The October of Twenty-Fourteen

I’m going to be very unpopular here and say that October isn’t my favorite. Maybe it’s because I don’t like pumpkin spice all that much, but it probably has more to do with my emotions and being 39 years old. Last year, I had thyroid surgery on October 14th and the recovery was harder than I expected. I was also self-conscious about the big gross scar in the center of my throat, which OF COURSE I wouldn’t admit to, so I stuffed those feelings inside. No one understood. The universe was against me. I cried a lot.

This year, I got a painful sinus infection. My voice was hoarse for two weeks straight, and my kids seized that golden opportunity to stay out of listening range. And, as you know, my little girl got her ears pierced, our schedule was packed with one thing after another, and we traded in our 11-year-old van that carried memories not just people. Again, I cried. A lot.

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But just like last year, the feeling of hitting my maximum was a gracious warning bell. Not that I was gracious in response, at first. But God pours out His grace even when we “got it under control” but are making our loved ones “miserable.” :) So, when the Fall colors were at their peak, I really paid attention to all that October had to offer. Maybe not the pumpkin spice, but certainly the sights and sounds of changing leaves and crunchy walks in the woods. Just being outside with my kids and taking a break helped a ton. I became – with easy success – a fan of October again.

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I tried to repeat this intention the next day, too. Emmie and I had an afternoon to ourselves and spent most of it on the playground. We were silly, un-rushed, and carefree.

It was exactly what we needed.

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Emotions & Earrings

Who would have thought that holes in the ears would be so emotional?

Emmie has been asking to get her ears pierced for several months. She wanted to wear earrings to Anna’s wedding in December, and being a jr. bridesmaid in her birthmom’s wedding is an earring-worthy experience. I agreed that it was a very good reason. I wanted ear piercing to be a special milestone in her life and a day that she would remember. So we made plans for a Mommy-Daughter day out at the mall.

First, the before picture.

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My thought at this moment? I can’t.

I can’t take her to do something big girlish. She’s still 5 months old and I’m taking videos of her playing with her cute little feet, not taking her to the mall to get her ears pierced.

But you should’ve seen how resolved she was to get them done. She was nervous as can be, but as brave as you could imagine.

Sorry (not sorry) for all the pictures. But it was a big moment, a big day. Pretty emotional. I felt like my heart was about to burst. She was so brave.

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Of course, she brought Bunny. That actually was pretty comforting for me. :)

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After we admired her pretty flower studs in the mirror and I told her how beautiful she was and how proud I was of her, we walked over to Dippin’ Dots to celebrate.

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I just love this girl so much.

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New York City Weekend: From the Station to Broadway

Last Sunday I returned from a fun weekend in New York City – my first time visiting the Big Apple! Mike’s mom treated Jen and me to this trip for our 40th birthdays.

Jen’s birthday was in September and mine is in December, so early fall was the ideal time to plan this celebratory getaway. And let me tell you, the weather in New York City was so nice. A little warm, actually, as it went up to 80 degrees each afternoon, but the mornings and evenings were delightful. People were wearing anything from t-shirts and jeans to tank tops and shorts to leather jackets and boots.

Our trip began at a train station before sunrise on Friday morning. We rode the Metro to Union Station in D.C., then boarded an Amtrak train for NY. Going up the escalator at Penn Station, I felt like I was living in a scene from Crocodile Dundee. Immediately I felt like I entered into an unfamiliar world and I was clearly out of my comfort zone. It was busy, especially at lunchtime on a sunny Friday afternoon. Although, something tells me the day, time, or weather hardly makes any difference.

Rolling our carry-on luggage, we made our way down the busy sidewalks and found our hotel. Mike’s parents went all out and got us a room at the Marriott Marquis on Broadway. It was beautiful. And very, very tall.

We were on the 35th floor.

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After Jen arrived in her cab from the airport, we took care of a matter that was of utmost importance.

Lunch.

