Monday, September 8, 2014

A Trip to the Ozarks

This past weekend we took a short, but sweet trip just a few hours northeast of us in the Ozark Mountains. I think this area, which covers northeast Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas, and southeast Missouri, is a beautiful place to vacation. The mountains are similar to the Smokies--soft and rolling, full to the brim of green trees, and topped with a cozy white mist. There are sparkling blue lakes and lots of outdoorsy things to do. We vacationed there last year with my dad and stepmom, and had such a good time that we went back for round two this year. On both trips, we stayed at a place called Big Cedar Lodge which is just south of Branson, Missouri. I'd highly recommend it!

Our original plan was to leave as soon as the kids got out of school last Thursday at 3:30, but Mike got caught up with a project at work that needed to be finished, so we didn't get on the road until 7:00. At the time we thought driving just under 5 hours late at night would be no big deal. I mean, when we were in our twenties we took all night road trips and never batted an eye! Well, these nearly 40 year old bodies of ours start to crave sleep at about 10:00, so the last few hours were brutal. The kids slept, but I would not recommend checking into your hotel at 12:30. Oh well....we did what we could do.

The view from our room as we woke up Friday morning. 
Needless to say, we were all a bit tired from our late night drive, but with only two full days of vacation, we had to get crackin'! Does anyone else say that? My mom used to say "time to get crackin'!" when I was sleeping in on Saturday mornings. It might be a southern thing.
Anyway, after a quick breakfast on the patio, we put on our bathing suits and headed for one of the many pools. 

My goofballs. 
Wouldn't trade 'em.
The first pool we went to was really two pools in one. The top pool "fell" into the bottom pool with a waterfall which ended in an infinity edge overlooking beautiful Tablerock Lake. My kids loved it and also loved the hot tub even though it was about 97 degrees outside.
Next, we headed to a different area with had a Lazy River, some slides, and yet another hot tub. My kids swam their little hearts out until they were starving for lunch at about 1:00.
After lunch, Mike took Lucas to play mini-golf and swim some more. My dad and I took Hannah and Leah to nearby Dogwood Canyon Park for an hour long horseback ride. Although it was so hot (I had sweat dripping down my butt crack the entire time it was so hot, sorry for the crude image, but it's true), we rode through beautiful country and enjoyed taking it all in.
When we came back to Big Cedar, we once again dove into the pool and swam until it was nearly dark. For dinner, we drove into a nearby town and upon a recommendation we ate at a little Mexican restaurant that turned out to be fantastic. Who can say no to tableside guacamole? Not this girl.
We awoke Saturday morning to drastically different weather. A cold front had moved in overnight bringing rain and much cooler temps. Try a high of 68 for the day! I know that's not super cold, but it felt like it after the near 100 degree day we had the day before. But, we were not dismayed. Nor would we turn back from our mission--to go to Silver Dollar City and ride as many rides as possible.
Sadly, it was very crowded, but we still managed to have a fun time. We rode roller coasters, spun in the teacups, braved the rapids and plunged into the waters of the log ride. We watched blacksmiths, glass blowers, and candy makers at their craft. We ate our fill of funnel cakes and kettle chips and saltwater taffy. We came. We saw. We conquered.
We ended the day with a trip to the old Cracker Barrel. Not my favorite place, but the kids always look forward to eating there on vacation. 
At the end of the day, we crashed into bed tired, but full of fun and good memories. And mashed potatoes with gravy.

Hannah and Me
Sunday dawned bright and sunny again, but still with cooler temps. It was lovely. 
But in the blink of an eye, we had to think about packing up and heading home. 
Before we left, we fit in one more round of family mini-golf. 

The girls play just for fun, while it turns out Lucas is all business and Mr. Competitive.
Oh boy.

Leah and Mike
We hit the road about 11:00 Sunday morning, and drove straight through to Tulsa, OK. Our plan was to stop and visit our niece River for a while and take her to dinner. River's dad is Mike's brother, Juan. Juan and his wife Tracy and their other three kiddos live up in New Jersey. But sweet River chose to attend college in Tulsa near us! Woo hoo! Tulsa is about an hour and a half away from OKC, so not too far. She is a freshman studying to become a nurse at Oral Roberts University. She's actually there on a full ride scholarship due to her grades and her outstanding leadership skills. The girl is going places, I tell you! We are so proud of her.

River and her cousins
River was so sweet and had created an awesome scavenger hunt for the kids to do as a way to tour the campus. The hunt sent them searching for things like a zebra and a ping pong table and a hall of mirrors. The kids loved it, and it gave Mike and I a great tour of her school. We took her out for an early dinner, and then had to say goodbye as we headed out on the last leg of our trip home. We will look forward to seeing her on her fall break in October!

