Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Behind the Pictures

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!

The Galloways

Monday, January 27, 2014

Playing the Piano

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."
--Leopold Stokowski

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Meet Roxie

It has come to my attention that I haven't officially introduced you all to the newest member of the Galloway family. We are pleased to present Miss Roxie Rhubarb Galloway. We actually got her back in late November 2013 as an early Christmas gift to our kiddos. They had been campaigning for a dog for months, dare I say years. Mike grew up with dogs, mostly boxers like our Roxie, but I have never in my life owned a dog. I have always grown up in a house with multiple cats, so having a dog for a pet was intimidating to me. However, I did some research, talked to friends, and finally we decided we were ready. The kids are at a good age to get a dog, and our cats are 14 years old and mostly just sleep all day. So we took the plunge.

After having her for 7 weeks, here is what I have learned:
1. Having a puppy is HARD WORK.
2. Having a puppy is about 1,000 times harder than having a kitten (in my opinion).
3. Having a puppy is crazy.
4. Having a puppy is incredibly rewarding.

I will be the first to admit that I had no idea how time consuming a new puppy would be. And I wouldn't be lying if I didn't have my doubts during those first few weeks of whining and barking all night long. Or after I cleaned up the 167th pee puddle of the day. But, we are finally seeing light at the end of the puppy tunnel. At 14 weeks old she sleeps all night now-- no whining or barking. She is mostly house trained-- maybe one or two accidents a day. She is still super hyper when new people come in the door, but she calms down much quicker these days. In the evening, she is a super calm, snugly lap dog. She is doing really well taking walks on the leash, and she has mastered the "sit" command. There is still a lot for her to learn, but we are making progress. Every day we are starting to see more of her sweet, spunky personality.  We keep telling ourselves all this work is short term difficulty for long term results. We want to have a wonderful family pet for the next 9-11 years (or more!).

Our kids have also been having fun coming up with nicknames for her. Here's what we've got so far: Rox, Roxie Roo, Roxie Rumble (huge kudos to you if you can name the tv show where a music festival by this name is held), Roxie Boxie, and Roxstar. She really is a fun little girl and I look forward to watching her grow up as a part of our "pack."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Let's Review

Warning: You are entering a long blog post zone!

It's a new year so my blog needed a little change. Clean, simple, and blue (my favorite color). Ahhhh, that's better. I thought we could do a little reviewing today.

First up, a review of our date night back on the 10th of this month:

Me at Bolero
Sorry for the dark, camera phone photo, but it's all I got!

What we did: dinner and a movie
Where we ate: Bolero, a Spanish Tapas Bar
What we saw: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

On a scale of 1 to 10 (one being terrible and ten being the best ever):
Dinner: 6
The atmosphere was dark and swanky, but for a Friday night in downtown Oklahoma City, we expected it to be hopping. Maybe the low customer count had something to do with being recently post-Christmas and the weather was pretty frigid. However, it did make for a quiet, intimate meal. Ordering off a tapas menu is fun because you get to try lots of different things. My favorite item we tried was pan-fried artichoke hearts with a lemon-garlic aioli dipping sauce. Sweet heavens, it was good.  We also ate shrimp wrapped in crispy pancetta which was divine. Our other two dishes were so-so. And the meal was not especially cheap. This is why we gave it a 6. We'd go back again if we had a gift card. :)

The Movie: 9
All I have to saw is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was art. It was beautiful, funny, poignant and smart. I was totally swept away and would see it again in a heartbeat. The musical score was incredible (we bought the soundtrack when we got home). I particularly liked Of Monsters and Men. And I would like to go to Iceland in the near future. It is beautiful! (FYI, one of my college friends grew up on an American Air Force Base in Iceland and she would always go on and on about how wonderful the country was. I lost touch with her after we graduated, but I imagine that she moved back there because she loved it so much.) I thought Ben Stiller's character was both believable and lovable. You just rooted for him the whole movie. And I didn't guess the outcome of the film at all, which was a great surprise. My final thought? Go see it!

Next up for review, let's go back to the end of 2013, shall we? December 2013 proved to be one of the craziest, busiest months ever. The first weekend in December, we had an ice storm which crippled our city and cancelled school for three days. Of course months before this weekend, we had booked a trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Dallas to celebrate our girls' 9th birthday. Travel on I-35 between OKC and Dallas was treacherous, so we had to cancel our trip much to our girls' dismay. Quickly, I came up with a Plan B for their birthday--a slumber party! So on the second weekend in December, we invited three of the girls' closest friends over to spend the night. We had games, pizza, cupcakes, movies and spooky storytelling. In other words, they had a blast. That same weekend, Hannah had a piano contest and we finished up our Christmas shopping. The third weekend in December, we celebrated Christmas with both my extended family here in Oklahoma City as well as our closest friends. We have a tradition with our friends of a "Goodwill Christmas"-- the challenge being every gift must come from the Goodwill store. Most of the time, the gifts are "questionable" but sometimes they are actually awesome. I got an ancient adding machine along with a book entitled "A Guide to the World Wide Web" with a copyright of 1997. It was a doozie.

First "snowstorm" of the winter. 

We made and decorated gingerbread cookies one of those icy cold nights.

