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We are a WCA family

29 Feb

Last summer Joe, Joseph, Bidbit and Bees participated in a fundraiser golf tournament for WCA. This winter they wanted to have our family photo taken for the WCA magazine. We all dressed in school colors. I am so thankful for this photo of both sides of our family, with all of our children!

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Celebrating a DECADE!

21 Jan

I met the man I would marry 11 years ago. I married him the next year. We are celebrating TEN YEARS! of marriage this month.

Joe’s work schedule has been crazy. We only had a 4 day weekend to celebrate, thinking we might go somewhere more special later in the year. Our friends overheard us talking about this 4 days free, and where we might go. They decided to plan a weekend with us, and before I ever knew it, we were suddenly planning a trip to VEGAS  – with 6 of our “closest friends”! This was definitely not the trip I had in mind for my tenth wedding anniversary, but I have to admit it was the most fun trip I have ever been on.

The group had a blast. We partied – hard – like we were 20. But this time we had more money, so we also had more fun. We purchased a table at a super top secret bar, and we went to fancy shows and restaurants. We rode in a limo on the strip, stopping at In-and-out burger and Pawn Stars. We saw the fountains at Bellagio and ate at the restaurant at the top of the building. We shopped at high end boutiques and I even brought home Louis Vuitton sunglasses. We gambled – black jack and craps – and we all brought home extra money in our pockets.

The day and night of our anniversary was ours alone. The group went to zipline on the red rocks. Joe and I took a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon, which neither of us had ever seen. It was a whole day trip and it was AMAZING. Here we are in the little area where we landed in the canyon.

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Hoover Dam

That night we had special reservations at a secret restaurant. It was by chef Jose Andres and only allowed 8 people per evening!  We had to order tickets for dinner weeks and weeks before we left. The golden ticket arrive in the mail and was our pass to get inside.

Once we were seated at the 8 person table, the chefs prepared a very extensive menu for us, bordering on art and chemistry combined.

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They worked so hard on every little detail. Each course was tiny, just a few bites at most, but there were probably 23 courses in all!  Each was presented in an amazing artful fashion. These flowers were edible:

Part of our dinner!

These little bites were bubbles with food inside. They were prepared right in front of our eyes.

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This is us, back at Aria, dressed for dinner.

Our date night at Aria

 

Vegas will always bring me memories of fun and friends. Happy ten years!  Here is to many more!

 

Helping a sister out

12 Jan

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I’ve never felt like I was living the story of Esther quite like I did this month. I’ve been drawn to that story since learning about it, particularly the idea of how God prepares us – all our lives – to bring glory to his kingdom, in the most perfect timing imaginable.

My sister-in-law is one of a kind: hilariously funny with a huge heart. I felt a special connection with her from the moment I first met her. When she called me in January, I was literally moments away from 25 guests appearing on my doorstep for a baby shower I was hosting at my home. I almost didn’t answer the call but something made me pick up. I was not prepared for her to start the call with words that sent chills down my spine: “I felt a lump.” After urging her to get herself in a doctor’s office – stat – and some reassurance, I hung up, truly thinking she would probably be okay. But none of this came with easy timing. Though her family would continue to be most supportive, they had recently established a new home in the neighboring state, and she had few friends to lean on and absolutely no established medical care yet. Once we found her a solid doctor, things started moving quickly: positive findings, orders for more imaging, requests for genetic testing, big decisions to make. Her house is a 4 hour drive from mine, so I hopped in the car to attend the biggest decision making appointments: meeting the oncologist, evaluating the prognosis, and making chemotherapy decisions.

I didn’t know a thing about cancer before I met Joe. But God knew everything. He knew I would be helpful to Kim when her time came. He stirred my heart and I quickly became an advocate – maybe THE advocate – for women’s reproductive cancers in our region. After forming a nonprofit, I counseled patients and their families, helped them find appropriate social networks and resources. I had never had cancer. No one close to me had ever had cancer. But I had a need to do this in a way I could never explain to anyone else.

When Kim was diagnosed my husband was at the busiest height of his career. I was his stand-in for her, a link to bridge her to his knowledge and expertise. And I could do it with my own authority too. I knew the tough questions to ask and the important decisions that needed to be made. God had prepared me for such a time as this.

When it all came together, we had a plan in place for Kim. Our whole family went for her first chemotherapy. Joe was there to support her at the doctor’s office and I was there to help support her at home. Nothing was more special than this time we all had together with her family. The photo above was the early morning just before her first chemo.

