If you've noticed, I've been neglecting this here blog lately. I admit I'm in a slump. Not feeling like I have anything to write about. I'm not funny enough or witty enough or deep enough to really feed this thing with any real or interesting content. So I'm shutting down for awhile. Not sure when I'll be back. So to all my readers, all three of you, and to the random person who accidentally found this blog, I apologize. When I'm out of my slump, I hope to return. Maybe a month? Maybe three? We'll see.
One of my goals this year is to read more. I've always loved to read. I tend to stay in the fiction pool-- mysteries, historical fiction, humor, stories with strong, memorable characters. But I also enjoy memoirs, biographies and the occasional non-fiction/inspirational book as well. Somewhere over the last year, though, I let my reading time slide to the wayside. I was either too tired at night to open a book, or I chose to zone out in front of a movie or TV show. And after that year, I found myself desperately craving books again. So, my goal this year is to read at least one book a month. For those of you with more free time or faster reading skills, this may sound like a wimpy goal. But it works for me in this current busy season of life. And I'm proud to say on this first day of March, that I am already ahead of my goal as I finished my third book last night. Holla! I thought I'd give you my thoughts and opinions on the three books I've tackled thus far in 2014. They are about as different as can be, but that variety proved to be fun and refreshing.
A few years ago, I read The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. I was so profoundly moved by it that I immediately purchased his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. I ended up reading it in two days. So I was eagerly anticipating reading his third novel, And the Mountains Echoed. It did not disappoint! What makes this novel different from his other two is that it begins years ago with a pivotal and traumatic event that sets in motion a series of other events in the lives of all involved. The act of a poor, desperate father selling his four year old daughter to a wealthy, childless family in Kabul is like a stone being thrown into a pool of water. Each ring of water left in its wake is the story of how this event affected those involved-- Pari (the young girl), Nila and Sulieman Wahdati (the couple in Kabul), Abdullah (Pari's adoring older biological brother), Pari's father and stepmother, Pari's Uncle Nabi (the Wahdati's chauffeur who arranged the entire exchange), and Dr. Varvaris, a plastic surgeon who ends up living in the Whadati home years later. All of these people's lives are seemingly separate, yet uniquely tied to each other, and you will have to read the novel to see if any of their lives ever connect again. I would highly recommend checking it out!
At the beginning of February, my dad took our kids for the afternoon and Mike and I found ourselves free to indulge in a movie. We picked Captain Phillips, one we both wanted to see with its Oscar nominations and high praise. Even though we knew the story, seeing it unfold on screen was intense and enthralling. After seeing the movie I decided to check out the book written by the real captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips. It was interesting to read the book and compare the actual events he wrote about to what we had seen in the movie (most of which were all accurate). I enjoyed the background information that Captain Phillips wrote about-- his tough family background, how he ended up as a Merchant Mariner, how he met his wife, his struggle with faith, his love of the open sea and his love of his family. He weaves this background information into different parts of retelling the horrific capture by Somali pirates. It was an easy read, but one I thoroughly enjoyed.
Back in 2008, I stumbled upon a blog called MoneySavingMom.com. My friend had recommended checking it out as I was attempting to coupon and work weekly deals at both CVS and Walgreen's. What I found was more than just a place to check out coupons and good deals. Crystal Paine blogged about the struggles of parenting, keeping a vibrant, healthy marriage, financial goals and advice, as well as recipes and organizational tips. Her blog is uplifting and encouraging-- not at all pretentious (like she's got it all together and I don't). I appreciated both her humble nature and her push for excellence. I was hooked. This year, Crystal wrote her first book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More and Restore Your Passion for Life. I mean, who doesn't want to feel more passionate about where they are called?! I finished this book last night, and I can definitely say there are a LOT of great, very practical tips for how to streamline and simplify life. She directs most of her writing at mothers-- working or stay-at-home. But certainly this book would be great for singles and empty-nesters as well. One of the exercises I found most helpful was to list out your top five priorities in life. Once you list out your top priorities (i.e.--marriage, kids, business/career, personal health, spiritual life, friendships, hobbies, etc.), view all other decisions in light of these priorities. If saying yes to an event takes away from time that could be devoted to these priorities, then feel free to say no. Obviously, there are exceptions, but if saying yes out of obligation to do something takes away from one of your priorities, it might be better to say no. Even if that event or committee or position was a "good" thing. She emphasizes over and over the need to say no to good things and say yes to the best things. I can say I took away many good tips that I will definitely incorporate into our daily lives.
So there you have it. All three books were as different as could be, but all three were worthwhile reads. What have you been reading lately? I'd love some good recommendations!
Today is an official Snow Day. School was cancelled. The high temperature for the day is 18 degrees (really cold around these here parts). And the snow is the kind that packs down and gets really slippery. The original plans for today included: taking the kids to school, return some bath mats to Target (wrong color), take Roxie to the vet, go with Mike to a doctor's appointment, then pick the kids up and take Leah to gymnastics. Thankfully, our revised schedule includes: staying in our pj's, drinking hot chocolate, reading by the fire, a little Netflix, playing, drawing, baking and going no where! Yes!
The snowman Leah made all by herself yesterday as it started to fall.
My rosebush, bare and flowerless just waiting for spring.
Chocolate chip pumpkin muffins for breakfast.
Roxie staying warm by the fire.
Leah engrossed in Littlest Pet Shop play.
Hannah still in her pj's.
This girl insists on wearing summer pj's because she gets hot at night. Crazy girl!
A surprise gift I received in the mail today.
My cousin Phil's wife, Keri, sent me the most thoughtful gift and note.
They live in North Carolina where Phil is a Green Beret in the Army and Keri is a pharmacist.
She had remembered me writing a Facebook post about my dry, chapped winter hands, so she sent me some lotions to help out. What really touched me was the note she sent:
The other day I saw your FB post about having chapped hands. I immediately thought about the last time I saw your Mom. When we were visiting that Christmas I was having the same issue. Your Mom ran and got a cream out of her purse for me to try. She thought this stuff was awesome. What she pulled out was the "Look Ma, New Hands!" lotion. I have been using it ever since. I also included a lotion that has worked miracle's on Phil's hands before. I hope one of the can give you some relief...chapped hands are the worst! I hope everyone is doing well. Have a great day and God Bless!
Somehow she knew how much I needed to hear a story about my mom today. I've been missing her a whole bunch this week-- with my birthday on Monday and with today being her and my dad's 44th wedding anniversary if was still with us.
Today is my birthday. 37 years old. Three years away from 40! Yikes! If you ask me, 37 still seems pretty young. But if you ask my kids, 37 is ancient. Oh the joy of perspective!
So far, today has been everything I had hoped. Calm, quiet, and yet peppered with small celebrations. I took myself to get a pedicure this morning, wearing my summer flip flops through the snow. There is something so luxurious about seeing clean, soft feet with bright red polish. It is a rare treat! Afterwards, Lucas and I met Mike for lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. It's nearby his office and it seemed like a special place to go. Of course, we shared a slice of Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake for dessert. Yum. Lucas fell asleep in the van on the way home, and mercifully stayed asleep as I transferred him to his bed. The boy stayed home from school today after two nights this weekend of him waking up with a serious "seal bark" croupy cough. No fever, but the cough alone sounds bad enough to stay home. So, he blessed me with a two hour nap on my birthday! And although I could have spent those hours folding the three full baskets of clean clothes that have been sitting on my bedroom floor since Friday, I chose to lay on the couch and read my book for an hour until my eyelids were heavy and I curled up under an afghan and slept for another 45 minutes or so. It felt so good.
Looking out my window, the sky is gray and there is snow on the grass although the streets are clear. At least for today. Two more rounds of snow are set to come in to OKC Tuesday and Thursday. This is typical weather for my birthday. Gray and dreary. And these last few years it has sort of matched a part of my heart that finds celebrating this day a little hard without the person who brought me into this world. A person's birthday is really two-fold. It's a celebration of the person born-- their life, their value, who they are. And it is equally a celebration for the mother who remembers the pain and sacrifice of birth and mothering. Who loves fully, completely, and reflects upon that day with special fondness in her heart. I never knew this of course, until I became a mom myself. December 16, 2004 and July 24, 2009 are two days that will forever remain special to me. I will always remember the details of those days. The way my heart nearly split in two when I first looked at my precious babies and hear their first cries. I will always celebrate along with my children on those days too.
While I don't dwell on this sort of gray feeling, it is there none the less. Covered under layers of many happy things-- enjoying a pedicure, chatting over a yummy lunch with my husband, opening the homemade cards from my daughters after school, lazily reading a book by the fireside. I really do celebrate all the many blessings I have, and am so happy God chose me to be brought up by my two wonderful parents and to have my own awesome family now.
Birthday Cards from Hannah and Leah
Tonight I am heading out to celebrate with a group of girlfriends, one of whom has my exact same birthday (how dare her? just kidding!). Good friendships are yet another thing that brings so much sunlight into my life, and I pause to thank God for them.
So here's to celebrating another year. And here's to 37 + more!
Back in November, we finally had professional family photos taken. Lucas wasn't even born the last time we had any taken. And I'm pretty sure we just went to JC Penny's because I had a coupon and they were cheap. This time, we wanted an outdoor setting with lots of candid shots and a few posed shots as well. Our good (and very talented) friend, Corey Penry, took the pictures and did a wonderful job.
This week I finally got around to actually having several of them printed. I went around our house looking at all the photos hanging on the walls, taking note of the sizes so I could replace them with our new pics. The most recent photo of the girls was taken when they were 4 and the most recent of Lucas was when he was 1 and not even walking yet. Yeah, it had been awhile.
The fun thing about replacing all the old photos with the new ones was finding the surprise hidden photos as I was trading them out. For example, behind a photo of my 4 year old girls was a photo of my 3 year old girls followed by a photo of my 3 month old girls, and ending with a picture of me with my 2 month old girls. Same thing with Lucas-- his 1 year old self followed by my roly-poly six month boy followed by my sweet newborn babe.
It's times like these that force me to pause and reflect on just how fast these kids are growing up. My girls are 9. NINE! One year away from double digits, so independent and smart and funny. And my baby is four! He is heading off to school next year all day every day! Whahhhh! I need to continue to put down my phone, stop folding the laundry (because it never really ever gets done), and look my kids in their eyes, talk to them, spending as many precious moments with them as I can.
And I promise that our next family photos will be taken before the girls' 18th birthday!
Do you know how to play an instrument? Read music? Sing? I started taking piano lessons when I was seven years old and continued to take them until I graduated high school at eighteen. Playing an instrument not only taught me about reading notes and using dynamics, but also about self discipline, the benefit of hard work, and a fostered love of music. I am so glad I stuck with it and didn't quit-- even when I wanted to sometimes.
When our daughters turned seven, we let them each choose one after school activity to be involved in. We did this for two reasons: I do not want to be an over-scheduled family run ragged by going from one activity to the next. I just don't function well in that kind of environment, and I don't want that for our family. And financially we just can't afford to let our kids do anything and everything they want! So, when it came time to decide, Leah chose to do gymnastics and Hannah wanted to learn to play the piano. While both activities are great, my heart did a little happy dance when Hannah chose piano. And as luck would have it, her piano teacher lives just a few houses down from us. She can walk to and from her lessons which is a major bonus!
While Hannah is still learning the discipline of practicing, she is starting to really see the benefit of all that hard work. She is so proud of herself when she learns a new song, and she wants everyone within earshot to hear it.
Hannah practicing "This Little Light of Mine."
She is playing this song in a Hymn Festival this coming Saturday.
I love her sweet little fingers.
This is the same piano my parents bought for me when I started taking lessons.
There have been MANY hours of practice time logged on this bad boy.
In fact, that reminds me, I probably need to have that bad boy tuned......
While I'm sure she will develop other hobbies and interests throughout her life, I hope that she continues to develop her love of music.
"A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence."