Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's Up Wednesday: Moving On

July has been so busy.  And I'm really kind of glad it's over.  I'm ready to move on.  We have lots to look forward to.

I really thought my garden was finished.  So when I went out there last weekend to begin pulling up and cleaning up, I found four beautiful little eggplant that I didn't even know I had.  So most of my meals this week revolve around eggplant.  Monday night we had eggplant parmesan.  But let me tell you.  The star of the show was the bread.  I'm not even kidding.
I made Ina Garten's garlic ciabatta bread.  It's loaded with fresh garlic and herbs sautéed in a little olive oil and then brushed onto the bread.  My whole entire meal could be that bread.  Seriously.  But here's the thing.  A friend of mine recently brought me some olive oil from Italy.  Yes.  It's a small bottle, and I'm using it very sparingly to make it last as long as possible.  I broke it out the first time for this bread.  I wanted to drink the bottle. Or at least swim around in it.  Seriously.  But even if your olive oil isn't from Italy, this bread is hands down totally worth it and so yummy.

I love chile rellenos.  Really love.  I made them one time several years ago and haven't made them since.  It was a lot of work.  A lot.  But then I found a recipe for stuffed poblanos that's much healthier and much easier to prepare.  So that was on the menu for last night, along with homemade guacamole and sautéed corn and zucchini.  But I didn't plan on the power going out and staying out for several hours.  So we had hotdogs instead.  And we had chile rellenos tonight.  And, not, my children do not eat them.  But I used the same filling for the peppers in enchiladas for Hannah Kate.  I just wrapped it up in a tortilla instead of filling a pepper.  Before I combined all of the ingredients for the pepper stuffing, I set aside some chicken to make quesadillas for Mason and Ellie.  I know it all sounds complicated, but it really wasn't.
Tomorrow night we're having a salad topped with fried eggplant strips.  There's a restaurant we go to sometimes that has this salad, and it is divine.  It's super easy to recreate at home.  And, at some point, I'm also going to make Ina's roasted eggplant spread.

Lots of things actually.  The thing I've been thinking about most is our trip to Glacier, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons last year.  I just can't get over it.  I want to go back.  I want to move there.  But, instead, I continue to live vicariously through our pictures.

I've also been thinking a lot about our journey through dyslexia and navigating the challenges of Mason's early years in school.  Those were some hard, hard days.  Those were some long, long days.  And for a very long time I didn't see any light at the end of what felt like a never-ending tunnel.  But now we are on the other side.  And it all seems like so very long ago.  Since our days in private therapy at McMain's Children's Developmental Center, I've had the opportunity to refer three families there.  The third child just began therapy yesterday.  As long and as dark as those days were, I begged God to use it all for His good and His glory.  I begged Him to give me the opportunity to help other families, other Mommas who might walk a similar road.  And He has answered!  I had a conversation last night with a Momma and again this morning.  Here's what I told her:

YOU know your child best.  YOU know better than anybody what is best for your child.  YOU are your child's biggest advocate.  YOU are your child's biggest fan.  YOU CAN DO THIS, YOUR CHILD CAN DO THIS AND YALL WILL DO THIS!!!!!  Be strong and courageous.  Because what you'll start to learn is that this whole thing is a lot more about what God wants to do in YOU than anything else.  So you rest up, read up, pray up and pull your panties up!  You got this!!

I had to tell myself this over and over and over again.  I didn't always believe it, but I kept  saying it, thinking it, living it.  And, now, here we are.  Mason is thriving academically!  I experienced God's strength in ways like I never had in my whole entire life before.  And now He's so sweetly given me these other families to encourage and hopefully help.  Boy, am I glad those days are long gone behind us!  I don't think about them a whole lot because it brings back a lot of emotion that I'd rather not feel again.  But God has been SO GOOD to us through it all.  So, so good.  That experience has shaped and molded me like none other.  It was worth it.  (But I don't want to do it again!)

And, lastly, the one other thing on my mind a lot lately is when Hannah Kate turned four years old.  It was at her birthday party that we gave her (and everyone else) the surprise of a lifetime by telling her she was going to be a big sister.  Ellie just celebrated her fourth birthday.  She's the exact same age Hannah Kate was when we shared our exciting news about her upcoming arrival.  At the time, Hannah Kate was our youngest, my "baby."  But, yet, she seemed so big.  Now she's almost nine years old and about to start third grade. 

Well, I don't really know.  I've finally had some "down" time this week, meaning VBS and summer camps and birthdays are now behind us.  So I've enjoyed a sort-of-but-not-really rest before our new homeschool year begins.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet a precious friend, mentor, confidant and sister in Christ for brunch.  The Lord sure blessed me big time when He brought her into my life.  I don't see her very often, and we hadn't had a chance to get together since last fall.  We brunched and talked for three and a half hours!  It was so refreshing and so encouraging.  So I did love that!

