Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 2010 Photo Hunt Challenge

This is my first time participating in a Photo Hunt Challenge.  
You Capture is more like a weekly assignment but in this one you get to actually vote for your favorites.

Home Sweet Home



I Ate This...
and I want more!

A Turkey...
in the most figurative sense and in the most affectionate way.
Little stinker!

Something Hand-Made
I'm so glad I finally took a picture of this quilt I made out of Anna's baby clothes!
I always remember to take pictures of the quilts I've made for other babies but I have neglected to do the same thing for the quilts I've made for my own babies.

Something Hot...
and oh so delicious!
There's nothing like a steamy bowl of gumbo to warm you up on a chilly afternoon!

Something Cold
Outside air temperature that day: 55 degrees.
I love the contrast of those crazy guys in the water and the people bundled up walking on the beach.

Something Orange

Anything Goes


Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Story - Year Thirteen

This is the third time I've started writing this post.  I'm having a hard time writing this one, in particular, because I kind of feel like "What have I not  already covered about this year here in the blog?"   And the thing that sticks out most in my head, that hasn't been written about, is something I don't feel at liberty to talk about.  You're on the edge of your seat now, aren't you?  lol   Sorry, I've touched on it just barely in one or two other posts from this past year so you get Bonus Points if you can find out what it is I'm referring to!  

Our year started out really rough last year and then it all got glossed over and everyone has done their best to sand out the splinters about this particular issue and so, for the moment anyhow, it all appears smooth.  We can hope and pray that it will remain this way but it doesn't mean that the wood is any less warped than it was before. I'm of the opinion that the issue goes much deeper and will probably have to be faced head on one day and I'm hoping that all involved will rise up stronger because of it.

But, as the year has progressed, Brian and I have gone on living this beautiful life and we've had a lot of fun this year in spite of the rocky start.  We had one of the best summers on record and took several little day trips and had at least one "field trip" each week and spent lots of time together as a family.

And this year I've learned so much about photography and baking and I'm just enjoying being creative again.

We now have three children in elementary school and Landon is in preschool two days a week which gives me a whole 6 hours each week to get something done around the house without interruptions!  And we're still making some adjustments and getting organized about keeping up with that much homework and special projects and extra-special parties at school but we're getting a grip on it.

This year really has been overall one of our very best.  I take that back.  They've all been equally incredible; because each year I've learned something new - something new about Brian, something new about our families, something new about marriage, something new about children and, most often, something new about myself.

When I set out to write these posts I figured they were really just for me; frankly, I didn't think anyone else would be at all interested.  But I wanted to remember what we did each year - where we went, when we moved, where we worked, etc., etc..  But then I realized that I wanted to write this for my children.   I wanted them to maybe, just maybe, learn something from us.  Writing it down now is , perhaps, one of the most important things I can do for them.  Will they grow up to be wonderful, generous, God-loving, productive members of society because they read what we went through and what we learned each year?  Probably not.  But maybe it will help them in some small way to know that their parents are just fallible human beings like them and that we didn't always "know it all".   They need to know that we needed grace and patience and kindness just like everyone else does.   And maybe they will see a little of themselves written here and maybe then they will know that they need those things also.

Now go write your story and please tell me when and where to find it so I can read yours too!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Our Story - Year Twelve

After Year Eleven, our routine was firmly established.  Maybe a little too much so.

Cameron was in 2nd grade, Parker was in Kindergarten and Anna and Landon were home with me still.  I had been working at the church for about 3 years and finally just couldn't take the stress of that job anymore and had quit back in September and in November (just after our 11th anniversary) I started watching twin babies at our home while their mommy worked during the day.  Taking care of two little babies, a one year old and a 3 year old proved to be pretty stressful too but the twins were only here a couple times a week and, in February, their parents ended up finding someone to watch them at their own home so it had only lasted three months.

