Life Lately

Wow! An entire month has passed since I last posted. March o’ Fifteen provided full days of non-stop activity, but it was a really good (but cold!) month. I tried to instagram the memories as much as possible, so if you want to catch up on all the pics, follow me over there! I’m sincerelyannablog.

March Highlights

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In March I got to share part of my testimony at a women’s event at church. The theme was a fiesta so I impressed everyone with my fluent Spanish. In other words, it was not impressive at all. The night was so fun. We had it in our new Multi-Purpose Room and a team of ladies went all out and decorated with bright colors and cuteness around every corner. I love detailed people. I also love going to our women’s events because I get to spend time with ladies that I normally don’t get to sit and talk to. We had all generations represented. Lots of laughing and eating churros.

Our youth group went to the Planet Wisdom conference, which was incredible (as always). We load up the cars and road trip together in DC traffic on a Friday afternoon around the beltway to Virginia and stay overnight in a hotel. All of our teens get SO excited for this conference. Loud music, a couple thousand screaming and dancing middle and high schoolers, funny skits, and great teaching about living for Christ. This year we have a small jr. high group (10 or so) and we had the best time introducing our 6th graders to all the fun. I still can’t believe Jake is in jr. high!

He got to meet the Skit Guys in person (we love them!) Could this picture with Tommy wearing Jake’s fedora be any better?! He was so excited!

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In March we started horseback riding lessons for Jake. I asked him what he’d like to do for PE this semester and he asked for riding lessons. Thankfully, we have friends who homeschool and own 3 horses and give lessons that are practically private and affordable! I can bring Emmie, too, and my friend Jennifer allows her to have a few minutes on a horse, too. They are really happy when we are at the farm. They get to spend a couple hours outside and they don’t mind the chores. Win, Win!

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Here are a couple of pictures thrown in from past visits with our friends.

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There are a couple of donkeys at the farm, too. They are definitely more stubborn than the horses, but they are cute and make for some funny photo ops.

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Looking Forward to April

I’m hoping warmer temps are up ahead for us (March was COLD!) and we’re ready for Spring. Jake’s musical is coming up in a couple of weeks (he is playing a pirate named Dizzy) and it’s a busy season for HST (Homeschool Talents) with 3 weekends of shows (already one weekend down, two to go). Mike and I are speaking at a marriage conference at the end of the month, we get to go to a youth leaders weekend after that, and I’m also preparing to share again at our women’s retreat in May. Life is busy!! But so good!

How’s life for you?

Six for Saturday

1. The dress that everyone is talking about – the one that some people see as white and gold and others see as blue and black? Well, this may come as no surprise, but our family was divided. Mike and Emmie see it as blue and black. Jake and I make the color adjustment and see it as gold and white. To me it is WITHOUT A DOUBT gold and white.

On Thursday night I showed the picture to Mike and said, “everyone is talking about this dress…what color do you think it is?” When he said “black and blue” I was FREAKED and left the room.

Anyone else?

2.

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After a week of having two different snow storms come through and schedules were suddenly cleared that gave some much needed breathing room, I’m now starting to panic. This week I start teaching a drama class at our homeschooling co-op, I’m way behind (and lost) in my photography class as we learn Photoshop, and I have 4-5 ‘talks’ coming up to prepare for. Part of me is excited; part of me wants to go hide underneath the bed.

Which is exactly how I felt about the snow. Unlike some people who were 100% excited.

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3. I quit Insanity. I’m okay with being a quitter. This workout is too much for me, and it’s time I admit it. I felt really good at completing the first month, but the Max Interval workouts in Month 2 are ten steps beyond me. I didn’t stick with a single DVD to the end (they are 60 minutes and while some of the workouts I actually enjoyed more than Month 1 because I was better conditioned, the circuits seemed never-ending). This week I went back to Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30 and will mix in her other dvd’s. I like the alternating pace much more with the 3-2-1 strength training, cardio, and abs circuits. I feel good and wanted to share my before/after pics (reluctantly!!)

