Friday, July 27, 2012

Sayonara Sucky Fingers!!!

Annelise has sucked her left middle & index fingers since she was two months old:

I am 100% serious when I tell you I have worried that she was going to do this into adulthood. I talked cessation methods & theories ad nauseum with friends. I even talked to Annelise openly about it: she's such a girly girl, and I thought if I painted her nails - or better, got her a spa mani! - that would be motivation enough to stop. Nope. She said several times she *wanted* to stop...but that innate desire was always more powerful than her logic, and she sucked the polish right off every time. It's the ONLY way she could relax, self-soothe, or fall asleep.

This must've just been divine timing... My mom had a Groupon to Shug-A-Bug Kids Spa for her last month:
Even though this was not her first spa day or mani, it was apparently the perfect confluence of her cognitive development, maturity, and girly fancy for perfect nails, b/c that was exactly four weeks ago, and she has NOT ONCE sucked on those fingers!!! :-O Even in her sleep! (Yes, I've checked. ;-))

I am absolutely thrilled to pieces... but (& I reserve the right to say the following as her mother in light of the fact that she is our last baby ;-)) I admit I do feel the tiniest sad twinge of "awwwww!" in the deepest recesses of my mama heart that our baby is truly growing up and becoming a young lady. OF COURSE I don't EVER want her to suck her fingers, again...but I'm still allowed that teensy-weensy, silly, fleeting ache. ;-)

Safari N'djema

20 YEARS ago (how is that possible?!) I was on safari in Kenya, Africa! My parents sent me halfway around the world w/o them (they were friends with a lot of the people going; initially, my dad was going to go, too, but he had some medical issues & had to back out) for two weeks over my 14th birthday. It was an amazing opportunity; my parents knew I would live in Europe in college, but when else would I have the chance to go to Africa on safari at such a low student price with a group of people they trusted? I am so thankful they gave me this gift of a lifetime, and esp. at such an impressionable age.

[The camel I rode for two of those days, me (ha!), & our guide Sammy]

I kept a detailed journal of my trip, and our local newspaper published the ENTIRE THING as a feature when we returned! [MOM!!! PLEASE tell me you still have that laminated newspaper somewhere; I never took it out of the "important papers desk" in Concord...] I'd give anything to have a digital copy, not only to share with y'all, but to reread for myself. I shot 17 rolls of film, which doesn't seem so extreme today with digital cameras; but back then (in the olden days! HA!!!) taking over 500 photos in to be developed from one trip was a HUGE deal!!! :-D ...And if we had found & unpacked our scanner, yet, I could scan & share at least a few more images of the adventure with you. :-P

For now, I'll have to be content with my own memories of game drives, dust, the Milky Way, campfires, the Great Migration, & unspoiled vistas...and y'all with that one of literally TWO Africa pictures that I'm clearly *in*. [It taught me a valuable lesson, though, for travel that I still value today: hand off your camera, so you can be in shots & prove you were actually THERE, too!!! No lie: 17 rolls of film = well over 500 photos = 2 blurry pics of me & 2 clear ones. That's IT. :-P]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Official Texans

I'm 100% official!


[Best. ID Pic. EVER.]

We also got confirmation that out of *all* the NFL team names our new youth football league uses, Annelise is cheering for... the TEXANS! How's that for local spirit!? :-D Unfortunately for Will, the Texans are the most popular team, so their football roster was completely filled right when registration began BACK ON APRIL 1ST! The Texans are also the team associated w/ the kids' new elementary school (which is how Sis was placed on their squad) but that means Will got put on a different team - the Falcons - b/c we were so late registering & he had to go into one of the only open spots. :'( We tried so hard to get him switched - playing the "we just moved here, please don't separate our family, & let him get to know kids from his new school" cards...but all to no avail. We (& half of my FB friends ;-)) prayed about it, so for whatever reason, God wants the Blake girls to be Texans & the Blake boys to be Falcons, and we'll accept it. (JB's going to be the Falcons' Assistant Football Coach! :-D)

Bless her heart, though - Annelise burst into tears when I told the kids about the two different teams: she wailed, "I want to cheer for Will!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Oh, my heart! :'( We explained this is just for one year, that they'll be together next year, & she should be happy that she gets to know girls now from her new school. (Will's totally fine with it! I was a little surprised!)