Well.  July was full.  VBS.  Birthdays.  Camp.  Although camp was short lived because Hannah Kate somehow ended up with the flu (in July!), and I had to pick her up the second day.  And now we're getting ready for our new homeschool year.  We're trying to finish summer reading.  My goal was to be finished by August 1, but that definitely won't happen.  We just got really behind so we've been reading A LOT these past two weeks.

The start of our homeschool year means my alarm clock will go off at 5:00AM four mornings a week.  I am so not looking forward to that.  I am so not a morning person.  I have tried and tried and tried, but I am just not.  I wish I was.  I really do.  Sometimes I think I could get so much more done.  But I don't know how to be a morning person.  This year Hannah Kate will join Mason at Sequitur, but they go on different days.  So that means trips across the bridge twice a day for four days a week.  I honestly don't look forward to that part of it.  The kids and I have really enjoyed "sleeping in" this summer.

Last week I had six hours to myself while the kids were hanging out at MawMaw's with Beau.  I spent five of those hours (yes, FIVE) cleaning up and purging and organizing the kids' rooms and playroom.  I'd say four and a half of those were spent in Ellie's room.  And they still haven't figured out what's missing!  Let's just say I nearly filled up our outside garbage can.

Today I finally opened all the packages that arrived over the last couple of weeks.  It felt like Christmas!

And that leads me straight to . . .

Those boxes contained all of our homeschool curriculum for the upcoming year!  We really are, all of us, looking forward to it.  I think Hannah Kate is the most excited.  She told me last week that she can't wait to "go to school" (meaning Sequitur).  And I'm so excited for her.  I think she's going to absolutely LOVE it!  She has some really cool curriculum and things she's going to be doing.  I think the thing she's most looking forward to is making new friends.

Like I mentioned earlier, we've been doing a lot of summer reading in preparation for the new school year.  Mason and I read James and the Giant Peach and The Sign of the Beaver.  We're almost finished with 100 Cupboards.  I have to tell you.  That is the best book!  I highly recommend it, especially for advanced elementary school readers and middle school readers.  Mason and I are both enjoying it so much.  That says a lot if Mason is enjoying a book!  Next up is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Hannah Kate is currently reading that one right now.

I wanted some "mindless" summertime reading so I picked up an Elin Hilderbrand book.  I've heard so much about her books.  Let's just say it's not my thing.  It's definitely mindless.  But it's just not my kind of mindless.  I also read The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes.  It surprised me.  I liked it.  I didn't love it.  But I liked it.

As far as watching goes, the kids (especially Mason) are really into American Ninja Warrior.  So there's been a lot of that.  And Bregman (former LSU player) was called up by the Astros a few days ago so for the third night in a row, the Astros game is on.

Well, right now the baseball game is on.  I'm not sure why.  No one is watching.  Everyone else in my house is asleep.

Lately I've also been listening to some podcasts by our former pastor at Pinelake in Mississippi.  One of my favorites was the sermon he preached on Easter Sunday.  

Well.  Friday is our anniversary.  Sixteen years.  And this is the next to last weekend before school starts.  So I really wanted a little get-away.  But.  It doesn't look like that's going to happen.  Maybe another time.  I guess I don't have any plans!

I look forward to homeschooling again and connecting with our friends at Sequitur.  I look forward to the girls starting dance again.  I also look forward to the final month before my most favorite time of year . . . FOOTBALL!  Because, let's face it, we're all looking forward to that!

We gave all three kids their birthday presents on Ellie's birthday.  We're going to Disney!  Not till October.  But WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Beach

Two weeks.  Once VBS was finally over, the countdown began.  But I didn't actually say those two words out loud until yesterday.  Two weeks.  Our new school year begins August 8.  Two weeks of summer is all we have left.  Summer began almost three months ago, and now it's nearing the end.  So what better time than to share some beach pictures!

At the beginning of June, we spent a week at Mexico Beach with our friends.  I guess you could say it's our annual trip because this is the second year in a row we've vacationed with them, and we already talked about what we want to do next year.  But this year we stayed off the beaten path and had a very relaxing vacation.  It was exactly what I needed at the time.

We had a visitor on our first full day there, a visitor by the name of Colin.  Tropical Storm Colin.  We stayed inside, of course, and played games most of the day.  I taught the kids how to play Monopoly, and they are hooked.  The storm cleared out later in the afternoon, and we walked to the beach just to get everyone out of the house.  We didn't really have any intentions of getting in the water.  I know.  It's pretty silly to think you can take five kids under the age of 11 to the beach and them not get wet.