Kim received the strongest chemo available. She had a good prognosis if it worked. She then had several major surgeries. She was BRAC+. Her chances of getting this cancer were almost certain. We wanted to make sure it would never come back, anywhere. Her daughter and sister have had to do major prophylactic surgeries to prepare for their own inevitable fates. Joe, thankfully, was negative.

This picture was taken in January of 2012. It is not May 2016 as I update this. Kim is still cancer free. She has since enjoyed her daughter’s wedding, the birth of her grandson, her son’s graduation from high school and him starting college at Troy. She has moved to the beach. She enjoys every minute of her new lease on life.

For such a time as this – I felt like every moment of my life had led to me helping Kim navigate those scary waters. God was there for her in a mighty way, and it was a privilege to be a small part of it.

It really was the perfect Christmas

25 Dec

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Glory to God in the highest.

And to earth, peace, goodwill toward men.

 

Where is Elfie? (Or Buddy? Or Al?): Random thoughts on that Elf on the Shelf

16 Dec

My friends are so creative, as are many Mrs. Clauses all over the Internets sharing their Elf escapades.

You know, like the one where the kids thought Buddy, the family Elf, had been making s’mores with candles the night before.

Or the one where Elfie was up all night playing cards with friends!

Elf with a pick up line!


Elf with a marker — whaaat?!

There are lists upon lists to inspire moms of all ranges of creativity.

Well, all of that is really cute and all, but I am just not getting the whole Elf thing.

I spend my entire day picking up after my family of five.  Why in the world would I make an even bigger mess in the name of Elfdom?

And why is that crazy Elf so mischievous, anyway?  I thought the elves were helpful to Santa.  When I grew up, the story went that you had to be good because Santa and his elves were watching…so they could spend all their non-watching time making toys for the good boys an girls.  Elves were helpers.  Not rabble-rousers!

And why, oh why, does the Elf have such mystery and magic surrounding him?  We spend the first three years of life logically explaining that there ARE no monsters, boogie men are not real and the dark is nothing to be afraid of because the things we imagine are just that: imaginary.  And then we expect them to believe in a tooth fairy, an Easter bunny, and a Santa Claus, all of which are home invaders in the middle of the night, benevolent as they may be.  And we want to ADD to that another layer of confusion with the whole elf thing?  I’ve got plenty on my hands with explaining the whole Santa-sleigh-and-reindeer-covering-the-surface-of-the-world-in-an-evening theory.

Besides, my kids are pretty realistic.  They are not going to believe even for a minute in that plastic face (wearing makeup!) with the permanent grin that he comes alive at night and sleeps during the day.  Besides I obviously got to bed after they do each night, they would spot on know that I am designated Elf-mover, without a doubt.  Whose kids are really falling for this, anyway?  And are these parents the ones that are *so shocked and sad* when their very own children don’t believe in Santa anymore?  I mean, they’ve been trying that theory on something obviously not real.  Trying to press it on something maybe not real but I am not sure is pretty much going to dial it down into the I’m pretty sure none of this is real category in a further, faster fashion.

And then there is the whole business about Christmas time. And what it really means.  Before I get all preachy, let me just point out that December is decidedly and unequivocally the busiest month of the year.  I checked my let twice early this year and I am still baking, wrapping, shopping, and scurrying; I am not sure how people do it who wait till the last minute.  I have absolutely enjoyed every moment of this Advent season this year.  But I can assure you it has NOT been because I have added that “one more thing” to my already long to-do list.  When I’m ready for bed, I’m getting in bed.  I am not rolling the kitchen with toilet paper and framing Paulie the Elf for my crime.  (Only to have to pick all that trash up in the morning…as I am in the school rush of packing lunches and backpacks and finding sweaters, gloves and coats…)

And let me point out that if the ulterior motive for the Elf is to make children behave in the “Elferella is watching!” fashion, then let me also suggest that perhaps these parents have a bit more work ahead of them in the behavior management category.  I need no Elf to raise my children.  And I need no Elf management to justify my Santa spending.  My children probably get more that what they deserve for Christmas, but I’m not so ashamed of it that I have to make them submissive to feel like it’s justified.  I’m not being self- righteous, just elf-righteous.  I’m certainly not perfect but I don’t need his help.

I know I’m not alone here.  I’m not the only one mystified by the Elf-loving mommies who seemingly spend hours upon hours creatively brewing up mischief and mayhem for Mortimer the Elf to make for the next morning.