Just thank goodness the kids are NOT on the evil, disgusting Cowboys, [b/c that *was* a potential option! (My beloved Redskins were not.) I think I would've pulled them...]

I'm going to be Annelise's Assistant Cheer Coach = full involvement w/ slightly less responsibility. ;-) I already LOVE the Head Cheer Coach; we've never even met in person, yet, and this girl went to bat for us trying to get Will switched like he was her own son! She went all the way up to the Commissioner; I told her I couldn't be more thankful that she made that kind of effort for us. I'm excited that she's so on the ball & full of organized spirit! We have coach training & certification this Saturday - ooo & ahh! ;-) I'm excited: apparently it's standard for the squads here to have several halftime dances throughout the season - yay! Practices for both cheer & football start next week; games will be on Saturdays & begin two days before school starts on Aug. 25th.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Amazing Wonders Aviation

The kids are doing VBS this week. (YAY for 9-noon morning sessions!) I'm sooo thankful we found one that fit our schedule this year!!! (Two years ago rocked their worlds so much, they *still* talk about it; last year, we couldn't do one = crushing.)

The theme is Amazing Wonders Aviation: "kids encounter God against the backdrop of some of the world's most marvelous natural wonders. As kids explore Psalm 147:5 ("Our Lord is great, vast in power; His understanding is infinite,") they’ll recognize God’s power over all things, trust that God is always in control, accept God’s gift of forgiveness, celebrate that Jesus is alive, and rely on God’s power." I really like this curriculum, and the kids are *excited* about it every single day!

My heart is absolutely filled to the brink when I watch them dance and sing along to the songs with such gusto & sheer joy! Esp. Will - he is so into it and emphatic with his arm motions, it almost looks like me teaching Zumba!!! There's nothing that triggers my happy-mama tears like seeing that...

Speaking of tears, I got unexpectedly emotional when I dropped them off Monday. (I *NEVER* cry on their 1st days of school, etc.) VBS just means so much to me; I wish I could've stayed there & helped out as a teacher! (It's not at the church we've been attending, so I didn't get in on the volunteer opportunity; we just found out about it on our neighborhood website = yay!) They were singing a song we sang at Trinity VBS, which made me miss Dr. Moore. :'( Then they sang one I grew up with ("Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah, Praise ye the Lord!") and my heart completely welled up. On another note, I am SO THANKFUL my kids will walk into a group where they know absolutely NO ONE and let me just leave. Yay, social confidence!!!

New Friends

Y'all have to forgive me for being a bit MIA. This time it's not b/c of any secret job offer or potential move I can't talk about, ;-) but b/c we're out & about exploring & enjoying our new area!

And I have new friends! :-) First off, praise the Lord for FB: one of my college friends has a sister-in-law who lives here in our new town! She got us together on FB, and now we've gone out to lunch (my FAVE activity EVAH!!!) twice. :-) She is an area native, so she has tons of local info for me = priceless. Her two children are much younger (both still in diapers) but she is so incredibly thoughtful, coming up with ideas of things we can do together that work for all four of our kids. We may even trek out to the Blue Bell ice cream factory tour next week! [Don't worry, Mom - we'll go back!!! :-D]

Also praise the Lord for neighborhood pools & friendly kids! Last week, Will & a little boy named John Patrick glommed onto each other, and that was IT. They organized "a meeting of mommies" where they formally introduced me to his, so we exchanged numbers. :-) I took a chance & texted them last Thursday when we went to another one of the ten pools in our neighborhood; they showed up...and we talked nonstop for 4 HOURS! (The kids' faces even got sunburned, b/c we lost track of time & had no idea we'd been chatting so long! :-P) This super sweet lady then even firmed up plans for us to get together for lunch on my birthday, so I wouldn't be w/o a girlfriend celebration!!! So thankful.

