Thursday, June 30, 2011

Parade Day

The girls have been attending a summer program called Adventure Quest at my mom's church. Every Tuesday and Thursday in the month of June they spend the day doing crafts, playing games, reading books, hearing Bible stories, and enjoying a cure for summer boredom. Today their class had a Fourth of July parade. They've been working hard to learn the preamble to the Constitution as well as the lyrics to "God Bless America" and "This is My Country". Leah got to wear a Statue of Liberty Costume and was super excited about that. They paraded up and down the hallway singing and throwing candy to the parents and kids that came to watch.
Leah Liberty and Festive Hannah
Parading down the hall
Stopping for a photo-op.
Leah displaying her torch
The girls and one of their Adventure Quest teachers, Miss Mimi. Mimi was one of my Sunday School teachers when I was little! She has a sweet, gentle nature and a passion for teaching children.

It was fun to watch them today. And get ready to see the girls wearing these dresses several more times in the next few days. We're ready to get our "Festive Fourth" gear on!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mama Bird

video
Most days, after I am done at "exercise church" (as the girls call it), we head outside to play at the playground for a few minutes. It helps the kids run out a bit more energy before we head home to eat lunch and have nap/rest time. Today we saw a lovely, yellow-breasted kingbird flitting about over a crepe myrtle. She seemed to hover in mid-air as she chirped and chattered up a storm. The kids and I thought she might have a nest in the tree, so we went to check it out. And sure enough, we spotted the nest! The mama bird was instinctively protecting her babies from potential danger. I told the girls we were making the mama bird nervous and we should play on the other side of the playground. As we slowly stepped away Leah said, "Good-bye, Mama Bird! We're real proud of you!"

I thought about that mother bird later in the day, and compared her actions to my own. I would certainly flit about and make some noise if one of my "baby birds" were in physical danger. But then I thought about the not so obvious dangers-- subtle things that sneak in through various media or other kids at the playground. I sometimes don't want to make a big deal about something at the risk of hurting feelings or looking silly. But, I realized that I need to protect their little hearts and minds just as much as I need to protect their physical bodies.

So thank you for that lesson today, Mama Bird. I really appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Looking Back on Forgotten Lake Photos

The last weekend in April we went out to Lake Tenkiller for a spring getaway with some friends. My aunt and uncle's house is a wonderful place to truly "get away" from the hectic pace of life. Situated on the top of a hill, you can see the lake shimmering down below. From the back porch, however, you can sit, sip some coffee and listen to the sounds of the woods. I had no idea that this weekend was the last one that my mom would be alive. I said good-bye to her in her hospital room the day before we left-- it was my last time to see her. Before I left her room, I gave her a hug and told her I loved her. She responded with an "I love you too, Em." But then, as I had taken a few steps out into the hallway, she called out again, "Love you!!" I had no idea that that would be my last hug. My last "I love you." I did speak with her on the phone that Saturday night while I was at the lake. Her voice sounded weak, and we didn't talk long, but she said for me to drive carefully on the way home and that she loved me.

As you remember, I ended up leaving my camera at the lake and I just got it back this past Sunday. Looking through these forgotten lake photos makes me both happy and sad. Happy because we had such a great weekend. But sad, because I see myself in these photos as completely oblivious to the sorrow that was to happen just a day after I returned. I am thankful that I was able to have a relaxing weekend before the "Storm" hit. And I am thankful that my last visit with my mom was so sweet.
Back porch view. We spent a lot of time relaxing here as the kids all played together in the yard.
Taking an evening stroll to watch the sunset.
Me and Lucas
Reed and Marlee; Mike and Lucas
The sky is turning that beautiful twilight purple.
The sun is starting its descent.
There is it in all its glory.
We fit in a few rounds of Bananagrams, of course.
The "big girls": Hannah, Parker, Leah, Berklee
The "grown up girls": Me, Tanda, Nikki

We are heading back to the lake in a few weekends to fit in some time actually on/in the lake (not just looking at it!). Going to the lake is what people do down here in our land-locked state to avoid the insane heat. And to slow down and spend time with family. That sounds pretty good to me!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Do You See What I See?

Look carefully at the cute, new accessory that snuck into our dining room....

"Here I am!"

I think I'll keep him. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Body and Soul

See this lovely group of women? They are my workout buddies every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at a place called Body and Soul. For 60 minutes we do an intense cardio and strength training class that really kicks my boo-tay sometimes! Like the name suggests, Body and Soul strives to not only work the body, but "feed" the soul as well. It is a Christian organization, so we start each meeting with prayer and workout to Christian music. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies."
I think this sums up what Body and Soul is all about-- taking care of "temple" and honoring God with the one body he's given you.

