and feel absolutely natural doing so?]

After our ride, we headed back to go through the rest of the zoo and saw a camera crew & reporter freaking out over the big Burmese python in the Reptile House. Will ran up, and we proceeded to inform them all about the invasive species issues with Burms in FL, (a la Python Hunters on NatGeoWild. :-P) The reporter asked Will if he wanted to be on TV: ummmm, YES!!!!! They mic'ed him up and asked the kids all sorts of questions about the zoo. After the *ONE* question they didn't respond to - "How do you think they keep the animals cool?" - I finally jumped in & said, "Well, we were wondering that, too," to encourage them. OF COURSE, in the editing, the news used *that* little bit. :-/ Oh, but I had an answer, Buddy. :-P When I gave him my African animal answer, I think he was a little dumbfounded that I made a logical connection. :-D

And with that, we ended up leading off the 5:00 local news!


[PS - I wasn't combating the heat with my hat; I just didn't wash my hair that morning. ;-) Take note people: the day you don't clean up is the day you can be seen on the news online around the world! HA!!!!]

It really was such a cute experience, and I'm so glad we were a part of it! (And the kids *STILL* think they are TV supastars. ;-))

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Splash

The kids have been out of school for two weeks, and - miracle of miracles! - we haven't had an "I'm boooored!" whine, yet! Everyone knows my favorite thing in the world is going out for lunch, so the kids & I have done that several times, often walking around afterwards downtown:
Annelise looooves these turtles! There are bigger ones, each with a different theme, all over downtown, and we even found "the holding area" (in a parking deck corner :-P) for the ones that need to be refurbished! HA! (Will went nuts, b/c there's an M&M's turtle in there; I'm sure no one's rushing to clean them up, but Will looks for him every time.)

PS - this pic of Will just makes me grin:

We've been making granola bars like crazy. I'm serious: they're almost all I crave!

The kids have been watching "Wild Kratts" every chance I let them at the TV. :-P

And, of course, we've spent HOURS in the pool! (Check that: *they've* spent hours in the pool. I've spent about an hour and a half total. ;-)) Our temps have been HOT - over 100° all last week through yesterday - and I like it! :-D The kids can spend 3-4 hours in the pool - perfect way to keep them active & cool, (and we even have full shade over the pool for the afternoon by 2:30 PM.)

But JB is right: I'm not human; I'm a solar panel. Even when it's over 100° & the pool is over 80°, I still would rather be sitting alongside than in swimming. Esp. when there's a warm breeze = lovely! I often have zero desire to get in, but of course I do when the kids beg & drag me. ;-) I'm not saying it's not nice after the initial chill, but half an hour is all I need.

I *did* teach them about Adult Swim last week. (Who remembers that?! Adult Swim always sent me & my BFFs right to the snack bar for awesome Eastcliff Grill fries. Mmmmm! ;-)) I told them Adult Swim meant no splashing, no screaming, and time for peaceful, calm floating or lap swimming. Good to learn this stuff young. :-D

[Sidebar: OMG! The pool I grew up at in my old neighborhood, where we LIVED all summer, has a website! I looked it up on a whim after I typed Eastcliff Grill fries. :-P Awww, memories! The Breakers was the only swim team I was ever on.]

Oh, and I looove how *good* it smells to swim when the scent of my conditioner is reinvigorated by the pool water & wafts around my head... Mmmmmmm...

Daddy jumped in to play with the kids Saturday morning:
They are LOVING the cool pool basketball set Grandma & Grandpa brought! (Thank you thank you thank you!)

How cool is this?! I can't believe I snapped right as his feet touched the water!



And it's never too early to practice cheer stunting:


I still don't think we'd probably ever *buy* a house with a pool, if we could get into a neighborhood with a community one; it's A LOT of work! (Major praise that the homeowner has her pool guy come every Thursday! We ♥ Hank! Seriously, I know that - other than skimming & emptying the filter - the major pool upkeep is NOT my responsibility; but when the pool is dirty, like after a storm, I get stressed out! Hank vacuums my anxiety away along with the debris at the bottom. :-D) I think I'd prefer a neighborhood pool the next time we buy, not only for less personal expense & work, but for the social aspect & camaraderie; but I *will* say that it is AWESOME not to have any prep to go swimming! Since it's just us, it doesn't matter if I've shaved. (This is a HUGE deal, people! :-D) We don't have to pack drinks & snacks. We don't have to either walk in the heat or try to drive back w/o soaking the seats on the way home. We don't have to worry if it's open or about germs. It may be the first time I know there's not pee in there! :-D (My kids actually get out & go inside! :-O) It's nice to be able to immediately strip off wet suits & hang them up on the fence to dry before going inside. If the kids want to swim & I don't, I can still work on my laptop while watching them. (I would NEVER take it to a regular pool!) And the backyard view is GORGEOUS!!! We are really blessed & enjoying having this pool this summer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What I've Learned in 10 Years Since the Proposal

It's been 10 YEARS since JB gave me the rock on the top. ♥ ♥ ♥
(The second ring is my wedding band and the third was my Christmas present after Annelise was born: I wanted a ring with her (diamond - lucky chick ;-)) & Will's (peridot) birthstones, so JB got this one.)

