Friday, March 7, 2014

Raising Children

There are moments - like when the girls are fighting and fussing or just completely ignoring any and all instructions and directions given them by me or Ed - when I think to myself "What am I doing wrong? I must be a terrible parent!" During these moments it is so easy to want to throw my hands up in defeat.

And then there are moments like this morning when I attended a Kids of Character breakfast at Gabrielle's school. Each month, the school recognizes students for a particular character trait. One student is chosen by their class to go to a special breakfast and receive a certificate in recognition of this trait. This morning Gabrielle was recognized for the trait of "tolerance." The school counselor explained the kids chosen for this trait were kids who treated everyone with respect and kindness. Everyone equally, regardless of any differences. I elaborated to Gabrielle this meant whether she agreed with someone or liked the same things, she respected their opinion and the person and that she showed love and kindness to them.

I have always tried to instill in both girls that they will not agree with everyone, they may not even "like" everyone, but everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness and love. That's what Jesus tells us to do. To love one another just as he loves us.

And I guess Gabrielle was listening. She may not always demonstrate at home these traits but I'm happy - and proud - to know she is indeed living these things out in the world.

Let's face it, in reality I think most kids act out at home in ways they would never imagine elsewhere. We get to see the "worst" but how comforting it is to be reminded of the best and to know that maybe I'm not that terrible of a parent and just maybe I'm doing something right.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ash Wednesday & Lent 2014

The first day of Lent was yesterday, Ash Wednesday. For the past couple of weeks I have been praying, journaling, thinking, and meditating in hopes God would make very clear to me something I need to give up or take on this year. I was beginning to think it would never happen. But in God's timing, right?

I began talking to the girls yesterday morning during our car ride to school about Lent, reminding them what it is, and asked for them to consider giving something up or taking something on this year. We continued the conversation during and after dinner last night. I suggested we as a family give up fast food. I am ashamed to admit just how much I have depended on drive-thru and take out dinners over the past few months. It's gotten really bad. Well, one would have thought I had snatched away the girls' most loved possession at the mention of no McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, Sonic or Wendy's (no, not the frosty!!) for the next 40 days. Their reaction and begging backfired - now I'm even more convinced we need to give it up. Let's be honest here though - giving up fast food will be a lot harder for me than them. I'm the one who has to get the meal planning and cooking back on track regardless of how long and busy the day has been!

In addition and much more important in my opinion, we decided to take on daily Bible reading, devotions, and prayer just before bedtime every night for the next 40 days. The girls were excited by this suggestion and as soon as it occurred to me, I knew it was God-inspired (in his perfect timing!). Another really honest moment here - this will be more challenging than no fast food! I have become incredibly rushed with bedtime routines. At the end of the day I'm exhausted. Wiped out physically, mentally, emotionally. Most nights I'm fussing to get them in bed and rushed with tucking in and goodnight kisses. Adding 15-20 minutes of Bible and prayer time every night regardless of how tired I am, regardless of how late past bedtime it might be - well this will be a challenge.

We were unable to attend our church's Ash Wednesday service - 7:00 pm on a school night at this age just was not going to work unfortunately. But we did begin our daily devotions. I think it will take a few days to figure it out. Gabrielle read a passage from her Bible about Jesus' baptism then I read the same story from Samantha's Bible. We then read a short devotion and took turns praying. I hope to have more discussion about what we've read in the future (hopefully I'll be able to answer their questions!) and maybe on the weekend incorporate some sort of activity to go with what we've been reading.

It will be a challenge but then I think what the next 40 days might look like, what will Easter be like after 40 days of the girls and I together focusing on Jesus. I'm hoping for an amazing experience. I'm hoping the girls and I both will learn so much together. I'm hoping at the end of the 40 days we will have enjoyed this time together and this time with God each night that we won't want to stop.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ten Years

Hi Daddy!

Has it really been 10 years?? Ten years since God took you home? It's so hard to believe it has been that long. But then, if I'm honest, so much life has happened it is kind of hard to believe it has been only 10 years.

I can't help but wonder what you would think of me, of my life, if you were still here. I like to think you are looking down on me at least from time to time. But what would you say, what would you think, if you were still here with us?

To say I gave you a difficult few years before you passed would be putting it mildly. I imagine many of my decisions aged you and Mama quite a bit. And for that I'm sorry. If I could go back...well actually, no, I don't, I can't live with regret - even for my worst choices. Only because now I see how God can and has worked even the worst of things for good in my life and He certainly is not done with me yet. But I am truly sorry I caused you and Mama so much hurt back then.