I have two more new friends I haven't actually met, yet, :-P and BOTH are thanks to mutual friends on FB. I feel very blessed and very excited to already have quality connections here. :-)

In addition to a couple friends, we think we've already found a church here that fits us (whew!) but they don't have another New Member class (a one day thing) until September, so I can't immediately start up a new Zumba ministry there or join their Praise Team. *patience, patience* :-P (Not one of my virtues! :-D)

School starts here August 27th, so we have a whole nother month of summer! :-D (Annelise went back August 1st last year & Will was the 10th, but they also got out mid-May.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pool Pleasure

We finally made the time to pick up our neighborhood pool key this morning, and look who took advantage of adult swim on one of the waterslides:
The water even is warm enough for me to enjoy! I think we'll be here every day now. :-P

This is just one of the water parks in our new neighborhood. :-) There are TEN pools - none of which *I* have to skim or clean! :-D JOY!!! - and two of those have big slides; one is a sandy beach, too, but we haven't checked that one out:

[The Beach Club - they also have free paddle boats to use on the lake around it! What?! :-D]

[The other pool with waterslides beside; this one's a saline pool.]

[The big water park pool, where we were today.]

Have I mentioned, yet, how much I love this neighborhood and living here? ;-)

I feel like our real summer vacay actually, finally started today. We're not saying goodbyes, traveling, or unpacking boxes. (OK - there are still TONS of boxes to unpack for the office/library & guest room; but I did the entire dining room & china cabinet yesterday, and the kids absolutely cannot be cooped up any longer without serious physical activity.)

This pool business is beyond ideal in every way. In GA, it was nice to walk out our back door to jump in (& not have to ride in a car w/ wet suits ;-)), but that pool was freezing and lonely. In MI, there were no lifeguards - you couldn't turn your eyes for a split second; and since there was also no splash area or zero depth entry, I couldn't relax there with a 4 & 5 year old at all. The last place we had lifeguards was IL, but that was when the kids were 3 & 4, so lifeguards or not didn't really matter; plus that was the coldest summer in Naperville history, so we wasted all that town pool membership money on maybe five visits.

The kids now being 6 & 7 [Will would protest, "But I'm 8 in three weeks!" :-)] makes all the difference in the world. They know what they can safely do on their own in the pool; one can be going down the waterslides while the other is in the splash park without me freaking over divided attention. They also don't whine about potty stuff or needing snacks every 30 minutes. It's fun going to the pool with self-sufficient little humans!!! I no longer feel like I'm packing for a safari to do so, either. :-P

As if this afternoon wasn't perfect enough, I had just given the final warning that we were about to leave when we heard the first clap of thunder. Amazing pool play + two hours of rumbling thunder at home = pure perfection.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Alarming TX Life Notes

* This house has an alarm system. Said alarm system has been going off every night at 3:30 AM beeping "low battery" = very angry Sues & JB. I spent some time on the phone with the alarm company trying to figure out how to fix it: there were three steps, two of which I found instantly. The last part was finding another small power box, "which could plugged in in any room in the house." Are you kidding me? We can't get to most of our walls, b/c of the boxes. I *still* found a way to scour every perimeter...but nothing. Two more nights of alarmingly disturbed sleep. This afternoon, I talked to our realtor about it; she didn't know what else to do, but she told me a story about when her system was hit by lightning & she had to go up into the attic to get hers turned off. Guess where our last mystery power box was? In the attic! (Note to the alarm company: please also suggest looking in attics. Kthnxbi.) So excited at the prospect of UNINTERRUPTED sleep tonight!!!

* We've had major flooding rains the last few days, and at least some afternoon rain almost every day since we arrived...and I love it. This area experienced the same exceptional drought as south Georgia last year, so this rain is welcome...and for whatever reason, I don't find it the least bit depressing! So we haven't gotten to go to any of the *TEN* pools (including two water parks & a sandy beach pool!!!) in our neighborhood, yet - no big deal. We'll get there. :-)

* We're still eating well. :-P In addition to being obsessed with fresh tortillas, the kids & I went to the actual Kolache Factory for brunch Wednesday. Heavenly:
They're like Asian bao or yeast rolls, each stuffed differently - breakfast: egg, cheese, meats; lunch: Italian chicken, Philly cheese, barbeque!!!; and dessert: fruit, cinnamon, cream cheese. The barbeque stole my heart: they're so much like the cha siu bao (Asian pork buns) I love.

* On a healthier note, I found our Vitamix, so after Zumba-at-home this morning, I got to make my fave post-Zumba smoothie: protein powder, chia seeds, & frozen fruit as ice cubes. JB bought coconut water, so I used that instead of plain water, too. Yay, extra potassium! :-D (Several people asked me about chia seeds, so here are two pretty straightforward links: this one & that one.) It's reeeeeeally lonely doing Zumba by myself, but I know I have to stay on my game, so I can be ready when God opens the right door at the perfect time. (Pray for that with me. :-))

* Speaking of God opening doors, on JB's lead ♥, we tried a new church on Sunday. It was...wonderful. It felt a lot like a mash-up of our last three happy churches. I talked last year about how hard "church shopping" in Georgia was on our family (see these comments and this) and I've prayed that we'd be able to make a quick connection here, instead of floundering. (I love diving right in deep; I'm the anti-commitment-phobe!) First off, I was totally impressed with the high-tech kid check-in process. I'm sure their software has a nifty name, but you check in on a computer, it prints out name stickers for the kids, matching pick-up tags for the parents, and tracks attendance & address updates. I love that Will (rising 3rd grade) & Annelise (rising 1st) have their own classes but come together to sing a few songs. JB & I enjoyed our adult service. I feel cheesy typing this, but I actually got teary & had the tingles during our first prayer - I truly felt God's presence. There was a nice amount of singing = enough to fulfill me w/o totally irritating JB ;-) and I would not be intimidated to audition to sing on their praise team. :-) Another positive: they have a perfect Zumba space. Pray for God to let me know the right time to approach them about starting a Zumba ministry there, if that's where God wants us. Pray that God makes it clear, so I don't jump the gun or waste any time, either.

* Look what we found in our new library!!! One of our awesome friend (from our MI church :-)) Peter Schriemer's nature DVDs!!!
Now we need to find a way to get his new series, The Nature of God, there, too!!! We still haven't seen any of those, and the kids would LOVE to!

* Will & Annelise are now signed up for youth football & cheer...and JB & I are signed up to be their respective assistant coaches! :-D So excited that:
1) Will is giving football another chance, even after the negative spirit & blah coaching he experienced last year
2) JB is going to be an assistant, too! I look at it as perfect quality control: if the head coach rocks, great; if not, you are authorized to get involved w/o being "that" parent ;-) (I signed up for assistant, too, instead of head, just b/c I don't know how this organization works; I figure it's easier to step up & offer to do more when we get into it than step back.)
3) They form the teams & cheer squads by elementary school, so since both kids will be at the same school for the first time since the one year in Chicago, she should be cheering for his team! :-)
It's going to start pretty quickly - practices begin by August 1st!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

License to Wait

Tuesday morning, I loaded up the kids & drove 30 minutes down to our closest (& supposedly quietest!) area TX Driver's License office. (It's called the DMV where I grew up, but in TX it's DPS.) While I fed the kids, I somehow forgot to feed myself... (This fact plays into my level of desperation several hours later. :-P)

When we arrived in the sleepy town (that reminded me of south GA) and turned the corner to see the DPS building, my jaw dropped: the line was out the door & wrapped halfway around the outside of the building! (I can imagine what my face looked like; it was surely the exact same expression that everyone who entered the lot was stricken with, and to which we all knowingly nodded sad half-smiles over & over & over during our whole outside wait! :-P) I resisted the strong urge to flee - going to the Driver's License office is up there with the dentist for me - and got in line with the kids.

It began to rain.

PRAISE GOD for the big umbrella we actually had in the van!!!

We stood in line OUTside for 2 hours.

When we got INside, we waited 2 MORE hours.

