Wednesday, December 31, 2014

For My Daughters...

After a great and challenging week, I thought deeply about my little girls and had this poem in my head upon waking up yesterday.  I let it simmer and then spent some time today thinking through all I wanted to say to my daughters.  They both have very opinionated tastes about what they wear, how they look and what they like.  I thought about how much God loves them for who they are and wrote this based on the idea that they will look back at some of their fashions they wore in their little ages and ask me:

“Why’d you let me out of the house this way?”

One day you will ask this innocent question
Trying to understand the ramification
That comes from giving a child some freedom,
Choices, opinions and personal affirmation

The clothes and the styles will change year to year
You’re only little once
There are much bigger giants to fear.

There were more important battles to fight
 Questions like “Can God really hear my prayers” and
“I’m scared by myself at night”

“My friends made fun of my teeth at school today”
and “Why does that girl glare at me in that way?”

Battles were picked based on who you’d become
Outer appearance came second to  
Character destroying ones.

As you grow, your clothing doesn’t define you
unlike your actions and words so true.

You’re creative, bright, giggly and defiant.
You’re challenging, brilliant, funny and smiling.

You’re my little girl and I wouldn’t change you.
I only hope to be a main source of encouragement, love and guidance.

You bring light to a room wearing no jewelry at all
You’ll change others lives – no matter how small

You’ll go far in life no matter the shoes
They don’t matter as much as what you pursue.

Your hair has been cut short, long, with some curls
No worries about your hair; you focused on your dancing twirls

I hope as you age that you’ll find this to be true
It’s not the clothes that will ever make you ‘you’

So why did I let you leave the house so eclectic?
My little dear, life was already so hectic.

You deserved respect for your personal taste
It’s something I learned to fully embrace

There’s so much inside that deserves attention
So you could become a lady of mention

As you’ve grown older, I see you maturing
Your love for God is continually reassuring

The focus on who you are deep inside
is what you must focus on and decide

Who you’re going to be each day of your life
As you make your choices each minute, each hour

You’re precious and loving with an open world view

I’m so thankful for how Jesus fashioned you.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Adventures at the Gaylord

For Christmas we were given an extremely thoughtful and generous gift from Jeremy's bosses: an overnight stay at the Gaylord Texan along with tickets to the ICE exhibit.  We'd never done it before and they thought it would be a fun family event for us as they know we don't often do many events like this.  Jeremy and I were excited to surprise the girls.  We gave them hints yesterday morning before we left and they seemed excited.  Or at least Riley was.  Julia - not so much.  It turned out to be a family event we'll always remember, if only for all the wrong reasons.

The ICE exhibit is 9 degrees - very cold for us Texans.  We were planning to do it last night and planned to wear our warmer clothes so we could get there and enjoy.  Julia was very much opposed to this idea.  She hid her warm tights that were laid out, threw her clothes into a pile and threw a fit downstairs as we packed up the car.  We chose to ignore it and just kept getting ready while listening to her fuss, cry and yell.  The yelling stopped and we saw her socks and shoes were near her but not on anymore... and she was sacked out on the couch.  Brought herself to a great nap as a result of the fit.  We let her sleep a little and then transferred her to the car where she immediately woke up and we enjoyed another verbally loud frustrating sound from her.

We drove about two streets before she screamed that she had to go bathroom.  I took her inside a CVS and the bathroom doors were locked.  Found a worker to unlock them and thankfully she made it.  Finally on the road to an awesome trip.  Jeremy was on the phone about to cancel our reservation and I said that we were fine and we should go ahead and do it.

When we arrived, we knew that we needed to park our car overnight.  We didn't know that we needed our room key in order to enter the parking garage.  This was discovered once we were at the gate with nowhere to go - blocked by the bar in front and three cards behind us amidst a busy intersection.  Jeremy was stuck as he was too close to the machines to open his door so I got out to explain to the three cars behind us that apparently we need our room key to park for the night and could they please back up into traffic or go in the next lane?  Yes - thank you.  The lady behind us didn't know this either and was glad to find out.

We headed towards the hotel where they had valet for an extra $10 which we took full advantage of.  Jeremy waited in line and I hung out with the girls to the side.  We got our room key and put everything in.  It was later than we had anticipated so we chose to walk around the hotel.  Tons of cool displays and lots of different areas for fun pictures.  It was close to 5pm and Jeremy figured we should go to the restaurant to eat early.  Everyone else had the same thought.

*If you ever go to the Gaylord, make reservations for dinner, lunch and breakfast.  You will save tons of time and your kids will be much happier.

The girls both laid down on the benches near the entrance. Then played by a water fountain where water got all over their pants from sitting on wet stone.  I took them for a walk while Jeremy waited.  It was taking a while and the girls needed to have something to do.  Jeremy had the app Open Table pulled up - saw a 5:30pm slot open and took it.  We were in much sooner as a result.  They put us in the bar area where we were on higher stools.  Figured it'd be no big deal.