As sorry as I am, I am equally as happy that you were alive long enough to see my life take a turn for the better before you passed away. I have a good life, a great life, a blessed life - the life I think you would have wanted for me. I am  thankful you met and got to know at least a little the man I would marry. I am grateful you were able to give us your blessing - just three short months before you were gone. While I will always be saddened you were not able to walk me down the aisle, I will always hold on to the knowledge we had your blessing.

Ed is a good man. Reminds me of you in some ways. He is one of the hardest working people I know, very responsible, serious and committed to his job. He doesn't do it for praise or acknowledgement but for our family. There is nothing he would not do for us. In that way he reminds me of you.

Oh how I wished my girls could have known you. You would have loved them and spoiled them rotten for certain! I love that while they have never met you and have no memories of their own of you, they still talk about you. The girls are well aware they have a Poppy in heaven watching over them. Though they never heard you say it, they both know what it means to "give me a smell". (For any non-family members who might happen to be reading this, that is the way my daddy asked for a kiss!) From time to time, one of the girls will say "I wish I could have met Poppy." The only response I can ever get out is "So do I, honey, so do I."

Ten years. Time and life goes by so quickly. I miss you. Miss you more than words can express. And I suppose that feeling will never go away. I think of you often. I hope this doesn't come across the wrong way but while I think of you often, I try not to spend too much time at any one time thinking about you because even after ten years the feeling of loss is still so fresh in my heart. Writing this was done through many tears.

I think - I hope - you would be so proud of all of us. You are dearly loved and sincerely missed. And maybe if I could change one little thing I would tell you face to face just one more time "Daddy, I love you!"

Monday, February 3, 2014

Weekend Wrap Up

Finally! With the weekend came warmer temps and some activity for our household. The snow was fun and at all but after 3 days of cancelled school and the wet turned muddy mess, we were all ready for some nicer weather and to get out and about a little!

Saturday night was a very nice treat for Ed and the girls. It was Daddy-Daughter Date Night! Because of prior plans, Ed was not going to be able to take the girls to a Father-Daughter Dance at the girls' dance studio. To help make up for it he took them out for a special night on his own. They saw "Frozen" movie again but this time it was the new sing-along version. My oh my, how the girls love to belt out those songs! This was a big hit - being aloud, encouraged even, to belt out along with everyone else in the movie theater to their current favorite tunes! Date night is only complete with dinner, right? so after the movie they went to Milton's for their favorite pasta.

The girls were so cute getting ready for their night. We actually did not mention any plans to them until Ed got home from work on Saturday afternoon. He asked them if they wanted to go out on a date and they both replied "sure" not all that enthusiastically. Then while they were picking out their clothes and getting their hair done, they both kept asking what a date was, what do you do on a date, and all these other questions. They were so excited and didn't even know yet where they were going!!

It was a nice evening for Ed and the girls and a nice quiet evening for myself as well!

Yesterday was the Super Bowl of course. Usually I will admit I make way too much food. I enjoy watching the game but of course I love the excuse to make a bunch of snacky, maybe not so great for you, food! Thanks to the snow days of being stuck at home with the girls, I had a bunch of new recipes to try out. That's what happens when you finally get a chance to reorganize all the pins on Pinterest and catch up on the dvr'ed Food Network shows!

I was really not wanting to go overboard so I narrowed down my menu to four items. All new recipes. And all four big hits and successess!! Rarely does that happen. To actually try four recipes all at one time and for them all to be keepers!

Since they were such big hits I thought I'd share the links to the recipes with you!

For something to snack on by the handful throughout the afternoon -
Photo courtesy of Food Network
Sweet & Salty Bacon & Nuts. This is a Giada recipe. The only substitution I made was pecans for the almonds (Ed loves pecans, but not a big a fan of almonds). Deliciously addictive!

Our first course of sorts, ended up being kind of a late lunch mid-afternoon for us -
Photo courtesy of Food Network
Beer & Italian Sausage Fondue, also a Giada recipe. Rich, a little salty, and oh so filling! After about four small crostini dipped in this cheesy deliciousness, I wasn't sure I would have room for anything else later!

