Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving (in Georgia)


Thanks living.

Giving thanks.



But, really, how do you say thanks?  Because I honestly just can't even find the words.  And I don't usually have a problem finding words!  But I can't even begin to put words to the feelings in my heart. 

There's that old hymn . . . Count Your Blessings . . . name them one by one.  Count your blessings, see what God has done.  Count your blessings.  Name them one by one.  Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

But in all of the naming and the counting, I could never name and count them all!  They are TOO MANY to name and count!  I'd miss something, I'd miss someone.  Again, I just don't have words that are adequate.

But blessed, indeed, I am!  I don't always act like it or sound like it.  I complain sometimes.  Maybe more than sometimes?  But the naming and the counting, I am convinced, chase all the fears and tears and frustrations and sadness away.  Because the naming and the counting of them all can't help but lead you straight to the throne room of WORSHIP.

You know . . . 10,000 reasons for my heart to find . . . Bless the Lord, oh my soul!  Oh my soul, worship His holy name.  Sing like never before, oh my soul.  I'll worship His holy name.

"The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy."  ~Psalm 126:3

This year we went to Georgia for Thanksgiving.  It was a quick trip for the most part, and we tried to make the most of it.  Pop and Mimi got to see and hug and hold all of their grands together at the same time for the first time in a year and a half!

Not even 15 minutes into the trip and not even to the Mississippi River Bridge yet, this little one pipes up, "Are we almost there yet?"  I mean, and how many times have you made this trip?!  I thought we were in for a long one, but Kindles and DVD players saved the day on that one.  I even finished reading All the Light We Cannot See.  I think it was definitely one of our better driving days.

The next morning we visited my grandmothers.  The nursing home was already decorated for Christmas so we took a few pictures in front of one of the trees.

And notice our boots and tunics and sweatshirts?  Yes, it was rather chilly!  It was the first time all of fall that I wore boots and a sweater and didn't sweat to death!  And look at sweet Ellie with her arms around her bigs!

Pop didn't go with us on this trip so the kids got a picture with Mimi.

We visited MeMama first.  Boy, was that a trip.  But, at almost 99 years old, I guess she's entitled to give us a vacation or two!  But I will always remember her by tromps through the woods, mud pies in the driveway, fishing off the bank of the pond, snapping beans, playing checkers, getting into her makeup and high heels and those crocheted afghans.

And then we visited with Grandmother.  You know, I used to could have conversations with her even though she didn't know me anymore, and I had no idea who or what she was talking about.  We could still talk.  She would smile and laugh at me.  But this time it just wasn't possible to have a conversation with her.  Oh, Grandmother.  You will always be sun tea and place cards and beaded Christmas tree ornaments and Dallas and white house slippers and family around the dining room table.

When we got home, Pop was so proud that he'd hung the outside Christmas lights.  Mimi was excited about the WHITE lights they bought on sale for $1.00 at the end of the season last year.  But Pop forgot about those and put the color lights out.  So his little elves helped him take the colored lights off and hang the white ones instead!

What I didn't get a picture of was my husband actually stringing the white lights around the bushes.  Seeing as how I've been begging for outside lights at our house for, oh, I've lost count for how many years now, I told him that must be good practice for what he could do when we got back to Louisiana!  He didn't even crack a grin.

That night we had supper and a good time with our sweet friends and their two boys.  The children were so busy playing, and we were so busy talking that I didn't even get any pictures of that evening.

The next day (Wednesday), Rob and Kristi and the boys came over for Thanksgiving supper (Daddy had to work Thanksgiving day).  We got to meet Jase for the first time.  He is 13 months old now.  Mimi wanted a picture of all the grands together.  And, believe it or not, I think we did pretty good in under a minute!

But Jones was cracking me up with his silly faces!  He has grown SO MUCH since the last time we saw him.  He's in kindergarten now, and he's smart as a whip!  I think he really enjoyed playing with Mason, and Mason enjoyed playing with him.  Mason is the big dog with the Connell first cousins.  He's the middle dog with the Bayham cousins so I think he enjoys all the attention of the oldest here.

And I think we got a pretty good picture for Mimi, too.

Hannah Kate LOVES holding babies.  She was so proud to hold Jase (although he's definitely more of a toddler now).

And Mason was hot-to-trot to hold Jase, too.  I kept telling him that he had to let Jase warm up to him first.  And it didn't take long.