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I had the biggest cobb salad of my life, and it was delicious. I wanted to take a picture and instagram the memory of why buttermilk ranch may become the next 10 pounds I have to work off. But our conversation was too good and our waiter sang to us, so I don’t think I’ll need the picture to remind me of our lunch. It was very fun and unique.

After lunch, Mike’s mom and I did some scouting and figured out the best route to the theater for our first show. Since Jen uses a wheelchair, certain traffic corners or sidewalks were better than others to navigate. Construction, puddles in the cut-out of the sidewalk, and other such things present challenges. So, planning ahead was a good idea. We then knew our timetable for eating before the show and making it to the theater before they opened the doors.

Again, food was a priority.

We had dinner at Broadway Restaurant (very good food) and we saw Jersey Boys that night. If you’re looking for a family-friendly musical, then Jersey Boys wouldn’t be the one you would watch with your kids, but I loved the music, story, and production of the show. The talent of these actors – it was remarkable! And I’ve had Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons songs playing in my mind constantly. Well, those songs plus Hacuna Matata and the opening of Circle of Life.

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I bet you can’t guess what our second Broadway show was.

I know. TWO Broadway shows on my first trip ever to New York. I can’t even. I’m so grateful. It was such a generous gift and I enjoyed every minute of our girl’s weekend.

The Lion King, as it goes without saying, was amazing. It was truly unforgettable. I would see it again in a heartbeat (in fact, Jen had seen it before and still loved it just as much the second time).

I’m going out of order, though, so let me go back to the morning of Day 2.

We got up around 9 a.m. and walked to a local bagel place (can’t remember the name, sorry). We made our way down the same route as the day before (we were becoming very familiar!) to Madison Square Garden, which provided a nice, quiet spot to eat and drink our coffee (Jen) coffee/hot chocolate (me) and Diet Dr. Pepper (Mom).

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We didn’t want to hurry ourselves around the city trying to cram in a lot of sightseeing on this trip. Oh my word, that was the best call for us. It was such an enjoyable and, dare I say, RELAXED trip to NYC. I took in a lot and enjoyed the walk up and down 7th Avenue. And I happened to capture an iconic picture of Times Square with the taxis and digital ads. So my day was made.

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But, of course, it got better. Since we had some time on Saturday between breakfast and The Lion King matinee, we decided to take a tour of Madison Square Garden. They just finished a billion dollar renovation, and included a lot of backstage curiosity elements in their tour.

This ended up being one of those surprise highlights of our trip. All three of us loved it. I was geekin’ out, actually, and sending texts to Mike throughout the tour. There’s Jimmy Buffet’s t-shirt. Dave Matthews’ guitar! Wayne Gretzky’s jersey!

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And seeing the locker rooms, corporate suites, beer room, and other backstagy things on the tour were pretty neat.

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Plus, the views going up the escalators were pretty amazing.

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And we had a good time just goofing off a little bit. Even though we are true Caps fans, we couldn’t resist buying this picture for a souvenir.

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After the tour, we had just the right amount of time to go back to the hotel and freshen up, and walk directly across the street to see the show.

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And, of course, after the show we went out to eat. We decided on going to John’s Pizzeria.

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It is located in a renovated church that, sadly, was run-down and abandoned, but they kept the stained glass. Most beautiful pizzeria I’ve ever been to. ;)IMG_1103

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Mmmm. I only have the nicest things to say about that piece of cheesecake.

So, what did we do after all that fun on Saturday?

 

Here’s a hint.

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We went back to our hotel and enjoyed the view in the peace and quiet of our own room. We’re kinda crazy, aren’t we?

But, if you want to know the truth, it was a perfect choice. Because, just being together and hanging out was the very best part of the trip.

I won’t ever forget it.

An Apple A Day

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Before September gets up and leaves town, I better catch up on some blogging. Earlier in the month, we spontaneously planned a field trip out to the orchard with friends. If September = Apples, then we got it right this time. We had apples for days.