We arrived home Sunday night at 7:30. The kids went straight to bed and Mike and I crashed on the couch ignoring the suitcases that needed to be unpacked. We talked about how much we love our little family of five. How we could have never imagined how great it would be when we were just starting out dating as young, naive 19 and 20 year old kids. 

I love where life has taken us!



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Confessions


My friends Maria and Sarah recently posted a Confessions post and I thought I'd jump on their bandwagon. Personally, I think if the three of us actually had a band and were touring the country in a station wagon, that would be pretty sweet.  But that's another topic.....

1. I love The Carpenters. I really, really do. Karen Carpenter's voice is so rich and velvety. One late night in college, my roomies and I made up a lip synced performance of Top of The World. It was both awful and hilarious.

2. I have a fear of crowded elevators. I just won't ride them if I deem one to be too full. I will gladly take the stairs in most cases. And I confess to secretly pushing the button to close the doors if I hear a big crowd coming and I'm already on the elevator. Does this make me a bad person?

3. I feel sad when there is no dessert in the house. I don't need a full-on decedent three layer chocolate cake (although yum). Just a piece of chocolate or a cookie will do. Currently I'm addicted to chocolate butter cookies from Aldi. They are sooooo good!

4. I do not like the Lord of the Rings movies. There. I said it. I've sat through all of them and wish I had all those hours of my life back. I know Tolkien was a genius writer, and I think the movies are visually pretty, but....I just can't do it. I say no to Frodo.

5. I've never broken a bone. Well, that I know of. I'm pretty sure I've broken (or fractured?) my pinky toes, but that's never been confirmed. My daughter Leah says she hopes she breaks a bone because she really wants to have all of her friends sign her cast. I keep telling her that's not a good goal.

6. I have been personally serenaded by Robert Goulet. He also gave me a rose. I was ten years old, and I was wearing a denim dress with a fancy lace collar.
Robert Goulet
Total Stud

7. I have lived in Oklahoma for almost 28 years and have never been directly hit by a tornado. I'm not trying to tempt fate though.

8. Currently scheduled to record in my DVR: Top Chef Duels, Project Runway, Manhattan, The First 48, and 19 Kids and Counting. It's an eclectic mix, I am well aware. Currently in Mike's DVR list: The Walking Dead, The Strain, The Last Ship, and Falling Skies. Our TV viewing is vastly different!

9. One of my weirdest quirks is that I cannot stand sharp or pointy things aimed at my eye. What this means is if I am sitting in bed reading and the corner of a nearby throw pillow is aimed at my eyeball, I will have to move the pillow or throw it on the ground. Or if one of the kids is trying to explain their recent drawing to me by shoving it in my face and the point of the paper is aimed at my eye, I will have to move the paper so that the point is facing a different direction.

10. When I load groceries from my cart onto the conveyor belt at the store check out, I like to put everything together in a logical, organized way. Sort of like putting a puzzle together. Cold things go together, canned goods go together, produce stays together, boxed items all line up in a row. When my kids come to the store with me and "help" unload the cart, they just throw everything on there all willy-nilly and I have to just bite my tongue and cringe inwardly at the complete disarray.

There.....ten strange or unusual confessions. Feel free to comment with some of your own confessions too! I will leave you with this lovely video of Miss Carpenter to brighten your day. I know you want to sing with her.





Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Forgetting

Mom and me
Mother's Day
2003

When my mom passed away in May of 2011, Hannah and Leah were 6 years old and about to finish up their year in kindergarten. Lucas was 20 months old, and we were looking forward to celebrating his 2nd birthday that coming July.

But in the blink of an eye, she was gone.

It happened so fast. It was a Tuesday. I had just finished eating lunch at home. The girls were at school, totally unaware, and Lucas was taking his afternoon nap when I got the dreaded call. Mercifully, my friend Nikki came immediately and picked Lucas up for me. A short while later, I was sitting in shock on my parents' couch surrounded by Mike on one side and my dad on the other. They were pretty much propping me up. Within a few hours of her death we were talking to the funeral home directors. I could barely answer their questions and have vague memories of that meeting other than I know it happened. I can still see the two very nice men in their dark suits sitting like shadows across the room. When they left, I remember walking out to the back patio with Mike following close behind. I sat there sobbing into his chest as it was quickly approaching the time to go pick up the girls after school.

What were we going to say?  How were we going to explain this?

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. They are going forget her. My kids are going to forget their grandmother.

It may not happen right away. But eventually my mom will be a fuzzy memory floating around in the deep recesses of their brains. I knew Lucas would never remember her. He was simply too young. But my girls saw my mom practically every day. They knew the sound of her voice. The way she squinted her eyes when she laughed. The comforting feel of her hugs. But Hannah and Leah were six--their whole lives were wide open before them ready to fill with new experiences that would push those happy memories of my mom aside.

I was eight when my grandfather passed away. I can definitely remember him today as I type this post at 37 years of age. But the details of my grandfather are definitely blurred. My memories of him spotty at best, and I saw him often and loved him dearly. If that's how I remember him and he died when I was eight, how on earth will my girls remember their grandmother!?

This is a fear that grips me. And an even darker fear is that I will someday forget. I know I won't forget her totally, that is impossible. But sometimes I try to remember the way her voice sounded or the way it felt to hold her hand, and I panic as the memory doesn't form right away.

My mom and Lucas
Robbers Cave State Park
July 2010

So....what do we do? I truly believe that memories need context. Without putting them into a specific time and place, they do start to fade a bit. And that means, we TALK. We talk about her a lot. We tell our kids stories. We look at pictures. I tell about the time we were walking along the beach in Galveston and my mom stepped on a dead jellyfish. How she hopped around because it stung her foot and my dad carried her to a medic station. I explain how Grandma used to take care of me when I was sick--even as an adult. She would scratch my back and cover me with an afghan and make me feel so much better. I tell my kids about how I got lost from my mom when I was five years old and we were shopping at Hobby Lobby. I can remember how relieved I was to see her face when the clerk helped me find her. Or how she and I tried and tried to beat my dad at Boggle, but we just never could. And how she always made blueberry walnut cake with lemon filling for my birthday even though it is a bit labor intense. I tell about the way she read children's books with enthusiasm and how the first thing she did after she woke up from open heart surgery was motion for me to come hold her hand. I explain that her favorite color was pale pink and her favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird. The kids find me sniffing the Downy bottle, and I tell them that's how my mom smelled to me. I talk about how she always drank hot tea at breakfast and fed the cats bacon pieces under the table. And how the sound of her slippers swishing across the tile kitchen floor woke me up on Saturday mornings.
My mom and Hannah
At Old Germany Restaurant celebrating Grandma's birthday
October 2009

We talk and we talk and we talk. We add details to our conversations to give context to those memories. My kids ask questions about her and I always stop to answer them. We hang photos of her so that her face will never fade from our memories. We do this so that Hannah and Leah and Lucas will never truly forget.
Grandma and Leah


And I know I never will either.

Mom and me
Tuscan countryside
Italy, 2002

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lucas Turned Five

I realized I left a very important event off my summer highlight reel! On July 24th, Lucas turned five years old! A whole hand! We definitely wanted to celebrate this little guy and all that makes him special.

It started here. 
July 24, 2009
Love at first sight.

Lucas Gabriel Galloway
2 weeks old
I love his big brown eyes, his thick black hair, his round little face and chubby kissable cheeks!
From the start, he was a sweet, easy baby.

His first Easter, 2010
My mom called him her "Beautiful Boy."

And that beautiful boy turned into a fun, outgoing toddler. 
Lucas, you have always charmed everyone with your smile.

That toddler continued to grow into a little boy who plays rough and tumble, but loves big.
Here is my little cowboy on his 4th birthday, July 2013.

My superhero in training
Lucas, November 2013

For my guy's big 5th birthday, he started his day by going to my mom's sister's house (my Aunt Lindell). We went swimming at her neighborhood pool, then she made a special birthday lunch--pizza and a "cookie cake" complete with candles to blow out. Seeing my aunt on my kids' birthdays is important to me because she represents my mom's presence. My Aunt Lindell [pronounced "Lynndull" not "Lynn Dell" by the way] is the closest thing to my mom. She and my mom were so close, best friends they would say.  And of course, she had a present for him to unwrap!
Heading out wearing his new birthday Minecraft Superhero shirt.


Blowing out candles at Lindell's house

After swimming and lunch it was time to go home and make the cupcakes for the evening's big birthday party with friends. He requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and "a strawberry on top!" What my boy wants for his birthday, he shall get. Within reason. :)
These look good here, but in the July heat they melted a bit. Wah wah. Still tasted good though and that's what counts!