And then we got to eat.  Mimi did it all!  Man, I love Thanksgiving food at Mimi's!  Dressing with cranberry sauce, sweet potato crunch, squash casserole, macaroni and cheese, green beans, butter beans, creamed silver queen corn from the garden, strawberry-pretzle salad.  And there was turkey, too, but I didn't eat any of that.  It's all about the sides for me!

My contribution was a homemade from scratch (including the crust - because that's a BIG DEAL for me) black bottom pumpkin pie.

It was topped off with maple syrup spiked whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  Yes.  It was THAT GOOD!  Honestly though, I could just eat the chocolate ganache layer and call it a day!

Not too shabby for a gal who doesn't particularly enjoy baking!  I have to say that it really did turn out nearly like the picture in the magazine!

Thanksgiving morning I insisted we watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.  I also insisted that the channel could not be changed to any manner of football game or otherwise until the parade was over.  Now.  My people do not seem to appreciate or enjoy the parade as much as I do, but that's okay.  I really think one of my bucket list items is attending the parade in person one year!  But something tells me that if that's going to happen, I'll be watching it by myself!

And, speaking of babies, we also got to meet and squeeze our newest little cousin that afternoon.  Hooper Dean was exactly two weeks old.

Did I mention that Hannah Kate LOVES holding babies?!

The next morning we headed out early and back to Louisiana.  There was something about the return trip that was really long this time.  Let me just tell you.  I felt ALL NINE HOURS of it!  And then after unpacking and putting away and starting laundry, I went to church to decorate.  I filled the sanctuary with eight trees and garlands and swags to make ready for the first Sunday's Christmas celebration.  And then on Saturday Seth and I went to the plant nursery to purchase as many poinsettias as we could fit in the back of the truck.

But by that time, I was feeling it.  And IT wasn't good.  I told Seth I had to go to the urgent care clinic so he took me.  I haven't been to the doctor (besides my ophthalmologist, dermatologist and dentist) IN YEARS.  I can't even remember the last time I went to the doctor because I was sick.  For me to go to the doctor, I have to be feeling REALLY bad.  And I was.  It took the doctor about 15 seconds to let me know how bad my ears looked and prescribe several meds, one of which has my brain completely wired and me feeling all kinds of crazy.  I've never in my life taken a steroid pack before, and I hope I never have to again!  Thank goodness tomorrow is the last day of that one.  I am SO. TIRED. but I can not sleep.  The nurse warned me that might happen.  But the doctor described it as, "This will definitely allow you to keep up with your kids."  (Because my exact words were, "I'm a homeschool mom, and it's Christmas time, and I don't have time for this mess so do what you have to do to get me better.")  So this last picture pretty much sums up the last three days.  I'm hoping that I'll start moving to the other side of it tomorrow!

Not only have I "kept up with my kids," but I even cleaned out and reorganized the pantry AND refrigerator yesterday afternoon in the midst of making my grocery list, neither of which needed organizing because they were already organized!  I should've been sleeping!

And so that was Thanksgiving.

What am I thankful for?  

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Bible, salvation and faith and grace and mercy and the God-Who-Sees, my husband, my children, my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews, my church, my Sunday School class, BSF, friends both near and far, health and strength and life, sunshine, rain, warmth, sweet tea, music, the food in my refrigerator and pantry, sunrises and sunsets, Sequitur Classical Academy, homeschooling, laughter and squeals and surprises, quiet times, flowers and gardens and tall, golden grasses swaying in the breeze, fresh air and clean, clear, cold water, rainbows and colors, pictures and memories, road trips and parties and time with my people.

Just to name A VERY FEW. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Favorites

One of my goals this year was to blog more often.  I didn't exactly specify what that meant.  I wanted to blog everyday, but I knew that would never happen; however, I did want to blog more this year than I have in previous years.  I wanted to focus on the little things, the things that meant so much in the moment but wouldn't be remembered unless I wrote them down.

Like the way Ellie puts dirty clothes in the washing machine and says what each item is and who it belongs to as it's going in . . . she calls her little undies "tiny whinies."  I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be tighty whities!

But anyway.  It seems that not only have I blogged less this year, but blogging has been pretty much nonexistent since I started homeschooling.  So one of my goals for 2016 is to remedy that.  I don't know how yet, but I'm going to make my goal more specific, for sure.

In the meantime, I went through my phone and found some of my favorite moments of the past three weeks.  So here you go.

This past Monday we celebrated "no more Mondays."  Yes, there is such a thing.  We'd (mainly ME) been counting down for the past three weeks until we got to no more Mondays before Thanksgiving break.  Because we NEED Thanksgiving break.  RIGHT NOW. So Monday was an exciting day.  I even gave in when they asked for a cake pop.

Every year the dance studio celebrates Dolly Dingkle week.  The ballerinas get to dress however they want to, and the instructors present the recital theme, music and costumes.  It's always the girls' favorite dance day.

They LOVE to dress up.  And they love getting a make-over, too.

Seriously.  How cute is this?!?

I absolutely LOVE this smile!  Ellie actually has a cross-bite that we will eventually have to get "fixed."  But to me that's what "makes" her smile, and I almost dread fixing it!  So I'm enjoying it as much as I can!

This is Ellie's little class with Miss Jade and Miss Victoria.  They are the cutest, spunkiest little class.  After Miss Jade showed them what their recital costumes look like, she asked if they liked them.  No one answered.  Except Ellie.

"I like the blue one.  But I like Abbie's costume!"

Ellie's and Hannah Kate's personalities as SO DIFFERENT.  Hannah Kate would NEVER say a word!

And here are all three of my Dolly Dingkles.

It's fall, and it almost feels like fall now.  Finally!  So I've been cooking fallish foods.  My very favorite dish has been Ina Garten's butternut squash and pancetta risotto.  SO.  GOOD!

A couple of Friday nights ago we took the kids to an LSU basketball game.  Mason is really into basketball and is actually a pretty good player in the driveway.  But we'd never been to a game.  This one was actually an exhibition, and it was free AND they were giving away Ben Simmons and Leonard Fournette posters AND you could sit wherever you wanted to.

Ellie's favorite part was watching the cheerleaders and Tiger Girls.  She was mesmerized.

We stayed the entire game, but the girls were pretty much done after the first five minutes of play.  At least they had each other!

Speaking of dance, last week was parent observation week.  So I got to watch both of my ballerinas dance.  I can't wait to watch this little one on the big stage at the recital!  I'm fairly certain she'll get out there and dance.  Seth doesn't think she will.  We'll see!  

Hannah Kate is pretty serious about 1st position.  I'm so excited about watching her 5-year solo this year on the big stage!

Last Friday we had a Thanksgiving Celebration with our homeschool group.  There were six stations that we rotated through.  The kids learned about the history of Thanksgiving, the foods they ate and how they were prepared.  They made headbands and shot bow and arrows.  They played stool ball.  They had a GREAT time and really learned so much.

After our Thanksgiving celebration, we stopped at Chic-fil-A for lunch.  I have such a love hate relationship with Chic-fil-A.  It's the only fast food restaurant I'll eat at with the kids.  They don't like Subway, and I refuse to do any of the others.  So we eat at CFA a lot.  But when the manager sends a half dozen of their delicious chocolate chunk cookies to your table FOR FREE, you can't help but LOVE Chic-fil-A!

That night we took a little mission trip with our kids' ministry to a sister church to help them sort items and prepare for their Operation Christmas Child party.  It was a super busy Friday!

And yesterday we finished up homeschool until after Thanksgiving.  Mason was already finished so he and Ellie were making clay animals.  Hannah Kate was almost done.  Our homeschool stuff took over my dining room, but just last week I finally bought some shelving and storage containers and got everything cleaned up and organized.  I also got my dining room back, which makes me really happy.  But when we pull everything out, this is pretty much what it looks like.

And this morning we went shopping for our shoeboxes!  The Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes are my absolute favorite missions project to do with my kids.  It took several stops and several hours, but we found some really good stuff for our boxes this year.

We had a great time packing our boxes tonight.  But more about that later!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Face Plant

Is it really November?  It is really half-way through November and almost December?  Yes, it is.  Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away.  I don't know how many more Fridays there are until Christmas, and I don't want to know so I'm not even going to count.  The Christmas decorations are already up at the mall.  Christmas tree lots are hanging lights and getting ready to open.  I don't remember what store I was in the other day, but Christmas carols were already playing.  In the blink of an eye, 2015 will be a memory, and 2016 will be here.

I sat down on November 1 and made my list.  You know the one.  My thought process went something like this.

November?  November!  It's November!  It's the best two months of the year!  YAH!  Oh, wait.

