Sunday, June 30, 2013

Last Two Months Digiscrapped

Just like two months ago, I got "behind" and had a TON of digiscrapping to catch up on! How much can really happen photo-wise in two months? Um, SIXTEEN PAGES worth!!! [Full-size, these pages are 12"x12"; you can click to see them each bigger here.]

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rock Wall

While I teach Zumba when school's out, the kids go to the "child center"...which at the prestigious gym means they can harness up & try to climb the THREE STORY adult rock wall! Annelise apparently did it twice this Wednesday, including ringing the bell at the top!!! (Will said he might try next week. Bless his heart, I don't love heights, either. ;-)) Sis is on a landing of the stairwell halfway up the 1st story here that overlooks part of the rock wall complex; I had to sit on the floor of the stairs to angle up enough to get the top in for the 2nd pic I merged w/ the bottom!

You can see how big it really is here in these pics from the club's website:

That's the rock wall complex behind all the glass in the front corner of the building. I teach my Monday class in the studio on the 3rd floor to the right of the rock wall.

My Wednesday class is in this 3rd floor studio where you can see the exercise balls & green yoga mats (neither of which I use for teaching Zumba; but I do use them when I take my strength class! :-))

It's such a gorgeous facility! It makes me happy every time I walk in and out!!! So blessed!

And I'm still daily amazed at what my kids can accomplish!!! :-D

[PS - Not to be outdone, Will won a game in the child center this morning and ending up getting a prize! Not just *any* Oriental Trading Company piece of kitsch, but a gym Tervis w/ a lid! That's a $20 prize! :-O Go, Bud! (And thank you in advance for sharing w/ Mommy! ;-))]

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Finding Our Texas Summer Stride

As soon as we hopped off the plane back in Houston on Sunday, we did what our family does best: went out to eat! :-D

JB drove us straight to Happy Fatz for lunch (I caught Annelise off guard; this may be the only pic we have of her not smiling!!!) and we all enjoyed crazy custom hot dogs! [I'm almost afraid to tell y'all how I customized mine in the foreground. ;-) I promise it was heavenly: hot dog on pretzel bread topped with baked beans, tomatoes, & queso fresco. Baked beans instead of ketchup, y'all = salty/sweet perfection!!! Seriously. Trust me on this. (PS - beans & franks are a classic combo; I'm not the 1st to make this up! :-D)]

So back to Texan life!

Back to teaching Zumba Mondays & Wednesdays. I'm so thankful for the members who show up to my classes. They bless me every.single.time. Also, since my gym commute is almost half an hour, I'm so thankful our van a/c is FINALLY FIXED!!! (after over 3 months, 3 appointments, & a barf-inducing amount of $$$ :-P) [It was no big deal back in March, but over 100°F now is a bit much even for me, when the car is parked in the sun & inside is actually over 160°F!]

Back to summer reading. (For the kids. I have no books I'm obsessing about on the horizon; plus, I'm too busy reading what y'all write! ;-)) I went through the kids' suggested reading lists from school for their upcoming grades and put all those books on hold at the library. Of course, every other local parent did the same, so we're 30th in line for some of them, but hey - it'll spread the joy out over the summer. Will is decidedly *not* excited about reading...which stinks. He was so proud of himself last year for how much he had grown in his reading skills, but he "hates" most of the suggested reading books. He only happily chooses books with cartoons inside; favorites: Garfield & Diary of a Wimpy Kid. (Ugh.) I also see him falling into the exact same mind trap that ensnared me: instantly feeling overwhelmed when a book is reeeeeally long. Like so overwhelmed, you can't even bear to crack it to begin. (*shudder* Even just typing that, my heart raced w/ panic, thinking back to some of my school-year assignments.) I was hoping he would be like his daddy and just want to devour books 24/7. Sorry, Bud. One of the few areas I'm *not* proud that you take after me. :-( I don't tell him I also feel like that, though. I play up how manageable each book is: "You can read this in no time! It's just like reading two of that other series you finished in one." I've also been adding when we pray aloud together before bed, "God, help Will feel how powerful it is to love reading! Light a fire in him to help him love reading as much as he loves football, so that he can be extra strong in everything he does, in school & on the field." (The strength & power analogies speak to him.) My reading struggle w/ Annelise is finding level-&-age-appropriate stuff: everything on the rising 2nd grade list is sooooo beneath her. She's tearing through 3 books in 20 minutes. I've got to find something else, more substantial; maybe Judy Moody? But I don't want books full of questionable behavior, though, either. Just b/c she can read a year ahead doesn't mean she needs to be soaking up that extra attitude, you know? (This house has plenty; we don't need any more. ;-) :-D) Suggestions?