We are not the perfect family and we don’t want to take the humbug out of Christmas fun.  We are, however, celebrating our saviour’s birth this month, and that is the reason for our season.  It isn’t about elves or mischief or naught/nice lists or even santa.  While we do not correct our children’s “beliefs” in these departments we do not celebrate Advent for this reason.  Santa does make a visit on Christmas Eve, and thankfully, he does it without any help from Elfie.  Or Buddy, Max, Sophie or Sammy.

He just stops here because the spirit of Christ-mas has filled him with such joy that he wishes to share it.  And for that, we are glad recipients.

 

 

 

Halloween

31 Oct

This year it was Disney themed costumes…for the girls…

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but because we have a little boy interested in Colonial history, we had a soldier on the loose…

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oh, wait.

Yes, do wait for it.

Make that TWO soldiers.

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Halloween: Tate Farms AND Disney World

21 Oct

By now you must know our Halloween traditions include our favorite places!

This year was no different! We went to the pumpkin patch. Oh, yes, we did.

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And we went to Disney World. Oh, yes, we did.

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This year we added a twist. We went on a Disney Cruise. Oh yes, we did.

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It took us to the Bahamas. Oh yes! It did!

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We had a great time again. Oh yes, we did!

First Day of School

14 Aug

That first day rolls around too soon again!

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And oh, be still my heart. This one’s going to KINDERGARTEN.

And as anxious as she might have been in her younger years, she’s said goodbye to being shy.

She walked right into that classroom and picked up a book and made herself right at home.

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It’s going to be a great year!

Glow

29 May

“1-2-3-GLOW!” the crowd yelled. The giant balloons lit their flames in unison, creating a lovely display of color across the horizon. Moments earlier we’d started across the same field in broad daylight just as dusk began. We crossed it, visiting our favorite balloons up close–a gigantic dinosaur, a familiar Pepsi can, one with children holding hands around its belly. Just as we sat down to enjoy our ice cream treats, we surveyed the field before us and darkness fell down on the horizon like a curtain. Shaped like lightbulbs, the balloons took turns lighting up the sky until the crowd asked them to create the glow together. It was a magical sight!

 

Even more fun was that the event was held in a public field adjacent to the backyard of one of our friends. We drove to their house and enjoyed the backyard party and could walk right over to the big event.

The real treat for me was getting to see my friend and her sister, who had come into town for the balloon party. These aren’t just any friends, they are some of my longest-standing friends whom I have shared some of life’s most dramatic and exciting moments with. I met Melanie when I first pledged a sorority in 1991. Soon after I met her sister, Melissa, who soon after became one of the most precious blessings of my college experience. The years to follow were some of the most fun years of my life, full of memories we will always cherish, and moments who shaped the people we are today. These girls and their entire family–sisters, grandparents, cousins, there is hardly anyone in their entire family that I do not know–became like my own family.

We have laughed together–oh, we have laughed–beginning with our first memory (of a party cake, no less) and throughout many, many more.

We have cried together as we have suffered loss and heartbreak.

We have even weathered arguments that would have divided most households!

We have felt each other’s pain when one of us has been hurt or experienced a challenge in life that has been frightening or scary.

We have befriended one another’s new sets of friends along the way, and moved through the new phases of life that adult hood has sent to us.

We have been so close that we have talked everyday, sometimes several times, and we have gone for weeks or months without finding a moment to call, but when we find a moment to connect again, we just pick right up where we left off, as if we’d just spoken yesterday in the grocery store over a head of lettuce.

With these kind of friends there is no backstory, no catching up, no explanation. I just talk and they know the nuances involved in what I am saying. There are no apologies for how I look or how I feel or what I might say that doesn’t quite come out right. They just know.
It is so special to walk into a backyard full of almost-strangers and see a handful of people who support my dearest friend on a daily basis the way I wish I could, and for them to accept me as one of their own too. It is so special to see my friend among the busy-ness of it all, with her precious family thriving and happy, in her “element,” still the social chairman, all these years later.

It’s not the same kind of party we used to throw, way back when with the party cake. But then again, we don’t have the same kind of glow as we did back then either. Our “glow” is a different kind of glow. Like the balloons across the street, we glow from the inside now. We’re powered by a different kind of spark, and for that, I’m thankful. And for her company in my friends on the horizon of my life, I’m especially grateful.

14 Apr

I love seeing them in their Easter finest.

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But seeing them in their Easter FUNNEST is pretty great too.

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