Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Day 2016

Merriest Christmas review! This was truly a great one: the kids & I had clearly-communicated, realistic wishes, so they were all fulfilled, which feels the *most* magical. JB won't ever tell anyone anything he wants, so I was extra proud of my creative finds that made him happy, too. ;-) I always want experiences over stuff, so my most happys are family memberships to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston & the Houston Zoo (renewed interest for the kids with all the Pokéstops :-P) and tickets for my mom & me to see The Book of Mormon musical when she comes next week! (1 material most happy from JB's parents: a Lilly Pulitzer gift card!!! Y'all *know* Lilly goes straight to my heart! Fingers crossed for their biannual sale that *should* - if tradition dictates - be next Monday!)

The kids got Calvin Klein underwear! :-D [Costco!] After seeing Back to the Future last year, Will has thought this is GREAT!!! :-P I still can't believe UNDERWEAR was such a major Christmas hit! I was totally prepared to explain it away as a gag: nope = both thrilled!!! They totally laughed & loved it.
"Calvin... Why do you keep calling me Calvin?"
"That's your name, isn't it? Calvin? Calvin Klein? It's written all over your underwear…"

JB's parents sent the kids these awesome glasses that make the lights on the Christmas tree look like designs! Soooo cool!

I was genuinely thrilled to get dark chocolate mint KitKats that I've been so curious to try, but didn't want to buy for myself. ;-)

Our family favorite breakfast food is Bacon & Gouda breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks. JB made them at home for us to savor this morning after presents, instead!

What did Annelise & I do Christmas Day afternoon? We went to the gym! I don't share this to look like a workout freak, but b/c it still shocks *me* that THIS is my happy choice! We spent all morning opening gifts, playing, watching movies, eating = just hanging out on the couch. The gym opened at 3, and JB & Will wanted to watch a movie we didn't care for, so why not? I caught up on everyone's Christmas on FB, posted about ours (stuff I would have done on the couch at home, anyway) while Annelise & I did a Precor machine. When I was done, we bobbed in the hot tub, got some sinus relief in the steam room, and got cleaned up. Annelise even got to use some of her Christmas presents: new athletic pants, hair brush, and Bath & Bodyworks set! It was win/win/win all around! Plus, I didn't feel bad for all the dark chocolate mint KitKats I ate when we got home! :-D

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Football-tacular Christmas Eve

What a football-tacular Christmas Eve!!! I watched my beloved Washington Redskins win, Will's Atlanta Falcons won, and then we actually WENT to the Houston Texans game that evening!!! (A friend of JB's couldn't use his season tickets & gifted them to us. #footballismylovelanguage )

Up high, but still 50 yard line! Annelise was so excited for EVERY aspect - she is my football spectator BFF! They had live reindeer out front, we got free light-up Santa hats & keychains, and JJ Watt was pacing the sideline in front of us!

When we got home & got the kids to bed, I watched Pope Francis' Christmas Eve Mass from the Vatican as I set out gifts & wound down to sleep. There's always something so calming about it, and it was the perfect way to balance missing our usual candlelight service at church. :-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Romanian Friends & Gingerbread Houses

My BFF, Amy, is my one friend who regularly (once every 2-3 years) visits us, no matter where we live: Chicago 2009, Georgia 2012, Houston 2013 & twice 2016. And she lives in ROMANIA!!! She makes an effort to stay a few days on her way to see family also in the States. (She's American, married a Romanian man, lives there now, & has 2 sons.) It's always crazy to me to think that the only long-distance friend I see here is the one who literally lives the furthest away!!! :-P I feel so blessed that she can make the effort to travel, and I pray SO HARD that one day I'll get to take my family to Europe and be able to stop off for a visit once at HER house!!!

She arrived here this last week for Christmas stateside, and she said she really wanted our kids to do our annual gingerbread houses together. ❤ This year I had already planned to do gingerbread houses very differently: the last few years, the humidity has been so high that the roofs & walls collapse before we're finished even decorating. It's a ton of time & effort that goes to waste: I have to bake my gingerbread house mold twice to make each complete house, and it takes about 45 minutes for each bake, so we are looking at over six hours of baking to make four gingerbread houses, if I take no break. Over it. Especially when I saw this mold for $5 at Michael's:

They make cupcake-sized houses, there's enough for everyone, and I can use my favorite deep, dark gingerbread baking mix from Trader Joe's!

Thursday, December 22, 2016


JB & I made æbelskiver (Danish pancake puffs) on Sunday. This was all his plan - and it was fantastic! He got the idea from a friend and bought an æbelskiver pan for us for early Christmas, (b/c who wanted to wait?!?!)

You heat the pan on the stove top, spoon ~1 tbsp of your favorite pancake batter (of course, I used Kodiak Cakes!) into each hole (after a quick spray - I use coconut oil), and press the filling of your choice into the center. The traditional ones are sweet - think apple or jam filling - but we went savory: ham, egg, & cheese, barbeque chicken, & chicken & cheese! After a couple minutes, you flip each puff over on itself in the pan for the other side to cook. They're a bit labor intensive, but they're DELICIOUS! We loved doing different fillings for different flavors, and it was really nice to get the family time working on them together. JB, for the win!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Santa 2016

Our fave Santa was such a blessing on our amazing 80°F Saturday!!! No line - it took literally 30 seconds total on the way to get phở & ginger bubble tea to heal my ickiness. JB didn't even park! Our kids may be older, but they still actually care about seeing the Big Guy, so it made my heart happy. Peace, y'all...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Choir, Party, Cookies

Will's formal Winter Choir Concert was this past Wednesday. They sang three songs...and I could NOT believe that Will ended up positioned *RIGHT BEHIND* the choir teacher! I tried to move before the 2nd song began, and then HE switched places with the boy beside him! :-O I finally got his face reliably in the 3rd/last, but yeah... Don't bother looking for him in the first one, and he's in her armpit in the 2nd. :-P

[Random: I flipped out when the 8th grade girls choir sang "The 12 Days After Christmas" – I did that growing up in choir, too! :-D]

I ran right from Will's concert to meet JB at our youth football league Board of Directors Christmas dinner. It was decadent - Perry's Steakhouse - and I was so happy to get a fancy night with friends:

I don't have any pics :'( but Thursday morning, I subbed Annelise's class at school (before teaching Zumba) while her teacher was at the annual Teacher Appreciation Christmas Breakfast. That's honestly the ONLY volunteering I like to do at school: whatever puts me in the room with my kids. I taught her class all about how to write checks - what to put on each line, & I had them practice with different scenarios.

Thursday evening, I chaperoned Will's junior high Tenor Bass Choir neighborhood Christmas caroling. I looooove that *he asked* me to please chaperone & wants me to lead his group. ❤️ (Makes up for some of the other tween attitude at home... :-P ;-))

Friday, I succumbed to sickness. Apparently my body knew the second I finished my obligations and totally shut down... so I let Annelise bake Christmas cookies while I laid on the couch. :-D Yay for Christmas break!!! She made these Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles. Mmmmmmm...

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Bucket List Dream Flights

Beast Mode - the parent cheer team JB & I are doing at Annelise's cheer gym - is an absolute bucket list dream come true. We didn't have cheer like this when I was growing up, and even if we would have, I doubt I would have believed I was physically capable of doing it. I was an amazing youth cheerleader, but when I gained weight as puberty hit, I poured myself into less-judgemental musical theatre. I didn't love my physical self, again, until my senior year of high school. Not that there was anything like this cheer available around me, anyway, but it's definitely something I would have believed I was *NOT* good enough for. That is why getting to fly at this level as a 38-year-old woman - & being better than some others with true experience!!! :-O - feels like such a GINORMOUS DEAL to me. It's something so crazy & unexpected that it could only be orchestrated by God.

Check us out! (I'm in grey long sleeves, & JB is my back spot, right behind me.) This was last Monday's practice. Annelise had a tumbling makeup, so she was there with us & took a few video clips:

I can hardly believe that's MEEEEEEE!!!!! :-D

This practice did end with an accident: my bases were exhausted after over two hours, I fell out of the highest lift (the extension), & my base in the white shirt strained his neck. (I was 100% fine!) Pleasepleaseplease pray for his complete & total healing! We have Christmas break off now, but we are actually competing at the kids' New Orleans competition in January, so pray that he's either healed in time to come back strong with us or that some perfect-fit fill-in presents him/herself!