PRAISE GOD for iPods!!! (Sidebar: our kids don't have DS's or real portable game systems; they have our old (& from JB, cracked screen ;-)) iPhone 3Gs w/ the SIM cards taken out, so no calling - just game playing. They're really just iPod Touches now, so I feel good about upcycling our old electronics, & I'm all about their "game systems" running apps that cost 99¢ or nothing, as opposed to $20-$30 for each new game! :-D)

Considering the four hour wait with no snacks, the kids were AMAZING! Several random people made it a point to come over and compliment their behavior. ♥♥♥ Even when everyone on our row inside was about to lose it, b/c they moved out of our number sequence (how dare they stop the 300's at 312 & move to the 400's?!?! We were 314; 313 shared our righteous indignation :-P) the kids tried to commiserate appropriately. Annelise sighed just loud enough to support our rowmates, "Oh pleeeeease don't stop the 300's!" ...And then she started singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" :-D

Be good for goodness sake, DPS!!!

When 314 was finally called, we sprung up to our booth. Good news: I like my TX pic better than my GA one I just surrendered. ;-) AND I squeaked by on my vision test w/ no restrictions! (I'm not deluded; I know I'm getting nearsighted, but I just wanted one more restriction-free license. :-P) So YAY!

Was it a fun way to spend half a day? Heck no! But it COULD have been worse: it could've rained harder, with lightning or hail; we could've been stuck in line with unsavory characters; it could've been over 100°; and thank God we all have legs strong enough to stand that long!!! :-) It really wasn't the end of the world. Yay for positivity!!!!

So after all that, what did we do?

Ok, OF COURSE we ate! But then we went right over to our new library to get library cards! :-D Disappointed but not surprised that ALL of the suggested summer reading for their rising grade levels are checked out w/ tons of holds; but I added 10 holds for each of them, anyway, so hopefully people will return quickly. :-)

The library has a FANTASTIC summer reading program: for reading either 20 books or 20 hours (parents decide: so for Will, I'll count 20 chapter books; he usually spends ~45 min on each) they get a TROPHY!!! There is no better motivation for my kids! ;-) (They are really nice trophies, too! :-D) The library is gorgeous, and extra bonus: it's right across the street from...drumroll, please...Starbucks! :-D (Not that that means too much here, w/ a Sbux on almost every corner; but it still makes the residual south GA in this girl happy!!! ;-))

Monday, July 9, 2012

Houston Hmmms...

Houston - and esp. our neighborhood - is so lush & green! I knew it wasn't going to be all tumbleweed :-P, but I didn't expect this much big green growth - maybe more than anywhere else I've ever lived! I even have a hard time seeing what stores make up the shopping centers in our area, b/c the huge crepe myrtles & other not-just-planted-last-year trees lining the roads obscure the view inside. :-D

Blue Bell Ice Cream comes from here! Blue Bell is my fam's ultra fave national brand. (Strawberries & Homemade Vanilla blended with cream soda = you're welcome.) We are sooo going on a factory tour...

Our amazing new grocery, H-E-B, lives up to the hype. I never thought Publix could be bested...until now. Get this: ours has a fresh Tortillaria. Yep - it's exactly what it sounds like: fresh, warm, authentic tortillas cranked out every day. It's (obviously ;-)) right beside the bakery dept. I used fresh whole wheat ones to make chicken quesadillas for dinner. Mmmmm... I will never eat a prepackaged round of blah ever again. If we ever leave TX, I may have to swear off tortillas forever...

No Swing State

I hate talking politics, b/c I feel like it's become such a nasty, polarizing, vitriolic subject in America. I have so many friends & family members who are registered with a different political party than myself (although I fancy myself a moderate bipartisan champion) but it's sad that I don't even feel "safe" bringing up politics w/ them, for fear of being chided ("How can you support that?") like an ignoramus. It makes me sick that working together & taking the best parts of each side has turned into something seemingly reprehensible.

But I digress... The point of this post is not to stir up the forbidden topic, but to state the *ONLY* good thing about living in states where the outcome is a foregone conclusion. It sucks that the minority of red voters in blue states & blue voters in red states are virtually disenfranchised thanks to the Electoral College; but there's one tiny bright spot: no horrific political ads running nonstop on TV! South GA & TX are solidly red, so no campaign is going to waste money on ads here. Visiting NC was a whole nother story!!!

I felt like I was being slapped in the face back & forth over & over & over by both sides every time the TV was turned on. We are very open with our kids re: national news, so they - esp. Will - take notice of politics...and these commercials were a total overload for them. Will kept asking, "Why would they say that?" for each outrageous, negative commercial he saw. It honestly broke my heart. After just 2 days (& we were there 2.5 weeks!) I told the kids to ignore every single political commercial from BOTH sides, b/c neither candidate actually wrote them; they were all done by people who wanted to pay a lot of money to make their side look better. [Seriously, how deluded must someone of voting age have to be to actually buy into ANY of that junk???]

It was gross. And disheartening. And discouraging, as an American citizen who doesn't think working together is "being a traitor to my side." I don't have a side like that. My side is positivity & loving others.

And that's why, until Election Day, I'm glad we don't live in a swing state, so I can keep watching my TV in peace! :-D

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Houston Homecoming

Helloooooo, Texas! We have arrived!

We got in Monday evening, right on time at 6 PM. JB picked us up at HOU, we went home, explored the house, snuggled Bonnie, and just crashed together on the couch. :-) ♪ ♫ Reunited and it feels so good... ♪ ♫

JB surprised us by getting to take Tuesday off, so we explored out and about:
*Black Walnut Café for breakfast - apparently Texas is obsessed with kolaches: warm, slightly sweet, fresh-baked pastries traditionally filled w/ meat, cheese, or fruit. (They're not Mexican; they're central/eastern European.) I had ham & mozzarella = delish! I am on board with the obsession...
*tollway EZ Tag procured for the van - holy toll fees! They seem higher than Chicago... Not that I will be spending much time on toll roads, but JB does going into work. It's nice to have the option to avoid the traffic, if I need to. :-) Also, the road system here is HUGE!!! Every highway is raised (flooding is a big deal here; there are flood gauges at the bottom of every highway hill) and there are frontage roads on both sides of each highway with access to the local roads. Every exit has a u-turn lane back under the raised highway, in case you went too far. :-)
*reveled in the Houston Galleria (and bubble tea!!!) - the largest mall in Texas (and y'all know, everything's bigger in TX! :-P)
*rejoined beloved Costco - ♥♥♥
*Katy Mills for Brave - Daddy's been waiting so long to see it w/ the kids :-)
*Chuy's for dinner - the best tortilla soup I've ever had in my life. Like I'm still craving it. Kind of out-of-control. If this weren't such an insane land o' plenty, we would've gone back by now; but with SO MANY amazing new dining options, I can't bring myself to double up...yet.

This place is total abundance overload - in a good way! :-)

On Wednesday, July 4th, we did more exploring before an afternoon unpacking session. I made JB hit the brakes and pull over for a pic in front of the big grocery store here, H-E-B. Why? They had BEYONCÉS out front!!! :-D

We celebrated the evening of the 4th at LaCenterra. The kids climbed on a fire truck to kill time before the fireworks. :-) Central time is the best for TV, but our body clocks were thrown off waiting so long for it to get dark...

It was MORE than worth it, though! That was the closest I've ever sat under a huge fireworks display - completely breathtaking!!! Such a rush!!! (& so sweet w/ the kids snuggled close enough to feel their heartbeats :-)) While we were waiting to exit the parking deck, we heard Phillip Phillip's "Home" on the radio - a poetically sweet confirmation we're in the right place for our fam, and a happy Leesburg shout out! :-)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Displacement

These last two & a half weeks have felt...weird. The kids & I are not homeless, but we have never set foot in our new house. (JB did the house hunt solo.) We've never even set foot in our new home state! (I had an hour layover ten years ago at IAH, but that doesn't count.) We've had to say goodbye to south Georgia, but we haven't gotten to start our new lives in Texas. JB has been there for a month - settling in, exploring restaurants & shops that we'll love; I'm so excited to hear about them all, but I still have no frame of reference in my head for placing anything he's found. My Facebook feed is still full of all my local south Georgia news & establishments; it doesn't feel right to hide them, yet, (I won't "unlike" them) but there's no reason for me to know that a boutique I loved there is having 40% off from 4-8 PM on Friday, (esp. when I *WISH* I could hit that sale! :-P) It feels like we've been gone already for months... I still kind of want to know what's going on in our small-town, super close community...except, it's not mine, anymore. Chances are slim we'll get back to visit anytime soon (or ever?) since we have no family there & it's off our family travel paths. I'm totally ready to get on with my new Texan identity...but I've still never been there. It's just weird. And it's not that I haven't enjoyed our time with my fam in NC - it's been WONDERFUL!!! But it's not the community I need to plug into, so I feel like I'm floating around, completely displaced. [I am so NOT a loner. I get a lot of personal contentment & gratification in becoming ingrained in my community, so this weirdness feels like an extra big deal.] It's also very different from when the kids & I lived here with my fam in NC for a month & a half in 2010 in b/t moving from Chicago back to Michigan. We were going back to the same area, friends, and church we'd left a year & a half earlier, so I plugged back in over FB with everyone before we even showed up; I knew where my grocery & trusted pediatrician were, and I even taught VBS back at our old church the week after we arrived. This is a whole new ballgame.