After our walk, Julia claimed she was not going to eat any food at all.  She refused to sit in her chair and sat cross legged on the floor next to her chair.  She wasn't in the way of any of the staff so we let her stay there for a bit.  I then set a timer on my phone and told her that if she wasn't in her chair before it beeped, there'd be consequences.  She watched the numbers go down and moved just in time - proceeding to kick the table, push away the bread and fuss.  I took her out as she cried and had a talk with her in the bathroom.  She wasn't happy with her socks, was overtired and hungry and being extremely difficult.  We had a good talk and she was fabulous the rest of dinner.  She ate a ton of food, sat well and all was good for now.

We knew we wouldn't have much time for the ICE and the girls were hoping to swim.  We checked out the indoor pool which was super crowded and smelled.  The girls couldn't wait to go; Jeremy and I were apprehensive to say the least, but had two motivations:
1) we told them we'd swim
2) it would wear them out and they'd sleep better

I put on my suit to which Jeremy replied "We're really going to do this?"  So we did.  The water was lukewarm and the sign asking people who had diseases that were communal in nature to not go in the water frightened me.  Getting another funky disease was not anything I really wanted to do.  Prayed for protection and got in.  Julia and Riley were happy as could be.  They enjoyed jumping and playing.  It wasn't bad until you got out and were freezing!  We noticed that almost every parent was sitting in a chair watching their kids swim.  Of all the families there, only four parents were in the water.  Four.  Two of whom were Jeremy and I.  One lady had a little toddler and the toddler played on the stairs of the pool while the mom watched and touched her as little as possible.  Another women had on cute boots and a trendy outfit, was on her phone and her tweens were happily swimming.  Happy to make some good memories with our kids, but still scared to death of possible communal diseases I might receive.

We took a few extra towels to wrap hair and bodies.  Smart people that we are, we forgot swim shoes or coverups.  There was only one entrance into the pool area which was directly through the entire facility.  Amidst all of the families dressed nicely, taking pics and eating dinner, came our family walking in wet towels.  There were very few families doing this, I might add.  It was rare to see because the vast majority of people weren't swimming.  It was crowded, but almost solely kids in the pool... like I said, only 4 adults amidst the many, many kids.  People don't look strangely at a wet kid in a bathing suit walking through a resort.

Julia and I were finished getting ready first.  Jeremy was wanting to give his suit more time to dry and  I was ready to shower.  I told him that I'd meet him in the room and take Julia with me so we could order more towels from room service.  We only had three towels in the room.  Riley waited with Jeremy.  I carried Julia through the hotel with a towel around my body and a towel around my head while wearing my socks and tennis shoes.  Julia was wrapped in a towel and didn't hold on well.  The looks we got were priceless.

I did my best to avoid getting in the way of pictures that were taken.  Though somewhere on Facebook, there will be a picture of us walking past a couple.  We crossed behind them right as the flash went off.  Yup - they will have quite the photo bomb behind them when they check out that picture.  The good news is that people are quick to move out of your way while gawking at you with looks that say "why are you wet?" and virtually speechless.  You'd think they'd know about the pool, but it was a rarity to see anyone wet.

We got to the room and I ordered the extra towel.  I couldn't stand feeling grimy so I got in the shower as fast as possible.  Then gave the girls both baths as they shower head was so high it wouldn't reach them well if they were given a shower.  Jeremy was standing around in his suit for us to finish.  Three towels used up... and still no extra towels had been brought by room service.

I called to double check how long it'd take for the towels to come.  The lady said that they were extremely busy and what is usually ten minutes would be at least an hour.  It'd only been 15 minutes.  Jeremy stood for a while in his suit and then couldn't take it anymore.  We had a hand towel that was clean.  Somehow he made it work.  He was clean as he could get and frustrated as well.

Julia fell asleep next to Jeremy for a short nap.  This would prove to create a very long, long, long night for all involved.  Riley was hungry again.  The girls always have a small snack before bed as they eat small meals all day.  We didn't have any food... she mentioned her hunger after I ate the last granola bar.  Looked into room service and she wanted some pizza.  At $16 plus $4 for fee, taxes and other fees and a 21% service fee, it wasn't going to happen.  This would also prove to create a very long, long, long night for all involved.

It was around 10pm that we decided to go to bed.  There was one bed: King size.  And one cot: Twin. Riley was on the cot and the three of us were in the bed.  Riley has very particular sleeping habits - must be somewhat cold, no sheets on, cuddling with an animal friend and comfortable.  All seemed great.  Julia has one sleeping habit - to be as close to me as possible without me falling off the bed.  There was tons of space between her and Jeremy.  Riley felt lonely on her own bed and decided to come up to sleep with all of us.