Back to the pool with friends. :-) I remember being completely bowled over last year that our neighborhood has 10 different pools; but we have our favorite two now and really just stick to those. Here's our crew (of Annelise's 1st grade BFFs & fams) patiently(?) waiting out adult swim Tuesday afternoon...

Back to finding special adventures! We went with Will's 3rd grade BFF & fam to the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land this morning:
Y'all *know* this stuff is "my thing!" :-D

Excited to see what else the Texan summer brings!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The REAL Grey Ghost Story!

I posted yesterday about the Carolina legend of the Grey Ghost or Gray Man and that "we knew someone" who had had an encounter. My awesome mom has written out the account for me to share! I give you her guest posting:

Lila White Bost Shay was a lady from Concord, distantly related, probably as everybody was. Sometime in the late 1940's she moved to Ocean Drive Beach (now North Myrtle) and opened a guest house called the Rendezvous, which she ran till the mid 60's. Guests had individual knotty pine paneled rooms and shared two hall bathrooms.

There was a huge open deck on the front, a screened porch, living room upstairs, and lots of camaraderie among the guests.

The most wonderful thing about the Rendezvous was the food! Lila White, her sister-in-law, and seasonally a black lady whose name I don't remember put out three full meals a day, from scratch, fresh and local ingredients, the like of which I have never tasted again in my life...and remember, I was raised by Grandmommy.

Anyway, in 1954 one breezy fall day after dinner (lunch,) Lila White was washing dishes at the sink and looked up to see a man dressed all in gray outside the window. Thinking he may be hungry, she walked out the back door to talk to him. She could not find him anywhere, even though the street was just a few cottages and houses that you could easily see around.

Walking back inside, she felt a chill down her whole body. She realized the man was not just wearing gray, he was gray top to bottom, face, hands, clothes, everything. She knew who he was.

Lila White and her sister-in-law (whose name I also cannot remember) packed up and left the beach that afternoon and drove up to Concord. That night, Hurricane Hazel came onshore just north at Oak Island - full moon, high tide, equinox. It wiped out many of the houses at Ocean Drive and submerged all but one hill on Oak Island; but true to the legend, the Rendezvous was undamaged.

I still get chills! :-P Thanks, Mommy! ♥ (And feel free to guest post anytime! :-))

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sweet Rewards, Ghost Stories, & Zumba Heart Rate Monitor

935 calories burned teaching Zumba with Susie + some of my chocolate caramel M&M apple from Tweetsie or molasses spice cookies from Charleston = guilt-free dessert! Mmmmmm...

Disclaimer: my Zumba class isn't a full hour & 23 min! It runs b/t 65 & 70 min; those last 15 min were me cleaning the mirrors & going down to the hot tub. :-D

And b/c my *most often asked* Zumba question is about my heart rate monitor: I use the Polar FT4. I have tried three other cheaper models, and they were totally useless = completely inaccurate. This one is the cheapest (listed $99.95, but often cheaper - I've seen $65 on Amazon; I paid ~$75 at a sporting goods store) for the best quality & accurate data. The chest strap is key!

Treats: that apple is my *must have* sweet each visit from the Tweetsie Fudge Works, and when I saw those cookies in the Charleston Market, I knew they must be mine. Not only are chewy, spicy, molasses ginger cookies my ultimate fave, but what sealed the deal for me was the name: "Grey Ghost Bakery". Now, I am *not* into any horror movies or gross scariness AT ALL; but growing up, I was fascinated with the culture of Carolina ghost stories. There are myriads!!! (I always wanted to see the Brown Mountain Lights!) One of my most favorites is the legend of the Grey Ghost or the Grey Man along the Carolina coast: it's beach-themed, he's a good ghost :-P, and my family knows people WHO HAVE ACTUALLY SEEN HIM! Yeah... The story is simple: a figure walks the beaches warning visitors and residents of the potential danger due to an approaching storm. He's not scary; he just wants to spare people his same fate. First sightings appeared in the early 1800's and have been reported into recent times. (I know there are reports of people who saw him before the category 4 Hurricane Floyd in 1999.) People disagree on who he actually "was", if he verbally speaks or not, and where he's from - the Grey Ghost is claimed from Cape Hatteras, NC down to Pawleys Island, SC - but everyone agrees that he's a friendly spirit with noble intentions, and that if you have an encounter, you better pack up and evacuate posthaste!!! I remember hearing how "someone we know" (Mom, who was it?) saw him at the beach in 1954; remember, that was before our advanced weather forecasting, satellite warning systems, etc. Right afterwards, Hurricane Hazel, a category 4 storm, hit. He's never wrong, and I've always been fascinated by the tales...

...And his namesake's bakery makes some darn good cookies! :-D

Monday, June 24, 2013

Carolina Solstice

Saturday was our last night in NC, and we did as we ALWAYS do at my parents' house, at least a few times per visit: giant cookout with every friend, neighbor, & family member available! My goal anytime I travel somewhere is to get to see as many friends & beloveds as possible!!! It is a *necessity* when I live so far away from most of my BFFs!!!

Saturday we had my BFF Wendy & her son Alex, my brother Andy & his son Matthew, my cousins Jenni, Amy, & Victoria, our fave neighbors Kendall, Ellison, Mark, & Shana, and my parents' newest neighbors who just built on the formerly-empty lot beside them. Burgers, mac & cheese, and just hanging out. No agenda. Adults chatting, kids playing on their own, and a sparkler break at twilight:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Leapin' Lemurs! Or Kangaroos, Wolf Cubs, & Tigers, Oh My!

Friday was our last big NC adventure day. We trekked up I-77 a little further after our Davidson lunch to...Zootastic Park. It's a small zoo that focuses on animal rescue. Nothing fancy or state-of-the-art, but an opportunity of a lifetime: LaLa had arranged for us to have an AMAZING hour-long private animal encounter!!! Just the four of us together with a zookeeper in an empty room...

...Until in bounded a young red kangaroo!!! The kids' jaws dropped! They had no idea! :-D We had told them that we had a surprise that day, but when we drove up, they thought it was just going to be walking around the zoo. We all fed Boomer grapes out of our hands, and he then hung out in the room with us the whole rest of the encounter. Boomer was laid back (& so soft!)

The next part was *my* personal favorite. The zookeeper gave us each fruit in our hands and told us to hold still. In leaped two ring-tailed lemurs!!!!! They flew across the room and jumped right up to eat out of our hands. Stunned.
Lemurs are one of our fam's ultimate favorite animals (thanks, Zoboomafoo!) and they are almost impossible to experience an encounter with. Next, the zookeeper had me stand up on a raised stage area with my arms straight out & fruit in my palms. Both lemurs scaled the walls around me...then JUMPED ON MY HEAD & climbed out on my arms to the fruit!!! They just sat on my shoulders eating, then jumped back off, and then jumped back on me, like I was their play tree! It was INCREDIBLE!!!
They land so lightly - it seems like a lemur flying at your head from high off a wall would make a substantial impact, but nope. We all got to take turns being their play tree.
Pure magic:

I also got one extra bonus: the zookeeper showed me how to have one take a piece of cantaloupe out of my mouth! :-D

Next on the docket were two wolf cubs, Dakota & Montana. One was a timber wolf & the other a black wolf. They were so fun & snuggly!!! The only reason they weren't "so amazing" is b/c they were JUST LIKE dog puppies! Super sweet, but until they get bigger, they didn't seem exotic. :-P

Our last playmate was, though: we were told to sit still & let this animal come to our laps. Tigger, the tiger cub came in squawking for milk! We got to feed her a bottle...and then she promptly fell asleep on LaLa's lap! We cuddled till our hearts' content, and when she woke up, we all got pics holding her. :-) HUGE paws!!!