My Christmas tree.  Last year half the lights didn't work.  I was so irritated.  Did we even keep that tree?  OH NO!  If we didn't keep it, that means I DON'T HAVE A TREE.  Okay.  So what am I going to do?!  I mean, I'm not going to find a tree on sale this time of year.  I don't really want to buy another tree right now.  A real tree.  Yes!  A real tree.  We'll do a real tree this year!  We'll do a big, fat tree!  I never liked that skinny tree anyway.  Why in the world did I buy a skinny tree to begin with?  So, yes, a real, big, fat tree.  Lights.  Oh, wait.  I need lights!  I don't have any lights!  Great.  I'm going to need a lot of lights for a big, fat tree.  Okay.  It's okay.  And I think we'll put our special family ornaments on the downstairs tree this year.  Forget the stupid idea of a "perfect" tree.  I'd rather look at the special ornaments anyway.  So then this year we won't put a tree upstairs in the play room.  One less tree.  Yes!  That's a great idea!  I feel better now.  But I have to buy lights.

Hannah Kate's birthday.  It's almost Hannah Kate's birthday.  Great.  I haven't even thought about a party.  But wait.  I decided we wouldn't have a party.  We'll have a "special day" instead.  But will she be okay with that?  She likes parties.  I'll have to think about that later.

Shopping.  Christmas shopping!  I'm not done yet!  Wrapping paper.  I need wrapping paper.  What color do I want to do this year?  Wait.  Who cares?  Why does it matter?  Just buy wrapping paper.  But can I really "just buy" wrapping paper?  But nobody cares anyway.  They just rip the paper to get what's inside.  I can't think about wrapping paper right now.

Wreaths.  When am I going to get them all put up?  Maybe I should do it the weekend before Thanksgiving this year.  We might not be here for Thanksgiving.  So it would be okay to do it the weekend before.  And then it would be done, and I won't have to worry about it when we get back.  The tree though.  I can't do a real tree before we leave.  That'll have to wait until we get back.  But I could do everything else.  Yes, that's what I'll do.  Decorate before Christmas.  But you know what people say about that.  But this is an extra-ordinary circumstance.  I MAY NOT BE HERE THE WEEK OF THANKSGIVING AND WON'T HAVE TIME TO DECORATE UNTIL THE FIRST WEEKEND IN DECEMBER AND THAT'S TOO LATE!!!!!!!

Seth's birthday.  Yes.  Okay.  What am I going to get him this year?  Birthday.  It's going to be Seth's birthday.  And Hannah Kate's.

I need tree lights.  Wrapping paper.  What am I going to do for Hannah Kate's birthday party?

2016.  It's almost 2016.  I need to begin thinking about my New Year's resolutions.  Oh wait.  I haven't finished with 2015.  But the one thing on my list I really wanted to do this year . . . well, I didn't.  FAIL!  Forget stupid resolutions.  

Okay, so, I really want to enjoy the holidays this year.  I want to relax and rest.  Okay, so that won't happen.  But I don't want to be all stressed out about it.  I want to watch a lot of Christmas movies.  When does the Charlie Brown Christmas special come on anyway?  Christmas movies.  Hot chocolate.  I wish it would get cold enough for hot chocolate.  And fuzzy blankets.  Thanksgiving WILL be fun this year.  Christmas WILL be fun this year.  I won't stress out about presents and decorations and food and all the things that don't really matter all that much anyway.  But lights.  I need lights.  I just don't know how many to get.  I'll probably have to go to the store again.  Ribbon!  I forgot I need ribbon!

Hair cut.  I need a hair cut.  My highlights have grown out more than I like.  I have to call and make an appointment to get my hair cut.  And highlights.  I have to do that before Thanksgiving.

Poinsettias.  I have to get those eight trees up at church.  And go buy all the poinsettias.  I forgot about that.  So I definitely have to decorate my house before Thanksgiving so I can decorate at church the weekend after Thanksgiving.

And homeschool.  Ugh.  It's definitely not what I thought it would be.  Or what I wanted it to be.  I mean, why can't I be the mom who has her kids in violin lessons and makes jelly and preserves veggies from the farmer's market and visits historic sites every week?  Her homeschool is just so awesome, and MINE STINKS.  Why in the world did I think I could do this anyway?  WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS???

Facebook.  I HATE FACEBOOK.  And Pinterest.  There is nothing Facebook or Pinterest worthy about my life and my house and my clothes!  I think I need to take a break.  Yes.  That's it.  No more Facebook.  Comparison is the thief of joy anyway!  I don't need that.  

Christmas card!  I have to take the kids' picture for our Christmas card.  But I don't even have their Christmas outfits yet!  Maybe I just won't do cards this year.  Who am I kidding?!  I CAN'T NOT DO CHRISTMAS CARDS THIS YEAR!!!!!!!  

And it goes on and on and on and on.  You want to know how I really feel these days?!