This would have been fine if all of us wanted the sheets off.  Three with sheets and one in the middle laying on top of them and kicking around didn't work.  Jeremy got frustrated and went to sleep on the cot.  This left tons of room... for playing!  and tickling!  and laughing!  and farting!  and repeating random sounds non-stop!  The girls stayed up for hours.  And so did we.

At one point, Jeremy sat up on his cot staring daggers at the girls and said "If you don't go to sleep, I'm going to take back your Christmas presents."  I was like "seriously??" and couldn't help but laugh.  They were scared for a second and then the tickling continued.  Our plan to wear them out with swimming did not work.

Riley wanted to see the beautiful scenery out of the window (the ceiling of the building below us).  Julia went and joined her.  Riley then said "This is the worst night ever.  I'm hungry and I can't eat.  I'm tired and I can't sleep."  Julia chimed in with "Yeah - dis is dah wust night eveh."  I separated them and slept between them... I mean laid between them.  Sleep didn't come for a while.  Jeremy had the Chad Lawson music going to help and hours later they were all asleep.  I felt Julia completely relaxed and moved her back to the middle so she wouldn't fall off the bed.  Riley had slithered down to the bottom half of the bed.

We woke up around 8:30am when Riley turned over and flung her arm into Julia's head.  With Julia awake, Riley was now awake and had to go to the bathroom.  Instead of going across the end of the bed, she chose to walk across Jeremy's cot which woke him up.  Then Julia had to go to the bathroom and went over me.

With all of us hungry, we made a plan to have valet bring our car to the front lobby, put all our packed items in it, eat breakfast and go to ICE.  Julia didn't want to wear her warm clothes again.  Got her pants on and couldn't find socks.  Amidst the fit yesterday, the socks I had packed that were thrown in her room were then unpacked so she only had the pair she had worn the day before.  Oh well - such it was.  But she wasn't wanting anything to do with the dirty socks.

So another crying session occurred.  Jeremy was fed up and spanked her four times which resulted in louder crying.  I was frustrated and told him to control his anger.  He got mad that I was undermining him and that spanking worked because she didn't like it.  Then there was banging on our wall from the room next door.  Apparently we were the loud, obnoxious people you don't want to have next door to you when you're having a very pleasant sleep.  So embarrassing.  Just being real, folks.  We aren't perfect (though you know that).  This was a big low.

We were able to get her dressed, everything packed and out the door.  Car was loaded and we were on our way to breakfast... without a reservation.  Again, I reiterate:  if you ever go to the Gaylord, make reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  There was a 25 minute wait.

There was an empty table to wait at off by the fake river.  The girls chose to fight over where they could each place their feet on the bottom of the table which resulted in it tipping back and forth.  I finally moved the table to the side away from them and we sat unhappily, tired, grouchy while watching other happy families enjoy their morning.  "See those kids over there - they are acting perfectly" - this was Jeremy's comment meant to spur the girls into perfect behavior.  "We are never traveling again" - this was my comment meant to spur us on towards positivity and happiness.  "This is the worst day ever" - Riley's comment.  "Ahhhh!!! I hate these pants" - Julia's comment

We were the epitome of Christ at this moment.

Then breakfast was served.  Warm food, happy girls.  We relaxed and smiled and laughed together.  Then we went to the ICE.

They make you wear blue parkas over your clothes as it is very, very cold.  Julia refused to put it on.  Once on, she laid on the floor ripping at the snaps and screaming "I'm not comfortable!  Ahhhh!"  It was embarrassing.  She got the coat off and her hair looked as though she'd put her hands on a round static ball - hair was sticking up everywhere.  I tried my best to put her coat on again and just couldn't.  I went to the window to ask one of the workers if she had to wear it to go into the exhibit.  They smiled and said that some parents bring the coat with them to the ICE where the kids get cold and will let you put it on them.  I know Julia is incredibly stubborn, but was hopeful.

Poor Riley - through everything she was incredibly well-behaved, kind and patient.  Haven't mentioned her much because she created no drama and was very easy to be with.

First we took our family picture where all of us smiled and looked at the camera.  Except Julia who looked sideways and had her mouth open in what is her face when she is annoyed.  We got into the cold and she took off her gloves and hat.  And refused to wear the parka.

We walked into the entrance and she began to cry and cry.  I tried to walk her out but was told that it was an entrance only; the only way to get out was to go through the entire exhibit and get to the exit.

What should have taken 45 minutes of fun with ice sledding, characters, cool sculptures, ended up taking roughly five minutes of just getting out of there as fast as possible.  One of us could have stayed with Riley to enjoy it but having reached peak frustration, we didn't consider this enough.  I greatly regret this as she should have been allowed to enjoy it.  Makes me sad to think we didn't just take one of us out with Julia and the other stay.  I didn't want Jeremy to take Julia as I figured he'd just spank her repeatedly with no solution; he didn't want to stay with Riley because he felt like it would be unfair to saddle me with Julia.  Riley wasn't the focus and for that, I feel like a terrible parent.