About this time I started to feel like I was in a rut or "a funk".  Slightly depressed.  I even wrote several posts about feeling that way.  It lasted on and off for about 4 months and then just kind of dissipated once I acknowledged it.  I was just having trouble feeling motivated to do anything and kind of restless. I can't put my finger on when it went away or why it did but, eventually, I just kind of snapped out of it.  Hormones?  Perhaps.  It was about that time that I felt a lump in my right breast and couldn't get an appointment to see my doctor for several weeks.  I didn't insist on being seen right away because there is no history of breast cancer in my family so I wasn't in any big hurry to get it checked on.  And by the time I was seen by my doctor (4 weeks later) it had shrunk to hardly anything at all.  Turns out that a similar thing had happened to both my mom and my aunt about a year after each of them had stopped breastfeeding and it had been a year since I had breastfed Landon.  I think my body was just getting used to the idea that it wasn't a baby making machine anymore and was making some adjustments.  ; )

It seemed like we were going and doing something all the time and I was disorganized and kind of scatterbrained most of that school year.  I was always rushing out the door at the last minute and feeling like I was forgetting something all the time.  I blame facebook since that was the year I got on the silly thing.  Or, more accurately, I blame my addiction to facebook!   I've definitely had to scale back on how involved I had gotten in it and had to acknowledge that it was sucking up a lot of my precious time.  There are still days that I spend entirely too much time in front of the crazy computer screen and I have to remind myself to get up before I start growing moss!

I was looking forward to a lazy summer that year and it was wonderful to leave the school routine behind and just relax.  No schedules, no soccer practice, no homework, no special events.  Just playtime.  And that summer Brian and I got to go to some incredible concerts and were spending a lot of time dating each other again.  It was very therapeutic!  "Music soothes the savage beast" after all!

In August I took on a new role!  I had become Aunt Rebekah thanks to the arrival of a sweet little someone! 

In the fall, Cameron started 3rd grade, Parker started 1st grade, Anna started going to preschool and I had just my (2 year old ) "baby" home with me.  We went on an AMAZING vacation, in September, to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida and were gone while our town was being flooded.  We live on such a steep hill that we weren't worried about our house but we had many friends that had damage to their homes during the deluge.  Knowing that it was soggy and dark at home, we thoroughly enjoyed all the sun and surf we were surrounded by.

All of that rest and relaxation and doing things I love had helped me to see things differently.  I was noticing how beautiful my life is.  I was observing how lovely each day was on its own and how blessed I was just to have these gorgeous people in my life.  The routine wasn't bothering me anymore because I was finding that order and structure are not my enemies if I learn to work with them.  Is this the year I "grew up"?  Maybe a little.

A more "grown up" me, a more comfortable me, a more relaxed me celebrated twelve years with her sweetheart that November.
What did I/we learn during our twelfth year?:
  • Babies (plural) are Tough! - Taking care of a room full of wailing 18 month olds or caring for a set of twins is NOT the same as taking care of your own children and is not for the faint of heart.
  • Don't Consult the Internet Before You Talk to Your Doctor - During the four weeks I had to wait to be seen for the "lump", I had worked myself into a minor hysteria by reading about breast cancer and tumors and how approximately "70% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer" but  I had read it wrong and thought that it meant that 70% of the women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history when it was actually talking about the TYPES of breast cancer and not the women.
  • Facebook is Good in Small Doses - It is a wonderful tool for reconnecting and keeping up with friends but if it's taking up more than an hour of your day then it's time to cut back.
  • Stop and Smell the Roses - When your schedule has you bogged down and feeling blah then take a break or think about what it is you love to do and then DO it!
  • Grow Up - Being a mom means having to deal with schedules and homework and practices and stuff.  Help yourself by getting organized.
Brian's post - click here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Story - Year Eleven

This was a year for settling in to a routine.  Work and school and church and play.  Work and school and church and play.  Repeat as necessary.

Just before our tenth anniversary we had started going to a friend's church in Atlantic Station.  Larry and Kathy had started up a church there called The Midtown Bridge Church and were meeting in FOX Sports Grill in the private event room.  We had been friends with them since 2002 and felt led to work alongside them as they reached out to the city of Atlanta.  Brian and I mostly helped with the preschool children - setting up and taking down the equipment and watching the children during service and coordinating the schedule of volunteers in this area.  Not long after joining them, they had the opportunity to move the church down the street to the movie theater where they had a lot more room for growth.  Larry likes to say that "the smell of popcorn is the new incense".   So each week we drove into the city and had more fun at church than I think you're allowed to!   It's definitely "a church that looks like the city".

Cameron was in 1st grade, Parker was in preschool and Anna and Landon were home with me.  I was still working part-time at FBCW in childcare and things seemed to be picking up at Brian's office.  He likes to say that it's "up and down on it's way up."  Think "line graph"   and you'll get the idea.  Some months are up and some are down but always inching their way a little higher.  (hopefully)  

We had a few very rough months that year and without our friends Shana and Jay we would have had a very meager Christmas.  One night they showed up on our doorstep with a dozen bags of groceries, a Christmas tree and a check to help us out with a few bills.  Looking back, if we had used that money we spent on our 10th anniversary trip then perhaps we wouldn't have been struggling so much.  But, of course, we couldn't have known that November and December were going to be such slow months for Brian's business.  You just never quite know how much business you'll do from one month to the next.  It's just part and parcel, I suppose.  It was tough because Brian was kind of stressing out about it but wasn't sharing with me how bad it was.  But one night he laid it all out for me and we took Dr. Phil's advice and played out the "What If" game all the way to the end.  What if we can't pay this bill and that one?  What if we have to shut the business down?   What if he had to find work doing something else?  What if the bank forecloses on our house?  What if?  

And, in the end, the result was that we would still be a family.  And we hung on tight and business started inching it's way back up again.

That winter it snowed just the teensiest little bit and my dad came for a visit and Landon turned a year old.  

 And the boys played soccer in the spring and there was a tornado a mile from our house.

And my cousin had a beautiful baby girl and Cameron turned 7 years old and Anna turned 3 years old.

And my grandma in Michigan died and Brian and I went up for the funeral.  We visited my family and we talked about how much we loved her spunk and her cooking.  How much we admired her green thumb and her ability to fall asleep and snore louder than the T.V. blaring in the same room. And we talked about how much we missed watching her play Solitaire on her plastic covered ottoman while taking a break from her knitting or quilting.

And then, in the fall, Parker started Kindergarten and Anna and Landon were cuter than they likely ever will be again.

And I started this blog and we celebrated our 11th anniversary in Savannah
and we took my favorite family portrait.

What did we learn during our eleventh year?:
  • Encouragement is Easily Reciprocated - Larry and Kathy had held us up in prayer and had poured into our lives and we wanted to do the same for them.  And then, when we thought we were going to be a blessing to them, we ended up being the ones blessed.  We gave them a year of our physical help and in return we were given so much more.
  • Accept Help and Be Grateful for Generous Friends - I don't think we had the option NOT to accept those groceries and gifts from the Howards.  They would have made us take it by leaving everything in the driveway if we had refused!  They had been convicted to be debt-free, which would free them up for the field, and because of this they were available to be generous to us.  I've learned so much from them that it would take several posts to cover all those lessons.
  • Go Ahead and Play Out the What Ifs - The What Ifs aren't good to dwell on but when things get really tough then go ahead and play it out to the end and find out what it is you'll be left with.  You may find out that you're left with A LOT more than you thought.
  • God Gives and He Takes Away -  This is life.  And He is good.  All the time.  No matter what.
Brian's post - click here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Story - Year Ten

Mom moved in just after our ninth anniversary and we were all getting settled and setting boundaries and trying not to have too many expectations.  But not having any expectations of how a situation will look before it happens is tough and over the years we've had our ups and downs when it comes to living together.  And I'm sure there will be more ups and downs in the years to come but we have definitely been more on the up-side than on the down-side.  (I hope Mom would agree.)  

Every now and then someone will ask me if I recommend them moving a parent in with them or vice versa.  I have to say that I'm very careful about recommending it.  The relationship between my mom and I is very unique.  I won't say that we've always had crystal clear communication or that we haven't had our share of arguments but I believe we genuinely have each other's best interests at heart and we are always working toward understanding one another and try to communicate respectfully with each other.   So, for us, it works.

Remember, I was pregnant too so, when you add in the fact that I had super-charged emotions, it really is quite a miracle that we didn't kill each other that first year!  ; )  Several times people asked me if I was ready to have a fourth baby (I think they all thought we were crazy).   This was my reply, "I feel like I'm in the front seat of a roller coaster and we're headed up that steep climb to the top of the first big drop off.  I have my hands in the air in anticipation BUT  I'm NOT buckled in!   We'll just see if I fall out!"  I was excited but you just never know what it will be like until you go through a particular experience for yourself.  Going from 2 to 3 kids had been a breeze but that didn't mean it would go so smoothly this time.

Landon was born in February, just before Mom's birthday!  Now we had three sons and one daughter and we felt truly complete.  Brian and I felt like everyone in our family had arrived now.  Done.  Fini. Suddenly it felt like A  LOT of people were in this house!  And there were!  We had gone from a family of 5 to a family of 7 in less than 6 months.

Landon was my happy baby.  Cameron had been kind of a serious baby.  Parker had been a sad baby.  Anna was  a funny baby.  But Landon was happy.  And so were we.

We went on two small family vacations this year.  In the summer we went to Lake Hartwell and stayed in a flea-bitten cabin for a few days.

In the fall we went with our friends, the Banks family, to his parents' house on the swamp.  And I passed a kidney stone.  I've given birth to 3 out of 4 of my children with no drugs and no epidural and none of those experiences made me think I was going to die.  The kidney stone made me think I was dying.  Fun.  Thanks, Bill and Juli, for taking care of my babies while Brian rushed me to the hospital.

We were approaching our tenth anniversary and I was sure to "warn" Brian that we had better do something big to celebrate or I was going to be sorely disappointed!   Dinner and no gift was not going to cut it this year!

We decided we were definitely going on a kid-free vacation this year.  Just the two of us.  I was still working part-time at the church and started saving every single penny toward our trip and Brian was matching my contribution.  Brian narrowed it down to three possible destinations and we settled on The Florida Keys as the perfect getaway.

Next to taking care of four kids and the house, that trip was all I thought about for a year!!!

And BOY was it ever the perfect vacation!!!  We very cheaply (via Spirit Air) flew into Fort Lauderdale, rented a convertible and drove from Miami to Key West over the course of 5 days.  We stayed  one night in the Pelican Cove Resort & Marina (I think) on Islamorada, Tranquility Bay Beachfront Hotel and Resort on Marathon and and two nights in Parmer's Resort on Big Pine Key.   We spent lazy days on the gorgeous, nearly vacant beach at Bahia Honda State Park and marveled at star saturated skies at night.  We were introduced to lobster reuben sandwiches and chocolate covered, frozen key lime pie on a stick!

So, with smiles on our faces and lobster and key lime pie in our bellies we celebrated our TENTH anniversary!

What did we learn during our tenth year?
  • Personal Boundaries are Healthy - everyone needs space and you need to communicate what your needs are with one another to keep the peace.  Mutual respect - it's a beautiful thing!
  • We Had a Limit - We had always wanted four children and I believe God had made that the desire of our hearts and then He fulfilled it.  I think He gives some people a limit and to some He doesn't and we definitely reached our limit with four. 
  • Paying Cash for a Vacation is so Freeing! - We had saved up enough money to do exactly what we wanted and we stayed within our budget and had nothing to pay for once we got home! 
  • Time Alone as a Couple is Vital - Being together as a family is great but if you don't take time for just the two of you then you're really missing out.   Our pastor recommends this formula:  Dialog Daily, Date Weekly, Depart Quarterly.  We don't get to take a date every week and we don't get to get away quarterly but we try to get in a date at least twice a month and at least one departure each year (even if it's just overnight).
Brian's post - click here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Our Story - Year Nine

Since the title of this post is Year Nine, obviously we decided to get back on that roller coaster.  Year Eight had brought us some mighty big changes - Baby #3 (Anna) and new attitudes and Mom was getting ready to go through a divorce.  

Mom wasn't sure how she was going to live off of her single salary and was weighing her options.  Should she sell her house?  Just keeping a home maintained was going to be a lot for her.   She didn't want to move into an apartment.  She wouldn't have felt safe by herself.  Should she try to look for a condo or townhome?  She had gotten a good settlement in the divorce but she knew she had to be careful with that money and wanted to do the right thing from the very beginning.  She didn't want to question whether she had made the right decision this time.

We had always talked about her eventually moving in with us - someday far off in the future.  But now it looked like that might be the very best thing to do.  Naturally, this meant we would need a bigger house.  Our little 3 bedroom or her little 3 bedroom would have been a bit too small for 6 people - 3 adults and 3 children (1st world problem as my friend Shana- who lives in a 3rd world country, would say).  Brian, Mom and I all agreed that the best thing to do would be to look for something we could all live comfortably in.

So we started searching for homes. We struck out twice, with two houses we really liked, because they already had offers on them or someone offered higher than us the very same day.  But that was such a God Thing because when we found this house (actually Mom found it on the internet) I knew that He wanted us here.  It was so close to perfect for us.  Five bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, full unfinished basement (to build out the way Mom wanted), large yard, beautiful neighborhood and fantastic school district.  I couldn't believe that just two people were living in a house that large!  A retired Marine and his wife - the place was immaculate!  (At least it was until we moved in. lol)   So, Mom gave us some of the money to pay off some of our debts so that we could afford the mortgage and another portion was used on construction in the basement.

We moved in Memorial Day weekend 2006.

And that night our 21 year old neighbor had a raucous party until 4 in the morning and, when we woke up, we discovered that one of his drunken guests had run over our mailbox!  Welcome to the neighborhood!  Remember what we learned Year One?  Earplugs are beautiful things.   Richard's place was definitely the party place.  He had a pool and any number of different roomies.  But he was generally a pretty good neighbor but I can't say we were sad to see him put a For Sale sign in the yard the next year.  ; )

We found out about a month after moving in that we were pregnant for the fourth time!  I guess it was a good thing we had moved in to a larger home when we did!

That summer we took a small vacation to Amelia Island - Brian, Cameron, Parker, Anna, Mom and I in a 2 bedroom condo on the beach!  It was wonderful - for the adults.  Poor baby Anna (1 year old) had diarrhea and threw up a couple times and Parker said, at one point, "I don't like the suuun ...and the saaand ... and the waaater...and the beeaach!!!"  It was just too hot.  We left a day early and decided that we would wait to take them to the beach in the fall or spring from then on.

 Parker at the precise moment he was putting in his complaint about EVERYTHING!

Poor baby; look at that pitiful face.

We started construction on the basement later that summer with a complete nut for a contractor.  (The outlets in the back room still don't work.)  So, Mom now has a basement apartment complete with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, a full kitchen, living room, dining room and office area.  

That same year, Cameron started Kindergarten! My, my, how time flies.  He had such a sweet teacher and the para-pro was just like a grandma to him.

Pregnant and busy and just before Mom moved in we celebrated our ninth anniversary.

What did we learn during our ninth year?:
  • Trust is seldom regained once lost. - especially when that person who you've lost trust in isn't making any noticeable changes or showing any real repentance.
  • When one door closes it might be because God has another He wants you to go through.
  • You never really know what it will be like to live somewhere until you move in. - Isn't it a shame that you're not allowed to have a "trial period" when buying a house?  That would be the only way to find out if the neighbors have a barking dog or noisy parties and whatnot.
  • Don't take little kids to the beach in 90+ degree weather. -   Now you may live in Florida  or Southern Texas or Louisiana and are used to it but for the rest of us it's just miserable. And we learned to book reservations at condos with a pool.
  • The most "charismatic" contractors are not necessarily the best. - Ask for and call as many references as you can and ask for pictures of finished jobs.
Brian's post - click here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Ninth Wonder of the World Is...

...how any children ever live past age three.

I present you with evidence from exhibit A...:

 ...and exhibit B...:
 ...and if I had a finger-dusting kit I could confirm beyond the shadow of a doubt that...
 ...the dog didn't do this but that this little person did.