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Monday, September 26, 2011

Toes in the Sand

We did go to the beach. Two months ago. And I have the pictures to prove it. I got quite overwhelmed with the nearly 500 pics I snapped this year, and it took me forever to edit them and then decide which ones to post. I guess you can never have too many beach pictures!
We went to Destin, Florida, again this year. I'll be honest. It's my favorite beach! This year was a tad disappointing though because there was a lot of green yucky floating in the water. I love the beach, but I just don't do green yucky. It didn't seem to bother Mason and Hannah Kate. But Destin is still my favorite beach!

I remember going there when I was growing up. One of my favorite memories as a child is the annual vacation my parents always took us on. Year after year, summer after summer, they always made a way for us to go on vacation. One year . . . I don't think I was in school yet . . . we went to the Smokey Mountains. I have to be honest. I've always loved the beach more! I remember going to Panama City and staying at the Fiesta Inn. I think that's what it was called. I loved going to Shipwreck Island. I remember the "haunted house." And then sometime around 4th grade or so, they discovered Destin. So that's where we went. We'd always stay at the Jetty East condo. And then when we were older . . . teenagers . . . we'd take the boat and spend a week in a cabin on Lake Burton in the north Georgia mountains.

Did I mention how much I love the beach?! So just like my parents used to do for us, Seth and I are making it a priority to take the kids on vacation each summer. And it just so happens that Mason and Hannah Kate love the beach as much as I do! Now Seth . . . well, he's probably more of a mountain kind-of-guy. But there aren't any mountains within a decent driving distance of south Louisiana. So the beach it is for us. For now.

My favorite thing? Besides spending time together, just the four of us . . . away from everything that defines our daily routine . . . is the smile plastered on Mason's and Hannah Kate's faces the entire time we are there! It's like they're discovering the beach all over again for the first time. This has been a difficult year for us. Seth's job has required him to travel a lot more than usual this year. Since January 1, he has been home only eight weeks. So we really needed this time together. I hope, one day, that Mason and Hannah Kate will look back on our time together at the beach as fondly as I do of the days I remember with Daddy, Mama and Rob.We spent a day at the water park . . . strolled along the pier . . . ate seafood while listening to the sounds of the waves splashing against the sand and watching seagulls soar through the air. But we mostly just played on the beach. Everyday.We also played putt putt one night. I thought I'd never seen anything cuter than a bunch of 5-year-olds playing t-ball. But maybe I was wrong. That's because I hadn't yet seen a 3-year-old playing putt putt! Let's just say Tiger Woods might be jealous. Or not!And then, of course . . . the white-and-khaki-sunset-beach pictures that everyone takes when they go to the beach because that's what you're supposed to do . . . that I'm trying to take myself. And I am no photographer. And then a nice man notices that I'm taking the pictures and am not in any of them so he asks if he can take a picture of the four of us. It won't make the Christmas card, but it's a nice memory anyway!Last year I was supposed to do white-and-khaki beach pictures. But I forgot. Until the day we left. So I dressed Mason and Hannah Kate accordingly, and we went to take pictures the morning we left. Only we got out there and then the batteries in my camera were dead, and we didn't feel like exerting the effort to go buy new batteries . . . so we never got any white-and-khaki beach pictures. The dress that Hannah Kate is wearing in these pictures . . . is the dress I had bought for her to wear in last year's pictures that never happened.Until next year . . .


Friday, September 23, 2011

Routine

There aren't any funny stories or notable anecdotes to share today. During the past month, the days just continue to pass on by as we settle into our routine for 1st grade. It really did take us about a month to get back into the swing of things, to get used to getting up early and spending a lot of time on homework and studying. I never really knew there was a such thing as studying for 1st grade, but now I know!.

I guess I need to take that back. Actually, there is a really funny story. Sort of. I guess it would be memorable more than it would be funny. And I do plan to share. But not today.

I have to say I sure am proud of my boy! We got mid-term grades last week, and he had all A's and a C in reading! I also have to say that when I was in school, that C was a B! It seems than an 82 is now a C. Since when did that happen? Besides, he's only two points away from that grade being a B so I bet it'll definitely be a B when report card time rolls around. His favorite subject continues to be math. And his least favorite subject is handwriting. So you can imagine what it's like each afternoon when we have to write spelling words three times each. I think he's a little bummed that 1st grade isn't quite as fun as kindergarten was, but we've have a really good two weeks now so hopefully it'll be smooth sailing the rest of the year.And my girl continues to enjoy her dance class. She's finally been showing us a few of her new moves. They consist of the bunny hop and toe taps. But it's a start. A couple of days ago, I walked in on her dancing. She was embarrassed and immediately stopped when she saw me, but I did manage to get a picture . . . To say that it's been "life as usual" probably isn't a very fair statement. I'm probably on the upside of a valley of discontent, perhaps even a valley of discouragement. But it's in those times, I think, when the Lord does His sweetest work. It's in those times that I feel like I truly catch a glimpse of His vision for my life.