Once outside of the ICE, there was a super long line for sledding and at $20 something per person, we weren't up for another adventure.

We left in silence and it felt like a forever ride home.  Once home each girl went in their room for some silent time alone.  I went upstairs to read on the couch in our room and slept a few hours.  Then went to the gym to workout some stress.

Tonight we had the best dinner together with laughter, kindness and talking.  Jeremy is currently spending time with the girls and sitting snuggling together on the couch.  I am documenting what could be a turning point for all of us.  Sometimes the worst adventures give you the best perspective.  We have a lot to work on as far as parenting goes.  And our kids are not perfect.  But they are ours.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reviewing Resolutions 2014

My 15 goals this past year were:

1.  Send a card/letter/email to a different person every week
Mostly - missed a few weeks

2.  Orff Level II
Second best thing I did all year... love my friends and the learning.  It was amazing.

3.  Start Masters Degree at SMU
Best thing I did all year... beyond thrilled to be able to do this and to be with a group of amazing friends as we learn.

4.  Read 20 books from four categories: spiritual/classics/educational/my choosing
Ended up reading 44 books... so. many. good. books!!!

5.  $50 a month per person in 'fun money' for clothes
Great at this for a while - not so much the end of the year.  Stopped keeping track.  Though I didn't buy near as much as I have in the past.

6.  Commission chart for girls
Found that we didn't need to pay them for things they need to do anyway

7.  Exercise two days a week
Check!  This was an easy one.  Very do-able.  Joined the gym (my Mother's Day gift) and loving spending time with my mom at classes, meeting with a trainer a few times and working out at a great and close location.

8.  Travel somewhere as a family
Does going to Grapevine to stay at the Gaylord Texan count?!

9.  Money Saving Challenge
Check!  Fun and rewarding!

10.  Kindness Advent in month of December
One act of kindness every day in December.  Awesome time as a family and fun to bless others.

11.  Paint downstairs bathroom
Did this with an ER visit and also painted our master bathroom.

12.  Women's Bible Study
Attended the Crash the Chatterbox bible study.  Loved it!

13.  Cook a meal with my mom every month
We did great the first six months and didn't do any meals after July :(  Loved what we did do!

14. Pray for a specific person each day of the week all year
Found it easy to remember specific people to pray for throughout the year, but didn't do a great job remembering one person each day.

15.  Learned to play one new song on the piano each month
Thanks to my favorite pianist, Chad Lawson, I absolutely loved learning new material each month.  I have a slight crush on his abilities and his music.

Why I Set Goals

2014 was an extremely satisfying, organized, productive and fun year.  It's not every year that feels or occurs this way.  I believe that a combination of following God's calling on your life (even in the small things - or especially in the small things) and pursuing who you are in light of what God has called you to results in big accomplishments.  This year I had several big goals that I felt were things that I needed and wanted to go towards.  It was really rewarding to see the start of new phases of life happen.  It was also eye-opening to discover things that I still need more help with.  But don't we all have those?!

There is often 'bad press' about setting resolutions.  After all, who really continues to go to the gym after January?  And you can't really expect yourself to stay healthy through the whole year, right?  What is the point in starting something you can't finish?  Or maintain?  It's said that 80% of people fail to maintain their resolutions.  Why not become one of the 20% then?!

I read several articles claiming that people should stop setting resolutions.  That they don't result in anything better.  Why not stop calling them resolutions?  What are you resolving to do anyway?  Calling them goals instead of resolutions allows me to focus on achieving something rather than resolving to change.  The changes will result as you achieve, but it's more fun to achieve things than to think of yourself as someone who needs completely change.  Each small achievement can motivate you to keep going.

I believe in setting goals that are meaningful for me.  Things that truly matter to me despite what they might mean to someone else.  Goals that improve my daily life while challenging me to live fuller, live happier, live more joyful despite my circumstances.  I can't control what happens to me each day, but I can control my reaction and I can control what I pursue each day.

As a very-goal oriented person who finds joy in challenging myself to improve myself mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially, I think that goals are an incredibly powerful tool to make our lives fuller.  Sure, you don't have to start goals on January 1, but why not?  It's a refreshing starting point when a new year comes along.  We often define our past by our years.  We remember where we were in 2001.  We look back on 2004 as a truly defining year for our family and an incredibly difficult one in our marriage.  2007 and 2010 were milestones we won't ever forget.  I think a new year is a perfect starting point to set new goals.

Not every goal needs to be over-the-top or an amazing feat.  One year my goal was to change the sheets on our beds every two weeks.  For some, that may seem silly as it's easy for them to change their sheets every few days without reminders.  For this mom, it's a goal that was extremely helpful and was something easy to work at as it wasn't something I thought of with all the other tasks to do.