By the way, our two class instructors are on the front row, and I have to brag on them both. Ruth Ann (front left, in black) is so kind and compassionate, and also very knowlegable about fitness. Rachel (front middle, in green) is funny and energetic, and as you can see-- very pregnant! She is due in August and puts us all to shame with her energy level and ability! I am always amazed at her stamina. Tomorrow morning we start our new summer session. Yahoo!

Oh and me? I am the little face sticking up behind Rachel. We all have ice packs on us in this photo because the air conditioning wasn't working in the gym and we were SO hot and sweaty. We joked that it must be like doing hot yoga. Very intense!

What do you do to honor your "temple"? Do you like to exercise with a group or on your own?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lemonade and Cookies

Did you ever have a lemonade stand as a kid? I remember having one with my friend Shauna once when our moms were doing a garage sale together. We mixed up lemonade flavored Kool-Aide and sold it for 10 cents a cup. I remember it was a lot of fun to serve the people coming and going as well as make a little money of my very own.

History repeated itself today when Hannah and Leah had a lemonade stand at a garage sale that I was having today. Theirs was infinitely better than the one I had though for two reasons--1. My dad helped them make real, fresh-squeezed lemonade and 2. They also served homemade chocolate chip cookies. The price was also a bit different at 50 cents a cup.

Nothing says "summer" like lemonade in my opinion.
Hannah and Leah ready to go. The photo is a little dark, but I think you can see the smiles on their faces.

They girls (and the lemonade) only lasted about two hours in the hot morning heat. But in the end, they made $7.50, learned a little about working hard and earning money, and more than anything they had fun!

ps-- I get my good camera back tomorrow! Woo-hoo!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Twenty Years of the Alphabet

Today I was cleaning out some things at my parents' house and came across two very different ABC's. The first was done by my mom in 1955 when she was 6 1/2 (see the bottom of the photo for verification!). I am pretty impressed! My girls are 6 1/2 and they don't have a clue how to cross-stitch. I'm not even sure they could sit still for long enough stretches to complete a project like this!
The second ABC picture was done twenty years later in 1977 when she was pregnant with me. This one is much bigger, more detailed, and was lovingly completed for my arrival. It hung in my room for years, but I had completely forgotten about it! What a treasure to uncover. My girls enjoyed looking at each letter and picture. They kept exclaiming, "Wow! Grandma did this!? That is really cool!"

We plan to have both pieces reframed and will hang them together somewhere in the house-- perhaps in the hallway between the kids' bedrooms. Maybe with a few classic photos of my mom over the years. I think I like that idea. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Crazy Dreams

After my mom passed away, I had a hard time sleeping. I don't like to take a lot of medicine, but I know that it is obviously okay, if not necessary, sometimes. So I tried Tylenol PM to help me fall asleep. The dosage recommended for an adult was two pills at bedtime. I tell you what-- two pills knocked me out! I was thankful for that at first. But eventually, a side affect of taking Tylenol PM every night was that I started having crazy, vivid, somewhat disturbing dreams. I have always had fairly crazy dreams, but these were off the charts for me. Eventually I went down from two pills at bedtime to just one. And now I am not taking any! There was one dream near the end of the crazy dream phase that I thought I'd share with you now. Get ready. It is kind of gross.

In my dream Mike and I are at an outdoor garden party. The scenery is all very idyllic-- lush, beautiful garden, hazy purple twilight, white twinkle lights wrapped around trees, etc. Sort of like the photo below....

There were people milling around, chatting, sipping wine, but I didn't recognize anyone (except Mike). However, I didn't feel awkward at all. Instead I walked over to the food table where a fabulous spread was laid out before me. I loaded up my plate and stood eating my food while watching the sun set in the backdrop. It was all very peaceful as I started nibbling on something very delicious. It was like I was eating a rib-- using my front teeth to sort of gnaw on the meat. I wasn't looking at what I was eating, but I was thinking that it was the best tasting thing I had ever eaten in my entire life. Eventually I decide to look down and to my surprise, I had been eating all the skin and muscle off my left pinkie finger! All that remained was bone and a few bits of dripping flesh. (So gross, I know). But the most disturbing thing is that I wasn't horrified at all! I simply thought, "Oh well. That was good!"