A few weeks ago, I took my Sunday School class to Area 51.  They (my niece in particular) begged me to jump with them.  It looked easy enough, and I was pretty confident in my trampoline skills.  Or at least I was in my head.  But most things that are in my head don't necessarily translate well OUTSIDE my head.  And this would be one of those times.

This was the second time I did that silly trapeze swing.  The first time was pretty much the same as the second.  But I convinced myself that since I had already experienced it one time around, I could do much better the second time.  And not only that, but Abbie begged me to do it "one more time."  And so because in my mind I made a much prettier landing the second time around, I went for it.  But, of course, it was more of the same but maybe even a little worse!  I think I face planted even harder this time, and, y'all, I had the hardest time getting up!  I also left a perfect lipstick print on one of those yellow foam pieces.

My friend went with us, but she didn't jump.  She took pictures and videos of the girls the whole time.  And she was so sweet to video me.  IN SLOW MOTION.  So here you go.  Oh, and be sure you notice Abbie's reaction at the end of the video clip.  She's got some real love for her aunt right there!

And that sums up perfectly how I feel!  Just keeping it real.  Because maybe some of you feel the same way, too!  You're so not alone in that!  Either that, or I'm just a special kind of crazy!

Oh, and you'll be happy to know that all of my Christmas presents (except those for the kids) are purchased and waiting to be wrapped in the wrapping paper I bought this week. I don't have ribbon yet though.  And I totally plan to decorate my house for Christmas next week even though it won't be Thanksgiving yet.  And I have an appointment to get my hair fixed this week.  And Seth told me today what he wants for his birthday.  And I'm in the process of planning Hannah Kate's birthday "party."  I'm still undecided about Facebook though!

So fa la la la la!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


I don't do hashtags.  Because I'm just not that cool.  But today I will.  Because #Abbieis13!!  And I really should try to be cool for my favorite niece's 13th birthday!

We celebrated a couple of weeks ago at her neon dance party!  Yes.  We were instructed to wear neon colors and our dancing shoes.  Unfortunately, I waited until the end of the night to get a picture.  So we're all looking pretty rough (especially Mason!).  Except for the 13 year old.
I mean, I do not even know how this happened.  Before I had my own two daughters, I had my niece.  I am very proud of her and the young lady she is becoming.  I am also glad that my girls have their sweet girl cousin to look up to.

And on this day 13 years ago, Abbie Eileen was born.  She waited all day until her Uncle Seth and I could get off work and get to the hospital before she made her arrival.  We got there just in time to see her before Ashley went into recovery.  This picture was taken at Thanksgiving.
Abbie has always been a great cousin.  This picture was taken in February 2006.  Mason was 7 months old, and Abbie was three years old.  She's the same age Ellie is now.
And this was just a couple of months later that same year.  
We've had some fun birthday parties over the years.  This was in 2008.  Since her birthday is so close to Halloween, she had a Halloween party this year.  I couldn't find a picture of Abbie, Mason and Hannah Kate.  Hannah Kate was 11 months old and dressed as a Georgia cheerleader.
She had a fashion show for her 7th birthday in 2009.
We painted at her 8th birthday party in 2010.  She is the age that Hannah Kate almost is now.
She had an ice skating party for her 9th birthday.
I can't remember what her 10th birthday party was.  It might've been her slumber party.  But this picture was taken the same time at Dolly Dingkle day at dance.  She was 10 years old, the same age that Mason is now.
I also don't remember what her 11th birthday party was.  We went to Houston around that same time so this picture was taken there.  She was 11 years old.
This was last year.  We had cake and ice cream after church.
And this was the neon dance party, complete with a photo booth.
There's nothing like a dance party with a bunch of 13 year olds to make one feel aged!  And obviously Abbie felt the same way.  At one point, I was trying to teach Ellie how to hula hoop.  Abbie missed my demonstration but came running up to me when she saw a hula hoop in my hand.  (The day after her party I took the youth in my Sunday School class to Area 51, an extreme jump venue, so that's what she's referring to.)

Abbie:  Aunt Julie, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Me:  I'm showing Ellie how to hula hoop.  Didn't you see my mad skills?

Abbie:  No.  But you don't need to be doing that.  You promised that you would jump with us tomorrow at Area 51.  So you should probably be saving your energy.

Me:  Are you KIDDING ME?!  You mean to tell me you think I can't hula hoop one night and jump the next?!

Abbie:  Well, okay, whatever, but I'm just saying.  Whatever you think.

Well, here's what I think.  Time flies.  Happy TEENAGER Birthday, dear Abbie!