For the fourth year in a row, we did a combined birthday party with our friends' daughter, Marlee. My friend Nikki and I were pregnant with our third babies together. I had Lucas on July 24th and she had Marlee on July 27th. Lucas and Marlee are the best of friends (and hopefully future spouses!) and most of their small circle of friends is the same. So it makes sense at this point to do their parties together. This year we met up at Hafer Park for dinner, cake, and presents. Then our birthday party drove next door to Pelican Bay Aquatic Center for an evening swim. Yes, he swam twice on his birthday!
All set up at Hafer Park!
Who's having a birthday?
These two, that's who!


Happy Birthday to you......

Make a wish, son. 
I hope all of your wishes come true.


My precious Lucas, 
You are a wonderful gift to your father and me! I am so happy and so thankful that you are a part of our family. You make us laugh every single day. And your sweet smile warms my heart.
I love how you adore your big sisters. I love that you can play soccer with full intensity, then come to the sidelines, hug me, smile and say, "Love you Momma!"
You are smart and giving and loyal. You are a good friend and you make others feel welcome.
God has big plans for you, Son! You are valuable beyond measure.
Please know that wherever life takes you, you will always be deeply and unconditionally loved.








Friday, August 22, 2014

About Our Dog

Since I took a break from blogging during the months of April-July, I feel as if you might be wondering about a missing part of our family--our dog, Roxie. Many people have asked about her after noting her absence from my Facebook posts. The short answer is this: she no longer lives with us (but she is alive and happy). The longer answer is something I will address here today and can henceforth refer people to if they have questions.

For years Mike and I had talked about getting a dog. Growing up Mike's family always had dogs. And at least one of those dogs was always a Boxer. Mike was particularly close to one of those Boxers named Rocket, and he has many good memories with him.  Growing up, I never had a dog. We have always been a cat family, sometimes having up to five house cats. I love cats. But I also love dogs too. Most of my extended family members and friends growing up all have or had dogs which I loved on. So, when the girls were nearing the age of 9, we decided to go forward in our pursuit of having a family canine. 

We decided to get a Boxer based on Mike's lifelong experiences with them as well as their sweet nature. They are extremely loyal to their families and make a great family pet. We brought Roxie home when she was a little puppy. She was cute, she slept a lot during the day, but not much at night, and she was most content in your lap. As she grew, it was apparent that she was displaying some serious separation anxiety. When we left the house, she went crazy tearing things up, losing control of her bladder and bowels, not eating or drinking anything. This made going anywhere very difficult. Whether she was inside or outside, these behaviors occurred. We consulted our vet and followed through with many of his suggestions. No change. We took Roxie to a very well-recommended (and expensive) obedience school. No change. We were getting to the end of our rope. In addition, as she grew into a much bigger dog with lots of energy, her playtime began to get a little too rough for Lucas. He became afraid of her, and we had to keep the two separated much of the time. It was all getting to be very stressful. 

We really loved that crazy dog, but after having her for six months it was clear that she was not the right fit for our family. She needed a big backyard to run off LOTS of energy (our backyard is the size of a postage stamp). She needed to be around other dogs to socialize (we were in no way ready to handle another dog). She needed a family who wasn't on the go so much (our lifestyle is busy and we like to take spontaneous day trips). Thankfully, we were able to get connected to the perfect family to take our Roxie girl. This husband and wife are retired, live in the country on two acres, and have an older Boxer to welcome Roxie into the fold. She will be able to run freely outside with her new "sister" and have lots of down time inside with this older retired couple who ADORE her. 

Although our girls were heartbroken, they understood the situation and are happy with her new living arrangement. We can go visit her anytime. She is a happier dog too.

Will we ever try having a dog again? I'm not sure. Right now we are content with our two cats, our sweet old ladies, Ellie and Tundra. Although we might consider adding a kitten to the mix in the near future. We'll just have to wait and see.

So that, my friends, is the long answer to "Where's Roxie?" or "What happened to your dog?" I think the whole thing was a major learning experience. We still love our Roxie girl. And I'm happy knowing she is happy. 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

First Week Of School Interview

Today officially marks the first week of school for my kiddos. One week of getting up earlier than usual. One week of packing lunches and snacks and signing reading logs. One week of new schedules and routines and experiences.

So after school today, I decided to conduct an interview with each of my three children. I asked them the same ten questions about their take on the first week of school 2014-2015. Here's what they had to say.

Leah
8-20-14
1. What grade are you in this year and what school do you go to?
I'm in 4th grade at Deer Creek Elementary

2. What is your teacher's name?
Well, we rotate classes this year, but Mrs. Brown is my main teacher. Mrs. McMullen is math and science and Mrs. Johnson is social studies.

3. What are some of your favorite things about school this year?
I like science. I liked sharing our "about me" superhero masks that we made on the first day. And I like writing.

