Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In Recent Days

In recent days, I have been reading......
I just finished this book not too long ago. It was an interesting, true look at the life of a woman most of us have never heard of, yet have probably benefited from. Henrietta Lacks, otherwise known as HeLa, was a very poor African American woman who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer in the 1950's. Her cells-- taken without her permission-- were the first immortal cells ever grown in culture. They have been used throughout history to make major medical advances, namely in the making of a polio vaccine and in many cancer treatment drugs. Yet, Henrietta lies in an unmarked grave. She never knew about her amazing contribution to the world of science and neither did her family. They did not find out until decades later. In the book, the author does a great job of uncovering the life of a woman who gave greatly, yet very little is known about her. The book brought up many interesting issues regarding medical ethics. It was quite thought provoking!

I have been watching......

I have been pretty much obsessed with this show since Christmas when Mike and I started watching season one on Netflix. Actually, Mike had already watched it, but wanted me to join in on the fun. I don't think I have been this into a drama since ER back in the 90's. The characters are just so wonderful (even the ones you love to hate!), and all the story lines keep you on the edge of your seat. It doesn't hurt that it takes place in a gorgeous British castle and that all the ladies wear amazingly beautiful dresses. And the dialogue is smart and fast paced too. The show basically follows a high society, aristocratic British family beginning in 1912 and continuing on into the 1920's. There is plenty of drama on the main floor of Downton and even more drama downstairs amongst the many servants who work there. Mike and I breezed through seasons one and two and are finally caught up. Season three is on now. It airs Sunday nights on PBS at 8:00 (central time). This Sunday will be episode #5, but if you want to start watching, I suggest getting caught up from the beginning. I promise you will be hooked. And you might just start talking with a British accent too!

I have been eating.....

Does salad dressing count as a food? If not, it should be. My friend introduced me to Annie's Goddess Dressing a few years ago, and I have been pouring it on salads ever since. Lately, I have been having extra cravings for it, so it has also made its way into my sandwiches and wraps. It is an all-natural, vegan dressing with yummy stuff like tahini and garlic and lemon juice and soy sauce. It's goooood.  I've also been making these pumpkin chocolate chip muffins like there's no tomorrow. We eat them for breakfast, snacks and even dessert. Yum!

I have been listening to.......

I put this album on the other day when I had a few hours all to myself at home. All three kids were in school and what did I decide to do with my free time? 
Why, clean my house, of course!
There is something incredibly therapeutic about cleaning when I can crank up some music and scrub the sink or mop the floor without being interrupted. 
Anyone else find that particularly thrilling? 
Hello? Is this thing on?
Anyway, I had forgotten how much I really do love John Mark McMillan's music. It is deep and soulfully haunting and uplifting all at the same time.

What about you? What have you been reading, watching, eating or listening to in recent days?

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Winter Walk

A few weeks ago, we woke up one very cold Saturday morning excited that our day held absolutely nothing on the agenda. Mike and I talked about the joy of starting a fire in the fireplace, sipping hot cocoa, and staying in our pajamas all day long. Then our three children came bounding into our bedroom and jumped on our bed (as they do most Saturday mornings). However, instead of seeing three happy faces, we quickly realized two out of our three had clearly woken up on the wrong side of the bed. There was whining and complaining galore. Our hopes of not leaving the house were dashed as we realized that if we didn't get out and do something, it was going to be a looooong day inside.

So after a quick breakfast, we bundled up and headed for a walk at the nature center close to our house. The sky was grey and the high temperature for the day was estimated to be in the 20's, but it was only ten o'clock in the morning. I'm guessing it was only in the upper teens at that time. Maybe. Whatever it was, it was cold. It didn't deter us, though. We wandered the trails until our cheeks were numb, but our hearts were pumping and our lungs were full of fresh air. It was just what we needed.
 Our trail going by the very low Spring Creek.
Into the woods we go 
 Hannah and Leah brought their video camera which they used to make a few short movies while we were walking. Turns out their hands were too cold to really give a good go at it!
A rare shot of me in a hat.

When we got back home, we changed back into our lazy comfy clothes, started a fire, and drank some hot cocoa together. Who knew that a very cold, but very peaceful winter walk was just what the doctor ordered to take the Grumpies away.