Sometimes, in the pride and selfishness of my heart, I just want to be a rock star. I just want to "do" something "great" for the Lord. I want to be . . . famous for something. My life is anything but glamarous. And as many times I think . . . I sure would like to do *fill in the blank* . . . or I sure would like to be *fill in the blank* . . . I am reminded that I am right where God wants me to be. And that's when the dissatisfaction creeps in, the discouragement. But, really, God? HERE? Isn't there something MORE? Can't I do something else? Just use me for something great . . . pretty please?!?

And then I was reminded . . . there's a six-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl who think I am a rock star. And there's another 17-month-old who (I think) thinks I'm pretty cool, too. And, for me, that's what it's all about right now. How can I truly have a burden to "reach the world for Christ" if I do not have a burden to reach my children for Him? So. Besides Christ, may that be my passion.

O God of the highest heaven,
occupy the throne of my heart,
take full possession and reign supreme,
lay low every rebel lust,
let no vile passion resist thy holy war;
manifest thy mighty power,
and make me thine forever.
Thou art worthy to be praised with my every breath,
loved with my every faculty of soul,
served with my every act of life.
~Puritan Prayer


Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

For the word of the LORD is right,
and all His work is done in truth.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people He has chosen as His inheritance.

Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
because we have trusted in His holy name.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I need a makeover.

Well, just like everything else in my life these days, my blog needs a makeover. In my feeble efforts to correct a problem I was having with the background, I just obviously messed the whole entire thing up, and nothing is where it is supposed to be, and I can't get anything to where I want it to be. Sounds like the story of my hair!

I'm growing it out again so I can wear it curly / wavy since that's all it wants to do anyway, and it takes much less time, but it's in the "in between" stage right now, and it's driving me crazy. I would love some highlights again, but I despise roots, and I don't have time to go for a touch-up as often as I need to.

Today's high was 80 degrees! Now, don't get me wrong. I worked up a nice little sweat this afternoon working in the yard, but compared to what we've been having since the end of May, this is a dream! Even though we were still in shorts and t-shirts today, I raided closets to see what the options are for fall wear. Mason and Hannah Kate have none, as they've outgrown everything from last year. I'm quite disappointed in myself. Usually I "stock up" on cutesy smocked and boutique outfits at the end of the season when they're on sale, but I have only one smocked outfit for Hannah Kate to wear this fall that I got on sale sometime last year. And I walked in my closet and then turned around and walked right back out. Let's just say this stay-at-home mom doesn't exactly stay on top of the latest fashion trends. You certainly won't find them in my closet!

And so this post is just full of wisdom and wit today. The whole point is . . . I think I'm about to get a blog makeover! Maybe my hair will follow. But I doubt it.

***UPDATED 10 SECONDS LATER*** So when I published this post, all of a sudden everything was back where it belonged. Let's see how long that will last.

Friday, September 02, 2011

A Week in the Life

Originally this was going to be a post about a day in the life of a stay-at-home mom. But the next two days following the day in question (Wednesday at the doctor's office) were just priceless. It won't seem that way to you. But it is to me. This is the kind of week I want to remember because something tells me it's one I might want to go back to over and over again years down the road when my children are not so little anymore, not so much under-foot and the house is quiet.

Earlier this summer, Mason asked me one day, "Mom, what are you going to do when Hannah and Connor go to school? I guess that means you'll have to get a job."

A JOB?!? Well, excuse me, but what do you think I've been doing your entire life?

Hannah Kate will begin kindergarten in 2013 so I still have two more years. I honestly haven't thought about "what I'm going to do." There are several reasons for this. First of all, it's two years away. Second of all, I can't even imagine the day when Hannah Kate will go to kindergarten. And last, but certainly not least of all, I have no idea. It just stresses me out. I mean, I have been out of the workforce for over six years now so it isn't like I'm very marketable to Corporate America anymore. Besides, I can't exaclty say I was on a particularly lucrative or desirable career track anyway. So, just like Scarlett, I will think about all of that "tomorrow."