4. What is your favorite subject?
Hmmm.....hard to pick. Probably both reading and science.

5. Do you prefer bringing a lunch from home or getting a school lunch?
I like both!

6. What is your favorite thing to eat at lunch?
I like the meatball subs and veggie sticks at school.

7, What are you looking forward to this year?
Having Book Buddies!! [4th graders get to read with a kindergarten book buddy on Fridays]

8. What is your favorite specials class? [i.e. art, music, P.E., library]
Music first, then library

9. Name a few of your friends at school.
Hannah, Sophia, Justice, Summer, Georgette, and Gulnessa

10. What advice would you give to a third grader this year about 4th grade so far?
Beware of social studies!

Hannah
8-20-14
1. What grade are you in and what school do you go to?
I'm in 4th grade at Deer Creek Elementary School

2. What is your teacher's name?
Mrs. Brown

3. What are some of your favorite things about school this year?
Reading, playing outside, and hanging out with my friends.

4. What is your favorite subject?
Reading

5. Do you like bringing a lunch from home or getting a school lunch?
Bringing my lunch from home

6. What is your favorite thing to eat at lunch?
My favorite lunch would be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips, broccoli with ranch, Babybel cheese, and a chocolate chip cookie.

7. What are you looking forward to this year?
AR parties and Art Club! [AR stands for "Accelerated Reader" and is part of their reading program]

8. What is your favorite specials class?
Art

9. Name a few of your friends at school.
Sophia, Leah, Summer, Georgette

10. What advice would you give to a third grader this year about 4th grade so far?
Listen to your teacher!

Lucas
8-20-14
1. What grade are you in and what school do you go to?
Pre-K at Hannah and Leah's school [We obviously need to work on the name of his school!]

2. What is your teacher's name?
Mrs. Rashidzada but we call her Mrs. R

3. What are some of your favorite things about school this year?
Playing, going to the library and rest time

4. What is your favorite center?
I like both car center and play doh center

5. Do you like bringing your lunch from home or getting a school lunch?
Bringing lunch from home

6. What is your favorite thing to eat at lunch?
Peanut butter sandwich with apples and grapes. No chips because I think they might be turning my hair grey. 

7. What are you looking forward to this year?
To playing on the big playground!

8. What is your favorite specials class?
Library then music then P.E.

9. Name a few of your friends at school.
Marley, Jackson, Hughie and Ben

10. What advice would you give to a younger kid about Pre-K so far?
You should really play play doh in Pre-K!!



So there you have it. Deep thoughts about 4th grade and Pre-K!  I think I should ask them these questions again at the end of the year and see what if any changes they make in their answers!








Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer Reading

I love summer reading. With free time a little easier to come by (think sitting on airplanes, car rides, and a later bedtime without the pressure of getting up early the next morning) I plowed through two fun book this past June and July.




The day before we left for New Jersey this past June, I ran to the library and picked up this book that was waiting for me on the reserve shelf. I love this author. Her books, The Glass Castle and Half-Broke Horses, are two of my favorites. Both of those books were memoirs which read like great fiction with lovable, kooky characters and intriguing plot lines. So I had been dying to read her newest and first work of fiction. The Silver Star follows the life of two sisters and their crazy single mother in 1970. The book begins in California, but after a sad, yet commonplace disappearance of their mother, the sisters journey out on their own, traveling by bus to Virginia where they hope to be taken in by an uncle they barely remember. Once in Virginia, the cast of characters widens to include a kind, country family, a wicked business man and his beaten down wife, and classmates leery of any newcomers--especially two hippie girls from California. This book explores the strength of the bond of sisterhood as well as the deep-rooted need to have a place to call "home".  I absolutely loved this novel, and would highly recommend it for a fun summer read!

I had never heard of the blog "Big Mama" before, but when this book appeared in a "must read" list in a magazine, the title and summary intrigued me. Turns out, Melanie Shankle is a popular mom-blogger and this is her first published work--a memoir of motherhood. Let me just say, you know a book is good when you read the first two chapters standing in the aisle at the library. Additionally, when you laugh out loud in the quiet library, you also have a winner in my book (book, library....ya see what I did there?!). I particularly found the chapters describing Melanie's pregnancy and delivery quite amusing. If you are looking for some deep-thinking, soul challenging reads, may I suggest you go find a C.S. Lewis book. If you are looking for a fun, light, hilarious book that will make you reflect on your own motherhood journey, then go check this out. I promise you will smile as you turn the pages. And check out Melanie's blog too!

So what have you been reading this summer? I'd love to know!!