PS) Today it is sunny and in the upper 70's. January in Oklahoma is totally unpredictable. We'll probably have snow tomorrow.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Favorite Cities

Inspired by my friend, Maria's blog today, I thought I'd share with you my top five favorite cities. (ps-- check out the cool video she posted of her beloved city, Missoula, Montana).

1. Nice, France: Mike and I went there in 2002 and fell in love with Nice and Southern France in general. Nice is a charming city filled with farmer's markets and street artists galore. You can stroll the older streets and view the sparkling Mediterranean Sea at the same time.
2. Barcelona, Spain: I spent a week in Barcelona in January of 1998, then four more days there in June of 2002. Barcelona is such a vibrant, eclectic city. I love all the funky Gaudi architecture beautiful city parks, like Park Guell.
3. New York City, NY: Since Mike considers this his "home," I have grown to love this city too. Since meeting Mike in 1996, I have traveled to NYC with him sixteen times. Each time we see something new and unique and exciting. It seems to have a heartbeat all of its own. I love flying in at night and seeing the skyscrapers lighting up the night. I truly never get tired of going there.
4. Graham, TX: Okay, so this is more of a town, not a city, but it is on the list none-the-less. Graham is where I was born and lived for the first ten years of my life. My earliest memories are in this idyllic little town in north central Texas with a population of about 8,000.  I have so many memories of riding my bike to the pool, playing with my best friend across the street and watching fireworks at the lake on Fourth of July.
5. Oklahoma City, OK: This to me is my very favorite place to be. My heart is here. My family is here. I've lived here for 26 years, and I love raising my children here. Even with the wild wind and springtime tornadoes, there is a beautiful rhythm to this city, and the people here are just awesome.
Most people who have never been here might think this place is a boring, flat, landlocked city, but I see it as much more. Several of my OKC friends were posting this video on facebook today, so I thought I'd share. It's a pretty good overall look at this city that I love. Yes, it is seven minutes long, but it really is pretty good!

What are some of your favorite cities/towns in the world?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hannah's Stories

Hannah's story list

My Dad is an expert storyteller. Growing up I often asked him to "tell me a story!" Growing up on a farm in a teeny tiny town in Southwest Oklahoma (along with four other siblings and multiple cousins) gave my dad a plethora of stories to choose from. And my dad retold them expertly, with lots of funny voices and dramatic pauses. It was captivating to me as a child.

My dad has so many stories to choose from-- like the stolen bird dog puppies story, the story about how my dad fell off a horse and broke his arm, the story of how a rooster attacked him as a child (and he's never liked to eat chicken since), or how my dad and his cousins sold eggs for candy without their parents knowing. There was also the story of how my dad survived a horrible case of meningitis when he was in the second grade, or the story about Pat the bird dog having a heat stroke while never breaking point (she recovered thankfully!). But my very, very favorite story was the RIP story. It told the gripping true tale of how my dad and his father took in an old, sick horse that was going to be put down, and they nursed him back to health. Shortly after buying the horse, the man who was going to put him down came by the farm to check on the horse's progress. My dad and his sister ran out and asked him what the horse's name was. The man jokingly laughed, "R.I.P.!" He meant "rest in peace", but my dad and aunt thought it just spelled "rip." And so that was how Old Rip came to be.  Rip lived a long and healthy life and was my dad's favorite horse ever.

Now that I have kids, they also beg my dad to tell his stories. And guess what? The RIP story is their favorite as well. They also ask me for childhood stories (none of which compare to my dad's in my opinion). But they love to hear classics like how I got a spanking for hiding in the bathroom at church or how I got lost in Hobby Lobby one time when I was six. They also love to hear how Mike and I met or the day they were born.

I guess all this storytelling business was floating around Hannah's mind one day because it inspired her to write her own list down. I found the above piece of paper in her room while I was cleaning one day recently. She had made a list of "Stories I Will Tell To My Kids." I sat down and read her entries:
1. Lucas fell in a fountain (Head first at the mall this past November)
2. My wasp sting (Four stings on her hand this past Fourth of July)
3. Sonic gift card (Handed it out to a random stranger while we were downtown this past Christmas)
4. Mom got the flu then we all got the flu (Last year, thankfully no flu this year!)

I loved that she had taken the time to think about what stories she could retell to her kids one day. I love that she thinks we are making fun memories as a family, even if they involve the flu or falling in a fountain.

This morning at breakfast, she and I were talking about the time last summer when we went to visit my aunt and uncle at Lake Tenkiller. It was a hot, 110 degree summer afternoon and their boat died out on the water. We had to call a "rescue boat" and wave our hands around calling for help until someone stopped to tow us to shore. We were discussing how funny that was looking back, and then her eys lit up as she said, "Mom! I need to add that to my stories list. Ya know, the one I am going to tell my kids about!"

What about you? Do you have certain family stories that are told over and over again?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Today's Glimpse

Today has been a pretty normal, run-of-the-mil day at home. But one day, years from now, I will want to look back and peek into a glimpse of what life was like when it was just me and my three year old boy at home. 

We started off the day by getting the girls to school, then Lucas and I ran to the gym. He played in the childcare room while I huffed and puffed through my cardio and strength training workout. We drove home under a heavy, grey sky. Cold rain was beginning to softly fall. 

After lunch, Lucas decided he wanted to take a bath. This little boy of mine loves to play in the water. I said why not and he grabbed his stash of horses. They are a favorite for bath time. I drew a warm bath for him in the "big bathtub" in our master bathroom. He played while I folded laundry in my bedroom-- just far enough away where I could let him have some space, but I could still keep an eye on him. Those horses played and jumped and swam and neighed for half an hour before he was ready to get out.

Once he was dry and back in his clothes, we picked out a few stories to read. Right now he is loving the Corduroy books by Don Freeman. They were some of my favorites when I was little too. I can remember my mom reading them to me. We snuggled up in his bed, under his soft new Avengers blanket, and read together. His orange bedside lamp cast a warm glow over the pages. Once we were finished, I turned the light off. It was raining steadily and the room was as dark as night. With the soft plunk, plunk of the raindrops and the gente melody of his lullaby cd filling the room, it didn't take long before his eyes were closed and he was breathing deep. I sat next to him for awhile and thanked God for giving me my sweet boy.

The house is very quiet now. I still have a little laundry to fold and then a good book to pick up and read. I have playdough out for Lucas when he wakes up. He'll be excited. 

Today I am so thankful for this simple, yet full life I've been given.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Silent Mice

Hannah and Leah, My little church mice

This past Christmas, Hannah and Leah participated in a children's choir program at a nearby church. Hannah's piano teacher is the church pianist there, and they know many kids from school who attend church there as well.  Throughout the fall months, the kids got ready to perform a Christmas musical called "Silent Mice." The play told the story of how and why the famous Christmas Hymn, "Silent Night" was written.

The story starts in Austria, when a young pastor pens the lyrics on a cold, winter night. The little country church where he lived was infested with mice. The resident cat was too fat and lazy to chase the little critters out, so the pastor picked up a broom and shooed them out the door. As he did, he looked up into the clear night sky full of twinkling stars.  Words popped into his brain....

"Silent Night. Holy Night. All is Calm. All is bright."  

A few years later, the church's mouse situation was no better. In fact, the pesky little creatures had ruined the bellows of the church organ. It was Christmas Eve and the parishioners were coming for the midnight service, and there was no organ to accompany their singing. The young pastor remembered the beautiful lyrics he had written years before. He quickly grabbed them and ran off to find his friend who could play the guitar. Together, they came up with the famous tune we all know today. So if it hadn't been for those silly little mice, "Silent Night" might never have been written!

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Words for 2013

This is my family in 2012. We don't look all that different now in 2013.There are minor changes like Leah's new glasses or my darker hair color. And with the exception of growing children who are losing teeth and getting taller by the day, we probably won't change that much during the next twelve months.

On the outside, that is.

On the inside, I hope this year brings many changes. Changes that help us grow spiritually, physically and emotionally. Changes that push us to be more disciplined. Changes that help us accept more responsibility. Changes that bring more freedom and creativity.

As we were driving home from a recent (and much needed) date night, Mike and I were talking about our word or words for the year. Words that would encompass all that we want to accomplish for 2013. Driving in the cold, dark December night, we came up with two words:  Focus and Simplicity.

We want to focus on our faith, our family and our finances.

We want to simplify our schedules and prioritize our time.

We want to look back at 2013 as a year of tough choices that led to a more peaceful and secure family.

Here we go!

PS-- On our date night we went to see Les Miserables. It was simply amazing. Put that on your To-Do list for 2013 if you haven't seen it yet!