I woke up and immediately checked my finger to make sure it was all still there. Thankfully I have not turned into a cannibal! I laugh at the dream now, but I am kind of curious to know what it really meant on a deeper level. Well, maybe I don't want to know! I'll just chalk it up to the sleeping aide and call it good.

What about you? Have any crazy, disturbing, funny dreams lately?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bargain Shopper

I have recently started a monthly (If I'm being honest sometimes bi-weekly) trip to Sam's Club. Do you have a Sam's in your area? Or perhaps Costco? We have had a membership to Sam's for a few years now, but have only shopped there for bigger purchases-- a DVD player, a vacuum cleaner, laminate flooring, etc. We never bought food there because we assumed that no one needs a 10 pound bag of Skittles or 150 ounces of peanut butter. We saw all the people going in and out as total suckers buying more than they needed and paying out the wazoo for it.

Then one day, we decided to try it out. We perused the aisles looking for things we would actually use, things that made sense to buy in bulk. And guess what? We found them! What a joy it is to not run out of toilet paper or diapers every week! Why had I been so judgemental? So closed-minded? I wanted to shout my newfound love of Sam's from the rooftops (ok...not really). In reality, it really is a good place to buy things you know that you know that you know that you will use. So far, these are our top money-saving bulk items: toilet paper, paper towels, diaper, wipes, laundry detergent, and trash bags. And don't even get me started on the food samples!

We did, however, on our last trip get sucked in to buying a variety pack of small cereal boxes. The girls actually love getting to choose a different kind each morning, sort of like being at a hotel's continental breakfast bar. But I didn't realize the bulk cereal boxes would also serve a completely different purpose....
A toy for Lucas!
I think he thought they were colorful blocks, and he sat on the kitchen floor stacking and lining them up for quite awhile tonight.

So what do you think? Do you buy in bulk? Why or why not?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Curious Mind

This morning Lucas and I decided to take a stroll together while the girls were busy at a church camp for the day. The morning was bright, clear and a surprising cool breeze was blowing! Yesterday it was 103, but a cool front moved in bringing some much needed relief. I put on my tennis shoes, strapped Lucas in the stroller and off we went. I was determined to take this walk slow and enjoy the small things along the way. I watched Lucas for my cues. We stopped once to feel the drips of water from a nearby sprinkler. I stopped again when a bird flew overhead and he pointed up in excitement. Again and again I stopped as he furrowed his brow in a thoughtful gaze. I forget how new and amazing the world looks to a curious little mind.

Eventually we ended up at the pond behind the girls' elementary school. Lucas started pointing and yelling, "Water! Water!" So we stopped and watched awhile. We looked for ducks (didn't see any) and saw a large turtle sunning itself by the bank of the water. It eventually slid in with a splash much to the delight of my little boy.

The elementary school pond
Lucas concentrating
Pointing out the turtle

I am so glad we took our time today. It felt nice not to be in a hurry, not to be rushing to accomplish a task. I need to remember to stop and take notice of the world around me. Just like my sweet boy likes to do.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sisters

My mom was the second oldest of six children. My aunt Lindell is the oldest. Next came my mom. Then came four boys in a row: Paul, Jim, Richard and John. My mom and her sister were always very close-- best friends in fact. Maybe it was because they were the only girls out of all the siblings, or maybe because they grew up in a military family that moved around a lot, or perhaps they were best friends because they were so close together in age (they were born only 12 months apart; my aunt on October 6th and my mom one year later on October 30th--that's close!). Regardless of the reason, my mom and her sister were two peas in a pod. They always shared a room growing up, and sometimes even shared a bed! My aunt swears that they never had any major arguments, just a few disagreements here and there. And once they were both married, even their spouses got along great! My mom and Lindell (along with my Grandma), usually planned out the holiday gatherings. One year we'd have Thanksgiving at Lindell's house and Christmas at my mom's house, then we'd switch the next year. They called each other daily and got together often to shop or just have lunch. And during the six months my mom was hospitalized, Lindell (along with my dad) was by her side every single day. Lindell lovingly cared for her, read to her, fluffed her pillows, talked to her, held her hand, washed her hair, massaged her feet, prayed for her and did anything else my mom wanted or needed. She said it was her honor to care for her sister that way. It has been very hard on Lindell since my mom's passing. Because of their closeness in age, she has never known a day without my mom-- without her best friend. Thankfully, she and I live about 4 miles apart, so I can see her often. She told me after my mom died that she would love to "fill in" as a surrogate grandma as much as she can. I so appreciate that. Being around her makes me feel close to my mom.

I sure hope these two sweet sisters have the same kind of loving friendship as my mom and her sister did. What a true gift!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to the two amazing men in my life!

My Dad and Mom at my college graduation. My dad is always there-- quiet, gentle and loving.
Me and Mike and the kids at Lake Tenkiller, October 2010
And to Mike-- my partner in life, an wonderful dad to our children, and my rock to lean on.
He has been an amazing support to me during this difficult season in my life.

Because of these two men's influence in my kids lives, my girls will have high standards in the men they choose to marry one day, and Lucas has an incredible example to live up to!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hannah's Drawing

Give this girl a notepad and a pen and I am always amazed at what she can do!

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's You and Me in the Summertime

Me and my kiddos at Whispering Heights Park

We had so much fun playing at the park in spite of the hot, humid weather! We had a picnic, played tag, found a baby bluejay hopping around, went down the slides about fifty times, and watched (and listened to) a thunderstorm roll in. I love summertime.

In honor of summer, here's one of my favorite songs by The Sundays. Mike bought me the album Static & Silence during the dead of winter in 1998. We would drive around and listen to this song while dreaming about warmer weather and the carefree days of summer that seemed so far off at the time.
Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's Your Style?

Do you have a specific style when it comes to decorating? Mike and I have similar tastes. We love simple, contemporary pieces mixed with a few vintage or mid-century pieces. I guess you could call it eclectic? Anyway, Mike brought home this cool wooden record box yesterday and it is just the sort of thing I love to mix in with what we already have. Not only is it pretty cool looking, but it is functional too! I plan to store some of the girls' art supplies inside.

Do you have a certain design style? Do you gravitate toward certain colors or types of furniture?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Leah's Card

Each of us is dealing with the loss of my mom in a different way. My girls are no exception. Leah woke up with Grandma on her mind today. While I was snuggling her right after she woke up, she looked up at me and in her sweet, just-woke-up voice she said, "Do you think if we miss Grandma enough Jesus will send her back to us?" My heart twisted around in my chest, and I answered her by saying that I sure wish we could have her back, but it just doesn't work that way. After breakfast, Leah said she wanted to make a card for Grandma. She sat for a good half hour hovering over her piece of paper, occasionally asking me how to spell a word. When she was done, she presented it to me. It was so incredibly sweet, so I thought I'd share it with you.
The front page shows Leah chasing after a cloud. The words above (written in yellow) say "Come back to me my Love!" Leah explained that the cloud is Grandma going up to heaven and Leah is chasing after her.
When you open the card, the left side has a heart which reads, "Dear Grandma, I love you very much. I wish that you can come back. We all miss you."
The last page is a picture of Leah and Grandma sitting on a mountain while watching the sunset.

I love the simplicity and honesty in this card. And I love the beautiful little girl who made it too. I guess when I boil it all down, I feel the same way my little girl feels. I wish I could chase after her saying, "Come back to me my lovely Mom!" I just really, really miss her.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sleepy Girl

When it is this hot out....
And you spend the afternoon playing outside....
You will likely fall asleep in the car on the way home.

Sweet dreams, Hannah Girl.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Grief Share

Tonight I attended my first Grief Share class at a nearby church. My dear friend Laura recommended it and finally decided to check it out. One of my ways of dealing with my mom's death has been to just stay busy and try not to think about it too much. I have relied on my competence and my ability to still take care of things, but I'm learning that shoving my emotions aside doesn't really solve anything. So I decided to go.

I didn't really know what to expect, and I was nervous to allow myself to sit and feel my emotions in front of total strangers. In spite of my reservations, I decided to go.

Dinner was served and shortly afterwards, the lights were dimmed and a DVD began playing. The Grief Share video was actually pretty good. This particular session dealt with Unanswered Questions and Holding on to Hope. It was good to be reminded that it is okay to ask God questions. It doesn't show a lack of faith! And that eventually your questions will move away from asking "Why?" but instead, "How?" Eventually you will stop asking "Why did you allow this to happen, God?" but rather ask,"How can I use this to Your glory?"

After the DVD ended, we went around the room and shared our names and what had brought us to the class. As morbid as this sounds, it was nice to hear other people sharing about their losses. I thought it might be depressing, but honestly it felt good to know I am not alone. Believe me-- I have been absolutely overwhelmed with love from friends and extended family, but as an only child, I have felt a little bit lonely in my pain. I can't call a sister or brother to talk about our mutual loss. She was my mom and mine alone-- no one else knows what it was like growing up under her love, but me. There were three other women tonight who shared that they had lost their mothers. I look forward to getting to speak with them more as the weeks go on.

So for now, I think this is a good thing and I plan on attending throughout the summer. And I want to say THANK YOU again to everyone who has and continues to pray and encourage me. It means the world to me as I journey this difficult road!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Leah's Talent

One of our favorite shows to watch as a family this summer has been America's Got Talent. We all pretend to be judges and hand out "X's" for the acts we don't like and cheer for the ones we do like. Leah, in particular, loves it. She gets so excited on the nights that "the talent show" is on! For weeks she has been begging me to let her try out for it so she can win the million dollars. Tonight I asked her what her talent would be. She thought for a minute, then said, "I would bounce a ball on my head while I hula hooped and sang a Disney Princess song!" When I asked her what she would do with the money, she replied, "I would buy an RV and put all my friends in it and travel the world!" And after answering my questions, she stood up to give us an impromptu concert complete with dance moves and the remote control as the microphone. She loves to be center stage!

That girl. I think her talent is just being her wonderfully care-free, funny self. She makes me smile often. I love her so much.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Cooked Tofu, Y'all!

Today marks a historic cooking milestone for me. I cooked tofu. Yes, Ma'am, I did. I have not been afraid to eat tofu (I will try anything), but cooking it has scared me for some reason. I just wasn't sure what to do with it to be honest. I guess I assumed you needed some special tofu cooking device that only special tofu-cooks have access to.

But a trip to Wyoming, of all places, alleviated my tofu cooking fears. Because my sweet friend, Maria taught me step by step what to do. And guess what? No fancy cookware required! Just a skillet and some hot vegetable oil and voila! Cooked bean curd in no time! I truly was inspired in a culinary way after my weekend with my vegan friends. And I came home determined to incorporate more vegan meals into our weekly meal plan. Which brings me to today's lunch. May I present, tofu wraps.
Opening the tofu package. I looked for extra firm, but my grocery store just carried firm. It still worked. And apparently I am trying out my hand modeling skills as well.
I added some vegetable oil to a skillet and let it get hot. Then I tossed in the cubed tofu and seasoned it with garlic powder. As it cooks it turns a golden brown color and shrinks up a bit. Honestly (I am just going to say it)-- it looks like chicken. If you have ever browned diced chicken, you can cook tofu. The good thing, aside from the health benefits, is that there is no gristle or weird things to bite down on. No worries here!
As the tofu browned, I sliced up some lettuce, tomato, and avocado. Some onions would have been nice too, but I was going to be in close proximity to other people after lunch and spared them my raw onion breath. Oh and that is some creamy vidalia onion dressing in the background to add as a condiment to my tofu wrap sandwich. Ok, I guess I did sneak some onion flavor into the meal, but just a hint. And I read the ingredients on the back of the dressing bottle to make sure it was vegan and it was!
Once the tofu had cooked, it was pretty straight forward. Tortilla, veggies, tofu, dressing-- done. A lovely, healthy, vegan wrap sandwich. It was easy, yummy and filling.

So, what do you think of tofu?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Things We Did Today

Today we had a busy day. But it was a good kind of busy. A day full of quality time with people I love. It started with a trip to the gym for a workout. Afterwards, we hit up a garage sale/bake sale. The girls had some of their chore money to spend, and they each got a steal-- three stuffed animals for 75 cents! I picked up a pair of swim trunks for Lucas for a whopping 15 cents, and then we headed to the bake sale area where I spend another $3 in cookies! The girls were on a high from their bargain, so we took our happy mood to the nearby playground for a little play time.

Later in the day, after lunch and some rest time, we decided it was the perfect day for a tea party.
We had strawberry cake, goldfish, and apple juice at our tea party. We practiced our polite most princess-like manners as well.
We followed up with two games of Uno. Hannah won one. Leah won one. Mom won none.

After our Uno games, Lucas woke up from his nap and instantly started asking for a snack. Once he was happily munching, the girls wanted to play "beauty shop" with my hair. I obliged their request and the following photo shows the result.
Isn't it lovely? I'm thinking of making this my daily go-to look.

During my "hair appointment", Mike had to leave for his last weekend of filming, so we ended up meeting some friends for pizza followed by a little Bananagrams at their house afterwards. The kids are now all asleep and I am left with a bit of a mess to deal with around the house. But I'll gladly accept the mess because it is just the evidence of a day well spent. A day of play, of family, and memories made.

What did you do today?

*Excuse the horrible camera phone photos again. My Canon has been recovered and is safely in my family's care until I see them again!