If you're looking at goals to set, here are a few ideas that might make life a little more fun, joyful, challenging, spiritually enlightening, others-focused and life changing.  You have nothing to lose and only a better life to gain.  Here are ten ideas:

1.  Money Saving Challenge
I started this one this year, but did it backwards.  I saved $52 the first week, $51 the second week, and so on.  I find we always have more $$ at the beginning of the year and it was easier to save a lot at the beginning.  Seeing the savings grow so fast at the beginning was really motivating.

2.  Send someone flowers once a month
Could be the same someone or a different person each month.  Flowers are simple, sweet and thoughtful.  An easy way to keep others in mind.

3.  Write letters to someone each week or month giving encouragement, thoughts or just a simple "I'm thinking/praying for you"
We don't tell others how much they matter enough.  This is easy and fun to do.  There are lots of cute cards and paper to use.  Can even make your own cards!

4.  Say 'No' to things that you want to say 'No'
Two years ago I set a goal to stand up for myself and say no when I mean no, yes when I mean yes and to accept what God has called for me to do without overstepping what He has for me to do and trying to do for others what they can and should do for themselves.
It is life-changing to say 'No' when it is important for it to be said.

5.  Memorize scripture
Whether writing in a journal, posting a 'verse of the week' to memorize, or having notecards in your purse with scripture, this will help you to keep God's Word easy to reflect on.

6.  Challenge yourself in an area of talent
This year I challenged myself to learn a new piano piece each month.  I love to play piano, but often spend most of my time playing it in the classroom with students where I am playing more simple chords or easy pieces.  I teach piano students which is another great use of the talent.  However, it's edifying to grow as a musician myself as well.

Maybe you haven't taken out your guitar or you only know a few chords.  Why not start up lessons?  Or learn a new song?  Maybe you enjoy making pottery but haven't done it in a while.  Why not create a special piece for your home?  Or you might be a writer who is stuck and can't get a clear thought written out.  Begin somewhere.

If you have no talent (as some of my friends claim but I don't believe), seek to do a class or learn a skill that you have interest in.  Just because you aren't good at something doesn't mean it isn't fun.  I'm not a great artist, but I love painting.  Painting at "Painting with a Twist" is a fun event to do on your own or with friends.  The wine that you bring is nice too ;) - and likely made my painting better.

7.  Choose one friend to befriend
You likely have one person in your life that you wish you could get to know better.  Choose to make them a priority this year.  Plan dinners/lunches/brunch/coffee get-togethers.  Or find activities to do together.  This may or may not be your spouse!  Jeremy and I have chosen to work towards one date night a month the last few years.  When we miss our time together, our marriage suffers.  I have another friend who I don't see much but every time we get together, it makes life better for both of us.  I intend to make her more of a priority this year!

8.  Read
TV is an easy go-to when you're wanting to relax.  If given the choice between tv and a good book, I'll always choose the book.  But I'm kind of a dork in that way so this one is easy for me.  There is no shortage of great reading material.  Challenge yourself to read more.  Whether for an escape, to learn something new, to get self-help or just to enjoy the life of a character, reading can be relaxing.

9.  Stay one hour later at work one day a week
Work?  Seriously?  We all spend more time at work than we do at home.  Using one hour a week more at work focused on tasks you don't usually have time for the rest of the week can take a load of stress off your mind on the weekends, ease up your work load the rest of the week and help you be more organized.  Take one day a week and choose to stay an hour past the time you can leave.  In that hour, organize files, clean your desk, finish up a project that's been hanging over your head, plan for the next week, create a new SmartBoard project, read about classroom management.  For me, this extra hour is done every Friday afternoon.  Sometimes I stay a little longer than an hour, but just one extra hour can accomplish more than complaining about the lack of time to get everything done.  There will never be enough time each day.  But an extra hour - just one! - can make more of a dent in your workload than you might think.

10.  Put on your workout clothes and shoes
I didn't say that you should go to the gym.  Or that you should workout for an hour every day.  When you're not feeling like working out but you know that you should go, simply put on your workout clothes and shoes.  You might hang out in the clothes for a while afterward.  It's likely that you'll actually make it to the gym as a result.

One article I read years ago said that a women had her gym shoes next to her bed and as soon as she woke up, she put her feet into her shoes and worked out.  This is not how I work.  I need to eat when I wake up.  I need fuel before burning fuel.  I enjoy working out but not first thing in the morning.  There are days when I don't want to go.  Yesterday was one.  I wanted to work out but I didn't want to have to shower afterwards (weird I know).  I wanted the endorphins - just not the sweat.  I wanted to work and build muscle - but not wear old workout pants that are out of style.  Lame I know.  And self-centered, but that's what I was thinking.  Then I put on my workout clothes and shoes.  Went to the gym and busted my butt.  And arms, thighs, abs.  Got home and felt like a million bucks.

For some of you, working out is the last thing you'd ever want to do.  It can be hard to want to do something you know you should do but don't enjoy doing.  Meet with a friend.  Have accountability.  Go to a yoga class.  Swim.  Find an activity you enjoy.  Then just put on your clothes and shoes.  And go.  You'll feel much better.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Doll Accessories!