[PS - I found a place here that does my Axxium manicures *AND* has the glitter colors, including my beloved "Glow It & Show It" (so I could even touch up on the bottom as it grows out!) It's not as thick & "glitter bomb" as I regularly do on my own, but the glitter in the Axxium formula is a lot thinner than the regular polish for it to go on correctly, and I didn't want them to charge me more for double the layers. :-P They almost stopped at 2, and I only asked for one more; I still love it, and I'm sure having the glitter a bit thinner will look better as it grows out. YAY!!!]

Sooo, after my "Why Am I Happy?" post, I got some awesome feedback, and a few things popped up re: spouses, so what better time than a milestone engagement anniversary to expound upon marital thoughts? :-P (As always, I'm NOT preaching that I'm perfect on this stuff 24/7, but I'm always pressing on to be better! :-))

Your spouse should not be responsible for your happiness.

They can't keep you happy. They can do things to make your days happier and your quality of life better, but happiness comes from a choice YOU make inside your own self. I'm not saying spouses don't affect us: one cross word from JB can gut me to the core, no feedback from him makes me feel like I've done something wrong, and his praise can shoot my spirits to the heavens! But being happy is about *me* making the choice to get over myself, even when I don't get what I *think I need* from him OR from BFFs or my family! It applies to everyone close to you in life: your happiness cannot depend on what they do for you, or what you do or where you go together.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned (that took me tooo long to embrace in a really dark time) is that God is more interested in changing me than my circumstances.

I was gutted when we moved from GA to MI 5 years ago, 8 months pregnant, in winter, with an 18 month old toddler, away from my family, my midwife, my perfect dance job, our first house, my home culture & climate, etc., etc. I wanted to really lean on JB to help me get happy up there, and it didn't work. Every night he had to work late (which became every single night in that wretched job) I was emotionally crushed to bits and sat defeated on the couch, because I was alone, and he wasn't there for me. It took a full year there for me to get the lesson into my head and pray for God to change my heart, so that I could actually be ready when He was ready to change my circumstances. I slowly learned to ACTIVELY look for & find happiness all around me and stop wanting JB to be an IV for my everyday living. [Excuses, excuses: I *was* breastfeeding full-time & had two babies under two, dumped off in land to which I felt exiled, so there were some major hormonal issues at play there, too; but not insurmountable.]

Yes, we BOTH prayed for change - a better move & a more reasonable job - but I knew that God wouldn't change my circumstances until I could prove that I could get happy wherever I was. It's a personal thing that your spouse can't do for you, (or even necessarily with you! JB didn't get the change in me for a long time after the fact.)

I also used to think that a good marriage meant freaking out whenever you couldn't be together. (My 2nd blog post was actually on how far I'd come on that! :-))

It's just not fair to put the major burden of your happiness on your spouse. You're supposed to do life together, not one drag the other barely functioning through. :-P We're paired up to edify each other, be sounding boards, and to share God's gifts. Negativity is poison, and if you poison your spouse, you will kill your marriage.

We've been through some horrible stuff in our 13+ years together, much worse than just the moves I often reference, (but those are easier to talk about than the near-death stuff) but so have a lot of people! And the fact that ten years after the proposal, we still fight through that junk together and have never considered letting it sink us? That is praise-worthy!!! Do we each have stuff to work on for each other? Of course, and we ALWAYS will! But we both want to, and I am so excited, even as I see us continuing to grow and get happier in our new happy place that we both wanted to get our family back to. :-) This year so far has been an answer to prayer, and I can't even imagine how much better it's still going to get!

I love you, Shoapy!!! ;-) ♥ ♥ ♥
[June 2001]

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Am I Happy?

This post has been on my mind since my mom told me about Grandmommy, and when my BFF Jackie called with the following question, I knew I had to blog this out:

"I have a friend whose mom died about 6 years ago, and I'm not judging, b/c I can't even imagine how horrible it would be not to be able to call my mom on the phone and chat, even from 16 hours away...but she *still* dwells on it all the time. I feel weird saying this, but there are times I totally forget you even lost your dad! I know that was awful for you, too, but my question is, why aren't you all depressed over the loss of your parent so young? What is it that makes you so happy all the time and not dwelling on the loss?"

Whoa - what an HONOR for her to see me that way!!! I answered right away without hesitation: "God. Jesus. Prayer. My faith in knowing that He has a perfect plan for my life, and that was apparently part of it."