Literally.

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Emmie and Madeline (and her brother and sister) bounded for the apple trees with joy. Before we knew it, our baskets were getting full and heavy in the wheelbarrow. Of course, little Lucy was in it, too. It was a 3-kid job to push forward!

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After a few steps, it was time to stop for some pictures. I just love these kids. They are the cutest.

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Naomi and I have known each other for several years, but this year we get to see each other nearly everyday because our schedules are so similar. I’m super excited about that!

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Before we checked out at the store and paid an estimated million dollars for our apples, we stopped by to say hello to the farm animals.

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Then we were on our way. Just a quick field trip, but we made the most of our “apple month” and made it a homeschooling unit by getting some books at the library and making some apple pie. It made for a delicious September!

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Back to School (Including Me, Too!)

My first attempt at a nice back-to-school picture didn’t go as well as I hoped.

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So we took it outside.

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This year, he’s working a lot more independently. We’re using Sonlight, so there are books that I read to him everyday for about 30 minutes. He still wants to sit right next to me. I love that. The book correlates with what he’s learning in history (right now, China). His school days are longer – typically he starts at 9:00 and finishes by dinner, but he gets up and moves around a lot. We combat the regular daily stuff: distraction, interruption, silliness, complaints and mood swings. He gets to see all colors of my amazing and wonderful personality, too. But everyday ends on a good note. God makes a way.

This kid. He’s perceptive, thinks deeply, acts impulsively, and can be hilariously funny. He likes to bring his comedy into every assignment, and tries to get away with writing “because stuff happened” as an answer on paper. But if I ask him for a verbal response, I can’t believe how fluid the words come. He’s such a cool kid. He does make me laugh a lot.

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We’re using Sonlight Core F (Eastern Hemisphere) for history, Horizons Math, Apologia Human Anatomy, DailyGrams, Wordly Wise, and he’s taking a writing class that follows the IEW method.

Cool news: Jake auditioned for a drama troupe and will be in “A Pirate’s Life for Me” next April and has started taking piano lessons, plus he will take art, PE, and a game-strategy class at our co-op, too.

And now, Emmie’s turn. I almost forgot about her. I admit, she is so quiet that I sometimes do forget about her. She just fades into the background…

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Um, yeah. Not what really happens at all. She’s in 1st grade now, and she loves school.

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(that is the one and only time we’ve started school by 8:15 a.m.)

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School goes pretty fast for Ms. Em and she loves every subject because she likes the activities and one-on-one time with me. She loves math and art the best. She’s really fun to homeschool, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our challenges!

She doesn’t like to sit still when I read (reading is calming for Jake, but revs up Emmie’s mind), and she asks me what’s next on the schedule the SECOND we start to work on something. It doesn’t mean she’s ready to switch, it just means she wants to know what’s coming. I’ll be honest, it’s draining! I’m not a very talkative person to begin with, but she exceeds my word-count by the millions. She’s so fun and sweet, though.

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Most of the time. :)

By 2nd grade, she’ll be able to read her lessons and take off. She’ll be homeschooling me!

Speaking of which…

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I am a homeschool student this year. I’m going back to high school, in fact. Our high school institute is offering a photography class and they opened enrollment up to adults in our umbrella group. So, I’m taking the class with 8 others – 6 high schoolers and 2 other moms. I am really excited! With weekly classes and assignments from September until May, I hope to finally understand how to shoot in manual. I’m super happy that Mike is supportive and encouraging me to do this, too. He has to rearrange his schedule a bit to take care of the kids, and I’m really thankful. What a great husband I have!

That sounds kind of strange coming from a high schooler.

Have a great weekend!

Back From the Beach

We are back home after enjoying a relaxing week in Myrtle Beach, SC. I don’t think I need to tell you how excited I was to hear that Mike worked ahead in his course work before we left. If my memory is correct, this may have been the first homework-free vacation we’ve had in 5 years. It made a difference for both of us, and it was much easier to relax! The weather was beautiful and we laughed all week. We had the best time!