In the meantime, here is a typical, or maybe not-so-typical, week in my life.

Monday - Mondays are always errand days, meaning grocery shopping. Since we live nearly 30 minutes out in the middle of nowhere away from everywhere, and I drive the most fuel efficient Tahoe in the days of the most reasonable gas prices ever (sarcasm), I do my best to limit my trips to town to one a week or two if absolutely necessary. Yes, that means I plan all meals a week in advance and get everything I need in one trip. Besides, this week would find us on the road a lot due to meetings and doctor's appointments and such so I needed to get everything done on Monday anyway. Connor was really tired so I let him take a morning nap before we headed out. That means we were on the road a little later than usual. But I had only a very few errands to run so it really didn't matter. During Connor's nap, I started laundry and finished sewing a pair of ruffle pants I was working on for a customer. We finally loaded up and left. I picked up a birthday present, and we had to go to two different grocery stores to get everything I needed for the week's meals. Yes, it's true. There is not one grocery store in Baton Rouge that I can go to that has everything I need. Since we were running behind, we ran through the Chicken Flay (Chic-Fil-A) drive thru. When we got home, I had 45 minutes to put the groceries away and also feed Connor before the bus arrived. When Mason got home, we began the homework routine. A quick review of his weekly sheet held the encouragement that perhaps this week's homework could be done in 30-45 minutes instead of the hour we spent each day last week. And then there were mouths to feed and bodies to bathe. The rest of the day is usually a blur once Mason gets home.

Tuesday - Tuesdays are my cleaning and heavy laundry days. So all of the bed sheets and towels were washed, dried, folded and put away, all the bathrooms were cleaned, the furniture was dusted and the floors were swept. I didn't have time to get to the mopping or vacuuming today. I began cooking supper right after lunch - homemade turkey meatballs with homemade tomato sauce and spaghetti. This was nearly finished by the time Mason got off the bus. We started the daily homework routine and finished that and supper just in time for me to go to the first PTSA meeting of the year. It was a really long meeting so I didn't make it back home until after Mason and Hannah Kate were in bed.

Wednesday - I needed to pay a few bills and balance the checkbook so I did that first thing this morning. I also had to finish an applique/monogram for a customer so her order would be complete. It took a little longer than necessary to take care of a few loose ends because I was having problems with my computer and internet connection. This is an everyday ordeal. Once that was done, I decided I couldn't stand it any longer. Hannah Kate's closet was begging for attention. Somehow during the past three months, every single thing she owns found its way into the bottom of her closet, in the depths of purses and backpacks. In her closet. There were no more toys in her toybox. Many of the books were "missing" from the bookshelf. Our crayon stash was depleted. And it was all in the bottom of her closet. So, with her help, I decided the task must be done. We also had a good lesson in putting things back in their special place. After all, everything has its own special place. So that task took way longer than I anticipated, and it was already past lunch time when I looked at the clock. It wouldn't have been a big deal except that we had to leave to pick up Mason from school for a doctor's appointment (just his 6-year check-up). So I hurridly prepared lunch and got everyone cleaned up and ready to head out the door.

Of course, they are still doing road construction between here and school so I would get stopped and have to wait for the pilot vehicle. But at least we didn't have to stop at the draw bridge over Bayou Grosse Tete. By the time I got to school, the buses had already lined up so I had to basically create my own parking space and run inside to get Mason before we got stuck in the crowds of dismissal. When we get back to the Tahoe, Mason tells me he forgot his reading book. So he has to run back inside and get that. We manage to beat the buses. And then, of course, traffic is stopped on the bridge going into Baton Rouge. Even with all of that, we make it to the doctor's office just in time. Here's the fun part. Mason's appointment was at 3:00. But Connor also had an appointment at 3:50 for a weight check with a different pediatrician in the same group. I told his Mommy to just let me take care of it since I would already be there with Mason anyway. I checked Mason in and explained to the front desk that I had Connor also. They told me to come back when I was done with Mason. Mason's check-up was fine except that Dr. K decided to order a vision and hearing screening. She wanted us to go down to the lab for testing. I knew we couldn't do that until after Connor's appointment. So I checked Mason out and checked Connor in.