Slumber Party Twister

Singing Happy Birthday

Lucas posing after his school Christmas Program

Hannah and Leah at my cousin Kathryn's house

Lucas lovin some foosball at Kathryn's!

Christmas itself was a quiet, calm event celebrated with just the five of us on the 24th. A simple Christmas Eve service, looking at Christmas lights and Mike reading the Christmas story from the book of Luke. It was perfect. Christmas Day was spent at my Dad and Sally's house. We are really just now making memories with them as they are finally settled in their new home and just celebrated their one year anniversary. It was a lovely sunny day spent playing games, eating good food, and just being together. 

Our favorite (crazy) Christmas house in Nichols Hills
Picture taken on Christmas Eve after our church service.
Christmas Eve at home. We came home and ate steaming bowls of chili, opened one Christmas gift (pajamas!) and listened to Mike read the Christmas Story before heading off to bed.

Our dog Roxie on Christmas Eve. 
She slept through the whole thing.

Christmas morning at Papa and Sally's house. Lucas was my dad's "helper elf" passing out the presents to everyone while we chowed down on my dad's famous whole wheat cinnamon rolls with browned butter frosting. I think I ate four.

Lucas and my dad playing with Lukey's new foosball table. 
My step-brother, Jimmy, is looking on.

Me modeling my new t-shirt and scarf that Mike got me for Christmas. Thunder colors, I might add which will be perfect because we are headed to another game on February 5th.

The final weekend in December took a sad and very unexpected turn, however. On Sunday, December 29th, Mike and the kids and I picked up his Aunt Nancy from the ER. She had been seen for dehydration after battling a stomach bug for a few days. We took her home that night and got her settled in for the evening. The next day, December 30th, Mike and I went to check on her and bring her the prescriptions we had filled for her that afternoon. Sadly, we found Nancy had passed away during the night. It was awful and traumatic. We called 9-1-1, stayed for police interviews, called and comforted Nancy's daughter, Ashley, and waited for the Medical Examiner to arrive. It was a long, difficult night with not much sleep. Mike's parents flew in the next day (Nancy was Mike's mom's only sister) and the rest of the week was a blur of cleaning, organizing, and preparing for a memorial service and reception. While Ashley did most of the work (and did it with amazing poise and grace I might add), it was quite the week both emotionally and physically. We dearly loved Nancy and will miss her very much. I am planning on writing a tribute to her (or a series of tributes) in the coming months with stories and pictures honoring her, so stay tuned for that.

Nancy's memorial service was really lovely.
She was a bright, colorful, full of life lady and we loved her.

Nancy in her modeling days. Wasn't she absolutely gorgeous!?
You can go to Ashley's blog to read Nancy's obituary.

And with that, I think I have caught everyone up to date on our life over the last month or two. Heading into 2014, I look forward to all the ups and downs it may bring. Life is truly and adventure. You never know what is just around the corner, so cherish each and every day.

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Year's Food and Date Night Challenge

I know I've been away for awhile. Between the girls' birthday, Christmas and a very unexpected death in our family, this blog has been put on hold for a little while. But here it is....ten days into the new year and I have a resolution to blog more consistently. No rules or pressure, but just more often.

I love making new year's resolutions. I'm not one to beat myself up if I don't fulfill them though. If I do, great! If I don't, oh well, there's always next year. Mike and I talked about some of our goals for 2014 and one of them is to have a consistent monthly date night. Date nights are something we did often when my mom was alive. But then life got complicated and it just hasn't been the same since. We're committed to either finding family or hiring a babysitter to keep this important time that we crave together. We also talked about how there are so many fun, funky new restaurants popping up all over Oklahoma City and we want to try them! We love food. And we love to eat which works out great. Sometimes we tend to stick to our side of town just for the sake of time and ease. This amounts to the mall and Olive Garden. Trying some new restaurants will force us out of our "safe zone" and into some "new" old territory.

Together, we made a list of twelve restaurants we have always wanted to try, but have never been to in good old OKC. I'll list them out for you in a minute along with links to their websites or Facebook pages. If you are from the area, feel free to give us reviews and food suggestions to try. We are excited to hopefully check them off month by month!

In no particular order, our twelve must-eat-at-restaurants are:

1. Ludivine
2. Flint
3. Bolero
3. Guernsey Park
4. Stella
5. The Mule
6. Vast
7. Backdoor BBQ
8. Cafe do Brasil
9. Mickey Mantle's
10. Mutt's Amazing Hot Dogs
11. Waffle Champion
12. Packard's

Some close runner-ups include: Tamazul, Kitchen 324, Victoria's Pasta Shop and Saints Pub.  If we end up with some extra opportunities, we'll definitely check these out too. If you want to suggest another restaurant, feel free! It may be that we've either eaten there or we forgot about it! Our goal is to try new things together and have a few small adventures here in our own city. Oh yeah, and see twelve movies this year. I repeat, twelve non-animated kid movies. That's more than we've seen in the theater in the last five years. Sweet!

And guess what? We are kick starting our date night/food adventure tonight! Mike secretly hired a babysitter and surprised me by taking me out to dinner and a movie tonight. We plan to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and check out Bolero, a Spanish Grill and Tapas Bar we've been really wanting to try! I'll give a full review tomorrow.

Cheers to 2014!