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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fourteen

I'm excited.  I'm SO excited.  And I don't even know why!  I'm really looking forward to 2015.  I have no idea what's ahead for my little family here.  I have no idea what God has for us, for me.  But I'm excited!
As I usually do this time of year, I've spent a lot of time the past few days thinking.  Reflecting.  Dreaming.  What a year 2014 was!  There were so many good, fun times.  There were some difficult times, too.  There were some surprises.  There were some things that I just want to forget.  Here's how I'll remember 2014 (in no particular order):

1.  Well, I said no particular order.  But 2014 will ALWAYS be the year that Ellie broke her arm!  Even now I still can not believe that even happened.


2.  After more than 10 years of working for the same company, Seth received a promotion and became the "man in charge" of his department.  We were so excited, and it was such an honor for Seth.  But then there were some things that just didn't happen like they were supposed to.  His job was going to be an office job, and travel was going to be less.  That did not happen.  And then there were some issues with compensation.  There was nothing we could do about that.  He inherited a mess.  There were problems with staff, problems with the budget, problems with procedures.  Seth jumped head first into the middle of it all.  It's been stressful.  It's been discouraging at times.  It's been frustrating at times.  He has worked SO. HARD.  He has given this his all, and I've seen him grow so much this year as a man and as a manager.  All I've wished for all along is that the senior management team would notice his effort and hard work, would realize how much of himself he's given to this job, would understand what he's done and how he single-handedly turned the department around.  I wanted that so badly for him because he deserved it.  But that usually doesn't happen in big companies.  So imagine our complete and utter shock when yesterday he was recognized as being in the TOP 10% of performers in his company this year!  He even received an email from one of the Senior VPs acknowledging all of the above, and he was rewarded so generously.  I'm just so so proud of him and so so thankful.


3.  Mason won 3rd place at the district science fair in January.  That was such a huge accomplishment for him and something that he did all by himself.  I just can't even express how proud I was of him and how that really boosted his confidence.


4.  Last year's Christmas gift, Seth took me to a cooking class at our favorite restaurant.  It was such a delightful evening and some of the best food I've ever tasted.  This I definitely want to do again!


5.  I had eye surgery.  And that's all I have to say about that.

6.  Mason graduated 3rd grade.  It's not really so much that he graduated 3rd grade.  It's just that 3rd grade was such a phenomenal year for him.  He learned to like school.  And not only did he have an amazing teacher, but I now consider her a dear friend.  I think 3rd grade will always be our favorite!


7.  Hannah Kate graduated kindergarten.  This girl just excels in school, and she loves it so much.  I am super excited to see where God is going to take her in this life.


8.  We took a big ole 2-week trip to Georgia to begin our summer.  That's one of the best trips we've ever taken, and I loved every second of it!  My kids got to experience summer like I did when I was growing up.  And I got to re-live a little bit of it, too.  It's hard to say what my favorite was from that trip, but I did love going skiing on the lake.


9.  One of my favorite landmarks in Georgia is Stone Mountain.  I hadn't been since 1999.


10.  I love downtown Atlanta.  I do.  And I loved going to the aquarium and eating at The Varsity.  That's the only place I'll eat a hotdog.  Period.



11.  We took Mason to his first-ever Braves game.


12.  We also took Mason to his first-ever LSU game at Tiger Stadium.


13.  MASON GRADUATED FROM PRIVATE THERAPY.  (Insert shouting and happy dance.)


14.  This year's Christmas musical at church will forever hold a special place in my heart.

WOW!  It really has been an incredible 2014!  God is SO GOOD!

To God our Savior,
who alone is wise,
be glory and majesty,
dominion and power,
both now and forever.
Amen.
~Jude 25


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Whole Lot of Christmas

And so it was Christmas.  It wasn't just Christmas day but a whole lot of Christmas going on.  Here's a glimpse into our Christmas this year.  A rather long glimpse . . .

This is the picture that was on our Christmas card.  I took 45 pictures on this day.  And this was the only one that was Christmas card worthy.  Thank goodness that all I needed was one!  
The season began with our most favorite missions project, shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  This year we had a really fun time shopping for our boxes.  We included tools in one of Mason's boxes.  We included a sewing kit and fabric squares in one of Hannah Kate's boxes.  (And, yes, their faces are painted.)



The children decorated the trees in their rooms.  These trees haven't changed in the last four years.  The girls' tree is pink and decorated with hot pink and neon green ornaments.  Mason's tree is decorated with fishing lures and popping corks.

We have two mangers that the children play with each year.  We get these out only during the month of December so they don't get to play with them all year long.  I absolutely loved watching Hannah Kate and Ellie play with the plush manger scene.  They took pictures and made a video this year.

The kids also got to decorate the tree in the playroom with all of our family ornaments and the ornaments they've been given over the years.  It's always such fun to go through my ornament boxes and unpack each one, telling the story behind it.  We have to divide the ornaments by child so each one hangs his or her ornaments.




Our Christmas musical at church was my favorite one that we've ever done.  It was just really special this year.  Mason played the part of Joseph.  I was so proud of him getting on stage and reading all of his lines.  Hannah Kate was the angel Gabriel and was so excited to have a speaking part, too.  Abbie was Mary, and she sang a beautiful solo.  I was so proud of her.  That's the first time she's ever done that.  All of the children did such a fantastic job on their songs.  It was just a most delightful morning of worship.
I spent the last two days of school before Christmas break in Hannah Kate's classroom.  I subbed one day (no joke) and helped with her Christmas party the following day.  We began the day by making gingerbread houses.

We played several games.  This was my favorite.  There were four teams of children.  Each team had to decorate a Frosty and see which one could do it the fastest.  Hannah Kate was chosen to be Frosty.  Here she is all wrapped in crepe paper.
And then we left for our much anticipated trip to Georgia.  It was a long drive that day because there was an accident on the interstate that caused it to be shut down.  So we had to take an alternate route, as did everyone else traveling that day.  It took us about 10 hours to get to my parents'.  And then once we did, we unpacked the Tahoe, and I immediately took Hannah Kate to a children's medical clinic.  The closest one was an hour away.  She had a fever of 106 by the time we got there, and I already knew something was just bad wrong.  After three hours at the clinic, she was diagnosed with the flu.  But we caught it early enough that Tamiflu was prescribed.  She and I finally got back to Mimi's house at midnight.  It was just a long, exhausting, miserable day.  She nor I slept that night either.

The next day we were all supposed to go to Atlanta to meet my friends and their children for an afternoon of fun at Dave and Buster's.  My first thought was that Seth could stay with Hannah Kate, and I would still go and take Mason and Ellie.  But after our long night, I decided that wasn't a good idea and was planning to just stay and take care of Hannah Kate.  Until Seth suggested that's what we do.  We hadn't even talked about it at all, I'd never mentioned the idea to him, but he offered to do that for me.  He knew how very badly I wanted to go see my friends, and he wanted to make it happen for me.  So that's what we did.

And that's how I introduced Mason to Dave and Buster's. 
One of my most favorite things about this day was meeting Levi for the first time.  Levi is a few months younger than Ellie.  His mom and I went to college together.  When Lindsay was pregnant with Levi, they found out that he was a very sick little baby.  One of the ventricles in his brain was not functioning so the fluid wasn't draining properly.  He also had a heart defect.  Eight times (EIGHT), Lindsay was encouraged by the doctor (the best of the best in Atlanta) to terminate the pregnancy, saying it wasn't viable and that Levi would never live.  And, if he did live, there was no telling what kind of developmental, physical and mental delays he would have.  But Lindsay prayed.  We all prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.  Lindsay believed.  Lindsay trusted.  And God SHOWED UP AND SHOWED OFF BIG!  After brain surgery and open heart surgery performed by those amazing doctors at Egleston within two weeks of his birth, Levi is now walking and running and talking and having no problem with any those milestones!  He is a miracle.  Literally.  I asked Lindsay what it was like living with a miracle everyday, looking at him everyday knowing she experienced a miracle and is looking at one.  The Lord has used that little boy and his family in a mighty way, and I look forward to the rest of his story.

Levi and Ellie hit it off really well.  First date, maybe?! 
And here are all the children.  Well, all of them except Hannah Kate.  That's the only sad thing about this day.  
And we all decided that next time, we will find babysitters and have a kid-free afternoon together.  It's possible that the kids had more fun than the adults did!  But me . . . well, I was just so happy to see my people that I really didn't care!
Hannah Kate responded very well to the Tamiflu and had a "mild" case of the flu.  She wanted so badly to have a good time.  She slept a lot and tired out very easily, but we knew she was getting better quickly.  So we went ahead with our plans to go to Callaway Gardens for Fantasy in Lights.  I took only one picture this night, and it was in front of the UGA tree in the village.  Mason just couldn't deal . . .
The day after that I had tickets for Hannah Kate and I to see The Nutcracker at the Fox in downtown Atlanta.  Again, since she was feeling better and wanted to go, I took her.  I originally planned to spend our entire day in the city and also take her to the American Girl store.  But we opted to only go to the Fox instead.