The girls had a fabulous Christmas.  It was smaller and more simpler than the past few years and absolutely perfect.  No need to go overboard and Santa kept things fun for them.  Lots of books, puzzles, stickers and fun craft projects.  Riley got a Yoda and Ewok stuffed animals.  Julia got an Anna doll and Olaf from the movie Frozen.

At one point, Julia unwrapped a gift that was a new outfit for her American Girl doll.  She announced loudly "Doll accessories!!!  I got doll accessories!!!!"  We loved that she used the word 'accessories.'  Just sounds funny when a four year old says it... and much cuter than when we do.

The girls got a few board games.  We played Life and Trouble already this morning.

All four of us received Nerf guns (Julia calls them Surf guns).  We played with them for a bit... more Jeremy and I playing with them than the girls.  Unfortunately I don't have great aim.  I went to shoot Jeremy, but Riley was in my way (actually I just have terrible aim) and I shot her in the cheek.  Left a round mark for a bit.

Then shot Julia in the leg and left a circle on her leg.  Called it quits after that.


We went to see the movie Annie in the theater the other day.  I loved the way that the reinvented the old classic.  The girls have been walking around singing the song Tomorrow.  Unfortunately, they do not know all the words.

Julia's version:  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you next Friday!  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow....

Riley's version:  Tomorrow, tomorrow, the sun will come out tomorrow.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow, the sun will come out, tomorrow...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent Week Four

This is a short week...

Week Four:
22 - Purchase a gift card at Target and give it to the person in line behind us
The girls and I went shopping for new pjs for them today.  We were going to go to my parents' house and I didn't want them to have to make or purchase dinner for us.  We found some really cute pancake cutters and cookie cutters at William-Sonoma so we thought we'd make a special dinner!

Pancake Cutters - so cute!!!  Now to get the pancake pen... too cool

Cookie Cutters - can't wait to try these out this weekend

Plus my mom had twisted her ankle at work on the pavement and was feeling as though it wasn't going so well.  The girls wanted to do something sweet for her.  Again, William-Sonoma had the coolest items:

Mulling Spices

Mulling Spice Ball - not exactly the one I purchased in the store, but similar.  Couldn't find the one on their website.  Can't wait to try it out!

I digress.... so we ended up going to Target on our way to my parents' house to get some items for our pancake dinner.  Only I forgot apple cider and so we didn't actually get to try the mulling spices.  But the pancakes were fun!  As we got in line, I thought about our advent kindness acts and it was the perfect time to do this one.

The girls were excited to give the gift card to the family behind us.  They kept opening new lines and several people changed behind us.  I prayed that the right family would end up behind us and that they would be blessed.  A woman and her daughter stayed in line.

After purchasing everything, I handed the gift card to the girls and had them give it to the woman.  They said 'Merry Christmas!' so sweetly and the woman just smiled big and waved.  She looked at the card strangely and the cashier just smiled.  We didn't say much but just continued on.  Hoping that it blessed her!

23 - Read the story of the first Christmas as a family
We did our best to do this again like last year.  The girls did not want to cooperate (just like last year).  They wouldn't stop laughing and goofing around (probably because we were trying it too late and they were overtired).  So we divided and conquered.  Jeremy read the story to Julia.  I read the story to Riley.  Riley then had tons and tons of amazing questions about angels, Satan and demons - all due to the angels appearing to shepherds in the Bible.  We looked up a few answers I didn't know.  She truly wanted to know what they all looked like.  We talked about physical form vs. spirit.  I did the best explanation that I could despite not being able to fully describe what a spirit looks like... hard to explain that something could be void of form.

24 - Spend time with family and go to our Christmas Eve Service at church
We spent time together and watched the service from our home on Vimeo.  It worked for us and the girls were able to get to bed fairly early.  Julia especially!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Corporate Party

Tonight I had the opportunity to be the entertainment at a corporate party in Dallas.  A friend recommended me as the pianist and I was hired to play for three hours during the party at the home of the President of the company.  It was such a great experience.

The Vice-President's daughter was hired to sing.  We rehearsed together last weekend and had a great time making music.  Tonight was a fabulous night.  The time flew by and it was incredible to create music.  I would have never thought that I'd use my piano skills in this way.  It is so fulfilling to not only teach piano lessons, but to be able to perform as a musician professionally.  I don't often get the opportunity to do this and absolutely loved it.

It was fun to talk with Riley about it afterward.  About how neat it is to use your talents and to do something that you love.  Hoping that she'll find this to be true as she grows older and uses her talents in neat ways.

No Bunnies Allowed

Yesterday my friend Julie invited the girls and I to spend time at her house decorating super cute gingerbread men.  She invited one of her daughter's friends from dance as well.  The four girls enjoyed icing their gingerbread men and decorating them.  Riley loved the sprinkles and spent plenty of time making sure each section was covered in different colors.  Julia loved the gold beads and refused to use anything except for these.