After our hour-long private encounter, we got a private tour of the zoo! Again, nothing fancy, but the animals there are happy & doted upon. :-)

With as seriously as our family is obsessed with animals, this was a perfectly mind-blowing experience!!! I hope I never forget the feel of lemur feet on my shoulder... ♥

A Dose of Davidson

On Friday, LaLa (my mom) had an appointment in Davidson - my & JB's tiny town alma mater - so the kids & I went along and had lunch w/ one of my college roommates & her kids, who live there now. :-) Our kids remembered each other (from this time & that time ;-)) and picked up like no time had passed. We had wanted to eat at The Soda Shop - *the* quintessential Davidson lunch landmark [my bridesmaids even ran over there to get me cottage fries (best round French fries EVER!) right before our wedding ceremony!] - but it was slammed, so we went two doors down to Toast. [It wasn't "Toast" when we were in college. In fact, Davidson has grown up so much, the town is barely recognizable!!! We went to school in a rural ghost town (albeit an upscale, classy rural ghost town ;-)) compared to what these Wildcats are living w/ in walking distance of now!] I wish we would have had time to walk around campus w/ the kids & snap some obligatory pics: "Smile in front of the church where Mommy & Daddy got married!" "Look crazy in front of Chambers, where we had a lot of our classes!" "Pretend you're climbing out of the Sentelle dorm window, where Daddy used to live!" :-D

But we had a 2 pm appointment we couldn't miss, so maybe next year! I saw a flyer for a Davidson Youth Football Camp that had been THIS week, (just missed it!) How cool would it be for Will to do camp where Daddy played college ball? Esp. since now a guy I went to school w/ (barely! he was just a frosh my senior year! :-O :-P) is the head coach!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Annual Tweetsie Pilgrimage

Tweetsie Railroad is our family's special theme park, and Thursday was as magical as ever!!! [Here's last year, a time before that, and another, and... ;-) (Sharing these links, b/c I feel like I just have the same stuff to say about beloved Tweetsie every time. :-P)]

Will still says he wants to be an engineer at Tweetsie one day, so his apprenticeship began Thursday in earnest:

(We are very lucky to be BFFs with the engineer, who makes sure we get to do all this special stuff like helping to run the actual steam engine!)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

NKOTB Boyz II Men 98° Concert...Or A Gathering of 35-Year-Old Women

Talk about lifting me up!!! My BFF Wendy surprised me with a ticket to the NKOTB Boyz II Men 98° concert with her Wednesday night as my early bday present! ♥ The perfect BFF move to make the rough day joyous & life-affirming. Yay for priceless friends & bringing back happy memories of rocking out in our bedrooms to old tapes 20+ years ago!!! (Yes, I said tapes. ;-))

When we got there, we found our third musketeer, our BFF Christa, making the middle/high school circle complete!!! :-D

Laugh all you want, but it was one of the best concerts I've EVER been to! [Full disclosure: I went to two NKOTB concerts in the late 80's. ;-)] Boyz II Men sang all our favorites, (Wendy & I dissected all four harmony parts to every song of theirs in high school) and since we're not crazy 98° fans (the Lacheys are totally adorable, but we didn't know their songs ;-)) we used part of their set as our intermission.