Let me say something about the danger factor: cheer is a sport - people get injured at the gym, on the basketball court, tennis court, running, etc., every day. (In fact, I have more friends who have seriously injured themselves running into their own furniture at night! No lie!) I am not the least bit freaked out by it. I was ready to go up, again, right away. I don't flinch when Annelise goes down in practice, either. I know that's not "normal" ...but I honestly believe it's confidence & peace from God that we're doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing. (And yes, I believe God actually *wants* us to be doing this right now! :-P Reread the 1st paragraph. ;-))

I love this...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Zumba Gift from God

So, in surprising Zumba news... I have been hired to teach a Zumba class at cute little boutique gym here in town!

How did this happen? I definitely wasn't looking for it, but as always, God laid the foundations before I had any clue. I felt led to amp up my workouts this July; I had gained just over 10 lbs in 7.5 months (since Thanksgiving 2015) = I needed to do more cardio, if I wasn't going to cut down on the amount of sugar I eat, so that's when on my non-teaching days I started doing Facebook on my phone at the gym while on that Precor machine, instead of while sitting at home on the couch. I didn't realize it then, but God was changing my body & ESP. my mindset to think working out 6 days a week was not only normal, but *preferable* - I would have been SOOO overwhelmed & quit quickly had I tried to do this even just a year ago.

Then when my schedule at the fancy corporate gym in the city was changed in September, I was angry & felt completely railroaded...but, again, God worked that out for my best: although I lost members, it worked out well for my personal life to teach W/Th instead of M/W, b/c it cleanly broke up competition cheer Sun-Wed, Zumba Wed-Thurs, & my youth cheer Thurs-Sat = less divided focus. It also created a void in my early-week fitness routine that I felt led to actively fill. Without that schedule change, I would've been content & not open to adding anything. One of the moms on Annelise's competition cheer team teaches Piyo at this little boutique gym, and when she found out I'm a Zumba instructor, she asked if I'd be interested, b/c their Zumba instructor just moved away. I would not have been...until this fall!

I loved the idea of having another class at this place, b/c it's tiny = more personal. It's not a corporate behemoth: the lady who owns it also teaches and is happy to work around everyone's personal lives. There weren't four rounds of interviews or three months of hoops to jump through before you can teach. We texted a couple times to set up an audition class last Friday; it rocked, she hired me on the spot, and I started teaching this Tuesday. There's no red tape, which is so refreshing! Also, my fancy gym in the city is 30 minutes away, so I lovelovelove having a class in my town for my local friends to attend!

I'm so thankful God set this up - He got me ready physically & mentally starting this summer to think that adding a class would be no extra strain whatsoever, He opened my heart to make me want it with that schedule change, He's allowing me to connect now & share my craft with my local peeps, and He gave me this great additional connection with a fellow cheer team mom.

And speaking of fellow cheer mom, she & two of our other team mom friends came to my audition class! ❤️ Afterwards, because BEAST MODE (the parent team!) cheer is now our life...
(We're on a SURFBOARD!!! This gym has a Surfset fitness class where you balance on the surfboard that's based on wobbly bosu balls - so cool!!!) [Full disclosure: I held that heel stretch for all of a millisecond!!! :-P]

Stay tuned for some big Beast Mode news next... ;-)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Double Gold Medals

Annelise's Senior 1 cheer team, Extreme, won 1st place gold medals, again, last Saturday at the Cheer Power Christmas Championship!
I love the purple scarves they received, too. 💜 Their pro pics were ridiculously expensive & not great quality, so I just snapped a few proof screen shots, instead, since we sat so far away to watch the routine:

They had ANOTHER different competition the very next day: CheerSport Houston Grand Championship on Sunday:
[Annelise tumbling left]
[Annelise left, jumping to tumble]
[A = left flyer]
[A = about to tumble across the front]
[A = center flyer (1 in from right)]
[A = center arabesque (1 in from right)]
[A = split down (1 in from right)]
[A = highest flyer (on right)]
[A = right end flyer]

Extreme hit ZERO deductions *again* for ANOTHER 1st place gold medal - TWO days in a row!!!

Next competition: New Orleans in January

Coming up next here: big Zumba news, awesome stunting, & choir music...