Then Julia decided that she wanted to simply eat all the icing off her gingerbread man.  So she took each bead off one at a time and asked for my help in taking them off.  Once everything was removed, she went to town eating as much frosting off of it as possible.

I had a haircut appointment and the girls were all planning to watch a movie.  I had told Julia ahead of time and she had said to let the girls stay and play.  It was a complete blessing!  During my haircut, I received a text from her.

Ashleigh, Julie's daughter, has a huge bunny cage and a cute little black bunny.  The girls were going to hold it and play with it while I was gone.  Riley snuggled with it and had no issues.  Julia held the bunny and gave it kisses.  It took no time before her eyes both swelled shut and she broke out in hives on her face and arms.  Poor girl!!

So thankful that Julie was able to give her benadryl.  By the time I got the text, there was only 10 minutes left of my hair appointment (I'd left my phone in my purse and didn't check it while the highlights were heating and my hair was washed).  As soon as I got to Julie's home, Julia looked so pitiful... and she'd had the benadryl working for the last hour.  They said she was already looking better.

Thankful for great friends who take care of my girls.  And thankful to find out that purchasing a bunny is not a good idea before ever buying one.  Poor Juju.  She crashed in the car and slept so hard once we got home.  She perked up later that night, but her eyes stayed slightly swollen.  Today was herself again which was great.

***Today (two days later): Julia went outside to play on the slide and came inside with hives all on her arms.  This is typical and occurs whenever she goes outside to play.  I gave her a shower and got the allergens off.  We haven't ever been sure about what exactly bothers her until now.  We have bunnies that love our yard and spend their time in our grass.  Thinking that this is what triggers it... as pollens and grass everywhere else are completely fine.  Poor Juju - no bunnies for sure!

Friday, December 19, 2014

First Grad School Grade

Earned an A in my first Graduate Class.  Thrilled!

Advent Week Three

This week was much more difficult than the others had been.

Week Three:
15 - Buy donuts for Julia's school staff
- Completely forgot... ugh!

16 - North Pole Exposure: Choir Musical
- so proud of the kids

17 - Make Christmas cards/notes for the girls' teachers
We cheated on this one.  Didn't make them, but simply went to Target and bought them gift cards and I wrote thank you notes.

18 - Julia's School Musical
This was a fun event for the family!  Julia was a complete star (in our eyes anyway).  She did a fabulous job!!

19 - Pay for someone's dinner at the Texas Legends Game
Riley and I went to the Legends game together where I directed the Ethridge Choir.  I got her dinner and gave the extra $$ towards the next person's meal that came.  Hope it blessed them!

20 - Watch the movie "Elf" as a family
We had a great time together watching a movie with no other interruptions.  This is a very very hard one for me.  I am always doing something else while watching tv (crocheting, Facebook, reading...)  So hard for me to sit down and do nothing while watching tv.  Was truly great to have time together.

21 - Ummmm....
Thinking we didn't do anything because I honestly can't remember what we did.

Frozen Wonderland

Julia's school had their Annual Holiday Performance last night at Friendship Baptist Church.  There was a cute set with white trees and snowmen boxes in white paper.  Each class came forward to sing two songs.  The entire program was based on the popular movie "Frozen."

Julia had shown a few moves to me earlier in the week and talked about it many times.  Her teacher, Ms. Asila, sent out an email showing us two options for costumes:  a tshirt with Frozen characters on it and the other was an Olaf costume.  I chose the Olaf costume as I knew Julia would absolutely love it.

Ms. Asila emailed me to say how happy and excited Julia is to wear her special costume - it was her favorite one!  I told her teacher how excited she was and she wrote back:

Yes she is! She jumped in front of the line as she sing so good :)

I figured this meant that Julia did this one time during rehearsal; didn't give it much thought.  Julia talked about the songs and how both Ariana's (Rodriguez and Hernandez) stood on either side of her during the second song.  
The day of the performance Julia asked many times how late it was and wanted to make sure she would be there on time.  She told Jeremy that she would be behind the curtain and then we wouldn't see her.  Then they would open the curtain and we would see her.

Julia didn't want to wear her coat out to the car.  Riley piped up with "She won't be cold!  She's already frozen because she's a snowman."  We laughed - so wity!  We dropped her off with her class of Olafs.  She said she was a little nervous and I told her that I'd be surprised if she wasn't, but that she'd do great!

The first two groups were really cute.  Julia's group was the third to perform.  Her class stood in a u-shape.  Julia stood in the middle of the stage in front of her entire class.  She looked very confident. Then the music began...

Julia knew every word and every motion!!  The class followed her and she led the entire first song.  No fear whatsoever.  At the end of the song, she did this pose where she lunged back with her hands on her hips.  The rest of the class stood there.  Then she bowed by herself.  I asked if Ms. Asila asked her to do these things and she said "No.  I asked her if I could do them."