I'd purchased our tickets online and also tried to purchase a parking pass so I wouldn't have that to worry with.  But the website kept telling me it was sold out.  So I didn't bother with it.  I really had no idea where I was going to park and hadn't been there in years so I couldn't even remember what parking was like in that area.  Needless to say, I was very excited to see a parking garage two blocks from the theater.  I pulled in, and the parking attendant stopped me.  He couldn't speak English very well.  He was pointing and trying to tell me something.  Since he was pointing in the direction of the Fox, I thought he was asking me if I had tickets.  So I told him I did.  He got a little frustrated, and I knew he was trying to say something else, but I had no idea what it was.  I finally told him I just didn't understand.  And then finally I got what he was saying.  I still had the cargo carrier on top of my Tahoe, and he was asking if I would fit in the garage.  I'd honestly totally forgotten that it was still up there.  I looked, and the entrance said the clearance was 9 feet.  So I told him that I could definitely clear 9 feet and that we go through drive-thrus all the time.  He nodded, and I pulled ahead to the next parking attendant.  He took my money (didn't say a word), and I entered the garage.  When I turned the corner to go down underground, there was a beam hanging down informing me that clearance was 6 feet.  I can't clear 6 feet.

I had no idea what to do.  I couldn't go left or right, couldn't go backwards.  So I did the only thing I knew to do.  I pulled forward slowly.  I was very aware of when it hit my cargo carrier.  It scraped across the top, and I was imagining the worst.  When it got to what I figured was the end of the carrier, I sped forward as quickly as I could to just get out from under the thing.  And then I stopped and looked.  If I kept going, I was going to likely pull the sprinkler system down and maybe flood the parking lot.  Right about that time, another guy came running around the corner.  I asked him what I needed to do.  He said my only option was to take the carrier off the top.  So that's what I did.

I climbed on top of my Tahoe, in my heels and little black dress, no less, and unscrewed the thing from my luggage rack.  It was smashed just enough that I was then able to let the seats down in my Tahoe and slide it in the back.  I'm sure I was such a sight.  And, yes, that guy is just standing there watching me.  But once I got it down, he did help me put it in the back of my Tahoe.  Surely there's a picture on social media somewhere of a gal all dressed up and on top of her Tahoe.  That would be yours truly.

So.  After all of that excitement, we found a parking space and made our way to the Fox.  It was most delightful and everything I wanted it to be for my girl and me (except I didn't get any good pictures!).

When we left, it was raining.  And I had no umbrella.  And we had to walk two blocks back to the parking garage.  So my hair that took me an hour to straighten that morning was no longer straight.
You'll also be glad to know that my husband and my dad and a little bit of duck tape made that cargo carrier just like new again!

The next day was Christmas Eve.  Jennifer had invited us over for lunch.  Mason and Hannah Kate were so excited to see the Hawkins and Lawrence cousins again.  They had the best time playing together.  When Jenn, Neice and I were growing up together, I never imagined we'd have TEN children between the three of us. 

Seth and I had a Louisiana fish fry for my parents on Christmas Eve evening, and we let the kids open their gifts from us.


The most fun gift was the sit 'n' spin that we gave Ellie.  I had one when I was a kid, and I loved that thing.  Mason nor Hannah Kate ever had one so I knew I wanted to get one for Ellie.  
And then it was Christmas morning.  My most favorite thing about Christmas morning is stockings!  Mason was up super early.  But I finally had to wake the girls up around 9:00.  Let's just say Ellie didn't appreciate being woke up, not even for a stocking.  This was the only way I could get a picture of the three of them together before they emptied their stockings.  
This girl.  I just don't even know.


She finally perked up and realized that stockings can be very fun things indeed.
And then we took Christmas pictures before opening more gifts.  The only way I could get Ellie to cooperate for pictures was if Minnie was in them, too.


On Christmas day I also went to the nursing home to spend a little bit of time with MeMama and Grandmother.  I spent part of the afternoon visiting with a childhood friend that I haven't seen in nearly 20 years.  I had a really special time with her and her family.

But what we all most wanted to do was also spend Christmas with my brother and his family.  My kids were so excited about seeing Jones and Judd again, and we were over the moon excited to meet our newest nephew and cousin, Jase.  But Jase was recovering from RSV, and since he'd also been a premie and spent several days on a vent in the NICU after his birth, they were not able to spend time with us.  It was just not a good idea to expose any of them to the flu germs that might've still been floating around.  

We left the day after Christmas and came back home to Louisiana.  Seth's family was waiting on us to open gifts.  I didn't take not even one picture of any of that.

And so that was Christmas.  It was a good Christmas.  We have some great memories.  But it was also a difficult Christmas.  I'm so thankful that Hannah Kate recovered quickly from the flu.  I'm also very thankful that none of the rest of us got sick.  But stupid flu.  Another thing I forgot to mention was that Hannah Kate was given two new pair of earrings for Christmas, one from us and one from my parents.  And do you know that BOTH pair BROKE when we took them out of the box?!  Oh, I just felt so badly for her.  And then there was the super awesome puffer vest I was given, but my initials were accidentally monogrammed incorrectly on it!  As I took all of our Christmas decorations down and packed them away in the attic, I couldn't help but think, "I can't wait til next Christmas!"

On Christmas day we also lit 25 candles.  And that, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about anyway!
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
upon them a light has shined.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
to order and establish it with judgment and justice
from that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
~Isaiah 9:2,6-7