I *am* a pretty happy, positive person. Debbie Downers irritate the fire of out me. What a waste of life! I'm not saying I don't have my down times (I hear the "amens!" ringing out from those of y'all who knew me 5 years ago ;-)) and isn't it a womanly "privilege" to claim hormone insanity for a few days each month? :-D But seriously, one of the biggest lessons I've learned over the last 10 years is that happiness is a CHOICE that you have to WORK at, and I refuse to let little junk steal my joy, (most days. ;-)) Is it easy to find the good in a trip I was looking forward to being canceled or getting stuck at the service station for an oil change lasting hours longer than I planned? Well, actually yeah. It gets easier every day. 10 years ago, I would have been a hysterical banshee of fury. Now, I stop, pray, and know that as long as I talk to God about it, He will work it out for my benefit. (Romans 8:28, y'all! :-D)

I am soooo not saying I don't still get angry, mad, or depressed! It just doesn't last as long, anymore. It's a total waste of life, and that honors no one.

Another example: our beagle, Bonnie Blue, turned 9 last month. We got her 2 months after we got married - our first baby. Right at her bday, we suddenly noticed she couldn't jump up on the couch or our mile-high bed anymore. I freaked: how can she already be getting "old"??? I was planning on her lasting until at least 14 - that's 5 years away; it's not time for this, yet! I felt like I was going to throw up, thinking about what it would be like for us when she goes...and then *I CHOSE TO STOP MYSELF.* I prayed, "Lord, I give this to you. You have a perfect plan for us, I know You will take her home at the perfect time for her & our family, and there's nothing I have to worry about."

Peace.

Just. Like. That.

Philippians 4:6-7

[BTW - B is better! Took her to the vet, they x-rayed her spine & hips - spine is perfect (that would have been an urgent thing) and her hips show some arthritis, so they started her on a glucosomine tab we put in her food, and she's back to a jumping puppy! PRAISE! :-)]

It all boils down to one thing: either you trust God has a plan for your life or you don't.

I do believe, and I talk to Him about it often, so I can make sure I'm getting His best for me. A short time ago, I was in a place that I did not want to be. One of my proudest accomplishments is that God helped me get a better attitude and live happily there. I look back through my scrapbook pages of those times & actually smile, b/c not only did He deliver us to a better fit for our fam now, but those times there were still happy once I got over myself. It was a major growing season of life, and of course, there were parts of it where I was a bawling mess...but I didn't stop & just lay there. I pressed on toward the prize, and I plan to keep pressing: Philippians 3:12-14

I talked to my friend Jamie & my mom the other day about the fact that I refuse to let myself think about when Grandmommy may go. We've both prayed about it, and we know that God will let it be at the perfect time for her and our family. Will it be sad? Of course! Will the next holiday season be weird? Yep. But will it honor her or God to wallow in mourning? No way. There's no reason I should make today sad thinking about what it will be like for me when it happens. It just makes me lose today's joy, (like it did for a bit when I thought about the dog! :-P)

It's extra hard when you don't live right close to your loved ones, but I wasted enough time being down over that, too. I've prayed for YEARS for God to send us where He wants us to be, (esp. throughout our 5 years up north!) so I know I'm always in the right place for now. Maybe if we were elsewhere, we'd have horrible issues I can't even imagine. I don't know. It goes back to trusting that God has a plan for my life, and as long as I'm talking to Him about it, I'm good & where I'm supposed to be.

Does it suck that my dad had a massive stroke on Valentine's Day my senior year of high school? Yep. Does it suck that my mom had to put him - my vibrant DAD (not grandfather) - in a nursing home for the last 5 months of his life? You better believe it. Does it suck that he died when I was only 19, a year before JB & I got together, before I went to Germany & could share all those adventures with him, before I graduated from one of the top schools in the country, before I got married & he could walk me down the aisle, before he could meet our children, and before he could see the woman I've become? Sure, *if* I CHOOSE to let myself think of it that way.

I don't. I know he's in heaven, and I know he hasn't missed a second of my or my kids' lives. He's the only one who hasn't missed a moment! Of course I wish JB & my kids knew him, but they will one day. :-) And I trust that God's plan is perfect for me. [And my brother walking me down in the aisle in his Navy dress blues was divine. :-)]

It's OK to get upset and angry...but not to dwell there. And it's OUR CHOICE to change our mindsets to improve our own quality of life. No one else can be responsible for our happiness. No thing can, either; they will always fall short of our expectations. It's all us and our choice to keep trying to find the good over and over and over and over, until it becomes second nature and transforms our lives. It doesn't happen overnight. (It wasn't until we had lived in MI for a full year that I got over myself enough to find the joy in picking strawberries starting in JUNE instead of April, *really* appreciating those warm days, etc.) It's not a quick switch you can flip. That light will get turned off when the first irritating thing comes at you. But please keep turning it back on, and it will stay on longer & longer each time. :-)

I'm absolutely not saying I've perfectly arrived at some great plateau of enlightenment; I fall short & flip out every. single. day. But those moments don't define me, and to have my BFF say that she thinks of happiness & enjoying life when she thinks of me??? (Esp. when she's been with me through every psycho move including her own over the last 8+ years?) That makes me feel like a million bucks, and that's what makes me want to share how God has worked in me to get me here (and will carry me further.)

I love y'all! Thanks for listening to me. :-)