The main course, our meal while watching the game -
Sweet & Sticky Pork Ribs, another Giada recipe. I apparently watched two episodes of game-day food!! Sorry, there was no photo to swipe from Food Network's website and I was way too busy eating to take my own photos yesterday! These were messy, as all good ribs should be, sweet with a slight kick to them. Easy to prep but they do take a while to cook. Well worth the wait though!

And finally, for that sweet finish after the savory and saltiness of the other foods -
Photo borrowed from Cookie Crumbs & Sawdust
Chewy Caramel Butter Bars! I made these on Saturday night while Ed and the girls were out. Man, these are incredible!! This was a recipe I pinned who even knows how long ago and definitely one of the gems I rediscovered when reorganizing my Pinterest boards.

I seriously and strongly recommend trying all of these recipes. They were all big hits at my house and will certainly be requested for again and again!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Favorites

I had planned to do a "Throwback Thursday" post for these photos but decided to hold off instead of putting up two new posts in one day. I'm calling this "Friday Favorites" because these are probably two of my favorite photos ever.

Samantha - about 1 month, wearing one of my favorite little outfits - a simple little onesie from Meemaw but if you look closely you'll notice that is a turtle monogram. Could this be when her love of turtles started?? This photo is just so sweet. I love her little hand up towards her face.
Me & my Gabrielle - a beautiful photo (which is difficult for me to say as I don't care for really any photo of myself!); I am about 6 months pregnant, maybe 7? I remember the day of this planned photo shoot, done by a friend of mine, I was feeling so tired and just blah. I wanted to cancel but after I saw the photos I was so glad I didn't. I love having this moment between me and my little one captured. As she gets older, there are definitely frustrating moments between us, mostly because we are just too much alike. I love my little girl though. She will always be my precious little girl just like in this picture!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sledding for the First Time!

What's a snow day without sledding?

We don't own a sled but a few years ago I saw an idea on a blog I read regularly to use a laundry basket. At the time the girls were only 3 and not quite 1 so the laundry basket was ideal. Ed attached Mattie's leash and pulled them around. They loved it (until the basket tipped over and well, you would have thought they had dropped several feet but my girls are a tad on the dramatic side and they were little).

The girls saw the pictures of themselves in the laundry basket a few days ago. With the memory fresh in their mind, they asked if we could take the laundry basket out again. When Ed got home from work yesterday we piled on the layers and headed out one last time for the day.

The girls were a bit disappointed at first when I informed them they were not going to be pulled with a leash this time around. They are not babies anymore! Big girls get sent down the hills on their own!! But they quickly realized how much more fun real sledding is (if you can call sliding down a short little dip in a laundry basket "real sledding"!)

We don't have any real hills near our house but we made do with the slight slope of our front yard. After a few turns in the basket our friendly neighbor across the street brought over their real sled for us to try out. Wow - this was so much better!

Mommy even gave it a try. I can't believe this was the first time I have ever been on a sled but I did grow up on a pretty flat island and only had snow a few times ever. This was so much fun!

I will be buying a sled the next chance I get. Ed's comment was "if that's what it takes to only have snow every 3-4 years, go for it!" He is not a big fan of snow. He does have fun with the girls in the snow though.

The next time we'll be prepared with our own sled and will have to search out some better hills!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 29, 2014

Another snow day for us! As far as amount goes, it was ideal. Timing? Well, not so great because we now have two more days of school to make up this year. But it was a fun day so maybe it was worth it?

School was let out early yesterday to avoid buses on the road during the beginning of the storm. Well, the snow didn't start here until almost 7:00 last night so early release really wasn't necessary. I understand making any kind of decision about school delays, releases and cancellations is a difficult one and no choice is ever going to make everyone happy. But an early release with reasons of snow only made for a long afternoon anticipating the white stuff.

It was cold and it was getting late but I promised the girls they could go outside during the actual snowfall this time around. The first flakes were teeny tiny little things but we bundled up and headed out regardless.

We awoke this morning to a winter wonderland for sure! Everything was so pretty covered in snow!!

Snow cream was for breakfast - obviously, right? We are in the south!

Right after our breakfast of champions we bundled up again and headed out to play. The snow was dry and powdery. Not good for making snowmen. We made snow blobs instead!
Gabrielle's snow man

Samantha's snow man - I made the hump, she decorated it.

We walked around and explored the yard. We even went to the creek in our backyard, through the "forest" as the girls call it. The girls have only been back there once or twice. As a child, I played in the woods all the time, near a big ditch. Funny how I do not let my kids do the same thing when I have nothing but fun memories of the same experience. But I guess I was a little older when I was running through the woods with my friends! Back to present tense, the girls were nervous in the beginning but soon the nerves turned to fun on our "adventure."

We were outside for a quite a while before the cold started really getting to us. One last thing to do before heading in to get dry and warm - snow angels!!

Playing in the snow is only fun if you warm up afterwards with hot chocolate, right? I used my espresso/latte machine to froth the milk for the hot chocolate. It makes the best hot chocolate. Hot enough to warm the body but not too hot to not sip on right away! And so thick and creamy too!!
Cheesiness at its best!

It is freezing now!! Actually, it is way below freezing right now, literally. School has been cancelled again for tomorrow. The only plans for the evening - to not get out of the warm bed any more than absolutely necessary and sleep in a little tomorrow!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Food Bank Kids' Day

On Saturday a group from our church went to the Food Bank for a kids day mission project. We learned a little bit about how the food bank works - where the donations come from, who receives the food found there, etc. The kids seemed to have the general idea, giving answers to all of the coordinator's questions. I really liked how the coordinator explained to the kids what they meant as "people who are hungry." She asked them if they knew that feeling, sometime after breakfast but before lunch when your tummy is a little rumbly. The kids all confirmed they knew that feeling. She then explained that is not the type of hungry the food bank serves. The food bank is for people who don't know where or when their next meal will come from. Their refrigerators and cabinets are bare and they don't know when they will be able to get food.

Wow! I hope my girls were paying attention. Even though I knew the purpose of the food bank, to hear it put in those terms and really think about it is heartbreaking.

After learning about the food bank we were assigned our jobs. Our church group, as well as other individuals who came on their own, were given the job to bag up potatoes. There were about 6-7 huge crates of potatoes and we were to sort out the bad ones and bag up the good ones in about 10 lb. portions.

It was at times a dirty and yucky job but everyone seemed to enjoy it. Gabrielle even asked if we could go back another day. Yes!! Absolutely!! I would love for our family to do more hands on service projects for our community. While we donate to various causes when we can, I think a hands on, giving of your time, and even seeing face to face the people you are helping is so important. And I think it helps the girls understand - and even give me the reminder I need - just how blessed we are.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"
~ Matthew 25:35-40, NIV

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Snow Days

We had our first snow of this year. It may end up as our only snow but with high temperatures not getting out of the low 40s any time in the foreseeable forecast, I would bet we may just end up with another little bit before this winter is over.

The snowfall was a bit of a disappointment - for me anyway. Just enough to have school cancelled for some, delayed for others. Not enough to really play in or even build a tiny snowman.

The girls were excited to see even a little white stuff. They did not seem to mind it was barely anything at all.

The snow began falling around 8:00 pm. I chose not to let my girls go out and play even for a tiny bit while the snow was coming down. Maybe I should have. Hopefully if we indeed do have another snow this winter it will start while it is still daylight. What kid doesn't want to catch a snowflake on their tongue and dance around, run around while snowflakes are falling? After seeing the movie "Frozen" their passion for snow has only grown exponentially.

My favorite part of the snow and cold? The moments I could stay inside, wrapped up in a blanket with a nice hot cup of coffee!!

The dogs could not really care less for the snow and cold either.

Actually in the past, when we have had an actual measurable amount of snow, the dogs probably had as much fun as the rest of us!

If I could place an order, specify exactly how much and when for snow, this amount in the picture below would be great, start falling on Friday morning and be gone by Sunday night. Ed gets aggravated with missing work and closing the warehouse due to the weather and would not enjoy the snow with us if it messed up the work week. Plus now that we have school aged children, missing school is fun only until the make up day arrives!



Only time will tell what the rest of the winter will bring!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Turtles, Turtles and More Turtles

2009 - Samantha's very first trip to the aquarium. I can't believe how little my lil' munchkins were!

A trip to the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium is a must at least once of our many trips to Meemaw's during the year. During my childhood I probably went to the aquarium only a handful of times total - maybe. I have been more than that in just the seven years since becoming a mom!

What can I say? The girls love it and I love seeing their reaction each and every year. From complete awe as little toddlers, even babies, to a little apprehensive and unsure of whether the glass would truly hold back the water and fish once they were older toddlers and preschoolers, to now where there is still the awe and amazement but also a new found appreciation and desire to actually learn more about what they are seeing.

Samantha, we have said for a while now, is destined to work somehow with sea life. She is absolutely obsessed with all creatures in water but her all time favorite animal - turtles, especially sea turtles.

This sea turtle seemed to come right up to Samantha which absolutely made her day. She was convinced the sea turtle came up to her because it knew she loves turtles.

There were plenty more turtles to be seen...

sand turtles...

various other turtles (sorry, can't remember any of the names!!)...

even some statue turtles!

The favorite was probably the new Sea Turtle Rescue area, an interactive, hands-on activity where the girls got to examine, care for and release their own little sea turtle.

It was a quick stop this time around but still worth the trip. I'm sure we'll be back in a few months at some point over the summer!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Creative Weekend

Taking advantage of a long weekend, the girls and I visited my mom. It was a nice weekend for several reasons, like seeing my 6 month old niece for starters. Of course, I enjoy visiting with all my family, with my brother and my sister-in-law and nephew, but of course there is nothing like seeing nieces and nephews - especially when they are still babies!! The last time I saw this sweet girl was just before Christmas and since my little family was still recovering from the flu, getting near little Natalie was a no-no.

Lots of delicious food and almost gluttonous eating also made the weekend great. I have always said for some reason we all become insatiable bottomless pits when we are at my mom's! For lunch one day we hit the Pizza Inn buffet where our slices of dessert pizza equaled the number of regular pizza we digested. Shrimp Alfredo, clam chowder, apple dumplings and some incredible Nutella cupcakes (courtesy of the SIL) - and that wasn't even everything of course. Let's just say I'm fairly sure my jeans are a little snugger today.

The big highlight of the weekend was probably the crafting though. I would typically consider myself a fairly crafty, somewhat creative and artsy kind of person but for the past year my life has certainly not exhibited that part of my personality. I'm not sure I even realized just how much I missed it until I started working on stuff this weekend. (kind of like being away from blogging for so long)

It started with a trip to Hobby Lobby. Being only my third, maybe fourth, trip to this crafter's heaven,  I wanted to be able to take my time and really look around - as much as you can with two kids begging you to buy every other item that catches their eye!

I had a couple of projects in mind. I have been wanting to make a burlap wreath for our front door. Burlap ribbon was on sale so score!! I bought all the materials needed and on Sunday evening put together my wreath. I had forgotten that a thicker wreath would not fit well between our front door and the storm door. Fortunately this wreath does fit - barely. The flower gets a little smooshed but not terrible.

The other project I have been wanting to make is a chalkboard for my kitchen wall. I had envisioned finding THE perfect mirror or frame or platter from a consignment store, something with some vintage flair, painting it with chalkboard paint and maybe hanging with a ribbon. And then I found this chalkboard and my dream of creating the perfect chalkboard for my kitchen went right out the window.

The look of the swirled wrought iron frame was exactly the style I had pictured in my mind. It was on clearance so even better.  I did have some doubt, questioning whether I could have made the perfect chalkboard myself for a better price. The fact I spent a bit more than I had planned didn't help the doubt. The several "little" items like craft kits for the girls, Valentine items for the girls' school Valentines, and a couple of other random goodies added up quickly! Fortunately after consulting my friend Janie, I decided the purchase was well worth the clearance price I paid. And I couldn't be happier with the purchase.

Of course when I got home I discovered the chalkboard is wider than the area in the kitchen I had planned to hang it.  Figures. But no worries, I'll have to rearrange some photos which I've been wanting to do for some time anyway, and then I'll have a perfect wall for the chalkboard and maybe some additional artwork of some sort.

The craftiness continued with a refresher course for my mom on how to work her Cricut machine. She is part of a card group at her church. They meet once a month and make and share cards and techniques. She was wanting to get more creative with her card making and finally make use of the Cricut cutter my sister gave her a few years ago. I loved it. The girls loved all the cute little critters we were making as well. We let them keep the first couple of creations while I was showing Mama how it all worked. And then my mom made quite a few on her own for various cards she knew she would be making in the next couple of weeks.

I am happy to report my own Create a Critter cartridge is being shipped to my house as I type. Now I'll just have to make the time to get some cute little things made for the girls to use on their school Valentines - as I promised them every time they begged Meemaw to let them keep everything she was making.
Gabrielle used her critters to make a picture to hang in her room. It turned out really adorable.

Now to keep the creative juices flowing...