It will all change Monday, when we arrive in Texas at 6 PM CENTRAL TIME ;-), but I just wanted to share that this has been odd for me. I wanted to change my "lives in" from Leesburg, GA to our new Texan town on FB...but it feels like lying until I've actually set foot there, you know? Maybe Monday night...

Charleston Charm

My mom, Annelise, & I drove down for a day trip to Charleston, SC on Saturday. [Y'all are well aware by now that Charleston is my favorite place in America! :-D] It was pretty much a redux of our exact day trip two years ago, sans Will, who stayed in CLT with Grandaddo for guy time. ;-)

We drove straight into town and parked for the Charleston Farmer's Market in Marion Square. I'm still obsessing over the Charleston Crêpe Company after our wonderful experience last year, so there was no question that's where I was getting lunch. Yeah, it was hot out (I am sick to death of hearing people whine about the heat - esp. lots of the same ones who tell me to suck it up in the winter!) but my spirits weren't a bit wilted, and my Monte Cristo crêpe was heavenly. :-) Other divine finds: Chocolate Sea Salt popsicle from King of Pops and amazing preserves & ground-fresh-on-Thursday grits from The Colonial Charleston Kitchen (owner, Steve Dowdney, gave Annelise a jar of peach preserves, just for being sweet! :-D His balsamic pepper jelly = amazing!) I also fell in love with ALL the scents from The Charleston Soap Chef! I really wanted to buy something - ANYTHING! - from her, esp. to have in our new home, but I honestly could not decide which fragrance. Charleston Sweetgrass - so fresh & clean, Blooming Jasmine - perfect strong floral, Lemon Sugah - the only citrus I've ever liked, Love Milk Honey - even my perfume has a honey scent, Southern Magnolia - perfectly Southern, & Sweet Tea - uniquely sweet & clean = all of them, yes, please!

After the Farmer's Market, we headed over to the Charleston City Market. Talk about renovations: they now have an entire glassed-in & air-conditioned section - what a happy surprise! :-D Speaking of happy surprises, I got to meet up with my friend Shelley & her kids for the first time in over ten years!
Neither one of us could get over how normal hanging out together felt - like we just do this all the time. We really know & have kept up with each other so well (thank you, FB!) that it didn't feel "special" - but rather comfortable, happy, & relaxed...even while chasing three kids [Annelise, Carson, & Eli]. ;-) We browsed the Market, talked to the animals in the Palmetto Carriage Big Red Barn, made Eli's day at The Brass Pirate, and - of course; it's ridiculously inescapable - visited the candy kitchen. :-P

We left Shelley & her kids with hugs and drove over to Isle of Palms - our beach. While CLT was baking in a 109°F heat index, the beach was sheer perfection: the strong, warm sea breeze made our 95°F heat index really feel like the actual 84°F temp. :-P The ocean was warm (I didn't want to get totally wet, since we only had the public beach stand & not a condo to clean up in before dinner; but Annelise swam & swam and did NOT break out in cold urticaria bumps!)

We could've stayed out on the beach forever...but supper called. We cleaned up as best we could and rolled back over IOP & Sullivan's Island to one of our oldest faves, Locklear's in Mt. Pleasant. I had my requisite corn fritters with tomato jam, and Annelise charmed the zebra eel out of hiding from under the coral. (She does this every time, and the owners have said before that he doesn't come out for anyone else! :-D)