The second song "For the First Time in Forever" was once again led by Julia.  She sang and danced her little heart out.  She didn't miss a step.

One of my coworkers has a little girl in the program and commented on how it looked as though the teacher had put Julia in the middle to lead the group and how Julia was so great... said "She's definitely the music teacher's kid!"

Guess we've got two little performers in the family... or four if you include Jeremy and I.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent Week Two

The second week of kindness was eventful to say the least!  It was a jam-packed week.  There were days the girls were cranky and days when I just wasn't feeling up to doing it.  But we did and it was great.

DAY EIGHT:  Put $$ on a students' lunch account at school
I handed Riley some cash and she handed it to the lunch ladies to put on an account of a student who could really use it.  Praying and trusting that it was a blessing to whomever received it.

DAY NINE:  Starbucks cards for our bus drivers
We have three wonderful bus drivers that take many of our students from school to and from their homes.  They are often forgotten and left unthanked.  Riley was thrilled to deliver gift cards to each of them and told them "Merry Christmas!"

DAY TEN: LovePacs
To be honest, on this one day in particular I was just plumb worn out. Juggling staff meeting after work followed by Riley's dance classes.  I knew that if we were going to get the food, we'd have to do it between both of these.  When we got to the store, I thought it might be better to just get a few items and call it good.  I mentioned to Riley that even a few items would be nice.  Riley was there to say "Mom, there are people who don't have food!!  A little won't work.  They need a lot of food."  So thankful for her big, huge heart.

It was a long and tiring shopping trip.  Julia cried and screamed through most of it as I refused to buy her cookies.  We talked about how we were buying for others today and that we weren't purchasing items for ourselves.  She was tired and hungry.  The combination was not ideal, but we made it!  And made the best out of the trip that we could.

We purchased enough food to feed a family for the two week break over Christmas.  LovePacs is a special organization that helps supply food to families in need.  Several families at school work with this organization and have such a love for others.

Check them out:  LovePacs.  Or at

DAY ELEVEN: Piano Recital
Fourteen students performed at the piano recital.  It was wonderful to watch them perform and listen to how far they have come since Spring.  So thankful.

DAY TWELVE:  Flowers
**Haven't done this one yet

DAY THIRTEEN: Letters and pictures for Grandpa Mo

DAY FOURTEEN:  Hugs and Hope
Send a card/letter to a child fighting cancer through this site:  Hugs and Hope

Advent Week One

Hard to believe it has been almost two weeks of December already.  We set out to do some fun acts of kindness this month and have been having a great time.

Week One:

Day One:  Bring a warm drink of coffee and some donuts to our school crossing guard
Every day we drive past our school crossing guard and wave hello to him through the window.  He always has a smile on his face and is a kind man.  We brought him coffee and donuts last year as well.  It was Riley's favorite act of kindness that we did and she asked if we could make it our first one for this year.

Day Two:  Tape quarters to the pop machine at work for teachers
If I drank pop, I would know that the machine only takes dollar bills so I was a bit curious as to why the container of quarters stayed there for a few days.  Once I figured it out, I replaced it with dollar bills and it was soon gone.  Hoping some of my coworkers enjoyed a special treat!

Day Three:  Bring dog food and treats to our local pet shelter
Riley and I stopped by the store and picked out a mixture of food, treats, bones and toys for dogs at The Colony Animal Shelter.  Then we picked up Julia and delivered them to the animals.  The girls loved seeing the cats and dogs... will have to remember cat toys next year despite the fact that I am NOT a cat lover.  That will be a true act of kindness on my part :)

Day Four:  Write a letter to a family member that lives far away
We had originally decided to write letters to Grandpa Mo, but after receiving a post on Facebook about a little girl whose only wish for her last Christmas was to receive cards and pictures, I shared her story with the girls and we decided we'd make her cards and pictures instead.  (Grandpa Mo:  You won't ever read this but we'll be sending you things soon!)

This little girl has been through so much in her little life.  If you'd like to send her a card, here is the information:  Addie Fausett

Day Five:  Women's Banquet at church
I was blessed to be a vendor this year at our Women's Banquet.  I sold crocheted items and had a fabulous night with other women.  Even had the opportunity to share the booth next to my friend Lindsay so we were able to talk and hang out a little bit!

Day Six:  Holiday in the Park
This was a family event!  All of us bundled up and watched the city parade.  The girls loved that they had candy thrown at them from the Grinch, Santa and others in the parade.  Then we watched the annual light show at the Fire Station.  My choir performed later in the night and did a great job.  It was a fun event.

Day Seven:  Put all the newspapers on our neighbor's porches and pick up trash along the way
Honestly, completely forgot about this one.  Planning to do it tomorrow morning as it's already afternoon and papers are picked up.  A little late...