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These are horrible pictures taken on my phone, but we all love before/after pics, right? Listen, I know I’m not a skinny mini and I am learning to be thankful for fitness and health, instead of being obsessed about being a certain size. I’m 5’5 and weigh between 154-160 (my weight goes up and down like crazy, which is a big change; it must have something to do with being 40 or maybe it has to do with m&m’s, I don’t know). The picture on the left was Day 1 (post-holiday sugar cookies and looking completely undone from my introduction to Shaun T’s workouts). The pic on the right was taken 5 weeks later after I completed Month 1.

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Emmie took this pic last Sunday. Messy house, blurry picture – I’m letting that go because it doesn’t matter. She liked my outfit and was being really cute about it. What I like is being able to fit into these jeans!! I usually don’t feel comfortable or “myself” in skinny jeans and boots, no matter what size I am. But every once in a while I go for it and feel sassy when I do. I also love this chambray shirt I got from Old Navy.

4. Speaking of skinny jeans, I thought this picture that Emmie drew was adorable. First grade art is one of my favorite things in all the world, but since I’ve been reading blogs about Spring trends and people are talking about how both wide-leg pants and skinnies are in style this season, it was timely and relevant. :)

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5. Jake and Emmie, depending on their mood, can be very competitive with each other over the silliest thing. They were arguing one morning about who was the most responsible in the family. Jake was calm, cool, and collected. His response was really funny. Emmie said she was the most responsible because she goes to bed early, unlike him! SO THERE! He just looked at her and said, “yeah, but that’s because I’m thinking about all of my responsibilities.”

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6. Those two keep me laughing.

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I don’t really have a story about this. They just decided to dress like this one day. We own our weirdness.

Have a great weekend!

Great Birthday Expectations and Some Unexpected Things, Too

Emmie was SO excited about her 7th birthday! The countdown for the number of days leading up to it began sometime in 2012, and this year she had certain wishes expectations for how we ought to celebrate.

#1 Expectation: Decorate her bedroom door with streamers

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We had some streamer on hand, but a trip to the party store and an $.89 purchase of a roll with a pink cheetah pattern made her very, very happy.

#2 Expectation: Have a birthday party with friends

We let the kids have a friends party every couple of years, and it had actually been three years since her last party, so this was easy to agree to. Since Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday this year, we decided to have the party that morning. The creative side in me perked up when thinking about a double theme. Heart-shaped donuts stacked like a cake? Sign me up.

On Friday afternoon we picked up the donuts. Maybe the next morning would have been better so they would be fresh, but I didn’t like leaving that detail for the last minute. Saturday mornings are busy in our town and I’m not an early morning person. I can do 5:00 on Valentine’s Day eve when Dunkin Donuts is empty. Gladly!

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That night Mike and the kids watched a movie and I got busy cleaning and decorating the house.

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For those of you who pay attention to detail, the above picture was not taken on Friday night. :) But I wanted to show the banner that I ordered from Oh Carrot Stick’s shop on Etsy.  So cute.

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I found the perfect plates, cups, and a cardboard bed centerpiece at Birthday Express

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The decorations and other ideas for the party were kept simple. I cleared a space in the living room to lay down Emmie’s comforter and pillows. We blew up some balloons and Emmie stacked the donuts and helped me decide on a playlist.

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The hardest part was having to wait until 10 a.m. before the first guest arrived!

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Once everyone came (and Emmie ran upstairs for a last-minute wardrobe change into footie pajamas), we made these adorable pillow kits (this craft is really too hard for 6-7 year olds, so I pre-assembled the pillows about 3/4 of the way so they only had to stuff them and finish tying the remaining knots). Lots of work to help double-knot them in the end, but they LOVED these pillows and the fabric is good quality and nice and soft.

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Then we played musical pillows and had an impromptu dance party (to Mandisa’s song “Good Morning” and the Frozen soundtrack)

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Once everyone felt comfortable and silly, the volume in the house got much louder. They were having a great time. Here’s where the unexpected part happened, however.

At this time a conversation about adoption took place between Emmie and a couple of the girls. One of her friends didn’t know Emmie was adopted.

Innocently (but loudly), she asked her, “you mean THOSE aren’t your REAL parents?”

Wha-what?!

I was standing right there – thank goodness. I saw 9 little girls look up at me waiting for me to say something. So, I turned off the music and had an impromptu talk about adoption and what it means to say “real parents.” I touched my arm and asked, “Am I real? I am! So, girls, when we talk about adoption, both parents and birth parents are real.” I threw in some humor and they giggled, but I hope they understood what I meant.

The term “real parents” can be confusing and hurtful.

 

Emmie wasn’t fazed by it at all – she’s the one who brought down her scrapbook and started the whole conversation. She’s very proud of her adoption story. Another girl asked me if Jake was my “real” son, and I had to use the same illustration again. They giggled some more. In the end, it was a positive, upbeat conversation about how God made our family and that we are very happy to be an adoptive family. It makes us feel special and unique.

They were completely satisfied with that explanation and went on holding hands and jumping around to the music once again. Then I gave myself a minute to compose myself. What just happened was a big deal, friends. I knew I had to talk more about it with Emmie later (we did; and I told her how proud I was of her when she was put on the spot by her friend during the party).

Goodness, I hope I handled all of it well. I think I did. God poured out a measure of grace and gave me the words to say, but I was as nervous as anyone would be).

Anyway, back to the party! It was time for cake! Well…donut cake!

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The girls very politely filled their plates with strawberries, cheese, pigs-in-a-blankets (big hit), pretzels, and a big donut. They went to the living room and ate picnic-style on the comforter and Emmie served as MC. She asked a whole bunch of conversation-starter questions. It was the cutest.

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After we cleaned up our plates, we played a relay game dressing and undressing these bears.

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Then she opened presents,

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we took some group pictures,

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and we finished the party on a calm note downstairs with a Barbie movie.

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Emmie had the best birthday. Her other wishes expectations were clearly communicated and we did our best to meet them. :)  She woke up to balloons on her bedroom floor just like I did for Jake’s 7th birthday (although he didn’t like that, she absolutely did). We had lunch with Daddy, macaroni & cheese for dinner (with chili), and a special family night when it was snowing.

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There were lots of additional surprises, too, like a play date with friends and getting Rice Krispies treats, eating pink cake with sprinkles for three days straight, and so many gifts and cards from loved ones that she couldn’t contain her excitement. Happy Birthday, Emmie! We love you!

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Five for Friday

High five for Friday! We made it through another week and here are some of the highlights:

1. Our homeschool co-op had a performance night with a Wild West theme. Jake, who has been taking beginning piano since September, performed a song called “Buffalo Blues.” Mike accompanied him on guitar, and it was fun to listen to, and I was such a proud mom. Jake seems to be enjoying piano.

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(my pictures never turn out well for these performance nights – bummer. I should take a photography class or something…wait, I am taking a photography class. I still have so much to learn.)

Jake also made a video using iMovie loosely based on the life of Billy the Kid. Loosely is a keyword here, because the research portion of this assignment was probably less than 15 minutes, but it sure was creative. Emmie starred in the movie as “Emmie the Kid.” Jake added some effects and music, and it made us all laugh. He shot the video from different rooms in our house, which offered a nice “lived-in” scenery of overflowing laundry baskets and disorganized bookshelves. Just like a classic Western.

Emmie also participated in Wild West Night. At first she wanted to do a gymnastics routine with friends, but that idea was.. um….kept somewhere tucked away for “another day.” So I suggested that she sing a song with her daddy and that went over big-time. They sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” It was adorable!

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2. Speaking of adorable, two weeks ago Emmie lost her second top front tooth. I love her smile!

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3. I’ve been sweating through a new workout routine since before Christmas. I’m doing Insanity, which wasn’t a dvd series I ever wanted to do because it was 1) over 25 minutes and 2) super fast. Besides, it was Mike’s workout. I had 14,000 Jillian Michaels DVDs to keep me going. But I got into a rut this Fall with only exercising when it was convenient. That, plus a few too many indulgences (each day) put on some pounds, so I felt like a kick in the pants was in order. Insanity is definitely a kick in the pants! It’s SO fast (I can’t keep up; don’t even think for a second that I can. The pace is fast (did I mention that?), which is the point. To every 16 push-ups Shaun T. does, I do 1/2). But I bought a heart rate monitor (this one here) and I push at my own level and do the best I can. Even my “modified” moves and pace burn more calories than I was previously doing, I’m sure.

One thing I like about Insanity is that it’s motivating, pure and simple. The instruction is great, and I like the repetition of the circuits. I don’t like that one of the girls that Shaun T. talks to has the name Anna, though. “Come on, Anna!” “Faster, Anna!” That’s just too much! :) And I don’t like the length – 40-60 minutes is a long time and super hard to fit into my schedule. I usually work out from 9-10 p.m. but I do have the luxury of sleeping in until 8 a.m. most days because of homeschooling. So, for a short-term goal, I can make it work.

I’m seeing some improvement in inches, but greater so in energy, endurance, strength, and core balance.  I’m on Day 30 (of 54 – counting exercise days only). I hope to write another post soon with before and after pics…my results will not be earth-shattering, believe me. But I feel like I’m breaking through a wall here.

4. Yesterday, Emmie and I partially cleaned out her closet and moved some of her toys down to the basement. It was like When You Give A Mouse a Cookie for a while because one thing led to another, and I found myself with a huge project of organizing toys. Since she was helping me, and saw for herself how the MILLIONS of toys we own have taken over, she said she was ready to give away some things. I had no choice other than to pounce on that divine timing! She was in a great mood and made me laugh when she said, “well, goodbye, childhood.”IMG_2617

This Dora play house was given to us when she was 3, I think. She played with this set for hours, and every now and then will still play with it. But it takes up a lot of space, so Adios, Dora!

We are giving it to friends, and I think they’ll love it as much as Emmie did.

5. This weekend our church is hosting the streaming of the IF: Gathering. I’m really excited to attend and hear the messages and have some fellowship with other women. I’m not really sure what the event is all about, but I know I need to bring my Bible and a pen, and I’m sure the speakers will be great. I have no idea what God wants me to hear, but I’m praying with the hope that it’s something I need to hear. His timing is always perfect.

Hope you have a great weekend!

It’s Like Reading a Book that a Friend Wrote

978-1-4143-9173-1I’m reading Boomama‘s book Home is Where My People Are, and I love it. Can I just say that I’m SO HAPPY that both Boomama and Big Mama are still blogging, podcasting, and have written books? I’ve enjoyed everything they’ve worked on because I love the writing style and down-to-earth personality of both women. Today is the last day that you can download Sophie’s first book, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, for free (click here for all the links). My mom read it this week and texted me right away when she finished. Since she grew up in the south, it was such a fun and relatable read for her. Also, she said she pictured Boomama as a brunette, which made me laugh because I did, too, when I started reading her blog!

Anyway, as I’m reading Boomama’s book right now, a desire to get back to blogging everyday is growing. I miss the old days. Instagram is nicely taking its place as a way to connect and chuckle over a picture or just get a positive feeling while you’re waiting in line somewhere (way more than Facebook), but I miss sharing the everyday stories. The writing process is what I long to do, even though it comes with certain consequences like staying up way too late or fretting over my grammar issues.

The words “you have a serious comma problem” written by my TA at Baylor during my freshman year still come back to haunt me. He also told me in red pen that “hopefully” wasn’t a word. Then I garnered the courage to actually discuss that with him in person, which left me in tears. I wonder what happened to that delightful guy.

Have you read any of Boomama’s or Big Mama’s books? Are you equally delighted that they still blog on a regular basis after all these years? I’m already looking forward to their next books!

Birthday Countdown

The birthday countdown has begun.

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I don’t need to tell you how excited she is about her 7th birthday coming up on February 16th (“that’s Present’s Day, Mommy!!” You see, she had sweetly mis-read the calendar that said President’s Day).

Oh my goodness, I love an enthusiastic mis-reading.

The other day, Emmie sat down with an assortment of construction paper ready to make a countdown garland. The garland is our tradition, but I’m usually the one who initiates this project. I’m really not much more DIY than this, so making them is a bit of a confidence boost for me. Now you know why I haven’t looked into starting a craft blog.

I didn’t realize it was a dream of mine that she take over this tradition, but I was really proud of her for doing so. She just decided one morning to get busy. We did not discuss it and there was no formal passing on of my talent and expertise with the big scissors and stapler. I only assisted with cutting the strips after realizing that she still needed me for SOMETHING. She had overestimated the amount of construction paper needed for 27 rings, and was slightly overwhelmed when she started cutting through a stack of paper thicker than herself. Rookie mistake.

Well, like I said, she is very excited about her birthday. We’re going to throw her a little party on a Saturday morning coming up. She decided on a pajama party theme, which is going to be pretty cute, I think. We’re going to have donuts piled up on a cake plate with some breakfast-type snacks, games, and a craft. I’m promising myself to keep it simple, but I had to take a peek at Pinterest and Etsy. Now, I know this: I can’t do a hot chocolate bar or pancakes on a stick with assorted syrups and cute little name tags, but I did order a garland with cute little sprinkled paper donuts.

I would’ve tried to make that garland myself, but it seemed a little out of my DIY comfort zone.

Good Timing

Mike is on a ski trip with the high school group, so it’s a good time for me to catch up on the ol’ blog. I posted more about Jason and Anna’s wedding and our trip to Colorado, and I want to share some thoughts as they’ve been swirling around in my head.

Both the kids were emotional before the trip, which was not unexpected. I mentioned in the summer that Emmie went through a phase when she wanted to talk about her adoption a lot. I remember her knocking on the car window when I was pumping gas to ask me details about how Anna felt at the hospital when she was born. She asked me if she was sad, and she wanted to talk about it right there at the gas station.

In the summer, we went through her “special things box” many times and she wanted to look at her baby books, letters written to her, and photos. She cleared one of her bookshelves and set up a display of Anna’s pictures and some of her baby things.

I’m so glad we have all of these things in her closet, and she knows she can freely look through the box. She’s cried about her adoption, and even said she wonders how life would be different if she lived with Anna. Sometimes the timing of her words sting a bit, but I know what’s going on is just the way children express themselves, looking for extra words of assurance and to know they are secure.

I admit, sometimes I’m sensitive about it. One time Jake said he’s glad he doesn’t have my DNA. Believe me, there are days when I wish I didn’t have my own DNA. I drive myself crazy! But his comment made me cry. It ended up being one of the sweetest mother/son moments we’ve had because he was broken-hearted over it and asked for forgiveness. I’ll never hold a comment like that as a grudge, but things like that are addressed and we always talk things out. My kids show enormous amounts of affection and love toward me and I know they feel secure in my love, too.

Jake is twelve so he can be moody with the best of them, but he’s still so tenderhearted. He’s a deep feeler and a deep thinker. I knew he was struggling with some things the week before our trip. I decided it was a good time for him to listen to a CD we have that Jordana gave us after he was born. She shared her story at her church one night and they recorded it. It is awesome! I’ve prayed about when to share it with Jake, and it was clear to me that it was the right time. In her words, she explained why she chose adoption and how she accepted Jesus as her savior around the same time she was making decisions about her pregnancy.

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Jake had a sweet conversation with Jordana when we went to her house the day after Anna’s wedding. I’m so thankful they had time together at the end of the evening to hang out. I know for a fact that it meant a lot to him.

We loved getting together with her family, by the way. Jordana’s brother and sister and their families came over for the day, and we had one of the BEST meals of my life.

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Jordana and her mom made bacon-wrapped shrimp with homemade teriyaki sauce. I could’ve eaten one after another. The entire family loves to cook. For dinner we had grilled flank steak with homemade chimichurri sauce, ribs, vegetables, and potatoes. Stefanie made homemade chocolate peppermint cake balls that were SO good. We had a great evening, with lots of laughter and story telling, and I’m so grateful for our time together. It was really nice.

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The next morning we met Jordana for breakfast at a little place in town called Lucille’s Creole Cafe. She and I went to Lucille’s before – back in 2002, when she was 40 weeks pregnant with Jake.

One bite of the beignets and he must’ve thought, “oh yeahhh…I remember these.”

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Jordana is one of the easiest people to talk to, and we had a great breakfast. I loved being together.

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This trip was such a great thing for our kids. For all of us. I’m truly thankful.