This would be the time that they tell me Connor's insurance coverage has been dropped. I knew that wasn't true and had his insurance card with me. They confirm again that he has no insurance coverage. So now I'm calling Kayla at work to let her know there's a problem with the insurance. I didn't want to leave without Connor seeing the doctor so I told them I would private pay until the issue could be resolved. We take another seat in the waiting room. Kayla calls me back and says the issued is taken care of with the insurance company - their "mistake, " of course - so I got back to the front desk to ask them to process Connor's insurance coverage again. They were hesitant to do that and then the nurse called for Connor. So I told them I would be back.

Connor's weight check took about 10 minutes and then I headed back to take care of the insurance ordeal. They saw me coming and met me halfway. They, too, had taken care of the matter and assured me everything was fine. So we checked Connor out and headed downstairs to the lab. By this time it's 4:30, and I have three children who are really tired of sitting in the doctor's office. We're finally called back and squeeze into the testing room. Mason passes both tests with flying colors, and we head out the door. I call Kayla back yet again to let her know that everything went just fine and was taken care of. I call Bonnie (Connor's mawmaw) to let her know that we're running late and not to come to my house to pick up Connor because I'll bring him to her.

After all of that, I decide that we all need a treat. So we go to Sonic. And, of course, traffic on Perkins was bumper-to-bumper. We finally make it to Sonic. Mason and Hannah Kate both want a chocolate milkshake. That sounds really good to me, too, so I order three of them. And, guess what?! The ice cream machine is broken. Figures. So we settle for slushes and a Dr. Pepper. I drop Connor off, as well as a sewing order for a customer, and we get home at 5:45. My goal was to finish homework and supper in time to be at church at 6:30. A la Rachael Ray, I decided supper needed to be really quick, yet really good. What can be quicker than a pizza? But not the frozen ones, of course. I decided on a caramelized onion, sundried tomato, black olive, spinach and feta pizza with our favorite salad. No, I didn't make my own crust. There wasn't time for that. The reality of the situation was that homework wasn't finished until 6:30, and supper wasn't on the table until 6:45. I missed church.

Thursday - Well, this was almost the last day of the week, and the last busy day of the week. Besides tidying up, laundry and preparing my Sunday School lesson, it was smooth sailing. Mid-morning I began resolving some issues I had with a video we were trying to show during the worship service at church. Hannah Kate and Connor were playing. At first they were upstairs but then they came downstairs. I knew they were in the music room. It wasn't long before I heard my metronome. Hannah Kate knows she isn't supposed to play with it so I immediately got up from my spot at the computer to remind her of such. And this is what I found:
So after I took a picture, I ushered him off my baby grand and moved the piano bench across the room. I finished what I was doing, and we all went upstairs to play. Can I just say that I'm so tired of playing The Tea Party Game, Fancy Nancy Dress Up Game and Candy Land?! Oh my, this is an everyday occurance at our house, and I just don't like telling the little princess no, but I'll be just fine if I never have to play these games again. It was time for lunch so I came downstairs to make sandwiches. The phone rang. While I was talking, I noticed Connor head down the hall to either the bathroom or mudroom, which is never a good thing. But I was too late. He was in the bathroom. And he'd taken everything out of the trash can and put it in the toilet.
So I cleaned that up and finally got lunch on the table. I went to the bathroom and came back to find Connor sticking a piece of his PB&J up his nose. I didn't get a picture of that one because I just honestly didn't think I had time to get my camera. After lunch I began supper preparations. As soon as Mason got off the bus, we loaded up to go to Hannah Kate's dance lesson. We came back home, finished homework, ate supper, got baths and fell into bed. I fell asleep thinking how wonderful Friday was going to be, not to mention a four day weekend for me. Sort of.

Friday - After I put Mason on the bus, I'll be honest. I crawled back into bed. Connor wasn't coming today so there was no need for me to stay up if I didn't have to. I layed down until Hannah Kate woke up. I wasn't sure what to do with ourselves, as there was a lot of uncertainty about Tropical Storm Lee. It had already started raining, and I didn't particularly want to go out in the rain. So the day started off kind of lazy. And then school called at 9:30. I'll not give you the details. But they called again at 11:30, and I had to go pick Mason up. Let's just say this weekend we're learning a big fat lesson about the "boy who cried wolf" at our house. I was not happy. In fact, I was mad. Real mad. The only thing I knew to do was clean. So that's what I did for the remainder of the afternoon.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Summertime

Oh summertime . . . it's been fun . . . real fun. No school, no alarm clocks, Vacation Bible School, a trip to Georgia, Mason's 6th birthday, the beach, our anniversary, the swimming pool. But I have to be honest. It's time for you to go now. It's hot. Real hot. And we're ready to play outside again. We're ready for some cooler days and nippy nights. We're ready for some football. We're ready for soups and stews and gumbos.