Best comment of the night re: the ladies room during the concert:
Me: "It's so surprisingly quick & clean in here!!!"
Wendy: "That's b/c we're all moms now."
All we do is clean up. :-P

NKOTB were wonderful; they performed for two solid hours. I even liked their new songs that I didn't know. :-P (I usually don't enjoy anything I can't sing along with!) My fave New Kid was always Joey, (I loved Donnie, too, but back then, I worried he was "too old" for me :-D) so of course we all went nuts when Joey launched into "Please Don't Go Girl". He kept saying, "It's been 25 years... Please don't go, girl... It's been 25 years..." I kept thinking, "I'm right here. And I'm 35 now." HAAAAAA!!! Tonight's revelation: can I tell you how happy I am that I married the football player version of Joey?!?! Same killer blue eyes, curly dark blonde hair... Yeah... *blush*

Thank you, Wen, for one of the best concerts of my life!!! Such a happy time!!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Didn't Plan On This... (Bye, Bella)

This wasn't on our fabulous Carolina itinerary.

No one wanted this.

Bella, my parents' beagle, went into kidney failure this weekend. She's 13.5 years old and lived a divine life...but I didn't expect her time would come this one week of the whole year that we're here.

I love that I could say goodbye with snuggles...but quite honestly, it was way harder being here. For me, it's easier to take being removed and just processing it as not seeing them anymore. It's how I handled my Dad, Grandmommy, and even our other two beagles, Lizzy & Buck.

Knowing Tuesday was her last night (why we came back faster from SC) was pure torture. I can't bear to think about when it's Bonnie's turn; she's 11 now...

Telling the kids was rough. They were semi-prepped, b/c I told them we knew Bella wasn't doing well when we arrived last week. I would *not* tell them Bella was being put down, though. They have an excellent, very mature, clear view of death - its earthly finality, going to Heaven, always being spiritually connected, & that it's a natural part of life; but the huge point I make w/ them is that *we* don't decide when we go, only God does. I just don't have it in me to explain euthanasia right now. I don't feel like they're ready for that; so I told them Tuesday that the vet said Bell would probably pass on Wednesday, (& just left out the part about the 1:30 pm appointment.)

Annelise cried. I cried. Will didn't, but he wanted to. I told them it was totally ok to cry about this, that it's better for Bell, but it *is* sad for us.

I took this pic of them with her Tuesday night:

It just felt so insane to *know* this was it. Never in all my losses have I known for certain that "tomorrow" would be it. I had the very hardest time with that part...

I asked my BFF Wendy (she's really been through this, too) why this seems harder with dogs than people? She hit the nail on the head: "Because they can't speak. Otherwise you would have words to hold onto as well as love."

So pray for comfort for us, especially for my mom & Hershel. My brother & I gave them Bella for Christmas the year they got married; they've had less than a year together w/o her. Also pray that all the fun stuff we have planned for the rest of this trip (concert, Tweetsie, animal encounter, etc.) can still be joyous for all, not begrudgingly burdensome.

We love you so much, sweet Bella dog!!!

I will never forget how truly scared I was the one time you *really* got lost: you were almost a year old, and I was working up at the law firm in Wisconsin. I wanted to fly home to search for you so bad!

I know you were jealous of my teal Aqua Blast nail polish I got at the beach that next summer and wanted it on your claws. ;-)

You're the only beagle I've known who hasn't been a big licker. I loved how you always wanted me to get right in your face and say, "Oh, Bella! Oh, Bella!" :-D

I will always think of you finding your bark to fuss at UPS delivering all my wedding gifts...and b/c of you, I will always choose FedEx over Brown. :-P

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Annual Charleston Pilgrimage

We made our annual pilgrimage Monday to one of my happiest places on earth: Charleston, SC

It's still probably the only place in America I'd agree to leave Texas for. :-P (Maybe...) The drive down from Charlotte felt strange, though: the drive b/t CLT & Columbia is the same route we always took "home" to south Georgia. ♥ How does it feel like we lived there for 10 years?

We drove straight into town and parked along the Market - our favorite place in town to browse & shop. We went to lunch at Hyman's - one of the very few places I willingly choose to eat a seafood dish: best crabcakes evah!!! (No bell pepper or celery filler! Just sweet crab & the tiniest bit of breading & egg binder, topped with the perfect remoulade.) Annelise fell in love with boiled peanuts, and Will tore up a big bowl of mussels; yes, my son won't touch a chicken breast w/o me threatening or bribing him, but he will suck down some mussels (& sushi! Tuna rolls. Crazy.) Random, non-food best part: the minute manicure salt scrub in the ladies room. :-D Kids' best part: the fake dollar they got to exchange for free ice cream after eating. ;-)

Along the Market after lunch, we stopped in The Fudgery and caught a fudge show. What's a fudge show? (Don't feel bad; we didn't know, either! ;-)) It was 10 minutes of really cute songs & jokes while the main guy flipped a whole marble slab of fudge! If you're there & have 10 min to catch the show, it's worth your time. :-) And it ends in free samples! :-D

Monday afternoon, we drove over to our beloved Isle of Palms - "our family beach". We walked the beach and savored the sea breeze. The highlight was finding thousands & thousands of rainbow-colored coquinas with our toes along the water's edge! We'd dig them up with each tiny wave and watch them bury themselves back before the next. :-) I hadn't done that in ages; my brother & I always used to. :-)

We went over to another family fave, Shem Creek Bar & Grill, for dinner. What did I get? Fried green tomatoes (one of my ultimate fave foods on earth!) and prime rib sliders (ohhh.emmm.gee.) What did Will get? MORE MUSSELS!!! :-D

We stayed overnight Monday, and Annelise & I did a YouTube yin yoga class there in the room! Mom & Will fell asleep instantly in their bed to the lady's voice, and Annelise scored the yoga dream: falling asleep at the very end in savasana! Then I had to try to go to sleep...while everyone else snored... :-P

Tuesday, we had planned to go eat breakfast at Seabiscuit & play on the beach at IOP...but we needed to get back to CLT earlier than we'd thought, so we switched up the plan. In all our years of going to Charleston, I'd never been out to Fort Sumter; so we took the cruise over across the harbor. It was fascinating!

We finished our latest Charleston tour w/ lunch at Locklear's (mmm, corn fritters with tomato jam!!!) ...and hit Sbux (best grande 6-pump no water Chai ever) before getting back to CLT in 3 hours flat. :-)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Carolina Surprise!

The kids and I flew out of Texas:
and arrived in NC Thursday afternoon; Friday morning, we drove over to my hometown to visit my Grandmommy's "baby" sister (Aunt Frances is 97 ;-)) for a bit. She's homebound & mostly confined to her bed as of this year, but she never had children of her own, so we've always been close; Will & Annelise are all over her refrigerator. ♥ After that quality time, we hit up family fave R&R Barbeque over there for lunch - during which Annelise finally professed her love for 'cue and Will was overjoyed to eat with Tony Stewart's crew from Stewart-Haas.

My mom kept adding errands to our post-lunch list, and I didn't think anything of it...until she then started acting strange, saying that we should go home for a minute first (away from all the errands?) and drop the kids off...even though their neighbor friends weren't home, yet. I knew something was weird, but I honestly suspected NOTHING.

Not even when Hershel called and said we "should dance coming into the house, b/c he wants to learn how to make movies on the iPad, and that would be cute." Ummmm, yeah. Whatever.

So we did: (Click on the HD in the video bar)

My oldest BFF, Amy (our moms were pg with us at the same time! :-)) whom I hadn't seen in almost two years had come down with her dad & son from Washington D.C. to visit! What a surprise!!!

So what did we do? We just hung out! :-)

Our kids played together just like we used to, (except for that Hershel was WAAAY more fun than my dad would have been, getting in on the hot tub splashing :-P)

On Saturday, I taught Amy a private Zumba class - which she ROCKED! Then when we went to soak our feet in the hot tub, a super cute tree frog randomly jumped on my leg!

After we got cleaned up, we took the light rail into the city for lunch:

We spent the rest of the time at home, watching the kids catch lightning bugs, making s'mores, just chatting & catching up...and it was lovely! OH! And I *did* turn her into a bubble tea fan!!! I've created another convert! :-D