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I feel very awkward and plastic-jointed with my arm bent like so, but this picture makes me happy. The night was so much fun for us – we had just had dinner with Pops & Nana at the Hard Rock Cafe. The place was packed at 6:00 on a Wednesday, but we got a table near the bar, and the speakers started boomin’ out YMCA right around the time we got our appetizers. The wait staff obviously had been faithful in their choreography practice. I’m not sure if the men jumped in on the dancing, but Nana, the kids, and I got into it. Just a fun night. :)

Unfortunately, Jen had to get back to Atlanta for work by Thursday, so we missed her with us at the Hard Rock Cafe. But we had many other fabulous dinners together. We covered all the favorites – Mexican, Italian, seafood, and pizza. 

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We are serious about our pizza. And a little unfamiliar with the sizing at this particular pizza joint. But 4 extra-large pizzas will provide plenty of leftovers for a family of seven. Just in case you’re wondering.

Mike’s parents generously gave Mike, Jen, and myself a night out on Monday (they took the kids to play mini-golf). We hit the town of Myrtle Beach! Not really. We drove .4 miles to Bonefish Grill and we were home by 7 pm, before the kids. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t LIVE IT UP with some Bang! Bang! Shrimp and a selfie to remember the night by! 

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And, if you are stuck at the part where I told you we were home by 7, and now think we are too old for the nightlife (you would be correct), let me assure you we had enjoyed a moment of, say, pure and lovely immaturity. We laughed at someone else’s expense, but it was downright hilariously justified. Jen said to me, oh-so-subtle, to take a look at the woman’s shirt behind us.

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How did she miss that huge price tag while putting on her shirt that night? I felt like a little girl trying to hide my giggling in church. It was so funny!

It was fun seeing Galion again. He’s the sweetest dog – he goes to work with Jen at the rehab hospital as a therapy dog, and his personality is so sweet. Emmie is allergic to him, poor thing, but she was loaded up on Zyrtec and wanted so badly to play with him. She would do everything in her power not to pet him or pick up his toy or tennis ball. Soon, she figured out that she could kick his tennis ball down the hallway and play fetch that way. She wanted to go on all the walks and her enthusiasm for everything he did was up at a level eleven. She wanted to know what Galion was doing 24/7. Both the kids loved him and hardly gave him any time to rest.

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I always love getting a family picture, but I’m not the best at leading the event. I picked this same spot that we took a pic last year, but didn’t consider how bright the sun was that time of day and I had forgotten my tripod at home, too. So, we asked someone to take our picture and at first glance looking at my camera, I didn’t think we had a good one (he took exactly 2 photos; I didn’t have the nerve to ask him to stand there and take the preferred fifty million). Oh well. The sun was so bright. Someone was bound to have their eyes closed in one of those pics.

Sure enough.

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So, the fact that the first family picture turned out decent is kind of a Myrtle Beach 2014 miracle.

This, in addition to another miracle on the same day. Mike had left his wallet behind on the bench and discovered it missing after we got back from dinner. But we called the police station and they had it! A kind citizen had dropped it off (9 miles away)! Thank you, God!

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More pics from the beach. Goodbye, summer! We’ll miss you!

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The Sleepover That Didn’t Involve Sleep

I’m attempting to write this post on my phone. We are on our way to the beach for a family vacation, and I’m hoping to unplug as much as possible while we are gone. But first, there are things I need to write about and document here on the blog. I have a feeling my son, who is turning 12 in a month, will forget how cool of a mom I once was. He’s at an age where he seems to think otherwise…a lot. So, while we are in the midst of pre-teen selective memory and recall, I feel there is a need to write this down in clear type.

Dear Jake,
You asked to have a sleepover for your birthday. I said yes. Including you, there were 8 – yes, eight – boys in our townhouse. I said yes. We had the party a month early so we could make it a pool party, too. I said yes. It happened.
Love,
Mom

Okay. I know I am absolutely out of my mind for agreeing to this. Mike thought I was crazy (and seemed to relish in the fact that I was a tad over-zealous when I first sent the invitations out. Or when I thought it would be a good idea to supply everyone a pool noodle. Or when I showed Jake a picture of a Hobbit cake on Pinterest that I declared quick and easy. He knew.) Every mom who came and dropped off their son sorta relished in my rose-colored glasses, as well. As they sped away, I’m sure they felt nothing but empathy for me, though.

Well, here’s how it went down. 8 middle school boys, together in one house, or together in one universe, are extremely loud. And unfiltered. I’m not talking about crude language or anything like that, because this group of boys are actually pretty good about following those rules. I’m just talking about their thoughts, their opinions, their egos, their “humor.” No filter. Nada.

But hey. They are immature and in the awkward middle school years. Some of it was humorous, some rather annoying. Most of it was a personal reminder that Jesus loved me when I was that age, and these kids also need to be shown love. Feeling accepted is critical.

Anywho, this sermon to myself is over. Let’s get back it displaying my cool mom-ness so Jake won’t forget.

The boys arrived at our house at 4:30, and we walked over to our pool. That is when we saw what happens when a bunch of boys get pool noodles (that the pool had) in their possession. That is also when we decided that the noodles I bought for outdoor games later would kept in the trunk and would forever be hidden from existence.

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We had pizzas and cokes and stayed until the pool closed. Mike walked home with the kids and I drove home by myself and enjoyed the last 5 minutes of peace and quiet for the night. If I had been smarter, I would’ve grabbed a quick nap at the one red light between the pool and our house. Because I would’ve needed that.

After we got home and they were forced to wait for the front door to be unlocked, we had their attention for 45 seconds. We used this time wisely to go over the rules. No yelling or running in the house. No horsing around or wrestling in the house. Be careful, but tell me if you spill any thing. And lights out at midnight and go to sleep.

More on that in a minute.

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We had some tag games and other outdoor games planned, but they bombed after 5 minutes. The boys just wanted to go in for cake.

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The Hobbit Hole cake I saw on Pinterest was a big hit. It was easy to make thanks to the blogger’s step-by-step photos and a specific shopping list, but it was a multi-multi step process doing it together with the kids that brought sweat and tears. What a cool mom, right?!

Right?

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I know I’m at least a classy mom with that roll of paper towel in lieu of party napkins.

So, did the boys sleep? No, not more than a couple hours. There were many reminders and threats before 4 a.m finally came and the house was quiet. But sleep didn’t last long before someone’s alarm went off and they all woke up at 6:00 to play Super Smash Bros.

And, I bet you’re wondering if they followed our other rules. Actually, they did! I was proud of how Jake enforced the rule of not horsing around I’m the house. He totally blamed me for them not being allowed to have an epic pillow fight around the tv and all the lamps and sharp corners and stuff. (I’m okay with that.) One of his friends protested and it made me laugh. He said, “aw, c’mon, it’s a sleepover. What are we supposed to do? Talk about our feelings and who we have a crush on?”

They watched movies (The Hobbit 2 and The Lego Movie), ate lots of food (they loved the Chickfila nuggets platter, which was a good idea), played with Legos, and goofed off with out knocking over lamps or causing someone to bleed in the basement. I was impressed that they were able to watch both movies, but it was still a long night!!

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So, before I finish here, let me just say one thing about having a sleepover with 8 boys for a birthday one month in advance that might or might not be forgotten by the time I do my next annoying or embarrassing act as Jake’s mom. I am glad we had the sleepover because I’m glad to have had the chance to get to know his friends. They are pretty cool kids. I’m thankful for that. Maybe I’ll like them even more with more sleep, though. Let’s just be honest about that. ;)

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