I have to admit I was a little concerned about Ellie on this trip.  She has never cared for the ocean.  Last year she wouldn't even get in the water.  She was content to play in the sand or go to the pool.  But this year there was no pool.  And I figured she'd get pretty tired of the sand after a couple of days, not to mention six days.  And considering she had just one week earlier finally been unwillingly forced off the steps of the pool and out into the water, I didn't at all expect her to really get in the ocean.  I just wanted her to put her toes in.  She did, and she kind of liked it.

She quickly began to realize that she might even have fun in the water. 

And then she went a little farther out.

And, even though the storm had stirred the waters, and the waves were tumbling in one after another, she went out a little deeper.

It didn't take long before she was wet from head to toe.  All in!  And she's loving it!

The older two were busy playing in the sand and looking for shells.

But when they realized Ellie was all in, they were all in, too.

The next four days we woke up, ate breakfast, went to the beach, came inside and ate lunch, went back to the beach, came inside to eat supper and went back to the beach again.  And repeat.  Every. day.  So I'm about to bore you with a bunch of beach pictures.

It was almost like we had the beach to ourselves.  The kids had the best time playing in the water, digging in the sand, building castles and looking for seashells.

We went out for ice cream a couple of times.  Or maybe three times.  Or four.  These two . . . I'm telling you, they are a mess!  Obviously literally here.  But figuratively, too.  They had the best time playing together.  O is exactly 14 days older than Ellie.  They are just the cutest things, and I had the best time watching them play together.  When O got blue ice cream, Ellie had to have blue ice cream, too.

I absolutely love sunsets at the beach.  This was my view the third night while sitting on our front porch.

And, the next day, we're at the beach again.  Mason had a lot of fun digging for these little hermit crabs.

I love watching my children play together.  They have their moments, but they have the sweetest relationships with each other.

Every once in a while (but not very often), Ellie stops talking.  It's during those times that I wonder what's going through her little head.  This was one of those times.

I love watching them play.

One night we went back out to the beach with bubbles that Mrs. E brought for the kids.  

These are my favorite pictures of Mason.  I took all of these pictures with my phone because I've just given up on my real camera.  So they aren't the greatest quality.  But I just love watching the joy all over his face.  He really is in his happy place here.

And then he started "surfing" and flipping backwards over the waves.  H and O got a real kick out of this.

When the sun starts going down, the little sand crabs start coming out.  A couple of nights we went out with a bucket and chased a few of them down.

I love this picture because it just captures how intense and how crazy Mason can be.  This was totally on accident.  I had no idea I'd gotten this until I looked back through my photos later that night.

We're usually six or so months behind on everything and that includes Pie Face.  It was all the rage around Christmas time.  We took it to the beach and played it for the first time. The kids got the biggest kick out of it and laughed so hard and so long.  We tried to play the game the "right" way, but they weren't too interested in that.  They just wanted to keep on turning the handle until they got whip cream in the face.

And then we're back at the beach again.  Ellie is ready!

We found lots of shells.  Good shells!  We even found a couple of sand dollars.

The oldest ones sure are growing up!

And Ellie decided she could just live there!

The kids love playing with Daddy.

And I really don't even have words for this one.

There was a couple fishing just down the beach from us.  We watched them reel one in and then realized it was a shark.  They were kind enough to let Mason take a picture with it.

And, on our last day, we . . . wait for it . . . spent the whole day at the beach.  Again!

My two guys.  Do you see it?  Do you realize that Mason is now at Seth's shoulders?  Not to mention he looks like an almost teenager.  How did that happen?  When did that happen?!

Mason, Hannah Kate and Ellie LOVED playing with our friends.  They just had the best time and played so well together the entire time.

We went out for ice cream (again) our last night.  Everyone was talking about how Ellie's ice cream matched her dress.

We got back a little too late for nice pictures on the beach, but I took a few anyway.

My friend E takes really awesome pictures.  So here are a few from her that I thought I'd share.  Of course, they put my phone pics to shame!

This is my favorite picture of Ellie and O.  She loves him so!  Every time she looks back at our pictures or we remember a story from our beach trip, she just starts giggling and gets all excited.  I can't even imagine what it would be like if we lived close enough for them to play together more often.

These pictures capture Hannah Kate so perfectly.  She's definitely the most serious one of the bunch.  But she has such a big personality that's reserved for only those closest to her.

Lately Mason has begun the habit of reminding me that he's my favorite son.  A truer statement has never been spoken!

And that was our beach trip.  Lots of water and sand and friends and fun!