I have a confession to make. I started burning my fall candle two weeks ago. I couldn't help myself. And since today is the first of September, I can see a glimmer of hope. Of course, our local weather personality says we will not come out of the 90s until September 27. But when we do, I am ready!

In the meantime, here is a bit of what we enjoyed of summer. After all, I can't think of anything better than summertime in the south. Except maybe football.

I planted a garden this year. It was more of a test run for me. I wanted to see what worked and what didn't, what I'd like and what I wouldn't. I learned a lot. Four cucumber plants are WAY TOO MANY. For days on end we picked nearly 30 cukes a day. Let's just say I ran out of things to do with them. The cherry tomatoes were wonderful for salads. That's nearly a daily staple at our house. Even Hannah Kate loves them. The only thing that didn't do was the eggplant. I was disappointed, as I dearly love those purple globes. The squash were bountiful, too, until a hail storm in late June damaged four of my plants. The bell peppers and jalapenoes were fair. Poor planning placed them in the wrong spot in the garden so they didn't get the benefit of full sun. The okra fared much better than I thought it would. And the sunflowers that I planted on a whim made me smile. Here's my garden. By this time, it was on its last leg, but it was still looking pretty good.
And here's a couple of days worth of my garden. There are dozens of cucumbers underneath the veggies you see here. I made a really yummy gazpacho one day. I also made a salsa with some of the tomatoes from my father-in-law's garden.Can I just tell you . . . those were the best tomatoes I ever put in my mouth. I also have a confession to make. Very few tomatoes have ever gone in this mouth because I've never like them. Until now. I know. It just doesn't seem southern. But now I'm hooked. I'm going to plant me a long row of Pink Girls next summer. And then I'm going to can those babies so we can enjoy them all year long. I ate a BLT everyday for several weeks. That was the highlight of my day. I also made a homemade tomato sauce. I'll never use canned tomato sauce again. And then there was the gazpacho and salsa.

Besides tomatoes (and sweet tea, which is just a given . . . and vidalia onions), nothing else says south in my summertime like peaches. GEORGIA peaches. My mama brought me a sack full when they came for Mason's birthday. Man. Maybe it's because I don't get them straight off the vine anymore from the peach farm a mile from my house . . . but these peaches were the best ones I've ever had! They were a bit small this year. But the flavor . . . oh my, it was just delish! We grill some. I made a cobbler.
And then I decided I was going to make a peach pie, crust and all. I've never done that before. I've always used a store-bought crust. But this baby took two days. I made the dough one day and the pie the next day. I used my bestie's recipe. She puts blueberries in with the peaches, but I didn't have any fresh blueberries. She also uses lots of cinnamon. It wasn't the prettiest thing in the world, but I popped it in the oven. I just didn't account for the fact that my oven cooks faster than nearly all of my recipes call for so I didn't adjust the temperature or the time. And I should have because it cooked so quickly that I didn't realize the top had browned (blackened?) too much and became a little too crunchy. The insides were yummy. But I have to admit I picked all the crust off. So next time . . . and there WILL be a next time . . . I'll turn the oven temp down and watch her a lil closer.
And since we're talking about food and all . . . here's our anniversary meal. Since we couldn't go out, I wanted to do something really special, something that we don't usually have. So I fixed our favorite salad with the oranges, strawberries, sugared pecans and blue cheese. I also made a French onion soup. I had to take a few shortcuts since I had to attend a wedding rehearsal smack dab in the middle of the evening, but it still turned out really good. And we had filet mignon. My husband is a ribeye-kind-of-guy, and I'm a no-meat-kind-of-gal . . . so usually when we have steak, Seth eats a ribeye, and I eat a baked potato and salad. But I splurged a little on this filet mignon. I ate a few bites of mine. It was . . . very . . . meaty tasting. I put a little parmesan parsley butter on top so it would melt down the sides. And we had parsleyed smashed potatoes.
We also began landscaping the front yard this summer. I planted a lantana that just exploded and took up way too much room, but it's so beautiful that I've just let it run wild. I really had no idea it would thrive like it has. And we have a host of beautiful butterflies to enjoy, too. The other morning I counted 14 after Mason got on the bus.

Then followed that beautiful season.
Summer.
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape lay as if new
created in all the freshness of childhood.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow